July 30, 2008

Grace Abounding to Pittsburgh

[This is where I will be for the weekend]

Please feel free to check out all the great resources and links on my previous post and on my blogs. This is "grace abounding" from Gap to Pittsburgh.
~ Penn

Believing by grace:
And when he [Apollos] wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
(Acts 18:27-28 ESV).

July 29, 2008

From Genesis to Grace

I started this blog as a resource to learn of the great power and abundance of the grace of our Almighty Creator. So far, I have tried to direct everything to that end. However, as I am studying the book of Genesis, I don't know if I really am able to write accurately about man's horrible fall and God's magnificent grace, without first learning about creation. To anyone who has never studied the book of Genesis, or who has not learned about the wonders of creation from God's word, it may seem to be a very insignificant and unimportant place to start. I am increasingly convinced that it is not. The first two chapters of Genesis almost make me shudder into convulsive spasms when I think about what a perfect paradise this earth was when God first made it all - it was beautiful! Before sin entered into the world (Rom. 5:12), the earth was the perfect place to live, but now it is basically "going to hell."

Though I cannot begin to describe it, I do want to encourage any serious grace man or woman to make it your aim to get familiar with Genesis 1-3, and to check out some good resources on it. The significance of it all, is that it puts everything else the Bible says in a proper perspective. So with Genesis 1-3 in mind, the topics of sin, judgment, mercy, the love of God and grace through Jesus Christ, all fit together to paint the perfect picture of the glory of God through Jesus Christ as He reconciles *lost,* *sinful* and *justly condemned* people to Himself. It puts in perspective the amazing birth of Christ, His death on the cross, and the significance of His resurrection on Sunday as the start of a *new creation*. Whatever it takes, do not miss out on what God is doing in His world!

Below is a list of resources to help get you started. I have included my own current ongoing studies of Genesis 1-3 (on my other blog) as the first resource (if you are already familiar with these sites or this topic, then please feel free to leave your helpful comments and feedback - thanks):

If you don't do any digging for yourself, you will never experience the thrill of finding hidden treasure, so go ahead and jump into your Bible!

July 23, 2008

Total Depravación, part 2

That title translates into "Total Depravity" from the Spanish tongue. It means totally corrupt, depraved, wicked, sinful, rebellious, ungodly... totally unworthy of grace. (Note: the following verses are really found in the Bible. I am pretty sure you will not find many of them like this in the Quran, the book of Mormon, or any other religious book that claims to be from God, except the only true book - the Bible. They are a powerful reminder of exactly why we need Jesus Christ as our Savior, and why it is by grace we are saved and not by our own efforts).

Here are more of the verses on my Depravity Verse list:
Man says, "Man is good."
God says, "Man is evil."
Who is telling the truth?

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

Romans 3:10-12 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."

Romans 5:6-10 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die - but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:18-19 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

1Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Ephesians 2:1-3
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:12
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Ephesians 2:17-19
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

The doctrine of Total Depravity is seen most horrifically during the events of the crucifixion of our Lord. When He was betrayed. When His disciples were asleep. When He was arrested. When they bound Him, mocked Him, spit in His face, beat Him, judged Him, condemned Him. When the Sanhedrin questioned Him, and when He had answered they accused their own promised Messiah of blaspheming (truly they were evil to the core). They had Him delivered to Pilate, then to Herod and back to Pilate again. Even though they found no fault in Him, yet they could not stand to be near the light, so they condemned Him anyway. They hated Him without a cause, and so fulfilled the Scripture which was written about them. The guards did not regard His clothing as holy, but treated Him mockingly. Even the dying thieves next to Jesus were so depraved that they "cast the same in his teeth." Judas Iscariot is also an example of this awful condition. After he betrayed the Master whom he had followed for so long, he then sought to clear himself. But after being rejected any help by the priests, he went out and hung himself. A man who had walked and talked with Jesus Christ for so long, seeing His miracles and hearing His wisdom every day and night. Nevertheless, Judas ended his own life in utter darkness. How sad. How terrible it is to reject God. And oh how this is the condition our country is in, our world, even ourselves unless we repent. And we need the Sovereign grace of God to turn us from darkness unto light, so that we may receive eternal forgiveness of our sins and an eternal inheritance with those who are sanctified through faith in Jesus Christ. His atrocious death was our payment. His resurrected life is our security. He is our only hope. Thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!

"Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD!
Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven:
"We have transgressed and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven." (Lamentations 3:40-42 ESV).

"Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!" (Lamentations 5:21).

July 21, 2008

A Discussion on being Courageous with the Truth

I would like to promote Stephanie's blog post today, from her blog: Thirsty Soul, on the topic of opening up with people when discussing the gospel or the Word of God. My heart is full of evangelistic passion, which desires to fan the same passion into flame in the hearts of others. So here is a resource I hope will help to start that, encourage, or cause you to think more about it. It is a post from Stephanie's blog, Thirsty Soul called: Open Up! Please read her post and leave your comments. Thank you.
(Thanks Stephanie for your permission)

As you can see, I'm still working on mustering enough courage before I even talk to people! :) (That's the problem... "I'm still working," it's gotta' be the Lord working His love in me to pray and go).

July 17, 2008

Rich in Faith

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
(James 2:5 KJV).

I thought this verse fit perfectly with the last post I just published. It is an important verse that has been coming to my mind quite often lately. What thinkest thou? :)

The Poor Huckster

A very dearly beloved brother in Christ gave me a pack of tracts entitled Poor Huckster. It isn't that I never read this one before, he was just so excited to have them, and told me, "We gotta' get the Poor Huckster spread around in Philly." My brother in Christ used to be homeless and an alcoholic not too long ago (not the same person as the one here), but now, he is filled with the joy of the Lord as he works in Pittsburgh and is helping to evangelize both of these cities. I thank God for fired up brothers like him. He can relate to what it says, as well as a lot of other poor sinners who now see Christ as everything. Here is what the tract says:

Poor Huckster

There was once a poor man, a huckster, who used to go round the country villages selling little goods. This poor creature, in going round on his journeys heard some old woman singing a little ditty:

"I'm a poor sinner and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."

Jack recalled that. "Ah!" Said he,"That just suits me." So he began to hum it himself as he went round on his huckstering expeditions and, by God's good grace, that little ditty burnt its way into poor Jack's heart.

After some time he became a converted man, gave up his swearing and drinking, and began regularly to attend the church services. At last he determined that he would join the church; so he went to the minister. The minister said. "Well, friend, what can you say for yourself?"

"I'm a poor sinner and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."

"Well," said the minister, "you must tell me more than that."

"No," said Jack, "I can't, for that is my confession of faith, and that is all I know."

"Well, friend," said the minister, "I can't refuse you church fellowship, but you will have to come before the church meeting, and the members will have to see you and judge you."

Jack accordingly went to the church meeting, and there sat some good old-fashioned deacons - some of whom began to see whether they could find fault with him. He stood up, and on being requested to state his experience, simply said:

"I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."

Some one old deacon said, "Is that all you have to say?"

"Yes," says Jack, "that's all."

The minister said, "You may ask my friend here some questions if you like."

So one says, "Brother Jack, have you not many doubts and fears?"

"No," said Jack, "I never can doubt but that 'I'm a poor sinner and nothing at all,' for I know I am; and I cannot doubt that 'Jesus is my all in all' for He says He is, and how can I doubt that?"

"Well," said another, "but sometimes I lose my evidences and my graces, and then I get very sad."

"Oh," said Jack, "I never lose anything, for in the first place 'I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all' - and no one can rob me if I am nothing at all - and in the second place, 'Jesus Christ is my all in all,' - and who can rob Him? He is in heaven; I never get richer or poorer, for I am always nothing, but I always have everything."

Then another began to question him thus: "But my dear friend Jack, don't you sometimes doubt whether you are a child of God?"

