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The Big Picture

by Dick Hill

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The Bible is an inexhaustible source of amazing wisdom and insight. And there is always more to learn, always moreto understand. One will never plumb the depths of its truth this side of the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ. Paul said that at best in this life we will only have partial knowledge.

There will come a time, however, when partial knowledge will give way to full knowledge. Paul said that when he was a child, he spoke as a child and understood as a child. But when he became a man, he put away childish things. He then made this point: 

 

For at this present time we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now we know in part, but then we shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12).

When believers, those who have the Spirit of God living inside, begin to study the truths of the Bible, it is as though they are looking through a dimly lit corridor. They just catch glimpses of God’s amazing truth here and there. But there is coming a time when God will draw back the curtain and allow us to really see. Our dim mirrors will then become bright and crystal clear.    

Full knowledge of many things will eventually prevail. I do not think, however, that we will ever come to a complete understanding of God. God is, after all, incomprehensible and unfathomable. However, some day we will finally see God in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ – the King of all Kings.

God has used many different Bible teachers throughout my life to add to my knowledge of His word. But without a doubt, my greatest teacher by far has been the third person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. Notice how Jesus introduced Him to us. Speaking to His disciples He said:

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore, I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15) 

Christians profit from the writings of different people and have throughout the years of history. God placed in my heart to write books on Bible truths that some may consider difficult.  It has been my desire to make these difficult Bible doctrines understandable to those who have the desire to know them. It takes time and the desire on the part of the listener and clear teaching on the part of the instructor to make the truth understandable.

In the book, A Glimpse of the Christian, I sought to answer the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” What does the word Christian mean? It means “belonging to Christ” or “connected to Christ.” Some of the most exciting glimpses into God’s invisible domain are the ones that teach us exactly how we are connected to Him.

First and most importantly, Christians are Bible people. For most readers, this would appear glaringly obvious. “Well, of course,” you might respond. “What else would we be?”

Then again, you may not understand exactly what I mean by “Bible people.” Christians believe the Bible to be God’s inerrant, infallible Word. Christians are to be faithful to study the Bible, seeking to find the correct interpretation so we can do what it says and teach it accurately. But there is much more to the Bible than most people understand.

When I was young, I came into the possession of some old hand-me-down puzzles. These were definitely not children’s puzzles. Some of them had well over a hundred pieces and most of these pieces were very small. I simply had no clue where to begin. After the decision to try, I would begin by looking intently at the picture on the box. In fact, I would look at it over and over again trying to etch that picture in my mind. I found myself constantly gazing at the image, trying to visualize what this puzzle was to look like when completed.

The more familiar I became, the easier it was to zero-in on the location of various objects in the picture, like buildings or mountains or people. Then came the colors with their various shades. I studied all the pieces and their shapes – some had square corners, some rounded corners, etc. – all the while, keeping the picture on the box in mind.  Then piece by piece, ever so slowly, paying close attention to the colors and shapes, through much trial and error – I began to find where the pieces fit. I gradually began to make a little progress. Hours turned into days, and the picture began to take shape. As this happened, I was more motivated to go back and work on it. Though agonizingly slow, the picture on the box began to come into view in the puzzle. Finally, when the last few pieces were inserted, there it was! The puzzle became the picture on the box. When the last piece was laid in place, and the picture was complete, it was time to celebrate.

It is very much the same when attempting to understand the big picture behind the Bible. When we begin to put the pieces of truth together and catch a glimpse of God’s end game, His big picture, we are more motivated to study it. 

The apostle John was used by God to give us a glimpse of this big picture as well as some important truths to help us understand the way forward.  John was a prisoner, exiled on a deserted island for nothing more than believing and teaching that the testimony of the Bible is true.  John taught that the Bible’s main character is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth (including Caesar at that time).  John boldly said that Jesus loves us and washed us from our sins in His own blood (Revelation 1:2, 5). John was charged as a criminal, found guilty, and later exiled to a desolate island called Patmos.  He had already realized that this world was not his final home. He was a pilgrim and a stranger here. He was just passing through (Hebrews 11:13). He knew also that he was completely in God’s hands and that God had placed him on that desolate island for His purpose.

Jesus Christ gave John a magnificent view of the big picture. John testified that he had seen a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. 

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God iswith men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and betheir God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:1).

