Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day 7

Great day again. Please continue praying.

For my morning class, 1 Kings 12-Malachi. John 3 (regeneration) for Nathan's afternoon class. My afternoon class was canceled today.

Such a blessing to be part of a congregation that gladly embraces our opportunity to be here equipping these brothers to spread lasting joy in Jesus. We look forward to worshiping with you again soon.

Bryan, we've heard several encouraging reports about the word Sunday. "The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea." That's a lot of glory coverage! Amen!

SDG!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Day 6 - Blessed Are They Who Mourn


I think its day six? Things are running together by now.

Just before noon, Haileyesus, our translator, learned that his sister lost her baby during delivery. Mother and baby endured a long night and morning of labor, and the baby died late morning, just before delivery. Please join us in praying with Haileyesus and his family.

Haleyesus (literally, "the power of Jesus") is Anthony's best friend in Ethiopia, and his greatest partner in ministry. No doubt, he is the most biblically and pastorally advanced brother the Lord has been pleased to connect Anthony with in the country. We trust the Lord will prove Himself to be "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort" to the family in this trying time (2 Cor. 1:3).

The PTI sessions continue to go very well. The students are engaged from beginning to end, the translation is excellent (but who am I to tell?), and Nathan and I are feeling much carried by the Lord. Thank you for your prayers.

My afternoon class with the Bible College students is going well also. They are, however, one month shy of graduation. And, as is universally true, they have a bad case of "senioritis." Anthony, our always blunt missionary friend, assessed instead, "they are just lazy." Either way, the Lord is helping us in this class too. I will appreciate your prayers for wisdom in knowing how to condense Genesis 12-Revelation into our next three days of class.

The Lord is dealing especially kindly with us. We trust this is in response to your prayers. Nathan and I are both missing family, and will appreciate your prayers for them as well.



Sunday, May 27, 2007

Day 4

Another wonderful day.

Worshiped at International Evangelical Church this morning (heard great word from Exodus 15). Nathan ably exposited Colossians 1:15-23 this afternoon for the PTI guys (Even though there was much charismatic chaos going on in the room above us).

Pray for the Addis Kadan pastors/churches to embrace of Christ, not hoopla! He alone is the great attraction to Christianity!


Yo, B... update from GC services this morn? Praying for you all.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Breaking News From Around the World

Headline

Extra... Extra... Read All About It! A very spiritual GC pastor does balloon ministry in Ethiopia!


Caption

One unconfirmed report stated, "After inhaling 15 balloons worth of helium, pastor Nathan Sawyer can no longer stand upright. Kids love it!" Multiple reports are swirling that at least one child, with shoulders still bouncing with laughter, and one finger pointed at pastor Sawyer while covering her mouth with the other hand, snickeringly alleged, "That red-headed guy sounds funny when he does that."

Story developing...




(I know I'll pay for this later...)

Day 3

Class went well again this morning. We Worshipped the Great Eternal Worshipper who invited man--created in His image--into His restful worship of Himself on the seventh day. Looked at the role of the Trinity in creation (e.g., Col 1:16; Heb 1:2), and the idolatry of creature-worship (e.g., Romans 1:25). Gave attention to some of God's incommunicable attributes (to complement a class they took last month) to close class out today.

Late morning til... (still going) was an awesome wedding ceremony. Separate pre-wedding parties at bride/groom's place. Groom shows up with posse to claim bride at her place. All attendees, along with wedding party, head over to the ceremony location. Wait 1.5 hours for another wedding to finish. Have ceremony, more ceremony, then onsite reception (still going), followed by wedding party party someplace else. Elaborate, beautiful, rejoiceful from start to finish (or at least as much as we saw).

We will worship tomorrow at an International Church, then Nathan will have his second session. As always, your prayers are much needed.

These believers are deficient in so many areas of biblically informed Christian living and ministry. Culture is king. But then again, who are we to talk?

SDG!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Day 2

Not sure how often updates will come, but we will do so as often as possible. Please continue praying.

The first day of class for the 71 PTI guys was great. Little awareness of God through Scripture, but great eagerness to know Him Scripturally. These men are virtually drawing the teaching out of us. They are tireless (some rode as many as 18 hours on bus yesterday to arrive) in the class setting. Full of good questions too.

Nathan introduced the doctrine of Christ with an exaltation of Christ as the only God-pleasing pattern for life and ministry. After some survey of the gospel of John, he concluded with a powerful explanation through Philippians 2 exalting both the humanity and deity of Christ (which is a vastly misunderstood doctrine here). They seemed to be tracking well with him.

