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Acts 4:23-31: The Believers Pray for Boldness

“When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[a] said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves,
 and the rulers were gathered together,
 against the Lord and against his Anointed’[b]— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants[c] to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

(Acts 4:23-31, ESV)

This passage, taken from early in the book of Acts at the very beginning of the disciples’ ministry after Jesus’ return to heaven. It was the birth of the new church, and a time of active learning by experience how to rely on the voice of the Holy Spirit! The Spirit was guiding the disciples in very radical ways, but to those who walk in the Spirit today, it will not seem foreign or bizarre. This passage in particular reveals what proximity the disciples had to Jesus—they were cognizant of the time and place and plan of God; they realized what intimate and direct access they had to the Holy Spirit and they did not miss the opportunity (here, at least) to acknowledge that power. They prayed for boldness. They asked that in the face of challengers of the faith, they would not falter. How powerful, and how practical for us today. If living in such total reliance on the Spirit of God does seem foreign, as it does to me at times, we are more than likely missing opportunities to be near to the heart of God and to be empowered by his Holy Spirit. Today, to walk closely and be empowered by the Holy Spirit may look a bit different, but it is not less effective for becoming more like Christ. Before pushing send, before abandoning the teachings of Jesus when it is awkward to uphold them socially, before speaking to one another, before making big decisions, we can listen. We can, and we ought to, because it is a richer and fuller way to live!

How do you know God exists? (Part 2)

This is another one of the major reasons why I believe we can trust that God does indeed exist:

Clue #2 – “Beauty and Desire”

Each of us here are moved by certain things that we consider to be beautiful (may be a sight like the ocean or a mountain range or a sunset, may be a sound – a certain melody played by an artist you love, may be a painting, may be an impossible catch or shot made by a player on your favorite sports team at the end of the game, may be a certain person from the opposite sex that you just find stunning) – whatever it may be, it’s that thing that fills your soul with a sense of life and hope and vigor and joy and ultimately meaning – we call these things “beautiful”. They capture us, arresting our attention, elevating us to heights of praise and adoration we don’t often feel.

A man by the name of Leonard Bernstein once said of the effect Beethoven (German composer) had on him, “Beethoven…turned out pieces of breath-taking rightness. Rightness–that’s the word! When you get the feeling that whatever note succeeds the last is the only possible note that can rightly happen at that instant, in that context, then chances are you’re listening to Beethoven. Melodies, fugues, rhythms–leave them to the Tchaikovskys and Hindemiths and Ravels. Our boy has the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish: Something is right in the world. There is something that checks throughout, that follows its own law consistently: something we can trust, that will never let us down.”

Each of us have felt that way about something beautiful, have we not? But if there is no God who desires through things beautiful to give us a taste of himself, then what you are perceiving as “beautiful” and meaningful is an illusion – is nothing more than a purely neurological response to a certain set of data. If we are just random accidents in the universe and our every operation and response and emotion is simply us adapting and evolving to survive, then you can throw out “love” and “joy” and “fulfillment” as simply ‘bio-chemical responses, inherited from ancestors who survived because this trait helped them survive.’

But there is real meaning in life isn’t there. One author said, “regardless of the beliefs of our mind about the random meaninglessness of life, before the face of beauty we know better.”

“So what!” somebody might object, “Just because we feel something (like God) is true doesn’t make it true!” But let’s be honest, we’re not only dealing with feelings here, we’re dealing with desires and appetites for things.

Let me explain: Suppose you feel the desire for a steak dinner. Now just because you desire it doesn’t mean you will get to eat a steak dinner, but the fact that you are hungry does mean that food exists. And isn’t this true of all natural desires, that they correspond to real things? Doesn’t our sexual desire correspond to sex and our physical appetite correspond to food and tiredness correspond to sleep and relational desires correspond to friendship. You see, feelings are really the expression of desire and appetite. And our desires and appetites always correspond to real things.

