Love the Foreigner

With the current racial tensions in America and tremendous internantional crises, we must remember what it feels like to be a foreigner. The reason we can love the the foreigner is because we used to be one ourselves. 

Ephesians 2:11-22

So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

There are over 800 catalogued phobias. One of the more common ones is Xenophobia, the fear of the foreigner. Some of this is natural and we teach our children wisely, “Not to talk to strangers.” But I think we would all admit that there’s something wrong with the intense fear, suspicion, and even hatred that our culture is experiencing right now on this subject. Consider Ferguson, the Syrian refugee crisis, the rioting, and the intense racial division that characterizes our nation more now maybe than at any other time since Jim Crow. In this kind of environment, what are we, the church, supposed to do with regard to the “foreigner,” and why, and how?

What Are We (the Church) Supposed To Do with Foreigners?

What do I mean when I say “foreigner?” It is someone who has citizenship in another country. More precisely: a foreigner is someone who can’t get the full benefits of living in a country to which they do not belong. An American citizen living in America receives certain tax advantages, voting rights, government benefits, legal protections, etc. Our country makes promises of benefits to its citizens that it does not make to all the people of the rest of the world. A foreigner, then, is a stranger to the promises of citizenship.

In the Old Testament, the general definition is the same, although the Bible takes on more of a family sense than a national sense. In the OT, a Philistine might be allowed to live in Israel, but no Israelite would think that the blessings God promised to the tribes of Israel, family of God, could also apply to the Philistine and his family. He doesn’t get to share in the promised blessing that comes with being a citizen of Israel because he is a foreigner, a stranger to the promises of God’s family. Now, that’s a huge deal. If you are not Jewish, then you are excluded from the full blessing of God’s promises.

foreigner_squareIn the New Testament, the definition is the same. A foreigner is someone who is not a member of God’s family and therefore does not get the blessings of God’s promises. But the meaning of “member of God’s family” undergoes massive transformation. If anyone (Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female) is in Christ, he receives the promises, the benefits, and the inheritance of God (Gal 3). For Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and we are his brothers, co-heirs (Hebrews 2). That means you can be an ethnic child of Abraham, and not a member of God’s family. In other words, at the cross, you can be Jewish and not receive the promises of God (Romans 9:6). Now, a “foreigner” to God’s family is someone who is not in Christ. You are a stranger to the promises of God’s family if you are not in Christ, regardless of your ethnic identity. This shift was made evident in Acts 2, when the Spirit fell, and everyone heard the gospel in their own language. In Acts 10-11, Peter recognizes that the Gentiles (non-Jews) are coming to faith, and then in droves through Paul’s ministry in the rest of Acts. So, for the early church, it’s not ethnic Israel that stands to benefit from God’s promises, but anyone in Christ will benefit. Again, the definition of foreigner doesn’t shift, but the way you get to be a part of God’s family certainly does. This reality wakes up the people of God to realize something that they’d never realized: that God loves all people. And this caused them to do something that they had really never done before: Love people who aren’t “family” better than “family.” People are pretty good at loving blood relatives (12 tribes). But the effect of the cross took those early Christians and mobilized them into the greatest missionaries of truth and compassion the world had yet to see. Because it forced them to see that Christ went to the cross for the world, not just a particular ethnic or socio-economic minority. Now, we sing that there’s “room at the cross for you….. And there’s still room for one.” The reason we can say that is because of what Jesus has done for all the world. Anybody, in the world, can come, because there’s still room. Do you know that’s the kind of heart we are called to have towards people who are not God’s family? To show to the world God’s love for the world. That’s what the church was and is called to do; to show God’s love for the foreigner. Notice Ephesians 4:2, talking to the Church: accept one another in love.

Why Are We Supposed To Love the Foreigner?
Because Jesus has loved us (Ephesians 2:1-13). Let’s read this text, glory in this text, and simmer in it for a moment…

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

The reason we love the foreigner is because we know what it’s like to be a stranger to the promises of God. When we look at people who are all around us without God in the world, we can say: “We know what you’re going through.”

