“The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.” Ps 33:16-17
A few years ago I had the opportunity to walk through the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, OH. Moving from one hangar to the next I saw the evolution of aircraft from the Wright brother’s first plane to the modern surveillance drones of today.
It isn’t hard to be in a place like that and not have an overwhelming sense of patriotism as I see the military defense weapons and aircraft that our nation has used in the defense of our country and many other countries all around the world. Seeing these beautiful machines and their sheer size made me feel a little sorry for anyone that stood against them in a battle.
It makes me think about how Pharaoh felt about his horses and chariots, and the king of Babylon about his weapons of war. The same can be said about the Medo-Persians, Greeks, and Romans at different parts of world history. Whether the weapons are spears, swords, arrows, or chariots, tanks, and airplanes, our hearts can become fooled into thinking that it is the weapon and strategies that win the war. Sometimes we think we can simply outnumber the enemy with more soldiers, more money, more missiles, and more technologies. This is heady stuff and it can divert the attention of a nation away from their inherent weakness and need for God.
In Psalm 33, the unnamed psalmist recognized this prideful blindspot and seeks to refocus the attention of the worshippers of Yahweh. The king, he writes, is not saved by his army-no matter how great. A read through the Chronicles and any history book will give credence to this reality. Kings are overthrown, betrayed, killed in battle, poisoned, and even killed by their own sons in a grab of power. King David himself survived an attempted coup by his own son. Some rulers are better than others, but no ruler can exist without God’s help. The Lord puts the man on the throne or behind the desk, but it is God alone who keeps him there, and it is God who removes him.
The psalmist also recognized that the same is true about those warriors that seem unbeatable in battle. We laud those warriors that fight valiantly and bring to our nation victory over the enemy. Stories are told of campaigns where all hope was lost and then the hero emerged and snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat. But even the greatest hero among our warriors should not be hoped upon more than our God. Do not forget men like the mighty Goliath who boasted in his mighty size and ability to defeat Israel, even defying the Lord with mockery. That warrior’s great strength could not deliver him when a boy with a sling brought him to his death on the battlefield.
The warhorse was a great advantage to any ancient kingdom that sought to be a military powerhouse. The war horse was large, brave, and strong. He could charge into a mob of warriors with courage and bowl over those in his path, allowing his rider to swing his longsword or thrust his spear into the melee while remaining out of reach by the foot soldier. Any army that had a cavalry was an almost unstoppable force. Almost.
Knowing the confidence that men put in warhorses, he commanded that the kings of Israel were not to amass large numbers of them knowing that it would easily allow the king to seek confidence in his cavalry and not place his trust in the Lord. In modern weaponry, confidence is placed in ships, drones, fighter jets, missiles, and many other weapons that can unleash “shock and awe” in our enemies.
The writer of Psalm 33:16-17 should be heard. Anything we place our confidence in outside of God can and will fail. It is inevitable. As a matter of fact, it is worse than failure. These things that we place above our trust in God are an affront to Him, and they will not only fail but they will also be brought low as they have become a challenge to God for supremacy in our hearts. He will not allow anything else in His place.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Rom 1:16 ESV
It would seem that some people who are all for church planting are unaware of Romans 1:16, so I have reproduced it here for the benefit of those who think that a church is best planted by human invention.
What do I mean by ‘human invention?’ How about slick marketing programs that blanket the city? Or freebies, raffles, and give-aways that are meant to be a spiritual bait-and-switch? There are surveys meant to find out what unbelieving pagans want in a church so that a church can be tailored for them, and there are those ‘church planters’ who blanket Christian radio, Christian bookstores and encourage their core team to invite their friends over to their cool, new church that is so much better than the one they’re in now. There are other so-called church planting and church growth gimmicks I could mention, but I think that you probably know of one or two places like this.
Then there is Holy Spirit power that converts a soul from being a prisoner of darkness into a light-reflecting child of the Kingdom. Those churches that seek to grow from preaching a gospel that leads to Spirit-regeneration of the souls of men are true church plants. And those who plant churches by the power of the gospel do so in the methodology that gives all glory to God and cannot be conjured up by Madison Avenue methods.
