Category Archives: Sermon Resources

A Reformation Prophecy

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“You are going to burn a goose, but in one hundred years you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.”

These were some of the last words of John Huss, spoken in 1415 AD before he was swallowed by flames. Huss, whose name means “goose,” was a forerunner to the Reformation. Huss gained popularity as a preacher at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, drawing thousands of people at a time to listen to his sermons. The community of believers who gathered to him was marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And the words of Huss provoked the imagination of the masses because they often confronted the status quo of unbiblical practices within the Roman Catholic Church. In particular, his opposition to the selling of indulgences crossed a line which led to his execution as a heretic.

In 1515, exactly one hundred years later, the prophecy of the Goose came true. This was the year in which a spiritually tormented monk, frightened by a vengeful God who sought to damn him, was assigned to teach the book of Romans at the new university in Wittenberg, Germany. Illuminated by God’s Spirit, Martin Luther realized that sinners could never be good enough to earn God’s approval, and instead God imputes his own righteousness to us through faith in his Son. Luther, now a priest and professor, was the Swan foretold by the Goose. Intriguingly, John Foxe, a historian from that era, tells us that Luther’s family coat of arms providentially displayed the image of a swan.

Naturally, Luther’s revelation led him, like Huss, to oppose the practice of selling indulgences, which had become a means of so-called penance by which believers could pay the Church in order to escape from purgatory. No! Christians did not need to suffer more for their sin after death. And you could not do anything to pay off God, since salvation comes as a free gift of grace and is received by faith alone. So on October 31, 1517, Luther nailed his 95 arguments against the selling of indulgences to the church door at Wittenberg. That was the eve of All Saints Day (i.e., Halloween), on which hordes of people would pay to gaze in adoration at the relics associated with dead saints, whose excess of good deeds supposedly made indulgences effective. Yet Luther’s act wasn’t intended to be particularly provocative. Posting to the church door was an accepted method of proposing points of debate among scholars. In fact, Luther wrote the points in Latin, not in German, because he simply sought an academic disputation. But the theses were soon taken, translated into German, and distributed with the help of the newly invented printing press. Nonetheless, increasingly, Luther came to welcome the controversy if it meant the glorification of the gospel.

Yet unlike the Goose, the Roman Catholic Church was never able to cook the Swan—though it certainly tried! As Luther later came to realize and proclaim, “We were all Hussites without knowing it.”

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A note about the authenticity of Huss’ prophecy: I often read scholars deny the veracity of Huss’ statement at his execution. Yet the more I investigate it, the more the evidence stacks up in its favor. And the more I suspect that some scholars are simply unwilling to believe that such an accurate prophecy could occur. Their bias is often rooted in their cessationist theology. At the risk of boring you, here is a brief list of reasons to believe its authenticity. Enough is provided for you to investigate it further if you wish.

