Thursday, December 12, 2013

Acts chpt 7

So tonight we read Acts chapter 7. Long chapter--60 verses I think it was. The chapter is of Stephen telling the legalistic crowd about the Jewish history. At the last 10 verses or so, he switches gears and starts telling them that they were no better than their anscestors. The pharisees and Jewish crowd had just about all they could handle, dragged Stephen outside the city and stoned him. 

I suppose this could really go along with chapter 6, where it starts out with Stephen and the Jewish leader and people fussing with Stephen. The thing was, the Holy Spirit was giving Stephen the words to say, so it was hard to talk against him. Not a people to give easily, they talked some folks into lying about what Stephen actually said. So, in chapter 7, Stephen sets the record straight, and gets himself killed. 

What really gripped my heart and made me tear up each time this was read, was at the very end, Stephen prays for God to not hold this sin against the people. The he went to sleep and died. Personally, I happened to read this myself several times, and had the same, "punched in the gut" feeling each time. Could I ever be so full of the Holy Spirit that I could actually pray that God have mercy on the people trying to hurt me? I don't know. I wish I could say an emphatic YES, but the truth is, I simply don't know.

What I do know though, is that of here late,  I've had anything but patience for those who were against me. It would be over stupid, silly, doesn't-amount-to-a-hill-of-beans kind of stuff. What was the difference? What made the people of old able to pray and keep going until death about the love God had for mankind? I considered the following:
  1. Stephen was indwelled by the Holy Spirit. 
  2. I was also indwelled by the Holy Spirit. 
  3. Stephen was a child of God
  4. I'm a child of God. 
  5. Stephen was active in the local church, waiting tables and feeding the widows and such. (See Acts 6:2-4)
  6. I'm not really involved in a church. A group of friends and I "sort of"  "do church" on Sundays, but we didn't have to do near the work that Stephen did, or even that Paul did. 
Now I know that one doesn't have to be busy in a local congregation--often, if we're not careful, we wind up so busy working 'for' God, we don't spend time "with" God. Big difference. 

Through all of this, I'm reminded of a passage a preacher friend of mine once said, "When, and if God decides we need to be used in a certain manner, or go through a certain trial, He will give us the grace to go through it". In other words, God's grace is sufficient for us. Always. 

Tonight was a quick talk through, but Stephen's words still ring out in my ears...

Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:57-60 NKJV)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Colossians 2 August 1, 2013

So tonight we read through chapter 2 of Colossians. 
Tonight was interesting. It was all good as usual, but something caught my eye, we discussed it a bit. I'd love to get your take on it. 
In Colossian 2, we read:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

I'd wondered exactly what the "elemental spiritual forces of this world" was. Growing up, anything that joined the words "spiritual" and "world" always centered around some sort of demon stuff. According to a footnote in BibleGateway, the forces were the same thing as principles. So, exactly what were the "elemental spiritual principles  and human tradition that hollow philosophy and deceptive philosophy depended on? 

I thought maybe it was demonic influence. That was just because, as mentioned earlier, anything with "spiritual" and "worldly" meant 'bad'. Daddy brought up a suggestion that the word "elemental' meant basic, so that, as a child, we were taught some rituals meant to keep us focused on Christ. Such as, 

  • Bow your head when you pray. 
  • Fold your hands. 
  • Raise your hands. 
  • Wave your hands.
  • Close your eyes when you pray. 
  • Stand for scripture reading. 
  • Say the blessing. 
  • Partake in the Lord's Supper every Sunday
  • Say your prayers at bedtime. 
  • Kneel beside your bed when you pray. 
And so the list goes. Now, by themselves, they're not bad. If participating in these rituals help us, as children, keep our eyes on God, then fine. But there comes a time when we need to put childish things away, and really know the Gospel from the inside out. There comes a time when rituals become just that... rituals and traditions. We do certain things because our parents did them, and their parents before. Paul is beseeching the folks at Colossi to not be deceived through smooth talking religious folks that might sound good, but really aren't sharing the gospel. 

