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The First Thing For a New Believer

We brought in the year 2020 watching the movie Overcomer by the Kendrick brothers. In the movie, the principle of the school shares the gospel with the main character and she receives Christ. When she does, the first thing that she is told to do is to read Ephesians 1–2 and write down who they are in Christ.

This is a fantastic place to begin for new believers—Ephesians 1–2. Understanding one’s Christian identity is vital for the Christian life; that is likely why the apostle begins Ephesians with such rich theology before Christian practice.

But Ephesians 2 is not merely about Christian identity. It begins with the spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph 1:3–14) but also includes a wonderful model for prayer (Eph 1:15–22) and goes on to speak of one’s new relationship with God that is now opposed to the Satan that the believer formerly followed (Eph 2:1–10) and one’s new relationship with the church (Eph 2:11–22).

So, I commend the advice, howbeit advised in a movie, it is good for real life.

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Going Social

I’ve set up a social media account that should get regular updates at https://facebook.com/brianmann.faith

Please take time to click “like” to support and get updates. Thank you!

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Reaching the Religious

One of the most perplexing incidents in the book of Acts is that of Paul circumcising Timothy directly after the Jerusalem Council that established that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised to be saved. But that is the point, Timothy was circumcised not in order to be saved, but to remove offense to the Jews whom the apostle was attempting to reach with the gospel in proper order (The Jew first and also the Greek). So, Acts 16:3 says,

“Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

Acts 16:3 ESV

Some commentators wrestle with the date of Galatians and this verse, but I find that unhelpful at this point. The real issue is that of being willing to put aside obstacles to see the gospel go forth. This did not mean doing anything sinful to spread the gospel, but only that which was lawful. This did not mean doing something against conscience, but only what was truly beneficial and accepted. Nonetheless in Timothy’s circumcision we see a young man willing to bleed for the gospel to be heard.

By implication this is a great challenge to Christians today. Are we willing to set aside preferences for the sake of spreading the gospel? Are we willing to dress up in order to reach professionals? Are we willing to meet the religious where they are? There is far more example today of dressing down, going to those outside the church, and reaching the outwardly sinful, but what about those who relying on their own good deeds who need the gospel too? The apostle to the Gentiles not only did all to reach the Jews, but prioritized them in his ministry. The Jews may be considered for applicatory purposes not merely ethnic Jews but those well educated in the Bible and in good works. What about them?

The modern church has done everything to reach a sinful culture by lowering its standards in the preaching and singing instead of raising the standard in both by setting aside real preferences that require the minister actually looking religious in order to reach the religious.

It could be argued that everyone is religious (see Acts 17:22), thus how are we reaching the religious?

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Book Review—The Four Callings of William Carey

Duke, Roger, D. The Four Callings of William Carey: The Father of Modern Missions. Germantown: Duke Consulting Group, 2017. 108 pp. $2.99 Kindle

Roger Duke is an experienced educator at college, university and graduate levels. He holds graduate degrees in theology and religion. Regarding books, he has written six published works and edited over twenty. He retired after 20 years of teaching to pursue an itinerant career in consulting, teaching, and writing. I came in contact with Dr. Duke at the birth of my third child. He reached out to me because he too had a special needs child and was most helpful. 

Dr. Duke defines the main calling of the Christian and distinguishes it from the various callings. This is all illustrated by the life of William Carey beginning with his call to salvation and then going onward to Carey’s callings to missions, India, and finally to perseverance. 

Dr. Duke set out to speak on callings and why they matter. He did so from a Christian worldview defining calling as vocation, which is one’s station in life. Calling, according to Dr. Duke, is how we love our neighbor. It is obvious that Duke believes this begins with one’s call to God in salvation and then is worked out in various areas of gifting and passion. 

I appreciated the succinct approach to calling and would recommend it for reading by any Christian. There is much confusion about calling from outright denial of the concept to glorifying the experience of a calling that doesn’t come near to the straight-forward application that Duke gives us. When we think of calling, we should think in terms of what Duke lists, beginning with God and going forward in what we do as our career, where we do it, and how long we do it. All of these are essential aspects of calling that doesn’t get explained in a merely mechanical way, but in the form of history and biography that takes the reader on the journey with Carey to see what made him tick, and what also may by implication make us tick. 

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The Keys to First Kings

In 2020, I plan to preach from 1 Kings, and I have ascertained with the help of one commentator (Mr. Woodhouse) some solid reasons to do so. I call these “Keys to First Kings.”

Key #1 Fix Your Eyes on the Champion King

“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.””

John 19:19

Woodhouse writes, “1 Kings tells the account of fourteen kings who ruled over all or some of the ancient Israelite people from about 961 to 850 B.C.” Nevertheless all fourteen of these kings point us to one King, namely Jesus of Nazareth (at that time to come). This is the first key to understanding 1 Kings.

Key #2 Take a Trip to Kingdom Outfitters

“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.””

John 18:36

We are balanced by this very thing and outfitted for salvation through 1 Kings. How so? First, as glorious as the greatest kingdom this world has seen (King Solomon in 1 Kings 1–11) we would not trust in it. Second, as bad as the worst kingdom this world has seen (King Ahab in 1 Kings 16–22) we would no despair over it. Rather, as 2 Timothy 3:15 states, “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” includes that of 1 Kings, and especially 1 Kings. This Book that speaks of fourteen kings helps us to see the kingdom anticipated in the coming of Jesus Christ is not of this world. Nevertheless, we can be outfitted (that is what made wise for salvation means) for the out-of-the-world kingdom.