When I was a kid, I just assumed everybody was fine. My parents’ friends were fine and there was really nothing wrong with anybody. Heartache was somewhere else. You know what I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older, everybody, everywhere, is hurting. There are many who are far away from the hope of God and His promises. And you are called to love them, because Jesus has loved you.
Because God gets glory (3:10-11)

The church is to be the “fullness of Jesus Christ” (1:23). If we don’t love the foreigner, then, God’s wisdom looks half baked in Galatians 3:10-11. But if we do love the foreigner, God’s wisdom looks beautiful. This issue of people who are different worshipping together as one man (former foreigners) and loving each other is essential to the character of God.

This is what is at stake. Will God be mocked? Or will he be magnified? That depends on how his church treats people who are strangers to the family of God. How we treat the foreigner will either mock or magnify the good name of the Lord on the earth.

How Do We Live that out in the 21st Century?
Evangelize.
Be hospitable. Open your home. (Zaccheus)
Invite people to be a part of your life. (Jesus-woman at the well with water)
Allow for interruptions (children with Jesus)
Be in fellowship. You can’t love the foreigner if you don’t love your brother.

There’s only one power big enough to bring ultra-different human beings together in love and under one banner. And that’s the cross of Jesus Christ. One Lord, not two. One faith, not two. One baptism, not two. Sure, this is tough to live out, to love the lost, to love the other, to love the foreigner. But let me ask you, how much do you think we should obey the Lord? How long should we obey the Lord? To what extent should we obey the Lord? If you’ve been shown God’s grace, you won’t have any problem showing the grace of God to everybody else, especially the foreigner to God’s promises, because apart from grace that’s exactly what you would be.

Dr. Ben Stubblefield is the Pastor of of FBC Jackson in Jackson, AL, and graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Auburn University.

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Family Promises

Chad Hampsch on how to to use promises to create confidence and security in your home.

I love being a daddy. I love laughing with my kids and going to games. I love making breakfast and doing devotionals at night before bed. I love being able to know someone the way you only can as a daddy. I love the way that they snuggle up to me when they are tired and the way they can’t wait to tell me when they succeed. I love it!

 I also love how the lessons I learn as I study God’s Word teach me principles that make me a better father. One of my favorites deals with promises. Promises are funny because in our world we say “I promise” when we want someone to truly trust us, though we often don’t keep those promises. But God’s promises are different. When God promises something it comes true. It’s foolproof. It can’t be stopped or changed. That promise will be kept. And because we can take God at his word we walk in security. As the storms of life come we know that we can weather the storms because God is true to his promises. We are SECURE.

 So how does that translate to being a dad? After 21 years of doing camping ministry and training thousands of young adult leaders, I have seen a whole generation of kids that aren’t secure. I think the main reason these kids are so insecure is because there are no true promises in their life. Their leaders have failed them and there are no true absolutes. Let me give you an example. For hundreds of years sailors used only the stars to navigate their course. The reason they did was because no matter what storms came, no matter if they were blown off course, the stars were fixed and could put them back on course. They are constant. They do not change. For kids, the stars are always moving. There are no constants. There is just experience and emotion, and both of those leave kids feeling betrayed and alone. We need promises in our lives to bring about security. The perfect example of this is the promise of salvation and the security it brings to our everyday life.

IMG_0877So if in our own lives promises bring about security in our relationship with God, then wouldn’t that be true of kids in regards to security? That’s why my wife and I decided in the first year of marriage to make promises to our children. We wanted to give them a bedrock of security that would not shift with the culture, friends, or circumstances. So we wrote 10 promises to our kids that hang on our wall. They are a constant reminder, like stars pointing the way of what we want to see God accomplish in our family. We made promises about our marriage, about our faith, about our desires, and about how we wanted to bring God glory in our time here on earth.

 So what’s next? It’s easy. Take your spouse on a date and begin to talk about and pray that God would show you what He wants to accomplish in your family. Think about what things you want to be bedrocks in your home. Then, make promises. Promise to be honest with them at all times. Promise you will always be married. Promise to encourage them in their faith. Write them down. Pray over them as a family. Share them with friends. Do it with your small group. Talk about them. Live them out. Then place them like stars in the sky in the center of your home. Make them a part of your everyday life. And remember, our God’s promises bring security in how we walk every single day. Let’s allow those promises to impact our family, our lives, and our marriages for His glory.

