Tag Archive: Church


Loving Your Neighbor

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Pastor Robarge encouraged us to be the church in this week’s message. Here are some thoughts by Karen Kennedy wrestling with some of the details of being the church. Enjoy!

Recently, I have been reading (actually re-reading and re-re-reading) “Generous Justice,” a book by Timothy Keller.

Keller takes on the subject of justice by searching the Old Testament accounts, and how Israel was set up to make provisions for those most vulnerable, which included widows, orphans, refugees and the poor. He then shows Jesus’ heart to this “quadrant ” as Jesus fitly calls “the least of these.”

Personally, the book is making me feel very uncomfortable. I wish I could say that there was some fundamental problems with his logic or something theological wrong with his conclusions, but there is not. I think he is correct on his assessment on what followers of Jesus ought to be doing. The problem is that I am not doing it.

Not that I am not doing some of it–I am. The problem is that following Jesus demands more than what I have been giving.

Let me expose more of my quandary through a biblical and then a real-life example:

When an expert of the law asked Jesus the famous question, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus doesn’t give an exact answer; instead he tells a story about a man who was beaten and left dead at the side of the road. The two who figuratively represented God, the priest and the Levite, ignored the man, continuing with their lives as normal. A Samaritan, who was considered the dirt of society, took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn and took care of him throughout the night. His care continued the next day when he made arrangements with the inn keeper to look after the wounded man.

Jesus asks “who do you think was a neighbor to this man?”

What? The question was who is my neighbor? Not who was neighborly? Maybe the expert of the law really wanted to know who was his neighbor? And if he was to love that neighbor, maybe he thought he ought to know whom he should love. Maybe the expert was a list person, like me.

Unfortunately, I do not see a to-do “neighbor” list in this account. What I do see is a traveler who saw one person in need and immediately became committed into helping that person through his troubles. And this neighborly thing cost the traveler time and money, as well as a detour in his traveling plans.

And Jesus says this example shows that loving your neighbors involves mercy, and, at times, inconvenience, risk, money and sometimes danger.

A few weeks ago, in Des Moines, there was a fight that broke out with about 50 young teens. A lot of the details of what happened are still unclear according to the news. However, it was reported that a passerby in a SUV saw one of the teens lying at the side of the road, stopped and pulled the teen into her SUV.

What! I have a million questions to ask: “What were you thinking? Why didn’t you call the police? Don’t you know that you could have been sued by taking an underage child in your car without his parents’ permission? And was he bleeding? And if he was bleeding, weren’t you afraid of getting blood on your hands, and in your car?”

I think I am starting to sound like the possible scenarios (minus the SUV, of course) that the priest and the Levites could have entertained when they saw the injured man at the side of the road. Perhaps their minds filled up with logical reasons why they shouldn’t get involved, but the woman in the SUV, made a quick decision to get involved.

And Jesus tells us to “Go and do likewise.”

To me, that brings God’s second commandment of loving your neighbor to a whole new level. Not sure about you, but if the entire law and prophets now hinge upon loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves, I need to do more than think about it. I need to stop being so convenience-driven and ask God to enlarge my heart, so that my actions line up with His heart of love. I need to stop with all the reasons why not to become involved and “go and do likewise.”

What are the things that you wrestle with concerning being the church? And what should  change so that you can show the world Jesus?

 

 

 

 

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God’s Righteousness and Justice

 

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 This weekend we talked about justice. Here is an excerpt from one of our publications concerning a woman who has a deep passion for justice.

Clementine Karl, a professed “not your typical prototype” Lutheran, grew up in the Catholic Church talks about a deep restlessness that gnawed within her heart.

As a teenager at Johnston High School, she wanted to see Christians passionately making a difference in the world. “Shouldn’t it be part of Christianity to want the hungry to eat?” she says.

With her purple Mohawk hair, she started searching other churches, only to find out that she was “too rebellious, not okay, too passionate and just way too weird.”

At that time, she gave up on God.

But the deep yearning to do something more, kept springing up, so she pursued studies in psychology/philosophy and women’s studies from Drake University. In her junior year, she traveled to Guatemala and Honduras for an international study on law, politics and society. There she found a ministry of Christians who were literally walking around the countryside looking for widows to help.

Since social justice is a great passion of Clementine’s and one of the reasons she came to faith, Clementine soon became enthralled with these Christians because they were the only game in town helping these families and calling out the injustices occurring from the government and the large-coffee plantations.

“It was an amazing mission to see,” says Clementine. “It changed my mind about Christians.”

Out of admiration for their mission of “pulling thousands out of poverty,” Clementine started to attend their worship services and began to discover God through a different lens.

In recent months, she has led an online study on “Generous Justice,” by Timothy Keller. If you are interested in studying this with her in the fall, please contact her at clementinekarl@gmail.com.

Not a familiar topic

Justice? The church’s responsibility toward those inequities in life is something we don’t talk about much. But should we? And if so, what is our responsibility to the poor, to the hungry, to the homeless. And what should be our motivation? There’s some answers to these question in this video.*

We believe that the church has a responsiblity as well as the privilege to help “the least of these.” So, as a church, we are searching for opportunities where we can collectively become involved. Here is what we have so far:

  •  Dorothy’s House
    There is a house that is being renovated to help restore healing to these girls. They need people who will help with construction.
  • Joppa Outreach (118 S.E. 4th Street, Suite 120, Des Moines, IA 50309 | 288-5699)
    Gloria Dei is adopting every fifth Sunday of the year (four times a year). We will visit the homeless, listen to their stories, give out meals, laugh (and cry) with them. We will have our first church-wide Joppa outreach on Sunday, August 31 from 12:30-4 p.m.  Joppa Outreach

  • Meals from the Heartland on August 27-30
    Meals from the Heartland (http://mealsfromtheheartland.org)  It is not too late to sign up to be on a two-hour team: Gloria Dei is organizing teams to help package food August 27-30. Our goal is to provide 120 volunteers.

  • Human Trafficking
    Attend a meeting on Saturday, August 23 from 9-10:30 a.m. WestKirk Presbyterian Church, 2700 Colby Woods Drive, Urbandale, Iowa 50322
    Learn from others who are helping the victims of sex trafficking.
  •  Prayer Nights
    We want to immerse ourselves in prayer for all the victims, the perpetrators, as well as all the efforts to combat this wickedness.
  •  Adopt a Truck Stop (http://www.truckersagainsttrafficking.orgPlan to attend this training on Tuesday, Sept. 9 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 8301 Aurora Ave., Urbandale, IA. We will use the materials from an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking. At the end of the presentation, you will have the opportunity to select a truck stop and submit a short application to this organization. They  will then send you the needed material to proceed with partnering with a truck stop.