  1. Luther himself believed the prophecy pertained to him. And he was much closer to the matter than we. Do not forget, Luther was a brilliant scholar and researcher who, for example, was well enough acquainted with historical records and the official documents of the Church to correct its own cardinals when they misquoted it ever so slightly. (Just look up the account of Luther’s argument with Cardinal Cajetan in 1518.) So I quote a statement made by Luther: “St. John Huss prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, ‘They will roast a goose now (for “Huss” means “a goose”), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will have to endure’” (Commentary on the Alleged Imperial Edict, 1531).
  2. Luther must have had access to some record of the prophecy that differed from the one used by John Foxe in the mid 1500’s, whose quotation is slightly different and who portrays these as words spoken during Huss’ execution rather than his imprisonment. This is the sort of minor inconsistency you would expect to find in separate witnesses of the same event. And they are easily reconciled by supposing that Luther is quoting one of the various letters we know that Huss wrote from prison, while Foxe is quoting Huss’ proclamation of the same prophecy at his execution.
  3. Foxe’s statement that Luther’s coat of arms displayed a swan is questionable. The only thing I have been able to uncover in this regard is the fact that Luther’s birthplace was Eisleban, whose coat of arms featured a set of white wings at various times in history.
  4. We have several letters written by Huss during his imprisonment. He often refers to himself as “the Goose,” just as his friends and students affectionately called him. Moreover, he extends this analogy by saying that even if the Goose is trapped by nets, he fully believed that one day “other birds, which by God’s word and by their lives soar to high places, will break their traps in pieces” (letter, October 1412). Huss envisions future reformers as other species of birds which Rome will not be able to entrap, precisely as the prophecy in question states regarding a swan.
  5. And there is a fascinating letter written by a companion of Huss informing the faithful about the situation of their leader, which concludes as follows: “Written at Constance the Saturday before Martinmas. The Goose is not yet cooked, and is not afraid of being cooked, because this year the noted eve of St. Martin’s falls on Saturday, when geese are not eaten!” (John Cardinalis, November 10, 1414). This is intriguing for two reasons. First, and most importantly, Huss and his company were already thinking in terms of “the Goose being cooked,” just as he later stated in the prophecy. This is a great testament to its authenticity. Second (and prepare enter the Twilight Zone), Huss was not to be executed at the time of the letter because it was Saturday and the Eve of St. Martin’s Day. The statement is cryptic, but perhaps we can guess at its meaning. Goose is the traditional cuisine for St. Martins Day and would be slaughtered the day before; but I wonder if “Saturday” (sabbato, lit. Sabbath) is an allusion to the Sabbatical Passover before which Christ had to be removed from the cross in order to keep the Sabbath holy. That is, it could be a nuanced way of saying, “Don’t worry, by the same logic the Council of Constance won’t execute Huss on the holiday or its eve.” Indeed, it would be half a year before Huss was burned at the stake. Whatever we make of the difficult phrase, in time Martin Luther would be born on St. Martin’s Eve (which is why he was named Martin). The irony, of which the writer could not possibly be aware, is baffling: even though Huss was a “goose,” he would not be slaughtered on St. Martin’s Eve when geese were normally slaughtered; yet the more famous St. Martin, born decades later on that very day, would in fact be the man prophesied by Huss to evade slaughter, being a swan and not a goose.

Your Bible is True and Reliable

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more than a good book

Recently, in our sermon series at City Bible Church, we discussed the trustworthiness of the Bible. Here are some links discussing a few of the illustrations and concepts mentioned in the sermon.

We talked about a few of the seeming contradictions or conflicts within Scripture. Our premise was that the Bible has no real contradictions within itself when it is thoroughly examined in its entire context. Here are a few books that deal specifically with some of these “problem areas” if you are interested in investigating them further.

  1. Hard Sayings of the Bible by Walter Kaiser Jr., et al.
  2. The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe
  3. New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer Jr.

We also discussed some of the major archaeological finds that support the historical accuracy of Scripture. Here are a few links to some of the examples from the sermon.

  1. This is an article from the Oregonian showing the archaeological evidence for the Biblical account of the fall of Jericho, as mentioned in the sermon.
  2. Here is an article on a recent discovery of a seal impressed with King Hezekiah’s signet. It is significant because the Bible says that Hezekiah was miraculously healed of a deadly illness; and the divine sign of his healing was the shadow cast by the sun going back several steps on a sort-of sundial. The seal comes from the time of Hezekiah, was found in the royal precinct, and has the Egyptian symbol for life with a sun rising on wings, as if to commemorate the event of the healing. It proves that not only was Hezekiah real (an otherwise well attested historical fact), but that the story surrounding his healing was not a fable to evolve long after his death, but comes from his lifetime.
  3.  Here is a link to the NIV Archaeological Study Bible, an illustrated resource focusing on historical and archaeological discoveries that confirm and illuminate the Biblical text.

In the message, we also briefly investigated the textual support for the Bible; that is, the manuscript evidence by which we trust that our English translations accurately represent the original writings.

