Practical Lessons of Permanent Value from the Prophecy of Zephaniah

  1. A man’s belief about God largely determines his conduct.
  2. It is universally true that one tends to become like the God he worships.
  3. Living a life is serious business and should call out the best and most serious endeavor.
  4. The wrath of God is a terrible thing when turned upon human sin.
  5. Earnest warning is sorely needed to draw us back to the presence of God.
  6. The Day of the LORD is inevitable for all men of every race.
  7. God gives assurance that the ones who seek Him will be safe in His presence in the day of destruction.
  8. God’s ministers should put strong emphasis upon the spiritual nature of God’s kingdom.
  9. The promise that joy will displace mourning and that tranquility will follow the storm should bring joy to sorrowing hearts.
  10. God’s purpose is not to wreak vengeance but to cleanse and refine and save those who will allow Him to save them.

 – Kyle M. Yates, Preaching from the Prophets, 168.

 

God and Hell

Have you ever heard this question, “How can a God of love send anybody to hell?” Now that may sound intelligent or problematic at first, but the question misses two critically important points.

A Holy God

First, God is not only a God of love but a God of utter holiness whose very nature ensures His unchanging anger at sin – and as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23) all people are by nature exposed to it. The Bible says more about God’s anger than it does about His love, and we dare not ignore one and concentrate on the other; as an article in Punch put it, “You can’t just have the bits of God you like and leave out the stuff you’re not so happy with.”

God does not send people to hell, He sends sinners to hell and as Zechariah declares, “The LORDis righteous and does no injustice” (Zechariah 3.5). God condemning unrepentant sinners to hell leaves no stain on His character. As it is impossible for God to do anything that would violate who He is, the question to ask is, “How can a God of holiness allow anyone into heaven?”

A Matter of Choice

Second, those who despise God’s authority and reject His patience and love are designing their own appalling destiny. J. I. Packer says, “Nobody stands under the wrath of God save those who have chosen to do so. The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give people what they choose, in all its implications; nothing more, and equally nothing less.”

Jesus described Himself as “the light of the world” (John 8.12) and warned, “…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3.19).

C. S. Lewis got it right when he said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell choose it.”

– John Blanchard, Major Points from the Minor Prophets, 208-09

 

Nero Claudius Caesar

Born in AD 37, Nero was the adopted son of Emperor Claudius. His mother, Agrippina the Younger, married Claudius, her uncle, and convinced him to make Nero his heir instead of his own son, Britannicus.

Nero was Rome’s fifth emperor (AD 54-68). His first five years of rule were comparatively peaceful, since his able teacher Seneca ran the government. But Nero chafed under the supervision of wiser minds. He murdered his mother and his wife. Thereupon Seneca retired. (Nero forced him to commit suicide in AD 65.) Now free to rule as he pleased, he ruined the Roman economy and thinned out the ranks of the senate by accusing many of treason.

Nero’s unique evil was demonstrated in condemning Christians as scapegoats for a fire that destroyed much of Rome in AD 64. Tacitus recounts the terror of the blaze that consumed ten of Rome’s fourteen districts – “Nero was seeking the glory of founding a new capital and endowing it with his own name” (Annals 15.40). But Nero needed a scapegoat to blame in order to deflect the suspicion that the fire was set by imperial order: Therefore, “Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians” (15.44).

Tacitus then describes Nero’s cruelty: “First, then the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race…They were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night. Hence there arose a sentiment of pity, due to the impression that they were being sacrificed not for the welfare of the state but to the ferocity of a single man” (15.44).

The New Testament in Antiquity, 364, 257

 

 

The Back Page 12-11-2016

In Our Prayers

Shut-ins: Mildred Meyers in the Manor and Sue Jackson in Sunrise Heights.

Facing Surgery: Steve Grams is to undergo foot surgery on December 14.

On the Calendar

Today: Potluck, followed by congregational budget discussion, men’s business meeting, and Secret Sisters’ party.

