The “Older” Shall Serve the “Younger”

While Rebekah was pregnant with twins, God appeared to her and said,

“Two nations are in your womb,
Two peoples shall be separated from your body.
One people shall be stronger than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23)

We often interpret this in light of what we know will eventually come to pass between the two brothers: Since we know the younger brother Jacob will end up with his older brother’s birthright and blessing, this heavenly declaration must be prophesying those events. “The older (Esau) will serve the younger (Jacob)” by forfeiting his inheritance. Thus, Esau is the loser of the prophecy because he serves, while Jacob is the winner because he is served.

I think this interpretation is wrong.

For one, this verse doesn’t actually say that “the *older* shall serve the younger.” The word “older” is the Hebrew word “rab,” which actually means “greater.” And of the 458 times it appears in the Hebrew Scriptures, it’s only translated “older” in this passage. In fact, if the author meant to say “older,” there’s another word he could have chosen. The word “gadol” means “older,” as we see in Genesis 27:1, where Isaac refers to Esau as his “beni ha-gadol”: “my older son.”

In my opinion, a better translation of the end of Genesis 25:23 would be, “…and the greater shall serve the lesser.” When read this way, the passage is ambiguous as to who is the “greater” and who is the “lesser.” So… who was the greater one?

At first, we might think that the greater one was Jacob. After all, he outsmarted his brother and ended up with the blessing, right? Well… it’s not actually so clear. It’s true that Jacob deceived his father and brother in order to receive his father’s blessing (Hebrew berakah). But twenty years later, when Jacob returned home to face his brother, he returns the berakah, saying, “Please, take my blessing” (Genesis 33:11).

Okay, so maybe Esau is the greater one. He is stronger than his brother, after all. Additionally, after he meets up with his brother after twenty years apart, he tells Jacob that he doesn’t need his brother’s gifts, for “I am great (rab) enough” (Genesis 33:8). Right there, Esau declares himself to be the great one. Case closed, problem solved.

Except… Esau isn’t the only brother who is called great. After living in exile for twenty years, the Bible calls Jacob “exceedingly great” (rab) (Genesis 30:43).

So, both brothers are called great (rab), both brothers were increased greatly, and the blessing changes hands several times and doesn’t really seem to play into this all that much. Which one is the “greater” one? That original prophecy tells us:

“The greater *shall serve* the lesser.”

The greater one is the one who serves.

And with that in mind, which of the two brothers served? During the twenty years that they were separated, we read eleven times that Jacob served (abad) his uncle Laban. This service to his uncle led directly to Jacob becoming great, both in terms of finances, family, and influence. And then when Jacob and Esau finally reunite, Jacob calls himself Esau’s servant (ebed) five times. Those twins spent years and years seeking greatness by trying to steal the inheritance from one another. But finally, Jacob began to seek greatness *through service*.

You find this dynamic live on through their descendants. Esau’s people became the Edomites, while Jacob’s people became the Israelites. After 400+ years in slavery, the Israelites asked permission to pass through the Edomite’s land. The Edomites chose not to serve, refusing them entry into their land (Numbers 20:21).

Despite this poor treatment, God wrote it into the Israelites’ legal code that the Edomites would always be welcome to join the congregation of Israel and worship the One True God beside them, “for he is your brother” (Deuteronomy 23:7, 8). The Israelites were commanded to serve their brother Edom.

So often we read Genesis 25:23 and assume that the one who “serves” is the one that gets the short end of the stick, but the opposite is true. The one who “serves” is the one who is considered “great.”

And this interpretation of greatness and service fits much better within the whole narrative of scripture. The very first usage of the word “service” in the Bible (abad) is found in the Garden of Eden, where Adam was given the important task of abading the garden—of serving it, of tilling it. Hundreds of years later, Moses demands that Pharaoh “let God’s people go,” that they may abad Him. After their salvation from Egypt, God gives the priests and Levites the important job of abading Him in the tabernacle. And throughout the prophets, the future Messiah is called the ebed of the LORD—the Servant of God. Service is what God’s people are called to, and serving God and others is what makes us great in the eyes of the LORD.

