Louisville Life – August 12, 2014

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Greetings friends! DPP_0159

It’s been a few weeks since Katrina and I loaded up the truck and moved to Louisville, so I thought I’d update you on what’s going on with us. After preaching my last service at Reed Springs on July 13th, Katrina and I headed down to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a week of rest and refreshing. After our break, we came back to TN, loaded up a U-Haul, and made the trek to Louisville KY, July 24th.

10527581_492637907535226_1157492527933850605_nThere hasn’t been much to report the first couple of weeks besides unpacking, settling in, and learning the area. We’ve learned that living in a big city has some advantages, such as being minutes from everything. We really like our apartment and all of the neighbors have been very nice.  With God’s grace, we will adapt and survive in Louisville.

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We actually came back to Tennessee this past weekend for Jesse’s (Katrina’s brother) wedding. We are excited to welcome Mrs. Lindsey (Reed) Roberts to the family! We had a great time, but hate that we couldn’t stay and visit with more of our friends and family while we were down. We will be back soon and hopefully can spend more time visiting.

As most of yo10505353_325280150964326_8805999009658381810_nu already know, Katrina and I moved up here on faith believing that God had called us to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. We moved with some savings from the recent sale of our house in TN, but without any prospects for employment or income. I am thankful to be able to say that Katrina has accepted a job with the Kentucky Baptist Foundation this week and will be starting with them Monday morning. She is very excited. This job is really perfect for her situation right now. It is our desire for Katrina to be able to take classes part-time in the near future in order to finish her Bachelor’s degree.

I am also in the process of seeking a source of income that will complement my class schedule. I will be starting classes Monday morning at the seminary as a full-time student. We know that God will provide us the means to do whatever He desires for our lives. We are confidently waiting on God’s timing and provision. It is a blessing to watch Him open doors and provide for our needs in truly supernatural ways.

We would love to hear from you. I will be sending out regular updates via email and by posting on my website. If you would like to be added to my email list, send me an email request to be added.

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support during this transition. Continue to pray for us that we will be used by God and that He will open doors for us to serve Him in Louisville.

Sincerely,

Ray Umphrey

Can You Defend Your Faith?

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837706-shield_defense In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter instructs the Christians in Asia Minor concerning evangelism in a culture that is hostile towards them.

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)

This verse is an evangelism verse, and it is an apologetics verse. Peter is writing in the context of suffering for the gospel. This letter was written during the persecution of the Christians under Nero. Peter is writing to Christians dispersed through Asia Minor. Christians are suffering persecution and having to live and worship in a society that is hostile and antagonistic towards them. Even the wording of this verse shows us that the Christian is apparently on the defense, not the offense. In this passage the Christian is being ready to be examined for their faith, not fearlessly going forward to share it. The believer in this passage is anticipating an interrogation and Peter says that they should be ready to give and defense to any and all who ask.

This is not to insinuate that Christians should give up evangelism in favor of passivity towards the lost; that we should wait until they get curious. Rather, it is asserting that in a culture that is hostile towards Christianity we should anticipate being singled-out and examined. We are seeing this today; people are examining the Christian faith and desperately seeking some flaw in its truths. They are seeking to find the Christian faith illegitimate, illogical, and unintellectual.

If the world is hostile toward Christianity and is examining it in order to find it guilty of any error or inconsistency, we must be always ready to defend what and why we believe and not leave our faith to the mercy of the critics. We should know what it is that we believe and secondly be able to communicate it in a winsome and convincing manner. The word translated “defense” is the Greek word apologia which is where we get our English word apologetics. It means to defend against false accusations. Christian apologetics, therefore, is the discipline of making intellectual cases for Christianity and countering arguments against Christianity.

We are to give a defense for WHY we believe. Notice Peter doesn’t say “give a defense for the hope that is in you.” He says give a defense for the REASON for the hope that is within you. Every religion has a “hope,” a faith in some future heavenly home or something else. Anyone can have “hope” for that matter. Anybody can believe something with no reason to believe it. We are to be able to account for the reason that we have hope. In other words, be able to tell people WHY you believe what you do.

In a culture that is largely antagonistic toward the claims of Christianity, it is not only the scholars and theologians who need to concern themselves with defending the faith. Every Christian must be an apologist in his or her own right. Evangelism and apologetics are inseparable. If we wish to win souls, we must first be ready to win minds. What are the questions and objections to Christianity that you might expect to hear from your friends, family, or co-workers? Are you ready to give an answer?

Why is the Resurrection Important?

