Tag Archives: Bible study

2 Corinthians 10

Greetings!  This is part of the read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year series running from June 2015 – May 2016.*  Please read and enjoy the word of God and feel free to leave comments and/or ask questions.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his truths to you.  Don’t just focus on what you don’t understand.  Think carefully about the things that are clear to you.

2 Corinthians 10 (ESV)

1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

7 Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 8 For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. 9 I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. 12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

*If you missed anything you can always catch up later.  Just dive in!

We will go in order other than spreading the Gospels throughout the year.  We’ll start with Luke, then Acts, some of Paul’s letters, Matthew, more letters, Mark, more letters plus Revelation and then close with John.

Remember, this is the word of God.  The original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers wanted them to.  If you aren’t a believer, give it a try.  If you are a believer, you’ll want to be in the practice of hearing from God every day through his chosen primary means of communicating to us.

Awana and one of the first Bible verses people should learn

My wife and I go to an inner-city church on Sunday nights to teach an Awana Bible study program to the kids.  It has been an interesting process.  The theme verse that they repeat every week is 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

That is so foundational to any study of the Bible.  It grounds many important truths.

“Do your best” — That is a phrase I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in the Bible.  It obviously doesn’t mean to do your best to save yourself, as that is impossible.  It is all up to Jesus.  But we are commanded to do our best to properly handle the word of God.

Think of how we do our best in so many other areas: Tests at school, projects at work, hobbies, sports, etc.  We spend hours of hard work and deep thought to do our best.  Yet we can get very sloppy when approaching the word of God.  Do we really do our best to handle it correctly?

“present yourself to God” — Yes, the audience of one is paying attention to how we treat his word.  He cares if we handle his word accurately or not.

“a workman” — Yes, it is work.  Eternally satisfying work, but work.

“does not need to be ashamed” — So mishandling God’s word would be something to be ashamed of?  Yes.

“correctly handle” — There is a way to correctly handle God’s truths.  It isn’t a free-for-all where everyone gets their own special revelation.

“the word of truth” — It is indeed the word of truth.  Beware of those who claim the name of Christ yet deny that.  Also see 1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

The Awana program seems pretty solid.  It is mainly geared to young kids, though my youngest daughter did it for a couple years in high school and got a lot out of it.  I find it a little heavy on memorization relative to context, but I realize that young kids have spongy brains and that it is a prime time to get them to remember these verses (schools should overhaul what they teach at different ages, such as learning languages in the early years, but that’s another topic).

I was thrilled one night when they were told about Philippians 4:13, a commonly misunderstood verse.  I was able to explain what it really meant, and the kids seemed to get it.  I pray that they will go through life getting that verse right the first time and sharing the great news of it with others.

P.S. Here are the Powerpoint slides to one of my all-time favorites lessons on reading the Bible in context.  I have gotten verses wrong many times — including all the examples in the presentation — so it is a lesson I never want to forget.  

Time management

alarm-clock.jpgI am a mixed bag on time management.  Some things I do really well, which creates plenty of time to do a variety of things.  But then I’ll waste some of it because I’m not prioritizing well.  And by “waste” I don’t mean that it is bad to just do nothing sometimes and rest.  I mean that I end up doing things that aren’t that important, like TV or Internet surfing.

How is your time management?  Remember that if you aren’t doing what you say you want to do (Bible study, prayer, family time, reading, exercise, volunteering, etc.) it is because you consider that the least important thing you actually do is more important than the things you say you want to do.  You may not have those conscious thoughts, but it is an accurate assessment.

In other words, if you are not reading your Bible and praying daily it is because you have decided not to.

A couple of tactical things help me: The O-H-I-O (Only Handle It Once) approach to emails and tasks works well when I use it.  Instead of going over a message multiple times when I’m not sure how I want to handle it, I try to deal with it the first time (respond, file, etc.).