And thousands of years later, we see this play out between two opposing kings. King Herod was an appointed “king of the Jews.” He was rich, ruthless, and wanted to be served. He considered himself to be so great that he gave himself the title, “Herod the Great.” And did I mention that he also was an Idumaean—an Edomite, a descendant of Esau.

But there was another King of the Jews. This One came not to be served but to serve. This One became poor that we might be made rich. This One bore our sicknesses that we might be healed. This One who knew no sin became sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God. This One—an Israelite, a descendant of Jacob—was the True King, the Servant King, the Great King.

And this Great Servant King taught all who would listen how to achieve greatness as well, by echoing the words He had spoken to Rebekah thousands of years earlier:

“He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

Welcome to the Church Basement

Welcome to the Church Basement. I’m Garrett, and I want to welcome you to my new channel.

I don’t know about you, but I go to church. I’ve been going since I was 17. I’ve taught in kids ministry, youth ministry, young adults ministry, and even in “big church.” I’ve led international missions trips and even taught classes at the local bible college. I’ve been heavily involved in my church for a long time, and I don’t know about your church, but if you dig a bit beneath the surface, you’ll end up in the Church Basement.

And that’s exactly what I want to do here. I want to dig beneath the surface of our faith, dig beneath the surface of the Bible, and see if we can uncover anything important that we may have overlooked or forgotten, anything that we didn’t realize was there.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a church basement, but there is tons of cool stuff down there. I mean, you have no idea. And the Bible’s the exact same way. 1,189 chapters of cool stuff you probably didn’t even know was there. And hopefully, together we’ll find some important stuff God’s been saying that we just never noticed before.

So if you’re interested in digging deeper into God’s Word, of rifling through all the cool stuff hidden beneath the surface of our faith, I want to ask you to do three things:

Number one: Subscribe to this channel and click the notification bell. All you need to do is click the “subscribe” button beneath this video and the notification bell right next to it, and you’ll be notified every time we post a new video. That way, you won’t miss any of the new content that we’re posting here on the channel.

Number two: Share the videos you like with your friends. If you learned something important from one of our videos, chances are you know someone who will benefit from watching it as well. So feel free to share our videos on facebook and twitter, or even just text them to your friends. We’d really appreciate it.

And number three: Ask questions. If you have some question you’d like us to address, like say, “What is a Pharisee” or “Does God really heal,” ask us in the comments, and maybe we’ll make a video about it. After all, you’re the reason we’re making these videos, so we want to know what you want to know.

Thanks for watching, thanks for subscribing, and thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to everything we’re going to learn.

Have a great day, and remember, you’re greater than you realize.

God’s Power in You (Reflections of Ephesians 1)

In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that the Church would know and understand the power of God available to us. He then spends five or so verses describing this power.

First, Paul calls God’s power “exceedingly great,” using the phrase “hyperballo megethos.” This basically means “mega-hyperbole.” In other words, it’s entirely impossible to exaggerate or overemphasize God’s power.

We then read that this power is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. You know, that resurrection thing. Basically the single greatest event in the history of the universe.

In that moment, God brought a Man who was both physically and spiritually dead, suffering in hell for the sins of the world, back to life.

And the resurrection didn’t just bring Jesus back from the grave. It brought the human race back from the grave. Billions and billions of people stretched out over thousands and thousands of years, from the beginning of time to the end of time.

Suddenly, where there was despair, now there was hope. Where there was death, now there was life and peace. Humanity was brought back, and given eternal life. It was kind of like that final snap of the Infinity Gauntlet, but infinitely greater.

And that power of God didn’t just raise Christ from the dead; it seated him far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion.

Let’s break that down.

First, notice it didn’t say He “sat” down. He was “seated.” This is a legal term. Jesus didn’t just plop down on the couch; He was appointed over His kingdom, where He reigns as King of the Universe.