Key #3 Imagine a Forever Indestructible Kingdom

“And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’””

2 Samuel 7:16

God promised early on that there would be a king to make things right forever (Genesis 3:15). In Genesis 35:11 the Scripture speaks about the covenant, “And God said to [Jacob], “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” One has said that wherever there is a sovereign king and his subjects there is a covenant (Frame). God promises or covenants to bring forth kings from Jacob (Israel). This is the concept of Messiah or King promised to come and establish his forever kingdom. And this kingdom is also indestructible as stated in:

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

Genesis 49:10

and

“The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.””

1 Samuel 2:10

That is the third key.

Key #4 A Kingdom Predicted to be Rejected yet still rules

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

John 1:11

The out-of-this-world forever, indestructible kingdom that points us to our champion king and outfits us for salvation is one that is predicted to be rejected by his own people.

Woodhouse writes that 1 Kings

“is a story of power and politics in which we will learn many interesting and important things. By far the most important is the wonder of the extraordinary inscription that Pontius Pilate put on the cross when seen in light of the Scriptures. The story of these kings will (as Jesus put it) “bear witness about me.” Our task is to listen carefully to this testimony.”

It is no surprise to anyone who listened to the testimony of Scripture that the Messiah’s kingdom would be rejected. The breadth of fourteen kings illustrates how man will often accept everything but the Messiah’s kingdom, whether with the glory of Solomon or the darkness of Ahab; but something greater than Solomon is testified in 1 Kings.

These are the keys to 1 Kings:

  1. Fix your eyes on your champion king—this book will be your hero.
  2. Take a trip to kingdom outfitters—this book is holy; it will make you wise enough to trust Jesus and be saved.
  3. Imagine a forever indestructible kingdom—this book will be your hope.
  4. Do not be surprised at this king’s rejection, nor sad because he rules—this book is a harbinger of the cross.

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A Reading Plan for Everyone

I’ve attempted it several times, but admittedly Bible reading plans are difficult for me to follow. I prefer simply to plod along, going to the next chapter and reading it. This keeps me from the unnecessary guilt if I miss a day, or even the need to rush through several texts when I am compelled to dwell upon a certain portion.

Now, I say this not to condemn anyone who works well with Bible reading plans. I have those in my immediate family who do quite well with the discipline. However, there are others like myself who find it more of a burden than a delight.

In Acts 15 the apostles and elders placed no other burden on the people except to act morally/lawfully in keeping with the gospel of grace they had received.

So, I make this little note to encourage both those who do well with reading plans as well as those do not. Carry on. We are made differently—and that is ok. But as for me, I prefer to plod in a different way, however lawfully.

It’s perhaps like David’s armor. He could not put on another’s that weighed him down. So, I’d encourage everyone to find a way to read the Bible that simply helps them to be exposed to all of God’s Word, whether in the form of a reading plan, or simply just reading it through.

Most importantly, let’s not look down on each other for how we read the Bible, but build each other up simply to read the Bible. Is it not a tremendous privilege? Consider that some are illiterate and depend solely upon the reading of the Word to them each Sunday. Yet, for many, we are privileged to be able to pick up the Bible daily! What a delight, in whatever way you pick it up!

Perhaps the focus should not be on how we pick it up for ourselves, but how we might pick it up for and with others. Is there someone in your congregation who doesn’t know how to read? Is there someone who needs the truth of Scripture that you can read with and to? I am sure there are those who read the Bible better than me, because they are reading it so that others who otherwise could not, may also hear it. This is something we could all aspire to attain. That’s a reading plan for everyone! A plan to bring the Scriptures to others who for whatever reason are unable or even unwilling yet to bring it to themselves.

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A Great New Year’s Worship Song

We finished our last service of 2019 at church with this song. It’s perfect for worship at the end or beginning of the year. Enjoy this song brought to you by brianmann.faith via Spotify.

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Live Forever

Enjoy this song brought to you through brianmann.faith via spotify

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Biblical Inspiration’s Relationship with Omnipotence

I was reading an article this morning that brought out an interesting relationship between the acceptance of the Bible’s divine inspiration with divine omnipotence. The author says,

“Perhaps what is in view in the idea of inspired error is that the inspiration, though proceeding from a good and omniscient God, is simply ineffectual to the task at hand. That is, it fails to accomplish its intended purpose. In this case another attribute of God, His omnipotence, is negotiated away. Perhaps God is simply unable to superintend the writings of Scripture with sufficient power to overcome the human authors propensity for error.”

One Foundation: Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture, p.10

Dear soul, have you ever considered that to deny the Bible’s inspiration by God, one also is to deny God’s irresistible power. We are not merely talking about God’s authority (right) to inspire revelation of the Bible, but the power (or might) to inspire the Holy Bible.

God in his power carried along the biblical writers by his power so as to bring about exactly what he wanted to say to man. This is the foundation perhaps of a correct view of Scripture.

The Lord be praised for his ability that brought about the Holy Bible! Consider if man is powerful enough to design and turn on what we would consider advanced modern devices, how much more is the Lord God able to bring about revelation with power! And the Bible is evidence that He has!