Author Archives: andyrupert

What does the Bible say about election?

“The biblical theologian must stop where the biblical text stops, even though some issues appear to remain unresolved. … The doctrine of election inevitably produces a certain intellectual tension, particularly with regard to ‘free will’ or personal activity in one’s own salvation (cf. Rom 5:18; 1 Tim 2:5; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet 3:9). … Balanced biblical theology requires that such tensions remain. Rejecting clear biblical teaching because of limited human understanding is dangerously shortsighted.”

Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, Jr., The American Commentary Volume 34: 1,2 Timothy, Titus, (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 264-65.

Helping the Poor

How our personal experience affects our perspective.

Have you been poor?

Those who have been poor understand the feeling of hopelessness when they don’t have enough to feed their family, pay the bills, or go to the hospital.

Have you been rich?

Those who have not been poor, may not understand the seriousness of being without enough to pay the bills. They may think the problem is laziness, poor use of money, or bad decisions.

Have you become skeptical?

Those who have been lied to by beggars may wonder about everyone asking for help. Because some have lied about their need, were using the money for drugs, or were unbelievable, the skeptic doesn’t want to help anyone.

Have you become an enabler?

Those who have a big heart for the poor see the need despite the big stories and continue to give even when they find out there is a problem.

What does the OT say about poor people?

The Law

The OT law which was given to Moses is filled with commands about justice, worship, civil matters, etc. But does it say anything about the poor?

Ex. 22:25 – Lend to the poor without interest.
Ex. 23:3, 6 – Don’t be partial to or prejudiced against the poor.
Ex. 23:11 – Leave fields fallow the 7th year so poor can eat.
Lev. 19:10; 23:22 – Leave some field unharvested so the poor can glean.
Lev. 25:35; Deut. 15:7, 11 – Help your brothers.
Deut. 24:15 – Pay poor people daily.

The law commanded but also taught the Israelites to help poor people. Sometimes we need to be commanded to do things because we don’t have right thinking or are not often thinking about the poor.

Psalms

The psalms are songs. Why would the poor be mentioned in songs dedicated to God? Maybe it is because they often cry out to God in their distress.

Psalm 10:2 – The wicked persecute the poor.
Psalm 41:1 – You will be blessed for helping the poor.
Psalm 72:4, 12 – God gives justice to the poor.

David knew what being poor was like. When he fled from Saul, he often had very little. This kindled in him a love for the poor, a hatred for oppressors, and thankfulness to God for his provision.

Proverbs

The proverbs often contrast the rich and poor. Sometimes the poor are poor because of bad choices. Other times they are to be helped.

Prov 10:4 – Laziness leads to being poor.
Prov. 14:31 – Oppressing the poor reproaches our Maker.
Prov. 19:17 – Lending to poor is lending to God.
Prov. 21:13 – If you don’t listen to the poor, God won’t listen to your cries for help.
Prov. 21:17 – If you love pleasure, you will become poor.
Prov. 29:7 – The righteous consider the cause of the poor.

Warnings

Isa. 3:15 – God doesn’t want the poor abused.
Isa. 32:7 – God knows when poor people are lied to.
Ezek. 16:49 – Sodom ignored the poor.

What does the NT say about poor people?

Mark 12:42-43 – The poor widow gave all she had.
Luke 18:22 – The rich, young ruler was told to give to the poor.
Luke 19:8 – Zacchaeus showed change of heart by giving to the poor.
Luke 14:13 – Invite the poor to your feast.
John 12:6 – Some talk about helping the poor but just want money.
Rom. 15:26 – Some churches gave to the poor believers in Jerusalem.
1 Cor. 13:3 – Giving to the poor without love is empty.
2 Cor. 8:9 – Jesus became poor for us.
2 Cor. 9:6-9 – God loves cheerful giving and will take care of you.
Gal. 2:10 – Paul was reminded to help the poor.
James 2:2-3 – You should treat the poor and rich the same.

Principles for helping the poor

Offering work is helpful to poor people (2 Thess. 3:10).

Old Testament law required farmers to not harvest the edges of their fields so the poor would have something to eat (Lev. 19:9; 23:22; Deut. 24:19). The poor were given the opportunity to have food if they were willing to work. The principle is repeated in the New Testament (2 Thess. 3:10).

