Who Was the Apostle Paul?

Today I’m sharing from Overview Bible.

Who Was the Apostle Paul?

By

The Apostle Paul was one of the most influential leaders of the early Christian church. He played a crucial role in spreading the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews) during the first century, and his missionary journeys took him all throughout the Roman empire.

Paul started more than a dozen churches, and he’s traditionally considered the author of 13 books of the Biblemore than any other biblical writer. For this reason, Saint Paul is often considered one of the most influential people in history. He had a greater impact on the world’s religious landscape than any other person besides Jesus, and perhaps Muhammad.

But before he was known as a tireless champion of Christianity, Paul was actually known for persecuting Christians. The Book of Acts tells us that Paul was even present at the death of the first Christian martyr—where he “approved the stoning of Stephen” (Acts 8:1).

Over the last two millennia, countless books have been written about Paul and his teachings. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the basics of what we know—and don’t know—about this important biblical figure.

Read the rest here.

Looking For Jesus

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

LOOKING FOR JESUS

How to find Christ in the Old Testament

By Liz Wann

When I was a kid, I looked for Waldo. That guy with the red hat, red-striped shirt, and hipster looking glasses. He was elusive, but I was Sherlock. I would scan the overcrowded picture from top to bottom, left to right, and look for anything that was red. Some pages in the Where’s Waldo? books were easy, but some were difficult. Yet every time I would come back after giving up, I’d find his eyes, with those large black glasses, staring back at me. Even when I couldn’t find him, he was always there and (creepy enough) he was always staring right at me.

In the same way that Waldo is not likely to be discovered without effort and focus, so too we must search for Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Like Where’s Waldo?, there are techniques and strategies that can help us see Christ in the Old Testament. There are clues left behind like a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. We tend to think of Jesus only showing up in the New Testament. But he is there, like Waldo, in the Old as well.

The unfolding plan

The major story of the Old Testament is about God choosing and setting aside a people for himself (the Israelites) and continually preserving them. The story is told through a variety of literary genres, such as sweeping historical narratives, prophecies, poetry, and proverbs. In the New Testament, the focus narrows to historical accounts of Jesus’s life and the lives of his first followers, including their letters and reflections on who Jesus is and what that means.

Many people claim that the Old and New Testaments differ greatly in their depiction of God. They think of God as full of love and mercy in the New Testament, and full of wrath, anger, and punishment in the Old. But it’s not that clear cut. God is a God of wrath and mercy throughout the entire Bible, with the climax of his wrath and mercy being poured out at the cross. The common thread running through both sections of the Bible is God’s plan to save humanity from sin’s degradation. The stories, prophecies, and people in the Old Testament point us to a coming Savior who will cleanse us of our sins—Jesus, a better Adam, a better Moses, and a better David. If the New Testament is the part of the Bible where all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, then the Old Testament is getting us ready for his coming.

Read the rest here.

Scrap Paper

I  have an update on Pat’s new book, which looks like it will be published this year in late summer or possibly in the fall. After much prayer, she has decided to name it “Feast of Joy.” I have already written an enthusiastic endorsement for the back cover and am really looking forward to reading this addition to her joyful series of books. Pat is also the author of Rejoice! and Pure Joy, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, eBay and XulonPress.

Scrap Paper

By Pat Knight

The paper is now yellow and tattered with only one sentence written repeatedly on both the front and back. It was more than fifty years ago when I wrote determinedly until there was no space left near the torn edges. Recently I have taken steps to preserve the relic by laminating it. Now the sentiment of my past remains safely tucked inside my Bible as a poignant reminder of the exceptional, unexpected methods God devises to draw me to His side.

I clearly recall the frustration I felt when I sat at my desk in my college dorm room staring at a monumental stack of books written in a new and unfamiliar language. I had managed to complete three weeks of the first semester. Now my assignments were piling up, and my only reaction was defeat. Many miles from home in an alien city, I was lonely. I had met many new friends, but unlike me, they all exuded confidence. Was there anyone experiencing the disarray of emotions I was feeling? I was overcome with a sense of helplessness that I feared would lead to certain failure.

With the last shred of emotional energy remaining that evening I grabbed my Bible and adroitly flipped to a favorite, reassuring verse. There was no need to find the passage; I had memorized it long ago. As I pondered the verse, I began scribbling on a random piece of paper. I prayed the words of the verse as I wrote, as if putting the promise in my own handwriting would transplant them in my mind this night. The apostle Paul admitted, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). I was scribbling feverishly and ultimately covered the half piece of paper, front and back, for a total of eighteen repetitions. Completely spent, I then plopped into bed. No homework was done that night. But, I had a new commitment. I would make it through college with Jesus at my side, empowering me each step of the way.

Though that experience occurred in my youth many decades ago, it left me with an impressionable lesson. Philippians 4:13 was my new goal. I have used it often and with conviction. God proved that He and I could accomplish anything together that conforms to His will.

When Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he penned a letter to his fellow Christians in Philippi. If Paul grasped the reality of God’s promises from prison, surely I could acknowledge God’s interaction in my own life, to be and to do what He establishes as my goals every day. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

The Old Testament reveals that due to disobedience, God allowed the Israelites to be captured and enslaved by the Egyptians. As a result of their outcry, after four hundred years as slaves in a foreign country, God revealed His magnificent plan to free His people.

God chose Moses to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom and land ownership in the Promised Land. But Moses was resistant and flatly refused the assignment. He told God he wasn’t eloquent of speech or believable and he argued at every reassurance God offered. Finally, God had witnessed enough rebellion and insisted that Moses accept the appointment.

There were many challenges ahead for Moses as he frequently dealt with a defiant nation of people who first agreed to God’s commands, but soon thereafter disobeyed them. On many occasions Moses wanted to quit, but God always provided the needs of both Moses and the people, often in miraculous ways.

Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, through the parted waters of the Red Sea to escape the Egyptian militia, and he delivered the Ten Commandments to the people directly from God’s hand. For forty years he led a large and stiff-necked people. In his lifetime Moses progressed from a skeptic to a believer who was totally reliant on his Lord. What an example Moses left for all of us!

Every day we face opportunities, responsibilities, and questions for which we do not know the answers. Assured God is always available to help and lead us, we are willing to obey what He asks of us. “‘Call to me and I will answer you, great and unsearchable things you do not know’” (Jeremiah 33:3). What an exciting Christian life is possible when we remain malleable and obedient for God to use for His purposes!

Whenever God sends us to witness and work for Him, He desires to accompany us. There is nothing to fear when God is near. Moses demonstrated God’s partnership in his life by developing into one of God’s most powerful and effective servants. He didn’t begin that way. When God presented His plan, Moses argued, asking God to send someone else. Have we unwittingly refused God’s plan for our lives? If we feel His leading and refuse to follow, we act as stubborn and as disobedient as Moses did. When God formulates a plan for our lives, He intends to make it a rich, growing experience, one with a secure future in which we work side-by-side with him. “‘So is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace’” (Isaiah 55:11).

There is peace and joy serving God, with no limits to what you and God can accomplish together. If you harbor any doubts, then I suggest you grab scrap paper and start writing: “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Allow plenty of room on the paper—repetition reinforces ideas and you may want to save your work as a life-long reminder of God’s leadership!

Who Was Judas Iscariot?

Today I’m sharing from Overview Bible.

Who Was Judas Iscariot?
The Beginner’s Guide

By

Judas Iscariot was one of the 12 original disciples of Jesus Christ. He infamously betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, which lead to his death on the cross. Today, “Judas” is virtually synonymous for “traitor.”

Among the disciples, Judas was the official treasurer, and he was apparently pretty shady even before he made his big debut as the worst person in history. (He stole money.) Despite that, Judas was a fairly conflicted person. He tried to return the 30 pieces of silver, and according to the Gospel of Matthew, he hanged himself not long after betraying Jesus.

Judas appears in several New Testament stories, and while the Gospel writers are in unanimous agreement that he betrayed Jesus, they present various takes on his motives and the circumstances surrounding his death.

So what else do we really know about Judas? For starters, here are the quick facts.

Read the rest here.

Rekindling Your Love for Christ

Thank you all for bearing with me during my short hiatus. I am feeling a lot better now and will share more about that in a future post. Today I’m sharing an excellent post from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Rekindling Your Love for Christ

by John MacArthur

As we begin this new year, before we get back into our study of the gospel of Luke, which we will commence again next Sunday, along with our series on doctrine next Sunday night, I want to talk to you just personally and pastorally a little bit. Last Sunday I spoke on 1 Corinthians chapter 10, on the danger of spiritual privilege, from the verse, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” How that those who are singularly blessed can become smug about that blessing and thinking they’re firm in their stand can be headed for a serious collapse. I want to follow up on that same perspective today, because I feel like part of the ministry that I must discharge before the Lord, and you, is a ministry of warning about danger.

Our church is not in particular danger from some dominating iniquity. It is not in particular danger from some infiltrating heresy. It is not in danger from some loss of resources financially or human. Everything you can see on the surface looks to be good. And we would have every reason to think that we stand, and still be on the brink of a fall. And following that idea up a little bit, we have to go to the real core of what it means to be a Christian. And I, from my perspective, believe that the church in our day is completely losing this simple perspective. I think the Christian life is essentially a simple thing to understand. It is a life of loving Jesus Christ. I know that sounds probably pretty basic, and indeed it is, but just that simple statement has been lost to us.

The Christian life is best defined as an ongoing relationship of love between the believer and Christ. We don’t need to talk about His love for us. That’s fixed. The issue is our love for Christ. Evangelical Christianity has all but lost this perspective on the Christian life. Most people have the idea that the Christian life is about how much God loves me and wants to fulfill my dreams and my desires and my ambitions and my goals and my objectives. And what He wants to do is make something wonderful out of me and life me up and elevate me and fulfill all the hopes of my heart. It’s more about God loving me so much that He wants to do all of this than it is about me loving Him.

