Monday, August 27, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of August 26, 2012

Why do you think people (ourselves included) should read the Bible?  We hear that admonition all the time, but what is the goal?

Is the goal merely to gain knowledge?  The Game Show Network is offering a new show called "American Bible Challenge" and as part of the promo the host of the show (Jeff Foxworthy) says, "If you don't know your Bible, you haven't got a prayer."  So is the goal of reading the Bible simply to gain trivia knowledge, or is there something more?

(Read Jeremiah 9:23-24)

These words of the LORD are offered in the midst of a pronouncement of judgment upon God's people.  They are being punished because they have forsaken the LORD and His ways, and have chosen to pursue other gods instead.

Yet in the middle of this long pronouncement there is a call, an invitation from the LORD Himself.

"Let him who boasts boast about this:
        that he understands and knows me,
        that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth,
        for in these I delight." (verse 24)

Therefore the goal of reading our Bibles is that we might get to know God.  He reveals Himself in His word by His Spirit, and the invitation to read God's word is given so that we might come to know Him.

Jesus also commented on this topic in John 5:39.  In a discussion with the religious leaders of His day, Jesus offers this invitation, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."

The purpose of studying the Scriptures and reading the Bible is not to gain information, but to meet God and come to know Him for Who He is by what He has done.

So what do you think?  Why do you think people (ourselves included) should read the Bible?  Do you agree with my answer, if so how will it change the way you read the Bible?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of August 19, 2012

Are you humble?  If so, how humble?  If not, why not?

Humility is a strange thing.  As Christ followers we are called to be humble, but the moment we recognize our humility, we are in danger of becoming prideful about it.  Yet humility is our calling, and so we should concern ourselves with how humble we are.  So again are you humble?  If not, why?

(Read I Peter 5:1-11)

So what is the source of humility?  How can we actually be humble?

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (v. 6)

The true source of humility is recognizing God; His authority and His power, while also recognizing that our place is in submission to Him.

But how can we actually be humble?  How do we show that we are humble without becoming prideful about our humility?

I think the answer to that question is service.  If we choose to serve, rather than be served, we will show that we are humble.  And we can avoid pride in our humility by not expecting anything in return.  Service that is rooted in a sense of entitlement ("I will do this so that I will get that") is not really service.

Note how Peter commends the elders to serve and then assures them that they will be rewarded by God at the proper time.

"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you but being examples to the flock."  

Elders are called to serve because service is the way of Jesus.  Jesus Himself came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.  (see Matthew 20:28)  And the same is true for the "young men".

The "young men" serve by willingly submitting to the wisdom of those who are older.  Now this does not mean that older Christ followers are never wrong.  No mere human being is infallible.  However, even when young people disagree with "those who are older" there are ways to disagree without showing disrespect.  This is what it means to submit humbly.

In the end, true humility seeks to serve without counting the cost, or considering the benefits.  Willing service models the heart of God, and receives a reward that can never be taken away.  (v. 4, 11)

So what about you?  Are you humble?  If so, how are you showing it?  If not, why?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of August 12, 2012

There are many things which can distress us in this world, and in particular in the North American culture.  What distresses you the most?

After thinking through that question for a while, read Acts 17:16-34 and see how Paul handles things which distress him in the Greek and Roman culture?

As Paul is waiting in Athens, "he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols".  But how did he respond?  Did he put together a campaign to protest the idols in the city?  Did he gather the church in worship so that he could preach against the evils of the Greek and Roman culture of the day?

No.  Paul "reasoned" with Jews, Greeks, and even Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.  He did not start by condemning them.  He started by speaking their language.  He "reasoned" with them.  And after "reasoning" with them he gained a hearing.  So let's look at Paul's message.  What did he say, and how did he say it?

(Read verses 22-31)

Paul begins by recognizing that they are "very religious", then he uses one of their own cultural symbols (an idol to "the unknown god") as an opportunity to share the truth about God and the good news Jesus brings.

In the end, he still calls them to "repent" (see verse 30) and explains the truth that there is only one God, who sent His Son Jesus to judge the world with justice (notice this is Jesus' job and not ours).  And Paul proclaims the truth that Jesus is the true Son of God because He was raised from the dead.

All the elements of the good news are there.  Jesus as Lord, Savior (through His life, death, and resurrection), and rightful judge.  But Paul does not begin with judgment, rather he begins by working within the culture to present the good news in a way people can understand.  

So what do we learn from this?  How should we handle things in our culture which distress us?
Let's discuss ...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of August 5, 2012

The kingdom of God is a wonderful, powerful reality, yet it is also a profound mystery.  How does the kingdom come?  We pray "Your kingdom come", but how does it come?

(Read Luke 17:20-37)

"The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is' or 'There it is' because the kingdom of God is within (among) you." (Luke 17:20-21)

So the kingdom of God is within or among the people to whom Jesus is speaking.  But what does that mean?  For years I wondered about that saying.  I thought about it related to today.  The kingdom of God is within or among us as followers of Jesus.  And I think there is some truth to that statement, but it is not the most important truth.  The kingdom of God comes in the person of Jesus, and Jesus was right there with them in their midst.  That is why the kingdom of God was among them.

But what about God's people, all who have placed true faith in Jesus, are we not also considered the body of Christ?  If then we are the body of Christ, and Jesus Christ is the ONE who brings the kingdom, then do we not have some role in its coming?

I answer "yes" and "no".  "Yes" because we proclaim the truth that Jesus reigns and that all who trust in Him are God's children and heirs of Christ's salvation.  In other words, all who believe are loyal subjects to Christ and His kingdom.   But I also say "No" because the kingdom ultimately comes at Jesus' return.  We say and do things now that point to the reality of His kingdom (His reign), but we cannot bring the kingdom.  Only Jesus has the power and authority to do that, and He will.

At the end of time, Jesus says, it will be just like it was in the days of Noah and Lot.  Jesus will return very unexpectedly and He will judge the living and the dead and make all things new!  This will be the kingdom to which we are looking forward.  And He is coming soon!  The king will return, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!!!

So what do you think about the kingdom of God?  Because it is an "already" and "not yet" reality there is lots more to say.  So let's discuss!