Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The God Who Made the World

The Mighty One, God the LORD,
     speaks and summons the earth
     from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
     God shines forth.
Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
     before him is a devouring fire,
     around him a mighty tempest.
He calls to the heavens above
     and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me my faithful ones,
     who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
The heavens declare his righteousness,
     for God himself is judge! Selah
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
     O Israel, I will testify against you.
     I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
     your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I will not accept a bull from your house
     or goats from your folds.
For every beast of the forest is mine,
     the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
     and all that moves in the field is mine.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
     for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
     or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
     and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
     I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
But to the wicked God says:
     “What right have you to recite my statutes
     or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
     and you cast my words behind you.
If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
     and you keep company with adulterers.
“You give your mouth free rein for evil,
     and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother;
     you slander your own mother’s son.
These things you have done, and I have been silent;
     you thought that I was one like yourself.
     But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
“Mark this, then, you who forget God,
     lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
     to one who orders his way rightly
     I will show the salvation of God!”
(Psalm 50, ESV)

Saturday Outreach

September, 2016

It has been a couple months, but the last time that I was given an opportunity to publish on this blog, I started an occasional “series” to focus on the question of who God is, with the goal of encouraging more of a focus on that in our evangelism.  I kicked it off with a (feeble) look at God’s mercy in this post.  This week I’d like to look at the series’ unofficial “theme passage” of Acts 17:16-34 (we’ll focus primarily on Acts 17:22-34) to see how Paul used knowing who God is as the driving reason for calling his hearers to repentance.

No Apologetics at this Areopagus

If you have ever done anything with evangelism (taken a class, gone out with a group, etc), then you are likely quite familiar with the Acts 17 passage.  It’s what I like to call the third in the “trifecta” of verses that are used to support various apologetic approaches in evangelism (the other two being 2 Cor 10:3-5 and 1 Peter 3:15).

Just a heads up that I intend to look at the Acts passage strictly as an example of how Paul used his limited time “on the box” to tell those who had an entirely pagan view of God who He is, and won't be getting into a discussion on potential apologetics involved.  I think there is certainly some of that in the form of a worldview apologetical argument, but also think that sometimes that aspect is overstated, overshadowing the plain example of Paul speaking to these men.


One caveat as we look at this example: there is a temptation for us to use the Bible to find the way to evangelize, enshrine it into a formula, and then either stress out when we “fail” (“Ah, man - I should have asked if he’s ever told a lie!”) or else shake our heads worrying others aren’t doing it right (“You know so and so never uses the law...”).  I want to make it clear that promoting yet one more “method” is not the intent here :)

It is true that there is only one gospel of Jesus Christ and men must repent of their sins and trust in His work and death and resurrection, and I’m not suggesting that all evangelism methods are created equal nor are all good to use - we do need to be ever diligent that we are sharing the gospel rightly, and that we are striving to do it as best as we can - but evangelism isn’t a cookie cutter process, and we need to be careful about turning descriptive passages of what people did in a situation into prescriptive formulas of what we must do in every situation.  We can, however, get much helpful insight and wisdom by understanding what they did in their contexts.

So, though there may be application, when we look at this passage remember that we are not looking to find a pattern to follow.  Rather, we are looking at what Paul did in a real situation at a real time in history for real people with a real (mis)understanding of God, and then seeing what we can learn from that that might help/apply to us.

Why Acts 17?

Having said all that - I personally like this Acts example because the idea of a land full of many gods and ways seems somehow familiar in the context of America 2016.  There’s not a one-to-one comparison, but between politicians, media, seeker-friendly churches, heretical and false religions, anyone-say-anything social media, and the spiritual/yoga/Kumbaya movements, we have a glut of idolatrous thoughts today.  Claims on who God is range from flat out spiritual nonsense (Mother God, anyone?) to blatantly heretical gods and systems - we even have the god of there is no God!  In a lot of ways Athens, with their love to have their ears tickled by new ideas (Acts 17:20-21), sounds to me like today where as long as you stay within acceptable (generally liberal-defined) bounds, your philosophy on life and God is considered worth telling and hearing.

In Athens, seeing in their idols a lack of understanding about the true God, Paul focused on describing who He is.  I like that part, also.  I often wonder at times if we don’t get the cart before the horse speaking of the law before making sure the person even understands who the Judge is.