Chad Hampsch is the vice president of the Kanakuk Institute.

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Evolution

Charles Stolfus on the historical relationship between science and faith and the tremendous scientific evidence against a postmodern worldview.

The first thing to consider when addressing the issue of evolution is the alleged battle between science and faith. Historically, this battle did not exist. In fact, the scientific revolution was driven by men of faith. Many of them were evangelical believers, and most believed in a “God” of some sort. They saw no conflict between science and the belief in God or the reliability of the Bible. For many, the Scripture, or a belief in God, was an incentive to pursue an understanding of the natural world. So it is a myth that the current battle between we see between science and faith has always existed or even originated in the scientific community. Scientists can in fact be Bible believing Christians and the alleged battle between science and faith was a fictional narrative started in the 19th century by several authors who were hostile to the Christian faith. But it was, in fact, a manufactured battle that really never existed prior to this time and should not exist today.

Now to the issue of evolution.

For much of human history people felt that we were required to invoke God to account for life as we see it. There was no conceivable way to explain the extraordinary levels of complexity that we see in the simplest life forms.

And yet with the 19th century and the advent of Darwin’s theory of evolution there came at least a plausible theory for how living things could come about through the blind forces of nature. Specifically he put forward a theory called natural selection. This was the idea that the natural forces of reproduction could inevitably accumulate to lead to increasing levels of complexity in nature. In this scenario, all living things share a single common ancestor. What connects them all is this process of change driven by what he called natural selection. Namely that in reproduction mutations occur, and every once in a while mutations occur that confer some sort of reproductive advantage on a living thing, and it overtakes a population. Then that process happens again, so you have this stair stepped, gradual increase in complexity that would develop a simple creature into a more complex creature and again into still a more complex creature. Inevitably, given enough time, you could get a bacterium to evolve through this gradation of intermediate species into a human being. So Darwin made it at least plausible that life could have another origin.

darwinsquareI say plausible because even Darwin acknowledged that there were many problems that he had to address, one being the fossil record. Some of the most eminent paleontologists of his day were his chiefest critics because they said the fossil record did not give evidence of intermediate species through this long history of life on earth. Darwin acknowledged the problem, but he was able to blunt that kind of criticism by appealing to future discoveries that would eventually find these intermediate species in the fossil record. Close to 99.9% percent of the work that has ever been done in the fossil record has been done since the time of Darwin and we still haven’t been able to find this inumberable number of transitional species.

On top of that, there is a significant challenge that the Cambrian explosion presents to evolution. The Cambrian Explosion is a phenomenon of the fossil record during the Cambrian Era, however you may date it. In the Cambrian Era, there is an explosion of diversity in the fossil record. But Darwin’s theory called for a slow, gradual evolving of living things from a common ancestor. It did not account for very large leaps in complexity. But all of a sudden we find in the Cambrian Explosion a huge diversity among species so that you go from very few phyla, or body plans, that characterize living things in the earlier periods to a vast diversity of complexity at the Cambrian Era. From there, you actually have a tapering off of the number of phyla, or body plans. So this poses a serious challenge to evolution. How can you account for this explosion of diversity in a geological instant by the Darwinian theory of natural selection. It simply is inexplicable on Darwinian terms, so there have to be other explanations for how this happened.

Charles Stolfus is the Director of the Lay Institute at Denton Bible Church.

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Why I am a Christian

What convinced me to follow Jesus.

I trusted Christ when I was young and understood what Christ had done for me at some level, but at that time I did not understand the character of God very well and was stagnant.

One of the main reasons I was not growing in my faith was that I did not know the character of God. When suffering or joy came, I did not turn to the Lord. I just existed and tried to accomplish it on my own. Now I am convinced every sin in our lives can be traced back to a lie we believe about the character of God.

When I was a senior in highschool my best friend was killed in a car accident. At that point, God shook my foundations. Two men entered my life to disciple me and immediately my life was altered.

Five Reasons to Follow Jesus:

I. Jesus

One of reason I believe in Jesus is He was NOT a good teacher.

John 10:27-30 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

A good teacher teaches people good stuff. He does not come to earth and say “I am God.”

Other worldviews will tell you that Jesus never explicitly claimed to be God. These verses prove that to be false.

