Category Archives: Sermon Resources

From Stress to Strength

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In this unprecedented season of stress, anxiety, fear, and so many other emotions, we believers earnestly implore the Lord asking for a Divine Exchange.  We yearn for, reach for, claim, and proclaim that our God is real and that He not only sees, but cares. We reach out to Him in our sincerity and offer Him our frailty for His strength, our weakness for His empowerment, and our fear and anxiety for His peace.  

In our confidence, and yet to our surprise, He offers to give us that Divine Exchange and we step into His very Presence and go from stress to strength in a moment that leaves us in breathless astonishment of the good and gracious God that we love and serve.  We cease to grasp for control that so obviously is out of our reach. We cease to be the proverbial Commander of the universe and put our concerns back into His trustworthy hands. In that moment we find ourselves residing, no longer in turmoil, but rather in peace, surrender, and resolve.  We allow Him to be Lord once again, just as He was, is, and will always be. Hence, somewhere in the process of surrender there is a tumultuous, yet serene, journey that takes us from stress to strength moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day.

James 1:2-6a (NIV) tells us that trials will come. “(2) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (4) Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (5) If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (6) But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt..(12) Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

We learn at least four things from this passage:

  1. Stress is certain to come.  James says, “when,” not “if.”
  2. It can come suddenly. James says, “when you fall into,” fall, not crawl or walk.
  3. It can come in several ways.  James refers to “various trials.” Your stress may be more about financial provision than it is about this pandemic, or health more than your singleness, or social connection more than homeschooling your ‘littles’ so suddenly, or it may be all of these various trials all at one time.
  4. When we persevere, we will be blessed. James does not say that we should be joyful for the stress/trials, but rather in the stress/trials.  A godly perspective of joy and faith releases heaven’s perspective.  It helps us to see beyond the stressful situation into God’s perspective through His eyes.

The Greek word peirasmos, which is testing, trial, or temptation, has an expanded definition here. It means ‘a testing that is directed towards an end, and the end is that he who is tested should emerge stronger, purer, and more godly from the testing.’

While Satan tempts us to question God’s goodness, or to give into hopelessness and our own solutions, God allows stress, pandemics, difficulties, and challenges to come into our lives to make us strong through it all. Yes, in the middle of it all, we must come to a resolve that we are either in God’s hands or we are not.  If we are in His hands, then we have this solid hope and belief on which we can stand, kneel and bow, that God is God and we can trust Him and come out of the trial stronger than when we went into it. If we are not in His hands, we are destitute and left to our own designs alone. God has given us sound minds on which we can come to practical wisdom, but ultimately, our trust must be in His guidance, His touch, His wisdom and direction.  

James says in verse three, depending on the translation you read, that the “…testing of your faith produces perseverance/ patience/endurance.”  He tells us that the aim of the testing is to purge us of all impurity.  If we meet this testing in the right way, it will produce hupomone.  The English word “patience,” or even perseverance, is far too passive to describe what the Greek word means here. 

Hupomone is not simply the ability to bear things; it is the ability to turn them into greatness and glory.  

I doubt that our world will ever be the same again after this pandemic.  This season has tattooed an indelible mark on history. It will be remembered along with other great plagues, wars, and Great Depressions.  When the stories of people begin to pour in about how God turned this challenge into greatness and how His glory was revealed through it all, we will never see Him in the same way again.

Hupomone is also the quality which makes a person able, not simply to suffer things, but to vanquish them.  They give you the strength to bear still more and to conquer still more challenging battles in the future.  

Just as anerobic exercise tears and then rebuilds the muscle tissue to make it stronger, so trials come so that we might become stronger, vanquish them, and be better prepared for the next challenge.  I can only imagine that, even as science works hard to catch up with the ever-increasing strength of viruses today, this generation will become stronger in wisdom and in the spiritual realm and will be well able to vanquish trials and turn them into greatness and glory. 

In all of this, I would like to humbly offer some practical tips to consider:

  • Discern what is the most important thing in life to you and prioritize accordingly.

“The secret is priorities.  If you can get your priorities straight, you have the foundational tool you need to control the pressures and tensions in our life and to prevent stress from becoming overwhelming and debilitating.”  Dr. Kevin Leman, Say Good-bye to Stress

We are tri-dimensional beings; spirit, soul, and body, and should consider what our highest priority is in each.

  • What are your spiritual priorities?  Make sure these fit your spiritual temperament.

(i.e. If you best connect with God when you are outdoors, get out and walk. If you best connect with God when you are sketching or painting, start doing that.  If it’s through playing an instrument or singing, let God hear you. If it’s reaching out to someone in need, go for it.) Figure out what you do in your relationship with God that brings you the most peace and joy and go do it. 

  • What are your emotional priorities?  Make sure these fit your personality. How do you recharge and restore energy to your soul?  You may not be able to hug someone right now, but you can still connect relationally and meaningfully through social media. 
  • What are your physical priorities?  Make sure that these are enjoyable as well as physically profitable.  Exercise releases endorphins needed to reduce stress, as well as having other health benefits.
  • Discern the root cause of your stress and face it honestly & tenaciously.  Assess your stress.
  • Group your stress/fear/anxiety into two categories:

–One-time stress, such as a pandemic

–On-going stress, such as chronic health issues

  • Is your stress, fear, or anxiety level harmful to your health?