To all my brothers out there who are holding forth the truth in faithfulness, keep it up. For those growing weary of doing good, email me and I’ll join you in prayer so that you won’t be tempted to give in to powerless quick fixes that yield a crowd, but not gospel growth.
When stripped down to our historical foundation, IFCA International is a Bible movement. Our churches and ministries exist to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23), a prospect that has never been acceptable to the world and is rejected by the apostate church. Like the Apostle Paul, we do not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). We believe that God has spoken without error and that His Word has never failed. We believe that the Word of God rules over the Church and God’s people, and that this authority extends to all humanity whether it accepts it or not. We believe the Bible, and this should have a direct impact upon how we minister in the preaching of the Word.
Back when I was a child, one of the most popular things to play on in the playground was a merry-go-round that kids would climb on and spin around until you would get dizzy. To make extra exciting, we would sometimes throw sand on it to make it slippery, and then everyone would climb on and we would have one person run around spinning it as fast as they could. The centrifugal force mixed with the slippery sand-covered deck would cause any unfortunate soul with a weak grip to be flung off of that merry-go-round. Last one left holding on was the winner. What fun!
We played that game before we understood the ideas related to physics, or had ever heard of centrifugal force. We just knew that if you go fast enough in a circle (as in carnival rides) you get pulled away from the center. It’s fun to think about these things, but they also remind me of what Paul wrote to the Colossians about Jesus Christ, the sustainer of the universe.
“And He [Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col. 1:17)
He is Before All Things
This means that Jesus has priority and primacy. “He is before all things” means that Jesus existed before anything was made. He existed before the universe began (John 1:1-2; 1John 1:1). He existed before Abraham, father of the Jews (John 8:58; Ex. 3:14). This is shown in Col. 1:17 when it says that “He is before all things,” not he was before all things. This isn’t poor grammar, but points to the eternality of Jesus Christ. This can also be clearly seen in the references to Jesus in Revelation (e.g. Rev. 22:13).
And in Him All Things Hold Together
Jesus Christ is not only the Creator of all of creation, but he is the sustainer of it all as well. Hebrews 1:3 says “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
The mighty power of Jesus which created the world with a word so that the universe leapt into existence, also is the same word that continuously since the creation sustains the universe by the same power.
The power of Jesus Christ is staggering when looked at in this way. Compare the fact that on the cross, not only could he have called down a legion of angels to save him, but he could have withheld his sustaining power from the universe and it would have all ended.
Even science is at a loss to explain how the universe is held together. Scientists don’t understand how the nucleus of an atom holds together. In describing the phenomenon, they call it “The Strong Nuclear force.” Here is how scientists from the Astrophysics Group of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab describe it:
“The Strong Nuclear Force (also referred to as the strong force) is one of the four basic forces in nature (the others being gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the weak nuclear force). As its name implies, it is the strongest of the four. However, it also has the shortest range, meaning that particles must be extremely close before its effects are felt. Its main job is to hold together the subatomic particles of the nucleus (protons, which carry a positive charge, and neutrons, which carry no charge. These particles are collectively called nucleons). As most people learn in their science education, like charges repel (+ +, or – -), and unlike charges attract (+ -).”
We as Christians know who made and sustains the Strong Nuclear Force, gravity, the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear force—Jesus Christ.
Consider what 2Peter 3:5-7, 10 says: “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. …But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
Did you catch the emphasis on the effect of the Word of God in those verses? By God’s word the world was formed. By God’s word the world was flooded. By God’s word the world will be destroyed.
All the Lord has to do is remove his sustaining hand from this universe and all of creation will cease!
George Gamow, one of the founders of the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe wrote, “The fact that we live in a world in which practically every object is a potential nuclear explosive, without being blown to bits, is due to the extreme difficulties that attend the starting of a nuclear reaction.” Gamow, recognizes the power of the Strong Nuclear force that keeps all of us alive.