  1. We considered the fact that we have thousands of very early New Testament manuscripts, produced astonishingly close to the writing of the original documents. If you are interested in how scholars weigh and compare these various manuscripts in order to come to a confident trust in the genuineness of the Bible as we have it today, Is My Bible the Inspired Word of God? by Edward Goodrick is a fascinating book. It is short and easy to read yet scholarly.
  2. We also mentioned a few recent discoveries that help confirm the trustworthiness of the Masoretic Text, the main manuscript we use to translate the Old Testament even though it is quite distant from the originals. Here is a link to a Christianity Today article on the Dead Sea Scrolls by Ed Stetzer. Although some significant differences are present (perhaps due to the separatist nature of the community responsible for them), these ancient manuscripts are quite early and are amazingly similar to the Masoretic Text, bolstering our trust in it.
  3. Here is an article on the En-Gedi Scroll, which was discussed in the sermon. This is a small charred scroll found in 1970 in a synagogue in Israel. It was an official scroll for reading on the Sabbath, meaning it was a respected and accurate copy. It dates to about 250 AD, which means it represents a very early tradition of the Hebrew Bible. In 2015, scholars made a CT scan of the scroll to discover its contents, since unrolling the charred remains would ruin it. Several paragraphs from the Leviticus have been deciphered so far, and every word is exactly identical to the Masoretic Text!
  4. Here is an article on the Silver Scrolls, which are two small silver amulets inscribed with a blessing from the book of Numbers. It dates to the 7th century BC, which is before the close of the Old Testament! Although the text from Numbers is abbreviated to fit on the scroll, the verbiage is identical to the Masoretic Text. The further back archaeology takes us, the more we end up trusting the reliable Old Testament manuscripts that have been preserved for us!

28 Day Bible Reading Plan

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Check out these wonderful verses that teach us how to fall in love with the Word of God!

PSALM 119:9

Psalm 119:11, 170

Psalm 119:17, 158

Psalm 119:16

Psalm 119:25, 107

Psalm 119:28

Psalm 119:38

Psalm 119:41

Psalm 119:42

Psalm 119:43

Psalm 119:50

Psalm 119:58

Psalm 119:65

Psalm 119:67

Psalm 119:74, 81

Psalm 119:76, 82

Psalm 119:89

Psalm 119:101

Psalm 119:105

Psalm 119:116

Psalm 119:123

Psalm 119:133

Psalm 119:140

Psalm 119:148

Psalm 119:160

Psalm 119:161

Psalm 119:162

Psalm 119:167

Click here for a downloadable version.


© Portland Bible College 2017

PBC Lecture on How We Got the Bible

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Here is a lecture from PBC professor Lanny Hubbard, taken from his course, Intro to Bible Study. In it Lanny explains the process of how the original texts of Scripture have been translated into English. In examining this process we can come to a greater trust that God has both inspired and preserved the Bible for us.

Striving vs. Resting

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This Sunday at City Bible Church, we looked at the question, Am I good enough to get to heaven?  Quite simply, No.  This PBC lecture on Ephesians takes a look at what it means to trust in Christ’s completed work rather than trying to be good enough by our own effort.  Are you still striving to please God? Or are you resting in Jesus who has pleased the Father on your behalf?

Resting in Christ (Ephesians 2) from Portland Bible on Vimeo.

Why is the Bible so uptight about sex?

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The following is an article by PBC alum John Adams. After completing his time at PBC, John studied further at Asbury Theological Seminary. Now he teaches God’s word at Institut Biblique l’Alliance de Grâce in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti.

Until quite recently in human history, sex was risky business. The possibility of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease put unlimited sexual license out of the realm of possibility for all but the wealthy. Advances in contraception and “safe sex” and the legalization of abortion on demand have given modern Westerners a sense of invulnerability, and even entitlement, with regard to sex. Sexuality has been placed at the center of one’s personhood; thus, repression of one’s sexual desires is seen as unhealthy or even dangerous, tantamount to renouncing one’s humanity. What does the Bible have to say about human sexuality? Does it have a clear word regarding sexuality that is relevant for the 21st century? I believe that it does. Here are three Biblical teachings that engage the current cultural mindset.