Some people just need immediate help (1 John 3:17).

This is not the answer to every problem, but it certainly makes sense. Helping people who are unwilling to work can enable laziness. But not all are in that situation. Those who are sick, elderly, overwhelmed, or working but unable to pay their bills should be helped out as we see the need if we are able to help.

Conclusion

Has this study changed your mind about the poor and your responsibility toward them? Hopefully, each of us will now consider how we can respond to poor people when they have a need. It won’t be easy, and we might get taken advantage of, but we should consider each situation carefully and wisely choose how to help.

Second Guessing Yourself

Have you ever second guessed yourself? Two months ago, I prayed about and purchased a second car. It was a good buy that happened at just the right time while I was on a business trip. Fast forward two months, and I was second guessing my decision. There was nothing wrong with the first car, but I saw “the perfect car” somewhere else for the perfect price. If only I had waited. If only I had been patient. Was I wrong in buying the first one? Should I have waited for this one?

Then there are more important topics of second guessing. After telling someone about Jesus and receiving a bad response, do you second guess yourself? As you struggle with the person’s response, you probably go through the conversation in your mind trying to figure out where you went wrong. Did I speak too boldly? Did I quote the wrong Bible verses? Was I too hasty in what I said? Did I mess things up?

You are not alone. Many Christians have wondered about decisions they made on the spur of the moment. Paul, in particular, had the opportunity to second guess himself after giving his speech to Festus, Agrippa and Bernice.

When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.” Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Acts 26:30-32 NKJV

After hearing his Christian testimony, the leaders discussed Paul’s case. During their conversation, they concluded two things: (1) Paul had done nothing worthy of death or imprisonment, and (2) Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar. This is where Paul could have second guessed himself.

Paul had used his rights as a Roman citizen to parry the attempt of Festus to have him tried in Jerusalem. Paul had already escaped a murder plot. After being warned by his nephew, he had been escorted out of Jerusalem by a small army. It was very probable that this would have happened again if he returned to Jerusalem for trial. With Festus trying to appease the Jewish leaders, it was clear that he was putting Paul in a difficult position. By appealing to Caesar, Paul made a wise decision.

But… if Paul had waited for the meeting with Agrippa, he might have been set free. Festus and Agrippa agreed that Paul was not worthy of death or chains. So, it was possible that he could have been set free. Being set free would mean freedom to travel to cities preaching the gospel again. Was Paul’s decision really as smart as we first thought?

What does second guessing do?

  1. It overlooks the need of the moment.

    What happened in Acts 26 has no bearing on what happened in Acts 25. When Paul appealed to Caesar, he was faced with imminent death at the hands of those plotting to murder him (Acts 25:3). If he had agreed to Festus’ suggestion, he would most probably have been killed in or on the way to Jerusalem. There would have been no meeting with Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice if Paul had agreed to go to Jerusalem. The need of the moment led Paul to appeal to Caesar. It was the right decision at the right time.

  2. It overlooks God’s plan.

    Paul’s decision to appeal to Caesar was part of God’s greater plan. Did Paul have any idea what God’s plan was? Yes, in Acts 23:11, you may recall that God had told him that he would testify for Jesus in Rome. Being freed from his chains would have been nice, but it was not necessarily part of God’s plan for Paul at the time. God wanted Paul to go to Rome. Appealing to Caesar was part of that plan.

Conclusion

It is easy to look back and second guess your decisions. But in most cases, as you sought God’s help and used the wisdom he gave you, you actually made the best decision you could at the moment. As you seek the Lord’s will each day, ask him for wisdom and direction and then make the best decisions you know how at the moment. Second guessing yourself will only cause you to become discontent. You may want to be free when God wants you to be in prison! Trust God to work his plan through you and the decisions you make.

What kept Jesus on the cross?

Matthew describes how most people rejected Jesus as he hung on the cross. The soldiers, those who passed by, the Jewish leaders, and even the two thieves who were crucified on either side of him. Each group mocked Jesus as either a failed king, prophet, or teacher. Why then would he stay on the cross? As the Son of God, he could have answered their mocking cries for him to save himself. He could have removed himself from the cross, and stood before them, surrounded by thousands of angels. And yet, he chose to stay on the cross, suffering, bleeding, and slowly dying.