Why, then, do we feel the desire for beauty, for the eternal, for meaning? Don’t these, likewise, qualify as innate desires of all humans? We have longing for things (love, joy and beauty) that nothing in this world can satisfy (no amount of food or sex or money or power). “We want something that nothing in this world can fulfill.” That, my friends, is a major clue that there is “Something” real that corresponds to our unfulfillable desires. Those of us who are Christians in this room know what that Something is. CS Lewis said it well, “If we find ourselves with a desire which nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Living in the longing,

John Overton

How do we know God exists? (part 1)

There is no irrefutable proof for God’s existence. And that really shouldn’t be a surprise to you. God has designed it so that mankind cannot reason his way to God or prove God’s existence in the laboratory or by seeing Him visibly, etc. Why? Because God has intended for there to be a “faith” element. He is pleased in only truly making Himself irrefutably known to those who exercise faith in His Son Jesus (Heb. 11:6; 1 Pet. 1:6-9).
So that explains why God has not allowed Himself to be provable by science or known by any means other than faith. However, God has left mankind clues for His reality – “divine fingerprints” as one author stated it – which once compiled lead any reasonable person to the conclusion that there simply must be an intelligent Creator.

Clue #1 – “Cause and Effect”
Everything in existence today is the effect of some cause (shirt – designer; chair – chair manufacturer; building – architect; etc..) And so we see how the law of cause and effect works: the effect (whatever it may be: a smile, a question, a cloud in the sky, a rainbow, the Golden Gate Bridge) always points back to an initial cause. If we take this logic out further and consider the billions of supposed galaxies and the innumerable amounts of stars, suns, and planets that fill them, we find ourselves asking a very important question, “What’s their cause?” You see, if you go back far enough, something must be eternal (i.e. an Uncaused Cause). Something never had a beginning. To doubt this is to be on the verge of intellectual suicide, because you would essentially be saying, “nothing X no one = everything.” Something must have always existed; and that something must not only have always existed but must of had the potential power within it to create the universe – we call that Something, “God”. This doesn’t prove the existence of an intelligent, all-powerful God, but it is certainly a clue.

With more to come,

John

What Is Christian Apologetics?

The Bible is a very unique book.  In fact, there is no other book remotely like it.  The Bible is a sixty-six book library, written over 1500 years, by 40 plus writers, in various places, on three continents, in three languages, on numerous subjects, yet there is harmony from Genesis through Revelation.

John MacArthur once said, “I believe when I hold a Bible in my hands that I am actually holding the living Word of God.  I believe my Bible is an accurate English translation of the original manuscripts written by the authors thousands of years ago.  When I dig into the truths revealed in Scripture, it is abundantly clear I have a book that is obviously divine.  That is why it must be taught verse by verse, phrase by phrase and word by word.”

I have just completed work on my new seminar booklet, Defending Your Faith, which will be taught in conference format.  This Bible conference could be called an Apologetics conference.  So what is apologetics?  Dr. Walter Martin said, “Apologetics doesn’t mean arguing with people, but rather giving everyone who asks of you an answer for the hope that lies within you.  Evangelism is the proclamation of the good news while apologetics is answering questions that grow out of its proclamation.  The trouble with the church today is people know what they believe but they don’t know whyThat is the function of apologetics – to answer the why.”

Apologetics was actually a first century concept.  Peter wrote, “Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you,” (I Peter 3:15).  We have a responsibility to not only preach Jesus Christ, but to become so familiar with Him and His gospel that when someone asks us a question regarding His message, we have an answer.  There is no more important job to be done than to share and defend the faith.

I’ll be sharing with you here the information that’s been compiled in my new booklet, Defending Your Faith, so that you might always have an answer “for the hope that is in you.” 

Fred Overton Seminars is dedicated to teaching the timeless truths of God’s Word.

If you would like to schedule a seminar in your church, call 678-371-2949 or email Fred@FredOverton.com.

Is a bird in the hand really worth two in the bush?

Recently I have been re-reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  It is an allegory and it’s amazing.  In an allegory, there is always a deeper abstract or spiritual meaning contained within the story.  In this particular story, it is most obvious what the allegory is alluding to as each character’s name directly reflects what kind of a person they are meant to represent in ‘real life’.  For instance, “Christian” (the main character) is meant to represent a Christian, and “Hypocrisy” is meant to represent a hypocrite, and “Sloth” is meant to represent a lazy person.