My first session on Christ-centered biblical theology went well too. Thank you for your prayers. We looked at Christ as the Subject of all of Scripture as foundation (e.g., Luke 24:27, 44), and then an overview of the history of God's redemptive revelation in Scripture. Then, we will take an epoch of redemptive history each day in a more focused manner from here on out. Tomorrow morning is Genesis 1-2.

Food is good. Actually, great! Amber and Anthony Mathenia are doing well, and have found much favor with the people by the grace of God.

Wedding tomorrow afternoon...really looking forward to the experience.

May the Lord bless you and keep you all...

SDG!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

We're Here

Nathan and I just made it to Ethiopia. Thank you for your prayers.
SDG!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pray for PTI

Nathan and I will be leaving shortly for Ethiopia.
  • Nathan has been given the wonderful task of teaching the Doctrine of Christ
  • I have been given the joy of teaching Christ-Centered Theology of the Bible
We covet your prayers!

We already miss our families, and our church family. We are praying for you all!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Favorite Piper Messages: And Favorite All Time Audio Sermon

Probably because they had such a shaping influence on my soul so shortly after my conversion to Christ, I consider this message, and this message from J. Piper to be my personal favorite Piper sermons (delivered at Passion '97, Austin, TX).

This sermon, from Paris Reidhead, is still my favorite audio sermon of all time.


* All deserve multiple prayerful listenings.

The Faithfulness of God

The pastors of Grace have been praying for $2k to come in for the PTI Ethiopia students. As of yesterday afternoon, $2,046 has come in!

** This $ will be used for nearly 80 students to eat, lodge, travel, and have materials during the two weeks of training. (roughly $25/man).

If you are interested in learning more about how to support this worthy ministry, you may do so by clicking here.

Ethiopia: Unwrapping The Wrap Up


Below, is Kurt Strassner's blog post that summarized his trip to teach the same PTI students in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that Nathan Sawyer and I will have privilege of teaching during the next two weeks. Please pray for us, and for the students!


Ethiopia - A Wrap

Here is a write-up I did for folks who were relatively unfamiliar with what Anthony is doing in Ethiopia...and why Scott and I went. Most of it is probably familiar to all of you...but maybe it will be something you can print up and use to remind yourself to pray over the next two years (and more!

Over the last two weeks of April, a fellow pastor (Scott Duley) and I traveled to Ethiopia to assist missionary Anthony Mathenia in the training of 80 church-planting pastor trainees. In this country whose landmass is approximately twice that of Texas, there are over 80 million people in 80-plus different tribes. Official statistics show that roughly half the population is Ethiopian Orthodox and about a third Muslim. Actual on-the-ground estimates say that the number of Muslims is closer to 40% and growing.

In the midst of this largely unbelieving populous sits the evangelical community. The believers we worked among are strong in many respects. There seems to be an absolute certainty about the exclusive claims of Jesus. The singing in our worship times was always done with great enthusiasm. There was a servant spirit evident everywhere. The men were eager to learn and usually on the edge of their seats to drink in the teaching of the Word. And (how encouraging!) the director of education (Alem, pictured below) for the Addis Kidan Baptist Church (the denomination with whom we worked) said to us on the second day: “You are reformed theologians! I like reformed theology!”

Amid these encouraging signs, there are definite areas for concern and prayer among the evangelicals in Ethiopia. The residue of several false ideologies still clings to a significant number of believers. The Orthodox background of many of the believers has left behind (in only a few of the men, it seemed) a false dichotomy between Old and New Testaments…almost as though God changed His personality between the two. The surrounding pagan culture has also left behind a whole host of tangled knots in the area of sexual ethics—particularly in the more rural communities. Western culture has bred an unhealthy emphasis on theological education in English—and this in a country where only 36% of the people are literate in their own language (Amharic)! In addition, there is a great need to strengthen many of the pastors in the areas of ecclesiology, robust hymnody, expositional preaching, and the doctrine of sin.

All these facts point to one great need—sound, careful, reformed theological training in the Amharic tongue. Enter Anthony Mathenia. Anthony has been traveling to Ethiopia for the last seven years. Two years ago, he and his family made the capital city, Addis Ababa, their permanent home. His pursuit? Amharic-based theological training for local pastors and trainees. This past winter, the Addis Kidan Baptist Church approached him with an offer. “We have 70-plus men who have committed, if we can provide them theological training, to plant churches, two-by-two all over unreached Ethiopia. Would you design and head up the training program?”

