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Institute For Creation Research

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November 24, 2018
What Began at Philippi
“Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi . . . Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:1-2)

The church at Philippi was birthed on one of Paul’s missionary journeys. He was summoned there in a vision by an unidentified man in Macedonia (now Greece) pleading for him to come and help them (Acts 16:9-10). Recognizing the call was from the Lord, he went immediately.

Paul’s European ministry began with the conversion of Lydia, who worshipped God and readily followed Paul’s teachings (Acts 16:14). Paul soon traveled to Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens, where he encountered much hardship and persecution. But the work he had begun in Philippi continued, eventually spreading throughout the continent. The intensely personal letter he later wrote to the Philippian church contains some of the most important doctrinal truths concerning Christ and our victorious life in Christ in all of Scripture.

God’s sovereign plan included Europe. He saw to it that the governmental roadblocks and personal opposition were ultimately unsuccessful. Today, many individual Christians trace their ancestry back to Europe. Great evangelistic movements and worldwide missionary efforts over the centuries have European roots. The God-ensured preservation of the Scriptures primarily occurred there as well. Many of the important Bible study tools and preaching helps come through the Western church. Many seminaries and Bible colleges, as well as hospitals and humanitarian efforts, stem from the Western tradition.

Today, great numbers are thankfully turning to Christ around the world, but much of the Church’s work began in Philippi as a faithful witness fearlessly and sacrificially preached the Good News of Jesus Christ. JDM

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Why Mark’s Gospel Makes Perfect Sense as an Ancient Biography

During my investigation of Christianity, there were some troubling aspects of the gospels that I needed to resolve. In particular, I wanted to better understand the kind of literary genre they represented.

“When I go to the bookstore and look in the biography section, I don’t see the same kind of writing that I see in the gospels,” I said. “When somebody writes a biography these days, they thoroughly delve into the person’s life. But look at Mark—he doesn’t talk about the birth of Jesus or really anything through Jesus’ early adult years. Instead he focuses on a three-year period and spends half his gospel on the events leading up to and culminating in Jesus’ last week. How do you explain that?”

Craig Blomberg held up a couple of fingers. “There are two reasons,” he replied. “One is literary and the other is theological.

Blomberg is widely considered one of the country’s foremost authorities on the biographies of Jesus, which are called the four gospels. He received his doctorate in New Testament from Aberdeen University in Scotland, later serving as a senior research fellow for Tyndale House at Cambridge University in England, where he was part of an elite group of international scholars that produced a series of acclaimed works on Jesus. He is currently a professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary.

“The literary reason is that basically, this is how people wrote biographies in the ancient world,” he continued. “They did not have the sense, as we do today, that it was important to give equal proportion to all periods of an individual’s life or that it was necessary to tell the story in strictly chronological order or even to quote people verbatim, as long as the essence of what they said was preserved. Ancient Greek and Hebrew didn’t even have a symbol for quotation marks.

“The only purpose for which they thought history was worth recording was because there were some lessons to be learned from the characters described. Therefore, the biographer wanted to dwell at length on those portions of the person’s life that were exemplary, that were illustrative, that could help other people, that gave meaning to a period of history.”

“And what’s the theological reason?” I asked.

“It flows out of the point I just made. Christians believe that as wonderful as Jesus’ life and teachings and miracles were, they were meaningless if it were not historically factual that Christ died and was raised from the dead and that this provided atonement, or forgiveness, of the sins of humanity.

“So Mark in particular, as the writer of probably the earliest gospel, devotes roughly half his narrative to the events leading up to and including one week’s period of time and culminating in Christ’s death and resurrection.

“Given the significance of the crucifixion,” he concluded, “this makes perfect sense in ancient literature.”

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What We See in Each Other

1 Samuel 16:1–13

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to find a new king. When he got there, Samuel saw Eliab, one of Jesse’s sons. “Surely, he is the one God has chosen to be the next king,” Samuel thought. Evidently, like the previous king, Saul, Eliab was tall and striking. But Eliab was not the one God had in mind.

God warned Samuel not to assess people by their physical appearance. God reminded the old prophet that he doesn’t look at the outside; he looks at the inside. So each of Jesse’s sons passed before Samuel, but God did not indicate that any of them was the man God had sent him to find. Finally, David, the youngest son, came in from the fields. Then the Lord spoke to Samuel, telling him this was the right one.

When we look at someone’s outward appearance, we often fail to see what God sees. This message was clearly illustrated to writer John Fisher when he was speaking at a seminar. “A couple came in late, and I could see that they were in love,” Fisher said. “I couldn’t help but notice the woman was very attractive, while the guy was a real nerd.

“What could she see in him?” Fisher wondered. From the outside, this couple didn’t look like a match. “Then I realized she was blind,” Fisher said.

“What did she see in him? She saw everything that was important in a person. She saw love. While another woman might not have gotten past this man’s unimpressive exterior, she was blind to that. She only saw his heart. Blessed are the blind, for they can see people as they really are.”

Like Samuel, we often make judgments based on what people look like. But God doesn’t use looks as his criteria. He evaluates people by what’s in their hearts. He sees their character, their faithfulness and their commitment to him.

During courtship, we can be charmed by someone’s good looks, attentiveness or flattery. All of that can be fleeting. Over the course of a marriage, the real person breaks through. Perhaps as your marriage ages, your spouse’s outward appearance starts to change. Your spouse grays, loses hair or gains a little weight. Perhaps the two of you fall into a rut, and the special treatment that marked your dating period begins to wane. That’s when we need to remember what the Lord said to Samuel about focusing on what’s in the heart rather than what’s physically noticeable.

The success of a marriage comes, not in finding who we think initially is the “perfect” person for us, but in our willingness to adjust to the real person we married.
Jennifer Schuchmann

Let’s Talk

  • What characteristics initially attracted us to each other? What qualities do we treasure most today?
  • The blind woman never saw her partner’s appearance. Like God, she only saw his heart. Would we rather have people look at our appearance or at our heart? Why?
  • What steps are we taking to improve our faith, our character and our commitment to God?

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