Think of what will happen when the Lord who made the force removes his hand! John MacArthur writes, “Jesus must be God. He made the universe, existed outside and before it and preserves it.”
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the Colossian believers for a minute. They were being pursued, on one hand, by those who denied the deity of Jesus Christ. Paul set out to demolish that idea and leave them no other alternative than to see that Jesus is God.
On the other hand, they were also being influence by Jewish influences that said that Jehovah God was the creator of the universe and that he is to be worshipped, not Jesus. Paul, likewise demolishes the idea that Jesus is anything other than God himself.
Yes, God made the universe and God sustains it, and yes God is to be worshipped. But God has been revealed in his Son Jesus Christ. To worship God while denying His Son is unacceptable.
Colossians widens our understanding of Jesus Christ. We begin to see a glimpse of Who it was when John saw the risen Lord in Rev. 1:10-18. May God give us greater insight into the glories of Christ, or Lord.
The Church of Thessalonica was established during Paul’s second missionary journey. It is chronicled in Acts 15:36-18:22. In this post I want to walk through this journey and then apply a few lessons that can be applied to church planting.
Paul’s journey began in Antioch, were Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement over John Mark, as to whether he should join them on their trip or not. Apparently John Mark had abandoned them on a previous trip and Paul did not think it was a good idea to depend upon him. Barnabas took John Mark and went to the island of Cyprus while Paul took Silas as his partner (Acts 15:36-41).
Meanwhile Paul and Silas headed to the region of Galatia to encourage the churches that Paul and Barnabas had established in the first missionary journey (Acts 15:36). The first stop mentioned was in Derbe and then on to Lystra. At Lystra Paul took Timothy with him on his journey (Acts 16:1-5).”
From Galatia Paul traveled with Silas and Timothy through the region called Phrygia, moving in a Northwest direction, avoiding Asia Minor (modern Turkey) because the Holy Spirit had forbidden that Paul should go there (Acts 16:6).
Paul then decided to go above Asia Minor into a Roman province called Bithynia, but Paul and his party were once again forbidden by the Spirit from going into this region (16:7). That meant that North and South were out of bounds to travel in. They could go back or they could press on toward Mysia along the northern border of Asia and Mysia until they reached Troas, which they did (Acts 16:8).
It was while in Troas that the Lord revealed to Paul his mission. He was given a vision of a Macedonian man who called out to him to come over and help him. Paul would have recognized this man as Macedonian from his traditional hat and clothing that had been a mark of the Macedonian people for centuries before and carries on even to today.
Although Macedon is not as well known to most of us today outside of the biblical references to it, it is important for us to know a little about its history.
The Macedonian kingdom was the “greatest empire ever known to human history.”  It was the empire of Alexander III also known as Alexander the Great.
Before he died at the age of 33, Alexander had succeeded in extending his kingdom from Egypt in the south to the Indus River in India to the east. His father, Philip II conquered the Greek city states and taught his son well many strategies that served him well as he sought to conquer the rest of the world. Alexander conquered Asia Minor, Phoenicia, Palestine, Egypt, Babylonia and India.
Alexander’s armies are pictured in Daniel 7:6 as a swift leopard with four wings. It says, “After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it.” The speed of the army was represented by the leopard’s speed amplified by four wings. The four heads refer to what happened after Alexander’s death. Since he died so young, possibly by poisoning, no plan of succession was in place.
After much turmoil, the kingdom was divided among his four generals into four kingdoms, with Antipater receiving the former Macedonian kingdom and Greece. At Antipater’s death, Cassander had the opportunity to take control and he solidified his position by marrying Alexander’s half-sister, the daughter of King Philip II. Her name? Thessaloniki.
In 316 BC Cassander founded a new city by consolidating 26 towns into the new city he called Thessalonica. This prestigious city would go through many more changes and wars by the time Paul would enter into it. When Paul came, it was a jewel to the Romans and had a population of about 200,000, which was quite large for a city in its day.