Think Aragorn’s coronation at the end of Lord of the Rings. The battle is won. The enemy is defeated. And now He is officially and unequivocally seated on His throne. And where is He seated?

“Far above.”

Ever been in a plane as it’s taking off? As the plane lifts off the ground, you can still see those guys with the orange flashlights. Then they shrink down to the size of ants. Then they’re gone.

But you can still see cars whizzing by. Then they disappear. Then the houses go. Then it’s all gone. Just you in the clouds, far above everything else.

And Jesus, by that exceedingly great power of God, is seated far above all principality and power and might and dominion. We often see those words grouped together, but because we don’t know exactly what they mean, we just figure they mean “powerful stuff” and then move on to the next verse. But what do they actually mean?

The first word (principality) is “arche” in the Greek. It’s where we get the suffix “-archy,” used in words like “monarchy” or “anarchy.” It refers to entire forms of government. And Jesus is far above all those monarchies or anarchies or whatever other –archies may crop up.

Next is “power,” or “exousia.” It means delegated authority, and refers to the legal rights and powers a ruler or official might have. Picture a police officer, or an ambassador. When they act, they aren’t simply acting on their own power; they have the full force of their government backing them up.

And Jesus is higher.

“Dynamis” is the word “might.” It’s where we get the word dynamite. It’s power that really packs a punch. It was used historically to refer to the power and might of giant armies.

For instance, it appears on a burial epigram from the Battle of Marathon, commemorating the Greek army’s decisive victory over the (more numerous) Persian army. Nations hold off invading armies when they have greater dynamis.

And yet Jesus is greater.

Finally, we have dominion, or “kyriotes,” meaning complete ownership or lordship. It’s almost never used outside of Christian texts, and typically refers to God’s lordship over the universe. Any dominion, power, or rule falls under kyriotes.

And still, kyriotes falls under Jesus.

Next, we read that this exceedingly great power of God has set Jesus far above every name that is named. Think about that for a second. We just got through defining arche, exousia, dynamis, and kyriotes.

And just in case anything slipped through the cracks, any other named thing is also far beneath Jesus’ feet.

There are 171,476 words in the Oxford English Dictionary. There are over 470,000 English words in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. All of them: far beneath Jesus.

There are 6,909 distinct languages in the world. Many of them have 100,000 to over 500,000 words. Every last one of those named things: far below Jesus.

And that’s just the names that have already been named. Jesus was seated far above things that HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN NAMED YET.

Who’s going to be the richest or smartest person 10,000 years from now? Doesn’t matter. Jesus is far above. What nation will be the most powerful to ever exist? Doesn’t matter. Jesus is far above. Any future plague, any tyrant, any thing pales in comparison to the power of God.

And Paul’s prayer was that you would know and understand that incredible power of God, because that power WORKS IN YOU.

The exceedingly great, impossible-to-overemphasize power of God? It’s in you.

The same power that raised Christ from the dead, and set Him far above all authority and explosive power and world governments and mighty armies and everything else you could possibly imagine? In you.

Do you know that? No really, do you KNOW that the unstoppable, undeniable, unchallengeable power of God courses through your veins? Then act like it.

Stop quibbling about the nonsense the exists in the realms far below, and start doing the work of God.

Heal the sick.

Raise the dead.

Free the captives.

Preach the gospel.

And change the world.

 

 

Ten Reasons the Ten Commandments are Important (TEN COMMANDMENTS)

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Every few years, the Ten Commandments find themselves embroiled in controversy when some progressive pastor suggests that God doesn’t really like them all that much (a silly supposition, since God never changes and Jesus told us these laws would never fade away). And while I’d’ve hoped that Christians could agree on such basic universal truths as “We should only serve one God” and “Murder is bad,” it’s apparently not so obvious.

So here are ten facts about the Ten Commandments that you may or may not know:

ONE: They were literally written by God.

