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).

 

 

E-zine Volume 3, Issue 3

Be a Light!

Let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Every professed believer in Christ maintains a public testimony before others whether we realize it or not. How we choose to live our lives is always under public review. Our chosen lifestyle continuously sends a message to others reflecting our personal relationship to Christ. Our works speak words long before we ever open our mouths to vocally share Him with others.  To maintain a constant awareness that we are being watched and live a life filled with good works will always result in shining a bright light upon our heavenly Father and His gospel. However, it is always good to open our mouths and speak.  

We are excited about the seventh annual Glimpses of Grace Conference coming up at the end of the month. We hope you will join us for worship, praise and fellowship. See the flyer below for more information,

Continue to pray for Mike Moore – the editor of our Ezine magazine. He is fighting a battle to recover from a serious back surgery.

Links to articles in this edition of the Glimpses Ezine:

Ducks – Jessica Moore Otto, in her “Front Porch Living,” says we can learn a lot from a duck

Copy That – Danny Forrest’s second article in his Kingdom Stories: Guardians of the Gospel

Buckets of Grace – Tanya Moore shares how God has revealed His grace in her life through difficult times

Moore Thoughts – Mike Moore reflects on his recent surgery and hospitalization

The Church in Decline – Dick Hill says that many believers are not willing to invest in the time and teaching necessary for growth

Well Said– notable quotes

Glimpses Conference 2019– Register today! We hope you will join us May 31-June 1. 

——————————————————

Credits:

Richard J. Hill, Editor-in-Chief

Michael L. Moore, Editor

Linda Hill, Design Editor

Contact Info:

Glimpses of Grace, 2587 Attala Road 1153, Kosciusko, MS 39090

www.glimpsesofgrace.org

(662) 347-8291 (727) 458-1813

Glimpses of Grace Board Members:

Richard J. Hill, Linda Hill, Danny Forrest, John Howell Jr., Quinn Hill, Michael L. Moore, Ken Sheppard

Copyright 2019 by Glimpses of Grace, a 501(c)3 ministry.

 

 

Born into God’s Kingdom

There can be no birth without seed. God has given us a can’t miss over the top object lesson of the only way to get into His kingdom.  How does one get into this world after God’s creation of Adam and Eve?  One must be born into it. One cannot get into this world any other way. God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply – and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). And they did and are continuing to do. So how does one get into God’s coming kingdom? As incredible as this may sound, one must be born into it. One must experience a new birth, a heavenly birth.   

Consider the now familiar conversation between an extremely religious and highly educated Pharisee named Nicodemus and a carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus.  It is true that familiarity may cause us to read over and miss the important meaning of some parts of this meeting. The scene opens with Nicodemus (from now on I will refer to him as Nick), a religious ruler of the Jews coming to visit Jesus for an evening chat.

Nick most likely chose to meet with this stranger at night, because as a ruler among the Jews he may have been more than just a little uncomfortable with the idea of meeting publicly with Jesus. What would people say if the two were seen together. What would Nick’s family, friends, and fellow Pharisees think?

After all, Jesus was from Nazareth, which was in this elite Pharisee’s thinking, a backwoods shanty area. Nick on the other hand was from Jerusalem, the capitol city of Judaism. Jesus was poor, a carpenter, the son of a carpenter. Nick was a wealthy aristocrat. Jesus had no religious pedigree or formal religious training of any kind. Nick was a highly decorated member of the religious establishment. To say that there was a social barrier separating them would be an understatement. It was more like a chasm.  Meeting under the cover of darkness away from any possible appearance of befriending and, perish the thought, supporting this strange character, appeared to be a wise move on Nick’s part. 

Nick broke the ice by flattering Jesus. “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher come from God, for man cannot do the signs that you do unless God is with Him” (John 3:1-2).

He called Jesus a rabbi, a teacher. It was as though Nick was conferring on Jesus some complimentary status. By his use of the words “we know,” he implied that his fellow Pharisees also recognized that Jesus was from God. The reason? No one could perform the miracles that Jesus was doing without God’s help.  This reveals that the religious establishment knew that Christ’s miracles were not fake. This was a good way to start this meeting. 

