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A Fostering Friendship

Among God’s blessings, enjoyed by almost everyone, is the blessing of friendship. The right kind of friendship is important (Jas 4:4; 1 Cor 15:33), but there is comfort and advantage in having a friend (Prov 17:17; 18:24; Ecc 4:9-12). Friendship is conditional (Jas 2:23; John 15:14). When we meet the conditions of friendship with God, the blessings are overwhelming (Mal 3:10; Luke 6:38). What kind of friend is the Lord Jesus Christ?

1. JESUS IS DEPENDABLE

  • The promise (John 14:23)
  • The outcome (Eph 3:14-21)

2. JESUS IS NEARBY

  • When lonely (2 Tim 4:17; Phil 4:4-5)
  • When lost (Acts 17:27)

3. JESUS IS COMFORTING

• Every circumstance (Heb 2:18)

4. JESUS IS HELPING

  • Every prayer (Phil 4:11-13; Heb 13:6).

5. JESUS IS ENCOURAGING

  • Best response (John 6:1-14)

6. JESUS IS LONGSUFFERING

  • Our errors/sins (Luke 22:31-32)

7. JESUS IS PRAYING

  • Our advantage (Heb 7:25; 1 Jn 2:1)

8. JESUS IS CORRECTING

  • Total honesty (Matt 16:21-23; Prov 27:6)

9. JESUS DID DIE

  • For you (John 15:9-10, 13)

Are you moved by His love and friendship?
Will you return His love and friendship (John 15:14)?

He Became Poor – We Became Rich

Paul used the example of Christ to encourage the Corinthians to give more liberally: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). Jesus “became poor” in that He willingly left His place at the Father’s side in Heaven to come to this world of sin and sorrow to live as a humble Servant. He made the ultimate sacrifice by offering His body to suffer and die on the cross (Phil 2:5-8). It is through this great sacrifice that we can “become rich.” There are many reminders of that in Paul’s letter:

  • We can have comfort in our afflictions (2 Cor 1:3-7).
  • Though our outward man is perishing, our inward (spiritual) man is being renewed daily (2 Cor 4:16).
  • Despite our temporary sufferings, we have an eternal weight of glory awaiting us (2 Cor 4:17); an eternal home in heaven (2 Cor 5:1).
  • We have unending fellowship with Christ (2 Cor 5:8).
  • We are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).
  • We are reconciled back unto God through Christ (2 Cor 5:18-20).
  • Though we are guilty of sin, we can have righteousness through Christ (2 Cor 5:21).
  • We are God’s people; His sons and daughters (2 Cor 6:17-18).
  • God will furnish us to be able to do every good work (2 Cor 9:8).

If Jesus was willing to give everything when we had nothing, are we not able to follow His example and give what we can to further the cause of Christ and help our brethren who are in need? — By Heath Rogers

A Day of First Things

We cannot overstate the importance of what happened of the Day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2. Many firsts occurred that day, which continue to impact the lives of Christians, as well as the whole world.

The first day of the week. It is notable that Pentecost (also called the Feast of Weeks) was on the first day of the week (Lev. 23:15-16). From that day forward, we worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

The first gospel sermon preached by the apostles (Acts 2:4, 11, 22). The gospel had been preached in promise, and prophetically (Gal. 3:8; 1 Pet. 1:10-11). Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23). Now, His apostles use the keys that opened the door to the kingdom, by preaching Jesus as Lord and Christ (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; 1 Pet. 1:12).

The first time the plan of salvation was preached to the lost. Jesus commissioned His apostles to preach salvation to the world (Mk. 16:15-16). On that day, sinners who believed Jesus is the Christ, were told to repent and to be baptized for the remission of sins, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).

The first conversion of sinners resulted. About 3,000 souls believed, and obeyed the apostles, and they were saved that very day (Acts 2:41).

The first church came into existence. The body or church of Christ was composed of “about three thousand souls” on that day (Acts 2:41). The Jerusalem church became the first local congregation of Christians. There would be more (Acts 8:4; 9:31).
The first worship in the kingdom took place. After their conversion and salvation, the Christians continued to worship together (Acts 2:42). Theirs was not a flash-in-the-pan conversion; it was a life-changing, life-absorbing decision.

The first acts of church benevolence occurred. Shortly after Pentecost, the church began caring for its own, by giving and distributing as any among them had need (Acts 2:44-45). — By Joe R. Price

Prayer Is…Many Things

Through prayer we maintain a sense of dependence on God. Prayer is something we must be taught to do, and we need continual reminders to pray and to refine our abilities to pray. We should greatly desire to approach God in the manner – and with the words – that He longs to hear from us.