1. Sex is God’s good gift.

It might surprise many people today to learn that the very first thing the Bible says about sex is that it is good, or that the very first command God gives in the Bible concerning sex is to have it. In Genesis 1:28, God blesses the man and woman he has just created and commands them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” In verse 31, looking back on all that he has made, which of course includes sex, God pronounces it “very good.” This theme of the goodness of sex continues in the second chapter of Genesis when God, seeing the man’s loneliness, fashions a woman from his side while he sleeps.

When Adam awakes, it is poetry at first sight. This new creature is “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” he declares. From this point forward, the narrator adds, this natural attraction will lead to commitment, commitment that forges the two into one – “a man will leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (2:24). The chapter ends with the poignant observation that the man and his wife “were both naked and were not ashamed.”

While the Fall corrupted every corner of God’s good creation, including human sexuality (the remainder of Genesis narrates such sexual brokenness as polygamy, incest, and rape), the essential goodness of God’s original gift remains unchanged. The Song of Songs, a poem written to celebrate the joys of erotic, married love in such steamy language that it has attracted censorship or allegorical interpretation at various points in church history, makes this point effectively. While human beings at points have considered sex an embarrassment, God does not. The consistent message of Scripture is that sex, bounded by marriage and God’s good design, is God’s blessing and brings no shame with it.

2. Sex is not the key to a happy life.

The vehemence behind the objections in our culture to the Biblical sexual ethic often proceeds from the unquestioned assumption that sex is essential to a happy life. Sex is often conceptualized as a drive that will inevitably be fulfilled, or even as a physical necessity like food or water. The Bible’s vision of “the good life” and of sex is radically different. Jesus taught that a truly happy life is one oriented to seeking first “the kingdom of God” – the restoration of creation to a state of justice, peace, and joy in which God rules over all and in all. Jesus (who himself never married) clearly taught that in the lives of some people, that pursuit of God’s Kingdom would be best served by the lifelong grace of consecrated chastity (Matt. 19:11-12). The Apostle Paul, who apparently received this gift (1 Cor. 7:7), preferred it to marriage since it brought the potential benefit of “undivided devotion to the Lord” (7:35) though he admitted that each has his own calling from God. While celibacy is not God’s will for everyone, that it is God’s will for anyone indicates that our culture has placed a burden of fulfillment upon erotic love that it simply cannot bear. The high divorce rate in our society (above 40%) and the link between promiscuity and unhappiness would seem to corroborate this idea. Ancient people (including, to a great extent, the church of the first millennium), who in C.S. Lewis’ words often considered friendship “the happiest and most fully human of loves” have much to teach us on this point. Sex is indeed God’s good gift, but it is not essential to a happy life.

3. What you do with your body shapes your soul.

The Bible sees one’s attitudes toward sex and the things of God as inevitably interwoven. In his book The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Life, Dennis Hollinger writes, “The link between idolatry and sexual immorality is established [in the Old Testament] by the frequent use of ‘prostituting themselves’ or ‘adultery’ to describe Hebrew idolatry. Israel’s unfaithfulness to God was not only a form of spiritual prostitution or adultery, but it also led to the physical acts themselves.” The Apostle Paul builds upon this idea in Romans 1:18-32, writing that when people exchange the glory of God for idols, God gives them up “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.” As people worship the works of their hands (essentially worshiping themselves), God gives them up to “dishonorable passions” that corrupt their nature. By refusing to worship God, human beings created in God’s image become unrecognizably disfigured. They cease to resemble God altogether. The purpose of the Bible’s high sexual standards, then, is to prevent us from losing what makes us truly human – the capacity to reflect the image of a holy God. “For you shall be holy, as I am holy” (Lev. 19:2).

The Song of Songs, at once a poem about a pair of newlyweds and a parable of God’s relationship to Israel, fleshes out what such holiness actually looks like. In a soulful passage near the end, the lovers plead,

“Set me as a seal upon your heart as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised” (Song of Songs 8:6-7).

