Monarchy

One of the hardest facts for an American Christian to wrap their head around is this: the kingdom of Jesus is a monarchy … and democracy has no place in it. Likewise, the kingdom of Satan is a monarchy … we have no say in how the system is set up or how it works. Nobody can be a Switzerland and claim neutrality. Nobody can rebel and create their own kingdom. We have two choices: Jesus or Satan. That makes many Americans uncomfortable.

Tongues

I have several friends and relatives who “speak in tongues” on a regular basis. They are smart people, sane, not overly emotional, rooted in truth, not fanatical, and certainly some of the most dedicated followers of Jesus I know.

I’ve had many long and in-depth conversations with them. I truly wanted to understand what was happening, how it was happening, and why it was happening. After years of non-judging conversation (not argument – just talking) I was finally able to present a scenario explaining to them how I could view their “tongues” in a way that made sense to me, and that they also found accurate.

The Holy Spirit lives inside of me. Sometimes when I pray – the words just don’t come that adequately portray my thoughts. I know I feel a certain way, but don’t have the words to explain it to God. The joy I have cannot be expressed. Or, sometimes, I don’t know how to tell God how much love I have for Him, or how much I need Him, or how much I want His guidance. When that happens, I just remain still in my prayers – and I quietly ask the Holy Spirit to explain things that I cannot. Then – I humbly remain quiet and let the Holy Spirit intercede for me while I remain blessed in the presence of God.

My friends who “speak in tongues” have the same feelings as I do. But, instead of being quiet, they audibly make sounds. My “silence” that asks the Holy Spirit to speak on my behalf … is (for them) replaced with babbling that asks the Holy Spirit to speak on their behalf.

That probably isn’t a great explanation of every instance of speaking in tongues. But, it sure did help me understand their perception of what is happening in many cases.

Holy Spirit

The day before Jesus was nailed to a cross and died, He had dinner with His disciples. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of Jesus and the Last Supper. What I think is interesting is that the gospel of John talks of the other things that happened that evening.

John wrote five chapters detailing what Jesus did and spoke to the Apostles in that upper room. So, when almost 25% of your book details one evening’s conversation … it must be pretty important.

But what Jesus did at least four times that night was this: Jesus told them that even though He was leaving, He would send someone else to them … the Holy Spirit: John 14:16; 14:26; 15:26 and 16:7.

Same topic – four times in one night – significant.

In John 20: 21-22 we read: “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

THAT, my friends, is one of the most wonderful scriptures in the Bible. You see, Jesus follows through on His promises. Every single time. And, did you know that we have a promise too?

In John 7:38-39 Jesus said, “’Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.”

As believers in Jesus, as His followers, we have been given a gift that nobody else in the world has: the Holy Spirit -God – actually living inside of us.

His Name is Jesus

His name’s Jesus. His name isn’t Christ.

His name’s Jesus. His title is Christ.

His name’s Jesus. His name isn’t Messiah.

His name’s Jesus. His title is Messiah.

His name’s Jesus. His name isn’t King.

His name’s Jesus. His title is King.

When we say Jesus Christ we are actually saying Jesus the Messiah or Jesus the King.

When we say Christ Jesus we are actually saying Messiah Jesus or King Jesus.

I am bringing this up because I have heard people say things like, “… in the name of Christ …” or “… in Christ’s name…” as if that was His name.

There is power is the name “Jesus.” There is just something special about that name.

Favorite Gospel

Every time I read through the gospels my “favorite” one changes. Each of them – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John – have been my favorite gospel from time to time. And each one has been my favorite for different reasons each time. I guess that is what happens when you have a relationship with Jesus … you continuously fall in love with Him in different ways and for different reasons.

Currently, my favorite is the gospel of John … again.

Sosthenes

Wanted to share a little Bible lesson and devotion with you today.

When the Apostle Paul was in Corinth in Acts 18, he created quite the controversy among the Jews there. In fact, they became so outraged at him, Paul was dragged in front of a non-religious court in an attempt to silence him for good.