"Well," said he, "I don't quite understand you; but I can tell you I never doubt but that 'I'm a poor sinner and nothing at all,' and that 'Jesus Christ is my all in all.'"

Always after that in the villages they used to call him "Happy Jack," for he was always happy; and the reason was that you could not drive him from that simple standing point, "There is nothing in me: I believe in Christ; I deserve punishment; I am lost in myself, but I trust in Him who came into the world to save sinners, and I know He will not let me perish."

"My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' Name:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand."
-E. Mote

Printed by Chapel Library
A Ministry of Mt. Zion Bible Church

July 14, 2008

Total Depravación, part 1

Here are some verses that have me convinced. The more I meditate on what exactly they are communicating, the more real the depravity of sinful mankind becomes to me, not only of those lost in the world, but especially of myself apart from the grace of God.

Man says, "Man is good."
God says, "Man is evil."
Who is telling the truth?

Genesis 6:5
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 6:11
And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was
brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalm 58:3
The wicked are
estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.

Proverbs 28:26
trusts in his own mind [or heart] is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

Ecclesiastes 7:20
Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

Jeremiah 13:23
Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard his spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.

Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

Matthew 7:11
If you
then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Mark 7:20-23
And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

Those last two verses were spoken directly from the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ! Loving, compassionate, gentle, gracious, merciful, Jesus spoke some very sharp words about the true heart of mankind. I believe He said it all with deep compassion and love, even when He blasted the Pharisees in Mattew 23, but nevertheless He spoke the truth plainly.

My hope is that in reading these verses, and becoming more familiar with them, my heart (as well as yours) will grow more deeply in love with the great mercy and kindness of God our Savior. As I wrote before about
Hell and Grace, grace would not be necessary if we were not in this situation.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV). "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." (Romans 5:10 ESV).

July 10, 2008

In Hope He Believed Against Hope

Abraham was a 'hopeless case.' He was almost 100 years old, and his wife was only ten years younger than he (Romans 4:19), and God had promised them a child who would generate the greatest nations on earth (4:17). Abraham's offspring was to be heir of the world (4:13). But Abraham and Sarah were "as good as dead" (4:19). He could not produce seed, and her womb was dead and barren. Sarah couldn't help but laugh at the thought of having a child (See Genesis 18:9-15). Yet God had said, "I have made you the father of many nations," and "So shall your offspring be." (Romans 4:17,18). So God promised, and that settled it for Abraham.

"He did not weaken in faith when he considered the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised." (Romans 4:19-21 ESV, emphasis added).

Abraham believed in God's word. God said it, and so it was to be - 'amen' in Hebrew. "That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." (4:22). "In hope he believed against hope." He believed in God who raises the dead and calls things into existence out of nothing (4:16). (Yes, God does those things, just look at His creation and see all that came into being when there was nothing to start with). YAHWEH is a miraculous God, who makes impossibilities possible. "Great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts." (Psalm 145:2-3).

"But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (Romans 4:23-25). What was counted to him? It was the righteousness that comes by faith apart from works of the law (Rom. 3:22,28). It is a free gift. "For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be garunteed to all his offspring." (Rom. 4:15-16a). Abraham was not a righteous man, he was a sinful man. But by faith in the promise of God (faith in Christ), he was counted to be righteous. We are guilty under the law, fully deserving the wrath that it brings. But by faith in him who raised Christ our Lord from the dead, we also will be counted righteous in Him! Wow! Amazing! Awesome! I can't find the right words to describe the joy that comes with this blessedness (4:6-8).

That is why it says, "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:5-6). Amen!

July 8, 2008

Grace Abounding

Kami Mueller's grace songs on Romans 6 have blessed me lately. Kami, from Grace Bible Church [I like that name] in Tempe, Ariz., has recorded all of Romans 6 in song from the ESV translation, which was mentioned on the ESV blog. These extraodinary songs can be heard or downloaded here.

(I don't know how some of you have daily devotions) but mine floored me in humble repentance (genuine, I hope) today. I was reading Joshuah 10, Psalms 142-143, Jeremiah 3-4, Matthew 18. It wasn't until I read Romans 4:16-25, that I was restored to rejoicing in Christ crucified - for me! This is grace abounding to the cheif sinner.

Grace to all in Christ Jesus my God and King.

I need to add: this past Saturday evening, I was introduced to a man named Sergio, (originally from Ecuador). He has been helping to build a church in North Philly where they are evangelizing the Hispanic community. The amazing thing about this is, that for many months I have been praying for Spanish-speaking laborers to help us in Philly. By God's grace, we are planning to meet this coming Saturday to go to North Philly and evangelize en Espanol. Praise the LORD for His prayer answering grace!

July 6, 2008

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

For you formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
My soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
Intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance,
In your book were written, every one of them,
The days that were formed for me,
When as yet there was none of them.
(Psalm 139:13-16 ESV).

It is so important to remember that we are creatures. “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, [and not we ourselves] and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3 ESV, footnote added). We are created beings. We did not create ourselves. We have not always existed. There was a time when we did not exist at all, then God brought us forth into existence by His own creative power. “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.“ There is mystery in God’s creation. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works… when I was being made in secret.” So God is our Creator, and we are His creature. That is a profound and humbling thought. God made us simply by His own will, for His own purpose and pleasure, and by His own wisdom and design. “Your eyes saw my unformed substance, in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” This Psalm shows in many ways how beautifully Sovereign the Lord GOD, YAHWEH, is over His creation of man. Of course, Jesus, being the Son of David and God in human flesh, is also prophesied in this Psalm. So it is all about Jesus, but applies just as well to us, who are the work of His hands. It causes me to be in awe of the One who “formed my inward parts” as well as “my frame.” And it is He who wrote beforehand in His book the details of each day, “when as yet there was none of them.”

Just as it is important to remember that we were created by God, we also need to remember that we did not cause ourselves to be born again, but it was only through the Sovereign will and power of God. "Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfuits of his creatures." (James 1:18). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (1 Peter 1:3 ESV). This happened when we received Christ as our Life. "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13 ESV). "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and [here is our evangelistic call] gave us the ministry of reconciliation;..." (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

My friends who believe in grace, are you new creatures in Christ by grace? Because if that is what we are, then we have been reconciled to God our Creator through His Son, and are now commissioned to minister this grace to others by His Spirit's work through us. And for all this I praise and adore Yahweh!

July 2, 2008

"Utterly Inconsistent with Grace..."

I read this quote in a letter from a dear brother and evangelist in Christ (as you read it, just know these are the words of a man who loved people):

"Oh, if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn towards your poor ignorant, ungodly neighbors. Also, there is but a step betwixt them and death and hell; many hundred diseases are waiting to seize on them, and if they die unregenerate, they are lost forever. Have you hearts of rock, that cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the word of God, and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves? If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others? Do you not care who is damned, so you be saved? If so, you have sufficient cause to pity yourselves, for it is a frame of spirit utterly inconsistent with grace... Dost thou live close by them, or travel with them, or sit and talk with them, and say nothing to them of their soul, or the life to come? If their houses were on fire, thou wouldst run and help them; and wilt thou not help them when their souls are almost at the fire of hell?" (Richard Baxter).

That quote convicted me so much. It is grace that motivates true believers to love the lost. I thank God for this reminder to check my own heart and seek to love those who are ignorant of their guilt and condemnation apart from the grace of Christ Jesus, who is the Savior of all men. I want to tell them of the reconciliation, forgiveness and free righteousness that is through faith in Him alone.

The letter also challenges those in the reformed community: "There are many... who know the doctrines of grace, but how many know Jesus Christ the God of All Grace! Also, how many know of His mighty grace that can work through us to make Him known. Paul knew this grace: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Titus 2:11-12)." Knowing this grace ought to help us remember our first love, repent, and do the things we did at first (Revelation 2:4-5).

May those of us privileged to know and love the grace of the Lord Jesus never get so involved with this world that we forget what is coming on the last day. Jesus calls His followers by grace, then He makes them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).