Want to join us? Sign up at the display in the Narthex or the FLC or contact probarge@gloriadeionline.com.

*(If the video does not appear, check out https://gloriadeionline.com/message/his-hand-our-feet/his-hand-righteousness-and-justice)

 

The Nicene Creed – Part III

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This week, we complete a 3-week series on the Nicene Creed. Thank you to Vicar Dan Petrak for his help with this series. Click here for the first two posts: The Nicene Creed – Part I and The Nicene Creed – Part II.

In this final post, we explore the third article of the Nicene Creed…

 

The Nicene Creed is themed around the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with the third article about the Holy Spirit. For those of us in the Lutheran tradition, this is probably the least mentioned and understood person of the Trinity.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Think of the Holy Spirit as the animator and the doer of God’s will. He was active in creation, He spoke to the prophets, and lives inside all followers of Jesus. God’s spirit is everywhere (omnipresent), all knowing (omniscient) and has all the attributes of God. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Word, and enables us to believe in our salvation given by Jesus on the cross.

Martin Luther explained our need for the Holy Spirit this way…

“By nature I am spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God, as the Scriptures teach; therefore, ‘I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.’” (1 Cor. 2:14, 12:3, Eph. 2:1, Rom. 8:7, Eph. 2:8-9)

The Holy Spirit doesn’t stop working when we come to faith, but lives in us. It’s through God’s Spirit residing in us that we can live our lives for Christ.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT

Without God working in us—through His own power—anything we do is by our own human efforts. Through our own attempts, we will come up short…every time. But through God’s Spirit, we are able. Not because of ourselves, but through and because of Him.

Those who reject the Word of God and resist the Holy Spirit remain in unbelief, and therefore are not saved. But through the Holy Spirit, all believers make up the church…not individual denominations, but the one church of Christ.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV

One-on-One With God

2 Chron. 15.2

I love working in a church environment. There are obvious perks – I don’t have to be concerned with rules about keeping work and faith separate. I can take a few minutes in the Sanctuary when it’s empty. And a Bible on my desk doesn’t look out-of-place.

But, there is also a hazard—thinking I’ve spent time with God, when I haven’t. Let me explain.

There are days of sermon theme planning, which involves spending time in God’s word, future vision planning for the sake of the Kingdom, and meetings about spiritual growth in the congregation. At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve been immersed in God’s work.

And then I realize I haven’t actually spent any time with Him. I’ve been in Scripture, but it wasn’t personal. I spent my day working for Him, but didn’t include Him.

And it makes a difference—in my attitude, my emotions, and even how fatigued I feel.

I didn’t spend time with God personally. One-on-one. Just me and Him. And I miss it.

So, I have to make a conscious effort to make sure I’m talking to Him, starting my day with Him, asking for guidance, and at times, just resting with Him.

I have to experience Him in my everyday. If I get caught up in busyness and work (even at church), I can’t hear when He whispers to my heart.

I also remember my days of working in the corporate world—meetings, working late, and no time for God. And days of being a stay-at-home mom—tantrums, laundry, talking to a toddler, and not knowing how to fit in quiet time with Him.

So, for me, wherever I am in life, I have to be intentional about making sure God doesn’t get the last little bits of my time, or worse yet, none at all.

I have to listen for Him. Sometimes, He’s loud and clear, and sometimes it’s a quiet reminder that He’s with me.

I have to be in Scripture, reading, pondering, and relating His word to my life.

I have to remember to start my day with Him and talk to Him throughout the day, not in formal prayer, but in conversation.

And I have to look for Him—His work in my life, the beauty He creates around me, and the way He answers prayer.

When I forget or don’t make time, I miss out. And it makes a difference. A big difference.

How about you – can you tell a difference when you’ve spent time with God and when you haven’t? Is it time to get intentional about listening and looking for Him?
 
In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: Empty Bench

 

Does My Behavior Inside the Church Support My Claim?

When we were still relatively new to our church, we arrived a little early and sat down in an empty pew. Only minutes before service began, a larger family than mine walked up to where we were sitting and looked stunned to see us there. And annoyed. Very obviously annoyed.

Although there were plenty of open pews in the same section, they looked at us, stammering and acting put out. I’m not dumb, and as I saw the mom was not going to let this drop, I asked her, “Do you want us to move?”

“Oh, no. No.” She sighed. “We’ll sit back here,” she said, finally moving to the pew behind us. Her family followed. We had apparently rocked their world.

Truthfully, if it had been our first visit to the church, I don’t know if we would have returned. I felt like we’d been put in the spotlight—the “you-sat-in-my-pew” spotlight. The one that makes you cringe and feel like you’re being stared at throughout the entire service.

It was hardly welcoming. Nor was it conducive to hearing God’s message in a worshipful setting.

Their reaction to us sitting in their invisibly-marked-with-their-name pew was not what I expected.

Their behavior did not support their claim of being Christians.

It’s easy to notice an unfamiliar face in church, especially if they don’t fit what we expect to see. It might be how someone is dressed, how they act, or where they sit. We notice it.

But after noticing, how do we respond?

Do we look past what we see on the outside and welcome them? Or is our vision clouded by what we first see, causing us to become judgmental?

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Hebrews 13:2 NLT

I wonder if how we react depends on where our thinking starts—with ourselves or with others.

When I think of myself first, I see life from my viewpoint. How could she wear that? It’s inappropriate.

When I think of others first, I don’t see how I’m affected, but what it means for the other person. He’s here alone. That must be really hard.

Or when I consider what God might be thinking. {Big smile} My daughter is here today.

What does our reaction say about us as Christians?

Having been on the receiving end of disapproving stares makes me think back on how I’ve reacted when someone or something wasn’t what I expected to see. And from what perspective I view unfamiliar faces.

How about you? Does your behavior inside the church support your claim of being a Christian?

 

In Christ,
Laura

Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Does My Behavior Inside the Church Support My Claim? is Part Two of a two-part postFor Part One, click here: Does My Behavior Outside the Church Support My Claim?

 

This is Part One of a two-part post. Click here for Part Two: Does My Behavior Inside the Church Support My Claim?

I keep hearing questions about church attendance.

Why is it going down?

Why doesn’t church attendance seem to be a priority anymore?

Why aren’t we attracting new members?