Is it beginning to affect your health, joy, peace, or sense of well-being?

-Is it causing you to lose interest in your favorite hobbies?

-Is it causing you to constantly feel rushed?

-Are you making more mistakes than usual, or are you performing at a level that is less than your best?

-Do you feel constant fatigue, lack initiative, feel generally unwell, having muscle & joint aches, a pounding heart, and perspiring without exercising. Are you having stress symptoms, connected to, but unrelated to COVID19?

  • Categorize your stress/anxiety:

–Stress factors you can change now. 

–Stress factors you can work on over time, but cannot fix right away

–Stress factors that are totally out of your control

–What are you most afraid of?

*Finances – daily, educational, or retirement provision

*Relationships – family, work, friendships

*Health – major, chronic, low-grade concerns

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed.  If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.”  Corrie Ten Boom

  • Prayer
  • Personal Prayer Effectiveness – Flow with your Spiritual Temperament (See Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas)
  •  “Prayer is as necessary as the air, as the blood in our bodies, as anything to keep us alive – to keep us alive to the grace of God.”  Mother Teresa
  • “When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.” E.M. Bounds
  • “The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something and enter God’s realm where everything is possible.  He specializes in the impossible. Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love.” Corrie Ten Boom
  • Prayer Partners/Friends – Who are the people in your life that you really trust to pray?

There is power in agreement.  Mt. 18:19,20 NIV 

–Give a prayer and ask for prayer

  • Health Evaluation – Although I am not a medical professional, from research I have done, many professionals suggest that these health tips help in stressful times.
  • Honestly evaluate your Diet & the effects is has on your health and make the appropriate changes needed.

–Caffeine:  Research suggests that caffeine raises cortisol, the stress hormone.  Chronically high cortisol levels can damage immune health. Cortisol can make handling pressure difficult.  Skipping a caffeinated drink can immediately help regulate this hormone and it’s short and long-term effects.  On the other hand, some caffeine, in moderation, may help your mood. 

–Complex Carbs: All carbs prompt the brain to make more serotonin.  For a steady supply of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical, it’s best to eat complex carbs, which take longer to digest.  Good choices include whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals, including old-fashioned oatmeal. Complex carbs also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

–Simple Carbs:  A little of these carbs is okay but avoiding a large intake of them is helpful in avoiding stress.  They are digested quickly and lead to a spike in serotonin, then a sharp decline. These include sweets and sodas. 

–Vitamin C: Studies suggest that Vitamin C can curb levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system.

–Spinach & other Green Leavy Vegetables:  These vegetables provide magnesium which lowers blood pressure and eases anxiety, among other health benefits.

–Fatty Fish:  Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon & tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and may help protect against depression as well.

–Black Tea: This tea helps to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

–Nuts:  Pistachios, walnuts, almonds, or other nuts & seeds, are good sources of healthy fats. They help lower cholesterol, ease inflammation in the arteries of the heart, make diabetes less likely, and protect against the effects of stress.  

  • Honestly evaluate your Exercise Routine

Some research studies say that a 12-minute walk improves mood and helps eliminate feelings of boredom and dread.

-According to the National Institute of Mental Health in 2017, “thirty minutes of daily, gentle walking can boost your mood and reduce stress.”

–Exercise also has immediate effects on blood sugar, minimizing energy peaks and valleys throughout the day.

  • Honestly evaluate your Sleep Routine

–The American Psychological Association in 2017 reported, “Sleep is so crucial that even slight sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood….Many report that their stress increases when the length and quality of their sleep decreases.  When they do not get enough sleep, 20% of adults report feeling more stressed.”

–Top 7 Sleep Tips:

1. Schedule 7-9 hours for a full night of uninterrupted sleep. Some people need only  5-6 hours; some need as much as 10-11 hours. The majority need 7-9 hours of sleep.

2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.

3. Do not watch TV, use the computer, or focus on bills before going to bed.

4. Avoid coffee, chocolate, caffeinated soda, or nicotine in the evening.

5. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet.

6. Use your bedroom for sleeping, relaxing & intimacy only.

7. Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.

  • Relationships

–Stay away from or reduce the amount of time that you spend with negative, toxic people in especially stressful times like these. Toxic people add to stress.

–Forgive those who have offended you and release yourself from the tension of trying to please them.  Do not continue to put yourself into their negative, hurtful atmosphere.

–Studies show that married people in a trusting relationship, who engage in consistent sex, have less anxiety.

–Reach out to others.  You are not alone. We are in this together.  Don’t get disconnected. In times like this pandemic, we may have physical distance, but we do not need to have relational distance.  Stay connected through social media, the phone, or any avenue possible at a 6 foot distance. Lean into, not away from, others.

–Edify others with your gifts and talents.  Share words of encouragement, songs, photo-art, calligraphy, poetry, humor, etc.  Mow a lawn or offer to get groceries for a Senior citizen. Sew a face mask for a First Responder.  Give a smile or take a photo of yourself smiling or something that makes you smile and post it for others to see.