I know, I know. The whole bible was written by God. But technically, it was ghostwritten by God (or Holy Ghost-written by God, amirite?): God communicated His words through prophets and apostles, but God didn’t actually put pen to paper. David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his psalms; Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his gospel; Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his epistles. That’s why the scriptures are called God-breathed, not God-written.

However, the Ten Commandments are different. We are told several times that God literally carved them into stone with His finger.

“…[God] gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18)

“Then the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God…” (Deuteronomy 9:10)

In this way, the Ten Commandments stand apart from the rest of the scriptures, not being transcribed but literally carved by God.

TWO: God spoke them out loud to over two million people.

Many times throughout the Bible, you’ll read phrases like “Thus saith the Lord” or “Command these people, saying…” What that means is God spoke these words to some spiritual leader, who then repeated these words to God’s people.

But again, the Ten Commandments stand apart in that they were spoken directly by God to His people.

“These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice…” (Deuteronomy 5:22)

It is estimated that there were somewhere between two and seven million Israelites at the time. And Moses gathered those millions of desert wanderers around Mount Sinai, and God spoke these commandments out loud to them all. There was no denying that these divine laws came from God.

THREE: They are listed not once but twice in the Law.

The first five books of the Bible contain 613 laws (if you think that’s a lot, keep in mind that the United States has over 20,000 laws about guns alone). And in that limited space, God doesn’t repeat many of His commands. For instance, the “greatest commandment”—to love your neighbor as yourself—is only listed once. And yet God presents all Ten Commandments not once but twice (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5).

FOUR: When God created a nation, they were His Bill of Rights.

After over four hundred years in slavery, God fantastically delivered His people from the greatest superpower on earth and led them to form a nation of their own. And the central tenets of this new nation was these Ten Commandments. Of all 613 laws He had given them (or the millions of laws that have been written by countless nations since), God felt these ten were foundational to a successful and free society.

FIVE: They explain Jesus’ commandments to love God and love others.

In one famous exchange, a lawyer asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded that the right answer was:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and [to love] your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

However, it might not always be clear how to love God or love your neighbor. That’s where the Ten Commandments come in handy. The first four provide instruction related to loving God, while the latter six command us how to love others.

SIX: Jesus said the Ten Commandments were the key to eternal life.

In another famous exchange, a rich young ruler asked Jesus for the key to eternal life. Jesus responded,

“If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)

The ruler pressed further, asking which ones He should keep. Jesus answered by listing half of the commandments and the command to love your neighbor (Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18).

According to Jesus, anyone who wants to enter into life should keep the Ten Commandments.

SEVEN: The Ten Commandments apparently gave the rich young ruler riches and influence.

As mentioned previously, a certain ruler (Luke 18:18) who was rich (Mark 10:22) asked Jesus for the secret to eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17), specifically citing five of the Ten Commandments. The rich young ruler responded, “All these things I have kept from my youth” (Matthew 19:20).

Taking the whole Bible into consideration, it is likely that this young man found financial success and influence because of his obedience to God’s commandments. After all, God told Joshua that if he kept the Book of the Law,

“You will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)

Promises of economic success and influence are found throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and Proverbs 3:1-4, to name a few). It’s no wonder that this young man, who made keeping God’s laws a priority, found both success and influence.

It’s worth noting that, while this man kept many of the Ten Commandments, he doesn’t claim to have kept all of them. Loving God and not coveting are famously absent from the list, and Jesus asks the young man to give to the poor, trust God fully, and follow Him (Matthew 19:21). Jesus later tells His disciples that if the man had obeyed Him—and kept all Ten Commandments—he would have increased his possessions and influence and found eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).

EIGHT: Paul quotes them too.

In Romans 13, Paul writes to the Christians of Rome about how to live as members of society. He lays out the role of government and instructs these believers to pay their taxes. Then he tells the Christians to “love one another” (Romans 13:8). To make sure they understand what this looks like practically, He elaborates further, listing the latter six commandments (the love your neighbor commandments).