While I think there are many factors, I wonder if part of the reason is how Christians are perceived by others.

In general, Christians are seen as judgmental, anti-almost-everything, and critical of anyone who doesn’t attend their church (and even some who do attend their church). This perception is reinforced through stories of religious extremes broadcast by the mainstream media.

But what about right here, today—does my personal behavior tell others I’m a Christian?

I don’t mean making sure a neighbor knows I go to church every weekend, or collecting canned goods for every food drive. (Not that those are bad.)

I’m talking about the way we handle life—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

When someone flat-out disagrees with me, do I respond in kindness or hostility?

If I say I trust God, do I practice that?

Do I act like following Jesus is easy, or am I honest with others that it can be a struggle?

When someone I know is going through a rough time, do I offer pat answers or express honest compassion?

When something in my life goes well, do I give the glory to God, or take the credit myself?

My point is…

Does the way I act in my day-to-day back up my claim of being a Christian?

I can talk all I want about going to church and stress that my neighbors should go too, but if the way I live shows Christianity isn’t doing me much good, why would they want to join me?

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. Colossians 4:5-6 NLT

When I’m able to see how God has worked in someone else’s life, it makes me want that relationship with Him too.

And my prayer is that others will see Jesus reflected in me, and want to get to know Him the way I have.

And so on, and so on, like a Christian ripple effect.

Maybe getting people through the church doors for the sake of filling the pews isn’t the goal. Maybe the goal is reflecting Christ in our lives so others will want to join us there.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Does My Behavior Outside the Church Support My Claim? is Part One of a two-part post. Click here for Part Two: Does My Behavior Inside the Church Support My Claim?

 

Faith Risks

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The game of Risk by Parker Bros is a really great game to play, unless you have delusions of grandeur, if so you might want to stay away. If you don’t know, the main objective of Risk is world domination or occupying all the territories on the board by eliminating the rest of the players. Whenever world domination comes into play you know the game will be serious. What I found after playing this game many times, is that some people are not willing to take risks to win. Instead of being on the attack they constantly fortify their defense until an opponent comes to battle for their territory and a strong defense is good but can’t hold up forever. I have never found it to be a good strategy to sit back and defend instead of taking some risks and being the victor.

Risk is what we re talking about this week in the Epistle of James. At the very end of chapter two James mentions a familiar Old Testament character as he talks about risk. Rahab is the prostitute that is mentioned by name in the genealogy of Jesus. Rahab risked her own life and wellbeing to hide the Israelite spies. Instead of sending them off in a different direction, she provided them lodging so that they could scope out the land and people who God was giving to them.

I think it is easy for us to look back at Rahab and believe that what she did was probably easy or not that big of a deal. But put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Rahab is a citizen of the city. There are rumblings in the city that the Israelites are coming to take them out just as they have done with Jericho. People are on edge and hoping no one will penetrate their walls and take them out. Someone has spotted spies in their walls. There is an all out search for them; men, women, children and soldiers. Rahab comes across the spies and has a decision to make, will she turn in the spies and have them killed, or will she hide them and pray they have pity on her later. Rahab has very little knowledge of the God of the Israelites, but she risks her home, family and life to hide these spies under the pile of flax. When the soldiers come knocking on her door she must show no fear or trembling at all because they will be able to see it. If the spies make any noise at all they could be caught. As it turns out, the soldiers come and go without spotting the spies, Rahab has been successful, the risk has worked so far, hopefully the spies keep their word and remember her. This sounds like a scene from a movie, doesn’t it? Tension, drama and suspense surround the whole story. All this happens because Rahab responds to a God she barely knows to help people she has never met.

Is there Risk in your Faith?

I think we more often than not try to find the safe route in all that we do. Safety is important because we don’t want to see anyone get hurt or harmed. The truth is that the safe route is not always the right route. God’s people throughout history have stood up risking life and limb to accomplish God’s mission. Rahab is just one example in the line of millions. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor in Germany, stood up in the face of the evils of the Nazi regime and refused to budge. He was thrown into a concentration camp and later died there. It was a risk that led to his death, but a risk that has stood the test of time and served as an encouragement for other Christians suffering for their faith.

That is a big example of risk but there are everyday examples of people stepping out in faith even when it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. It’s the young man who is willing to go downtown and talk and engage with people who are not like him. It’s the woman who uses her cooking and nutrition knowledge to feed the homeless camps in her city. It’s the married couple that had money problems in the past, but is now ready to put some money into building a center for struggling youth. It’s the thousands of others right in your own city that are putting their faith into action. Everyday people are stepping out of their comfort and safety to pursue the places and people God is calling them to. All of this based on faith from God, who empowers us and stands by our side through risk and comfort.

Faith takes risks. So where is God calling you to risk?

New Beginnings (Bible Study)

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Recap of Chapter 28

What could turn a group of gutless deserters into courageous, outspoken evangelists willing to be imprisoned and even die for their cause?  They had witnessed the resurrected Christ. He had proved Himself alive for forty days to various people in a variety of circumstances and places.  Just before His ascension, Jesus told the disciples to wait for the promised power of the Holy Spirit so that they could be witnesses to His resurrection in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Ten days later on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit stormed in like tongues of fire.  He empowered each disciple to declare the gospel.  Peter became the first mega-church preacher and that day three thousand new believers were baptized.  This new community of believers embraced teaching and fellowship and enjoyed the favor of nearly all the people.  All but the powerful Jewish rulers, that is.

The new church continued to grow rapidly.  The apostles were even able to perform miracles similar to those Jesus had done!  As the apostles spread the word of the resurrection in Jerusalem, they incited outrage and opposition from the Jewish rulers.  Peter refused to be silenced and continued to speak in spite of orders to stop.  Even a severe flogging could not curb his zealous proclamation that Jesus was the Messiah. Stephen’s scathing sermon before the Sanhedrin showed how the Jews had repeatedly rejected God’s prophets and resisted God’s Spirit.  The Sanhedrin dragged him outside of Jerusalem to stone him.  He saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God and entrusted himself to the Lord.

