Friday, December 27, 2013

Bible Study: Lessons For The Christian Life - 1 Peter - Chapter 4

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the epistle of 1 Peter. I feel a great sense of urgency to publish them because I’m not sure how much time we have left on this big, blue marble. Thank you for reading them. I pray that God blesses and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. But at the time of its writing, early summer 2010, things are still looking pretty bleak with the economy and unemployment, and BP is taking a lot of heat over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Seek His wisdom. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 4 of 1 Peter. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

4:1 – We are to have the same attitude as Christ with regard to suffering. Can you find some Biblical references to Christ’s response to physical and emotional suffering? Try looking toward the end of the four gospel accounts.

4:2 – Because Christ conquered sin through His reaction to His suffering, “He does not live the rest of His earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” What does this phrase mean to you?

4:3 – Peter says we’ve had enough of “living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” Define these terms. Are there areas of your life where you are still engaging in these practices? What can you change to avoid these behaviors?

4:4 – Non-believers will abuse and ridicule you because of your Christian behavior. Have you already experienced this type of abuse? What sort of advice would you share with a new believer who is enduring this treatment? What do you wish someone would’ve told you with regard to this issue?

4:5 – Non-believers will be judged by God for their behavior – including their attacks on His children. Does this comfort you? Does it fill you with dread for these people? Pray for these individuals to be delivered from this behavior and into the kingdom of God. Why? Check out the next verse.

4:6 – Judgment will be in accordance with our response to the gospel.

4:7 – Do you keep yourself clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray? How do you do this?

4:8 – Love is a powerful thing! Obey this command: love each other deeply.

The love mentioned here is agape.

4:9 – Here’s another command we should obey: be hospitable and don’t grumble about it!

4:10 – What are the gifts God has given you? Are you using these gifts to serve others as He has commanded? If not, how could you begin doing so today?

4:11 – Everything we do has some form of focus on God. This is a huge responsibility, but it is also tapping into a monumental Power Source: the Creator of the universe! Remember, you can do all things through Christ! What have you done through His power, today? How was He glorified in it?

4:12 – As Christians, we can expect trials.

4:13 – When these trials come, we are told to rejoice. It is a privilege to be considered worthy to share in the sufferings of Christ. How do you think His glory is revealed in times of trial?

4:14 – Have you been insulted because of your faith in Christ? If so, the Bible says you are blessed. Scripture also says that the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. What does this mean to you?

4:15 – If you suffer because of a crime you’ve committed, you are not sharing in the sufferings of Christ. What does this tell you about how God feels about the law?

This verse mentions meddling in the same phrase as murder, thievery and crime. What does this tell you about how God views meddling?

4:16 – There is no shame in suffering for your faith in Christ.

4:17 – What scriptures can you find referencing God’s judgment? Apparently believers will be judged first.

4:18 – See Proverbs 11:31. This is a sobering verse. Are you praying for the salvation of the ungodly? Are you revealing Christ to those around you on a daily basis? What else can you do to see that the gospel is preached?

4:19 – Our suffering is in accordance with God's will. Don’t misunderstand what I mean by this: Nothing that touches our lives does so without first being filtered through the mighty fingers of the Almighty. We should be thankful rather than blaming. Things could DEFINITELY be much worse!





• First Peter illustrates several life lessons for Christians. What is God teaching you in this chapter of scripture? How will you apply it to your life this week?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ephesians: Discovering Your Identity and Purpose in Christ – Week Seven


Walking “Under the Influence”

Role models can be incredibly influential.  Christ is your role model if you’re a believer.  How much influence does He have over you?  Are you living a life of love just as Christ loved us?  You can do all things through Christ – including love like Him.  But you’re powerless on your own to accomplish this.

Do you know what grieves God?  Are you avoiding that sort of behavior?  Are you sinning anyway and counting on His grace?  Are you ignorant about God’s likes and dislikes?  Study God’s Word so you know what pleases Him and what displeases Him.

