Sep 08

Passing the baton is essential to Christianity

Followers of Jesus reach out to others.

After the final meal with the disciples and just before the arrest that would initiate his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for the disciples he was leaving behind. He also prayed for those they would tell about him (John 17:20).

Just before he ascended to the Father, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until that had received the power of the indwelling Spirit. Then they would share his message throughout the world (Acts 1:4-8).

God chose to use his followers to spread his message and to train new disciples.

As he languished in prison before his execution, Paul wrote to Timothy with final guidance on how to succeed in Christian service. He told him to take what he had heard from Paul and pass it on to others who would in turn pass it on to a new generation of Christians (2 Timothy 2:2).

Paul envisioned four generations of followers of Jesus. There are those who reached out to us and taught us. We are the second generation. We are to pass it on to a new generation of Christians. We are to pass it on to those who would reach a fourth generation of Christians.

Christians who want to part of the essential mission of the church must pass on what they have been taught. We must disciple those who themselves will also reach out to those outside of Christ and nurture their faith.

This has been how Christ has worked for almost two thousand years.

Are we part of this chain of ministry or are we a self-centered side shoot of the church?

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The post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog

Aug 18

Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord.

In the curses that were part of the Mosaic covenant, the final punishment for continued disobedience was expulsion from the Promised Land. After centuries of rebellion the prophets predicted that this exile would come and Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC.

After the predicted exile, God fulfilled his promise to bring the people back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A remnant returned and began to prosper but neglected to reestablish the worship of God in Jerusalem where Solomon had built the first temple. (Haggai 1:1-11)

This was their mission and they looked to their own prosperity and neglected God. God raised up prophets to challenge them. Haggai reminded them of their mission and told them that God would be with them when they committed to this work. (Haggai 1:13; 2:4)

“Work, for I am with you.” God promised his presence as they committed to complete the work he had given them. This is similar to the promised presence of God as part of the Great Commission. “Make disciples” for “I am with you to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Like to returned exiles, God’s people in every age are in danger of losing their primary focus and descending into self-promotion and small self-centered agendas. When we do God’s work, we can experience God’s presence.

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The post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog

Jul 27

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

I grew up in a Lutheran home and we often sang the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” at church. This “battle hymn of the Reformation” was written by Martin Luther in the late 1520s, about ten years after he posted his Ninety-Five Theses.

When I began to read the Bible through annually in my early twenties I was stopped by Psalm 46, verses seven and eleven which declare that God is with his people and he is their fortress. My mind went back to the memories of my childhood and the hymn. I found a hymnal and this psalm was listed as the text for the hymn.

Ten years later I preached on this psalm. The congregation sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and a Scripture chorus based on the first verses of the psalm, “God is My Refuge, God is My Strength.”

The psalm has three stanzas.

Verses one through three emphasize God as a refuge, strength, and help in times of trouble. His people do not need to fear no matter what happens around them.

The second stanza, verses four through seven, likens God to a river that provides, first for Jerusalem and then for his people in general. Most great cities are built on or near a great river. Jerusalem has no great river. God provides the sustenance that other cities get from a river.

The final stanza, verses eight through eleven, declares that God is in control in history and will, in the end, reign supreme.

The psalm’s two key affirmations are:

God is present with his people. (Psalm 46:1, 7, 11)

God people should not be afraid but be calm and know that God is God. He becomes the speaker in the psalm and commands, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).

We need to stop our frenetic activity to experience the security that comes in our relationship with God.

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The post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog

Jul 21

What happens when we sin?

Christians don’t lead perfect lives. We sin and each time we sin there is a choice. We can agree that it is wrong and decide not to do it again and be restored. We will sin again and the process will be repeated. We will mature and change but we will always be plagued by our bad choices until we die and are perfected in God’s presence. Or, we can focus on the sin, enjoy the sin, and become further ensnared by the sin. We eventually become blind like the Pharisees and sin in ways that may lead to our premature death. (1 John 1:8-10; 5:16-17; James 1:13-15; 1 Corinthians 11:27-30)

I once listened to a seminary professor tell a story about a young woman who approached him after a sermon. She told him about a sin in her life that she committed regularly, enjoyed, and couldn’t stop. She also told him that she loved God and both were equals to her. He told her that he could not help her. He asked her to spend some time alone and decide which of the two, her sin or her love fo God, was the most important part of her life. Then he could help her deal with the one she wanted to change but, he insisted, both could not be together at the top.