Paul’s letter reaffirms that the Ten Commandments are central to a biblical understanding of love and that they are integral to loving successfully in society.

NINE: They establish moral absolutes.

In today’s world, most people either have one God or no gods. But that’s not always how it was. For most of human history, people worshiped many gods. There was a god of agriculture, a god of money, a god of weather. These gods didn’t always get along, and usually had competing views of morality.

As a result, it was hard to know what was right and what was wrong. After all, the god of the river might command one thing, but the god of war would command another. And humans were free to pick whatever god or system of morality suited them at any particular moment.

But the Ten Commandments changed all that. God started off these commandments by declaring that He was the absolute and only God, and that these commandments were His perfect standard of living. There could be no debate whether murder was right or wrong, or whether it was sometimes okay to steal. God, the one and only God, the true God, had declared that these were wrong, whether you or the king or the entire nation agreed. Right and wrong existed because they were established by God, and no matter who you were or where you lived, these commandments applied to you.

TEN: There are only ten of them.

Let’s be real. The “Ten Commandments” has a nice ring to it, and they easily fit on two tablets of stone. It’d be much harder to memorize the “Six Hundred and Thirteen Commandments,” let alone to fit them on a poster.

Conclusion:

The Ten Commandments are important. They are clearly important to God, they were important to Israel, and they should be important to us as well.

We’ll look more into lessons we can learn from God’s Ten Commandments in the coming months.

What is Love?

love

Dictionary.com defines love as “a passionate affection for another person.” But then again, Dictionary.com also believes that boys can turn into girls, so they’re probably not the best source for getting an accurate (let alone biblical) definition of love.

And it’s incredibly important for us to understand what love is. After all, we are repeatedly commanded by Jesus to love:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 25:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27)

Jesus reiterates this commandment in His final discourse:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

Heck, God goes as far as to say that He is love:

“We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

So, what is love? Is it a feeling? Is it being nice? Is it an open door, or a battlefield, or a drug?

According to the bible, love is obedience to God’s commandments:

“If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” (John 14:21)

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:2-3)

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in them.” (2 John 6)

In any given situation, the most loving thing you can do is the thing God has told you to do. No wonder God gave us these wonderful commandments. It wasn’t just to keep us in line; it was to keep us in love, and as long as we obey His laws, we can be certain that we will be walking in love*.


Notes:

* Some readers might deny this biblical definition of love, citing the Pharisees as a counter-example. After all, the Pharisees supposedly kept the law, and yet would not be considered very loving by Jesus’ standards. In actuality, the Pharisees didn’t keep the law—at least they didn’t keep the whole law. Sure, they kept some of it, but they also rejected a whole lot of it (Matthew 23:23, Mark 7:8-13). Obeying a few commandments while intentionally ignoring the rest isn’t true obedience, and thus isn’t love.

God isn’t mad when your storehouse is full

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In Luke 12, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who built giant barns to store all his grain. After he completed the construction of the new barns, he died. Jesus concludes by calling him a fool and then saying, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Recently, I’ve heard a few people expound that the moral of Jesus’ parable is that money is bad. Particularly, it is immoral to save money, be it your 401k, retirement, or investments of any kind.

But that isn’t what Jesus said.

In the parable, Jesus criticizes the man for storing up things for himself but not being “rich toward God.” Jesus doesn’t condemn men who have both treasure on earth AND treasure in heaven; He is solely concerned with men who choose to have earthly treasures rather than heavenly treasures.

We see this truth throughout the bible. In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul tells Timothy to “command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them to good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

Paul writes that we can store up treasure in heaven by being ready to give and willing to share the resources God has blessed us with. But he also says that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy.” God doesn’t have a problem with you enjoying what He has given you; He only commands that you be ready to give.

