Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chapter 18: Offering My Time

     Time is far more valuable than we think, especially to children … and to God. In fact, I think giving your time to God may be more important than giving your money. Why? Because you can always get more money, but you cannot get more time.

     Time and money invested in the kingdom will pay off in eternity, where time and money have no value. The souls of others, on the other hand, have immeasurable value for all of time and eternity.

     God even listed devoting your time (but not your money) in the Ten Commandments, in which he commanded us to give one-seventh of our days to Him, or more than 14 percent, compared to returning a tithe (or 10%) percent of our possessions and earnings.

    The next time you think about investments, consider what you are investing your time into.  

    Today’s devotional from Zondervan is on giving our time to the Lord. We will study Chapter 18 Sunday, February 5, at FBC Killeen.

The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is a collection of brief words of wisdom loosely bound together to teach the reader skills for living, including time management. The last chapter in the book is unique. In detail, it describes the day-to-day workings of the “wife of noble character,” who is essentially a personification of wisdom. The way she juggled her responsibilities while keeping God’s purposes at the center of it all is an inspiration to every follower of God. [See Proverbs 31:10-31.]
When we give our time to serve the purposes of God, particularly to those who cannot reciprocate, God not only takes notice but may also reward us greatly. [See Matthew 25:31–46 .]

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

I offer my time to fulfill God’s purposes.

 What difference does this make in the way I live?
Unite the practice of prayer with the practice of offering your time. Ask God to show you how to use your time wisely and in such a way that it brings glory to him.
Giving him full access to speak to you at any time regarding your calendar will make all the difference as you serve in his name in your little corner of the world.
The author of Job tells us, “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed" (Job 14:5). Multiplying is completely up to God. You give; he multiplies. What if every morning or each night you prayed, Father, my time is yours. Show me, lead me, speak to me about what you want me to do, about how to use this precious gift wisely, and then you listened, trusted, and obeyed?


     In your own words, explain what this verse means to you: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Join the discussion today and use the hashtag #BelieveTheStory

Sunday, January 22, 2017

17: Spiritual Gifts -- No Excuse To Not Share Your Story

     Last August FBC Killeen had “This Is My Story” month. Numerous people wrote down their salvation testimonies. Several deacon candidates shared the gospel story and how it changed their lives.

     I believe that month-long emphasis influenced the Bell Baptist Association, a group of nearly one hundred churches in our county, to title our evangelism conference Sharing HIS Story In Our Story. That conference will be February 7th at Taylor's Valley Baptist Church in Temple and will feature Randy Frazee who wrote both The Story and Believe curricula. Johnny Hunt, a pastor and soul winner from Georgia, will also come and preach us to use our gifts, our story, and God's love to reach the world.

You can register for the meal at the February 7th Conference by clicking here.

    You may not be gifted as a teacher, a speaker, even gifted in knowledge or wisdom. You may not be a deacon or a pastor or a writer of curriculum. But God has endowed you with at least one spiritual gift. God wants you to tell the story of salvation by using your unique gift.

     I look forward to Session 17 “Spiritual Gifts” because so many in our church do not know what their spiritual gifts are. Some people are especially gifted in mercy; God wants them to use that giftedness and love people enough to share the gospel. Others are gifted in hospitality; God wants them to use that gift and be hospitable so that others are built up in the faith. No, you may not have the spiritual gift of giving or have great knowledge on the deeper things of God and life; but still, God wants you do the best you can with what He has given you.

    Have you resisted writing your salvation story? Are afraid you may not share your testimony perfectly? There are two roads: One to eternal life; the other to eternal destruction. We should “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”

     Are you glad someone shared with you the plan of salvation? Then write and tell your salvation story and be prepared to share the gospel with the lost, the saved, the world.



     What gifts and abilities has God given me to serve others?

     The term “spiritual gifts” originates from the Greek words pneumatika (spiritual or of the Spirit) and charisma (gift). Spiritual gifts are special abilities or functions given by the Holy Spirit that are meant to be used by God’s people to complete God’s work.

     Spiritual gifts are given with a purpose. God wants to redeem this broken world, and he has chosen to use us, the church, to do it. Whereas in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit temporarily came upon followers of God to enable them to fulfill specific tasks, the New Testament clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit indwells all believers and that all believers have spiritual gifts. And since the New Testament refers to specific gifts, it seems safe to assume that God wants us to identify our gifts in order to best use them.

     Spiritual gifts are tools that are meant to be used. The divine task of restoring broken people to God has been imparted to us, and we must put these tools to work. In this parable about the bags of gold, Jesus illustrated this principle for his disciples.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Romans 12:4–6)

I know my spiritual gifts and use them to fulfill God’s purposes.