We should obey His Word.  That’s how we show our love for Him – through obedience.  The days are evil.  We need to know and understand God’s will and walk in wisdom and discernment so that we may glorify Him.  I don’t do it right all the time.  I don’t do it wrong all the time, either.  We must constantly be giving control over to God.  Ultimately, the war is won.  In this area, I just want to experience lots of little momentary victories.

Memorize:  Ephesians 5:18b-20

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bible Study: Lessons For The Christian Life - 1 Peter - Chapter 3

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the epistle of 1 Peter. I feel a great sense of urgency to publish them because I’m not sure how much time we have left on this big, blue marble. Thank you for reading them. I pray that God blesses and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. But at the time of its writing, early summer 2010, things are still looking pretty bleak with the economy and unemployment, and BP is taking a lot of heat over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Seek His wisdom. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 3 of 1 Peter. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

3:1 – Christian wives should win over their non-believing husbands without words but rather by their behavior. Is your behavior speaking louder than your words in testimony to your belief in Christ?

3:2 – Ladies, is your life being lived out with an attitude of purity and reverence toward Christ? Share an example.

3:3-4 – Does your beauty come from outward adornment or your inner self? How can you cultivate an inner self beauty? Take a look at the next couple of verses.

I can testify that the best part of me is the Holy Spirit inside. I believe that’s the source of our inner beauty because that is the part of us that resembles Jesus!

3:5-6 – Submissiveness and obedience to your own husband is beautiful.

As the bride of Christ, Jesus is our Husband and Master and we should obey Him and submit to His authority.

3:6 – What does it mean to give way to fear? Fear of what?

3:7 – Husbands are to respect their wives as the weaker partner. This is about tenderness, fragility and protection. Wives are co- heirs with their husbands “of the gracious gift of life". If men don’t treat their wives this way, their prayers may be hindered.

3:8 – Are you living in harmony with others? Are you sympathetic? Do you love others? Are you compassionate and humble? What can you do to improve in these areas?

love as brothers – philadelphos.

3:9 – Are you able to repay evil and insult with blessing? This verse teaches that we are called to behave this way so that you may inherit a blessing.

3:10-12 – These verses offer some significant challenges: watching your mouth, doing good, pursuing peace. What will you change about your behavior based on these verses?

See Psalm 34:12-16.

3:13 – If you are eager to do good, I can tell you for a fact that you will experience opposition. DON”T BE DISCOURAGED! Keep doing good.

3:14 – It may be difficult to see suffering as a blessing. How do you remind yourself of this?

See Isaiah 8:12 – who are “they”? And what are they not supposed to fear?

3:15 – We are told in this verse to make Christ the Lord in our hearts. Have you done this? Have you accepted His free gift of salvation? If you haven’t, but would like to, pray with me the prayer at the top of this page. Then seek out a Christian friend or Bible teaching church.

We must be ready to share hope. Are you prepared to tell people why you have the hope that you do? The last time you shared your faith, did you do so with gentleness and respect?

3:16 – By sharing our faith respectfully and with gentleness, we put those who oppose us in the position to be ashamed of their slanderous words. This glorifies God and may even win over the opposition.

3:18 – Christ died for the sins of the righteous and the unrighteous. His death is meant to lead us to God.

3:19-21 – The Holy Spirit is how Christ preached to those who were disobedient prior to Jesus’ birth. The time of Noah building the ark is mentioned. The story of the great flood and Noah’s ark chronicles eight people being saved through water which symbolizes baptism. Baptism is symbolic of Christ’s resurrection.

3:20 – patiently – makrothumia – mercy.

3:22 – Christ now sits at the right hand of God. All angels, authorities and powers are in submission to Him. Does it comfort you to know that all authority placed over you answers to Him? Does this have any influence over how you will behave toward your bosses in the future? How so?





• First Peter illustrates several life lessons for Christians. What is God teaching you in this chapter of scripture? How will you apply it to your life this week?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ephesians: Discovering Your Identity and Purpose in Christ – Week Six


Tripping Over Your Tongue?  Talk Your Walk

Ahhhhh!  The tongue!  The bane of many an existence!  How problematic is your mouth?  When God transforms us, it affects what comes out of our mouths.  Paul teaches us to quit lying and speak truth.  God means what He says.  Shouldn’t His people live the same way?