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Picture1Have you ever played Jenga? It’s the game where players take turns removing wooden blocks from the stack until someone finally makes the tower fall. If so, you’ve probably made a huge mess by pulling out the block that supported the whole stack. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central “block” of Christianity. Without it, nothing else matters. Without the literal resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is pointless and empty. If the resurrection is not an historical event, then all New Testament preachers are liars and deceivers including myself. Without the resurrection, we are not forgiven and our sins are still counted against us. Without the resurrection all who have died trusting in Christ are lost forever. If Christ was not raised from the dead, we will not be raised from the dead either. In short, without the literal, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; there is no forgiveness of sins, we are not justified and saved, we are all false prophets, Christianity is a waste of time and pointless, there is no heaven available to us, and when we die we either cease to exist (best case) or spend eternity in hell (worst case). Christianity falls apart. Everything we believe falls apart (1 Cor. 15:12-20).

The resurrection is the most important truth claim of Christianity. It is the pinnacle of all Christian truths, and all truths, period. All other Christian truths unite in the resurrection of Christ: heaven, hell, sin, judgment, the love of God, the person of Christ, faith, unbelief, and the list goes on.

The only thing necessary for the Roman government or the Jewish leaders to have crushed Christianity before it got “out of hand” would have been to produce the crucified body of Jesus. Yet this smoking gun has never been provided.

What has been provided, however, are four eyewitness accounts by men who were present during the crucifixion, burial, and following days who maintain with uncanny harmony that they saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion. One of whom was a medical doctor who asserted that Jesus showed himself alive by many “infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). We also have the testimony of Paul who claims that over 500 individuals saw Jesus alive at one time and at the time of his writing, many of them were still alive to verify that claim (1 Cor. 15:6). Add to this the fact that all but one of Jesus’ disciples were brutally killed for this testimony and many were tortured and imprisoned but never changed their story. Many others in addition to the disciples were martyred as a result of their faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

Without the resurrection, Christianity falls apart. God has provided ample evidence for the reality of the resurrection, however. This Easter, I pray that each of you reading this post will “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9).

A New Life, an Angry Wife, and a Bloody Knife

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exodus_no titleTwo Sundays ago, I preached one of the strangest passages in the Bible. It is perhaps the second most debated Old Testament passage there is. It is a passage that talks about Moses and his family on their way to Egypt.

Moses had fled Egypt at 40 years old after killing an Egyptian man. He settles down and lives in the land of Midian. Moses meets a man named Reuel, also known as Jethro, and marries one of his daughters, Zipporah. Moses and Zipporah have two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. Moses lives as a shepherd and at the age of 80, God calls to him to go back to Egypt and lead the Israelites to freedom. Moses reluctantly agrees, packs his things, and heads to Egypt with his wife Zipporah, and two sons. This story picks up at rest stop on the way to Egypt.

Exodus 4:24-26 (ESV) At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

We don’t have all the details. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about this passage and there are several theories about the meaning of this passage. I want to simply take what we know, and recreate the most likely scenario with the information God gives us.

  • Moses and Zipporah have two different cultures and sets of customs
  • Moses most likely circumcised their first son, Gershom
  • Zipporah doesn’t like circumcision and refuses to allow Eliezer to be circumcised
  • Moses keeps peace and doesn’t circumcise Eliezer
  • God calls Moses to be the leader of the Jewish nation
  • Moses reluctantly agrees to obey God and go to Egypt
  • Moses ignores the command to circumcise his son
  • Moses leaves for Egypt with Zipporah and his two sons
  • God (Angel of the Lord) intercepts the family in order to kill Moses
  • Zipporah circumcises Eliezer and God spares Moses

God has called Moses to lead the nation of Israel, but he first needs to learn to lead his own family. God expects for men to be godly husbands and fathers and provide spiritual leadership at home (Eph. 5:22-24; Heb. 12:9). Too many men have been content to opt out of spiritual leadership and leave the task to their wives. This is disobedience to the pattern for the family in the Bible. Men aren’t fit to lead anywhere else if they will not lead first at home. One of the basic qualifications for spiritual leadership in the New Testament is that a man leads his home (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

Concerning Moses’ situation, Ronald B. Allen says “Moses was guilty of not carrying out circumcision in his own family, yet he was the one who was to lead the circumcised nation of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land.” This wasn’t some peripheral matter that could be excused. Circumcision was an important commandment for the Jewish people. It identified the males as belonging to God. Failure to be circumcised resulted in being rejected by God and cut off from the nation (Gen. 17:12-14). God was so serious about this that he would rather kill Moses than let him attempt to lead Israel while failing to obey the most basic of instructions to all Jews. We all do things to keep peace and we all pick our battles from time to time. However, we don’t get to pick battles where God’s Word and God’s will are concerned. We should value obedience to God’s commands more than the artificial peace born out of a lukewarm, compromised lifestyle.