 What difference does this make in the way I live?
     If you want to gain a better understanding of your own spiritual gifts, look for a number of excellent resources and tools online or in Christian bookstores. You can also simply ask people to help you discover your gifts. Use the story in this chapter and ask three folks to circle the role they see you playing. Your responsibility is to discover and develop God’s gifts, and then to find how each one fits into the world he wants to reach. You have been given a gift, and God plans to use your gift to change the world.
     When we are children, most of us pretend to have, or dream about having, some sort of superpower. The Creator has given you a divine gift. When it is used in and through your unique personality, abilities, and intellect, energized by his Holy Spirit, God will certainly produce supernatural results far above what you could ask for or imagine him to ever do.


     Why is it so important that people identify their spiritual gifts? (You’ll find some ideas in 1 Corinthians 12:1-20.) 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Session 16: Biblical Community -- Do I "have to" go to church?

     This devotional and chapter when we go through Believe may seem similar to Belief #6 on the church. But Fellowship and Church is both a Belief and a Behavior. We need to not only know that the church is the bride of Christ. We need to practice fellowship. You may not "feel" like going to church, but if you really believe that Jesus loves the church, you are going to also put this love into practice by coming. 

     I love having my children with me. But almost as much as that, I love it when I hear my kids enjoy being around each other. And I especially love it when my kids tell me they have been to church, and are with their spiritual family. Now that they are adults, I can't make them go to church or want to hang around each other. But as a dad, I love it when they do and not because they "have to". 
      Someone said at church last week, "I don't want to leave this fellowship." That same night, another person said that they don't like being around people and always thought they didn't have to go to church to be a Christian. Today's devotional and Chapter 16 reminds us whether we are like the first person or the second, God gave us a belief and a behavior in having a Biblical Community.

The following devotional is from Zondervan to help us prepare for the 30 part series of key lessons on how to believe, behave and be a Biblical Christian.


     Community is not a “nice-to-have” addition, but an essential experience for living a godly and healthy life. God intended for humans to have rich, life-giving relationships with each other; relationships energized and motivated by the actual presence of God among them. Adam and Eve experienced this perfect ideal in the garden. But their rejection of God’s vision for life together caused humankind to be escorted from the garden and out of community with God. This separation from God and the presence of sin in every human being’s nature is a perpetual challenge to creating strong community. But it is clear from God’s Word that people were not meant for separation and isolation. (See Ecclesiastes 4:8–12.)

    One of the marked differences between the church and the rest of society is the call to live for others. Throughout the New Testament, followers of Jesus were urged to look out for “one another.” When the early Christians did this in faith, it created an irresistible attraction for outsiders to belong to the family of God.

     All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44–47)

    I fellowship with Christians to accomplish God’s purposes in my life, in the lives of others and in the world.

What difference does this make in the way I live?
     If you were going to rescue a person who had fallen off a steep cliff, you would want to be tied to as many people up on the mountain as possible, supporting you and holding you as you attempt rescue. As we minister and reach out to those outside the community of faith, it is necessary to stay tethered together for optimum success, lest we also fall.

     There are days we desperately need a good hug to keep going, and other days we need a swift kick in the pants to get back to where we should be. Friends who love God, and love us for who we are, know exactly when and how to do the right thing for us. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon writes, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6 NKJV).


     Would you have wanted to be a member of the early church after Pentecost? Why or why not? (You’ll find some ideas in Acts 2:44-47.) Join the discussion today and use the hashtag #BelieveTheStory.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

15.5 Spiritual Unity Should Spring From One Faith

Part 5 (see part 1part 2part 3, part 4)

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-5
We are a family of humanity and we should be at peace with other races, nationalities, ethnicities, and languages. The Bible says we are to be, as far as possible, at peace with all others, even other religions and lack of religion.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:19
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
We should be at peace with people of different lifestyles, preferences, and orientations. Some of the strongest Christian witnesses I know of are testimonies of the Amish or the African American church members of faith who forgave and showed the love of God to those who actually murdered innocent family members. That is supernatural love and Christ-like forgiveness.
Obviously, being at peace and demonstrating love to others, “while they are still sinners” (Romans 5:8) is not condoning or accepting their sinful lifestyles or deviant behaviors, but it is extending to others the forgiveness and love that Christ showed and gave to us. Read Romans 5:6-8
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Once a person has received the indwelling Christ, God’s redeeming and convicting Holy Spirit can give dunamas power and authority to become and live like a child of God. John 1:12-13 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born, not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
Since Christ loved us when we were sinners, how much more should we live in love and harmony with our fellow believers who are saved. There are people in the world who are not believers that I have to ask God to help me to love. It is not in my nature, but in my nature there is sin. Now that I am a Christian, I have a new nature. The old nature has passed away. Read how the New Living Translation conveys the “new normal” of a born-again believer.
5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. (Romans 7:5-6, NLT)
21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you… 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. (Colossians 3:5,7-11, NLT)
Are you truly a follower of Christ? Then extend love and peace to those who are also members of the family of God and who also seek to follow the Son. I know I do not follow Christ at all times and in every way. But knowing that others still love me and forgive me will help me stay on the path and return to it when I stray.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