“Mounce rightly observed, “It was the power of love, not nails, that kept him there.'”
— Craig Blomberg

We are all glad that Jesus did not respond to the taunts of these various groups the way that we would have. Thankfully, he was willing to endure their jeers, along with the other aspects of his suffering, for the sake of each of us, people who did not deserve any portion of his love or forgiveness.

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:6-8

God’s Provision in Answer to Prayer

How often have you quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 to someone who was struggling with a situation? Probably lots of times. But stop for a minute and think of what the verses say. First, we are to trust. Second, we are to acknowledge. Trusting and acknowledging God go hand in hand. The first involves believing that God knows what is best and will do what is best in every event of our lives. But the second is not something to be left alone. After trusting God, and seeing his provision, shouldn’t we acknowledge His hand in our lives?

As a young Christian, I was given a copy of George Mueller’s biography. If you have not read it yet, you are missing out on a treat. Mueller relates how God provided for his personal needs and the needs of his ministries throughout his life. He often would thank God for the need provided before the need was met. So, he was a man of faith. But he also shared with others what God did for him during these times. As he acknowledged God’s repeated provision for him, many people learned that God was able and willing to help.

Working with a fleet of vehicles has given me the opportunity to pray for our drivers, and also to ask God for wisdom when purchasing vehicles for the company. My most recent prayer request was for wisdom in finding a reliable SUV for the company to drive in difficult areas near the railroad. We needed an SUV large enough to hold grown men comfortably but also to handle unforgiving terrain in some places. Before leaving the house, I asked God for wisdom in choosing a good vehicle. Thankfully, God answered that prayer.

When I arrived at the car lot, the advertised vehicle wasn’t quite as good as it had seemed in the pictures. The middle seat was a bit cramped, the suspension made noises over bumps, and some of the interior knobs were missing. After returning from the test drive, I asked about the vehicle parked next to me. As it turned out, this vehicle was less expensive, better equipped, and a better fit for what we needed. It wasn’t the vehicle I had planned on purchasing, but in God’s perfect timing, it was the one that we needed.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”
— Proverbs 3:5-6

Will revenge actually make you feel better?

Have you ever been really, really angry with someone—so angry that you loathed even thinking about that person? This was the situation with Peninnah. You can read about her troubled marriage in 1 Samuel 1. The situation was rather odd as she was the second wife of a man who loved the other one better than her. What a terrible situation! The whole thing was not God’s design for marriage, but was not unexpected for the times in which they were living (see Judges 21:25). So what happened? Peninnah hated the other woman because of her husband’s favoritism and decided to inflict grief on her to make herself feel better. But did it help her cope with the situation? Not hardly.

In his commentary on the subject (written in 1887), W. G. Blaikie points out the lack of fulfillment when an angry person tries to take matters into her own hands.

“Yes, my friends, if you accept the offices of sin, if you make passion the instrument of your purposes, if you make it your business to sting and to stab those who in some way cross your path, you may succeed for the moment, and you may experience whatever of satisfaction can be found in gloated revenge. But know this, that you have been cherishing a viper in your bosom that will not content itself with fulfilling your desire. It will make itself a habitual resident in your heart, and distill its poison over it. It will make it impossible for you to know anything of the sweetness of love, the serenity of a well-ordered heart, the joy of trust, the peace of heaven. You will be like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. You will find the truth of that solemn word, ‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.'”

Blaikie, W. G., The First Book of Samuel, (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978), 8.

Suffice it to say that revenge is best left in God’s hands (Rom. 12:19). Peninnah poured out her derision on the other woman and caused her great pain, but was she better off in the end? Not hardly. And what about the other woman. You may remember her name—it was Hannah. Under the constant ridicule of her adversary, she became depressed and despondent. But things changed drastically when she took her problems to the Lord. She poured out her heart to the Lord in prayer and was eventually blessed with happiness and fulfillment.

Two women in a difficult situation: The first woman poured out her anger on the other but never found the satisfaction she desired. The second woman poured out her heart to the Lord and found the blessing of the Lord. The lesson should be obvious. You will never resolve a problem by hurting others, so let God handle your problems. Turn them over to him and discover the peace and happiness found only in Him.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Distant Starlight and a Young Earth

The internet has changed a lot of things. One such change is the ability to watch online videos of Christians presenting information about Creation and evolution. The video posted below is not meant as an endorsement of the speaker or church. Instead, it is posted here to show you several interesting ideas about the “problem” of distant starlight when considering the young age of the earth based on the genealogies in the Bible.