But in reality, the Christian life is about loving Christ. It is about loving Him singularly. It is about loving Him totally. It is about loving Him sacrificially. It is about loving Him obediently. It is about loving Him worshipfully. It is about loving Him in terms of service. It really is about loving Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian. It’s that you now commit your life to loving Him.

Now if you understand the Old Testament, the great commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the sum of all that God requires, and your neighbor as yourself. But it starts with loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, which is just a way of saying loving God comprehensively, totally, completely. Now if that’s the sum of the Law, then that has to be the sum of the relationship. That can’t be altered when it comes to being a Christian. It is still the purpose of God that we would love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Being a Christian is about loving Christ so much that you want to know Him, so much that you want to exalt Him, so much that you want to please Him, so much that you want to serve Him, so much that you want to be with Him, so much that you want to tell others about Him. It’s about this overwhelming, consuming affection for Christ. This is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.

And so, the real question to ask people when you talk about their spiritual growth or their spiritual condition or where they are in terms of their life is, how much do you love Jesus Christ? How much do you love Christ? Are you growing in your love for Christ? Do you love Him more now than you have in the past? Do you desire Him more now than you did in the past? 

Read the rest here.

Faith That Works

Sharing today from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Faith That Works

by John MacArthur

Saving faith is a divine gift, not a human work. But that doesn’t mean true faith is passive or unaccompanied by good works.

The faith God graciously supplies produces both the volition and the ability to comply with His will (cf. Philippians 2:13: “God . . . is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”). Thus faith is inseparable from obedience.

Louis Berkhof sees three elements to genuine faith: An intellectual element (notitia), which is “a positive recognition of the truth”; an emotional element (assensus), which includes “a deep conviction [and affirmation] of the truth”; and a volitional element (fiducia), which involves “a personal trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord, including a surrender . . . to Christ.” [1] Augustus Strong argues similarly concerning the volitional element of faith, saying that it involves “surrender of the soul, as guilty and defiled, to Christ’s governance.” [2] Modern popular theology tends to recognize the intellectual and emotional elements of faith but dispenses with the volitional aspect. Yet faith is not true faith if it lacks this attitude of surrender to Christ’s authority.

Writing about the verb “to obey” (peithō), W. E. Vine says:

Peithō and pisteuō, “to trust,” are closely related etymologically; the difference in meaning is that the former implies the obedience that is produced by the latter, cp. Hebrews 3:18–19, where the disobedience of the Israelites is said to be the evidence of their unbelief. . . . When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God. . . . Peithō in N.T. suggests an actual and outward result of the inward persuasion and consequent faith. [3]

So the person who has believed will yearn to obey. Because we retain the vestiges of sinful flesh, no one will obey perfectly (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:11 Thessalonians 3:10), but the desire to do the will of God will be ever present in true believers.

Romans 7 is the classic text describing the believer’s struggle with his sinful flesh, and in that passage Paul acknowledged his changed attitude to sin despite the ongoing struggle. He wrote that the desire to do good was his consuming passion as a believer:

I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)

The willing [to do good] is present in me. (Romans 7:18)

I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man. (Romans 7:22)

I myself with my mind am serving the law of God. (Romans 7:25)

Although the apostle Paul described himself as the “foremost” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), those who love reveling in debauchery will not find a kindred spirit with him.

Read the rest here.

Always Let Your Bible Be Your Guide

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Always Let Your Bible
Be Your Guide

It’s not wise to allow movies to inform our theology. I grew up with the Jiminy Cricket quote: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” In the children’s movie Pinocchio, Disney’s dapper cricket danced and sang, encouraging the wooden puppet—along with the magical Blue Fairy—to follow his conscience as a moral compass for life. “Take the straight and narrow path,” Jiminy sang, “and always let your conscience be your guide.”

Was Jiminy right?

Culturally, the conscience is thought to help with decisions, and the conscience is considered to be rooted in good morals and virtuous character. Yet in colleges today, morals and ethics students debate what good “morality” looks like, and practical applications are open to interpretation.

A guiding conscience, in some situations, is more like a “be true to yourself” mantra than a moral compass for choosing what is proper, moral, or right.

Following True North

When hiking, if our compass is only one degree off course, we likely won’t arrive at our destination. A good, functional compass won’t be skewed; it will point “true north.”

The Christian’s moral compass points “true north” to the Truth of the Bible. God’s Word is the foundation for the believer’s moral and ethical behavior, and consequences are serious when our moral compass is not correctly aligned with God’s Word.

The Westminster Confession says, “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” God has freed us from submission to “doctrines and commandments of men” that are contrary to Scripture, that go beyond His commands or conflict with His wisdom principles for living.

God’s Word must reign supreme in our conscience! Our moral compass must be captive to biblical truth, not the whims of culture or even the fluctuating leanings of our hearts. As Andy Naselli wrote, “That voice in your head is not necessarily God’s voice. Sometimes your conscience may be theologically incorrect.”

In the Bible, Adam and Eve were the first ones to follow their own conscience, but their moral compass was not aligned with God’s words—His clear command (Gen. 2:17; 3:3, 6). The result was disastrous! Deceived, their human conscience allowed them to make a faulty, rebellious choice.

Read the rest here.