Would he ever! The result of that initial meeting has been Pastor’s Training Institute. PTI will consist of eight 2-week training modules over a two-year span. The trainees are housed and fed through a local church in Addis Ababa, and attend Institute classes for six hours a day, five days a week. The curriculum is arranged systematically, beginning with the doctrine of God and moving forward the way any systematic theology text-book would. Interspersed are practical seminars and sermons as well. For this first two-year round of PTI, the training will be mostly done by English speakers and translated into Amharic by able men.

Scott and I traveled from the US in April to be the inaugural teachers at PTI. Scott taught the Doctrine of God, while I taught the Sermon on the Mount (taken out of the systematic order because I also taught it as a Christian Ethics class in the English-based Baptist Bible School). The hope is that Scott’s class began the men on a sound, God-centered footing heading into the rest of the systematics courses. The Sermon on the Mount, we hope, served a dual purpose: as a solid course in Christian ethics; and as a practical example of the fruitfulness and process of expositional preaching. The men seemed to listen eagerly, intently, and with teachable hearts. Many of their questions were incredibly perceptive. The Spirit was surely at work on behalf of Christ’s church in Ethiopia.

Eventually, Anthony would like for PTI to transition completely into the Amharic language. This will require his own mastery of the language, as well as selecting and training of a group of Ethiopian men who will become the instructors in a long-term Amharic PTI. Would you pray with us about all that the Lord is so graciously doing in Ethiopia? A few requests…

  1. Successful long-term progression to an all-Amharic based PTI.
  2. The next PTI module happens the last week of May and first week of June (Jordan Thomas and Nathan Sawyer of Memphis, TN teaching).
  3. Lasting fruit through the eventual planting of up to 40 Christ-centered churches in the unreached corners of Ethiopia!
  4. Hosting logistics, travel, finances, and other nuts and bolts the Mathenia’s will be dealing with as they organize round after round of PTI.
Thank you for your interest and prayers. I may stick an audio version of all of this (and more) on the blog sometime in the next few days...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

What Did He Say?

Good question! You're not alone!!

During this morning's sermon, I even managed to confuse myself, and was rattled for most of the remainder of the sermon because of it.

When I referenced Antiochus IV (c. 175-163 B.C.), I fumbled up my own point (that takes talent!). Here's an attempt at clarification. Praise the Lord for blogs, huh?

Antiochus IV "included a prohibition and a policy by which babies who had been circumcised were put to death along with the mothers who had submitted them to this sign of the covenant." (George, 143). Those were certainly horrible times for the Jewish people!

My point in mentioning this historical aside was (supposed) to highlight the possibility that the "false brethren" of Galatians 2:4-5 may have asserted, "My great, great, grandfather's younger brother [g,g,g uncle] was killed under that lousy tyrant simply because "uncle _____" was circumcised! Now we know why Paul is so wimpish on circumcision. He must be scared of persecution. That's why he preaches that circumcision isn't necessary. He's scared another Antiochus will kill him."

Little did they know, if anyone was fearful of losing his life for the sake of the gospel, it wasn't Paul (i.e., here, and here)! The gospel truth issue, however, was that Paul was not willing to have anything added to the sufficiency of Christ's atoning work...which is what the Judaizers were after.


Instead of making this point clearly, I managed to say something more confusing than a rubix-cube, and moved on.

With all sincerity, please forgive me for not pausing for prayer in the middle of the sermon, that I might more freely worship Christ with you through the remainder of the text! The Christ of the gospel of Galatians 2:1-10 is worthy of our worship. May He be yours in fullest measure.

In Christ,
Pastor Jordan


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Notable Sermons

"Notable?" That is an understatement!

Worship Preparation

The best worship preparation I've found each week is to attend the corporate prayer meeting at 9a, and there to engage with God for nearly one hour along with those whom you will soon digest God's Word with in the worship service. See you at 9a!

** Reminder: Tomorrow is the last day to give to the needs for the pastors training in Ethiopia (check memo: PTI Ethiopia).

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Law & The Guy Who Fears Its Consequences

He's roughly 6' tall, 190 lbs, black male wearing dark pants, white shirt, and a bright blue do-rag.

There are times when our awareness of the law is heightened. Usually, those times are when we are made aware of the presence of law-enforcement. Like when we are driving our car and realize there is a police car following behind us. "Am I speeding?" "Did I roll through that last stop sign?" "Are my tags expired?" The law is BIG in that moment.

Most other times our consciousness of the law is much more relaxed. It exists, we know it, and we rarely think about it. That's the way it should be. That's good.

To state the obvious, the greatness or smallness of our consciousness of the law doesn't govern whether the law is in effect or not. The law is always in effect, whether we're aware of it or not. It is always there. We are just more aware of it at certain times (like when the blue-lights flash). Without someone to enforce the law, every man can do what seems right in his own eyes, and there will be no negative repercussions for it. That's not good.