I have tried to visualize in my mind exactly what that old grace champion must have seen, that is, what this new heaven and new earth will be like. The last two chapters of Revelation must have become for him his glimpse at the picture on the box of God’s final puzzle. This must have given him the added assurance that this world was not his home and his view of that new heaven and earth became for him the final piece of the puzzle. This, no doubt, was at least a part of his thinking when he wrote:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that isin the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-18)

Kingdom Stories

Danny Forrest has written a series of exciting stories of how life might be in the Kingdom, before, during, and after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. If you may have missed some chapters, here is a link to all published so far:

 

KINGDOM STORIES

I. The Great Rescue

Chapter 1:  Trapped in Jerusalem

Chapter 2:  God Moves a Mountain

Chapter 3:  Escape from Jerusalem

Chapter 4:  The Race to Bozrah

Chapter 5:  Into the Jaws of the Beast

 

II. Guardians of the Gospel

Chapter 1:  An Answered Prayer

Chapter 2:  Copy That

Chapter 3:  The Promised Land

 

From Noah to America

by Dick Hill

We just finished our tenth Cousin Camp at the Ponderosa. The highlight for me, and I hope for my seven grandchildren who attended, was time spent in God’s Word twice daily tying in history to the characters in Genesis. God gave a strange prophecy to Noah concerning Noah’s three sons: Ham, Shem, and Japheth in Genesis 9:25-27. He said that God would enlarge Japheth and that he would dwell in the tent of Shem and that Canaan (Ham’s son) would be his servant. He said that the living God who created everything would be Shem’s God.     

Many paganistic gods would pepper the ancient world. Japheth’s family would become large (be enlarged) in number and power, and they would profit spiritually from the God of Shem. The way that God said it in the passage is that Japheth would “dwell in the tent of Shem.” As I told the children, this was “prophet speak” for Shem’s blessing of serving the living God being shared with Japheth. I taught them briefly one specific incident of how this has happened precisely as God had predicted by the founding of this nation.

Upon leaving the ark, Japheth’s family went on to form the endo-European nations. Right in the geographic center of these nations today is the small country of Germany, which is referred to as “Gomer” and specifically “Ashkenaz” in Genesis ten. As a side note, it is interesting that Germany still claims to be the center of Europe even today (Google it).  There are still Jews today who call themselves Ashkenazi Jews (German Jews). It is my view that Japheth first drove his tent pegs into German soil, and then from Germany his family scattered and spread, forming the European Continent (some 44 countries, give or take).

Shem’s shared blessing with Japheth worked to perfection. The gospel of God’s grace preached by Paul and the rest of the apostles had been bogged down for centuries, buried in the dredges of the Roman religious system. I gave a brief footnote teaching about Nimrod and the beginning and spread of paganism, the worship of God’s creation. This evil system filled with gods and goddesses collided head on with the church of Jesus Christ around 300 A.D. The result of this crash resulted in the formation of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. The Roman church deemphasized the clear, unobstructed gospel with a plethora of religious rituals and ceremonies. There is no doubt that people came to faith under this system because of God’s faithfulness to give life to those whom He has chosen.

The clear gospel was hidden as the church began to teach that one had to be baptized by the church in order to be saved. Other works were added, including absolution (the confessing of sins to a man), indulgences (payment to get a loved one out of purgatory), a false view of transubstantiation (the elements of the Lord’s supper actually become the body and blood of Christ), the deification and worship of Mary, and Purgatory. These are all subtle ways of adding man’s works to God’s finished work of Christ on the cross.

It was not luck or chance that in 1517 God revealed to a German Monk named Martin Luther His unblemished truth of God’s magnificent grace. This was a part of Japheth dwelling in the tent of Shem. It was also not chance that a German named Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press at that very time so that the retrieved gospel could be jettisoned throughout Europe and the world.

The Church of England (also Japheth’s territory) made some serious changes. They emphasized less form and more substance,moving ever closer to the truth of grace. Again, many were, no doubt, saved within this church movement, but the Puritans began to take a firm stand, calling upon the church to become even more Bible-centered and to better clarify salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But there were still many, maybe even most, fighting for the reestablishment of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, many good and godly people were burned at the stake by the Roman Church for preaching what they felt was the reformation heresy.

The Separatists, a small group of believers that wanted to remain absolutely true to the gospel both by word and by life, felt it necessary for true believers to become totally separate from this universal system – and even the Puritans. It was from this small assembly that a group called “Pilgrims” came to America.

