Live in Fear - 1 Peter 1:17-21

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This outline continues a series preached in 2002. For my own edification (and hopefully yours as well), I’ve restudied the passage and made some improvements to the outline.

Remember that Peter’s original audience was enduring suffering—persecution in particular. Of course, they would experience fear, just as we all do when facing times of trouble. So you would expect the apostle to offer a message of “fear not,” as God’s messengers so often did in Scripture. And in fact he does offer that message eventually (1 Pet. 3:6, 14). But first, rather than saying “fear not,” he says “live in fear.” Why? and what sort of fear does he have in mind?

In our fallenness we’re all only too willing to fear the wrong things and in the wrong way, and in troubled times, that tendency doesn’t go away. This is why God confronted His people through Isaiah with these words.

I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? 13 And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? (NKJV, Isaiah 51:12–13)

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Book Review - The Lost World of Scripture

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Image of The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority
by John H. Walton, D. Brent Sandy
IVP Academic 2013
Paperback 320

Everyone loves a good story of discovery. Whether it is in the pages of a good book or watching Indiana Jones on the big screen, people love to be drawn into the discovery of lost artifacts, and even more so, lost worlds. Archeology has unearthed artifacts, buried tombs, treasures and entire villages that give us a glimpse into the lives and ways of the people and civilizations of the ancient past. In many ways, we are discovering things and worlds that have been lost and are very different than ours. Among these discoveries are the ancient writings of various cultures. These ancient writings provide us with a wealth of information on how people thought and lived in the past. They are a window into ancient cultures. And for Christians, they are a look into how the Hebrews and early Christians viewed and used Scripture.

There is no doubt that modern readers of the Bible have to fight reading their own world into the world of the Bible when it comes to the task of interpretation. Unfortunately, many readers of Scripture, Christians included, do this without knowing it. The world in which the Bible was born is lost to them and they don’t realize it. Read more about Book Review - The Lost World of Scripture

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Postmodernism 8 - Churches, Relationships, and Programs

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From Sunesis. Posted with permission. Read the series.

One of the differences between “modern” churches and “postmodern” churches is the way they seek to “do church.” The modern churches have been heavy on programs—Sunday School, children’s church, youth programs, camping programs, visitation programs, and on the list could go. The postmoderns are more interested in relationships. They are generally not interested in separating the family during church times or conducting visitation campaigns or developing similar programs. Postmodern church events, as well as the spontaneous gatherings of church members, are less about learning, doing, or accomplishing some specified goal and more about just being together. The emerging church is willing to take the time to develop relationships.

The postmoderns have reacted most strongly against the two ultimate kinds of “modern” church philosophy—the megachurch and the seeker-sensitive church. The megachurch, however, is not a recent evangelical invention. In the mid- to late-20thcentury, fundamentalists worked at growing their churches through a wide variety of programs, especially the bus program. Elmer Towns kept track of the fastest growing churches in America in the 1970s and later. Today Outreach Magazine continues to track the fastest growing churches in America. The modern mindset which views bigness as success continues. There is nothing wrong with a big church, as long as the goal of the big church is not simply to be bigger. Read more about Postmodernism 8 - Churches, Relationships, and Programs

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When Is It Time to Quit?

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From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2014. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Every once in a while I do something that feels akin to beating my head against a wall. This article feels like that because my intention is to discuss how long preachers should preach. I have discussed this topic with enough preachers to know that preachers will preach as long as they want to preach. Certainly every preacher needs to be “convinced in his own mind” of what length of sermon is appropriate. I acknowledge this is an area where good men can disagree. Perhaps there is a certain arrogance when a preacher insists on preaching as long as he wants, or more “spiritually” stated, as long as the Holy Spirit leads.

Certainly no hard and fast rule on sermon length exists other than the guidelines of past practice and good sense. Let me say at the outset that I am advocating for shorter sermons that pack a greater punch. The bottom line is that few preachers have the ability to keep an audience for 50-plus minutes. (I know that I am not one of those preachers and chances are you aren’t either.) In fact, for every preacher who can engage an audience and keep its attention for that length of time, there are a dozen who can’t. I am not arguing for sermonettes for that would only produce “Christianettes.” Read more about When Is It Time to Quit?