  • Focus on the Positive – Be grateful.

–You may not be able to change your circumstances or stop a pandemic, but you can adjust your attitude.

–A grateful spirit relieves tension and relieves stress.  Start a Gratitude List. Write what you are thankful for each day.  Let gratitude be your focus.

— IN whatever circumstance we find ourselves, we can thank the Lord that He is with us. (1 Thess 5:18)

Let me now close with a few simple thoughts of wisdom, blending the spiritual and practical together.  In doing so, I propose that God does not waste any trial that comes into our lives, whether it is a pandemic or the results of one.  He always uses it for our good and for the sake of others, that we might run this race with hupomone and turn it into greatness and glory.

Eph. 1:17-23, Jer. 31:3, Psa. 138:8

  1. Stop.  Remember who you are. You are a son or daughter of the King of kings.  He has called you by name and you are His.  He loves you with an everlasting love.
  2. Look.  Look to Him. You’re not God; He is.  You can’t be all things to all people, and you can’t be everywhere all the time.  When you try to be everything everywhere, you’ll burn out, stress-out, and melt down.  You can only do successfully what He enables you to do. Psalm 121
  3. Listen.  Meditate on Him.  Hear His voice.  Offer praise in the silent times.  Phil. 4:6-8 
  4. Proceed.  Go where He wants you to go and do what He wants you to do in faith……. ON Social Media and without spreading the virus. Mt. 6:25-34, Pro. 3:5,6 

Today, call on the Lord and then go with the strength that He gives to you.  Trust in Him. Remember, you are not alone; we are in this together. Today, we stand on our balconies and wave to our neighbors.  We sing Happy Birthday from our front porches. Today, we light our Christmas lights early to proclaim to the world that Hope has come; there is reason to go on. Today, we do what we can with a six-foot distance between us physically, but a heart to embrace within us.  Today, we grieve the loss of friends; we carry the burdens of others. We may be weak, but He is strong. Today, as those realities saturate our souls, we cry out to the living God. Today, we stand in the strength that only He so generously gives.  

Tomorrow, we will not be the same.  Tomorrow, we will walk, we will run, we will embrace, and we will share the love that our Heavenly Father has so generously given to us in abundance.  Tomorrow, we will be changed. We will be a little more aware of our neighbor, young or old, healthy or infirmed. We will be more aware, and we will care.  We will help one another find jobs, finish wedding plans, and attend funerals of those lost in this storm. Tomorrow, we will reach out and we will be a little more attune to the needs of those around us. We’ll be better stewards of those around us.  We will be changed for the good; we will be better than we were before. Tomorrow, we will go forward. We will step into the future with clean hands and brave hearts.  

Let us go forward in faith into the future together, arm-in-arm with each other and with our precious Heavenly Father.

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.”

<<<    >>>

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!

DAY 1: THE WORD CLEANSES
PSALM 119:9

DAY 2: THE WORD DELIVERS
Psalm 119:11, 170

DAY 3: THE WORD SHOULD BE OBEYED
Psalm 119:17, 158

DAY 4: THE WORD SHOULD NOT BE NEGLECTED
Psalm 119:16

DAY 5: THE WORD REVIVES
Psalm 119:25, 107

DAY 6: THE WORD STRENGTHENS
Psalm 119:28

DAY 7: THE WORD STABILIZES
Psalm 119:38

DAY 8: THE WORD IS LIFE-CHANGING
Psalm 119:41

DAY 9: THE WORD IS TRUSTWORTHY
Psalm 119:42

DAY 10: THE WORD IS TRUTH
Psalm 119:43

DAY 11: THE WORD GIVES LIFE
Psalm 119:50

DAY 12: THE WORD PROMISES MERCY
Psalm 119:58

DAY 13: THE WORD SHAPES OUR LIFE
Psalm 119:65

DAY 14: THE WORD KEEPS US
Psalm 119:67

DAY 15: THE WORD IS OUR HOPE
Psalm 119:74, 81

DAY 16: THE WORD PROMISES KINDNESS
Psalm 119:76, 82

DAY 17: THE WORD IS SETTLED IN HEAVEN
Psalm 119:89

DAY 18: THE WORD RESTRAINS OUR FEET FROM EVIL
Psalm 119:101

DAY 19: THE WORD IS A LAMP TO OUR FEET
Psalm 119:105

DAY 20: THE WORD UPHOLDS ME
Psalm 119:116

DAY 21: THE WORD IS RIGHTEOUS
Psalm 119:123

DAY 22: THE WORD DIRECTS OUR STEPS
Psalm 119:133

DAY 23: THE WORD IS PURE
Psalm 119:140

DAY 24: THE WORD IS OUR SPIRITUAL FOOD
Psalm 119:148

DAY 25: THE WORD IS ABSOLUTE TRUTH
Psalm 119:160

DAY 26: THE WORD IS AWESOME
Psalm 119:161

DAY 27: THE WORD IS A SPIRITUAL TREASURE
Psalm 119:162

DAY 28: THE WORD GIVES ANSWERS
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.