Law-breakers suffer from another type of law-consciousness. Fear. Why are many of us unafraid of the law right now? Because as law-abiding citizens we know that "rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil" (Romans 13:3). It is the law-breaker who has the fear of the law, and of the law-enforcement. And so they should.

The guy who broke into my storage shed this morning was smart...sort of. He rang the doorbell to see if anyone was home. Ding dong (10-15 second pause). Ding dong (shorter pause). Ding dong (long silence). He was taking measures to avoid being caught for breaking the law. Smart guy...sort of.

Then, in the back yard, "clank, bang." The shed's door was "opened," and my less-than-impressive contents were exposed. All was good for the thief. Until, from my window, he heard "bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang." When I banged on the window, he dropped everything he was holding, and ran. Why? Why didn't he slowly and methodically continue "borrowing" my mower or whatever else he needed? Why was his first thought, "Run?" I think I know the answer. Let's play multiple choice:

(A) Was it because the thief received a supernatural revelation simultaneous to my window-knocking that the Lord had graciously sent a hoard of goats to his yard in order to groom it yard-of-merit style, sparing him the sweat of mowing himself? "Oh great," he thought to himself, "I don't have to mow today!"

(B) Was it because the thief was instantaneously reminded that he forgot to exercise this morning, so he thought he would take a jog before returning for my stuff?

Not impossible, but not likely either.

How about another option. (C) None of the above.

Why was he so calm...until I banged on the window? Why didn't he stick around to have some tea? A good conversation about today's beautiful weather? A game of catch? Shoot the breeze with the MPD who were on their way?


We all know why he left so abruptly. But it is worth considering again!

It took me a second to get my key, and get outside, but by then he was long gone. He left because he is a law-breaker. He wants something for nothing in such a way that violates the law. His problem wasn't out-of-control Bermuda, but an out-of control heart. "As long as I don't get caught, I'm fine," is his modus operandi. Knowing there are consequences for law-breakers is THE reason he didn't hang around when I knocked on the window, and hurried outside. We all know that.

How well do we know that every law-breaker faces consequences is the question.

Am I any different than my five-finger discount friend? Hardly. What about you? Nope.

Though probably not systematically, my thief nonetheless concluded that the consequences for stealing my stuff were not great enough to avert him from trying to do so. If, however, he was certain that he would be caught, he wouldn't have even showed up at my place, would he? That's the way consequences work. If the consequences are big enough and sure enough, it equals zero law-breaking 100% of the time! Think about it.

Consider this: What if my guy would have known that "officer _______" would have been sitting inside the shed on one of my camping chairs with a loaded gun just waiting for someone to break the lock? Our minds and our actions change when the consequences of breaking the law are heightened, don't they?

My visitor knows what we all know. He knows that if he does something unlawful, and someone catches him, then the one who catches him can bring the consequences of the law to bear on him. He ran because he was fearful of the consequences of the law.

After the dust settled, and the police left, something very important hit me.
Consequences are massive motivators.

More grievously than shed-looting, I have broken God's Law. Along with my "visitor,"
I am a law-breaker. And, God needs no officers to enact His consequences on me. I'm doomed without His undeserved pardon. Where can I hide? The sea? The grave? Not exactly.

This morning's episode is another reason why this week's Grace Group memory passage is so massively important.

Every person has broken God's law. And God has been waiting inside every shed every single time that His law has been broken. He has, without exception, caught every law-breaker every time. He sits in the sheds of our thought-life, our unlawful acts of commission, our negligent voids of omission. Literally, every act of rebellion against God has been observed by Him. All of it! This morning, again, I rejoiced because I'm so glad that I've been caught! Even more so because I've been cleared!

I hope to get to tell that guy who was in such a hurry to leave my backyard this morning what great delight there is when freedom from the fear of being caught vanishes! Please pray with me for him to know he has been caught by God, and that there is only one way for him to also be released by God.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ethiopia Donations

Two of Grace Church's pastors, Nathan and Jordan, will be leaving for Ethiopia at the end of May. They will be assisting in the training of local pastors to go and plant churches in cities and people groups where no churches exists.

If you would be interested in donating to the finances of this trip please do so through Grace Church.