On the flip side, knowing when to carefully analyze a situation to anticipate consequences saves a lot of time at work.  As I like to say, I don’t like to overkill things but I do like to kill them.  By that I mean that I want to get it done right the first time and not have to waste time later because a “shortcut” left someone out of a communication loop.  Sometimes you have to “brake to go faster.”  The discernment to know when to do it is the key.

I also take a Zero-Based Budgeting approach and analyze all that I do.  I realized a while ago that watching sports took a lot of time and didn’t bring that much enjoyment anyway, so I’ve cut it out almost completely.  The Steelers won the game?  Release mild amount of endorphins.  The Steelers lost?  Great, I just wasted 3+ hours of my life.  That isn’t an indictment of sports watching.  If you aren’t consumed by the process and have a net enjoyment, or perhaps it is a family activity, then good for you.  But if watching your college team lose spoils your weekend then you have a problem.  (Friendly reminder: Those “student athletes” and pros some people worship probably don’t care about you at all and are likely to have vastly different worldviews.)

Consider these words then try this exercise by Randy Alcorn.

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff which life is made of.”

Over three thousand years before Benjamin Franklin said those words, Moses said these:

Teach us to number our days aright,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

The New Testament speaks the same message: “Redeem the time,” or “Make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5b).

An exhaustive list of the verses telling us to listen for messages from God (when praying or otherwise)

[Beginning of list]

  •  

[End of list]

Yep, there aren’t any.  Be cautious of leaders who claim otherwise.  Ask for verses, in context.  That doesn’t mean that God couldn’t speak to you that way, just that it isn’t normative or biblical and that the burden of proof is on the one claiming they did hear from God.  If they quote what He allegedly said to them then they are putting their words on par with the inspired Bible.  It is possible, but that’s quite a claim.

And it means you shouldn’t teach others that they must be doing something wrong if they aren’t “hearing” from God in personalized ways.  Don’t harm the faith of others with non-biblical teachings.  It isn’t loving.

If you want to hear from God, read the Bible.  If you want to hear from him audibly, then read the Bible out loud.  I suggest a deep study of the 31,173 verses He definitely gave us before insisting on a personal bonus revelation.

P.S. Please note that I am not discounting the Holy Spirit in any way.  I love him as I love the Father and the Son and He has unique roles outlined in scripture.  But again, please offer specific verses, in context, if your claim is that the Bible says it is normative to get specific communications from him when praying.

Re-thinking youth Sunday School

As I noted in Why do so many children leave church when they go to college?, critical thinking about faith seems to make a big difference in whether children stay in church.  A big part of that is how Sunday School is done.*

I recommend that churches re-think how they do Sunday School, at least for high school kids.  Consider these facts:

  1. In high school, kids who have taken math their entire lives still have a huge range of classes depending on aptitude and experience.  It ranges from basic math to AP Calculus.
  2. In church high school classes, it is typically a one-size-fits-all approach, even lumping multiple grades together.   Some kids have been well-educated theologically their entire lives and some are new to the faith.

So we have a huge range of high school classes for kids who have had life-long training, and a narrow range of spiritual classes for kids who have had a much wider range of training.

Keeping the kids together for many lessons and activities is fine, but it is inevitable that some kids will be bored by lowest-common denominator material (like mine were, which is why they joined another church) and some will find the material too difficult.

My youngest started attending an adult class at their new church with some of her friends. It was amazing. I’ve had the opportunity to visit myself and I love it. The teacher spent three years in 1 Peter, which at first glance sounds like a recipe for disaster. Yet the class grew and grew and attracted people who wanted meaty lessons because he was so thorough and meaningful.  She would come home every week talking about the lesson.  I’m grateful that she had the opportunity to join the class.

One of the reasons churches may lose post-high school kids is that there isn’t a stable place to study. They can’t go to the high school classes any longer, and the young adult / college classes are too transient to be meaningful.

So why can’t kids with an interest go to adult classes? Are there any Bible verses against parents learning with children? If we expect high school students to learn algebra, Shakespeare, biology, etc., why do we have to dumb down the Bible for them?