Finally, Proverbs 8 says “I [wisdom] traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.” Proverbs makes it clear: God-given wisdom will fill your storehouses. Clearly Jesus (who became for us wisdom from God, 1 Corinthians 1:30) doesn’t have a problem with wealth, storehouses, and savings. He merely points out that to ignore heavenly wealth is foolish.

According to Jesus, Paul, and the Old Testament, it is possible to be rich in both earthly treasure and heavenly treasure. The key is being willing to give. So give. Share. Do good. And enjoy.

IRS Kerfuffles and the Leading of the Holy Spirit

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I’m in the process of trying to close escrow on a house. But it has not been easy.

While getting our loan, we found out So Cal Edison had mistakenly opened a claim against us for a bill we had actually paid. This happened almost a year ago, but we didn’t find out until this last month. I called So Cal Edison and they agreed that a mistake had been made, but that there was nothing they could do. They advised I call the collection agency to clear it up. I called the collection agency, and they informed me that, unfortunately, there was nothing they could do, and advised I call So Cal Edison to clear it up.

It took a week of kind, harsh, understanding, and irate calls and hours on hold to finally resolve the situation.

Then things progressed. Until…

Our lender called me to say they had not received 2017 transcripts from the IRS. They told me to call the IRS and have them fax the transcripts over. I called, and after several calls were dropped, I finally made it to an agent appropriately named “Mr. Smith.”

After several hours on hold, Mr. Smith finally informed me that, while the IRS had received, processed, and cashed the check we sent, they had accidentally misplaced our tax return. On behalf of the IRS, Mr. Smith was very sorry, but informed me there was nothing he could do to correct this mistake, as there was no protocol to handle these sorts of situations (which happen more often than you’d think, he told me). My best bet was to send them everything again (sans the check), and wait (and hope) for the trusted IRS to process everything correctly this time.

Through this (and many other unforeseen issues), it became apparent: the devil was trying to prevent us from closing escrow. God must really want us to buy this house.

But what if, instead…

* * *

I’m in the process of trying to close escrow on a house. But it has not been easy.

While getting our loan, we found out So Cal Edison had mistakenly opened a claim…

… My best bet was to send them everything again (sans the check), and wait (and hope) for the trusted IRS to process everything correctly this time.

Through this (and many other unforeseen issues), it became apparent: God was trying to prevent us from closing escrow. God must really want us to NOT buy this house.

* * *

In the bible, Gideon wasn’t sure if God would save Israel. So he decided to look for a sign: he would leave a cloth out on the ground, and if the cloth was wet in the morning, Gideon would know that God would save them.

Morning came, and the cloth was wet. But then Gideon realized, “This could just be a coincidence.” So he decided: he would leave a cloth out on the ground, and if the cloth was dry in the morning, Gideon would know that God would save them.

Morning came, and the cloth was dry. At this point, Gideon stopped asking for signs, and believed what God had actually said a few verses earlier: “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you? Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:14, 16).

* * *

It’s easy to look for signs… until you realize that signs aren’t usually very clear. The IRS lost my tax return. That could mean God doesn’t want me to buy this house… or it could mean that God does want me to buy this house… or it could mean that government agencies are not very efficient. Who knows? (Probably the third one.)

My point is this: God doesn’t lead through circumstance. If He doesn’t want you to do something, He’s not going to send the IRS after you; He’ll just say, “Hey, don’t do that” (Acts 13:2). Better yet, chances are He has already told you what you should and shouldn’t do in scripture.

So rather than make your decisions based on esoteric signs and circumstances that could be interpreted in any number of ways, make your decisions the way God intended: based on the revealed Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Anything else is just chance.