A runaway tongue can damage like a runaway train.  We need to be truthful and loving at the same time.  Even when we get angry – and it will happen – we are told not to sin in our anger.  We are warned not to give the devil a foothold on any aspect of our lives.  What are some ways to keep from sinning with our mouths?  Praise.  Prayer.  Thanksgiving.  Encouragement.  Forgiveness.  Any questions?

Personally, I’ve found the best way to maintain the illusion of control over my tongue is to keep my mouth shut.  And when my thought life goes South, I wash my mind in the Living Water of my Savior and His Word.  What do you do?

Memorize:  Ephesians 4:29

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bible Study: Lessons For The Christian Life - 1 Peter - Chapter 2

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the epistle of 1 Peter. I feel a great sense of urgency to publish them because I’m not sure how much time we have left on this big, blue marble. Thank you for reading them. I pray that God blesses and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. But at the time of its writing, early summer 2010, things are still looking pretty bleak with the economy and unemployment, and BP is taking a lot of heat over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Seek His wisdom. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 2 of 1 Peter. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

2:1 – How many kinds of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander can you think of?

2:2 – This passage is intended for new believers, so that they may grow in their relationship with Jesus. How else can you think of that you grow in your salvation? Aren’t you simply saved or not saved? I believe this verse is talking about maturity in Christ.

2:3 – We are to crave the Lord as we would physical sustenance.

2:4 – Jesus is the living Stone, chosen by Go and rejected by men.

See Luke 7:2. highly valued.

2:5 – We are living stones, “being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Are you a chip off the Ol’ Block?

What spiritual sacrifices are you offering to God through Jesus?

2:6 – Jesus is the chosen and precious cornerstone. See Isaiah 28:16.

Do you trust in Him? Scripture says that if you do, you will never be put to shame. Jesus endured ridicule, so we can expect the same. What does “you will never be put to shame” mean to you?

2:7 – Jesus is precious to believers. But non-believers have rejected Him. See Psalm 118:22.

What do you think the non-believers were building that they rejected Jesus as a building block?

2:8 – See Isaiah 8:14. This is a powerful verse. It reminds me that EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

2:9 – Believers are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God”. Take a few minutes to thank Him for the privilege.

The reason that we are chosen, etc. is so we can declare His praises. How are you doing this?

2:10 – This verse conveys a sense of belonging and unity and forgiveness. How are you living this out? What can you do to improve how you are already living this?

2:11 – This verse is packed with treasure: we believers are friends of the disciples – better still, we are friends of Christ; we don’t belong to the world; we are told “to abstain from sinful desires” which tells me that we are capable of doing so through Christ; those sinful desires are at war against our souls – this is definitely a war I want to win.

What tactics are you using to win the war against sinful desires?

2:12 – Isn’t this idea exciting? Non-believers who persecute us because of our beliefs do so because of our behavior – hopefully they are witnessing those good deeds that are going to cause them to glorify God when He returns.

2:13-14 – This is challenging. Submitting to authority requires humility. Remember that God places every authority in their position. By obeying those authorities placed over you, you are obeying God.

2:15 – I consistently hear people ask what God's will is. This verse plainly says that it is His will that we should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men by doing good. Can you offer an explanation?

2:16 – Our freedom in Christ gives us permission to do many things. But we are warned not to use our freedom as an excuse to do evil. How should a servant of God live?

2:17 – How are you showing proper respect to others? How do you determine what is “proper respect”?

2:18-21 – Submission is difficult enough when the authority over you is “good and considerate”, but Peter tells slaves to also submit to those authorities who cause suffering. They are to do this because of God and because Christ suffered for us.

Who are the “slaves” Peter is addressing? Perhaps this is a cultural issue for the time meaning that slaves (and criminals) would be the only acceptable people to mistreat in this way. Today, people are abused in too many ways to count. As a bondslave to Christ, and considering how well He treats me, I will pray for strength and make a conscious effort to endure suffering for His sake.

2:21 – Jesus’ handling of His suffering is an example for us to follow.

2:22 – See Isaiah 53:7, 9. This is a great life lesson: don’t sin; don’t speak deceitfully.