There is no use in trying to parse out the literal from the spiritual here. The newlyweds will be faithful to one another if they burn with “the very flame of the Lord,” the flame with which the Lord Himself burns for Israel, with whom he has made covenant. Anything less than this zealous love – hookups, one-night stands, adultery, “throuples” – falls short of being holy, as he is holy.

In light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the giving of the Holy Spirit, our sex lives and our spiritual lives are more connected than ever. The Apostle Paul writes that the gift of the Spirit has made Christians’ physical bodies “members of Christ” and a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:12-20). Just as the Temple was sacred space in the Old Testament, so now the Christian’s body is sacred space, a place reserved for the Lord’s dwelling. Since the Christian is now “one spirit with the Lord,” we take the Lord with us wherever we go. It cost Jesus the life in his body to redeem our bodies, so from now on “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).

In summary, the Bible challenges our culture on sex at almost every point. While it affirms the goodness of sex within heterosexual, monogamous marriage, it also denies that sex is the center of who we are – God calls some to celibacy, including the truest human being who ever lived (Jesus). While difficult, the Biblical boundaries of faithfulness within marriage and celibacy outside of it function as spiritual disciplines, helping shape us into truly human beings who reflect the image of a God who is holy love.

The Bible and Justice

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Bible Justice
The media today has presented to the watching eyes of the public multitudes of images involving acts of social injustice taking place around the world. These images of starvation, mutilation, and genocide are shocking to many of the Western viewers. These disturbing images have generated an outcry in many people that declare “That is not right.” “People should not be treated that way.” Often in the outcry is the question about how these things could have been allowed to happen. More pointedly, “Who is to blame for them?” Some blame everything on the consumerism of the Western world that has tempted the rest of the world into a wanton lifestyle. Some believe it is the governments of the world that need to stop fighting and step up and fix these situations. Others believe it is the responsibility of the church to fix these injustices. However the question is posed, it is the belief of many that something must be done.

In an attempt to find blame for the existence of these social atrocities, some have accused God and the church for the problems. God has been accused of being indifferent about the plight that many humans face. Others use that the situation to prove that a God does not exist. If He is as good as religious people say He is, and if He has allowed this human situation to get so out of hand, then He is too weak to be of any value, and unworthy of being served. He is so unable to manage the human situation that he does not deserved to be considered a god.

How is a Believer to respond to these accusations about the Lord? The Scriptures has much to say about the issue. Here are some simple biblical statements about God and justice.

  1. It is important to know that God is just (Deut 32:4; Neh 9:33; Jer 30:11).
  2. Human wickedness is the outworking of fallen people’s nature (Gal 5:19-21; Gen 6:1-6; Matt 15:19). God did not make them to live this way. It is the consequence of people rejecting the authority of God’s ways over their lives. Perverted justice is one of the many characteristics of fallen human nature ( Deut 16:20; Amos 5:11, 6:12; Mic 3:9; Hab 1;4).
  3. Every person will be judged according to their evil deeds (Pro 14:32; Eze 36:19; Rom 2:6; Rev 20:12-13). People’s lack of justice will be held against them.
  4. God hears the outcry of those who are oppressed (Ps 71:12).
  5. The Lord will repay the oppressors according to their evil deeds (Pro 19:17; Hos 12:2; Rom 12:19; 2Tim 4:14).
  6. God requires justice in areas of human life (Amos 5:15, 24; Mic 6:8).
  7. The Lord allows no favoritism in social matters (James 2:2-9).
  8. Jesus endorses justice in life (Matt 12:18, 20).
  9. The work of the Holy Spirit supports justice (Mic 3:8).
  10. The Apostle Paul requires justice between members of the church community (Gal 4:1).

Following are some individual aspects of God’s relation to the justice issues.