John 10:31-33

“Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

John 8:58

“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.””

Remember when Moses saw the burning bush?  God reveals Himself to Moses and says “I AM who I AM.”

More than twenty times in the book of John, Jesus begins a claim with the title “I AM.”

Jesus was making a claim that shook the foundations of the Pharisee’s belief.

John 1:1-5 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

This passage does not explicitly use Jesus’ name, but John 1:14 gives us a clue to the identity of the Word.

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Who is the Word?  Jesus.

Who is the Truth?  Jesus.

Now read John 1:1-4 again and replace “the Word” with Jesus.

Jesus is claiming to be with God, to be God, and to be with Him in the beginning.

Jesus is not claiming to be a good teacher. He is claiming to be so much more. With Jesus we have 3 options. Jesus is a Liar (claiming to be God when He is not), a Lunatic (thinking He is God when He is not), or Lord… (exactly who He says He is).

II. Man

Most cultures see man as good. I think the Bible is the only book that honestly deals with man as he truly is spiritually.

As you understand the character of God more and more, your view of self becomes less and less.

Romans 1:16-17  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Every other world religion man can always find his way to God, but that worldview falls apart when we see what the Bible says about the condition of man.

In Christianity God reveals His righteousness to us. God rescues His own from certain death.

III. The Bible

If this book is truly from God, it should have supernatural elements.

Supernatural elements:

1. Prophecy

The number of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament is 220-300+. Scientists and mathematicians claim that seven prophecies are impossible to be fulfilled by one man.

Man wouldn’t write the Bible if he could, and couldn’t write the Bible if he would. We would come up with a god that was a cross between Batman and Superman, and he would give us a checklist of three things we have to do to get to heaven, or five things as we see in some popular religious systems.

2. Unexplainable continuity of the Bible

1 Peter 1:20-21 “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

39 men from all over the world and all different professions wrote a book that cannot be proven wrong!  This is impossible!

3. Typology/Foreshadowing

Many of the characters and events of the Old Testament foreshadow future events surrounding Christ’s first and second coming.

Examples:

Romans 5:12 “ Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” (emphasis added)

-This type is a picture or foreshadowing.

-This means that Adam is a type of Christ. But Adam fell, and with him, we fell.

Joseph also is a typology of Christ

-beloved by his father and rejected by the Jews

-goes to the Gentiles

-stores up bread to give Gentiles life

-Jews come to Egypt and are grafted in with the Gentiles

Abraham is another example. He takes his only son Isaac up the same hill that Jesus climbs with His cross. Isaac carries the wood he will be sacrificed on up the hill just like Jesus.

Passover: an innocent lamb is sacrificed for the people so they would not die. Jesus, the true Passover Lamb, later is sacrificed to atone for His people on the night of Passover.

IV. Other worldviews

Christianity is the only religion that has an answer for suffering – a reason for why bad things happen.

Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

This hope is already accomplished!  We are simply waiting for it’s fulfillment.

All religions and worldviews tested against science, manuscript evidence, and reality come up short.

V. How God has changed my life

If you understand the character of God and know Him, He is going to take you places you never dreamed possible.

I was on the fast track to success in the business world, but God started stirring other desires in me. I started praying with my dad for forty days about my future and twenty days in I got a phone call saying, “We want you to move to Branson to help start the Kanakuk Institute, and we can’t pay you. Will you give up your job and come join us?”

I said, “Okay, God, Yes.”

September 1st, 2001, I moved to Branson. September 11, 2001 happened ten days later. I got engaged September 21st,married April 6th, and my first paycheck came the middle of June. We were married for two months without a paycheck, but He is on the throne. He is the King of 1,000 hills.

God can take you places you never imagined. Are you willing to follow Jesus at all costs? Do you know the Savior? Do you know the God that I am talking about? When He calls you to China, will you say “Alright… I’ll go.”

See beyond yourself for just a moment and trust in the Savior that hung on the cross for you and gave us the Bible that we might know His character; that we might trust Him with all of our hearts.

Let’s be a body of believers that says “I’m all in. I want to be a part of something greater than myself” and God will prove Himself in your life in undeniable ways.

Chad Hampsch is the Vice President of the Kanakuk Institute and graduate of Greenville College. 