2:23 – More lessons for life (I mark these “LFL” in my Bible): don’t retaliate when people insult you; don’t make threats when you are suffering; trust God.

2:24 – Because Jesus suffered and died to take our punishment, we have the privilege of dying to sin and living for righteousness. His wounds have healed us. Tell someone this week about the healing He has brought to your life.

2:25 – We believers are no longer wanderers. We have a Protector and a Champion of our souls.





• First Peter illustrates several life lessons for Christians. What is God teaching you in this chapter of scripture? How will you apply it to your life this week?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Simplified Guide: Paul's Letters to the Churches by David Hazelton

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Deep River Books (September 5, 2013)

***Special thanks to Emily Woodworth for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Like Paul, David Hazelton's professional background is in the law and business. He is a senior partner in a law firm in Washington, D.C., one of the nation's five largest firms. Dave's passion is teaching Sunday School and leading Bible studies in his home, church, and workplace. He serves as an elder at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Paul wrote to "all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 1:2). Far from works of abstract theology, his letters provide practical instruction to people without any special theological training or educational credentials––regular people like you and me. In The Simplified Guide, David Hazelton collects Paul’s instructions on specific issues as faithfully and completely as possible. Rather than promoting a particular interpretation, Hazelton guides readers to make their own observations about applying Paul's instructions to their lives.



Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Deep River Books (September 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193775684X
ISBN-13: 978-1937756840


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

PART I: RIGHT BELIEFS

Paul explains the essentials of the gospel message of salvation in simple and straightforward terms. Rather than focusing on a rigid set of rules, or a detailed set of rituals, or a complex system of theology, Paul focuses on the person of Jesus Christ, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. If we understand the gospel correctly, everything else will follow. Before we worry about any other issue, Paul wants us to under­stand the gospel in all of its clarity, beauty and majesty.
We therefore begin in chapter 1 with Paul’s explanation of this pure and simple gospel. Due to its central importance, Paul issues strong warnings against any additions to or subtractions from this gospel as discussed chapter 2. While insisting on strict faithfulness to the essentials of the gospel, chapter 3 discusses Paul’s declaration of our freedom in practices and personal convictions on secondary matters. Chapter 4 next explains that Paul relies on Scripture as the foundation for understanding the gospel and, more generally, what we believe as Christians. In chapter 5, we conclude Part I of our study by discussing how Paul takes a practical approach to “theological” issues, which brings us back, again and again, to the gospel.
CHAPTER 1