Wow! The grandchildren were astounded that Noah’s prophecy in an amazing way ultimately led to helping to establish America.  While they were recovering from this truth, I went out on a limb by explaining that in my view God raised up this great nation for two very special reasons. One is that we might become the greatest missionary sending country the world has ever known. The second reason is to become an ally to the people of Israel (Shem), thus receiving God’s blessing associated with His promise to bless those who dared to bless Abram and to curse those who cursed him (Genesis 12:3). This truth is teetering perilously in the balance today.      

 

Gospel Pie

by Danny Forrest

What’s your favorite pie?  Pecan, coconut cream, sweet potato, chocolate, lemon or maybe you would prefer a savory pie like chicken pot pie, or other meat pies. My mother made the best pecan pie that I have ever eaten.  I have her recipe that I follow meticulously, but my pecan pie still doesn’t seem to be as good as Mom’s.  I have learned that recipes are very important.  Every time I have ever veered off a good recipe to try and make it my own creation, it never seems to measure up to the original.

Good cooks oftentimes keep recipes in their head.  They follow that recipe so many times that it becomes entrenched in their memory.  My brother-in-law Joe was like that. He created dishes that I would travel from Texas to Alabama to partake in.   Joe recently passed away of a sudden and unexpected heart attack.  He was a good friend and will be missed by many.  His recipes will also be missed.  As I was preparing to deliver the eulogy at Joe’s “celebration of life” service, I thought of the very first time I met Joe almost 30 years ago.  He was dating my sister Mary, and since I was the first person from Mary’s family that he had met, he wanted to make a good impression on me.   He did what he did best, he cooked.  

The dish I remember most was Joe’s spaghetti and meat sauce.  He was meticulous with the ingredients.  My idea of spaghetti sauce usually comes from a jar but that would have been an insult to Joe.  He combined all the ingredients for the sauce and then he cooked it all day. Needless to say, Joe became my friend very quickly.  Joe and my Mom both taught me something about cooking and about life: put in the right ingredients and the outcome will be good, maybe even great.

I have discovered that God is the master at putting together the right ingredients.  Just look around at the beauty of creation.  God’s character, His eternal power, and His divine nature are seen and understood through what He has made (Romans 1:20).

When God put together the ingredients for the salvation of man, He did not get it from a jar or a can.  It wasn’t a list of impossible tasks for man to accomplish or a book of wrongs to avoid.  God’s ingredient for our salvation was Himself.  A very simple recipe, God became a man.  The only one who could satisfy a righteous, holy God was a righteous, holy God.  

The Apostle Paul called this recipe the “gospel.” Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”   The gospel is the “power of God” but the only ingredient is God Himself.   In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (15:3-4) he broke down the ingredients of the gospel:  “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  I reverently call this powerful recipe “gospel pie.”  

Sadly to say, not everyone likes gospel pie.  To those who reject it, the taste is bitter and just not satisfying.  Many try to improve on the recipe by adding their own ingredients.

No matter how hard I tried to improve on Mom’s pecan pie, I could not do it.  Less sugar, more sugar, more pecans, more or less Karo, it didn’t matter. I could not improve on the recipe.  Most of the time I just messed it up.  When we try to add to or take away ingredients of Gospel Pie, we just mess it up to the point that the new Gospel Pie that we create becomes ineffective with no power to save.  

How prideful we are to think that we improve on God’s Gospel by adding our pious religious rituals and traditions.  No matter how good the added ingredients are (church, baptism, service, giving), by adding anyone of them to the God’s Gospel we change the entire structure of the message.  I think many would agree that Blue Bell Butter Pecan ice cream is very good.  But what would it do to Joe’s spaghetti recipe if we dropped in a half gallon while he wasn’t looking?   It would ruin the spaghetti!  

Adding our favorite religious ingredient to God’s Gospel Pie does the same thing.  The Gospel of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is powerful and satisfying.  Most important is that God Himself is satisfied with His work.  There are just some things you cannot improve on — Mom’s pecan pie, Joe’s spaghetti, and God’s Gospel Pie to name a few.

Peter Shouts to Us

Every living thing came to be because of seed. God vividly illustrates this to us through the birds, the bees, the flowers and the trees, everyday things all around us. This is true also with the new birth. Without seed, there can be no new birth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless you are born again you will not see the kingdom of God.” He was telling Nicodemus what he had to do in order to get into the kingdom of God.