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The Tower of Babel

Genesis 11 provides the story of the “beginnings” of modern day religion. More specifically, it recalls man’s earliest organized attempts to find satisfaction and purpose outside of God’s design.

Ham received a curse on his family line for disrespecting his father Noah. Perhaps in spite toward God for the curse, his grandson was named Nimrod, which means “Let’s Rebel.” He was raised to be “a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The Jewish Targum, an Old Testament version of the study bible, describes Nimrod from the language of this verse as “a man of wickedness in the face of God.” Nimrod set out to establish his own little empire with the city of Babel at its center. In the original Akkadian, Babel means “a gateway to the god(s),” and it is known as Babylon in Greek. The tower in the city of Babylon was almost certainly a ziggurat with an astrological sign at the peak, which served as a pagan temple. The top of the tower was said to be “in, with, or by the heavens.” The purpose of the ziggurat was not to physically reach the heavens, but to provide spiritual access to heavenly power through idol worship. The people’s goal in creating the tower was to make a great name for themselves rather than God. (Gen. 11:4)

The people of Babylon exchanged the Truth of God for a lie and chose to worship the creation rather than the Creator. Rather than honoring God, they used astrology as a means of honoring themselves.

God did not bring immediate judgment on this rebellion like He did with the flood. Instead, He displays his patience by scattering the people and limiting their ability to be as evil as they possibly could be. (v.6- “nothing will be impossible for them” is like saying “their evil deeds will know no limits”)

The city of Babylon- “a gateway to the gods”- becomes known as Babel to the Hebrews- a name that sounds like the Hebrew word for “confusion.” Immediately, the name represents the place where God confused the languages, but this event also demonstrates how the pursuit of satisfaction and freedom in pagan “religion” leads to nothing but confusion.

The people of Babylon werre scattered to surrounding locations, such as Ur and Egypt. As they went out from Babel, their man made efforts to find purpose and satisfaction went with them. In Ur of Chaldeans, it manifested in worship of the moon. This is the reconstructed footing of the ancient Tower of Ur, which was dedicated to the moon God Nanna.

ziggurat_at_Ur

This is the radical nature of the call of Abraham. He was a man living among a people in rebellion against God. The people of Ur were held captive to the oppression of the harlot of false religion. Then, “the God of Glory appeared to Abraham” (Acts 7) and called him out of darkness and into light.

Babylon shows up again in Revelation 17 where she is identified as the mother of all harlots. These harlots are the false religions that spread out from Babel and sit on the peoples and nations. (v.15) The reality for anyone who is outside of Christ is that they are under the oppression of a harlot and their soul is dead in transgressions and sins. While promising satisfaction, this harlot crushes the life of the soul.

In America, we worship at the altar of sex, status, and materialism more often than astrology. We all know the feeling of oppression that comes from being sat on by these prostitutes. Yet, while we were dead in our transgressions and sins, the God of Glory intervened and appeared to us in the form of Christ. Just as he intervened in the life of Abraham and called him out of the darkness of Ur, God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of light.

1 John 3:8 says that the Son of God appeared to destroy the work of the devil. Jesus’ death has loosened the stranglehold the prostitute Babylon had on our lives. We are no longer confined to the slavery of searching for “a gateway to the gods” outside of God’s design. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 ESV) Whether it is legalism or lust, Babylon and her daughters are alive and well in our culture. But her days are numbered.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (Hebrews 10:35-39 ESV)

Our victory in Christ is secure. We will not shrink back and look for comfort in the lies that flow from Babylon. May we not seek satisfaction in the things for which Christ came to die.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;

He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;

Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!

Our God is marching on.

-Julia Ward Howe

Bradley Mooney is the recruiting coordinator at the Kanakuk Institute and graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

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CC Buford Student Spotlight

Listen to CC share about her future as an ambassador for Christ and collegiate coach.

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The Great Dance of God

Dr. Jason Dees on C.S. Lewis and “The Great Dance of God”

When I think about the nature of God and how he exists in Trinitarian form, one of the most helpful ideas is a phrase C.S. Lewis came up with, “The Great Dance of God.”

couple-1299681_640When you see a couple dancing there are two individuals and a lot of steps. Dancing is complex and detail oriented. But when you watch people who really know how to dance, it doesn’t seem complex or detailed and you do not realize there are a lot of steps. There is a rhythm and a beauty about it. Someone is leading and someone is following, but you can’t tell because there is this oneness in the movement.