Let’s go back to Acts 16. Now we can see God’s purpose in not allowing Paul to go to Mysia or Asia or Bithynia! He wanted them to go to Macedon to bring the gospel message to the Gentiles!
Notice in verse 10 that it says “we” (cp. v.8 says “they”). What we find here is that in Troas Paul picked up another traveling companion—the author of Acts and the Gospel named for him—Luke! Paul went from Troas (in Mysia) across the island of Samothrace to the mainland of Macedonia and the city of Neapolis (16:11).
From Neapolis Paul and his friends went to the Roman colony of Philippi, named after Alexander the Great’s father King Philip II (16:12). In this city, Paul and his company met Lydia and led her to Christ. Later they were beaten with rods and thrown into jail after casting the demon out of a slave girl. (16:13-24) Welcome to Macedonia!
While in jail, God intervened and a jailer and his family were saved (16:25-40). From Lydia and the jailer’s family and any other’s saved on that trip to Philippi Paul established the first church in Europe. The letter we call Philippians was written to them.
Acts 17:1-9 tells us about the establishment of the Thessalonian church. Leaving Philippi, Paul passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, probably because they were so small (17:1) and moved to the city of Thessalonica, where a synagogue had been established by the Jewish population.”
In these 9 verses, I’d like to make three observations about the work that Paul did in planting this church and make some applications for our lives.
1. Paul “reasoned from the Scriptures with a Purpose (vv. 2-4).
Paul’s time in Thessalonica was short—he knew that. He was not on a vacation or sight seeing trip. He was literally on a mission. Because of that purpose, Paul’s time was focused, purposeful and methodical.
Verse 2 says he“reasoned”with the Jews. This word in Greek is dilegomai and it is where we get our word “dialogue.” Paul “dialogued” with them. He had deep, meaningful conversations with them about the Scriptures and their meaning. But it had a purpose and an aim. they didn’t argue about Jonah’s whale or who the Nephilim in Genesis 6 are. Paul made a bee-line to the cross and Jesus.”
Paul wanted to show them from the Old Testament that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah (v. 3). And Paul was seeking to change the hearts and minds of his listeners (v.4)! His mission had a purpose. Remember the way that Paul talked to King Agrippa? Acts 26:24-29. Paul preached for change!”
Studying the Bible and going to church is good. Listening to sermons and reading Christian books is good. But to what end do we do these things? Is it to seek holiness in our lives? It is to grow in Christ? Why do we share Christ? Is it to see people saved?”
2. Faithful gospel proclamation will also attract opposition from our enemy and those blinded by sin (vv. 5-9).
In a sense, these gospel preachers were turning the “world upside down” by preaching their message about King Jesus. We need to be honest. Most people like the status quo. We don’t like it when people rock the boat. And we love our sin. Listen to John 3:19-20. It says, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
Paul was trying to build a lighthouse in the darkness of Thessalonica. But the darkness wasn’t about to just roll over and let that happen. It fought back. So, we must wage war!” We too need to fight like Paul—reasoning, preaching the gospel, and persuading with the truth.
Second Corinthians 10:3-6 says,“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. “
3. Finally, Jesus must be trusted to build his own church (Matt 16:18).
It is easy to give up and be discouraged by adversity and the roadblocks that we encounter. To see all the failures and not the victories. Afterall, Paul followed Jesus’ commands and went to Macedonia, just as he said. Yet in Philippi he was beaten then jailed. Next in Thessalonica a mob formed and attacked their friend Jason in his home. When Paul left Thessalonica, he was probably only there from 3-6 months, but they had to move on!”
But a church was planted in Thessalonica. And it grew and matured…even with the absence of Paul! God gave life to that seed of a church and although Paul left when it was a weak little seedling, God would cause it to grow.”We certainly can learn from this. We need to work hard, and work smart, but we must learn as well to trust Jesus with the results. After all, it is HIS church.
 Green, Gene L. The Letters to the Thessalonians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2002; p. 9.