The Pure and Simple Gospel

This is the most important chapter in this book. As Paul makes clear, the gospel is the basis for our salvation. It is the foundation on which all of his other instructions are built. If we build on any other foundation, everything else that we believe or do will crumble in the end.
The gospel message as declared by Paul is easy to understand but often hard to accept. Almost everyone can readily grasp the essential elements of the gospel at a basic level. But many want to make it more complex than it is, perhaps because it is difficult to accept that something so important can be so simple. Paul is very clear, however, that the gospel message of salvation is simple, straightforward, and available to all who come in faith. Let’s examine the foundation for Paul’s teaching—and our faith—and what it means for us today.
WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIALS OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE OF SALVATION?
In 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, Paul states plainly the gospel by which we are saved:
I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Paul provides quite a buildup before identifying the essentials of the gospel message. “By this gospel you are saved” (1 Cor. 15:2). It is the “gospel I preached to you,” the gospel “you received and on which you have taken your stand,” the gospel to which you must “hold firmly,” and it is a matter of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). Having emphasized its importance, Paul states the essential elements of the gospel in a few simple words: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (2 Cor. 15:3–4). Clearly, nothing is more important to Paul than the person of Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection.
The book of Acts documents that Paul preached this very gospel message to the churches when he was with them in person. When arriving in a city, it was the “custom” of Paul to go to the synagogue where “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said” (Acts 17:2–3). Thus, in his sermon recorded in Acts 13:13–41, Paul presented the “message of salvation” (v. 26) and “the good news” (v. 32) by focusing on the historic events of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Specifically, he pro­claimed:
The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:27–31)
Similarly, when put on trial for preaching the gospel, Paul explained: “I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22–23). We are often tempted to complicate the gospel, but when his back was to the wall, Paul stood firm on a simple statement about Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection.
Paul’s insistence on this pure and simple gospel wasn’t limited to his preaching. In his letters to the churches, Paul repeats again and again the simple gospel that he had preached. In 1 Corinthians 2:1–2, he explains: “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him cru­cified.” Similarly, Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 1:23 that “we preach Christ crucified.” He identifies “the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:8–9).
When describing the message that he preached to the Galatians, Paul declared: “Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (Gal. 3:1). Again, in 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul instructs: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.”
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS CHRIST?
Jesus was crucified by the Romans, a regional empire that occupied and controlled Palestine at the time. It seemed like a matter of local politics in a backwater province, where the local Roman governor—a man named Pilate—sought to placate Jewish religious leaders who had a vendetta against Jesus. Yet there was a much deeper meaning to the crucifixion of Jesus—a God­ordained plan to restore the relationship between humans and their Creator, a relationship that was fractured when sin entered the world. It was this deeper, divine plan that compelled Paul.
In his death on the cross, Jesus Christ—who lived a life without sin—took our sin upon himself and accepted the punishment that we deserved. As Paul explains in Romans 5:6–11:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Paul addresses this spiritual reality again and again in Romans, which contains his most in­depth discussion of the gospel and its implications for our lives. After explaining in Romans 1:18 to 3:20 that every person is a sinner who is without excuse before God and under God’s wrath, Paul declares that we have access to forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. (Rom. 3:23–25)
To ensure that his readers understood the eternal significance of the crucifixion, Paul returns to it again and again. Romans 4:25 states: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” In Romans 6:6–7, we read: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
The life­changing power of Christ’s atoning death is emphasized in Paul’s other letters as well. Ephesians 1:7 explains: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” In Colossians 2:13–14, Paul declares again that “you were dead in your sins” but:
God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
Thus, as Paul states emphatically, the fact that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” is a matter of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3) because his death provides the basis for God’s forgiveness of our sins.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS CHRISTS RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD?
We humans are afraid of countless things. We fear spiders, clowns, heights, public spaces, public speaking, and a thousand other terrors. From the silly to the serious, fear is an unavoidable part of what it means to be human.
Yet there is one fear that rises like a specter above all others, that sounds a sinister echo in the background of our daily lives: the fear of death. Nothing is so terrifying as the realization that we will, sooner or later, die and confront the uncertainty about what will happen to us on the other side of this life. The inevitability of death makes it no easier to accept; its permanence forces us to come to grips with fundamental issues.
It is in this profoundly human context that Christ died as a man, just as every man, woman and child will eventually die. Yet Christ conquered death through his resurrection. As sons and daughters of God, we share in Christ’s victory over death and his promise of eternal life.
Paul’s most extensive discussion of the significance of Christ’s resurrection is in 1 Corinthians 15:12–57. In that passage, he begins by correcting those who deny the resurrection, explaining that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (v. 14) and “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (v. 17). He then declares in verses 20–22:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