You may do so by writing your check to Grace Church (memo: PTI Ethiopia) and mailing them to:

Grace Church
P.O. Box 1801
Memphis, TN 38101

We also long for your prayers for the pastors as Grace Church seeks to be a part of God's global glory among the nations.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Annalee's Home

...and is making noticeable progress. The Smith's thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bunyan's Unforgetable Experience

While walking through a field one day, Christ's righteousness was revealed to Bunyan's soul and gained the victory. Bunyan writes of that unforgettable experience:
One day, as I was passing in the field, this sentence fell upon my soul: Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal I saw with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ, at God's right hand; there, I say, as my righteousness; so that where I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away. Now I went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God. I lived for some time very sweetly at peace with God through Christ. Oh! methought, Christ! Christ! There was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes. I saw now not only looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of His blood, burial, and resurrection, but considered Him as a whole Christ! It was glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits, and that because now I could look from myself to Him, and would reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunk at home! Oh, I saw that my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ my Lord and Saviour! Now Christ was all (Grace Abounding, paragraphs 229-32, pp. 129-31).
Taken from Meet the Puritans, pp. 103-4.
_____________

"John Owen said of John Bunyan, a powerful preacher and the best-known of all the Puritan writers, that he would gladly exchange all his learning for Bunyan's power of touching men's hearts." (MTP, 101).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Luther on Galatians 1:11-24

No apologies need to be made for my constant quotation in last week's sermon from Luther's commentary on Galatians. He understood this letter as well as anyone in Christian history, and because he did, we are better for it!

For the duration of our series, however, I will not be quoting him as much as I did in week one. But, if you'd like, you can see why nearly everything he says is worth quoting! Here are his thoughts on this week's sermon text:

_______________________

Verses 11, 12. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This passage constitutes Paul's chief defense against the accusations of his opponents. He maintains under oath that he received his Gospel not from men, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In declaring that his Gospel is not after man, Paul does not merely wish to state that his Gospel is not mundane. The false apostles made the same claim for their gospel. Paul means to say that he learned his Gospel not in the usual and accepted manner through the agency of men by hearing, reading, or writing. He received the Gospel by special revelation directly from Jesus Christ.

Paul received his Gospel on the way to Damascus when Christ appeared to him. St. Luke furnishes an account of the incident in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts. "Arise," said Christ to Paul, "and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." Christ did not send Paul into the city to learn the Gospel from Ananias. Ananias was only to baptize Paul, to lay his hands on Paul, to commit the ministry of the Word unto Paul, and to recommend him to the Church. Ananias recognized his limited assignment when he said to Paul: "Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." Paul did not receive instruction from Ananias. Paul had already been called, enlightened, and taught by Christ in the road. His contact with Ananias was merely a testimonial to the fact that Paul had been called by Christ to preach the Gospel.

Paul was forced to speak of his conversion to combat the slanderous contention of the false apostles to the effect that this apostleship was inferior to that of the other apostles.

If it were not for the example of the Galatian churches I would never have thought it possible that anybody who had received the Word of God with such eagerness as they had, could so quickly let go of it. Good Lord, what terrible mischief one single false statement can create.

The article of justification is fragile. Not in itself, of course, but in us. I know how quickly a person can forfeit the joy of the Gospel. I know in what slippery places even those stand who seem to have a good footing in the matters of faith. In the midst of the conflict when we should be consoling ourselves with the Gospel, the Law rears up and begins to rage all over our conscience. I say the Gospel is frail because we are frail.

What makes matters worse is that one-half of ourselves, our own reason, stands against us. The flesh resists the spirit, or as Paul puts it, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit." Therefore we teach that to know Christ and to believe in Him is no achievement of man, but the gift of God. God alone can create and preserve faith in us. God creates faith in us through the Word. He increases, strengthens and confirms faith in us through His word. Hence the best service that anybody can render God is diligently to hear and read God's Word. On the other hand, nothing is more perilous than to be weary of the Word of God. Thinking he knows enough, a person begins little by little to despise the Word until he has lost Christ and the Gospel altogether.

Let every believer carefully learn the Gospel. Let him continue in humble prayer. We are molested not by puny foes, but by mighty ones, foes who never grow tired of warring against us. These, our enemies, are many: Our own flesh, the world, the Law, sin, death, the wrath and judgment of God, and the devil himself.

The arguments which the false apostles advanced impress people to this day. "Who are you to dissent from the fathers and the entire Church, and to bring a contradictory doctrine? Are you wiser than so many holy men, wiser than the whole Church?" When Satan, abetted by our own reason, advances these arguments against us, we lose heart, unless we keep on saying to ourselves: "I don't care if Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, Peter, Paul, John, or an angel from heaven, teaches so and so. I know that I teach the truth of God in Christ Jesus."