Things did NOT go as planned. After the Jewish leadership presented their case, but before Paul could say a single word, the court official declared the verdict. Since this whole case was based on nothing more than words and names in the Jews’ own law, this was not a matter for discussion – Paul could keep on preaching.

The Jews were furious! In their outrage, they took their own synagogue leader, named Sosthenes, and beat the fire out of him right there in front of the court. They whooped the snot out of their own Jewish synagogue leader because the court didn’t find in their favor regarding Paul!

We don’t know much about Sosthenes – other than he was a leader of the Jews in Corinth. But, he is mentioned in the Bible one more time. And that “one more time” is what makes Sosthenes special to me.

Years after Sosthenes was beaten by his own synagogue in Corinth after taking Paul to court, Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in that city. The first sentence of 1 Corinthians starts out this way:

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God in Corinth …”

Wow. I love that.

Collection for the Saints

I have discovered an ancient manuscript that explains why Christians of the first century gave money on the first day of the week.

I know what you’re thinking: “We already know why they gave – it was to help the needy Christians having difficult time in Jerusalem.”

No. According to the manuscript I’ve discovered, that was the effect of their giving – but it was not the cause (or WHY) they gave.

I enjoy old manuscripts. It is often difficult to find the true meaning of what was written because everything must be translated before I can read it. And – some translations simply aren’t that good. But this particular one blew me away.

Personally, just to get this out of the way, I believe this manuscript is inspired by God. I have full confidence that it was written by the real Apostle Paul. So, now that THAT is out of the way, after I introduce the topic from the Bible you will see how everything fits together.

To legitimize my claim, let me start by quoting what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians.

“Now concerning the collection for the saints: just as I gave directions about it to the churches of Galatia, so you do also. On the first day of the week, each one of you put aside something, saving up to whatever extent he has prospered, in order that whenever I come, at that time collections do not take place. And whenever I arrive, whomever you approve by letters, I will send these to take your gift to Jerusalem. And if it is worthwhile for me to go also, they will travel with me. But I will come to you whenever I go through Macedonia (for I am going through Macedonia), and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. For I do not want to see you now in passing, for I hope to remain some time with you, if the Lord allows it. But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a great and effective door has opened for me, and there are many opponents. But if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to fear, for he is carrying out the Lord’s work, as I also am. Therefore do not let anyone disdain him, but send him on his way in peace in order that he may come to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭16:1-11

Let’s sum that up shall we? I know it’s a long passage and I want to prove to you why I think this manuscript I’ve discovered should be considered real and why it should prompt us all to change why and how we give. So, here we go:

  • Paul had given the same instructions to others
  • On Sunday, put some money aside based on how much you’ve prospered
  • This will make it easier so that the money will already be collected when Paul comes
  • They will write letters of approval for the people who will actually take their gift to Jerusalem
  • Paul might go with them to Jerusalem
  • Paul plans on traveling through Macedonia before coming to Corinth
  • When Paul arrives, he might stay with them in Corinth through winter
  • He doesn’t want to come and go – he wants to visit
  • Right now though, Paul is in Ephesus and will stay there through Pentecost because of a great opportunity
  • If Timothy happens to stop in Corinth, be nice to him because he is carrying out the Lord’s work – like Paul is
  • Treat Timothy with respect and send him to meet up with Paul because Paul is expecting him and his companions

Alright, here is the moment you’ve been waiting for. What does the manuscript I discovered say about WHY Paul told Christians to help the needy saints in Jerusalem? I will quote the exact words and then explain what it means in context with the rest of the passage within this manuscript:

“For this is not that for others there may be relief, and for you difficult circumstances, but as a matter of equality. At the present time your abundance will be for their need, in order that their abundance may also be for your need, so that there may be equality, just as it is written, “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.””

Wow! Did you get that? The collection for the needy saints was NOT to give them relief – it was so there would be EQUALITY among the saints.

This is a huge and major discovery that changes the reason why we give at church. It is not so we can provide comfort for people who come to services. It is not so we can provide temporary relief to saints in a crisis. It is not so we can create a program to help the homeless eat.

We are to give whatever money we have leftover (as we’ve prospered according to our Bible passage) so that the giver and the recipient will be equal.