It came to me, that in order for me to not be deceived by the ramblings of religious people, I need to know what the gospel is, Who the gospel is, and bounce everything I hear or read concerning Christ, off of Christ. Read and listen through the Holy Spirit filter. I may listen to what others say, but, I won't believe it until the Holy Spirit reassures me that truth is being spoken, or cautions me that error is being spoken. 

So, this is my take on it. Any thoughts? (I'll post the video after I upload it to YouTube)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Galatians 6 July 11, 2013

So, we recapped on chapter 5, which was basically to love your neighbor as yourself, the fruit of the spirit, then moved on to chapter 6. I must say, there were a few verses in chapter 6 that threw me for a loop. I almost understood it, but thought I would still put the proverbial checkmark by it, just the same.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

I understood the first few verses--don't go pointing fingers at a brother or sister who is struggling with a sin. Pull them off to the side, and see if there's anything you can do to help them escape that entanglement. Don't embarrass them. Carry each other's burdens. That's plain and simple... that's the "love in action" thing. Verse 3? Don't be so arrogant. Don't be 'holier-than-thou'. Verses 4, 5 and 6? Not quite so sure. Although I understand that we're not to compare our actions against someone else's actions, and we're to make sure we're "doing right"... is that pretty much a check list?? Do I really want a check list? Then the Christian walk becomes a "to do" list, instead of just living. 
  • Did I read my Bible today? ✓
  • Did I say my morning prayer? ✓
  • Was I nice to my family? ✓
Well, you get the point. I don't want my life to be a check list, because then it becomes about me, instead of about God. 

I'm not sure what we're supposed to share with the instructor either. (verse 6). Just our thoughts to let the instructor know we've learned something? I'm not sure. 

If you have any idea, would you share it in the comment section? 
Thanks bunches!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Galatians 5 June 30, 2013

So, this evening reference was Galatians 5. of course, the immediate reference of Galatians 5:22 came to mind. You know the one. The one that speaks of the fruit of the spirit? I suspect most every faithful church goer has memorized it.

"The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, against such there is no law."
Did I get it right? 

But, the topic of our Bible study wasn't neccesarily the fruit of the spirit. I don't know that I've ever read that chapter in context since understanding the New Coveannt, or if I had, it's been a while. 

So, Paul is fussing at the Galatians for comingling law and grace. He reminded them that circumcision was NOT what he was preaching. Had he been preaching that, he admitted that he probably wouldn't be persecuted so much. He reminded them that they were not under law, but under grace. Re-reading it, it seemed like Paul was pitching a fit to get the Galatians back on the track of Grace. 

This got me to thinking, God used some chatters and the ministry of People to People Ministries (now called Basic Gospel) to teach me His New Covenant. The Galatians had Paul to teach them. So, who was teaching the New Covenant from the time of Paul's death to the time I heard about it in 1999? This particular ministry has been around since about 1985, so why didn't I hear about it? Going to church pretty much all of my life, why didn't I ever read it? I had several Bibles to read, and even did lots of personal studies. Why didn't I get it? Several preachers that I listened to, from evangelical to pentecostal, cautioned listeners to not take their word for the meaning of the Bible, but to ask God to reveal it. Odd. Did I not do that? One preacher preached with gusto the "once saved, always saved" theology, the other preached, "backslide into hell" theology. They couldn't both be right. But with my limited knowledge, it seemed to me that they both had valid points. 

I wonder if God keeps the Gospel hidden until such time as we're ready to hear/receive it? I KNOW I've read the New Testament (and Old Testament for that matter) many many times in the past. How'd I miss the New Covenant? G reminded us that when the Law of Moses was read, there was a veil over our hearts. The purpose of the Law was to lead us to Jesus...lead us to the end of ourselves. I mean, it's not like the words were rearranged all of a sudden.  We had them there the whole time. I'm thinking our prideful hearts just can't accept the fact that Law + Grace just flat isn't where it's at.  So, it's true, until Jesus removes the veil, we won't understand the New Covenant.