50 practical things Jesus did with His disciples

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  1. He taught them (Matthew 4:23)
  2. He ate with them (Matthew 26:26)
  3. He traveled with them (Mark 6:1)
  4. He went camping with them (Matthew 8:20)
  5. He went to church with them (Mark 1:21)
  6. He worshipped with them (Matthew 26:30)
  7. He prayed with them (Matthew 26:36)
  8. He prayed for them (John 17:9)
  9. He spent time with them doing regular things (see below)
  10. He fished with them (Luke 5:4)
  11. He hiked with them (Mark 3:13)
  12. He barbequed with them (John 21:9)
  13. He hung out at their place (Mark 1:29, Matthew 9:10)
  14. He invited them over to His place (Mark 2:1, Mark 3:20)
  15. He stayed up late to help them (Mark 1:32)
  16. He met their families (Mark 1:30)
  17. He gave them nicknames (Mark 3:17 & Luke 9:54, Matthew 16:18)
  18. He allowed them to be them (as evidenced by Peter’s entire existence)
  19. He called them out when they were sucking (Luke 9:55)
  20. He encouraged them when they were on track (John 1:47, Matthew 16:17)
  21. He joked around with them (Luke 24:13-36; great 15-minute sermon about it here)
  22. He cared deeply about them (John 17:12)
  23. He talked theology with them (Matthew 13:24)
  24. He talked politics with them (Matthew 22:21, ; Matthew 20:25)
  25. He talked business with them (Matthew 20:15)
  26. He made them uncomfortable (John 6:60-61)
  27. He explained things to them (Matthew 13:11)
  28. He used words they could understand (Matthew 13:47, Matthew 4:19)
  29. And when they still didn’t understand, He slowed down (Matthew 15:16)
  30. He gave them advice (Luke 10:25-37)
  31. He helped their businesses (Luke 5:6-7)
  32. He defended them (Mark 9:18-19)
  33. He fought for them (Mark 2:25-7, Luke 22:31-32, 1 John 3:8)
  34. He served them (John 13:5)
  35. He served with them (Matthew 14:19)
  36. He sacrificed for them (Matthew 17:12)
  37. He corrected them (Luke 9:50)
  38. He challenged them (Luke 10:8-9)
  39. He expected more from them than they expected from themselves (Luke 9:13)
  40. He trusted them (Matthew 21:1-3, John 19:26-27)
  41. He gently rebuked them when necessary (Mark 10:38)
  42. He harshly rebuked them when necessary (Matthew 16:23)
  43. He forgave them and gave them second and third and twentieth chances (John 21:15-17)
  44. He was patient with them (Luke 9:46-48)
  45. He never left them, but He allowed them to leave Him (John 6:66)
  46. He invested in them, even when there seemed to be little to no results (Luke 9:43-56)
  47. He was human with them (John 11:35)
  48. He lived with them (John 1:14)
  49. He showed them how to live (John 10:10)
  50. Essentially, He did life with them. Every. Single. Day.

Do Apostles Still Exist?

do apostles still existMost of us Christians have a man or woman we consider our pastor. But what about the other four ministry offices?

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11)

We’re all familiar with pastors, and probably even teachers and evangelists. However, there are many who would say there are no longer apostles or prophets. Just today, I was listening to a sermon by a pastor I highly respect, and he said in passing that the office of the apostle no longer exists. He held the common view that there were only twelve “apostles,” and that they were the men whom Jesus had appointed in the first century to spread the gospel and write the New Testament.

I quickly flipped open my bible and looked up a few scriptures, and quickly confirmed that this pastor (while mostly brilliant) was wrong.

Here are a few things the New Testament says about apostles.

  1. There are thirteen men appointed as “apostles” specifically by Jesus in the bible

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” (Matthew 10:2-4)

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead).” (Galatians 1:1)

Generally, those who believe there are no more apostles say that Paul is the twelfth and final apostle, having replaced Judas, who sucked. But consider this for a second: Judas did miracles. Yes, the guy who was stealing from Jesus’ treasury (meaning Jesus had treasure) healed the sick and raised the dead. Take that how you will.