This is a great analogy for who God is. In the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each play different roles. The Father has a role, the Son is submitting to the Father, and the Spirit is proceeding from the Father and the Son. Though they are one in essence, they have different roles. But the way they move together and the rhythm and the harmony they share together is a picture of glorious oneness. It is “The Great Dance.”

Now imagine if you took this dance between three persons and spread it out across the whole creation. Think of the 2008 Beijing Olympics where 15,000 performers were performing with so many intricate parts, yet it all flowed together with a rhythm and harmony in the movement. This is a great analogy for God’s design in all of creation, that The Great Dance, the rhythm and harmony and movement that has existed forever in the Godhead, would flow out into the trillions of pieces that make up the cosmos. Of course all of that was broken with sin, when Adam and Eve fell out of rhythm with God. With sin the movement and oneness was lost.

The Glory of the gospel is that Jesus enters into the broken world of chaos and calls us back into order and the rhythm we were initially designed to live in. The great invitation of the gospel is come back into the great dance you were designed for from the beginning of time.

Dr. Jason Dees is the Senior Pastor of Valleydale Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and guest instructor at the Kanakuk Institute.

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Why was Jesus baptized?

Jesus’ baptism was confusing for everyone expecting the Messiah. Even his cousin John the Baptist was confused. Right before Jesus’ arrival at the Jordan, John prophesied, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12) Following this terrifying prophecy of the final baptism of mankind, the very one who will baptize the world with fire arrived on scene and asked John if he would baptize him in a dirty river. John wanted to stop him because he knew the Son of God had no personal need to participate in a baptism of repentance with sinful men.

baptism_2The confusion John the Baptist had that day was the same confusion many of Christ’s followers had the day he was crucified. How could this conquering King be subject to the dirty water of the Jordan River or the event it foreshadowed, his death on the cross?

Yet Jesus was there when the history of baptism was written. He knew that none of God’s people would make it safely across the Jordan unless they went with God’s Prophet.

Since creation God has used water as a source (2 Peter 3:5) and symbol (John 7:37-39) of physical and spiritual life, and also as an instrument of death in delivering judgment. (Genesis 6 and 1 Peter 3:18-21)

Peter identifies the first baptism in the Bible as the waters of the flood in Genesis 6. He then highlights the safe passage of Noah, a righteous man, through the waters of judgment by God’s grace. (1 Peter 3:18-21)

With Moses as their intercessor, Paul says the Israelites were baptized into Moses and into the Red Sea. These same waters brought the judgment of death on the Egyptians who were not counted among God’s people. (1 Corinthians 10:2, Exodus 15:4)

The next example is in Joshua 3-4 at the Jordan River, known as the River of Judgment. After the death of Moses, Joshua led Israel safely through the Jordan river into the Promised Land, a picture of heaven.

Like Noah, Moses and Joshua, but in greater fashion, Christ chose to lead God’s people through the waters of judgment. Jesus knew his submission to the waters of the River of Judgment was necessary to fulfill all righteousness. Not his righteousness, but ours, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” (Romans 8:4) He was the only man ever baptized who was worthy to spring to life out of that judgment. This was evident at his baptism when IMMEDIATELY coming up out of the waters God declared him to be his beloved Son, and at his resurrection by which he was declared to be the Son of God with power. (Romans 1:4)

Now, being joined together with Christ in his death and resurrection, we too may follow the Prophet safely through the water and fire of God’s judgment. (Romans 6:5)

“On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.”
-Samuel Stennett

Bradley Mooney is the recruiting coordinator at the Kanakuk Institute and graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. mooney@kanakukinstitute.com

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Keith Chancey on Prayer

Prayer – Our Secret Weapon

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:18-20

Keith Chancey is the president of the Kanakuk Institute and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary.

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Finding the Historical Jesus

Christians make extraordinary claims about the inspiration of Scripture and the resurrection of the dead. Obviously, most people are forced to reject these claims outright in order to maintain the status quo in our culture’s subjection to naturalism. In the Bible, these claims about the work of the Holy Spirit and life after death are tied to historical events. Therefore, people cannot simply deny the theological claims; they must reject the historical events as well.