There’s a lot in this passage, but for our purposes we’ll break it into three major components:

Who God Is (Acts 17:24-28)
Who God is Not (Acts 17:28-29)
Who God Is Means Repent (Acts 17:30-31)

Who God Is

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’
(Acts 17:22-28, NASB)

Having seen how religious the people were (Acts 17:22) based on the numerous idols (Acts 17:16), Paul takes advantage of a particular altar they had erected to the “unknown God” (Acts 17:23) to speak about the true God.  Because it was the idols that first provoked him in his spirit (Acts 17:16), I think it would be safe to say that had there not have been an “unknown God” altar, Paul would still have focused on speaking about who God is.  However, it provided for a great (God-ordained) springboard to launch into his proclamation.

And what a spring!  In 5 short verses I count at least 10 different attributes (or variants of attributes) of God, though I’m sure someone wiser could pull out even more.  As you read through the following list, look closely for an emphasis on one particular aspect, which he appears to be drawing out:

  • God made the world and all things in it (v24) [Creator]
  • God is Lord of heaven and earth (v24) [Transcendent King]
  • God does not dwell in temples made by man (v24) [Self-Sufficient]
  • God does not rely on, nor need man (v25) [Self-Sustaining]
  • God gives life and breath to all people (v25) [Sustaining Creator]
  • God gives all things to all people (v25) [Sustainer, Gracious]
  • God made all mankind from one man (v26) [Wise Creator]
  • God made mankind to spread and live over the entire earth (v26) [King]
  • God appoints the times (beginning through end) of each person (v26) [Sovereign]
  • God sets the boundaries where mankind lives (v26) [Sovereign]
  • God has made man rely entirely on Him so that they would seek Him (v27) [Kind, Sovereign Creator]
  • God is “not far from each of us” (v27) [Immanent]
  • God actively causes us to exist (v28) [Sustaining Creator]

To be sure, a theologian could squeeze out much more than this feeble attempt, but even with a cursory look we see that Paul has proclaimed a great wealth of knowledge about God, packed tightly for rapid fire, maximum force.

As a side note from this highly uneducated fellow: the Athens passage doesn’t say how long Paul spoke, but because there’s a clear beginning and end (Acts 17:22, 31-32), and because it is written as a quote, it seems quite possible that Luke’s record isn’t merely a summary of a longer speech, but an actual representation of what was said, making this presentation highly focused and to the point.  That’s just an observation and for free...and maybe something to consider when stop-light preaching ;)

So did you catch the prevailing “attribute” or characteristic of God in all that Paul said about Him? There were at least 5 times that God as Creator was referenced directly (once in each verse).  In addition to that, several of the other attributes derive from God as Creator and the rights that are His as a result (ex: appointing their “times” and where and how they were to live, etc).

If we were to take away one aspect from Acts 17 to work into our own presentations, it might be this one. We’ll see in a moment that who God is will drive Paul’s call to repentance, but we shouldn’t miss the fundamental point being raised.  As Creator, God has full rights and privileges over what He creates (which is everything!).  We often talk about the the law of God, which is useful to help us see our sinfulness, but we aren’t to obey the law just because God is big and powerful and can make us do what He wants.  A right response to a knowledge of Him certainly is fear, but it is because He is that Creator that he has the right to decide how all things are to be (law, place to live, time we’re born and time we die, eternal punishment, etc).  Because He’s good and holy and just, as believers we can gladly follow Him, knowing that His law is a delight (Psalm 119:77); but it is because He’s the Creator that He has the right to do and require as He wills - He neither owes us anything, nor is required to do anything for us.

That one theological underpinning puts us (mankind) in our place.  He decides whether we’re male or female and if we’ll be single our whole life or married with a dozen kids.  Just as He tells the seas to go so far and no further (Job 38:11), He sets what we will do and where we will go...and when and how we will die.  And as the Creator who has been spurned by His creation, He sets when there will be judgement, what punishment is like, and how long it will last.  Rightly understanding who God is as Creator is enough to understand why we must obey Him (whether or not we suppress the truth of that knowledge is another thing - Romans 1).

That can be expanded much further (ex: God’s nature informs His laws and response to our sin, etc), but I just wanted to highlight one thing in particular that Paul is telling the Athenians: God is the Creator.

Who God is Not

...for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
(Acts 17:28-29, NASB)

When Paul first started his speech, he referenced the idols (“objects of worship”) as a lead-in to talking about the true God.  After laying out who God is, Paul circled back to the those false ideas to contrast with God by effectively saying: “This God, the God I’ve described, the God you worship in ignorance, this ‘Divine Nature’ is not at all like you have thought.  You thought of him as gold, silver, or stone - a mere image with no life, made by man and reliant on man.  But, no - it is man who depends entirely and completely on this self-sufficient, sustaining, transcendent yet immanent Creator for all he has, even his very movements and breath and life is a result of His sovereign will.”

Because I’ve heard Christians unthinkingly refer to people “back then” as foolishly bowing down to idols they created (as if there isn’t that very same thing going on even today in parts of the world!), to clarify: Paul isn’t saying that because they made their statues out of particular material, or that they made a physical image at all, that that was the problem.  He wasn’t saying their art wasn’t enough like the true God.  Rather, their problem (like ALL people of ALL time) originated from their thoughts and ideas of who God even is (Acts 17:29) and that spilled over into what they made and worshiped.  Their altars and idols was merely the outworking of an inward condition.  Paul even alluded to the foolishness of those thoughts because as images of God (His “offspring”, Acts 17:29) they should have known better that God wouldn’t be like the mute, dumb, lame gods portrayed by their art!

Something else to point out - when saying who God is and who He is not, Paul does not once “argue the point” (trying to convince, etc).  I would suggest that he’s using a presuppositional approach...though I fear that would be my presupposition showing :)  However, the take-away point here is that He has left all conviction of the truth of who God is to the Holy Spirit.  He has stated who God is unblinkingly as fact.

Who God is Means Repent

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
(Acts 17:30-31, NASB)

After speaking about who God is and how the Athenians thoughts of Him fall short, Paul then comes to his climax of what that means (you have to wonder if they expected this when they invited him to speak!): “Therefore” (knowing who He is and that we exist entirely at His pleasure), “repent”.  And why repent?  Effectively: “Because this sovereign God who created you and keeps you existing even at this moment has fixed a day to judge you in righteousness.”  Paul here adds to the proclamation of who God is - He is a good (a righteous) Judge.

Another way to say this might be: “Therefore, the sovereign, good God who has given you life and has sustained you and continues to keep you in existence has fixed a day when He will rightly judge you - so repent.”  Notice there’s no explicit explanation of what is a sin or talk of law, but simply, “Here is who God is and He is going to judge you - now repent.”

When God is known, when the Holy Spirit graciously affects our hearts with that knowledge, one can only say, “I am undone!  I’m a man of unclean lips!” (Is 6:5).  Paul declared who God is, and the Athenians' sin of idolatry was "undone".

I think this is important to remember: We all know that we are sinful.  We may not know in the way that we (when non-believing) walk around all day thinking we are sinful (quite the contrary - we justify and make ourselves “good”!), but when set next to the holy God, we immediately know we aren’t Him...and quake (c.f. James 2:19*).
* yes, James is speaking of demons, but the unbeliever, if he or she begins to have an understanding of who God actually is, should start to shudder as well...we pray unto salvation!

Note that I have intentionally “skipped” discussing the reference to Jesus (“through a Man whom He appointed”) because our focus here is on knowing who God is that drives knowing why we need to repent.  In our context (America) we can say that in addition to showing who the true God is, we also need to show who the true Jesus is - we have not only an altered, unknown God, but also an unknown Savior.  As we’ve discussed elsewhere, however, with someone who doesn’t have a right idea of God or their standing before Him as sinners, they likely aren’t yet ready to understand the glorious significance of Jesus.  Expanding on that wasn’t Paul’s focus, and so we’ll leave that topic for later.

Closing Thoughts

With those in Athens, Paul saw the idols and their rebellious misunderstanding of God, and approached them from their starting place.  The Jews, though astray, knew who God was from their Scriptures - they had been given the Law - and it made for a good starting place for Paul.  Many (most?) of the Gentiles in Athens, however, knew nothing about this “strange deity” that Paul proclaimed (Acts 17:18).  By setting out who God is, there was no need to emphasize some specific laws they had broken as proof of their sinfulness.  Indeed, they were “a law to themselves” (Rom 2:14) and by the hearing of who God is, the Holy Spirit was pleased to use that to work fruit of repentance in Dionysius, Damaris, and others (Acts 17:34).  Whether they believed unto salvation at this point from just what Luke has recorded Paul saying, or whether Paul expanded more on Christ privately, we’ll leave for wiser men to say.

What can we take away from this passage?

For starters, this is America 2016 and NOT 1st century Athens.  We should never go to the Bible to attempt to extract a “method” that we apply blindly today as if that’s the way.  The Bible teaches us (through instruction and example) how to live in this world, and that includes evangelism.  Paul’s approach in this section was for the hearers at Athens and not for us, so it was not instruction on how to evangelize.

However, in seeing how he approached them, we can learn from his example.  He understood where they were, and what they had wrong.  Yes, they needed to know Christ and yes, they were all sinners.  But Paul perceived that they didn’t even know who God was, and setting the record straight became his focus.  More specifically, he purposefully highlighted that God was their Creator (with implied rights over them).

Second - though we don’t live in 1st century Athens, we share one (at least) major common issue: we (America) have many ideas of who God is (many thoughts and images).  Each idea drives how we live (“God is love [as I define it], therefore, you know, love wins!  Yay me!”).  The average men and women walking by don’t know who the God of the Bible is.

Let me repeat that: very few people walking by on the street know God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible.  Not the God Paul described.  Not the Creator who has full rights and privileges over His creation.  Not the God who is right to judge and right to condemn.  Instead, their mouths are full of wooden caricatures of the living God.  They can’t tell the difference between ‘a’llah and Yahweh - indeed even Ganesh is just another blind man’s interpretation of the same thing.  God is a running gag on late night TV and a foul word early Sunday morning.  He’s twice as tolerant as Phil and nearly as good as Oprah .  He’s man’s best idea ever, history’s most elaborate con, and, um, stardust!  He’s a man-hating woman in a bigoted black man’s body.  He’s all about peace and love and gender expression, man.  Oh, and he LOVES his guns and apple pie and baseball games.

In a postmodern world, people like hearing many ideas (cf. Acts 17:21) and have a “live and let live” (if you aren’t Christian) attitude about it all.  We are a very religious nation, yet think God is the art of our imaginations (secularists are currently fighting an internal war as their worldview “origin” problems have begun to overwhelm and a form of spirituality is creeping in, even there).

As a fellow “ambassador of Christ”, let me suggest here in closing that we need to seriously consider whether or not our work starts at arguing man as sinner, which presumes hearers have a roughly Biblical idea of God, or whether we actually need to step back like Paul did with the men of Athens and say “The God who made the world and all things in it...”

Abortion Clinic and North Hollywood

Continue to pray for Don as he is at the abortion clinic in Mission Hills two days a week, every week on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8am - 10am.  Contact Steve if you would like to join them if you would like to confirm Don will be there, or just show up either day as he almost always is!

Also, Steve and Paul are often greeting the early, half awake commuters on their way to work Wednesday mornings.  If you would like to join them, ask Steve to add you to his text notification list.  It 1) helps for him to know if someone will be going with him, and 2) makes sure you get cancellation notices the evening before so you don’t show up only to find yourself alone!


Michael Kruger
Is the Bible Foundational to Christianity? Engaging with Andy Stanley
One of the most profound challenges for Christians as we live in an ever-more-hostile world is how to properly defend the faith against the incessant attacks against it.  And these attacks have taken their toll. We have seen far too many casualties over the years as people leave the church because they had doubts or questions that were never answered.
It is precisely this issue that is behind Andy Stanley’s recent sermon, “The Bible Told Me So” (preached Aug 28, 2016). Stanley, son of well-known Atlanta pastor, Charles Stanley, is the senior pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA.
Note that I think Kruger is perhaps a little too gracious with Andy Stanley as his waywardness isn't confined to one recent, confusing sermon as is implied in this article.  However, his overall argument against Stanley's assertions in the particular sermon is, I think, quite helpful.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Summer 2016

The New Covenant - Part 2 of 2

The New Covenant is fulfilled in Christ

Luke 1:68-79

“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

(Continued below)


Summer Outreach, July and August 2016


July 2, 2016

July 9, 2016


The New Covenant is ratified by the blood of Christ

Hebrews 9:11-14

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come,[a] with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 9:16-23

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.


Burbank (continued)

July 23

July 30 - Burbank Car Show

August Outreaches


The New Covenant is a covenant of peace

Isaiah 54:9-10

“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Ezekial 34:25

“I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.

Ezekial 37:26

Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.



July 16, 2016 - Cruise Night Car Show

August 27, 2016


The New Covenant is unalterable and everlasting

Isaiah 59:21 (and 54:10)

“As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”

Isaiah 55:3

Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David.

Isaiah 61:8

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery for burnt offering;
I will direct their work in truth,
And will make with them an everlasting covenant.

Ezekial 16:60

“Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.

Hebrews 13:20

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,


North Hollywood


All saints have an interest and blessing in The New Covenant

Hebrews 8:10-12

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

The wicked have no interest in The New Covenant

Ephesians 2:12

that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.


Mission Hills - Abortion Clinic


Punishment for despising The New Covenant

Hebrews 10:29-30

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”

(Source: The MacArthur Topical Bible, John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson. NKJV)



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