When I first took over the defense of the Gospel, I remembered what Doctor Staupitz said to me. "I like it well," he said, "that the doctrine which you proclaim gives glory to God alone and none to man. For never can too much glory, goodness, and mercy be ascribed unto God." These words of the worthy Doctor comforted and confirmed me. The Gospel is true because it deprives men of all glory, wisdom, and righteousness and turns over all honor to the Creator alone. It is safer to attribute too much glory unto God than unto man.

You may argue that the Church and the fathers are holy. Yet the Church is compelled to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses," I am not to be believed, nor is the Church to be believed, or the fathers, or the apostles, or an angel from heaven, if they teach anything contrary to the Word of God. Let the Word of God abide forever.

Peter erred in life and in doctrine. Paul might have dismissed Peter's error as a matter of no consequence. But Paul saw that Peter's error would lead to the damage of the whole Church unless it were corrected. Therefore he withstood Peter to his face. The Church, Peter, the apostles, angels from heaven, are not to be heard unless they teach the genuine Word of God.

This argument is not always to our advantage. People ask: "Whom then shall we believe?" Our opponents maintain that they teach the pure Word of God. We do not believe them. They in turn hate and persecute us for vile heretics. What can we do about it? With Paul we glory in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What do we gain? We are told that our glorying is idle vanity and unadulterated blasphemy. The moment we abase ourselves and give in to the rage of our opponents, Papists and Anabaptists grow arrogant. The Anabaptists hatch out some new monstrosity. The Papists revive their old abominations. What to do? Let everybody become sure of his calling and doctrine, that he may boldly say with Paul: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than ye have received, let him be accursed."


Verses 13, 14. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation.

This passage does not contain doctrine. Paul adduces his own case for an example. "I have," he says, "at one time defended the traditions of the Pharisees more fiercely than any of your false apostles. Now, if the righteousness of the Law had been worth anything I would never have forsaken it. So carefully did I live up to the Law that I excelled many of my companions. So zealous was I in defense of the Law that I wasted the church of God."


Verse 14. Being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

Speaking now of the Mosaic Law, Paul declares that he was wrapped up in it. To the Philippians he wrote: "As touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." He means to say, "I can compare myself with the best and holiest of all those who are of the circumcision. Let them show me if they can, a more earnest defender of the Mosaic Law than I was at one time. This fact, O Galatians, should have put you on your guard against these deceivers who make so much of the Law. If anybody ever had reason to glory in the righteousness of the Law, it was I."

I too may say that before I was enlightened by the Gospel, I was as zealous for the papistical laws and traditions of the fathers as ever a man was. I tried hard to live up to every law as best I could. I punished myself with fasting, watching, praying, and other exercises more than all those who today hate and persecute me. I was so much in earnest that I imposed upon my body more than it could stand. I honored the pope as a matter of conscience. Whatever I did, I did with a single heart to the glory of God. But our opponents, well-fed idlers that they are, will not believe what I and many others have endured.


Verses 15, 16, 17. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace.

To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

Here Paul relates that immediately upon being called by God to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, he went into Arabia without consulting a single person. "When it had pleased God," he writes, "I did not deserve it. I had been an enemy of Christ. I had blasphemed His Gospel. I had shed innocent blood. In the midst of my frenzy I was called. Why? On account of my outrageous cruelty? Indeed not. My gracious God who shows mercy unto whom He will, pardoned all mine iniquities. He bestowed His grace upon me, and called me for an apostle."

We also have come to the knowledge of the truth by the same kindness of God. I crucified Christ daily in my cloistered life, and blasphemed God by my wrong faith. Outwardly I kept myself chaste, poor, and obedient. I was much given to fasting, watching, praying, saying of masses, and the like. Yet under the cloak of my outward respectability I continually mistrusted, doubted, feared, hated, and blasphemed God. My righteousness was a filthy puddle. Satan loves such saints. They are his darlings, for they quickly destroy their body and soul by depriving them of the blessings of God's generous gifts.

I tell you I stood in awe of the pope's authority. To dissent from him I considered a crime worthy of eternal death. I thought of John Huss as a cursed heretic. I counted it a sin even to think of him. I would gladly have furnished the wood to burn him. I would have felt I had done God a real service.

In comparison with these sanctimonious hypocrites of the papacy, publicans and harlots are not bad. They at least feel remorse. They at least do not try to justify their wicked deeds. But these pretended saints, so far from acknowledging their errors, justify them and regard them as acceptable sacrifices unto God.


Verse 15a. When it pleased God.

"By the favor of God I, a wicked and cursed wretch, a blasphemer, persecutor, and rebel, was spared. Not content to spare me, God granted unto me the knowledge of His salvation, His Spirit, His Son, the office of an apostle, everlasting life." Paul speaking.