December 11, 12: Retooled & Refueled Seminar with Steve Diggs. Sunday 9:30 am and 6:30 p.m.; Monday, 6:30 p.m. Ogallala Church, 502 W. K Street.

December 15: Women’s Bible Study, 10:45 a.m., Sunset Apartments, finishing the study of Ephesians. Class will resume on January 5 with a study of Philippians.

December 16, 5:30 p.m. Meet at Gale and Londa McCormick’s for a van ride to view Imperial’s Christmas Lights. RSVP to Londa at 883-1779 or let Patty Vinson know. Soup supper at the McCormick’s after the van ride.

 

 

The Back Page 12-4-2016

In Our Prayers

Shut-ins: Mildred Meyers in the Manor and Sue Jackson in Sunrise Heights.

Facing Surgery: Steve Grams is to undergo foot surgery on December 14.

On the Calendar

December 8: Women’s Bible Study, 10:45 a.m., Sunset Apartment, finishing Ephesians 5 and beginning Ephesians 6.

December 9-11: Spiritual Giftedness Seminar, with guest speaker Doug Hamilton. Scottsbluff Church of Christ. Friday 7-9 pm, Saturday 9-11:50 am, Sunday 9:45 – 2:00, including lunch. See the bulletin board for a list of topics.

December 11: Potluck, followed by congregational budget discussion, men’s business meeting, and Secret Sisters’ party.

 

The Thoughts of God

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.   (1 Corinthians 2.11)

There’s a problem understanding spiritual things with a mind orientated to thinking in physical terms. After all, we live in a world of matter, time, and decay. How do we describe the beauty of heaven, the horror of hell, or the wonder of salvation in physical terms? It seems almost impossible. Yet God, who fully understands our limitations, draws on human experiences and physical reality to describe spiritual things.

The Bible is filled with “spiritual pictures” drawn in language and terms we can understand. By looking at these pictures our spiritual awareness is quickened and our spiritual nature is aroused.

Think of the prodigal son, the pearl of great price, or the tree of life. Each one reveals a facet of great spiritual truth. No single picture reveals it all, but each contributes to the whole revelation until we eventually stand awed by the complete painting.

Some words in the New Testament are pictures themselves – atonement, forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation. Each word draws on examples from the Bible or human experience to shed more light on the wonder of salvation.

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1.18). To reveal Himself to us God entered the physical realm through Jesus Christ. He did so visibly, powerfully, and dramatically. In Jesus, God says, “I’ll draw a picture for you so you can see what I’m like” – Immanuel, God with us!

– Bill

 

Caesar Augustus

 caesar-augustus1“Caesar” was the family name of Julius Caesar, which Augustus, his adopted son, took and was subsequently used by the succeeding emperors. Augustus wanted to restore the religious traditions of Rome and thus adopted the title pontifex maximus as well. He was also called pater patriae, “the father of the fatherland,” a title that suggested not only his protective care but his unrivaled authority. These titles highlight how exalted the emperor became in the first century. The culmination of this process was the emperor cult.

He established peace throughout the empire (pax Romana, “the Roman peace”). His name, Augustus (Gk. Sebastos) meaning something like “his reverence” or “his worship” has divine implications. He was acclaimed as the universal benefactor.

When Augustus became emperor, he added to his title div filius (“son of god,” i.e., son of the deified Julius Caesar). Augustus became known as “the god and savior emperor”; Nero was hailed as the “lord of the entire world.”

The Christian proclamation that Christ was the true Lord and only Savior was a direct challenge to the exalted statue of the Roman emperors. “…that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2.11); “…looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2.13). Only Jesus could be rightly called the “Son of God” – “And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5.5).

 – The New Testament in Antiquity, pp. 92-93

 

The Business of Holy Living

All Christians, in some way or another, are about the business of holy living, whether we have acquired a suitable vocabulary for it or not. But it is difficult to know exactly what it consists of. We hardly know what to look for anymore.