On the day of our resurrection to eternal life, our decaying material bodies will be exchanged for glorified and imperishable bodies. Christ “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Much as a seed is planted or sown in one form but then emerges from the earth as something new and better, Paul explains:
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Cor. 15:42–44)
He compares our current mortal bodies to “jars of clay” (2 Cor. 4:7) and an “earthly tent” which we will exchange for “an eternal house in heaven” (2 Cor. 5:1). The glory of what God has in store for us is beyond our comprehension. “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
This resurrection power not only has eternal significance, it also has the power to transform our lives today. Emphasizing the connection between the resurrection and the power to live a holy life today, Paul explains in Romans 6:4–10 that:
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Again, Paul explains in Romans 8:11 that: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
Jesus Christ took our sins upon himself when he was crucified on the cross, but it was his glorious resurrection that conquered death and prepared the way for our resurrection and eternal life. The great human fear of death is conquered in the triumphant resurrection of Christ. His victory over death changed everything.
WHO IS JESUS CHRIST THAT HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION COULD HAVE THIS SIGNIFICANCE?
Paul emphasizes the primary importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in all his teaching. Yet crucifixions were all too common during that period of human history. And while resurrections were exceedingly rare, the Bible records others such as Lazarus who were raised from the dead. What was it about Jesus Christ that, above anyone else who ever lived, his crucifixion and resurrection could have such eternal and earthshaking significance?
Paul states the answer plainly in Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” While Jesus “as to his earthly life was a descendant of David” (Rom. 1:3), he is also “in very nature God” (Phil. 2:6). He “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Detailing several of the fundamental characteristics that distinguish Jesus Christ from the rest of humanity, Paul continues in Colossians 1:15–20:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
In Ephesians 1:19–21, Paul explains how God’s “incomparably great power” was demonstrated when God raised Christ from the dead and “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Paul continues in verses 22 and 23: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
As declared by Paul, Jesus Christ’s unique nature as sinless God who became man is the reason why his death could pay the price for our sins and thus provide the basis for our salvation. Outside of Jesus, there has never been a death that could provide forgiveness for our sins, and there has never been a resurrection that could conquer death and pave the way for our resurrection.
HOW DO WE RECEIVE THE GIFTS OF FORGIVENESS AND ETERNAL LIFE AVAILABLE THROUGH THE GOSPEL?
Christ paid the price for our forgiveness and conquered death so we could have eternal life. We are helpless without him. Salvation is therefore a gift received freely in faith, not something we earn through good works. Paul’s letter to the Romans again contains his most systematic discussion of the role of faith in receiving salvation through the gospel. Emphasizing this important distinction between faith and works, he declares in Romans 4:4–5 that:
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
Paul emphasizes the important role of faith for salvation again and again in Romans. “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Rom. 1:17). “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:22). Explaining that we “are justified freely by his [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” Paul declares that “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood— to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:24–25). “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28). “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Rom. 5:1–2).
Driving the point home that faith has always been the basis by which people are justified before God, Paul points in Romans 4 to Abraham, the forefather of the Jews who lived more than 2,000 years before Christ’s crucifixion, as a model of someone justified by faith. “‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Rom. 4:3). “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” in God’s promise that he would be the father of many nations (Rom. 4:18). “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old” (Rom. 4:19). “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Rom. 4:20–22).
Paul is emphatic that salvation in Christ must be received in faith. Indeed, in Romans and his other letters to the churches, he refers to “faith” more than 100 times. For example: “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’” (Gal. 3:11). “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:14). “In him [Jesus] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12).
In his personal testimony, Paul declares that he is found “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9). This small sampling of Paul’s references to “faith” reflects his conviction that Christ has done it all, that we cannot save ourselves, and that we only can accept salvation in Christ through faith.
Perhaps the best definition of “faith” is found in the New Testament book of Hebrews. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Unless received in faith, the gospel message has little meaning for the one who hears it. “For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed” (Heb. 4:2).
Faith does not require that we understand the mystery of the gospel in its fullness to accept it. When explaining “the message concerning faith that we proclaim,” Paul states the simplicity of the expression of faith required for salvation:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Rom. 10:8–10)
When we genuinely believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths, it is the Spirit of God at work in us. For “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).
WHAT DO PAULS INSTRUCTIONS MEAN FOR US TODAY?
How does this gospel—the unbelievable, life­transforming, history­shaping good news declared by Paul—affect our lives today? As we close this first chapter, we pause to reflect on the practical implications of Paul’s instructions. This opportunity for reflection is not intended to prescribe specifically what we need to do or how we need to change in light of the truths declared by Paul. Instead, these few questions can encourage us to come before God and seek his guidance on how to respond to the truths taught by Paul.