Sparked by the martyring of Stephen, persecution drove Christians like Philip out of Jerusalem and into outlying areas like Samaria. While the opposition grew, so did the spread of the gospel message.  A Pharisee named Saul made it his personal mission to defeat this movement once and for all, but his blinding come-to-Jesus moment on the road to Damascus really “opened his eyes.”  Meanwhile, God prepared Ananias to deliver God’s marching orders to Saul: he had a mission to be God’s witness to the Gentiles.  As Ananias laid his hands upon him, Saul’s sight was restored, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Within a few short days, this persecutor of Christ became a preacher of Christ.  Needless to say, his turnaround was met with suspicion and doubt, but trusted Barnabas vouched for him to the apostles in Jerusalem.  Saul soon found himself on the receiving end of death threats, so he too was sent away from Jerusalem.  The church spread throughout Judea and Samaria as God used even persecution to achieve His Upper Story purpose of spreading the news that Jesus is the risen Messiah.

God’s next move was so radical that He had to prepare both Peter and Cornelius for this new revelation.  While an angel told Roman centurion Cornelius to send for Peter, Peter was given a vision of unclean animals on a sheet. A heavenly voice instructed him to eat this meat that was definitely not kosher. What Peter called impure, God now called clean.  As Peter was trying to interpret the meaning of this vision, Cornelius’ servants arrived and summoned him to their master’s home.  When he explained the gospel to a full house, the Holy Spirit was poured out on these Gentiles too!  The Holy Spirit was now available to all who believed!  Peter now knew his vision was not about food but about God’s plan to declare all people “kosher” who would believe in Christ. Peter’s ministry continued in Jerusalem where Herod Agrippa’s persecution grew deadly.  Peter was imprisoned but even prison bars could not stop God’s plan.  As his friends earnestly prayed for him, an angel miraculously freed him.  Kings, rulers and prison guards all found themselves fighting against God and helpless to stop His plan.  While the Lower Story of persecution drove believers away from Jerusalem, the Upper Story of resurrection drove many to God.  He alone can redeem even the worst of circumstances.  After all, He alone is the God who raised the dead!

Chapter 28: New Beginnings 

The first lesson focuses on discovering more about God the Holy Spirit.  While it is not the intent of this lesson to provide a thoroughly inclusive study of the Holy Spirit, it is the goal to broadly survey the Holy Spirit in a comprehensive way.

The Trinity is rarely taught any more.  Most of us assume that all Christians have a firm grasp on the unique Triune God that we worship and serve.  However, few actually do.  And why would they?  This is one of the most crucial doctrines of the Christian faith and it is rarely taught.  Mature believers tend to assume that everyone understands the concept of the Trinity.  But unless we as teachers make an effort to explicitly do so, we are neglecting our flocks by failing to provide solid teaching that helps our learners know the God who has revealed Himself as three persons but one essence.  Perhaps we shy away from doing so because of our own inability to put a concept so profoundly mysterious into language that we know will be inadequate.  Yet, it is the Trinitarian God who sets Christianity apart from all other forms of religion.  It is the Trinitarian God who is the target of heretical, pseudo-Christian cults.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on my door yesterday.  Their Watch Tower publication states, “…God’s Holy Spirit is not a God, not a member of a trinity, not coequal, and is not even a person…It is God’s active force…”[1]  It is the goal of lesson option one to focus on the Person of the Trinity that seems the most distant but is in fact the most near to us.


[1] The Watch Tower, July 15, 1957, 432-433, cited by Walter R. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (rev. ed., Minneapolis:  Bethany, 1997) 102.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

I.       Who is the Holy Spirit?

A. Many Christians find the Holy Spirit to be confusing, elusive or even distant.  We are much more comfortable with the familial terms of “Father” and “Son.”  The term “Spirit” does not seem very personal, familiar or uniquely identifiable.  The Holy Spirit is mentioned infrequently in the Old Testament, is spoken of occasionally in the gospels, but takes center stage in Acts and this chapter of The Story.  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit marks a revolutionary change in God’s historical plan of redemption.  It is therefore crucial that we gain the best understanding possible of this change, diligently strive to know the Holy Spirit as He is revealed in the Scriptures and embrace Him as the One through whom we draw near to Jesus.

B. The Holy Spirit is God.

  1. Our relationship with God is through the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, how we perceive the Holy Spirit will directly impact how we relate to Him and how we understand our religious experiences.
  2. Our study of the Old Testament makes very clear that no thing should be worshiped, for that is idolatry.  God is jealous and He alone is to be worshiped.  So to worship the Holy Spirit, if He is not God, would be idolatry.  To fail to worship the Holy Spirit if He is God would rob Him of the adoration, love and surrender that He is rightly due.
  3. The Holy Spirit is closely associated to both the Father and to the Son.  He is called the “Spirit of the Father” (Matt. 10:20).  He is called the “Spirit of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:11) and the “Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7).  He must be divine to be so closely associated to the Father and the Son.
  4. The Holy Spirit has divine attributes.  He does what God does.  He participated in creation (Gen. 1:2).  He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (Jn. 16:8-11).  He is the one who reveals the word of God and inspires the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pet. 1:20-21).

C. The Holy Spirit is a distinct person, an equal person of the Godhead.

  1. Yet the Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son.  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Rom. 8:9)  He is the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11), so He is distinctly not Jesus, and He dwells in believers.

  2. The Great Commission gives the instruction to baptize in “the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).  These three are associated with the divine Name.

  3. The Spirit knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:10-14).  He has intelligence that is His own.  And it does not possess intelligence — a personal being does.

II.       Who is the Holy Spirit to the Church?

A. This chapter emphasizes the birth of the church and the role of the Holy Spirit.  The two are intimately connected.
B. The Holy Spirit reveals the mystery of the Church.  Prior to Pentecost, Israel had been the primary community of faith through whom God worked to reach the world with His message of redemption.  After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit marked both believing Israelites and Gentiles as “one new man” (Eph. 2-3), Jews and Gentiles as one Body, the Church, with Christ as the head (Eph. 5:23-32).
C. The Holy Spirit works to form the community of faith.  The Church is God’s idea and God’s work.  As we see in this chapter of The Story, no man can conjure up the Spirit at will.  God does all the work, even if He graciously allows the Apostles to participate in His work.
D. The Holy Spirit indwells the community of the Church in a special way.  Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:16).  The Greek “you” here is plural.  There is one body and one Spirit (Eph. 4:4)
E. The Spirit turns the hearts of believers toward one another in love.  The baby Church is marked by love, compassion and generosity because of the work of the Spirit.  The Church is called to “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Eph. 4:3).
F. Although men and women received the gospel as individuals, Paul always wrote to the Church as a whole community.  This community is an organic, vibrant and living Body (1 Cor. 12-14).  First Corinthians 12-14 was written to correct the Corinthian church because they were more concerned about outdoing one another than they were about preserving unity in the Body.  The spiritual gifts that come from the Holy Spirit are for “the common good.”  (1 Cor. 12:7, Eph. 4:12)  They are not meant for personal aggrandizement, but for the equipping of the saints for service.  The good of the Church as a community should never be eclipsed by an individual’s expression or exercise of a gift.

