Starting Advent Sunday Hymns

I seriously considered breaking with my tradition of posting Christmas hymns during the month of December. It seemed all too predicable. Too expected!

But think about all the predictions the Old Testament prophets made about the coming Messiah. Each prediction filled believing Jews with hopeful expectation, knowing that Messiah would bring freedom. While most Jews ended up missing Messiah when He came, some actually did understand Who He was.

This Advent season, perhaps we need to expect Christ’s Second Coming, which He Himself predicted. He was faithful to fulfill the predictions of the prophets; should we expect anything less now?

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Familiar Psalm, Unfamiliar Hymn

Tragically, one could argue that hymns in general are unfamiliar to most professing evangelicals. But I digress.

Psalm 23 is well-known, even among non-Christians. Almost any movie with a funeral scene includes a minister somberly reciting its words as mourners gather around the grave, allowing avid movie buffs to subconsciously memorize it regardless of their religious views. And those who identify as Christians definitely find comfort in its beautiful imagery.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” We draw strength from these words, as well as the words which follow them. Often we speak them to ourselves in times of crisis, assuring ourselves that — despite the most unspeakable circumstances — our Shepherd continues to guide and protect us. We take solace in knowing that we “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Last Sunday I encountered a hymn based on Psalm 23 that I’d never heard until then. I’m guessing it’s unfamiliar to many of you. Perhaps it might give you fresh perspective on this psalm that we know so well.

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Reformation Day Is Like Christmas (At Least For Reformed Bloggers)

Reformation Day

Pastors must feel a sense of panic each December, knowing they’ll need to preach Christmas sermons the Sunday before Christmas as well as Christmas Eve. How can they find a fresh angle? What can they say that pastors haven’t said for centuries on end? How do they keep their congregations from becoming jaded to the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation?

As a blogger, I believe I empathize with their plight. Before starting The Outspoken TULIP, I maintained another blog for  nine years, giving me a total of twelve years and three months doing this ministry. Around Christmastime, I panic a little myself. What can I add to the conversation that’s different from my Christmas blog posts lying in my archives? And how can my articles complement, rather than parrot, those of my fellow Christian bloggers?

Today I feel the same sort of panic. It’s Reformation Day, and I am Continue reading

The Man Of God’s Own Choosing

Martin Luther arguably set the Protestant Reformation in motion, a fact that hardly needs to be stated. But his most famous hymn perhaps expresses his confidence in Christ as Christians fought to return the Church to true Biblical faith and practice.

As you listen to this hymn, please notice the emphasis on Christ as the One Who would defeat the powers of evil. This marvelous truth applies just as much in the battle for truth today as it did at the height of the Reformation. It also applies to our personal battles against sin.

God is our mighty fortress. Christ Jesus is the Man He chooses to win the battle. We can’t trust in our own ability to overcome Satan and his evil devices, but we can fully depend on the Lord to establish His kingdom.

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I’m Not Interested In Your Opinion — And You Shouldn’t Be Interested In Mine

Open Bible 02The Bible Study leader reads a verse, and perhaps quotes a commentary before sharing how she thinks it spoke to her. Then she opens the floor to solicit thoughts from the other ladies in the room. Everyone has valid insights, she assures the group; there are no wrong answers.

Okay, usually it happens a little more subtly than my description. But many Bible Study groups do encourage subjective approaches to Scripture. All too often, women receive support for drawing personalized messages from their Bible study time.

Certainly, as we’re in Gods Word, the Holy Spirit frequently uses it to address specific situations in our lives.  In fact, we ought to search the Scriptures when we need God’s wisdom. Are you considering marriage?  Then Continue reading

According To Scripture: Study #13 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Sometimes God’s Word is so straightforward that we don’t need a great deal of help from commentaries to understand it. Verses 39-41 of 1 Corinthians 15 serve as a case in point. As I studied the passage this past week, I found that, when read in the context of the preceding verses, these three verses pretty much simply drive home Paul’s point that our resurrected bodies will be much different from the bodies we have now.

At the same time, proper Bible study demands that we avoid the temptation to skim over these verses as if they’re superfluous. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write them for a reason, and therefore we must cherish them as His Word.

So let’s look at the full passage, perhaps remembering what we discussed last Monday, and then make a few observations about today’s brief verses.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. ~~1 Corinthians 15:35-41 (ESV)

You’ll recall from last Monday that the scoffers referred to in verse 35 ask about the nature of resurrection bodies as a challenge, hoping to show that resurrection is ridiculous. But Paul responds by reasoning from God’s creation. Just as bodies of different species differ, and as stars and moons differ, so temporal and resurrection bodies differ.