I found his presentation to be thought-provoking. What are your thoughts?

Alexander Hamilton on the Law of Nature

While delving into the historical reasons for the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution, I came across a letter written by Alexander Hamilton in 1775. In this letter, he argued that unjust laws were not binding on man when they contradict the natural laws given by God.

“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power. … When the first principles of civil society are violated, and the rights of a whole people are invaded, the common forms of municipal law are not to be regarded. Men may then betake themselves to the law of nature; and, if they but conform their actions, to that standard, all cavils [petty objections] against them, betray either ignorance or dishonesty. There are some events in society, to which human laws cannot extend; but when applied to them lose all their force and efficacy. In short, when human laws contradict or discountenance the means, which are necessary to preserve the essential rights of any society, they defeat the proper end of all laws, and so become null and void. ”

— Alexander Hamilton in The Farmer Refuted

Hamilton’s reasoning may sound familiar to Christian readers. In at least two biblical instances, people stood against unjust laws. The first case involves the Egyptian midwives who refused to throw newborn baby boys into the Nile River. The second case is that of the Apostle Peter when he was brought before the Sanhedrin for healing a lame man and speaking in the name of Jesus.

So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

Acts 4:18-20 NKJV

Does this mean that any person should immediately disobey the American government when they disagree with a current law? Before going overboard with civil disobedience, we need to remember that government is also ordained by God (Rom. 13:1-7). While we would rightly disobey any law that mandated the killing of babies or the silencing of those who proclaim the gospel of Jesus, we are not granted carte blanche to disobey God-ordained government for any and all reasons.

In the case of the American Revolution, the founders went to great lengths to debate what the proper response was to British tyranny. They eventually agreed that their government had overstepped their bounds and were no longer acting lawfully toward the rights of the colonies. Because of that, they chose to rebel against the government for appropriate reasons. Honestly, this will take more study to completely understand, but Hamilton’s words highlight what the founders were thinking at the time.

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P.S. If you click on the link to Hamilton’s 3 page letter, you may also want to have a dictionary ready to understand all that he says. I had to look up words such as eclaircissement, coeval, mediately, consanguinity, sagaciously, and cavils. Apparently, Hamilton’s 19-year-old vocabulary was well beyond mine.

Who was right?

During my weekly sermon preparation, I have gleaned much from John A. Broadus’ commentary on Matthew. Before recommending it to another pastor, I decided to look up information about the author. According to SBTS, Broadus (1889-1895) was a Baptist pastor who later served the soldiers of the Confederate army.

For some, his involvement with the southern army should be an instant disqualification of his opinions about anything. It is too easy for us to look back on the Civil War and to declare how we would have handled things differently. We recognize the evils of slavery and are glad for the war that ended it. However, things were not so clear in the 1860’s. Good men on both sides saw other issues—besides slavery—that necessitated fighting the Civil War. Broadus spoke about this in an address some 21 years after the war.

“It is useless now to raise the question who was right. Perhaps in some respects, each side would now acknowledge that the other was nearest right; perhaps in some respects both sides were wrong. … Of one thing I feel certain, neither side can claim any monopoly of good intentions, of patriotic aims, nor even of wisdom. … But this much is plain — the war had to come.”

Address at Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, May 22, 1886

Today, many take strong positions about the Civil War. Some have even pulled down statues of Confederate war heroes. I wonder, though, how many know enough about these soldiers and the Civil War to truly understand why good men chose to fight on one side or the other. Perhaps we ought to listen more to those who experienced the war and seek to learn from them. Perhaps, then, we will be able to understand the conflict and avoid similar problems in the future.

Matthew 22:30 – Like the Angels in Heaven

“Like them, we shall ever be in God’s presence. Like them, we shall ever delight to do His will. Like them, we shall give all glory to the Lamb. These are deep things. But they are all true.

Are we ready for this life? Should we enjoy it, if admitted to take part in it? Is the company of God, and the service of God pleasant to us now? Is the occupation of angels one in which we should delight? These are solemn questions.”


— J. C. Ryle in Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume One, Matthew – Mark