G. The Church is now the primary community through whom God works to reach the world with the message of redemption found in Christ Jesus and is uniquely empowered through the Spirit to disciple the saved to maturity  (Eph. 4:1-16).

III.       Who is the Holy Spirit to me?

A. He is the Indwelling One.  Many of us remember our lives before we came to Christ, before our spiritual births.  When we were empty and found ourselves drawn to Christ, placed our faith in Him and experienced a new and fresh infusion of the Lord’s presence in our lives, it was the work of the Holy Spirit. The activities of the Spirit touch us directly.  The indwelling Spirit is not to be confused with our own spirit, but nevertheless, He lives and works within us.

  1. It is through the Spirit that we are born again (Jn. 3:5).  This chapter of The Story from the book of Acts shows the saving work of the Spirit on the various groups of people as they came to faith in Christ.
  2. Prior to Pentecost, the Spirit’s presence came upon believers temporarily.  We studied young king David who was anointed with the Spirit.  Judge Samson was anointed with the Spirit and then it left him without him even noticing.  The Spirit was upon John the Baptist.  The Spirit came and went rather than abided with the believers.  This Indwelling Spirit was a major transition in the program of God.
  3. The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you (Rom. 8:11).
  4. The anointing you receive from Christ abides in you and teaches you and is true (1 Jn. 2:27).

B.     He is the Sanctifying One.  While we are justified before God by faith in the finished work of Christ, the Spirit works to transform us.  He convicts us of sin and helps us to be holy which we can never be without Him.

  1.  If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live (Rom. 8:13).
  2. The Spirit leads all who are sons of God (Rom. 8:14) through Whom we are adopted as sons (Rom. 8:15) and Who assures us of our sonship (Rom. 8:16).
  3. The Spirit is the one who transforms us from the inside out into the likeness of Christ. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we , with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:17-18).
  4. He is the one who teaches us (1 Cor. 2:10-13, Jn. 14:26).  He illumines the Scriptures so that we can understand them.  He reveals the deeper truths of God.  He guides, speaks, testifies and convicts.  He tells what He hears.  These are things that only a personal agent can do.
  5. Submitting to the Spirit will prevent us from carrying out the desire of the flesh (Gal. 5:16-21).
  6. The Spirit produces fruit in the life of the believer (Gal. 5:22) so that we may exhibit Christ-like qualities and attributes.

C. He is the Helper. On the eve of His crucifixion, in Jn. 14:16, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.”  Jesus went on to say, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”  For those of us who wish we would have experienced the earthly ministry of Jesus, we should take notice that Jesus said we actually have it better than those who experienced His ministry then.  The Holy Spirit is a distinct advantage to us!

  1. The Greek words for “another comforter” are allos paracleton.  Jesus is also a paracletos (1 Jn. 2:1).  The paraclete had various meanings to the Greeks.  In its most literal sense, it means “one who comes along side.”  In the ancient world, it had a legal sense in which a paraclete would plead a person’s case in a court of law.  Some Bible versions use the word Advocate rather than Helper to convey this meaning.  While the judge in a courtroom sits, the Advocate stands.  Remember the stoning of Stephen?  While the earthly Sanhedrin judged him and sentenced him to death, Jesus his Advocate stood at the right hand of God in heaven to plead his case.
  2. The Holy Spirit is our Advocate and Helper too.  He helps us in our weaknesses to pray for us before the Father.  Likewise the Spirit helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  (Rom. 8:26-27).
  3. He is our Helper and Advocate before the world.  But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak.  But whatever is given you at that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speaks, but the Holy Spirit.  (Mark 13:11). 
  4. Another sense of the word paraclete is one of comfort.  He is our Comforter.  We take comfort knowing He is called alongside us through whatever trial we may face.  Certainly the Holy Spirit provides tender mercy for God’s people in their times of grief and pain.  His comfort consoles the brokenhearted.
  5. The paraclete is the one who gives strength in times of battle.  In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  (Rom. 8:37)  He is the One through Whom we receive great power (Acts 1:8)!  Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,” (Eph. 3:16).

IV.       Applications and Implications:

A. God desires to be known as He revealed Himself through the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is therefore worthy of my worship, love, and obedience.
B. The Holy Spirit personally indwells me, empowering me to stand firm in battles against sin.
C. The Holy Spirit is to be obeyed.  I am to walk in Him so that I bear fruit in my life.
D. The Holy Spirit transforms me from the inside out.  It is His work, not my own.  But we don’t treat grace lightly.
E. The Holy Spirit indwells the Church in unique ways.  I am not to be disconnected from the community of faith.  I am to be part of the living, vibrant Body called the Church.  I will be missing a vital part of God’s best for me if I neglect the community of the Spirit.
F. I can rest knowing that the Spirit knows how to pray for me when I do not know how to pray.
G. The Holy Spirit will bring comfort and peace to me in a supernatural way when I am grieving and in pain.
H. It is through the Spirit that I have been reborn, renewed and made holy.  Praise Him!
I. It is better for me that Jesus is not here now because He sent the Spirit.

J. The Spirit assures me that I belong to God, that I have been adopted by Him.  When I doubt, the Spirit gives assurance.

Chapter 28: Mary, John Mark’s Mother

Safe House: 

Acts 12:12-17, 1 Peter 3—4

It’s that time once again this week to get your Bible’s open and take a look at what God has for us today. We take a look today at the early church and what helped them thrive as a community of faith.

Though it was not a safe time to be a Christian, the early church persevered; one of the things that helped them endure faithfully was prayer.  In “New Beginnings”, chapter 28 of THE STORY we read how the Apostles taught the gospel message of salvation and how the church began.  The early growth was explosive and impressive.  But when the Jewish leaders saw how their whole power structure was threatened, they turned on the Christians; the enemies of Christ continue the same pattern to this very day. These believers revealed the characteristics of the victorious Church when they met together at the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, to pray for the safety of a brother they loved.  May we follow their example in life and in prayer.

I.  Best of Times, Worst of times. Acts 1—12

When He established the church using signs and wonders, God fulfilled what the prophet Joel predicted, and He did this to verify the apostles’ teaching.  Peter and the Apostles explained who Jesus was and invited their listeners to become his followers.  In his sermon, Peter invited them to come to Jesus and to receive the indwelling of His Spirit to guide their lives—something the Old Testament law couldn’t offer.  In the beginning, the new believers “enjoyed the favor of all people.”  But that soon changed.

