This weekly blog contains expositional Bible teaching on topics related to practical Christian living. 

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Nehemiah and Authentic Fellowship–Part 3: Defense

Part 3:  Defense   Nehemiah 3:1-32
 
Authentic fellowship involves having authentic relationships with others built upon common interests, goals, and approaches.  This unity should not, however, be confused with uniformity. God provides us with personality, will,

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Nehemiah and Authentic Fellowship–Part 2: Diligence

Part 2:  Diligence  Nehemiah 2:11-20
 
Nehemiah 2:11-20 describe the prophet’s diligence in ascertaining the challenges of rebuilding the Jerusalem wall following Jews’ Babylonian Captivity.  These verses address seven principles that underpin authentic fellowship.

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Nehemiah and Authentic Fellowship–Part 1: the Dilemma

Rebuilding Walls, Filling Gaps, and Rejecting Distractions Part 1:  Dilemma (Nehemiah 1:1-2:10)  

When people speak of Nehemiah, they often think of him rebuilding a wall and persevering through distractions.  Over the next several weeks, I will comment on what occurs before, during, and after the rebuilding of the

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But I Press On (Part 6): Language of Forwardness–-Continued

Part 6:  Language of Forwardness (Philippians 3:14)
 
Having introduced the practical realities of the doctrine of glorification and the relationship to spiritual progression in Philippians 3:13, Paul continues in verse fourteen.  As if putting the nail in the coffin, providing the proverbial

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But I Press On (Part 5): Language of Forwardness–-Continued

Part 5:  Language of Forwardness (Philippians 3:12-13)
 
By incorporating the language of forwardness in Philippians 3:12-14, Paul elaborates on one of the goals of believers.  What’s our goal?

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But I Press On (Part 4): Language of Forwardness

Part 4:  Language of Forwardness (Philippians 3:12)
 
I’ve talked about the language of finance and how it reflects Paul’s gains and losses with Christ and also discussed the language of faith and how it speaks to Paul’s faith and righteousness with

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But I Press On (Part 3): Language of Faith

Part 3:  Language of Faith  (Philippians 3:9-11)
 
Previously, we’ve  talked about the language  of finance and the doctrine  of original sin. Let’s now look at the second point:  the language of faith.  In a real sense, Paul  touches on two other essential

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But I Press On (Part 2) Language of Finance

Part 2:  Language of Finance (Philippians 3:7-8)
 
In last week’s blog, I talked about why it’s important to understand the concepts of progression and regression that underpin Philippians 3:7-14.  On today, we’ll focus on how the language of finances contributes to our understanding of the doctrine of original sin.

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But I Press On (Part 1) Overview

Part 1:  Overview
 
On today, I will talk on the subject “But I Press On”  based on the Apostle Paul’s account recorded in Philippians 3:7-14.

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God and The Hawthorne Effect: Part 1 (Overview)

Part 1 (Overview) Exodus 2:11-12    
 
You may be familiar with the Hawthorne Effect also known as the observer effect.  It relates to changes in human behavior when people realize they’re being observed.

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Almost Isn’t Good Enough: A Reason for the Defense Part 10

Part 10: Require a Response to the Gospel Message (Acts 26:27-28)

 
When all is said and done, the answer to every question boils down to “Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe.” This is not the case, however, when we’re asked or we ask someone else about accepting Christ as Personal Savior. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in Acts 26:27:28 when talking to King Agrippa. On today, I’ll discuss how interrogative, declarative, and evasive statements exemplify Principle #10: Require A Response to the Gospel Message. As a context to these verses, Paul previously rejects Festus’ claims of his insanity when discussing Christ’s resurrection and redirects his attention to King Agrippa.
 
Acts 26:27 contains Paul’s interrogative statement: “[Do] you believe the Prophets?” (NASB). Grammatically, an interrogative statement consists of posing a question. Notice Paul’s strategy behind his interrogative statement which we should imitate when witnessing to unbelievers. First, his question has a premise of common or universal knowledge. The verb “believe” focuses on irrefutable evidence of the veracity of scriptures and those who teach them. In other words, Paul reminds Agrippa that the Prophets were real people who taught Old Testament Scriptures which foretold of Christ the Savior. Secondly, his question also contains the word “believe” because it relates to belief leading to having saving faith to accept this same Christ as one’s Lord and Savior.
Paul’s approach is simple but effective. It’s not enough to simply “believe” in a vague concept of religion because even demons “believe” in the reality of Christ but they reject the plan of salvation (James 2:19). How many of us encounter people who blindly believe in anything just to believe in something? An interrogative statement invites a common sense approach to apologetics.
 