Jesus no doubt stunned the Pharisee with the very first words out of His mouth. “Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”(John 3:3). To say it like many in the south, Jesus cut right to the chase. There was no recorded positive gesture on Jesus’ part to Nick’s compliment.  He did not thank Nick for his gracious words. This was not the time for politics. Jesus knew the value of this meeting – a meeting that would be reviewed and re-reviewed countless times down through history.

He knew that every word would be hashed over and over, again and again. Jesus told the very religious Pharisee that unless he experienced a new birth, he would not enter the kingdom of God. It appears at first that Jesus words were harsh and abrupt. His words were not abrupt if, in fact, Jesus knew that Nick had been thinking about God’s kingdom. How is this possible? John had just before written that Jesus had no need that anyone testify of man because He already knew what all were thinking(John 2: 24-25). Surely this included Nick. Jesus stepped right into Nick’s thoughts.

The Greek words for “born again,” are genesia anathen,or a birth that comes from above, or said another way, a heavenly birth. There may have been a sudden spike in Nick’s blood pressure. Not necessarily because of what Jesus said, but because of the fact that Jesus had read his mind.

Our Lord’s deep underlying point behind His born-again words is that a natural fleshly sinful person affected by the fall of Adam must be made a heavenly spiritual person in order to enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:14-15). 

One will never move from the realm of this human flesh and blood world into God’s spiritual unseen world without this birth. We are born into this world having a physical body.  Within our bodies God has placed an invisible soul and human spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The soul and spirit are the real “us” within our human frame. It is the part of us that no one can truly understand but us and God (1 Corinthians 2:11).

This human spirit is God’s image implanted within us. This invisible image remains locked in this earthly shell until we die.  One day we are destined to shed this earthly tent – this body – and be jettisoned from this earthly world to spend eternity in God’s kingdom or in hell – forever.  Our spiritual destination is determined by the truth unpacked by these powerful words of Jesus Christ. “Unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  

Overwhelmingly implied is that one cannot earn his way to God’s kingdom by becoming a better person, or keeping God’s commands, or joining a particular religious group, or having a religious experience, or giving money to the poor, or saying prayers, or doing many wonderful works. I mention these things because being a Pharisee, keeping God’s law, was never far from Nick’s thinking. He probably loved God’s law and was depending upon that love to get him into God’s kingdom.  

Expanding further on what many have come to believe will get us into God’s kingdom are the teachings of Islam, or Buddha, or becoming a devout Hindu, or a Mormon, or a Jehovah’s Witness, or even following the example and teachings of Jesus Christ Himself.

Nor can a person get in by joining a Baptist church, a Presbyterian church, a Catholic church, a Lutheran church, an Episcopalian church, a Pentecostal church, or the Church of Christ, or any church.  One must be born of God. This is precisely what Jesus said. He never misspoke. He never said a word that He did not mean. Christians are people who become connected to Christ by a supernatural birth.

Jesus is telling this very religious person that all of his human achievements – no matter how great – will not get him into the kingdom of God. There is only one way to get in and that is through a new birth – whatever that means. 

Nick was obviously amazed by the fact that this strange man had read his thoughts, but while he was trying to mentally recover, he responded the only way he felt he could. “What, can I enter a second time into my mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). He had no doubt heard the word’s born againloud and clear. He quickly retreated to the only birth that he knew anything about.

Our Lord, a master teacher, was not trying to confuse Nick (John 7:46). In fact, Jesus had mentioned a truth that should not have been foreign to Nick’s thinking. Jesus was challenging Nick to stop thinking earthly thoughts and to begin to think heavenly.  He said that unless one is born of water and the Spirit, one cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Do not marvel (be amazed) that I said to you, ‘You must be born again. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of spirit is spirit.” This should not have been incredible to Nick. He needed to leave his earthly fleshly thoughts and concentrate on heavenly spiritual things. And so must we, if we are to be born of God.