The introduction of the word “flesh” in verse 39 emphasizes the physical aspect of resurrection, which some of the Corinthians (influenced by early Gnostic philosophies) denied. Jesus’ own bodily resurrection points to this reality. In Luke 24:39, for example, He presents Himself to the disciples and reminds them that spirits don’t have flesh and bone as He does. Philippians 3:21 insists that the Lord will transform our bodies to be like His. Clearly, such a transformation entails a physical body.

But as the flesh of different species varies, so our earthly bodies will be different from our resurrected bodies. Barnes appeals to the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly; it’s all the same insect, but the butterfly is far different from the caterpillar! Paul doesn’t go there, but he certainly distinguishes between various types of flesh with the purpose of illustrating the distinction between the earthly body and the resurrection body.

This takes us to verse 40, where the argument moves from species to cosmology. Paul differentiates between earth and other bodies (planets and stars). Although people in the First Century obviously didn’t know about geological and atmospheric conditions, the Holy Spirit clearly inspired Paul to write this observation.

He furthers his argument in verse 41 by noting distinctions between heavenly bodies themselves. Considering that Paul wrote this epistle several centuries before the invention of telescopes and space exploration, I think his statement underscores the fact that he writes under direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. Only God knew, at that point in time, how stars and planets differed from each other. Yet He wanted Paul to include this example.

Believers Bible Commentary also indicates that this verse may suggest that we will retain our individuality even in our resurrected states. Although none of the other commentaries I read corroborated with this thought, it definitely deserves our consideration. I’d caution against being dogmatic about this possibility, however. Let’s stick with Paul’s main argument that our earthly bodies aren’t to be compared with the bodies we will receive at the resurrection.

Next Monday we will see how Paul ties these examples to the resurrection a bit more concretely. In the  meantime, if you have any questions, comments or observations, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to use the Comments Section, The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page or Twitter to give your perspective.

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According To Scripture: Study #12 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Thank you all for your patience while I took a two month break from writing this Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15. In July, we finished studying Christ’s resurrection and its implications regarding our own resurrection at His return. Now Paul shifts the conversation to the nature of our resurrected bodies.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. ~~1 Corinthians 15:35-41 (ESV)

As we see in verse 35, Paul now addresses practical reservations regarding bodily resurrection. The question as to what kind of bodies we will have come either from immature believers or, as implied by Paul’s harshness in verse 36, from skeptics trying to disprove the doctrine through ridicule. Whatever the motives, the two main questions are:

  • How are the dead raised?
  • What is the resurrection body like?

Gill believes that the first question betrays cynicism, and most likely a determination to show the absurdity of resurrection. That cynicism gives rise to the question of the form decomposed bodies could possibly take upon resurrection. But, as Jamieson, Fausset and Brown point out, such questions should be answered by appealing to God’s power rather than from human philosophies (as Jesus did in Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27 and Luke 18:27).

As we come to verse 36, we are startled that Paul bluntly calls anyone who would raise objections such as these a fool. The Corinthians, because they prided themselves on their worldly wisdom, must have been even more startled. And Paul intended to startle them! His harshness brings out the idea that their supposed intellectual wisdom crumbles into idiotic babble (Romans 1:22).

As Barnes observes, they appeal to personal experience and their deductions from nature as evidence that bodily resurrection is ludicrous. But Paul turns the tables by holding up an example from nature that exposes their objections. Contrary to their arguments that a dead body simply returns to dust, Paul likens the body to a seed that must die and be buried in order to produce life (see John 12:24).

In verse 37 Paul expands on his analogy by comparing the natural body that we sow through burial to a seed (or kernel) planted in the ground. A kernel of grain, for example, grows into an entire stalk of wheat, flax or barely, complete with husks, leaves or blades. Obviously a tiny seed looks considerably different than a fully developed plant!

With this simple illustration, the apostle demonstrates the fallacy of their reasoning, thus striking at their pride. If they had reasoned more carefully, they would have realized that crops come from decomposed seeds, so that nature itself testifies to the truth of resurrection.

We’ll close today’s study with verse 38, which definitely leads me into worship! God gives everything the type of body that pleases Him. Just as He is pleased for a seed to have a different body than a plant, so He is pleased for a natural body to be different than a spiritual body. I love this testimony to God’s sovereignty, don’t you?

Barnes brings out the point that God, rather than impersonal laws of nature, determines the assignment of bodies. By His design, a seed has a different body than a fully developed plant and a natural body is different than a spiritual body. Possibly, Paul thinks of Christ’s words in Mark 4:26-29. Human reason only understands so much of how a seed is transformed into a plant. How much more limited we are in understanding how God transforms our earthly bodies into heavenly ones!

Lord willing, next Monday we’ll dig into verses 39-41 to deepen our understanding of our resurrection bodies. Between now and then, please leave comments and/or questions here, on the Facebook page or on Twitter. Thank you.

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