God not only pardoned our iniquities, but in addition overwhelmed us with blessings and spiritual gifts. Many, however, are ungrateful. Worse, by opening again a window to the devil many begin to loathe God's Word, and end by perverting the Gospel.


Verse 15. Who separated me from my mother's womb.

This is a Hebrew expression, meaning to sanctify, ordain, prepare. Paul is saying, "When I was not yet born God ordained me to be an apostle, and in due time confirmed my apostleship before the world. Every gift, be it small or great, spiritual or temporal, and every good thing I should ever do, God has ordained while I was yet in my mother's womb where I could neither think nor perform any good thing. After I was born God supported me. Heaping mercy upon mercy, He freely forgave my sins, replenishing me with His grace to enable me to learn what great things are ours in Christ. To crown it all, He called me to preach the Gospel to others."


And called me by his grace.

"Did God call me on account of my holy life? Or on account of my pharisaical religion? Or on account of my prayers, fastings, and works? Never. Well, then, it is certain God did not call me on account of my blasphemies, persecutions, oppressions. What prompted Him to call me? His grace alone."


Verse 16. To reveal his Son to me.

We now hear what kind of doctrine was committed to Paul: The doctrine of the Gospel, the doctrine of the revelation of the Son of God. This doctrine differs greatly from the Law. The Law terrorizes the conscience. The Law reveals the wrath and judgment of God. The Gospel does not threaten. The Gospel announces that Christ is come to forgive the sins of the world. The Gospel conveys to us the inestimable treasures of God.


That I might preach him among the heathen.

"It pleased God," says the Apostle, "to reveal himself in me. Why? For a twofold purpose. That I personally should believe in the Son of God, and that I should reveal Him to the Gentiles."

Paul does not mention the Jews, for the simple reason that he was the called and acknowledged apostle of the Gentiles, although he preached Christ also to the Jews.

We can hear the Apostle saying to himself: "I will not burden the Gentiles with the Law, because I am their apostle and not their lawgiver. Not once did you Galatians hear me speak of the righteousness of the Law or of works. My job was to bring you the Gospel. Therefore you ought to listen to no teachers of the Law, but the Gospel: not Moses, but the Son of God; not the righteousness of works, but the righteousness of faith must be proclaimed to the Gentiles. That is the right kind of preaching for Gentiles."


Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.

Once Paul had received the Gospel from Christ, he conferred with nobody in Damascus. He asked no man to teach him. He did not go up to Jerusalem to sit at the feet of Peter and the other apostles. At once he preached Jesus Christ in Damascus.


Verse 17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

"I went to Arabia before I saw any of the apostles. I took it upon myself to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles without delay, because Christ had called me for that purpose." This statement refutes the assertion of the false apostles that Paul had been a pupil of the apostles, from which the false apostles inferred that Paul had been instructed in the obedience of the Law, that therefore the Gentiles also ought to keep the Law and submit to circumcision.


Verses 18, 19. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.
Paul minutely recounts his personal history to stop the cavil of the false apostles. Paul does not deny that he had been with some of the apostles. He went to Jerusalem uninvited, not to be instructed, but to visit with Peter. Luke reports the occasion in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts. Barnabas introduced Paul to the apostles and related to them how Paul had met the Lord Jesus on the way to Damascus, also how Paul had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Paul says that he saw Peter and James, but he denies that he learned anything from them.

Why does Paul harp on this seemingly unimportant fact? To convince the churches of Galatia that his Gospel was the true Word of Christ which he learned from Christ Himself and from no man. Paul was forced to affirm and re-affirm this fact. His usefulness to all the churches that had used him as their pastor and teacher was at stake.


Verse 20. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

Was it necessary for Paul to go under oath? Yes. Paul is reporting personal history. How else would the churches believe him? The false apostles might say, "Who knows whether Paul is telling the truth?" Paul, the elect vessel of God, was held in so little esteem by his own Galatians to whom he had preached Christ that it was necessary for him to swear an oath that he spoke the truth. If this happened to Paul, what business have we to complain when people doubt our words, or hold us in little regard, we who cannot begin to compare ourselves with the Apostle?


Verse 21. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

Syria and Cilicia are adjacent countries. Paul traces his movements carefully in order to convince the Galatians that he had never been the disciple of any apostle.


Verses 22, 23, 24. And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.