EQUAL? Yes – equal.

Think about that for a moment. If this manuscript is authentic – and I believe it is – then our giving should not just be 10% it and then forget it. And our giving should not be focused on the bills that the local church has. Our giving should be focused on bringing the poor saints around the world up to our living conditions. THAT’S A LOT OF GIVING!!!!

But that’s not all, the manuscript I’ve discovered can be read online for yourself if you’d like to judge it’s veracity. In it, the writer (who I think is the actual Apostle Paul) describes what it was like in other churches (besides Corinth) and how they gave to the needy saints in Jerusalem. Here are some of the details:

  • The Macedonian church also gave abundantly – even out of extreme poverty
  • They gave above and beyond their ability
  • When they gave they requested to be included in this ministry to Jerusalem
  • So Titus was asked to help in this act of grace (a gift that is undeserved) in the same way the Corinthian church had excelled in grace
  • Then Jesus is compared to this gift: He was rich but became poor so that we could become rich
  • So, they should expect to see Titus and his team to pick up more money for the needy in Jerusalem.
  • Not only that, but the Achaia church was also participating in this gift.
  • Remember this: if you give just a little – you get just a little … but if you give a lot – you will get a lot in return.

That is basically all I found in the manuscript that pertains to explaining the collection for the Saints. I thought it was pretty cool because I’d never heard that the REAL point of giving was to promote financial equality across the whole church universal.

Thanks for reading this blog post and sharing in my discovery of this ancient and (I believe) authentic manuscript.

If you’d like to read the manuscript for yourself, click on the link below:

https://tinyurl.com/yap294re

Ivory Soap Boat

When I was a little kid my dad bought me my first pocket knife – an Old Timer. He then helped me carve a boat out of a new bar of Ivory soap while he carved one out a bar of Coast soap. I got in the bath and dad put the beautiful boat he’d carved in the water – it sank. Then it was my turn to put in my ugly boat – it floated! Dad explained that what you make things out of is more important than what they look like.

So while I technically knew it was something about the soap itself that made my boat float, it wasn’t until I heard the backstory surrounding Ivory soap that I fully appreciated what Dad meant.

Likewise, we may technically know the importance that grace and faith have in our relationship with God. But until the backstory of grace and faith is heard, we cannot fully appreciate what we have.

Liturgy

How important is it that we “get things right” when we meet together on Sunday. Is the actual process (or liturgy) what determines whether or not it is acceptable to God?

Maybe if a local church is acceptable to God – it’s liturgy is also acceptable.

Maybe if a local church is not acceptable to God – it’s liturgy is of little consequence – no matter how “right” or Biblical it may seem on the surface.

Maybe a church’s acceptability is not determined by its actions together on Sunday.

Maybe it’s acceptability is determined by each person’s actions the other six days of the week when they are not gathered in an assembly of the saints.

Who is Jesus?

I was doing a study in the gospel of John a few months ago and found something that made me sit back and just think for a long while.

If you don’t know, John’s gospel is unique. When John wrote it he assumed you had already read at least Matthew and Mark because he intentionally skips several things they cover and just refers to people or events in passing as if you already know them or what happened. In fact, John’s biography of Jesus is so different, his gospel is often overlooked because you cannot cross reference or cross check some of the things he wrote about.

But, what really sets John’s narrative apart is that he makes it clear: Jesus was not just a savior, or messiah, or prophet, or king, or anointed one, or teacher, or rabbi … Jesus was God. The same message can be found in the other gospels, but John hammers it home time and again.

I am doing an in depth reading of John lately. There is a textual variant in John 1:18 that is fascinating.

Some translations use “huios” or υἱός in the Greek meaning “Son”. Other translations use “theos” or θεὸς in the Greek meaning “God”.

So the verse could be rendered as:

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (NASB)

Or:

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (NKJV)

Or using both:

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (NIV)

I won’t go into which variant I think is correct. But I will say that both versions open a world of insight into the “being” of Jesus.

Jesus was the only real God who was born – AND he was the only unique son of God.

Pretty awesome verse I’ve neglected to appreciate appropriately.