Note: I would make the distinction that we should have smaller age / experience appropriate groups (i.e., Mothers of Pre-Schoolers, accountability groups, etc.) where people can share and interact.  In this post I am speaking of basic Bible studies.

—–

* Reminder: Sunday School has a purpose, but parents still have the primary responsibility to teach their children.  The problem is that most are biblically illiterate.  They just take kids to church and hand the responsibility off to someone else.  If they actually read the Bible they’d know they were shirking their responsibilities.

Ephesians 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

That’s my youngest daughter’s life verse, by the way, though she prefers the translation that says not to exasperate your children (she likes to tease  me by saying, “You’re exasperating me!”). In case you think I’m kidding, this is a picture of her bedroom wall.  I’m glad my kids both kept a keen sense of humor!

A great ending to Habakkuk

Reading through the Old Testament prophets can be a little depressing at times, so I really enjoyed this passage:

Habakkuk Rejoices in the Lord

Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

Update: The music leader read this during service the next Sunday.  That was a nice coincidence!

Anyone heard of Renovare’?

I was surprised to see a study group on something called Renovare’ being offered at a local church. I scanned the book they are using (The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows) and it looks pretty creepy. Lots of stuff implying that God will reveal special, individualized messages to you in prayer. He could do that, of course, but I’ve read a bit of the Bible and can’t think of a single passage that hints at that being normative or something we can get on demand. The “still, small voice” was audible — and was given to an Old Testament prophet who had just slaughtered a few hundred prophets of Baal after a dramatic showdown. So if you fit that job description, you too can expect audible messages from God!

One exercise from the book has you read a passage then note any word that “God seems to be emphasizing.” Then you “allow God to reveal to you the significance of this word.” This is bad on many levels. Aside from being un-biblical, it will lead people to think they aren’t really Christian or aren’t as spiritual as others because they don’t get personalized messages from God. Or people will make up some meaning that isn’t there and just fashion a god in their own image. Or they will feel peer pressure to make up something (hey, lying is always good for spiritual growth, right?).

There was lots on lectio divina in the book as well.

Maybe if we just read the 31,173 verses in context and really sought to understand them via normal Bible study techniques we’d be better off. God seemed to be keen on getting what He wanted into the Bible, so perhaps those drawn to lectio divina and Renovare’-type practices should make sure they have all those verses well understood before expecting God to give them something new and personalized.

A message about The Message

I’m usually pretty liberal (seriously!) about Bible translations.  I prefer the ESV now, but have read the NIV the most and the Living Bible was the first one I read all the way through.  The NASB is a more literal translation and is great for zeroing in on key words.  In general I just encourage people to read it and not just talk about reading it.

But I’ve never liked The Message translation.  It is way too “cutesy” for me.  And the more I learn about it and the author, the less I like it.  Here are some more reasons to avoid it, via Sola Sisters: The Message “Bible” Inserts Earth Reverence, God of “Green” Hope.

A generation has been raised on this disturbing “paraphrase” of the Bible. This is the primary version so many now rely on, and nationally known preachers quote from it with regularity. Yet, as we have seen, The Message flat out omits the sin of homosexuality from several key passages. We see this in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and also in 1 Timothy 1: 8-11.

Does the acceptance and use of The Message explain why many Christians are lukewarm on the issue of homosexuality? Certainly The Message is not the only factor–we dwell in a pro-homosexual media/culture–but place this “Bible” in a person’s hands and it can have, over time, significant influence. How can we understand God’s Truth when Truth is no longer there to be read?