In Syria and Cilicia Paul won the indorsement of all the churches of Judea, by his preaching. All the churches everywhere, even those of Judea, could testify that he had preached the same faith everywhere. "And," Paul adds, "these churches glorified God in me, not because I taught that circumcision and the law of Moses should be observed, but because I urged upon all faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."

(Taken from CCEL)

Galatians: Review & Preview

REVIEW:

Last week, Grace began a series of worship through Galatians.

In 1:1-10 we saw two sections:
  • 1:1-5
    1. The credibility of the author
      • Paul, called by Triune God, not by man
    2. The nature of the audience
      • Churches of the Living God
    3. The God of our salvation
      • Jesus, Who gave Himself
        • For our sins
        • To deliver us out of this present evil age
        • According to the will of our God and Father
      • Father, Who raised Jesus
        • To Whom be glory forevermore. Amen!
  • 1:6-10
    1. Astonishment
      • That Galatians were abandoning God
      • That Galatians were turning to "another" gospel
    2. Anathema
      • On all who preach another gospel
    3. Evidence
      • Of a God-pleasing bond-servant of Christ verses a man-pleaser
___________________________

PREVIEW:

This week, Lord willing, we will worship through 1:11-24, by focusing on:
  1. Christ to us
  2. Christ in us
  3. Christ through us
___________________________

REMINDER:

This Sunday is "First Week." Bring a friend...or two!

Come with a heart ready to worship King Jesus.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Nigeria Prayer Help - #2

During our Vision Trip in Nigeria, we were bombarded with the plain awareness of persecution toward Christians in Northern Nigeria.

The same day we departed the country to return home, also marked the day that the new Nigerian President was elected, Muslim Umaru Musa Yar’Adu.
The election of Yar'Adu to office was of concern to Christians for a number of reasons...not the least of which is their freedom to worship Jesus Christ!

Yar'Adu was formerly the Governor of Katsina State, a place we visited on our first day of visioning. Katsina is just below the Sahara Desert in the extreme North of Nigeria, and is only a fraction of a percentage point away from being an exclusively Muslim region. But Christ, as He promised, has sheep of that fold who must (Indeed, some already have!) come to Him (John 10:16)!

As Pat Nave shared on Sunday at the Grace Lunch Fellowship, talking about the persecution of Christians in Nigeria is not simply anecdotal.


Below is a well-written article that sheds even more light for our praying about our future involvement as a church in Nigeria. Perhaps Katsina will be our target location?


Maybe it was because visiting Katsina (top-center of the map of Nigeria) was our initial Nigerian experience, but more likely because of the tug of the Holy Spirit, I've not been able to get Rev. Aliyu Auta's face out of mind. Auta is the pastor of an ECWA church in Katsina. This is a godly brother. He is faithfully pastoring his flock, and preaching the truth of Christ crucified, buried, and raised for our salvation!

Rev. Auta is mentioned in the quote below. I encourage you to read the entire article. Most of all, pray!


Our minister here, the Rev. Aliyu Auta, went to see Gov. Yar’Adua on this issue (i.e.; being permitted to complete the construction of our church building), and [Governor Yar'Adu] promised he would do something about it, but we are now at the end of his tenure as governor and nothing has been done.”

T4G '08 Video

Nearly an hour long, but worth the watch.

McCheyne


Enough said.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A House of Prayer for All the Nations

In an attempt to move toward being a church with a vision for Christ's global glory, Grace prays for a different country/people-group during each Sunday's service. This year, we are focusing our prayer support for the believers in the 52 most Christian-persecuted peoples/places in the world. For those of you who were at GC on Sunday, you may remember that we prayed for Gaza/West Bank.

Now, I don't want to confuse "American" with "Christian," but I think the following prayer (From the lips of Sheik Ahmad Bahr; Acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council) for Allah to effect the total anahilation of all Jews and Americans is reason enough to continue to pray fervently to the only true God for our Christian brothers and sisters who are living and ministering in Palestine.
Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one. Oh Allah, show them a day of darkness. Oh Allah, who sent down His Book, the mover of the clouds, who defeated the enemies of the Prophet defeat the Jews and the Americans, and bring us victory over them.
Read the short article here.

(HT: Drudge)

Nigeria Prayer Help

As Grace Church continues to prayerfully consider how the Lord intends to use us for the glory of Christ in Nigeria, the following short supplement from SIM will helpfully inform our praying:
At least 120 unreached people groups exist in Nigeria. The rapid growth rate of many of the churches indicates that people are receptive. However, areas of strong resistance remain among Muslims in the north. Indications point to some Muslim groups, such as the Fulani and certain Hausa sub-groups, becoming more receptive to the message of Jesus.
Read the entire article here...

(HT: Pat Nave)