Works in Progress Update

A quick note to let our supporters know where we are in our production of new resources. The 180º Project is over halfway completed. Some delays have occurred but it is still very much a work in progress. Our very first resource, Is Jesus Enough?, is getting a makeover. A study guide for each chapter has been developed and a couple more chapters will be added as well. Look for this to come out in print in February/March of 2014. Background work is being done for our commentaries on Zechariah and Zephaniah, and work should begin in earnest on those as soon as the 180 Project is completed.

Continue to remember us in your prayers. In February and March both, look for free Kindle editions of some of our books. As always, drop us an e-mail at taethne@outlook.com and let us know how you are doing. You may also order print copies of our books by simply emailing us and asking for them by name.

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What the Story of Lazarus Teaches us About Salvation

One of Ta Ethne’s most popular articles was  “What the Virgin Birth Teaches Us About Salvation”, from the introduction of our book, Dominoes: A Dynamic Commentary on Jude.  Today we will supplement that by focusing on Lazarus. You know the story – Lazarus, friend of Jesus, has died and been in the tomb for some days. Jesus appears on the scene and commands him to come out of the grave, which he does, alive and well (John chapter 11). This story, as powerful and compelling as it is, also teaches us something about salvation.

Lazarus is dead. Stone cold dead. Four days dead. He was as dead physically as we are spiritually. Ephesians 2:1 tells us that everyone is dead spiritually and in need of a spiritual resurrection. Dead people cannot do anything. I have pastored over 20 years, worked for 3 years at a funeral home and have been a chaplain for 3 different hospice organizations. I know dead people. I have been around hundreds of them. Dead people don’t do anything except decompose. They cannot heap themselves. Spiritually dead people cannot help themselves either. Just as Lazarus was unaware of life, those spiritually dead are unaware of spiritual life.

Lazarus was commanded to come alive by Jesus. The Spirit of God drew him back to life. Those who are spiritually dead need God’s Spirit to draw them back to life. They need the Spirit to breathe on them and impart new life. Lazarus was bound in grave clothes. They weighed him down. He needed to be freed by someone else. So do we. We need the command of Jesus to have everything that weighs us down removed. Only God’s Spirit can grant life and freedom. It was for this Jesus came – to set the captives free, to heal the broken-hearted and give sight to the blind. Not just physically, but spiritually as well.

Lazarus teaches us that we are totally dependent on Jesus saving us. We cannot save ourselves – we are spiritually dead. We cannot see the blessed Savior to go to Him. We are as blind and bound as Lazarus in a dark tomb wrapped up like a mummy. We have to have Jesus call our name. His sheep, those He calls, will hear His voice. The Spirit will grant them new life, replace their heart of stone with a new heart. The Spirit grants them faith to believe on Jesus, the ability to repent of their sins and the power to live as a Christian from then on.

Just as people were amazed and astounded at Lazarus, transformed from a corpse to a walking, talking, laughing, living man again, they will be just as astounded and amazed to see a sinner, a reprobate changed into a son of God.

That’s a lesson from Lazarus. May we learn from it and share it with those who have never heard of our amazing Lord.

Deceptive Philosophy

I am putting up a link to a very good article on Deceptive Philosophy by Thomas Johnson. This is an older article, written almost 10 years ago, but it is just as relevant today as back then. The text is Colossians 2:1-10. As you read the article, pay close attention to his “homework” assignment on the final page. It would be a good exercise for you and your small group, Sunday School class or church to attempt. Enjoy the read.

 

http://www.contra-mundum.org/mbs/mbstexte016.pdf

 

Review of Exploring Christian Theology

I conducted a review of Exploring Christian Theology: The Church, Spiritual Growth and the End Times by Nathan Holsteen and Michael Svigel for Bethany House Publishing. I was given a copy of the book to review. This was written for the lay person, not the theology student and was, overall, an enjoyable read. Here is a copy of my review on Goodreads:

This was an interesting theology book. It was written for the average church member who wants to grow deeper in the faith, but doesn’t want to take a seminary theology course. For the audience it was written to, this book does an admirable job, especially in the first part on the church and spiritual growth. The second half of the book, on the end times, was not as clearly written and I fear it will just make people all the more muddled. Overall though, I must say I enjoyed the writing style. It was refreshing to see theology written in a relevant way, with a sense of humor thrown in. As a pastor, I believe that this book would be helpful to any congregation, especially as it would give me (or another pastor) even more opportunities to dialogue with our (my) congregants about why they believe what they believe.

While I have quibbles in some areas (who doesn’t?) I do appreciate the effort they made.The best part about the book? The quotes and shelf space sections where they list a library of books for further study. If this gets more congregants interested in theology I am all for it.

Understanding the Culture

Here at Ta Ethne we read a lot. From the Huffington Post and Slate to Red State and the Washinton Examiner. We peruse both CNN and Fox, World Magazine, Christianity Today, Renewal and Patheos. Scientific American and Smithsonian? Check. Christian Pirate Radio and White Horse Inn? Check. All of these are on our list as well as many others. Why? So that we understand our culture. We will read the same article from different perspectives, liberal to conservative, Christian to atheist. Not only are we able to glean insights that way, we begin to understand how we can take the truths of Scripture and share them with others in a relevant way.

I speak at a lot of churches. Many of them have good pastors, who explain Scripture’s meaning to their congregants faithfully. Unfortunately, I don’t see many who can tell their people how to apply those truths to everyday life, and even fewer who can explain to their flock how to tell those truths to unbelievers in a way that is relevant and engaging.

If you want to know how to reach people for Christ, one needs to know where they are so you can meet them there and move them forward, Paul was a master at this and so was Jesus. Here is an exercise that may shock you. Pick a story, any story about a church or ministry or prayer. Read it on at least 3 different sites, one liberal, one conservative, and anything in between. Then, scroll down and read all the comments. Look at the hatred, the sarcasm, the ungodly and immoral values being touted in a superior way by those who do not know Christ. Go to YouTube and watch an inspirational video and read the comments posted there as well. It is better than talk radio in that you begin to see the worldviews expressed with no restraint by those for whom civility has disappeared.

Then go in prayer before the Lord. Pick up your Bible and read. Pray again, asking God to show you how to share His love, His truth, with those who hate Him and are under condemnation. It will change your life. You will begin to become salt and light to a world that is dark and diseased. You will be following in the footsteps of the New Testament apostles as you enter a world that needs Jesus desperately, but doesn’t even know that they do.

The Impact of a Song

Many followers of our blog will have noticed that there are a lot of song lyrics that get posted here. There is good reason for that. Each song whose lyrics have been used are ones which have personally impacted my life. Today, there will be another song’s lyrics posted, this one written by Steve Green. When I first heard this song, many years ago, I was a young man. It impacted me then and has continued to impact me to this day. I have tried to live my life in such a way that God would not be ashamed of me (though I am positive I have shamed Him many times) and in a way that would not cause His name or reputation to be impugned (although I am positive I have sometimes failed in this also). At any rate, this song continues to challenge me to be faithful, and I hope it challenges you as well. Enjoy the lyrics, find a CD of Steve Green and buy it — he has many songs that are inspiring and that give glory to our God.

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

CHORUS:
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

REPEAT CHORUS

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful