Monday, March 31, 2008

Greg Koukl - Was Jesus just a great teacher?

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason answers the question, "Was Jesus a great teacher and not God?" For more visit

The Exegetical Process:

C Michael Patton @ is reviewing the Exegetical process.

"It does not matter what it means to you.

It matters what it means".

The Spectrum of Independence in Youth Ministry, Part 3

dan miller @ reviews The Spectrum of Independence in Youth Ministry. He considers:


Independent Thinking

Hebrews 5:14-16, NIV

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 6:1-2, NIV

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment (emphasis added).

2 Peter 1:19-21, NIV

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Independence in Doctrine

Isaiah 66: 2, ESV

All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

How can the church and parents oversee teaching?

  • Membership.
  • Fellowship.
  • Direct observation.
  • Ask the teens.

Independence in Convictions

Colossians 2:16-17, NIV

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence (emphasis added).

A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism

A Biblical Critique of Infant BaptismMatt Waymeyer has begun a study @ on the topic of infant baptism. It is based on the introduction of the newly released A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism by Matt Waymeyer (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008), which can be purchased either through Amazon or KCP.

* * * * *

In his first argument, he deals with Infant Baptism and Acts 16:31-34

He begins: "The absence of a direct command to baptize babies would be easier to overlook if the Bible contained clear evidence that the New Testament church practiced infant baptism. After all, what we do not find mandated in Scripture, we sometimes find modeled there. In an effort to support their view, many paedobaptists point to the baptism of the jailer’s household in Acts 16:31-34 as an example of infants being baptized on the basis ofInfant Baptism and Acts 16 their father’s faith".

As Greg Welty explains,

it would be exceeding strange if (1) the whole household heard the gospel, (2) the jailer believed the gospel but the others rejected it, and (3) the whole household rejoiced that the head of the household believed while they themselves rejected the same message! Only the Baptist view avoids such absurdity.

His summary is that "Taken at face value, Acts 16:31-34 sets forth a hearing, believing, and rejoicing household which was baptized in response to its profession of faith, and therefore this passage fits much better with believer’s baptism than infant baptism".

From chapter 3 of A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism by Matt Waymeyer (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008), which can be purchased either through Amazon or KCP.

Matt Waymeyer deals with Infant Baptism and Acts 2:39

Apostolic PreachingHe begins: "Perhaps the most common argument for infant baptism is found in the climax of the apostle Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2. Peter has just set forth the redemptive work of Jesus (vv. 22–35) and proclaimed that He is both Lord and Christ (v. 36), and his Jewish listeners are cut to the heart, asking, “What shall we do?” (v. 37). Peter responds in Acts 2:38–39:

Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself (Acts 2:38–39).

The argument follows that "According to paedobaptists, the promise that Peter refers to in Acts 2:38–39 is the same promise that God made to Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 17:1–8. As Robert Booth explains:

This was a promise that [the Jews] would have heard of and talked about many times. Since they were now entering the new covenant era of the church, the question of their children’s relationship to the church would naturally have been on their minds. Being a Jew, Peter was certainly aware of their concern and immediately moved to address the issue. He assured them that the promise was still for them and their children. . . .

Therefore, writes Booth, “If the children of believers are embraced by the promises of the covenant, as certainly they are, then they must also be entitled to receive the initial sign of the covenant, which is baptism.”

The structure of his argument deals with:

What Is the Promise?

Who Are the Recipients of the Promise?

Who Was Baptized?

His summary notes: "In the end, the corresponding parallel that paedobaptists are looking for between Genesis 17 and Acts 2 is simply not there. Consider the differences: In Genesis 17, the covenant is “between Me and you and your descendants after you” without qualification (v. 10); but in Acts 2, the promise is for you and your children, but only for as many of you and your children as the Lord shall call to Himself (v. 39). In Genesis 17, the eight-day-old males are to be circumcised (v. 12); but in Acts 2, only those who repent are commanded to be baptized (v. 38). In Genesis 17, infants are circumcised; but in Acts 2, only those who received Peter’s word are baptized (v. 41). The account in Acts 2 actually provides better support for believer’s baptism than it does for infant baptism".

* * *

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Humour: How about just asking someone to come?

Many people are afraid that if they ask someone to come to church with them they'll be seen as a "Jesus Freak" or "Bible Banger." This humorous sketch explores the fears associated with asking someone to come to church. One man contemplates asking his co-worker and in the end it all works out. Produced by Community Christian Church and available for download at

Worship is Neither Evangelism or Entertainment

Quoting Robert Godfrey @

The call for entertainment in worship in our time is often cast in a particularly seductive form. Entertainment is often sold in the name of evangelism. We are told that we must make worship interesting and existing for the unconverted so that they will come to church and be converted. At first glance that argument is very appealing. We all want to see many brought to faith in Christ. Who wants to be against evangelism? But we must remember: entertainment is not evangelism, and evangelism is not worship. People are evangelized, not by a juggler, but by the presentation of the Gospel. And while evangelism may occur in worship as the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed, the purpose and focus of worship is that those who believe in Christ should gather and meet with God.

In 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 the apostle Paul comments on the presence of an unbeliever in a worship service. He does not call for the church to entertain the unbeliever or make him feel comfortable. Rather, in the clear and understandable articulation of the truth, the unbeliever should be convinced that he is a sinner. "So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!'" Faithful worship, where the primary purpose is the meeting of God with his people through his Word, may well have the secondary result that unbelievers will come to faith. But worship must not be constructed for the unbeliever. Rather, it is for God and the church.

The whole service in the church, then, must not be shaped for either entertainment or evangelism. Instead, it must serve to unite the people of God for their meeting with God.


Pleasing God in Our Worship

How To Listen To A Sermon

Stephen Altrogge @ reviews the elements in listening to a sermon. He notes:


Scripture places a high emphasis on preaching.

2 Timothy 2:1-2

Remember Who Is Speaking

Listen Intently

Listen With Humility

Apply The Word

"A final word. Always pray before you listen to a sermon. Apart from the power of God, all our sermon-listening will be pointless. But the good news is, God is eager to meet us on Sunday mornings".

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lay up for Sermon Outline: Yourselves Treasures in Heaven: Matthew 6:19-24

1) A SINGLE TREASURE Matthew 6:19-21

Luke 12:15-21

Matthew 19:21

Exodus 20:3, 17

Isaiah 51:8

John 6:27

1 Timothy 6:6-19

1 Peter 1:3-4

2) A SINGLE VISION Matthew 6:22-23

Colossians 3:1-2

Philippians 3:18-19

James 1:8

Deuteronomy 15:9

3) A SINGLE MASTER Matthew 6:24

Romans 6:16-22

John 8:34

Matthew 6:33

Friday, March 28, 2008

Post It Gospel

A dramatic portrayal of the Gospel told as an everyday narrative through sticky notes. This video can be purchased at under filmmaker Cougar Creative.

The Table, The Pulpit & the Square

Table Pulpit Square

Joe Thorn @ presents an interesting paradigm on speaking.

The description: "Though each picture represents a different environment of church life (the home, the gathered church and the public square) and encompasses all we do as a church, all I shared at the time was how it relates to outreach. Here is the paradigm fleshed out."

"The Table is the context in which our families practice hospitality. All families are encouraged to regularly welcome outsiders into their homes.

The Pulpit is the gathered church where the teaching of God’s word is central. This works itself out in three ways: 1) gathered worship, 2) small groups and 3) our discipleship system. 1 and 2 are clear enough. 3 (discipleship system) is the process by which we teach our people beyond the small groups and corporate worship. This will look different in every church. For us it is (and will develop to include) membership/gospel classes, periodic midweek classes (”Midweek Midrash?”) that will address specific issues, men and women ministries, etc. Outwardly the church is encouraging unbelievers to seek God with us, inwardly we are leading believers into maturity.

The Square is the church engaging the culture in four basic ways: 1) Participation, 2) Restoration, 3) Conversation and 4) Multiplcation.

Participation is our presence in the community we value and are a part of. We shop, eat and meet locally and are considered “regulars” in local establishments. This is the first and easiest level of entering the Square.

Restoration relates to mercy ministries where the gospel is giving birth to works of healing in the community. For us at present this is seen in our widely known Clothes Closet and our ESL classes.

Conversation is our dialog and evangelism in the community. Our neighbors are asking questions that the church can and should be addressing. We, as the church of Christ, hold the message of redemption and bear the privilege and responsibility of sharing the gospel with all who will listen. This includes everything from individuals meeting and talking with strangers, to public ministries of the church where conversation is happening outside of the Pulpit.

Multiplcation is the work of planting, restarting and strengthening other churches. This includes both our direct efforts as well as the networks we have partnered with. Think - our own plans to plant and Acts 29 (planting/restarting), and ministries like IX Marks and Founders Ministries (strengthening)".

On it's usage he concludes:" This paradigm works well for us because it is simple enough to pass the napkin test, allows for both attractional and incarnational ministry approaches, and regularly brings Christians and non Christians together. You can download a PDF of the paradigm here for a closer look".

Signs and Wonders, Heresy, and Love for God

John Piper@ reviews the concept of signs and wonders. He notes: Here’s the key passage:

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, “Let us go after other gods,” which you have not known, “and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)

Notice five things:

First, Moses tells us that signs and wonders in the service of heresy really happen. They are not tricks.

Second, some miracle workers aim to draw believers away from the true God.

Third, God has a design in these deceptive signs and wonders, and he has purposes for the heresies they support.

Fourth, love for God is what God is testing.

Fifth, I conclude from this that the heart that loves God sees through miraculous deception.

In his conclusion: "Understanding these five things from Deuteronomy 13:1-3 helps protect us from deceptive signs and wonders and from heresies. But understanding is not enough. Love for God is both the aim of God’s testing and the means by which his tests are passed. Understanding awakens us to our need to love him. But love for God sees through deceptive signs and wonders to the falsehood they support and flees to Christ. Love for God sees through the heresy and holds fast to him. May God deepen our love to him so that it has this kind of penetrating, protecting power".

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Greg Koukl - Why is Jesus the only way?

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason answers the question, "Why is Jesus the only way?" For more visit

Have You Heard His Voice?

old phone

Mark Altrogge @ discusses the voice of God. He notes:

Jesus surprised Mary Magdalene. She was looking for him, but he actually found her.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher) (Jn 20:16).

How incredible, amazing, and unbelievable is the joy that floods her heart.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (LK 19.10)

You did not choose me, but I chose you… (JN 15.16)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (JN10.27)

Deacons: Sober and Content

Thabiti Anyabwile @ reviews the Biblical qualities of a Deacon. He notes some practical questions may be helpful when thinking about potential deacons in the church.
1. Does the potential deacon drink alcohol?

2. Does the potential deacon exhibit godly generosity and self-denial or greed when it comes to personal financial matters?

3. Does the potential deacon encourage others in generosity or does he/she foster selfishness and financial self-concern in others?

4. Does the potential deacon demonstrate pastoral care and self-sacrifice when interacting with others in need?

5. Is the potential deacon honest in his or her financial dealings? Do they pay their bills on time? Do they report accurately on tax returns?

6. What is the potential deacon's attitude toward wealth?

Deacons filled with Spirit, evidencing self-control, are tremendous blessings from the Lord. They faithfully wait tables and therein multiply the ministry of the word and prayer in any congregation.

There are basically only three types of theology…

Erik Raymond @ posts a quote from RC Sproul’s book The Truth of the Cross. The book is short (small hardback-roughly 6.5×4.5″) and thus far extremely helpful.

“I have a theologian friend who frequently makes this statement: ‘In church history, there are basically only three types of theology.’ Although there have been many schools with numerous names and various subtle nuances, generically there are only three kinds of theology historically–what we call Augustinianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Pelagianism. In basic terms, Augustinianism holds that salvation rests on God’s grace alone; Semi-Pelagianism teaches that salvation rests on human cooperation with God’s grace; and Pelagianism believes that salvation can be achieved without God’s grace. Virtually every church in history has fallen into one of those three categories.

Augustinianism and Semi-Pelagianism, in my opinion, represent significant debates within the Christian family, differences of opinion about biblical interpretation and theology among Christians. However, Pelagianism in its various forms is not an intramural issue among Christians, but is at best sub-Christian and at worst anti-Christian. I say that because of Pelagianism’s view of the necessity of the cross.

Just as there are three basic types of theology, there are three basic views of the atonement with respect to its necessity historically. First, there are those believe that an atonement is absolutely unnecessary. The Pelagians in all their forms fall into this category….These schools of thought, by taking away the reconciling action of Christ from the New Testament, are left with nothing but moralisms. For them, the cross is where Jesus died as a moral example for them. They view Him as an existential hero, as One Who brings inspiration to us by His commitment and devotion to self-sacrifice and His humanistic concerns…In Pelagianism, there is no salvation, no Savior, and no atonement because in Pelagianism no such salvation is necessary.

Second, there are those who believe an atonement is only hypothetically necessary. This view historically expresses the idea that God could have redeemed us by a host of ways and means, or He could have chosen to overlook human sin. However, He did something dramatic when He committed Himself to a certain course of action. He chose to redeem us by the cross, by an atonement. Once He committed Himself, it became necessary, not de jure or de facto, but de pacto–that is, by virtue of a pact or a covenant that God made by issuing a promise that He would do a particular thing…He was then committed to that course of action.

The third view, which is the classical, orthodox Christian view, which I am convinced is the biblical view, is that an atonement was not merely hypothetically necessary for man’s redemption, but was absolutely necessary if any person was ever going to be reconciled to God and redeemed. For this reason, orthodoxy has held for centuries that the cross is an essential of Christianity, essential in the sense that it is a sine qua non, ‘without which it could not be.’ If you take away the cross as an atoning act, you take away Christianity.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Prosperity "Gospel": Paula White's Heretical Lies

posted by

In this clip Paula White mangles the Biblical teaching of Christ's Atonement on the cross for our sins and turns it into a teaching about prosperity. She also denies the Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God and tells us not to pray to Jesus.

John Piper on the prosperity gospel...

Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly

John Piper @ is covering the dangers of prosperity preaching. He cautions:

1. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.

4. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.

5. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can't be.

6. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.

7. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

Dever’s 12 Step Program

Joe Thorn @ summarizes Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.

12 steps that can help us begin to shake off the complacency and begin sharing the gospel.

1. Pray.
Our weakness is evangelism is often related to an absence of prayer. When we neglect praying about evangelism we see the task as too big for us, or opportunities too scarce. Mark says if we pray for opportunities we’ll be amazed at the ways God answers.

2. Plan.
Because we don’t plan to evangelize it generally doesn’t happen. Many of us tend to think we are presently too busy, and think time will materialize later. It will not. Make time, develop a plan.

3. Accept.
We have to accept that God has given us the responsibility of sharing the gospel. It is not the calling of a few, not limited to the “gifted.” Mark says, quite dodging your responsibility and make the necessary adjustments.

4. Understand.
Part of the problem for many is a misunderstanding of what makes our evangelism effective. Success in evangelism is related to faithfulness, not fruit. Fruit is the work of God, not man.

5. Be Faithful.
Mark says, “Maybe we are too polite to be faithful to God in this area. Maybe we are more concerned about people’s response than God’s glory.” For many the desire to be polite and not offend people (or in my case, not wanting to come off like a salesman) is an excuse to remain unfaithful to the call of God.

6. Risk.
Some people are shy. We often do not know what a person’s response will be when we present the gospel. In my own recent experience, I fear losing a potential relationship by throwing out the gospel too soon, or too awkwardly. We will often have to risk (a relationship, embarrassment, etc.) in order to be faithful to God.

7. Prepare.
Give your evangelistic work some thought. What potential objection or question might your hear? You are more likely to engage if you have prepared yourself in advance.

8. Look.
Apathy, laziness and busyness can keep us from seeing the opportunities God provides. So can unbelief. Pray for opportunities and then anticipate God’s provision.

9. Love.
If we love people we will seek their good, and this of course includes sharing the gospel with them.

10. Fear.
- of God, not man. When we refuse to share the gospel with others we “are not regarding him or his will as the final and ultimate rule of our actions.”

11. Stop.
Mark says, “We should stop excusing ourselves from evangelism on the basis that God is sovereign. We should not conclude from his omnipotence that our obedience is therefore pointless.” We must affirm both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility as it relates to conversion and evangelism.

12. Consider.
Pointing to Hebrews 12:3 Mark points us back to the gospel itself. He says that when we aren’t considering the cross of Christ we lose the heart to proclaim the good news. True gospel-centeredness will compel us to evangelize.

Who Said Doctrine Isn’t Practical?

Photo by David Ball; Click for InfoJohn Macarthur @

reviews the practical nature of doctrine. He notes how many cults operate: "The idea that Christ is anti-doctrine is a foundational belief of that cult. But no idea is further from the truth. The word doctrine simply means “teaching.” And it’s ludicrous to say that Christ is anti-teaching. The central imperative of His Great Commission is the command to teach (Matthew 28:18-20)".

Building on the Truth

Romans 11:33-36 “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

Paul "follows the same pattern in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. The doctrinal message comes first. Upon that foundation he builds the practical application, making the logical connection with the word therefore (Romans 1:1; Galatians 5:1; Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 2:1) or then (Colossians 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1)".

Living by the Truth

Departing from the Truth

"The next few verses of 1 Timothy describe what happens when men depart from the basis of biblical truth: “Some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth” (4:1-3)".

Hearing the Truth

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Does John 3:16 Refute Unconditional Election? Part 1 of 3

About This Video

People who don't believe that God chose people to be saved before the foundation of the world not based on anything they had done good or bad usually appeal to John 3:16 for their case. Does John 3:16 really teach that Jesus died for the entire world? Well, in a sense, yes, and, in a sense, no. Watch the video to find out.

(Posted with permission of CrossTV
Part of the series "The Sovereignty of God" )

Does John 3:16 Refute Unconditional Election? (2of3)

About This Video
People who don't believe that God chose people to be saved before the foundation of the world not based on anything they had done good or bad usually appeal to John 3:16 for their case. Does John 3:16 really teach that Jesus died for the entire world? Well, in a sense, yes, and, in a sense, no. Watch the video to find out.

(Posted with permission of CrossTV
Part of the series "The Sovereignty of God" )

Does John 3:16 Refute Unconditional Election? (3of3)

About This Video
People who don't believe that God chose people to be saved before the foundation of the world not based on anything they had done good or bad usually appeal to John 3:16 for their case। Does John 3:16 really teach that Jesus died for the entire world? Well, in a sense, yes, and, in a sense, no. Watch the video to find out.

(Posted with permission of CrossTV
Part of the series "The Sovereignty of God" )

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Sermon Video - True Love by Phil Wickham

Music and lyrics by Phil Wickhem. Created by Shining Beacon.

Excavating Resurrection

Elisabeth Adams @ has reflections on the resurrection.

What Happened to the Twelve Apostles? How Their Deaths Evidence Easter

C Michael Patton @ has an overview of the deaths of:~

(1) The Apostle James

(2) The Apostle Peter

(3) The Apostle Andrew

(4) The Apostle Thomas

(5) The Apostle Philip

(6) The Apostle Matthew

(7) The Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew)

(8) The Apostle James the Lesser

(9) The Apostle Simon the Zealot

(10) The Apostle Judas Thaddeus

(11) The Apostle Matthias

(12) The Apostle John

(13) The Apostle Paul

An Afterthought:

An Objection:

"At this point, you have only three options for explaining the Apostles’ belief: 1) Say that they died for a lie knowing that it was a lie, 2) that they were delusional or crazy, or 3) that was the truth, Christ did rise from the grave".

Here are your three options concerning the Apostles:

  1. You would have to conclude that they died for a lie and knew it (unsustainable do to lack of any reasonable motive).
  2. They were all delusional and crazy (but this would take more faith than any option since you would have to explain how they all had the same delusion and craziness—many being at different places and different times).
  3. What they said was true. Christ did rise from the grave and is who He said He was.

To conclude, I want you to listen to the words of Ignasius, a second century church Father who’s beliefs were sustained by the reasoning of my current argument concerning the Apostles’ deaths.

“Mindful of him, do ye by all means know that Jesus the Lord was truly born of Mary, being made of a woman; and was as truly crucified. For, says he, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus.”11 And He really suffered, and died, and rose again. For says [Paul], “If Christ should become passible, and should be the first to rise again from the dead.”12 And again, “In that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.”13 Otherwise, what advantage would there be in [becoming subject to] bonds, if Christ has not died? what advantage in patience? what advantage in [enduring] stripes? And why such facts as the following: Peter was crucified; Paul and James were slain with the sword; John was banished to Patmos; Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews who killed the Lord? But, [in truth,] none of these sufferings were in vain; for the Lord was really crucified by the ungodly.” (Ignasius: The Epistle of Ignatius to the Tarsians, III)

Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Andreas Kostenberger posts a helpful chart showing the 11 recorded post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in the NT. He notes:
"As the angels told the women at the empty tomb, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee?” (Luke 24:5–6). The four New Testament Gospels record at least eleven resurrection appearances to Jesus to hundreds of individuals over a period of several weeks. None of the Gospels have all the appearances, which requires that we reconstruct the probable sequence of these appearances. The following chart will appear in my forthcoming New Testament Introduction due out with B & H sometime in the not too distant future. Click here if you want to see the chart".
(Ref. JT)

Happy Crossmas! Why Easter stubbornly resists the commercialism that swallowed Christmas.

Unlike Christmas, whose deeper spiritual meaning has been all but buried under an annual avalanche of commercialism, Easter has retained a stubborn hold on its identity as a religious holiday. This is all the more surprising when you consider what an opportune time it would be for marketers to convince us to buy more stuff. Typically arriving around the beginning of spring, Easter would be the perfect time for department stores to euchre customers into buying carloads of kids' outdoor toys, warm-weather clothes, and summertime sporting equipment. And while Christmas is forced to contend with Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, there is little holiday competition around Easter time. (Passover and Easter, despite their proximity in the calendar, don't seem to interfere with each other much.) All in all, the church's most important feast day comes at a terrific time of year for Madison Avenue."

Gospel and Injustice

Thabiti Anyabwile @ is dealing with the issues of the Gospel , Social Justice, and Worldview. He covers:

The Gospel for the Wronged

The Gospel for the Wrongdoer

What the Gospel Demands of Those Witnessing Injustice
Consider Isaiah 1:16-18:

“Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”
(Is. 1:16-28)

Our gospel marching orders are clear:
1. Take up the cause of the afflicted.
2. Seek the repentance of the oppressor.
3. Seek justice without partiality.
4. Rejoice always that Christ has defeated sin and all its entailments.

The gospel of Jesus Christ answers all of our needs, beginning in this life and completely in the life to come.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sermon Outline: The Evidence for Christ’s Resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

1) The Testimony of the Church: 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Romans 5:2-9; 8:29-30

James 2:19

2) The Testimony of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Matthew 16:21

Romans 10:9

Matthew 20:28

John 10:11

Ephesians 5:25

3) The Testimony of Eyewitnesses: 1 Corinthians 15:5-7

A) Jesus’ Appearance to Peter

B) Jesus’ Appearance to the Twelve

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

C) Jesus’ Appearance to the Five Hundred

D) Jesus’ Appearance to James

4) The Testimony of a Special Witness: 1 Corinthians 15:8-10

5) The Testimony of the Common Message: 1 Corinthians 15:11

Holy Week: Sunday

Paul Lamey @ notes:

Christ was resurrected from the dead (Matt. 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-8[9-13]; Luke 24:1-35). He is a type of the offering of the first fruits which was offered the day after the Sabbath (Lev. 23:9-14; 1 Cor. 15:23).

[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 93]

Must One Believe in the Resurrection to be a Christian?

Albert Mohler @ deals with the central issue of the Christian faith. He notes:

As I said in my On Faith column [see full text here]:

The literal, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the vindication of Christ's saving work on the cross. The issue is simple -- no resurrection, no Christianity. For this reason, belief in the resurrection of Christ is essential in order to be a Christian.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central miracle of the Christian faith. As the New Testament reveals, the resurrection represents the Father's complete satisfaction in the obedience of the Son -- even unto death. Sin and death do not have the final word. Indeed, they are defeated through the saving work of Christ. . . .

As Paul well understood, Christianity stands or falls with the empty grave. If Christ is not raised, we are to be pitied, for our faith is in vain. Those who would preach a resurrectionless Christianity have substituted the truth of the gospel for a lie. But, asserted Paul, Christ is risen from the dead. Our faith is not in vain, but is in the risen Lord. He willingly faced death on a cross and defeated death from the grave. The Resurrection is the ultimate sign of God's vindication of His Son.

The great good news of the resurrection is this -- those who come to Christ by faith will share in His victory over sin and death. Belief in the resurrection of Christ is clearly essential in order for one to be a Christian. The Christian church has understood this from the beginning, and the Apostle Paul left no room for doubt when he declared that those who are saved are those who confess with their lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead [Romans 10:9].

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Seventh Word: “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” (Luke 24:46)

Mark Roberts @ concludes with the seventh in the series on the Seven Last Works of Christ.

In his reflection he notes Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" to express his anguish, and Psalm 31, which comes to us from Luke as "Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands."

Then Psalm 31 begins with a cry for divine help:

O LORD, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me, for you do what is right. (v. 1)

But then it mixes asking for God's deliverance with a confession of God's strength and faithfulness:

I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God. (v. 5)

By the end, Psalm 31 offers praise of God's salvation:

Praise the LORD,
for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.
He kept me safe when my city was under attack. (v. 21)

In the conclusion to the reflection he notes:
"By quoting a portion of Psalm 31, therefore, Jesus not only entrusted his future to his Father, but also implied that he would be delivered and exonerated. No, God would not deliver him from death by crucifixion. But beyond this horrific death lay something marvelous. "I entrust my spirit into your hands" points back to the familiar suffering of David in Psalm 31, and forward to the resurrection".

He then offers: Questions for Reflection

Have you put your life and, indeed, your life beyond this life, in God's hands?
How do you experience God's salvation through Christ in your life today?

Looking forward to Easter he concludes his prayer:
"So we reflect upon your death, not in despair, but in hope. With Good Friday behind us, Easter Sunday is on the horizon. Amen".

Did Jesus Spend Saturday in Hell?

John Piper @ deals with the difficult issue of if as the Apostles’ Creed says, “[He] was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.”

He notes: "There are many meanings given to this phrase. I simply want to ponder the traditional interpretation that Christ went to the place of the dead to preach the gospel to Old Testament saints that he might set them free for the full experience of heaven.

Two key elements include:
"I think this is suggested as the more natural understanding of the passage in view of what Peter said earlier about the spirit of Christ speaking through the prophets of old.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. (1 Peter 1:10-11)

With regard to 1 Peter 4:6, I take “preached to the dead” to refer to those who, after being preached to, have since died. He is not referring to preaching to them after they have died. The context suggests this kind of understanding, as J. N. D. Kelly explains:

They [the Christians] may well have been exposed to scoffing questions from pagan neighbors, and anxious ones from one another, “What is the gain of your having become Christians, since you apparently die like other men?” The writer’s answer is that, so far from being useless, the preaching of Christ and his gospel to those who have since died had precisely this end in view, that although according to human calculation they might seem to be condemned, they might in fact enjoy life eternal.” (A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude, 175)"

He sums up his study:
"I would say, therefore, that there is no textual basis in the New Testament for claiming that between Good Friday and Easter Christ was preaching to souls imprisoned in hell or Hades. There is textual basis for saying that he would be with the repentant thief in Paradise “today” (Luke 23:43), and one does not get the impression that he means a defective place from which the thief must then be delivered by more preaching. For these and other reasons, it seems best to me to omit from the Apostles Creed the clause, “he descended into hell,” rather than giving it other meanings that are more defensible, the way Calvin does".

Holy Week: Saturday

Paul Lamey @ notes:

Jesus was lying in the tomb during the Sabbath, and the Pharisees secured Roman guards to keep watch of the tomb (Matt. 27:61-66; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55-56).

[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 92]

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday - The Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement was a solemn day to sacrifice 15 animals and reflect on personal sin. This day was a foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus, and His final sacrifice for our sin on Good Friday and His triumphant resurrection on Easter.

Why Did Jesus Have To Die ?

Holy Week: Friday

//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Paul Lamey @ notes:

Early in the morning, Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod Antipas, and Pilate again (Matt. 27:1-30; Mark 15:1-19; Luke 22:66–23:25; John 18:28–19:16). Jesus was then led to the cross and crucified at 9:00 a.m. and died at 3:00 p.m. and was buried later that day (Matt. 27:31-60; Mark 15:20-46; Luke 23:26-54; John 19:16-42). Christ the Paschal Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) died at the time when the Israelites were sacrificing their Passover lambs.

[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 92]

Painting: “Christ before Pilate” by Mihaly Munkacsy

The Sixth Word: “It is finished!” (John 19:30)

Mark Roberts @ continues with the sixth in the series on the Seven Last Works of Christ.

Statue from The Stations of the Cross, Serra Retreat Center, Malibu, California

Questions for Reflection

Do you live as if Jesus finished the work of salvation?
To you have confidence that God will finish that which he has begun in you?

In his closing prayer:
How can I ever find words to express my gratitude to you, dear Lord Jesus? You did it. You finished that for which you had been sent, faithful in life, faithful in death. You accomplished that which no other person could do, taking the sin of the world upon your sinless shoulders . . . taking my sin so that I might receive your forgiveness and new life.

All praise be to you, gracious Lord, for finishing the work of salvation. All praise be to you, dear Jesus, for saving me! Alleluia! Amen".

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy Week: Thursday

Paul Lamey @ notes:

On this day, he had His disciples prepare the Passover lamb (Matt. 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13), and Jesus and His disciples had their Passover meal in the Upper Room (Matt. 26:20-30; Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-30; John 13:1–14:31). Leaving the Upper Room, Jesus had a discourse with His disciples and offered an intercessory prayer in their behalf (Matt. 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:31-39; John 15:1–18:1). They arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane, and it was here where Jesus suffered in agony (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1). Later that night Jesus was betrayed and arrested (Matt. 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12). During the rest of that night, Jesus was tried first by Annas and later by Caiaphas with the religious leaders (Matt. 26:57-75; Mark 14:53-72; Luke 22:54-65; John 18:13-27).

[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 92]

Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe

Pastor Mark Driscoll: The basic beliefs every Christian should hold and go through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

The Fifth Word: “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)

Painting from a church in Taormina, Sicily

Mark Roberts @ continues with the fifth in the series on the Seven Last Works of Christ. He notes that John was thinking of Psalm 69, which includes this passage:

Their insults have broken my heart,
and I am in despair.
If only one person would show some pity;
if only one would turn and comfort me.
But instead, they give me poison for food;
they offer me sour wine for my thirst.
(vv. 20-21)

He offers for Reflection:

  • How do you respond to Jesus' statement "I am thirsty"?
  • What does this statement suggest to you about Jesus? About yourself?
He closed with this prayer:
"O Lord, once again I thank you for what you suffered on the cross. Besides extraordinary pain, you also experienced extreme thirst. All of this was part and parcel of your taking on our humanity so that you might take away our sin.

Dear Lord, in your words "I am thirsty" I hear the cry of my own heart. I too am thirsty, Lord, not for physical drink. I don't need sour wine. Rather, I need the new wine of your kingdom to flood my soul. I need to be refreshed by your living water. I yearn for your Spirit to fill me once again.

I am thirsty, Lord, for you. Amen".

The Spectrum of Focus in Youth Ministry, Part 2

dan miller @ reviews elements of youth ministry. He notes the:


Focus on Our Youth

Proverbs 22:6, ESV

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

1 Timothy 3:4, NIV

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

Cause or Effect

Focus on Unbelieving Teens

Matthew 9:10-13, NIV

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ’sinners’?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 28:19-20, NIV

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

  • Baptism
  • “Teaching . . . to obey everything” is the last step. We always have more to learn, no matter how mature we might think we are. See Philippians 3:12-16.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 gives us a look into a major motivating factor for Paul. His desire was to give the gospel and to “save some.” When Paul was with Jews, he used one behavior; when he was with gentiles he used another. Note that Paul’s motivating principle was reaching those who were lost. Paul’s focus was on unbelievers, and that focus changed his behavior. “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law.” Verse 21 shows us that sometimes Paul did the opposite: “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law . . . that I might win those outside the law.”

To learn from Paul, we must see that the difference in Paul’s behavior was influenced by practical considerations.

Colossians 4:5, ESV

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.



He closes with his Church's Vision Statement:

Desiring to reflect the glory of God in all things.

And theirVision/Mission Statement for youth ministry:

Desiring to reflect the glory of God in young people by relying on the grace of God and by using the gifts, abilities, and passions of the leaders and students, in order to bring teens into the body of Christ, to help them build up their faith, and to improve their Christian walk.

Christians and the Environment

John MacArthur @ notes how: "I do think we have a responsibility to care for the environment — we ought to care for every resource God has provided for us."

Evangelicals and the Environment

He then points to illustrations in the Old Testament account where God put Israel in the Promised Land (Exodus 23:10-11; cf. Leviticus 25:1-7).

He then tells of a conversation:" I’ve told environmentalists that if they think humanity is wrecking the planet, wait until they see what Jesus does to it. Peter says God is going to literally turn it in on itself in an atomic implosion so that the whole universe goes out of existence (2 Peter 3:7-13).

This earth was never ever intended to be a permanent planet—it is not eternal. We do not have to worry about it being around tens of thousands, or millions, of years from now because God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth. Understanding those things is important to holding in balance our freedom to use, and responsibility to maintain, the earth".

"Just a footnote. Though this earth is our temporary home, do take time to enjoy God’s beauty. Take care of your yard. Stop to smell the flowers. Enjoy the forests. God placed those rich resources on this planet for our comfort and His enjoyment. Let us be thankful to Him for that".

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter Is Near

The Fourth Word: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34)

So-called "God's Tear" from The Passion of the Christ.

Mark D. Roberts @ continues with the fourth in the series on the Seven Last Words of Christ. He notes:

As Jesus was dying on the cross, Roberts notes that Christ echoed the beginning of Psalm 22, which reads:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief. (vv. 1-2)

He offers questions for reflection:

Have you taken time to consider that Jesus was abandoned by the Father so that you might not be? What does this "word" from the cross mean to you?

And closes with the words of:
"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" by Isaac Watts (1707)

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Holy Week: Wednesday

Paul Lamey @ notes:

On the way to Jerusalem on Wednesday, the disciples saw the withered fig tree (Matt. 21:20-22; Mark 11:20-26). At the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus had a day of controversy with the religious leaders (Matt. 21:23-23:39; Mark 11:27-12:44; Luke 20:1-21:4). That afternoon Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and delivered the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:1-25:46; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36). Two additional things occurred on that day: (1) Jesus predicted that in two days He would be crucified at the time of the Passover (Matt. 26:1-5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2); and (2) Judas planned the betrayal of Christ with religious leaders (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).

[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 91-92]

A Crucifixion Narrative

Rick Gamache has “A Crufixion Narrative” @

"It’s a graphic description of what the crucifixion of Jesus meant physically and spiritually. It’s not scripture, but it can help us see the truth of scripture with fresh eyes. It is theology in prose. We recommend reading it alongside scripture as you meditate on Jesus death and resurrection this week".

(You can listen to Rick Gamache read the narrative here.)

Let Judas Shake You

John Piper @ goes over his devotional time this week with an interesting observation:
"Judas left the fellowship of the twelve apostles after the anointing in Bethany and arranged to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-15). But when they met again at the last supper, there he was! Near enough to dip in the Savior’s cup".

In an interesting comparison he notes:
“What if I went out tonight and arranged for a cruel man to kill you on the way to school tomorrow morning? That would be horrible. But then would it not be wicked to high heaven if I came home, after arranging for your murder, and had devotions with you and prayed with you?”

Cherish Grace

Carolyn McCulley @
reviews the life of Mary Magdalene and the crucification. She notes that Mary:
"had made it her life mission to minister to the needs of Jesus, but on that fateful day, she was absolutely helpless to do anything.

Baptism for the Dead

Baptism for the DeadJohn MacArthur @ notes the elements from 1 Corinthians 15, specifically verse 29, in which the apostle Paul writes:

“Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Third Word: “Dear woman, here is your son.” (John 19:26)

Mark D. Roberts @ continues with the third in the series on the Seven Last Words of Christ. He notes:

What does Mary's presence at the cross evoke in you?
Why do you think was it necessary for Jesus to suffer physical pain as he died?

He closes with a prayer:

"Lord Jesus, the presence of your mother at the cross engages my heart. You are no longer only the Savior dying for the sins of the world. You are also a fully human man, a son with a mother.

O Lord, how can I begin to thank you for what you suffered? My words fall short. My thoughts seem superficial and vague. Nevertheless, I offer my sincere gratitude for your suffering. Thank you for bearing my sin on the cross. I give you my praise, my love, my heart . . . all that I am, because you have given me all that you are.

All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, fully God and fully human, Savior of the world . . . my Savior! Amen".

Holy Week: Tuesday

Paul Lamey @ notes:

On Tuesday on the way from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus cursed the fig tree (Matt. 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-14), and then He went to Jerusalem to cleanse the temple (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). The religious leaders began to seek how they might destroy Him that evening, and that evening Jesus left Jerusalem, presumably returning to Bethany (Mark 11:18-19; Luke 19:47-48).

[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 91]

Monday, March 17, 2008

Not the real Patrick

Short Pants Dance

The Real Patrick

Patrick Patrick: Patron saint of Ireland


"Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere."

Patrick is remembered today as the saint who drove the snakes out of Ireland (not true), the teacher who used the shamrock to explain the Trinity (doubted), and the namesake of annual parades in New York and Boston. What is less well-known is that Patrick was a humble missionary (this saint regularly referred to himself as "a sinner") of enormous courage. When he evangelized Ireland, he set in motion a series of events that impacted all of Europe. It all started when he was carried off into slavery by Irish raiders.

Escape from sin and slavery
A 16-year-old Romanized Briton, Patrick was sold to a cruel warrior chief whose opponents' heads sat atop sharp poles around his palisade in Northern Ireland. While Patrick minded his master's pigs in the nearby hills, he lived like an animal himself, enduring long bouts of hunger, thirst, and isolation. A nominal Christian to this point, he now turned to the Christian God of his fathers for comfort.

"I would pray constantly during the daylight hours," he later recalled. "The love of God and the fear of him surrounded me more and more. And faith grew. And the spirit roused so that in one day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and at night only slightly less."

After six years of slavery, a mysterious, supernatural voice spoke to him: "Soon you will return to your homeland."

So Patrick fled and ran 200 miles to a southeastern harbor. There he boarded a ship of traders bound for Europe.

381 Christianity made state religion of Roman Empire
405 Jerome completes the Vulgate
410 Rome sacked by Visigoths
415 Patrick born
460/61 Patrick dies
500 Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite writes

Return to the homelands
After a few years on the continent, Patrick returned to his family in England—only to be called back to Ireland as an evangelist.

"I seemed to hear the voice of the same men who lived beside the forest of Foclut ... and they cried out as with one voice, 'We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.' I was deeply moved in heart and I could read no further, so I awoke."

Whether Patrick was the first missionary to Ireland or not, paganism was still dominant when he arrived. "I dwell among gentiles," he wrote, "in the midst of pagan barbarians, worshipers of idols, and of unclean things."

Patrick's mission faced the most opposition from the druids, who practiced magic, were skilled in secular learning (especially law and history), and advised Irish kings. Biographies of the saint are replete with stories of druids who "wished to kill holy Patrick."

"Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity," Patrick wrote, "but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere."

Patrick was as fully convinced as the Celts that the power of the druids was real, but he brought news of a stronger power. The famous Lorica (or "Patrick's Breastplate"), a prayer of protection, may not have been written by Patrick (at least in its current form), but it expresses perfectly Patrick's confidence in God to protect him from "every fierce merciless force that may come upon my body and soul."

There was probably a confrontation between Patrick and the druids, but scholars doubt it was as dramatic and magical as later stories recounted. One biographer from the late 600s, Muirchú, described Patrick challenging druids to contests at Tara, in which each party tried to outdo the other in working wonders before the audience. Patrick, the legend says, won, as God killed several of the druids and soldiers:

"The king summoned his council and said, 'It is better for me to believe than to die.' And he believed as did many others that day."

Yet to Patrick, the greatest enemy was one he had been intimately familiar with—slavery. He was, in fact, one of the earliest Christians to speak out strongly against the practice. Scholars agree he is the true author of a letter excommunicating a British tyrant, Coroticus, who had carried off some of Patrick's converts into slavery.

"Ravenous wolves have gulped down the Lord's own flock which was flourishing in Ireland," he wrote, "and the whole church cries out and laments for its sons and daughters." He called Coroticus's deed "wicked, so horrible, so unutterable," and told him to repent and to free the converts.

It remains unknown if he was successful in freeing Coroticus's slaves, but within his lifetime (or shortly thereafter), the entire Irish slave trade had ended.

Self doubt
Despite his success as a missionary, Patrick was self-conscious, especially about his educational background. "I still blush and fear more than anything to have my lack of learning brought out into the open," he wrote in his Confession. "For I am unable to explain my mind to learned people."

Nevertheless, he gave thanks to God, "who stirred up me, a fool, from the midst of those who are considered wise and learned in the practice of the law as well as persuasive in their speech and in every other way and ahead of these others, inspired me who is so despised by the world."

Over and over again, Patrick wrote that he was not worthy to be a bishop. He wasn't the only one with doubts. At one point, his ecclesiastical elders in Britain sent a deputation to investigate his mission. A number of concerns were brought up, including a rash moment of (unspecified) sin from his youth. His Confession, in fact, was written in response to this investigation.

If Patrick was not confident about his own shortcomings, he held a deep sense of God's intimate involvement in his life. "I have known God as my authority, for he knows all things even before they are done," he wrote. "He would frequently forewarn me of many things by his divine response."

"Flame of a splendid sun"
According to the Irish annals, Patrick died in 493, when he would have been in his seventies. But we do not know for sure when, where, or how he died. Monasteries at Armagh, Downpatrick, and Saul have all claimed his remains. His feast day is recorded as early as March 17, 797, with the annotation; "The flame of a splendid sun, the apostle of virginal Erin [Ireland], may Patrick with many thousands be the shelter of our wickedness."

It will always be difficult to separate fact from fiction in the stories of Patrick's biographers. It is historically clear, however, that Patrick was one of the first great missionaries who brought the gospel beyond the boundaries of Roman civilization. According to tradition, only Ireland's inaccessible south remained untouched by his work by the time he died.

Patrick also became the model for later Celtic Christians. He engaged in continuous prayer. He was enraptured by God and loved sacred Scripture. He also had a rich poetic imagination with the openness to hear God in dreams and visions and a love of nature. Hundreds of Celtic monks, in emulation of Patrick, left their homeland to spread the gospel to Scotland, England, and continental Europe.