The apostle Peter shed more light on what it means to be born again. He was encouraging believers to obey the truth of the Bible, love fellow believers, and keep themselves clean before God. Then he focused in on the one single act that made this possible – the new birth.

“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, But the word of the Lordendures forever.” And this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”(1 Peter 1:23–25)

Let’s unpack the meaning of this passage one layer at a time.

Having been born again.

The Greek wordanagenao is a past participle of the verb “to be.”This means that Peter intended to make clear that he had made this new birth trip. What Jesus had told Nick he had to do, Peter had done.  He also assumed that his readers had been born again. Then he proceeded to explain how this birth actually happens.

Not of corruptible seed 

Peter explained first how this birth does not happen. This birth is not associated with physical human birth from our biological parents. This is what Nicodemus wrongly thought that Jesus was speaking of. The physical birthfrom Adam’s fallen seed, far from giving us life, brought death to us. Well, if this new birth does not happen from physical seed, then how does it happen?

But incorruptible(seed)

Peter plainly stated precisely how we are regenerated, or born again. We are born again with seed that has not been tarnished with death; it is living seed. What is this living seed? Recall that God allowed two seeds to pass through the Fall and not be corrupted. One was the amazing seed planted in the womb of the virgin Mary that led to the birth of our Savior, the God-Man. Jesus Christ missed the universal death seed from Adam because He was born in the spiritually sterile womb of the virgin with no human seed added. This meant that our Savoir came into the world of sinners, but He himself remained free from sin. He could then go to the cross and bear the sins of many as a free born man. The other seed is now explained.

Through the word of God

The other seed that God allowed to miss the sting of death through Adam the first was the Word of God. We are born again through the incorruptible (living) Word of Godplaced into the soil of our sinful minds. No seed, no birth!No seed, no regeneration! The seed that brings the new birth is the seed of God’s living Word.

Peter was careful to make abundantly clear the contrast between seed that is corruptible (physical and stained with death) and that which is incorruptible (spiritual and living). “Seed” is the Greek word spora,the fertilized and mature ovule of the flowering plant, which enables the species to perpetuate itself.

Now we understand why God gave us His Word. It is not the corruptible physical seed of Adam’s fallen race that produces this new birth. The Fall made this impossible. Corruptible physical seed is producing a fallen civilization that is destined to die and perish – after its kind. In contrast, God is using the imperishable seed of His Word to germinate new lives  – after its kind. What kind of seed is the Word of God? Peter was quick to add a most important component of this living seed.

Which lives and abides forever

God’s Word, like Himself, is eternal. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).David wrote in the Psalms, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89-93). By the use of the words “settled in heaven,” David meant that God’s Word has been written in eternal stone; it can never change. David said that it was by God’s precepts that life came to Him. “For by them[God’s words] You have given me life”(Psalm 119:93). God’s living seed is like all seed. It produces “after its kind.” Because this seed is an eternal seed, what it germinates lasts forever. It results in a life that is eternal. Peter explained why this new birth is necessary. He quoted from Isaiah 40:6–8 to prove that this new birth is not optional, it is crucial.

All flesh is as grass

Every human being is like grass. Grass dies. Likewise, it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

And the glory of man like the flower of grass

All that sheds light upon the human race’s amazing accomplishments in the tech world, art, medicine, military, etc. is like the flowers of grass. These achievements bring favorable attention to the genius of man and his scientific discoveries.

The grass withers and the flower fades

Both the grass and flowers will wither and die. James said that human life is like a vapor. It appears for a little while and then vanishes. All members of the human race birthed the old-fashioned way are like the grass. All are destined to wither and die. Both life and fame are fleeting. All of man’s accomplishments will wither and be gone.

But the word of God endures forever.

What a tremendous contrast! The Word of God lasts forever. Peter finally threw back the curtain, so we can view in all its amazing splendor, the very seed of God.

And this is the word which by the gospelwas preached to you.(1 Peter 1:23–25)

There can be no new birth without God’s living seed. The Word of God that gives life to the spiritually dead is God’s living seed packed as the gospel. The gospel is at the very heart of the Bible. Gospelmeans “good news.” The gospel is wonderful news beyond anything that our human minds can grasp. It is the gospel that gives life.

“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures”(James 1:18).

 

 


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