How people deal with their sin reveals their deepest self. Judas betrayed Jesus, felt remorse, made an attempt at making it right, failed, and killed himself. Peter denied Christ, wept, and when Jesus reached out to him, renounced his sin, and was restored. (Matthew 26:69-75; 27:3-5)

In a pivotal meeting before he ascended, Jesus completed Peter’s restoration. He asked Peter if he loved him. Peter repeatedly responded yes. He told Peter to feed his followers. He told Peter that his commitment would lead to his martyrdom. Peter asked Jesus about John’s future. Jesus told him that John’s future was none of his concern but Peter was to follow him. (John 21:15-23)

Peter’s restoration has lessons for all Christians

Do we love Jesus? (more than our sin)

Are we will to follow him? (wherever it leads)

Are we willing to not focus on others? (are they getting a better deal?)

Are we willing feed Jesus’ followers? (actively make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching) (Matthew 28:18-20)

Each time we sin, we face a critical choice.

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The post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog

Jul 07

How should we live if we think the world is going to end soon?

When Peter wrote to the Christians of Asia Minor near the end of his life, he reminded them that since Jesus had come they were in the last days. Throughout his first letter there are themes of hope, purity, living well in relationships and suffering. Jesus had told him and the other disciples that the world would hate them because of their commitment to Christ. Once a person follows Jesus fully, they are not of this world. They are citizens of heaven. They have a hope that other people do not have or understand and are often hated for it. (1 Peter 1:20; John 15:18-16:33)

As he brought the letter to a close, Peter gave a powerful summary of the priorities of end-times Christians, Christians who believe that Jesus came return at any time. (1 Peter 4:7-11)

He began, “the end of all things is near.” Because Jesus can come back at any moment there are four priorities for his followers.

We are to order our lives so that we can pray well. We must think correctly about God, ourselves, and our world. We must also be self-controlled, not distracted by gluttony, lusts, envy, and frivolous pursuits. (1 Peter 4:7; 1:13; 2:11-12; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:22-26)

Secondly, we must have a love that overlooks those may little ways that people mistreat us. Soon they will be on no consequence whatsoever. (1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12; James 5:12)

Thirdly, we should be hospitable people. There are people who are lonely. We should reach out to them. Loneliness is being alone. Solitude is being alone with God. There is a big difference and many people are truly lonely. (1 Peter 4:9)

Finally, we are to use our gifts to the glory to God. Those with speaking gifts should be clear channels for God’s truth, not mixing it with personal opinions. Those with serving gifts should serve with all the strength that God provides.

We are to live as end-times Christians so that our lives may bring praise to God.

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The post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog

Jul 02

The Just Shall Live By Faith- Hebrews

From the first grade until halfway through sixth grade I attended Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School in the Bronx. I can still remember a theological problem that confounded me in the fifth grade. We were studying Hebrews, chapter 11, and I could not understand how “The Just Shall Live By Faith” could be in chapter 10. We were taught that this battle cry of the Reformation applied to salvation and that we were saved by faith. But no one in chapter 11 is getting saved, they are doing great things for God but not getting saved. I remember the religion teacher, the principal’s wife, giving me an answer but I forget what she said.

After one of those perplexing warning passages in chapter ten the unknown author of Hebrews tells his readers that their faith will be rewarded and that the just shall live by faith. (Hebrews 10:35-39)

The heroic acts recorded in chapter 11 are based on three pillars of faith

1- God exists 11:6

2- God is the Creator and created what exists from nothing 11:6

2- God is the judge and there is a future judgement and vindication. Because of this:

We have a hope 11:1

Abel’s faith speaks even after he died 11:4

God rewards those who earnestly seek him 11:7

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob looked forward to better future beyond their lives 11:8-10; 11:13-16

Moses looked beyond Egypt for his reward 11:26

God has planned something better for them and us with them 11:39-40

My fifth grade mind was right about chapter 11. It is about more than conversion. But, I did not grasp the breadth of “The Just Shall Live By Faith.” The principle was given to a prophet about how to live through a time of judgement. Paul saw it as encompassing the entire Christian experience from beginning to end in Romans 1 and reminded the Galatians in Galatians 3 that Christians begin by faith and continue by faith not law. The just shall live by faith

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The post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog

Jun 25

The Just Shall Live By Faith- Galatians

Paul had founded the Galatian churches on either his first or second missionary journey. The explosion of faith among the Gentiles challenged the Church. Christians were divided as to whether Gentiles needed to become Jews in order to become Christians.