1. Why should God let us into heaven?
2. What would be our eternal destiny if God gave us what we deserved rather than the forgiveness we can have through Christ?
3. Can we be saved by following rules and performing rituals? Why not?
4. What is the significance of the fact that salvation is a gift to be received in faith rather than something to be earned through good works? What is the significance of this fact to our daily walk as Christians?
5. What is the significance of the fact that the gospel is centered on Christ and what he did, rather than on us and our efforts? How should this reality affect our daily walk as Christians?
6. What does it mean to accept the gospel in faith? At an intellectual level, how do we accept the gospel? How does receiving the gospel in faith go beyond intellectual acceptance?
7. Can we fully understand the mystery and miracle of the gospel? Why not?
8. If we cannot be saved by our own good works, what is the role of good works in a Christian’s life (which will be discussed at length in Part II of our study)?
9. What is your relationship with Christ? Is he both your Lord and Savior?

10. How should we live differently in light of the gospel?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ephesians: Discovering Your Identity and Purpose in Christ – Week Five


Sit Down to Walk

Lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance are four essential qualities for unity.  We must consider others better than ourselves.  We must correct gently and forgive each other.  We must persevere and not give up.  Which of these qualities do you struggle with most?

The Spirit brings unity.  We are one body, with one Spirit.  We have one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God.  Does your own body of believers agree with this?

Even so, we are not all the same.  We all have different gifts that God gives us to use to perfect the saints, to use for ministry, and to edify the body of Christ.  Read Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and compile a complete list of those gifts.  Do you know what gifts Christ has given you?   How did you discover it?  If you still don’t know your gift(s), speak with a trusted Bible study leader or Pastor for resources you can use to discover your gifts.  And then our focus should be on the work of the Holy Spirit, not the gift itself.  If we focus on the gift, we can convince ourselves that it’s our ability that makes the gift possible and steal God’s glory.

“Truthing in love” is the final focus of this lesson.  Speaking the truth in a loving way is not always a simple task.  What does this look like to you?  Gentle correction?  Firm but calm confrontation?  “Truthing in love” is crucial behavior for a healthy church.  After all, how can your church be healthy if it’s living a lie?

Memorize:  Ephesians 4:2-3

Friday, December 06, 2013

Elusive Hope by MaryLu Tyndall


First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to MaryLuTyndall for having me as a member of her Motley Crew of Influencers and for sending me a copy of "Elusive Hope" to review for her. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.
MaryLu Tyndall’s “Elusive Hope” is an entertaining romantic adventure with a healthy dose of the supernatural.  Magnolia wants to leave the Brazilian community of New Hope to return to civilization in the United States and the fiancĂ© she left behind.  Hayden is searching for his father to keep a promise made to his mother on her deathbed.  Their paths lead them to journey together and discover a mutual attraction that must be denied for their missions to be completed.

Meanwhile, the community of New Hope is experiencing its own set of problems.  Mysterious visions are being seen by the citizens and an ancient temple steeped in evil has been discovered.  Several members of the community are reunited with past acquaintances in the jungle.  This novel has it all: action, romance, a suspenseful storyline, lush locales and fleshy characters.

This novel had me praying through man’s tendency to look at outward appearances versus God’s examination of the heart.

Bible Study: Lessons For The Christian Life - 1 Peter - Chapter 1

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the epistle of 1 Peter. I feel a great sense of urgency to publish them because I’m not sure how much time we have left on this big, blue marble. Thank you for reading them. I pray that God blesses and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. But at the time of its writing, early summer 2010, things are still looking pretty bleak with the economy and unemployment, and BP is taking a lot of heat over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Seek His wisdom. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 1 of 1 Peter. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

This epistle was written by Peter around AD 60 or later because of its familiarity with Paul’s prison letters. Peter was one of the disciples of Jesus, often chosen as one of the three to accompany Jesus into more personal fellowship. Peter was martyred during Nero’s reign in AD 67/68.

1:1 – This letter is from the apostle Peter to believers “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia”. Take a look at a map. Where are these places? How might people in these areas have become believers? Keep in mind that some people from this area were present at the Pentecost.

What does the phrase “strangers in the world” mean to you? Does this phrase describe you?

1:2 – According to Peter, these believers were “…chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”. What does this mean? Do you believe that believers today have also been chosen by God the Father?

For what purpose have we been chosen? This verse tells us “for obedience to Jesus Christ”. Are you fulfilling this purpose? What changes need to be made for you to do so?