1.  Note the events from the Acts passages that show how the new believers were threatened as the church grew. (Dates are approximate).

AD30-37-

  • 2:1-13, 41________________________________________________________________
  • 4:1-4____________________________________________________________________
  • 5:17-21,29-33____________________________________________________________
  • 7:54-59__________________________________________________________________

AD 39-40

  • 8:1-3____________________________________________________________________

AD 44

  • 12:1-2___________________________________________________________________
  • 12:3-4___________________________________________________________________

II. God Led Peter to Safety.  Acts 12:5-17

The believers saw God demonstrate His power and protection, even in the midst of severe persecution.  The Jewish (and later the Gentile) opposition used all the human power that was available—from politics to purely vicious physical attacks, including murder.  These enemies were sure they were doing the right thing, but their efforts seemed to inspire growth rather than thwart Christ’s church.  The friends who assembled to pray for Peter when he was arrested could have told them why.

1.  What was happening while Peter was in jail? (v. 5)

2.  Who woke Peter up? (v. 7)

3.  What was Peter’s state of mind as the angel led him away from the jail?  (v. 9)

4.  Where was Peter when he “came to himself”? (v. 11)

5.  When Peter finally realized he had been delivered from Herod by God, where did he “just happen” to go?  (v. 12)

6.  What was the reaction of the people when they saw Peter in person? (v.16)

7.  When Peter finally gained entrance into the home, what did he tell them? (v. 17)

8.  To whom did Peter send the message about his experience? (v. 17; Acts 21:17; Galatians 1:19)

9.  What would this testimony mean to the people who met in Mary’s home, and to the church leaders who were under persecution?

 

III. Mary, the mother of John.  Acts 12:12-13; Mark 14:51

This Mary is only named one time in the New Testament, but studying the events and people that surrounded her gives us some important information.  We can discover several reasons why Peter knew that Mary’s home was a safe place. Her example will still benefit those who want to serve God in our day as well.

Mary’s home: Acts 12:12-13

Though the early Christians met in homes (Acts 8:3), it was also the practice for many Jewish synagogue meetings to take place in an extra room or a home that would accommodate a group.  It would actually have been the natural thing for the Christians to meet in homes especially after the persecution of Christians by the Judaizers.  These people used what they had to benefit the Kingdom.

1.  What does an outer entrance tell us about a home, even today?

2.  How many people were gathered there?

3.  What kind of people were they?

4.  What does the fact that Mary had a maid imply?

Mary’s influence:  What we can learn about Mary’s family also gives us knowledge about the kind of woman Mary was.  Answer the following questions about Mark:

5.  Who was her son and what did he write about? Mark 1:1; Mark 14:51,

6. Whom did he accompany in ministry? Acts 12:12, 25

7.  How did the following evangelists describe Mark?

Peter- 1 Peter 5:13                                                     Paul- 2 Timothy 4:11

8.  Who was a relative of Mary and John Mark? (What was his relation to Mary?) Colossians 4:10

9.  What kind of man was he?

Acts 4:36-37

Acts 11:22-26

Acts 13:2

10.  What are fair conclusions that we can draw from this information about Mary’s home and influence?

IV.  A Safe Place I Peter 3—4

Jesus taught his followers that the world would know them by their love for one another (John 13:35).  Love creates a safe place for those who would be drawn to the church.  Later, Peter wrote two letters of encouragement and instruction to the churches.   His good friend, Mary, had lived out many of the same characteristics that Peter wanted to see in all believers.  From the selected passages in chapters three and four of 1 Peter, make a description of a brotherhood of love.  (Try to imagine Mary’s thoughts if she had read this letter.  What memories would some of these suggestions have brought back!)

 3:1-6

3:8

3:9

3:10

3: 14

3:15-16

4:1-2

4:7

4:8

4:9

4:10

4:11

Key question:  Which characteristics will you develop in your life to create a safe haven for your family and church?

For further reflection:  Study the fellowship of the early church and note how they applied the above characteristics:

Acts 2:42-47

Acts 4:32-36

Acts 6:1-7

A Few Good Men…and Women (Bible Study)

Chapter 8 Recap

The nation of Israel had a place to call home at last. Settling into the Promised Land enabled them to leave behind their wandering ways and fulfill one of the key promises to Abraham:  a land for God’s people to occupy.  But, failing to evict the Canaanites from the land, these pagan neighbors became a toxic influence on a nation called to be different.

After the death of Joshua, God’s people felt this pull of worldly culture and a destructive pattern emerged:

  • Israel turned again and again to the worship of pagan gods.
  • God brought divine judgment.
  • Israel cried out for God’s help.
  • God raised up a judge to save them.

This cycle of sin became the pattern of life in Israel for the next 300 years.

Early on, Israel was conquered by the Canaanite king, Jabin. God appointed Deborah, a prophet, judge, and strong leader to deliver her people.  She and her military leader, Barak, defeated the powerful Canaanite army led by Sisera. He escaped and took refuge in the tent of a woman named Jael, who killed him while he slept.  Israel had been delivered for now, but the cycle would continue.

Israel was later oppressed by the Midianites.  God called Gideon out of nowhere to deliver His people. Gideon was pretty sure that God has mistaken him for some well-built four-star Israelite commander, and asked twice for a miraculous sign. God confirmed His intentions, and Gideon gathered 32,000 troops to take on the vast Midianite army.  God, however, trimmed their forces to just 300 men.  He used them to rout the Midianites, and the people enjoyed freedom…for a while.

The cycle continued, and Israel was soon dominated by the Philistines. This time God prepared a deliverer by promising a child to a barren woman. This child, Samson, was to be raised as a Nazirite, who was set apart to God.  His hair was not to be cut and he was to drink no wine. He was well-known for his superhuman strength and less than super character, especially in the company of beautiful women.  His second wife, Delilah, betrayed him by cutting his hair so he would forfeit his advantage and God’s favor.  Samson himself embodied this insidious cycle that had enslaved Israel, with his saw-tooth history of indiscretions and victories.

As a result, the Philistines took him captive and gouged out his eyes. But his hair grew back, and his strength returned.  Samson’s last day was his best one. He was brought into the Philistine temple to entertain their leaders.  He prayed to the LORD, collapsed the pillars of the temple and defeated the Philistines at last.