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Answering Richard Dawkins, Part 1

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I appreciate Dr. Richard Dawkins’ impassioned arguments against creationism, as he challenges his listeners and readers to think through their positions and to offer sound reasons for their conclusions. My focus here is not to argue against his atheism, but is to answer his arguments that creationism is not a plausible understanding of our origin history. Sadly, it appears that Dawkins won’t be debating any creationists in the near future, as he is reluctant to give “wingnuts the oxygen of publicity and the respectability of being seen on a platform with a real scientist, anywhere.”1 Nonetheless Dawkins, in the context of discussing the Ken Ham, Bill Nye debate on creationism, offers five points of candid and insightful advice to “anyone who, for one reason or another finds him/herself debating one of those idiots.” In this series I, Wingnut, consider Dawkins’ five-pronged critique of creationism.

Dawkins Argument #1

Physical scientists (such as Bill Nye) should play to their strengths in physical science and call the wingnut out on the age of fossils, and cosmological evidence on the age of the universe. Radiometric dating of rocks is solid, irrefutable science. The agreement between different isotopes with overlapping time spans is so strong, it is impossible for anyone to wriggle out of the conclusion that the world is billions of years old, not thousands. Astronomical evidence of the expanding universe agrees. Read more about Answering Richard Dawkins, Part 1

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The Testimony of Foreign Missions to the Superintending Providence of God

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(About this series)

CHAPTER I: THE TESTIMONY OF FOREIGN MISSIONS TO THE SUPERINTENDING PROVIDENCE OF GOD

BY THE LATE ARTHUR T. PIERSON

God is in creation; cosmos would still be chaos with God left out. He is also in events; the whole of mission history is a mystery until read as His story.

We are now to look at the proofs of a Superintending Providence of God in foreign missions. The word “providence” literally means forevision, and hence, foreaction—preparation for what is foreseen—expressing a divine, invisible rule of this world, including care, control, guidance, as exercised over both the animate and inanimate creation. In its largest scope it involves foreknowledge and foreordination, preservation and administration, exercised in all places and at all times.

For our present purpose the word “providence” may be limited to the divine activity in the entire control of persons and events. This sphere of action and administration, or superintendence, embraces three departments: first, the natural or material—creation; second, the spiritual or immaterial—new creation; and third, the intermediate history in which He adapts and adjusts the one to the other, so that even the marred and hostile elements, introduced by sin, are made tributary to the final triumph of redemption. Man’s degeneration is corrected in regeneration; the natural made subservient to

6 The Fundamentals

the supernatural, and even the wrath of man to the love and grace of God. Read more about The Testimony of Foreign Missions to the Superintending Providence of God

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Uncle Ben Was Almost Right

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The story has almost attained myth status in our culture. Brainy, often-bullied, tragically-parentless adolescent has accidental encounter with dangerously powerful lab experiment. Bitten by an unnaturally fortified spider, he soon begins to develop spider-like qualities himself. He discovers that he has faster-than-human reflexes, can climb walls, and can do amazing things with webs. (Fortunately for him, compound eyes, extra limbs, and complicated new mouth parts are not part of the package.)

The youth struggles to come to terms with his new-found abilities and how his life must change. In most versions of the story, he has a conversation with his foster father, Uncle Ben, who delivers the famous aphorism: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The good uncle was almost right.

The voice of wisdom in the tale correctly recognized that power and responsibility go together. And certainly when individuals come upon power unexpectedly they ought to ponder what responsibilities they must also have. But by putting power first, Uncle Ben expressed a popular misunderstanding—a reversal of the actual order of things. And because we are so prone to be confused about power, the difference is important. Scripture reveals that responsibility comes first, and then power. And this is true for power in the sense of ability as well as power in the sense of authority. Read more about Uncle Ben Was Almost Right

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FEARING God or Fearing GOD?

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The Scriptures constantly remind us to fear God (Leviticus 25:17, for example), and we find out that such a fear is the “beginning of knowledge” (ESV, Proverbs 1:7). while the fear of man “lays a snare” (Proverbs 29:25).

Many who choose to honor God struggle over what it means to “fear” God. Should we be afraid of him? Or does it mean we reverence him? Or some of both? Even believers in Jesus need to fear God in the sense that we fear his wrath, discipline, and displeasing him. We remember, as the writer to Hebrews reminds us, that our God is a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Yet we can call God “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15), a term of endearment.

A Jewish perspective on fearing God is summarized in the Jewish Encyclopedia:

Who fears God will refrain from doing the things that would be displeasing to Him, the things that would make himself unworthy of God’s regard. Fear of God does not make men shrink from Him as one would from a tyrant or a wild beast; it draws them nearer to Him and fills them with reverential awe. That fear which is merely self-regarding is unworthy of a child of God.

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