GOD-CENTERED

A. He is emphasized (Psalm 105:1–5)
B. He is approached (1 Tim 6:15–16; Heb 4:14-16)

MAN-BENDING

A. Yielding to His word (John 15:7)
B. Yielding to His will (1 John 5:14)
C. Yielding to His discipline (Psalm 143:7–10)

COMMUNICATION

A. A heart’s desire (Romans 10:1)
B. A friend with friend (Jas 2:23)
C. A parent with child (John 3:1)

WORK

A. Laboring with Christ (Matt 12:30)
B. Laboring with the church (Rom 15:30; Col 4:12; Acts 12:5)
C. Laboring like Christ (Mark 1:35; 14:32-32; 22:31-32; John 17:20-21)

WARFARE

A. Fighting with power (Eph 6:10–17)
B. Fighting with persistence (Eph 6:18)
C. Fighting with the Commander (Heb 2:9-11)

Jonah: The Preacher Who Hoped He Wouldn’t Succeed

Jonah is a unique book in many ways. It is the only recorded account of God sending a Jewish prophet to preach to a foreign country. Jonah is the only prophetic book that is chiefly about the prophet instead of the prophet’s message. Jonah is the only Minor Prophet in narrative form. Jonah is the only Minor Prophet mentioned by Jesus and the only Old Testament character that Jesus likens to Himself (cf. Matt 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-31). Finally, and most amazingly, Jonah is the only preacher who hoped he wouldn’t succeed!

We know little of the prophet except for the book bearing his name and one other reference (2 Kings 14:23-25) in the reign of Jeroboam II, who ruled Israel from 793-753 B.C. Since Assyria is the target audience of Jonah’s mission, it is assumed that Assyria must have been in turmoil to so readily repent due to Jonah’s preaching. Had Assyria been at the height of power, it is assumed that her arrogance would have precluded her from responding favorably to God’s message. A period of such Assyrian weakness matching Jeroboam II’s reign would date the book around 760 B.C. But precisely dating the book is only “educated guessing.”

While liberal scholars see the story of Jonah as “allegory” or “parabolic” teaching, there is nothing in the narrative to suggest it is to be understood figuratively. It appears the author intended his book as an historical record of actual events. Further, the Jews never hesitated to include Jonah in the canon of Old Testament Scripture. Why would they willingly accept a book that emphasized mercy to an inveterate enemy of both Israel and Judah, unless it was considered historically accurate? Even more to the point, Jesus likened Jonah’s “three days and three nights” in the belly of the great fish as being true of the Son of Man being “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). If Jonah’s incident was “fictional,” then, pray tell, why Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is not equally “fictional”? Jesus also stated that the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah (Matt 12:41). If the citizens of Nineveh never repented because of Jonah’s preaching, Jesus’ statements regarding them are “untrue” and His reproach to His contemporaries based on Jonah’s story quite unfounded!

The account of the great fish swallowing Jonah alive, holding him within its gut for three days, and disgorging him onto land while not killing him in the process has led countless liberal scholars to explain it away by any means possible! Most of these scholars have adopted the allegorical/parabolic approach to the book. Others explain it by natural-istic means, citing references throughout history to men swallowed alive by whales and sharks and disgorged virtually unharmed. Jack P. Lewis has rightly stated: “The continuous debate over whether there are fish in the Mediterranean that could swallow a man is actually beside the point since it is said that the Lord prepared the fish” (Minor Prophets, p. 40). If we will let God be God, then nothing is too hard for the Lord to do (Jer 32:17).

The target audience of Jonah’s story is the Jews themselves. They would have shared his prejudice against the Gentiles, especially an enemy like Assyria. Even in New Testament days this “separation” from the Gentiles is clearly portrayed in Cornelius’ conversion and aftermath at Jerusalem in Acts 10-11, the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, and the hypocrisy of Peter and Barnabas in regard to not eating with their Gentile brethren in Galatians 2. If there is one overreaching lesson from the book, it is this: “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16a), and “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4). (1) Jonah’s story compellingly rebukes our parochial tendencies to only love “some” people (same color, nationality, or socio-economic standing). (2) And we too often care only for what affects us personally (just like Jonah caring for the plant shielding him from the burning sun), while caring not at all for the teeming millions perishing in their sins!

The true and living God of the Bible is sovereign over all mankind – Assyrian, Israelite, or American. No one can run away from Him. And all men will give account of their deeds to Him one day (cf. 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:12).

I close with this statement from the article on “Jonah, Book of” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1982): “In its abrupt end, the reader is suddenly addressed by the word of God: it is no longer a simple story about Jonah, but one about the reader himself… In the final analysis, it is the prophet himself who is judged and, through him, those who read his story.” — By Chuck Durham, Biblical Insights, 2012