“My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart.” (Proverbs 4:20-21)The beloved author of The Message, Eugene Peterson, has now endorsed two heretical books: The Shack, and Rob Bell’s sly ode to universalism, Love Wins. The Message, bluntly stated, seems written to make Christians less knowledgeable about the Word of God. While that may seem a strong comment, please consider what Eugene Peterson himself said about the Bible:

“Why do people spend so much time studying the Bible? How much do you need to know? We invest all this time in understanding the text which has a separate life of its own and we think we’re being more pious and spiritual when we’re doing it….[Christians] should be studying it less, not more. You need just enough to pay attention to God….I’m just not at all pleased with the emphasis on Bible study as if it’s some kind of special thing that Christians do, and the more the better.” [1] (Bold mine)I believe The Message is forerunner to a christless, sinless bible that will be used by the false church. There will be a “christ” mentioned, but not our Christ. Not the sinless Savior of humanity. Sin will be addressed, of course, but perhaps more in line with the Alcoholics Anonymous generic theology of “wrongs” and “making amends.”

Homosexuality will be perfectly acceptable, even sacred. And nature, the earth itself, will be worshiped. We have already addressed Eugene Peterson’s removal of homosexuality and other sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, but healso inserts the phrase “use and abuse the earth,” something the Lord did not place there at all.

Here is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 from The Message:

“Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who do not care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.” (Bold mine)Did you catch that? Peterson’s version claims those who “use and abuse the earth” will not be saved!

Here is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, from the NASB:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”You will not find this apparent form of earth-reverence in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 in any reputable translation of the Bible. It simply is not there.

Read the whole post for more of the “earth worship” problem.

In a move that should surprise no one, Peterson is now a loud-and-proud supporter of oxymoronic “same-sex marriage.”

The tomb is still empty

tomb.jpg

Spoiler alert: The text at the bottom gives away the ending of the Gospels.

My favorite part of The Passion of the Christ movie was the understated scene where Jesus is sitting in the tomb on Easter morning and then He just stands up.  That’s it.  No humans saw him get up, though angels may have.

The resurrection is the greatest and most central event in human history.  Good Friday is when Jesus died for our sins, but the resurrection conquered sin and death for all time for those who trust in Jesus.   Everyone spends eternity somewhere.  Trust in Jesus and you have hope in this life and an eternity in Heaven.  Don’t trust in Jesus and you have neither.

Bonus link: Ten resources to help you defend the resurrection of Jesus as history.  Yes, He really died and rose again, He is really God and He is really the only way to salvation.

He is risen!

John 20:1-18 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Promises!

From The Simpsons
Lisa: You promised to take us to the lake.
Homer: I promise you kids lots of things, and that’s what makes me such a good father.
Lisa: Actually, keeping promises would make you a good father.
Homer: No, that would make me a great father.

God is a great Father. God makes lots of promises, and He keeps them all – 100.00% of the time. Try flipping open your Bible and seeing how many you find.

I did a test once to show how this and other Bible study techniques work. I had someone pick numbers at random without telling them the purpose. I used the first number to pick a book of the Bible and the second to pick the chapter. The first choice was 1 John 5. I had people search for what stood out to them, what commands they saw, and if there were any promises to claim. And there just happened to be some big time promises. Check these out:

  • 1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
  • 1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
  • 1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Try looking for promises when you study your Bible — but be sure to read them in context.  For example, the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 is not for any reader or even for Christians today.  It was part of a very particular promise made to the exiled Jews.  God kept that promise, of course, but it wasn’t aimed at us.

God is the most trustworthy being in the universe. He always keeps his promises. No one has ever regretted putting their trust in Jesus.

False teacher claims others abuse scripture but never proves it

Race-baiting false teacher Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie claims that Focus on the Family misinterprets Bible verses about homosexuality and that it is hateful (see Pacific University Community Stands Up To Hate @pacificu #pacificu).

But he never even tries to prove what Focus gets wrong.  And even IF they were wrong that doesn’t mean they are hateful.  It just means they misunderstood the verses.

Keep in mind that Chuck made it through seminary without realizing that the Bible teaches that Jesus is the only way to salvation even though there are over 100 passages teaching that. So you want Bible lessons from Chuck like you want parenting tips from pedophiles.  Oh, and he’s a serial, unrepentant liar.