I guess this just goes to prove that verse that says the thing of the Spirit makes no sense to the things of the flesh.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bible Study 5-30-13 Galatians 2

I suppose this was a quick scripture to remind us to be who we are. If we're in Christ, let Him shine through. In Galatians 2, Paul is recapping his memoirs of who he was, and how he came to be. At the time this letter was written, Paul had no concern with anyone else's status, be they Jew or Greek. He was who he was, and Christ had compelled him to preach the unadulterated gospel. It made no never mind that "leaders" sent false brethren to spy out their freedom. He was who he was, and encouraged the folks at Galatia to be the same. He reminded them that he even had to call Peter out on his hypocrisy--eating with the Gentiles until the Jewish leaders came onto the scene. 

Why did Paul care about Peter's testimony? Apparently, it wasn't just Peter being affected that was the problem. This little hypocritical act of Peter's not only messed himself up, he had led Barnabas astray as well. In fact, several other Jews got on the bandwagon against the Gentiles--when the leaders came in. 

What about us? Are we more cautious, or allow the opinions of others to persuade us into doing things not quite right? Do we succumb to peer pressure?Do we give in to religious bullying? 

This particular mindset gives me courage to stand up to church bullies or religious bullies. Although I won't engage in an argument, and argue doctrine with religious leaders who feel they have the corner market on the gospel, I don't want to be one of the ones that deny the Holy Spirit that lives within me, just to avoid conflict. 

We were once told that if we find ourselves going through a particularly unpleasant circumstance, where our faith in God is called into question, hang in there, God will give us grace for that moment. There is grace for every need. However, until that time comes... just relax. 

Bible Study 5-23-13 Galatians 1

Having finished up the New Covenant Bible Study put out by the ministry formerly known as People to People (Now called BasicGospel), G decided to take us back through the book of Galatians. We've all read it before. One thing we all agree on, is that no matter how many times we read certain scriptures in the Bible, God never fails to instill some little tidbit that we'd not seen before. 

One such incident was Paul saying that if we listen to some other gospel other than what he's preached, then it's no gospel at all. A passage we'd read many times before, but as I sat and contemplated this, I thought how subtle some of these "different gospels" are. Of course we can roll our eyes at the obviously false doctrines, but what about those who are "almost" right? Sadly, we have these in our denominations today when it comes to being made righteous, and a big one--that concerning forgiveness and eternal life. 
Salvation by reciting the sinner's prayer? Baptism? Eucharist? Good works? Speaking in tongues? Most every assembly will be quick to claim the verse, "By grace are you saved and not of yourselves" and nod with their competitors in agreement. Then the "but" comes in. 

  • "But you also have to pray and ask God..."
  • "But you also need to be baptized in order to..."
  • "But you actually receive Christ through the Eucharist..."
  • "If you don't speak in tongues, you're not really saved...."

On and on it goes. Not only does it cause strife among the people who call themselves Christians, it winds up being just a bit different than the gospel Paul and the other Apostles preached. Just a bit different, not too much. 
But what did Paul say?
 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!   
Not even the least little bit would he allow the gospel to be changed.
What about us? Do we allow our ears to be tickled by the gospel + our denominational persuasion? 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bible Study 5.5.13. Living Out Our Identity

Tonight's scripture all revolved around our identity in Christ. What makes a Christian a Christian? Is being good, good enough to be called a Christian? Perhaps going to church or giving monies to charities? Exactly what differentiates a Christian from a Protestant or catholic?
We become Christians when we put our trust in Christ's finished work. When that happens, several things take place:
  1. We pass from death to life.
  2. We are conformed in Christ's image.
  3. We now have permission to call God Abba, Father.
  4. We have a new name "God's children"
  5. We become part of the Body of Christ.
There was much discussion on who we are, and how our lives reflect that. Give a listen!