Take a moment to contemplate where you have an abundance of grace and peace in your life.

1:3-4 - God has given us new life through Christ’s resurrection. The living hope we have is that of eternal life. That is our imperishable inheritance.

Do you have this living hope of eternal life? I pray that you do. If you don’t and you’d like to, please take a moment to pray. You can use the words posted in the left pane of this web page. Then seek the Lord through His Word (the Bible) and find a group of Christian believers (Bible-teaching church) to help you grow in your relationship with Him. Welcome to the family!

1:5 – We are protected by God's power through our faith. What are we being protected from?

Peter mentions a time frame: “until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”. Do you think that this coming salvation is referring to the return of Christ? Or is it perhaps the idea of constant sanctification?

1:6-9 – This is a refining process. (As Silver Refined – Arthur)

1:6 – We may have to suffer because of trials. But this suffering will only last for a little while. Keep in mind that a lifetime is considered a little while when a lifespan is equated with vapor. See James 4:14.

1:7 – These trials come so that your faith may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Does this fact offer you comfort? Can you see how challenges from your past have glorified God? How can you share with others about your current trials to bring glory to Jesus?

1:8 – These believers had never seen Jesus, but they loved Him and believed in Him. This is very much like our relationship with Christ. Has your love and belief in Jesus resulted in your life being filled with “an inexpressible and glorious joy”? Share this with someone.

1:9 - The goal of our faith is our salvation. What does this mean to you?

1:10-12 – This is fascinating to me: the prophets searched to learn the time and circumstances of the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. But they learned that they were not serving themselves but future believers with their prophecies of these things.

What does it mean to you that “Even angels long to look into these things”?

1:13 - What are some practical ways to prepare your mind for action?

What are you doing to be self-controlled?

Is your hope set fully on the grace you’ve been given by Jesus Christ?

1:14 – As Christians, we are called to obedience. In this verse, we are told not to “conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance”. Have you been transformed to the point that you have given up old behaviors? I pray so. When they try to reappear to tempt you, IGNORE THEM!

1:15-16 – We are told to become like Jesus: be holy because He is holy. What are you doing to be holy? Or should I say, what are you allowing God to do through you to be holy?

See Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7.

1:17 – What does it mean to “live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear”? How does your life reflect this concept? How could you better reflect this concept?

1:18 – Silver and gold are perishable. The way of life taught to us by the world is empty. What do you think is lasting and imperishable?

1:19 – We were redeemed by Christ’s blood. This is our bride price.

Jesus is the final, perfect sacrifice for all sin!

1:20 - Jesus was chosen as the plan for the salvation of mankind before the creation of the world. As part of the Trinity, He was in on the decision. Does that change any of your thinking about the crucifixion?

Peter goes on to say that Jesus “was revealed in these last times for your sake”. What does this phrase mean to you?

1:21 – Because of Jesus, we believe in God. Do you think this might be an indication that the people Peter was addressing are Gentiles rather than Jews?

1:22 – We are purified by obeying the truth. What are you doing to obey the truth?

Are there any obstacles in your life that prohibit your sincere love for your brothers? If so, get rid of those obstacles and love your brother from your heart.

1:23 – We’ve been born again through the living and enduring word of God. Are you spending time in the Word every day? Make an appointment to do this if you currently aren’t.

1:24-25 – God’s word stands forever. See Isaiah 40:6-8. What does this mean to you?





• First Peter illustrates several life lessons for Christians. What is God teaching you in this chapter of scripture? How will you apply it to your life this week?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Ephesians: Discovering Your Identity and Purpose in Christ – Week Four


Sit Down Together

The mystery of the Gospel is that Gentiles are grafted into the family of Jews.  Hallelujah!  We are called to unity in Christ.  Differences lead to conflict.  Petty issues that are preferential rather than core doctrine should be put aside to be unified.

What are some of the barriers that divide families, communities, nations and the church?  What barriers exist in your own life?  What can you do to eradicate them?  How can we overcome our differences?  According to Ephesians 2:18, we have access to God through one Spirit.  If the same Spirit resonates in us, we’ve got the most important thing in common.

Memorize:  Ephesians 2:22