The truth sounds like hate to those that hate the truth.  And here’s the truth:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

Ironically, Chuck missed the point that this hate speech comes straight from the Left:

One of them, Holden said, included the phrase “abortion is green,” suggested that the 9/11 terrorists attacks were an inside job . . .

It is the Left that thinks abortion is good to cut down on the population.  Surely pro-abort Chuck doesn’t think that is hate speech!  Pro-abortion speech is the ultimate hate speech: It results in innocent human beings getting crushed and dismembered without anesthetic.  All with Chuck’s blessing.

More blather from Chuck:

On the Right, we see what feels like unprecedented hatred directed against women, Muslims and gays.  Just listen to Glenn Beck, Lars Larson, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich or GOP New York State gubernatorial nominee Carl P. Paladino.

Oh, like Jerry Brown calling Meg Whitman a bitch?  Oh, wait, he’s a Democrat, so that’s OK!

The post also notes where Chuck will be preaching next.  And you have to know what a great preacher he is: He can’t even convert his atheist wife to his Hindu beliefs!

Some quick Christian Q&A

Some youth at church submitted these questions to be discussed at youth group and I was asked to weigh in.  Each could result in a lengthy blog post so I tried to provide just a few bullets.  You are welcome to offer what your pithy responses would be!

1. How am I supposed to spread the word to my friends? Most of them are very smart Atheists.

· That is great that he/she wants to spread the word.  Atheists can be a big challenge.

· Use diagnostic questions to see if they are really interested in a conversation or are just wanting to spout one objection after another from the “Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites” (not a real book, just an illustration I use to describe the behavior of people who have no interest in pursuing the truth).  If they don’t want to learn more, heed Matthew 7:6 (ESV) “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”  You are under no obligation to share the Good News with people who are continually hostile to it.  Just pray for them and perhaps try again another time.

· If they are interested in real discussions, then answer what you can but never fake it.  If you get stumped, admit it and tell them you’ll get back to them.  Seven important words: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”  Then go ask one of us or look it up online and get back with them.  You’ll learn and strengthen your faith in the process.

· Just because they are smart doesn’t mean they are wise.  J. Budziszewski, former atheist and UT Philosophy professor says it well: “Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that you must be highly intelligent and educated to commit. God keeps them in His arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all.”

· At its core the atheist worldview is ridiculous (though I wouldn’t put it that way to them right away): They have zero evidence for how the universe came into existence.  They have zero evidence for how life came from non-life.  They have distorted one part (Darwinian evolution) out of one branch (biology) out of the dozens of branches of science and they pretend that we are anti-science.

· All people, including atheists, rely on all kinds of non-scientific evidence everyday – historical, eye witness, etc.  We have lots of evidence for our views.  For example, consider these “minimal facts” agreed to by virtually all historians (Christian or not) of the biblical time period.

Summary of the “minimal facts” approach: Nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements (more here — http://tinyurl.com/ykzpu42).  I submit that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts.

o Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.

o Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.

o Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.

o The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.

o 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty.

2. Why do we have bible study?

· What else would we do?  Entertainment, fellowship and service are important, but the word of God is our foundation.

· Parents have the primary responsibility for their children’s Christian education, but the church now has a role.  Check out the recent articles on religious surveys. It is embarrassing how little professing Christians know about the Bible.  We make lousy witnesses when atheists know more about the Bible than we do.

· More importantly, the Bible is the primary way God speaks to us.  It contains every important spiritual truth.  If you aren’t reading it you aren’t growing.

3. How do you go about bringing up religion to other people? No one really ever wants to listen to people talk about it at school.

· Try using “faith flags,” such as comments about church or church activities.  If people show any interest it might lead to further discussions.

· Be a good listener.  Ask about their religious views.  You may hear all sorts of bizarre things.  Don’t pretend that false views are true, but make it a conversation and not a bludgeoning.

· Pray that God will show you where He is working in the lives of others and where you can fit in.