For the last hundred years and more, those who have set themselves up as our authorities in how to live have been taking us on thrilling roller-coaster prospects of either social utopianism or psychological fulfillment – or both. And we are worse. The only things that have improved, if that is the word for it, are our capacities to move faster and spend more.

There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty … Cultivate inner beauty, the gently, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way. (1 Peter 3.1B, 4-5).

 – Eugene Peterson, Living the Message

 

The Revelation of Christ: Who He Is, What He Does for Us

 

November 27, 2016 – Bill Bryan

Revelation 1:4-6

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood – and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father -to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The Faithful Witness

The Firstborn from the Dead – Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

The Ruler of kings on earth – Philippians 2:9-11

Who:

Loved us

Loosed us

Made us a kingdom, priests – Colossians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:20

 

 

“I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 46.9)

Most Western-style democracies guarantee freedom of religion. The Bill of Rights in the American Constitution ensures Americans are free to practice whatever religion they choose (as long as they are not harming anyone). Perhaps because of this liberty, many people assume that all religious beliefs are basically equal and valid, a concept called pluralism. It is a mistaken and false concept.

The God of the Bible insists that He alone is God. There is no other God besides Him (Isaiah 46.9). To modern ears, that may sound intolerant, or even arrogant. It certainly flies in the face of the proponents of pluralism that all beliefs are equally valid. But the LORD leaves no room for disagreement or compromise on this point: there is no god but God. One can either agree with Him or call Him a liar, but there is no middle ground.

Suppose we deny that God alone is God. That doesn’t affect God in the least. He simply says that we are wrong, and reminds us that we are mere mortals who will die. But God also warns us that our perspective is distorted, because we are stubborn-hearted sinners (46.8, 12). Who are we to decide who and/or what is God?

God refuses to be bound by our ideas of Him. That’s why He declares the truth to us: “I am God, and there is no other.”

Am I a God who is near, declared the LORD , and not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him? declares the LORD . Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD (Jeremiah 23.23-34).

There is no place in the universe void of God’s presence. He is not limited by the dimensions that confine us. Therefore we have the knowledge that wherever we are in whatever situation or circumstance, God is with us. Because we are His children through faith in Jesus Christ, we live daily with the assurances that He cares for us and is concerned about us. Though He is indeed Creator and Master of the Universe, He is also Father and we are His precious children – we belong to Him!

Because we belong to God we are never alone; He is our constant companion. Loneliness is an awful thing. People were made to live in “community,” and that greatest community of all is the one that transcends this world where love, friendship, and companionship are not only present now but throughout all eternity.

Because we belong to God when we are troubled, He is our confidence. Because of Emmanuel, He knows what it is like to be here and to be human. He understands hardship and heartache. He knows about worry and anxiety and says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5.7).

“For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2.11).

There’s a problem understanding spiritual things with a mind orientated to thinking in physical terms. After all, we live in a world of matter, time, and decay. How do we describe the beauty of heaven, the horror of hell, or the wonder of salvation in physical terms? It seems almost impossible. Yet God, who fully understands our limitations, draws on human experiences and physical reality to describe spiritual things.

The Bible is filled with “spiritual pictures” drawn in language and terms we can understand. By looking at these pictures our spiritual awareness is quickened and our spiritual nature is aroused.

Think of the prodigal son, the pearl of great price, or the tree of life. Each one reveals a facet of great spiritual truth. No single picture reveals it all, but each contributes to the whole revelation until we eventually stand awed by the complete painting.

Some words in the New Testament are pictures themselves – atonement, forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation. Each word draws on examples from the Bible or human experience to shed more light on the wonder of salvation.

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1.18). To reveal Himself to us God entered the physical realm through Jesus Christ. He did so visibly, powerfully, and dramatically. In Jesus, God says, “I’ll draw a picture for you so you can see what I’m like” – Immanuel, God with us!

 – Bill

Westside Church of Christ Imperial, Nebraska

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