Paul was converted as a result of a direct experience of the risen Christ. He was sent to the Gentiles and preached that they could come to faith without becoming Jews.

Some Jewish Christians came to the Galatian churches after Paul and taught them that they must be circumcised and live as Jews under the Mosaic Law.

Paul wrote this letter to defend his ministry and the message he preached. In the first two chapters he reviewed his pilgrimage from a persecuting Pharisee who approved of the stoning of Stephen to the apostle to the Gentiles. He detailed his relationship to the apostles in Jerusalem and his confrontation with Peter over this issue. He called this gospel of circumcision another non-Christian gospel. Those who preached it were cursed.

He concluded chapter two with a strong statement of the power of the atoning death of Jesus and the life of faith.

In chapter three, he told the Galatians that they have been tricked into changing from faith to law. When he contrasted law and faith he quoted Habakkuk 2:4, the just shall live by faith.

Paul’s point was that the Galatians had started the Christian journey by believing and now wanted to continue the Christian life by law keeping.

It is living by faith from conversion and beyond.

Law keeping as a way to justify ourselves to others and God is a simplistic temptation in any era but, like Habakkuk, we are to live each day by faith.

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The post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog

Jun 16

The Just Shall Live By Faith- Romans 1

Good writers often plant subtle “bookends” in their work to emphasize key points of their message.

In Romans Paul began and ended the book with paragraphs containing core elements of its teaching.

Romans 1:1-6

1:1 gospel

1:3 concerning his Son

1:2 through his prophets in the holy Scriptures

1:5 obedience of faith

1:5 among all the nations

Romans 16:25-27

16:25 gospel

16:25 preaching of Jesus Christ

16:26 through the prophetic writings

16:26 obedience of faith

16:26 to all nations

These phrases give the focus of the book. It is about the gospel, the preaching of Jesus. This is a message seen in the Hebrew Scriptures for all the nations resulting in the obedience of faith.

After the introduction there is a powerful beginning to the main section of the book

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.” (My emphases. Romans 1:16-17 ESV)

This powerful paragraph which quotes Habakkuk contains the core concepts of the bookends of Romans. Paul took the advice that God gave to a prophet facing a time of judgement and showed how it was not only for that situation. It summed up the entire Christian life from beginning to end. The rest of the book developed this truth. The just shall life by faith from their spiritual birth through faith in the message of salvation through their growth in Christlikeness during their pilgrimage on earth.

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The post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog

Jun 12

The Just Shall Live By Faith- Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel

God told Habakkuk that the just, people who wanted to follow God, would live by faith through the time of judgement. We are not told what happened to Habakkuk but we have the examples of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. They each followed God through those dark years.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel were priests, descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Daniel was a member of the royal family, a descendant of King David.

The Jewish nation was led by two privileged families. The kings were absolute dictators. The majority of them did follow God enthusiastically, if at all. The priests were to be authorities on the covenant given to the Jews through Moses and led the temple worship.

The Jewish people were living in the blessing of God’s promise to Abraham. They lived in the promised land.

Exile was the final punishment given in the covenant for continued disobedience of God.

Jeremiah was a priest who stayed in the promised land. Ezekiel was a priest who was exiled from the land promised to the Jews. Daniel was a member of the royal family and would have served in a minor role in the political leadership of Judah. He became one of the most powerful men of his era, more powerful than the kings who reigned in Jerusalem during that time.