There are two extremes of spiritual disunity in the home – the absentee, passive husband who just lets the wife make all the decisions to keep peace and the apathetic wife who does whatever the husband wants because she really doesn’t care. Men and women are both fallen and sinners, but we are sinners in different ways. Genesis 3:16 demonstrates that there is a power struggle between men and women. Men try to get their way by force and power, while women try to get their way with manipulation and cunning. Sinful but different. The best way for an unmarried person to avoid these types of struggles is to resolve to marry someone with the same faith and values as you. This will keep you from the trap of an “unequally yoked” marriage (2 Cor. 6:14).

God doesn’t want the family to be divided over spiritual issues; rather He desires spiritual unity. This was what Moses failed to achieve in his house. Moses and Zipporah had different social, religious, and cultural views. This resulted in a pagan compromise to withhold circumcision from their son, even though this was the most important expression of belonging to God. Zipporah either did not understand or did not care about the importance of obeying God completely. Moses should not have been content to leave her in this complacent spiritual state. He should have been concerned with his wife’s spiritual condition.  Don’t be content to let your spouse be the “spiritual one.” Also, don’t sit by and let your spouse die spiritually. Say as Joshua did, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). When Joshua made this declaration, he didn’t have to run it by his wife. Neither did his wife have to push him out to make it, nor did she make it for him. He stood there and boldly made this declaration and somewhere in the crowd, his godly wife was nodding her head in agreement saying, “That’s MY husband!” Let’s work with our family to build a godly home that brings glory to God and reflects the love of Christ.

Believing in Jesus

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That Jesus is an actual historical person cannot be overemphasized. His life, ministry, and execution are well-documented historical facts. Even his miracles are spoken of in historical writings outside the Bible.
When we talk about placing faith in Jesus, we are talking about placing faith in him for forgiveness and salvation, but we are also talking about believing the facts about him. He was a lower-class Jewish man who would have been called Yeshua, or Iesous to Greek-speaking individuals. He was born approximately 4 BC in Bethlehem to a young woman who was a biological descendant of David, the warrior-king of Israel. He was raised in Nazareth by Mary his mother, and Joseph his adoptive father. He learned the carpenter’s trade from Joseph and lived in obscurity for most of his life. Jesus (Yeshua) was an actual person. He most likely would have had a favorite food, a unique personality, and a circle of personal friends growing up. Jesus (Yeshua) was a person who existed on earth and left his footprints wherever he went. At the approximate age of 30, Jesus (Yeshua) was baptized by an eccentric prophet/preacher named John and subsequently began a preaching and miracle ministry that lasted over three years. He acquired many followers, most famously, the twelve disciples, eleven of whom would continue Jesus’ ministry after his death. Jesus’ ministry was brought to a sudden end when he was arrested during the Jewish Passover week in Jerusalem. He was convicted of blasphemy and executed by Roman crucifixion, perhaps the cruelest means of execution ever devised.

 

In addition to these facts, the Christian Gospel maintains the following to be equally true based on the witness recorded in the New Testament by eyewitnesses and Jesus’ own personal testimony recorded in the four Gospels. Jesus’ lack of a biological father on earth is due to the fact that he is the Son of God. His mother was a virgin when she conceived and when she bore Jesus. Jesus (Yeshua) fulfilled many ancient prophecies from the Old Testament and is in fact the foretold Jewish Messiah. Jesus had existed for eternity before being born in Bethlehem for he was and is God. Jesus is God, specifically the second person of the Trinity. His biological link to David through Mary is not incidental as he was of Davidic descent by divine direction and design, his lineage being before promised in the Old Testament writings. Jesus’ death was and is a vicarious atonement for the human race, particularly the elect – those who respond to the Gospel and are saved. Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his crucifixion. This resurrection was testament to his identity as the Son of God, the sinless one. The body of Jesus was glorified, that is, repaired from its damage and restored from any curse of sin. His body was raised eternal and glorious, that is, it is similar in appearance to a normal human body, but is of a supernatural and eternal quality. It is with this body that Jesus ascended back to heaven and is soon returning bodily to reign over creation as the King over all kings and Lord over all lords. Through Jesus’ incarnation as a man, his death, and his resurrection; God became man. God is now both God and man and will be so for all eternity. It is through this “adoption” of the human nature by God, that God and men will be able to fellowship throughout eternity.
This is Jesus as the Bible presents him. This is what all true Christians confess about Jesus Christ. I pray this is your confession as well.

Which Old Testament Laws Are For Me?