God is never bashful about His intentions for His people. He never tolerates sin and, at the same time, never breaks His covenant with His people.  Israel may not have fully understood God’s discipline, but over and over He had to bring them to their knees in order to bring them to Himself.

Israel is constantly running from the true God to other false gods.  Make a list of the false gods in our culture today.  Which of them have you trusted?

Here is a map of how the land was divided at this time according to the 12 tribes

The Canaanization of Israel and the Church

How many times have I told you…?  Stay away from them. They are the wrong crowd to hang out with.   They are dangerous to you.  Well, if someone told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that too?  Every child has heard them and every parent has spoken them—the warnings not to give into “peer pressure.”

The Perfect Parent gave those same warnings to His people.  The Canaanites were bad news.  They were the drug dealers, the prostitutes and the criminals of their time.  They were the kind of people who any good parent would warn their beloved children to stay away from.  God had warned but the Israelites began to ignore those warnings.  The consequences of covenant disobedience were tragic.

I.       The Call of Israel

A. God had chosen Israel to be a holy nation.

– The Abrahamic covenant had called them to be a blessing to all nations.  They were to represent Him to the world.

– They were given the covenant of the Law to tutor them how to fear God and how to live justly with one another.

– They were to be a kingdom of priestly people (Ex. 19:6).

B. They were the covenantal community of faith.

– They were given the divine gift of revelation from God and expected to believe it by faith.

– They were a people of God’s own possession (Ex. 19:5)

II.    The “Canaanization” of Israel

A. Instead of destroying the Canaanites, Israel joined them.

– They turned away from YHWH, the God of Israel.

– They began to worship Baal, the god of Canaan.

– They participated in the cultic practices of Baal worship including the sexually immoral unions that accompanied the seasonal feasts.

– They participated in their sacrifices.  It is unclear to what degree Israel became like the Canaanites in their sacrifices at this time, but the Canaanites participated in child sacrifice in the fire, and buried children in the foundations of their buildings.  Later Biblical texts, like Jeremiah and 1-2 Kings, give further insight into these atrocities.

– They intermarried with them, which explicitly violated their covenant.

– Israel had become just like their pagan neighbors, the Canaanites.

B. Remember Joshua’s charge, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD”? Israel exchanged the One True God for worthless idols which, according to the covenant (Lev. 26, Deut. 28), makes them His enemy.

C. God was furious!

– God’s anger must be understood against the backdrop of His extravagant acts of grace in the past.

– God is passionate and cannot stand by while idolatry snatches his people from Him.

– Nor will he passively accept Israel’s adulterous affairs with other gods

III. The Call of the Church

In much the same way that God called Israel to be a holy people, He calls the Church to a righteous standard. Read or look up these verses that spell out the believer a life that is different.

  • Called as saints
  • Called out of darkness and into light
  • Called not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person (1 Cor. 5:11)
  • Called to freedom to serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
  • Called to walk in a manner worthy of God, with humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love for one another, (Eph. 4:1)
  • Called to a new life of righteousness, and holiness of the truth (Eph. 4:24)
  • Called not for impurity but for sanctification (1 Thess. 4:7)
  • Called for salvation, sanctification and glory in Christ (2 Thess. 2:13-14)
  • Called for eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12)
  • Called by grace through faith for good works prepared by God (Eph. 2:8-10)
  • Called to be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession to proclaim the gospel (1 Pet. 2:9)
  • Called to be a light to point others to Christ (Matt. 5:16)
  • Called to be a living sacrifice, not conformed to this world, but transformed to live out the will of God (Rom. 12:1-2).

Bottom line:  Called to be God’s hands, feet, and heart on earth; called to be holy and different from the world around us.

Do you think more people try to stand out as believers in this world or spend time fitting in? Why do so many people fear standing out? 

IV. The “Canaanization” of the Church

As the culture goes, so goes the church.  Sadly, the Church in America has become “Canaanized” in much the same way that Israel did during the days of the judges.  According to highly regarded pollsters and researchers such as Barna Group, the Gallup Organization, and others, the lives of American Christians bear far more resemblance to their unbelieving neighbors than they do to the transformed life expected by the New Testament writers.  George Barna concludes, “Every day the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change.”  So, how bad is it really?

1. Divorce:  In Aug. 2001, Barna found 33% of born-again Christians to be divorced; 34% of non-born-again Americans (90% of all divorced born-agains were divorced AFTER they became Christian.)

  • In many parts of the Bible belt, the divorce rate is well above the national average.

2. Materialism and the Poor:  A 30-year study by John and Sylvia Ronsvalle showed that the richer we become, the less we give in proportion to our incomes.

  • In 1968, the average church member gave 3.1% of their incomes
  • In 2001, the average church member gave 2.66%
  • Today, on average Christians give about 4%
  • In 2002, Barna discovered that only 9% of Christian adults tithe.
  • 1.2 billion of the world’s poorest people try to live on just $1 a day, and at least 1 billion have never heard the gospel.  If American Christians tithed 10%, they would have another $143 billion dollars per year to help the poor and spread the gospel.
  • One of the most common themes in the Scriptures is that God and His people have a special concern for the poor.

Why do you think this contradiction between belief and practice exists in the Church today?

3. Sexual Disobedience:

  • In the 1990’s, unmarried couples living together rose 72% nationwide.
  • In the Bible belt, it rose even more.    97% in OK, 123% in TN, 125% in AR.
  • Christian teens are only 10% less likely to engage in premarital sex than non-Christian teens.
  • A study by Professor John C. Green of University of Akron found that 26% of traditional evangelicals do not think premarital sex is wrong; 46% say it is morally okay.
  • 13% of traditional Christians say it is okay for married persons to have extramarital sex while 19% of nontraditional Christians think it is morally okay.  It is higher among mainline Protestants and Catholics.
  • Steve Gallagher says that pornography among Christian men is not much different from among the unsaved.

4. Racism:In 1989, Gallup published the results of a survey to determine which groups in the US were least and most likely to object to having black neighbors.

  • 11% of Catholics and nonevangelical Christians objected
  • 16% of mainline Protestants objected
  • 17% of Baptists and evangelicals objected
  • 20% of Southern Baptists objected
  • To say that there is neither Jew nor Greek, black nor white, but not put it into practice, is a blatant disparity between practice and belief.