4. Is it wrong to evangelize if you believe in the things that make your faith, but are having rough times in your life?

· Great question.  If we wait to evangelize until we have everything working perfectly then we’ll never evangelize.  Being authentic about your struggles and how your faith impacts them can be a good witness.

· At the other end of the spectrum, you can’t live a careless lifestyle and expect people to take you seriously as a Christian.

5. If people are “going with the crowd” towards a bad thing, how do you lead them on the right path?

· Try to find others who agree with you (safety in numbers).

· Set a good example by not going along with the bad thing.

· Ask questions.  Why are they doing it?

6. How do you handle Christians who don’t act so ‘Christ-like” towards you?

· Most of the time, shrug it off and give the person the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they are having a bad day.

· If it is a little more serious, pray about it and them.

· If it is somewhat or very serious, get other Christians involved (see Matthew 18 – Jesus anticipated this problem and gave guidance).

7. Why do bad things happen for no reason? i understand that obstacles are put in front of us to see if we can get through and to test our strength but sometimes i feel it’s just too much too handle, and it wont end. How is it that God will forgive us all for our sins, but some ppl will choose to do wrong and God will forgive them of everything in the end, while other that do right get nothing but the same in the end. Pretty much how is it that bad ppl and good ppl are both given forgiveness when the bad ppl have done so much more wrong.

· Jesus promised problems for believers: John 16:33 (ESV)I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

· We’re all “bad people” in the sense that we sin against God.  Some people are better fakes than others.

· God only forgives those who repent and believe, so not everyone is ultimately forgiven.

· Don’t begrudge God for offering more grace to others — See Matthew 20:1-16.  We should rejoice that He offers us grace at all.

Romans 16

rom-16.jpgGreetings!

Paul ends his powerful and thorough masterpiece with greetings to many friends and co-workers in the Lord.

Personal Greetings

16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.

I know we need well-educated leaders, but I often wonder what would happen if we had more house churches in the U.S.  We need an authority structure but the bureaucracy and seemingly inevitable bad teaching that comes from larger organizations is disappointing.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

8 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.

Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodion, my relative.

Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.

Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Consider how many women Paul greeted and how he acknowledged their hard work in the Lord.  He is falsely considered a chauvinist but if you study all of what he said and the context of the culture in which he said it, Paul is quite the feminist (in the good sense).

17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

Paul wrote this from Corinth.  Archaeologists found a block of stone that may refer to this man.  It said, “Erastus, commissioner of public works, bore the expense of this pavement.”

25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Note how Paul desired that all nations would believe in and obey Jesus and that God is the only wise God.  There is a good reason you’ll rarely, if ever, hear false Christian teachers preach from Romans.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

Romans 15

Greetings!

15 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Paul affirms the value of the Old Testament teachings, just as Jesus did.

It is never fun to be insulted for being Christians, but we need to remember who is really being insulted: Jesus.

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is one of the great disappointments with U.S. churches today – the lack of unity.  Sadly, some churches put unity over doctrine.  That is not a Biblical theme.  But we should aim at unity on the essentials.  The lack of church discipline has caused much of the problem.  We didn’t weed out enough false teachers when we had the chance.  Now they are in leadership positions in many denominations.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9 so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.”

12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul quotes several Old Testament passages that the Jews may have overlooked.  God set them apart, but not because of anything special they had done to deserve it.  In fact, He did it in spite of things they did.  But they were meant to be a light to all the nations.  They were blessed to be a blessing to others.

V. 13 is a great one to memorize.  How often do I overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit?  Sometimes, but not as much as I would like.

Paul the Minister to the Gentiles

14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written:

“Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”

22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

Paul wanted to meet the Romans in person, but he was detained for a time to share the Gospel with those who hadn’t heard it.

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome

23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

It is unclear whether Paul made it to Spain.  He did make it to Rome (see the book of Acts) and was imprisoned there at least once and probably twice.

30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?