Paul follows his interrogative statement with a declarative one in the latter part of verse 27: “I know that you do.” Declarative statements imply a confident and emphatic agreement to what has been previously said. Here, Paul reminds us of the importance of emphasizing an important truth of the Gospel: we should lovingly but firmly address unbelievers’ tendency to deny the undeniable. We can easily point to God’s presence through the lens of natural revelation based on things we can see, i.e. clouds, rock formations, the sun, the animal kingdom, etc. In other words, it’s undeniable that creation (the universe) and creatures (humans and animals) must have a Creator. His name is God (Psalms 19:1-14). From there, we can shift conversation to our compelling Christian worldview grounded by the Holy Trinity; sin; and reasons behind Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
 
While Acts 26:27 focuses on interrogative and declarative statements, verse 28 includes an evasive statement. In general, people make evasive statements to avoid addressing an issue at hand or to provide an ambiguous response.
 
Rather than explicitly stating whether he accepts or rejects Paul’s call to salvation, King Agrippa comments on his view about Paul’s ineffective persuasive speech. This leads to several considerations for us. First, effective evangelism does not depend on our charisma or oral presentation skills but on the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-11 and 1 Corinthians 4:20-21). By the same token, Christians should always be prepared to provide a clear, accurate, and logical apologetic defense of the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15-16).
 
Second, we should expect evasive statements from unbelievers who may want to redirect the focus of conversation. How can we get the conversation back on track if this occurs? I’ll share some strategies next week as we conclude with our last principle.

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Almost Isn’t Good Enough: A Reason for the Defense Part 9

Part 9: Reject the Claims of Insanity (Acts 26:24-26)

 

My favorite Shakespearean play is Hamlet, in part because of other characters’ debate about whether Hamlet’s “madness” is genuine or fabricated.  During Paul’s apologetic defense of Christian faith, we also encounter a response to accusations of “madness” recorded in a Acts 26:24-26 and related to Principle #9:  Reject the Claims of Insanity.  

Most of Acts 26 involves Paul’s testimony directed to King Agrippa who visits Porcius Festus, Roman procurator of Judea.  Acts 26:24 begins a shift in the passage and reflects three concepts: the accusation, answer, and appeal about madness.
 
We see the accusation of madness or insanity in Acts 26:24 when Festus interrupts Paul after hearing claims about Jesus’ resurrection.  The severity of Festus’ accusation is grounded in two phrases. First, he declares “you are out of your mind!” which involves the concept of mainomai meaning to be insane or a raving lunatic (NASB).  Second, he claims “‘Your great learning is driving you mad’” because Paul’s “crazy whose words or actions fly in the face of common sense, whose reasoning or conduct is not understood, [for those] who do not observe propriety and decorum.”  
Festus’ accusations are very similar to those of unbelievers we often meet.  How many times have we heard claims that our reading, studying, teaching, and preaching the Word of God creates an intellectual and religious imbalance in our mind, leading to our inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality?  In other words, we’re told “You’re crazy! Christianity doesn’t make sense!” So how should we respond to such accusations, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 1:18?
 
Paul offers great insight about this matter by providing an answer about madness in Acts 26:25.  Notice how the verse’s language reflects a calm, courteous, and clear response. Paul offers a calm answer in contrast to Festus who uses a “loud voice” earlier in verse 24.  Paul also offers a courteous answer. How so? Why? Saying “most excellent Festus” helps diffuse an otherwise hostile argument. Here, Paul is courteous and respectful of Festus’ authority rather than rude and impatient.  We can learn a lot from his example when answering false claims of our “insanity” as Christians because people often, and sometimes legitimately, focus on our tone of voice and body language rather than our message. Paul’s clear answer is apparent by his comment about speaking “sober truth.” Here, “sober” (sōphrŏsunē) speaks of  “soundness of mind, sanity..self-control.” This claim directly contradicts Festus’ earlier accusations about Paul’s madness.
 

An appeal about Paul’s so-called madness occurs in Acts 26:26.  Here, he switches from addressing Festus to addressing King Agrippa.  Stanley Toussaint shares the view that “None of this—that is, Christ’s death and resurrection and the beginning of the church—could have escaped Agrippa’s attention. He was well-schooled in Judaism, and Christianity was no esoteric secret society.”  In other words, Paul appeals to King Agrippa’s eyes and mind to counteract Festus’ false characterization and to provide an opportunity for Agrippa to attest to the person and deity of Christ.  

Notice also Paul’s phrase “since I am persuaded…” which should sound familiar to us because it occurs in a slightly different form in Romans 8:38–39.  In both cases, “persuaded” (pĕithō) refers to being convinced of an argument based on logic and truth rather than irrational thinking.  As believers, we must appeal to unbelievers’ common sense about the overwhelming historical and religious evidence about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  
 
1  Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) 1997: Print.
 
2  Spicq, Ceslas, and James D. Ernest. Theological lexicon of the New Testament 1994 : 430–432. Print.

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