5. Lifestyle habits:

  • Christians spend 7x more hours each week watching TV than in Bible reading, worship and prayer.
  • Only 9% of Christian adults have a Biblical worldview
  • Only 2% of Christian teens have a Biblical worldview

6. Faithful remnant:

  • A 2001 Pew Center poll showed that those who were highly committed to their faith were 3x more likely to have volunteered with the poor, sick and elderly in the last month.
    co products
  • Barna found that those with a Biblical worldview showed genuinely different behavior.

– 49% had volunteered to help the poor, sick and elderly
– 3x more likely not to use tobacco products
– 9x more likely to avoid adult-only material on the internet
– 5x less likely to report that their “career comes first.”

Bottom line:  Learning to think Biblically and theologically DOES matter.
Why does the Christian church today have such a hard time with these issues?

V.    Applications and implications for us today

  • Although the Church may have become Canaanized in our present culture, the Holy Spirit is still at work in me. I can be different.
  • I should evaluate my life in light of Biblical truth, not the world’s standards.
  • I should guard myself against the gradual slide into cultural relativism.
  • I am to be in the world, but not of it.  But am I being truly transformed?
  • My checkbook reveals my true priorities.  My practices belie my beliefs.
  • God is faithful to forgive me and restore me when I repent and confess my sin.
  • I am an ineffective witness if there is no evidence for change in my life.
  • The incomprehensible privilege of grace compels me to live righteously according to the revealed Word of God.

I know there is a lot of law piled up here right now, but I share this data with you so that you can identify for yourself how culture and the world around us starts to shape who we are and what we are all about.

False gods trigger a cycle:  a web of sin, God’s judgments, crying out for help, and God providing deliverance.  What are some destructive cycles you have seen in your own life?

Do you think that the Israelites did a good job of passing their faith to the next generation?  How can we do this better in the church and in our own families?

Which character in chapter 8 stands out to you and why?  How can you be more like them? Which of their bad qualities would you leave out? 

I hope you have a great week!

Additional Study on one character in chapter 8: Deborah

The period of the Judges is the subject of The Story Chapter 8.  Commentators described the period as “a time of free, unfettered development, in which the nation was to take root in the land presented to it by God” (Keil & Delitzsch,239). The fickle Israelites repeated cycles of “doing evil in the sight of the Lord”; bearing the consequences of that evil as God allowed surrounding nations to pummel them; and finally, penitence with a humble return to faithfulness.    Each time God provided a judge to rein them in; Deborah was one of the most courageous.  Yet, she describes herself as “a mother in Israel” Judges 5:7.

I.   Deborah as a wise judge:  Judges 4:1-5; 5:6-7.

Deborah, the fourth Judge, lived approximately 140 years after Joshua’s death.  She was probably middle-aged at the time of the events described in the Book of Judges.  Yet she had seen and heard enough to be a wise and respected woman whom God used in an extraordinary way.

Describe Deborah’s life as a judge:

1.  Israel fell into evil after Ehud’s death.  From Judges 2:19, what was particularly odious to God?

 

2.  God punished them through Jabin, a Canaanite.   Why was Jabin’s army, under the command of Sisera, a lethal threat, Judges 4:2-3?

 

3.  Describe the severity of this oppression? How long had it lasted?

 

4.  From Deborah’s song, Judges 5:6, describe what life was like for the Israelites.

 

5. To whom did they finally turn for help?

 

6.  Fill in the words to describe Deborah from Judges 4:4.

 

“Deborah  a _________________________, the _____________ of Lappidoth, was _______________

Israel at that time.”

 

7.  How did Deborah serve the Israelites?

 

II.  Deborah as a strong military leader:  Judges 4-5.

1.  What message did God give Deborah for Barak?

 

2.  Who would actually win the battle for the Israelites (4:7, 14)?

 

3.  In your opinion, what did Barak’s response to Deborah’s message reveal?

 

4.  The expressions translated “Go” (4:9), and “Go!”(4:14) in the NIV can carry the meaning of “Get up and go”, and “Stand up and go!” or “Take your stand”.  Knowing that Barak refused to lead his army without Deborah, what is the implication of her use of these words?

 

5.  Should Deborah’s prediction, that a woman would have the honor for the victory, shame Barak? Why or why not?

 

6.  In Deborah’s song we have a poetic description of the battle.  What does it reveal about the 10,000 man army (5:2)?

 

7.  From Judges 4:15 and 5:4-5, why was Sisera on foot and how did God hinder his army?

 

8.  Who was the woman who received the honor for Sisera’s defeat, and how was she able to accomplish it (4:18-21; 5:24-27)?

 

The Kennite women had responsibility for the tents.  Due to the harsh winds and the hard, sunbaked land, “she would had to have been swift and accurate in her use of the tent-peg” (Robinson).

The literal translation of Deborah’s prediction about Jael is “Into the hand of a woman the Lord will sell Sisera” (Fleenor,Ziese 86).  Any reader of Deborah’s story will notice how gender roles play against each other in the account.  Even simple words are implicit.  We understand “the hand that rocks the cradle…” and the gracefulness of a woman’s hands. A woman’s hands driving a tent-peg into a man’s temple just don’t fit the picture.

Key Question for men or women in the church today:  After learning about Deborah, What is happening in your community, your church, or your family that demand your courageous leadership?  Will you step up to the challenge?

Holiday Burden or Christmas Peace?

Pastor Ron will be delivering the message this weekend. From the video you can see that he will address the Holiday greeting. Have we been too quick to villianize the Happy Holiday greeting because people feel that we are skipping out on Christ and Christmas? If we were to look at the etymology of the word holiday we will see that it comes from the use of holy day. Throughout Scripture we see God telling his people how to celebrate on special feast or Holy Days. Could we try to understand holidays differently? This year we can have a happy and joyous “Holy Day.”   

But before we get to the conclusion we will talk about Burden and Peace this weekend. The pressure is starting to mount already. The calendar is full, the presents are not bought – and you don’t even have a list! Now you will have to travel to family since they decided they are too busy to come to you. The holiday is turning horrible, a horrible burden and you have started to talk about how glad you will be when it is over. I recently read a story that mentioned more and more cases of people getting sick after the holidays because they are so stressed out and burdened, that the whole body just shuts down and stops fighting. Does this sound like an enjoyable Holiday season to you? It doesn’t to me!  

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 3:16, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” In the birth of Christ we have found that peace was brought to earth. A whole body, whole life kind of peace.  Have you abandoned peace for even more burdens in your life? Let the peace of God that transcends all understanding, dwell in your hearts and minds this Christmas season.

If you have any questions or comments leave them below or on our Facebook page. Thanks!

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