Essentially, the Bible presents theology and history in an indivisible harmony. If the history is true, then the doctrine must be true. In order to deny Jesus as the Son of God, you must ultimately reject a significant amount of historical data that is tied to his story.

This should present a greater challenge than most people are willing to acknowledge.

faith-208820_640Rabbis and scribes have taken incredible measures for thousands of years to accurately preserve the biblical text. What we have today is easily the most validated document from antiquity with thousands of ancient manuscripts, many of which are very early. (The most recent discovery of Mark predates A.D. 90 and may be as early as A.D. 50)

Based on all accepted scientific measurables, the original words of the authors have been preserved in Scripture.

Now the question should be, “Why should we consider these extraordinary stories to be true?”

The first compelling answer to this question is the martyrdom of the followers of Jesus. History shows many of these writers and early disciples held to the reliability of the events even to the point of death.

Examples:

I. Josephus (37 AD-100 AD) was a secular Jewish historian. He records the stoning of James, Jesus’ brother, at the hands the High Priest Ananus ben Ananus:

“But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned” Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews Book 20, Chapter 9

II. Peter’s martyrdom in Rome is documented in a letter from Clement sent to the Corinthian Church around A.D. 90.

“Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most just pillars of the Church were persecuted, and came even unto death. … Peter, through unjust envy, endured not one or two but many labours, and at last, having delivered his testimony, departed unto the place of glory due to him.” Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians”

III. Eusebius records Paul’s death by beheading in Rome for his faith in Jesus during the time of Nero. “Church History,” Book II, Chapter 25

IV. The Emperor Trajan and Pliny, the Governor of Pontus, exchanged letters discussing the execution of early Christians for refusing to abandon their confession:

“I have taken this course about those who have been brought before me as Christians. I asked them whether they were Christians or not? If they confessed that they were Christians, I asked them again, and a third time, intermixing threatenings with the questions. If they persevered in their confession, I ordered them to be executed; for I did not doubt but, let their confession be of any sort whatsoever, this positiveness and inflexible obstinacy deserved to be punished.” Pliny’s letter to Trajan ca. 112 A.D.

V. Polycarp was a disciple of John and was later burned at the stake for refusing to deny his faith. Martyrdom of Polycarp

These accounts do not prove the Bible. Many people have sacrificed their lives for lies they believed to be true. However, their deaths are great evidence for sincere belief. We know the authors themselves and the early disciples certainly believed their version of the history of Jesus was true.

If men who knew Jesus and disciples of the apostles were willing to go to their death to defend their version of history, then modern scholarship should demand significant historical testimony to contradict their stories.

However, secular historians of the day offer records that only seem to confirm the Apostles’ version of events.

I. Josephus, mentioned before, says Jesus was known as the Christ when describing the death of his brother James. Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews Book 20, Chapter 9

II. Tacitus, a Roman Senator and historian, writes of Jesus’ death at the hands of Pontus Pilate in his Annals of History. His hatred for the Christians is evident, however, his testimony only reinforces the story of the Gospels:

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 Judea, 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. The Annals Book 15

III. Seutonius records the expulsion of Jews and Jewish Christians in his biography of the emperor Claudius, written around A.D. 120.

“Since the Jews were constantly causing disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.” Claudius 25:4 Chrestus was a common spelling for the term Christ, meaning Messiah.

While the contemporary records of the Romans concerning Jesus are not extensive, there is no reason they should be. Christianity exploded with the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Until then, Jesus was a relatively obscure Jewish teacher who was rejected by his own people.

As Isaiah says, “he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:2-3

The life, death, and claimed resurrection of the Messiah are recorded in and outside the Bible.

An honest look at the historical data leaves one viable option when it comes to Jesus, to label him a liar, lunatic, or LORD. Only one label seems to account for the birth of an obscure Jewish Rabbi that ultimately reset the calendar and changed the complexion of every civilization under heaven.

Bradley Mooney is the recruiting coordinator at the Kanakuk Institute and graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. mooney@kanakukinstitute.com

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