  1. Four other men are called “apostles” in the bible

Barnabas

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out.” (Acts 14:14)

Luke the physician, a companion of Paul (2 Timothy 4:11; Acts 28:16), clearly states that Barnabas was an apostle. Not only that, the narratives in Acts seem to indicate that he was in charge and that Paul was his disciple. Barnabas is usually listed first, and the men of Lystra called Barnabas “Zeus” (the chief God) but Paul “Hermes” (the messenger of Zeus) (Acts 14:12). It seems Barnabas was an apostle who discipled Paul.

Andronicus

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7)

The NIV reads that Andronicus was “outstanding among the apostles.”

James, the Lord’s Brother

But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” (Galatians 1:19)

Not to be confused with James the son of Zebedee or James the son of Alphaeus, this was James the son of Mary and Joseph, the half-brother of Jesus, and author of the Epistle of James.

Worth noting is that he is clearly distinguished from the twelve apostles.

After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:7)

Epaphroditus

And I thought it necessary Epaphroditus – my brother, and fellow-workman, and fellow-soldier, and your apostle and servant to my need – to send unto you.” (Philippians 2:25)

He is only mentioned twice in scripture, so we don’t know much about him, but from Paul’s epistle to the Philippians we know that he was an apostle (Greek “apostolos”) to the church in Philippi.

(I chose not to include Matthias on my list, because the argument could be made that he was “numbered with the apostles” rather than being considered an apostle [Acts 1:26]. Also, he never shows up again.)

  1. One woman is called an “apostle” in the bible

You may have noticed I skipped over a name earlier.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7)

Junia’s example demonstrates that woman can not only function in ministry positions (at least according to Paul), but can be outstanding at it.

  1. Jesus’ twelve apostles didn’t have universal jurisdiction

And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.” (Acts 16:4)

Chapter 15 of Acts tells us of the Jerusalem Council, where the church leaders basically confirmed that you didn’t have to convert to Judaism to become a Christian. What is interesting is that it wasn’t just the apostles who decided this. It was a meeting of apostles and elders. The authority of the twelve disciples didn’t override everyone else. They still needed to discuss matters with church leaders. That rule still applies today.

  1. There is something special about the twelve

Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:14)

The twelve apostles of Jesus do hold a special position in heaven (Matthias is easily the luckiest guy there). Let’s face it. They spent those three and a half pivotal years with Jesus, and we have Christianity today because of them.

  1. Apostles are necessary in the church today

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)

Look at some of the things apostles (along with the other four ministry offices) do for the church. They equip us for ministry, they edify us, they unify us and teach us to know God. As the scriptures plainly state, all of these ministry offices are absolutely vital for the church experiencing the fullness of Christ today.

And if we’d stop denying the necessity of modern day apostles, maybe we’d see a more equipped and unified church.

Two Things God Taught Me about Marriage

Milovich We

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:22, 25)

Lesson #1: Paul doesn’t say, “Husbands, tell your wives to submit.”

This seems fairly obvious, and  yet, many husbands and wives completely miss the point of this verse. The bible tells husbands and wives what they are each responsible to do. At no point does it tell husbands and wives that they are responsible for the actions of the other.

As a husband, it is not my job to tell my wife to submit. That’s God’s job. My job is to love. Whether or not I feel she is submitting correctly, that doesn’t change the fact that God told me to love her as Christ has loved me.

Lesson #2: God’s command is impossibly high.

Not only does God tell me that it’s my job to love my wife (whether or not she is submitting); but He also gives me a standard to live up to:

Even as Christ loved the church.”

So, according to a biblical model of marriage, I’m supposed to love my wife in the same way that Christ loves me. Now, forgive me for asking, but that seems… just a little bit… entirely ludicrous, right? And yet, that is God’s command. Which means it’s entirely within my reach. I am biblically mandated to love my wife an impossible amount. Fortunately, nothing is impossible for him that believes.

I’d like to point out that the husband’s commission is much higher than the wife’s. She is commanded to love me like the church has loved Christ. And historically, the church hasn’t always set the bar so high. So if I feel my wife isn’t living up to her end of the deal, what is my response? To love her an impossible amount in response.

Challenge accepted.


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