A Brother on the Inside

A good friend has become a Mormon – for Jesus. I am not sure I could do it; sometimes I am not sure he should either. But he is regularly teaching and preaching evangelical truth in Mormon gatherings, using the Bible and the Book of Mormon. He is a welcome and popular teacher among them. He believes the Lord has called him to reach out from within and he has seen many Mormons come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Most of them stay in, get deeper discipling from my friend and his colleagues, and reach out to other Mormons. All truth comes from God, even if it was spoken by Joseph Smith, “As Latter-day Saints, sometimes we neglect to teach and testify to some simple, basic truths of paramount importance.” Check out the web site, and share it with all your Mormon friends! http://four-pillars-of-the-gospel.org

A Boring Bit of the Bible?

Well, this list of strange names in Genesis 36 is not riveting! I usually skip these when reading through Scripture. But even this text is “God breathed and useful” (2 Timothy 3.16). These were great names of their day, yet today we can’t even pronounce them.  How short and unnoticed a life can be. History is vital to the people of God; it is His story of His world. We see that Esau’s personal decision to turn from God launches a whole nation that does not know Him! But God knows even their names. They are outside of His Covenant, but not his compassion. They are made in His image, and potentially reachable with the Gospel – if we cared to reach out to them. “Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the LORD's” (Obadiah 21).

A Book with a Big Answer

This morning we’ll hear a message from an ancient story. Job was a contemporary of Abraham, perhaps even older! Our eternal God inspired a timeless message in this poetic masterpiece. Read it again this week. Job, a man of faith and favor, is slammed by horrible disasters. His “friends” ponder which of his flaws provoked his calamity. Job pleads innocence. All of them are then silenced by God’s interrogation. “Where were you chumps?!...You guys with the answers, I have a few questions for you.” It’s a pop-quiz on Biology from the Creator of the Universe! In one sense, God’s unanswerable questions do not answer Job’s questions. But they declare He IS the answer. Today as then, if your problems are big, your God is small. But knowing a big God can make problems – even big ones! – sink insignificantly in the sea of His glory.

A Bit Too Much…

Church? Well, maybe once in a while, if nothing better is on. It might help the kids learn how to sit still. Bible reading? Well, that might be good too sometimes. It is considered a classic. At least I could read the ‘Cliff Notes’ version. Prayer? Sure, that’s good. It can really help me get centered and clear my head. But, what’s that you say? Only Jesus? Just the Bible? Prayer in Jesus name….only?  So, what about all those other perfectly good religions? What! They’re wrong!? Wow! Who made you Judge? Really, that is what God says…it’s in the Bible!? I never knew that! That makes me feel very uncomfortable. I am a much more open-minded and tolerant person. Frankly, I have my doubts whether any religion is right. My! You’ll stake your life on it!? That’s way too much for me! I gotta go now….

A “Ledger Book” Gospel

Encarta describes a “ledger” as “a book with columns for debits and credits on which to transcribe financial records.” Matthew the tax collector gives us a terse record of Jesus words and works built around 5 columns/sermons - Sermon on the Mount (chs 5-7), Mission Instructions (ch 10), Kingdom Parables (ch 13), Church Life (ch 18),       and Future Judgment (chs 23-25). He tells stories with much less vivid detail. (Mark adds many more colorful features.) But Matthew’s pithy text conveys the heart of Jesus’ declarations and demands. The facts are clear for all to examine, like a good ledger book should be! He presents a sufficient record to compel his readers to invest their lives and follow King Jesus. In worldly terms, Matthew left more “behind” than most of Jesus’ young followers. Tax collection was lucrative. But putting Jesus in his dividend column brought eternal returns.


We’re often reminded that ZGC is “GATHERING: The highpoint of the week for many of us is meeting to worship our great God. Many of us have also found great encouragement in our small groups!  “GROWING”: All of us in different places on our spiritual journey. We are blessed to journey together. Christian maturity is to know Jesus more and more by His Word and Spirit.  “GOING”: We’re in transit through Beijing -  for weeks or years. We’re being equipped for a lifetime of service, here and beyond, until we comes. Reading Ephesians challenges us to bracket these 3 G’s with a couple more. This all begins with “GRACE.” From eternity past God decreed to redeem sons and daughters from death and destruction. Now in Christ we enjoy His gifts of heaven freely given. If that be so, we must conclude with “GLORY” – to Him alone be endless praise!

3,120 Hours

“Paul taught daily from 11 am to 4 pm” this is found in the ‘Western Text’ of Act 19.9. It is not part of the original text of the Bible and does not appear in any of our translations. Yet, many scholars think this ‘scribal gloss’ is an accurate record of what actually happened. Thus, while most of Ephesus enjoyed their afternoon siesta during the heat of the day, Tyrannus rented out his hall to the Christians. And Paul taught the Word of God for 3,120 hours. (No days off or Thailand trips!) That is more hours than my seminary program. There are no ‘short cuts’ to true discipleship. It might take just ’30 Seconds’ to make you a ‘Manager.’ ‘Cliff Notes’ might get you a passing grade on your literature exam. And ‘Theology for Dummies’ might help you squeak through an ordination exam. But maturity in Jesus is a life sentence. And the diligent study of Scripture is the core requirement.

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