Bunyan wrote the book while in prison, suffering (unjustly) for his unwillingness to deny his faith and to stop preaching the gospel.  He had a poor wife and a blind child to care for but his allegiance to Christ would not be wavered.  He was not willing to look back after having placed his hand to the plow (Luke 9:62).  The book is about “Christian’s” journey.  At first, he is weighed down by a heavy burden which lay upon his back (sin/condemnation) and so he ventures out to find a remedy.  Along the way he meets various people who either help and aid him or harm and deceive him.  In the scene I will quote from, Christian has met a man named “Interpreter” who is a friend, an aid and a wise guide.  Follow along with me…

Passion and Patience

“I saw, moreover, in my dream that the Interpreter took him by the hand, and had him into a little room, where sat two little children, each one in his chair.  The name of the eldest was Passion, and the name of the other Patience.  Passion seemed to be much discontented, but Patience was very quiet.  Then Christian asked:

CHRISTIAN:  What is the reason of the discontent of Passion?

INTERPRETER:  The governor of them would have him stay (wait) for his best things till the beginning of next year; but he will have all now; but Patience is willing to wait.

Then I saw that one came to Passion, and brought him a bag of treasure, and poured it down at his feet; the which he took up and rejoiced therein, and withal laughed Patience to scorn.  But I beheld but a while, and he had lavished all away, and had nothing left him but rags.

CHRISTIAN:  Expound this matter more fully to me.

INTERPRETER:  These two lads are figures; Passion of the men of this world, and Patience of the men of that which is to come.  As here you see, Passion will have all now, this year, that is to say, in this world; so are the men of this world, they must have all their good things now; they cannot wait till the next year, that is, until the next world, for their portion of good.  That proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” is of more authority (truth) with them that are all the divine testimonies of the good [men] of the world to come.  But as you saw that he had quickly lavished all away, and had presently left him nothing but rags, so will it be with all such men at the end of this world.

CHRISTIAN:  Now I see that Patience has the best wisdom, and that upon many accounts (for many reasons).  (1) Because he waits for the best things.  (2) And also because he will have the glory of his, when the other has nothing but rags.

INTERPRETER:  [Not only that], you may add another; to wit, the glory of the next world will never wear out; but these are suddenly gone.  Therefore Passion had [no reason] to laugh at Patience, because he had his good things first, as Patience will have to laugh at Passion because he had his best things last; for first must give place to last, because last much have his time to come; but last gives places to nothing; for there is not another to succeed.  He therefore that has his portion first needs a time to spend it; but he that has his portion last has [time] lastingly.  Therefore it is said of him, “In your lifetime [you] received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented (Luke 16:25).”

CHRISTIAN:  Then I perceive it is not best to covet things that are now (temporary), but to wait for things to come.

INTERPRETER:  You speak truth:  for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).  But though this be so, yet since things present and our fleshly appetite are such near neighbors one to another; and again, because things to come and carnal sense are such strangers one to another; therefore it is, that the first of these so suddenly fall into amity (peaceful harmony, friendship), and that distance is so continued between the second (Romans 7:15-25).”

So…Is a bird in the hand really worth two in the bush?  Or is a bird (the treasure of this world) in my hands (in my possession in this world) really worth two in the bush (the doubly impressive eternal treasure prepared for those who patiently wait)?

I think not… Wait.  Be patient.  Endure.  “Be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).”  Focus on Jesus.  Do not be ashamed.  “Consider, as Moses did, the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (or America); for he was looking to the reward (Heb. 11:26).”

“All these (the great cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 11) died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own (heaven).  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”!!!!!!!!!!  (Heb. 11:13-16)

And lastly, “…without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).”

What is the reward?  In one word:  Christ.  He is more glorious than all our perceptions of Him combined.  What worldly thing(s) would you dare exchange for Him?  Get all you can of Him during your brief stay on earth; that is, explore by faith all the mysteries of the gospel, all the indescribales of His glory and all the secret realities of His promises.  May it be your insatiable desire to know Him, love Him, learn Him and wait for Him.  Be Patient, not Passion…

With my hand to the plow and my head forward (Luke 9:62),

 

John

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