A.  In the Old Testament, God declared standards and laws describing how people in society were to behave. It is important to note that the Lord says in several places that the laws were not just for the Jewish people. He specifically says that there was one law or standard to be used for native born Jews as well as the strangers and aliens that lived among them. This demonstrates that God desired the same standards of justice for all ethnic groups, not just the nation of Israel. Read Ex 12:49; Lev 24:27; Num 9:14. 15:15-16, 29.

B.  There are references in some laws where specific references are made stating that the jurisdiction of some rules are also for foreigners living among the Jewish people.

  • Celebration of Jewish yearly religious feasts (Lev 16:29; Num 9:14)
  • Eating blood (Lev 17:12)
  • Acts of immorality (Lev 18:26)
  • Harvesting laws (Lev 23:22; Deut 24:19-21)
  • Blaspheming God’s name (Lev 24:16)
  • Offering sacrifices (Num 15:15-30)
  • Personal purification (Num 19:10)
  • Access to the Cities of Refuge (Num 35:15)
  • The judicial process (Deut 1:16; 24:17)
  • Care given to foreigners living among Israel (Deut 14:16; 10:18-19)

C.  The Jewish people were required to not detest the foreigners that lived among them (Deut 23:7-8).

D.  There are specific biblical references dealing with the equitable and fair treatment of women:

  • Redemptively they are equal with men (Gal 3:29).
  • Men are to treat them as sisters in the Body of Christ (1Tim 5:1).
  • Special care was to be given to genuine widows (1Tim 5:3-16).
  • Older women were to be respected (Tit 2:3).
  • They would be equally anointed by the Spirit for ministry (Joel 2:28).

E.  Slavery and human trafficking was something God takes very seriously (Am 1:6, 9; 2:6; 8:6; Joel 3:3).

F.  The rich class of people were not to use their wealth and power as a means to oppress the needy (Deut 24:14; Amos 4:1).

G.  The magistrates in the courts were to provide just decisions for people from all nations (Amos 5:7; Mic 3:9; Luke 11:42).

H.  Of all aspect of daily life, caring for the poor is of great importance to the Lord. There are several things that He tells people to do for the poor and needy.

  1. Lend finances to them to help them (Ex 22:25). Only no interest is to be charged them (Deut 15:2-11; Matt 5:42, 19:21).
  2. Leaves gleanings in the fields for the poor to eat (Ex 23:21; Lev 19:9).
  3. Help to redeem them from their financial troubles (Lev 25:28).
  4. In the Year of Jubilee, all their lost property was to be returned (Lev 25:35).
  5. Part of the yearly tithes collected from the people was to be used to help the poor (Deut 14:28-29).
  6. They were never to be oppressed (Zech 7:10).
  7. All business with the poor was to be honest (James 5:4).
  8. Isaiah 58:7 says that helping out the poor is what real fasting and consecration to the Lord should involve.

When people reach out to help the poor, there is a special divine blessing that accompanies these acts.

  1. God blesses people that watch out for the poor (Ps 37:26; 41:1; 112:2, 9; Isa 58:10; Act 20:35).
  2. Jesus notices acts of kindness shown to the poor (Matt 25:35).
  3. Paul declares a blessing to those who help the poor (Rom 12:13, 20; Gal 2L10; Eph 4:28).
  4. James speaks of the blessing (Jam 1:27).
  5. John refers to it (1John 3:17).

God and the poor:

  • God declares that the needy people in this life will not be forgotten. He sees their plight and will care for them in the age to come (Ps 9:18; 12:5).
  • The Lord personally claims the poor and identifies with them (Pro 22:2).
  • God hears their cries (Ps 34:6; 69:33).
  • He will ensure that they receive justice (Pro 22:22).

All these things show that the Lord is very mindful and involved in matters of justice. It is part of His very nature, and He has intended mankind to live according to His nature. When human actions run contrary to God’s nature, God notices and will hold the violators responsible for what they do. If Christians declare to be servants of God, then it is their responsibility to uphold those values that are important to Him. This is why Christians cannot be indifferent to matters of social injustice. We must uphold the character of our Lord and properly represent Him in our world.