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How should the Christian respond to the various laws in the Old Testament? Some of the laws for Israel in the Old Testament seem strange to us today such as dietary laws forbidding pork and shellfish or laws that forbid wearing a garment made of two materials. To help us understand them, the various Old Testament laws can be classified into three categories:
· The moral law which governs the behavior for all men
· The judicial law which was for Israel’s operation as a nation 
· The ceremonial law which was for Israel’s worship until Christ came
We know that Jesus fulfilled the law (Romans 10:4; Colossians 2:14), but what does this mean for the Christian? How does the Old Testament law affect us practically now?
The judicial and ceremonial laws were fulfilled in Christ and Christians have no obligation to observe them literally. Many of these laws, however, teach us general principles about holiness that are good for us to follow.
The moral laws are God’s eternal standards of righteousness for all people – don’t murder, steal, commit adultery, etc. They teach us of our guilt before God and our need for salvation. Jesus also fulfilled the moral law, but this doesn’t free us from observing it. It simply frees us from the punishment of having already broken it.
The lines aren’t always clearly expressed. Sometimes you’ll come to a Scripture and it is pretty obvious that it is Israel-specific, other times you’ll find one that could go either way.
A good example is the verse about tattoos in Leviticus 19:28. There’s a lot of division over whether or not that verse is for Israel-only or for everyone. I particularly think it applies to God’s people whether Christians or Jews.
So… when coming to a particular law in the OT, ask the following questions:
1. Is this law obviously meant for Israel only?
2. Does Jesus coming change the application of this law?
3. What does the New Testament say about this issue/law?
4. Is there some spiritual benefit for Christians to obey this law?
5. If this law is not to be observed literally, what can it teach me?
Ultimately, Jesus simply wasthe fulfillment of the law. Jesus had to fulfill the law because it is eternal and cannot be broken. As Christians, we are bound under the new covenant and the law of love (Matthew 22:34-40). We must love God completely and sincerely and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. God’s eternal laws are bound up in these two great commandments.

Habakkuk: A Message of Faith

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Habakkuk is a unique prophet with an equally unique message. Rather than speaking to the people for God, Habakkuk speaks to God on behalf of the people. Habakkuk lived in a day when Judah was following her wicked rulers and living in rebellion against God. The king of Judah during Habakkuk’s ministry was most likely Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim is characterized as a bloody and wicked king consumed with the expansion of his own kingdom (Jeremiah 22:13-19). The apparent injustice of the day caused Habakkuk to struggle with questions of God’s holiness and sovereignty and Habakkuk comes to God for answers. This dialogue between the prophet and God makes up the majority of the book. Habakkuk is a good example of how we should wrestle with the hard questions where God is concerned.


In Habakkuk’s first prayer, he asks God why He doesn’t do something about the wickedness of Judah (1:2-4). God responds by telling the prophet that He will use the Babylonians to destroy Judah (vs. 5-7). God often utilizes ungodly people and nations as instruments of His will (Romans 9:14-24). Habakkuk prays a second time and questions God’s choice of the Babylonians since they were more wicked than Judah (1:12-17). It seemed that God was passing over Babylon’s sins in order to punish Judah. After his prayer, Habakkuk resigns himself to wait on an answer from God (2:1) which God then supplies. God says that in time He will also punish Babylon for their sins as well (2:8). God’s promise of judgment assures us that although God may delay judgment for a time, He will not allow sin to go unpunished forever.

God then gives Habakkuk three assurances to give him a divine perspective on the situation. First, God tells Habakkuk that “The just shall live by faith” (2:4). Even though we don’t always understand situations around us, we are called to have faith in God. Second, God tells Habakkuk that “the earth shall be filled with God’s glory” (vs. 14). Although wickedness is rampant in the world now, God promises a day to come when all wicked nations and individuals will be judged and the curse of sin is forever lifted (Romans 8:20-21). Third and finally, God reminds Habakkuk that “The Lord is in His holy temple” (vs. 20). Although wicked Jehoiakim may sit on the throne in Jerusalem, Yahweh our God sits on the throne in Heaven. God is not dead, but He is alive and sovereign over the affairs of men.
After receiving God’s answer, Habakkuk recognizes God as the righteous judge of the nations (3:2, 12-13) and ends with a song of praise to God (3:16-19). Although the news of God’s judgment was overwhelming and fearsome, Habakkuk could have peace because God would cause him to “rest in the day of trouble” (3:16). Habakkuk realizes that he may suffer as a result of God’s judgment but declares that he will rejoice in God no matter the circumstances that surround him (vs.17-18). Habakkuk ends his song with an assurance that God will provide grace to the righteous in difficult times (vs. 19). As the deer scales the heights of the mountains without slipping, God will cause Habakkuk to endure the difficulties that would come with the Babylonian overthrow of Judah. 
It is normal for our faith to be challenged during adversity. Many times we struggle to reconcile our beliefs with our experiences. We should learn from Habakkuk that it is good for us to bring our questions and struggles to God in prayer and seek the answers that only He can give. We also need to learn to trust God’s sovereignty and submit to God’s plan even if it brings hardship to us. Only then can we find joy and strength to endure and overcome in the midst of difficulty.
This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, January 8, 2013.