Jeremiah remained a priest in the promised land. However, he was put in prison. His family plotted to kill him and his prophecies were rejected by the other priests and royal advisors. In his final years he was taken to Egypt by the rebellious people. One of the revelations God gave him was of two baskets of figs. The basket representing those, like him, who stayed in the land was full of rotten figs. The basket of good figs were those who went into exile. God’s future for the Jews was with them. He was called to serve those who were rejected. (Jeremiah 1; 4-6; 11-12; 23-24; 26-29; 36-38; 41-43)

Ezekiel lost the land and his priesthood. When he was thirty years old, the year he would have started serving as a priest if he had stayed in Jerusalem, he was called to be a prophet. His wife died as an illustration of the destruction of the Jewish nation. But he was given great visions of God’s plan including a glimpse of the restoration of the promised land and worship of the true God. (Ezekiel 1; 24:15-27; 40-48; Numbers 4:1-3)

Daniel was taken from the land and his place in the royal family. He quickly became a powerful, influential man who advised the leaders of Mesopotamia. However, Nebuchadnezzar was a hard man to serve. He was mercurial at best, vacillating between bizarre displays of arrogance and amazing proclamations of humility, acknowledging the power fo the true God. The jealousy and betrayal of his colleagues led Daniel to the lion’s den. Over the decades of service he was given great visions of God’s future for the Jewish people. (Daniel 1-12)

In the school of faith each of us receives a customized curriculum

After Jesus predicted Peter’s crucifixion, Peter asked about the future of the Apostle John. Jesus told Peter that John’s future was not his concern. Jesus gave him the advice that is for all who follow Jesus in any era, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-25)

This post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog.

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Jun 06

Habakkuk 3- The Just Shall Live By Faith- Habakkuk’s Psalm

Chapter three of Habakkuk is a psalm. In the last verse of the book he wrote “to the choirmaster with MY stringed instruments.” (Habakkuk 3:19, my emphasis. The possessive is not translated in some translations.) Habakkuk was probably a leader among the Levitical musicians.

This psalm answers the question of chapter one. The wicked do not go unpunished. God is coming to defeat his enemies. Habakkuk reflected on what God has done in the past and trusted him for the future. The psalm asked God to come and do what he has done before. God is praised in this way in other Scriptures. (Deuteronomy 33:1; Judges 5:4-5; Psalm 18:7-15; Psalm 68:4-10, 32-35; Psalm 77:16-19; Micah 1:3-4).

The psalm has many references to God’s past actions. Teman means southland and alluded to the time of the Exodus. Mount Paran is near Kadesh Barnea. God used plagues against Egypt. Rivers and streams may refer to the Nile, the Red Sea and the Jordan. Midianites were involved in plots against the Jews with the Moabites. The sun standing still alluded to Judges 10:12-13. The leader of the land of wickedness is probably Pharaoh and the Egyptians were crushed in the Red Sea. (Habakkuk 3:3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 13-15)

This recounting of God’s mighty acts left the prophet in awe. He will wait. The Babylonian invasion will be real and devastating. Through it all the Sovereign Lord will be his strength. God will give his people strength to bear this trial. Habakkuk began by questioning God and ended by praising him (Habakkuk 3:16-19)

What happened to Habakkuk? We read his dialogue with God. We can identify with his longing for justice. He was told that judgement was coming and that the just will live by faith through this perilous time. The twenty years between his prayer and the destruction of Jerusalem was one of steep moral and political decline for the Jews.

What happened to Habakkuk? We do not know. However we do have the words and significant life events of three prophets who lived through those times and are examples of living by faith. Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel lived through the time of decline and judgement.

The Scriptures were not given at an even pace over the centuries. There were time of great outpouring and times of relative silence in the 1500 years between Moses and the Apostle John. The book of Psalms contains a psalm written by Moses and some from the time of the exile 900 years later.

There was a great outpouring during the time of the greatest judgement. The prophets who spoke just before, during, and after the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity were evidence that even in a time of judgement and consequences God did not abandon his people..

Like Jonah, Habakkuk gave insight into his thoughts that only he could give. He was humble enough to let readers see him grow as he questioned God. He learned that God was in control and he has a plan. He uses wicked people. His plan is not always clear to us.

Habakkuk also shows us that we can question God about the most basic issues. Why is there evil in the world? Why does evil go unpunished? Why doesn’t God answer prayer? How does he answer prayer?

Abraham in Genesis 15 who was told that his descendants would not receive the promised land for four hundred years. We may not see the full answer to our prayers in our lifetime. We are fallen and finite and can’t fully fathom God’s plan unless it is revealed to us. Job and his friends couldn’t see into heaven. (Job 1-2; 42:7-17; 38-41)

God’s majesties should provoke us to praise. We can be confident in his plan to bring history to its consummation.

This post first appeared on Bob Krupp’s blog.

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