15.5 Racial Unity Should Spring From One "Blood"

The family of humanity and social order
Part 4 (see part 1, part 2, part 3)
     Some Christians are not very favorable to the “social
gospel.” It has come to mean of helping improve society to the exclusion of telling people about having a relationship with Christ. But as Pastor Randy Wallace preached on Sunday, our salvation must have some impact on this world, or otherwise God would send us directly to heaven. Our goal as Christians is not to merely “go to heaven,” and it is not to simply cease sinning. A “drug-induced coma” could stop us from committing sins, but not from the “omitting” sins. There are sins of commission (bad things we do) but there are also sins of omission (good things we dont d0). 
     As a reflection of His light of the world are we going to hide it under a bushel? No. (You saw that one coming didn’t you?). “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography,” so says the Baptist Faith and Message, Article 15, The Christian and the Social Order.
     While only those who have accepted Christ are truly adopted into God’s spiritual family, as members of the human race and a part of this world, we are also the direct objects of His divine love. The Apostle Paul spoke that even the pagan Greek world knew that we were His offspring, God’s children:
Read Acts 17:16-31*
What are some historical examples or people who have worked for racial harmony, based on Christianity?

What are some historical examples or people who have worked against racial harmony, based on their distorted view of religion? 
     As the family of humanity, and especially since we recognize that we are all from one blood (the actual word used in Acts 17:26 although NIV translates it as “man”) through Adam and Noah, the church of all people should be at the forefront of uniting the relations between races, nations, ethnicities, and cultures.
     God has always commanded His people to reach across the barriers to reach those who are different than we are. We who have the means should always work to provide for those without means; i.e., “the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick.” The story of the Good Samaritan was told to someone who was prejudiced against Samaritans. And we who have already been born (I think that pretty much applies to all of you are reading this) should “speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”
      In 1682 a persecuted Quaker Christian by the name of William Penn founded a city as a place where everyone would feel free to worship as he so chose, even if it were the religion of the native Americans or non-Christian. Even though he was given the land by King Charles II, Penn paid the local Lenape people and made a treaty of friendship with the Native American chief Tammany under an elm tree at what is now the city's Fishtown section. This degree was so much more than tolerance of others; it was a loving affirmation for the brotherhood of man (and now sisterhood of women). Therefore, Penn (for whom the state of Pennsylvania is named) called the city Philadelphia, a city which still goes by its moniker of “the city of brotherly love.”
     The Baptist Faith & Message states, “Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

*Acts 17:16-31
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26From one BLOOD he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Acts 17:24-31

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

15.5 Beliefs About the Family at Home

Beliefs and the Social Order, part 3 (see Part 1 and Part 2)

The Family of Home

  Before there were governments, institutions, or even places of worship, God ordained the family as the foundation of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.

     According to the Baptist Faith and Message, which is a description of what our convention has agreed on that most of our denomination believes, it says the following: 

Christians and the Bible define marriage as the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.
The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. 

     In the Scriptures of old and in society today, there are sadly few examples as role models for the ideal family of the home. Jesus described God’s ideal for the family in Matthew 19 after a question was brought up about the home and marriage.

Read Matthew 19:4-14*

Even the disciples often found Jesus' comments are hard to accept and practice. Do you see grace in the words of Jesus when He says,  “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given....The one who can accept this should accept it.” ?

How does Jesus' acceptance of children show His value and God's value of children in the home?

    Jesus referred back to the beginning as God’s ideal. But early on, marriages and families had dysfunctions and problems. 

     As early as Genesis 4:19, marriages had degenerated to include polygamy (more than one wife) in the family of Lamech, who was a descendant of godless line of Cain, who murdered his brother Able. 

     Lamech himself also murdered a man and self-proclaimed that no one was to avenge his wicked deeds. Within seven generations from Adam, the Bible records two murders and a departure from God’s ideal family of one husband and one wife for life. 

     As one person said, the Bible shows people as they are, warts and all.

What can we glean from the fact that the Bible does not record perfect people nor perfect families?

     Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon all failed in various ways and not just in their home lives. Their failures are accurately descriptive but they are in no way prescriptive! They do give us hope that God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect plans.

    Although there are few examples in the Bible of godliness in the home, the Scriptures give us instructions for a godly home. Two short but powerful back-to-back chapters in Psalms speaks to the family of the home.

Read Psalms 127 and 128**

How does Psalm 127 put into proper perspective the balance God seeks in our time at work (verse 2a), home (verse 1) and rest (verse 2b).

What messages and insights can be seen for parents, husbands, wives, children and even grandparents and grandchildren in Psalm 128?

     By the time of the close of the Old Testament in 400 B.C., the people of God’s choosing, the nation of Israel, had almost come full circle in their families. Divorce, polygamy, marriages to spouses of pagan faiths, disobedient parents and children alike are all depicted in the pages of the first testament of the Scriptures.

    The final chapter of Ezra (Chapter 10) explained that the priests and people had married women of other faiths, thus diluting a godly heritage for future offspring. What’s worse, they tried to make two wrongs equal a right by prescribing divorce to “correct” the sin of pagan marriage! 

     In the final book before the New Testament, Malachi the prophet rebukes the priests and people alike for their deviant ways. Malachi, who was a contemporary of Ezra, calls God’s people back to God’s holiness and His plan for the home. He rebukes the priests, the people, and the pagan marriages. 

     Malachi chapter 2 reminds the people that the home is a partnership for life (verse 14), and parenting is for the protection for the children (verses 15-16).

Read Malachi chapter 2***

Have you ever heard the phrase "Mist in the pulpit will lead to fog in the pew"? How does that relate to the need for holiness in the spiritual leadership of the people? 

What do you find significant about the question "Why?" in Malachi 2:14? Perhaps the most significant thing is not the answer but that God allows us to ask questions of Himself and even gives us the question through the prophet! 

Read Malachi 2:16 in various translations. How does God separate the sin from the sinner without separating His love for His people?

*Matthew 19:4-14
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

**Psalms 127 and 128 
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.
3 Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.
Psalm 127
1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him.2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the LORD. 5 May the LORD bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 May you live to see your children’s children— peace be on Israel.
Psalm 128

*** Malachi 2:1-17
1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.
3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”
10 Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?
11 Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD remove him from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings an offering to the LORD Almighty.
13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.
16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”        



Monday, January 9, 2017

15.5 The family of Heaven

Believe--Social Order part 2 (see Part 1)

The Family of God

    The Kingdom of God (or as it is called in Matthew most of the time the “Kingdom of heaven”) has come near to those of us who have entered into it through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

    But we are not supposed to sit idly here on earth until we die and are taken to heaven. We are to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. What we truly believe about God and His Heavenly Kingdom here on earth will work to improve our society and the help establish righteousness among our fellow men and women.

    Many people realize that the book of Romans, a letter which the Apostle Paul wrote to the soon-to-be-foundational church growing in Rome, is full of theological teachings. But in chapters 12 through 14, it takes a very practical turn with specific instructions of how to put that theological (or beliefs) into practice.

Read Romans 12-14.

     When individuals are born again, we are called to walk in “newness of life” (Rom. 6:3) by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. As a result of that, our social order should be impacted for the good by Christians. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick.

If Jesus spoke against the injustices in society, in government and even in religious institutions, how should Christians respond to the issues of racism, greed, sexual immorality?

Most Christians have a heart for the orphans. How should our call to respect “the sanctity of human life” impact our view of the mentally and emotionally challenged? The needy, the handicapped, and the homeless? The aged, helpless and sick?

Read James 1:19-27; James 2:8-13*

     James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote frequently about the practical and social implications of the Gospel. Some people have even called his epistle or letter to the church as “the Gospel in work-clothes.” Christians have in the Bible and throughout history spoken out and acted out on behalf of the less fortunate, the castaways from society, the unborn and fought for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. 

     Christianity and the church was instrumental in abolishing slavery and churches have been the rally location for civil and social rights. Where Christianity thrives, so does liberty, righteousness, truth and brotherly love.

     This Monday, we recognize the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, who was a minister and a Baptist who fought for and was killed for his work to bring societal change and equality. King, like his namesake Martin Luther, were following in a long line of social reformers to align our society to become more like the Kingdom of Heaven. That legacy began Biblically with Christ and continued with the Apostle Paul.

     One of the first letters to be written was 1 Thessalonians. In it, Paul was wanting to know how the church he helped to begin was doing. As a result, he sent his protégé Timothy to bring him a report.

Read 1 Thessalonians 3** on about the report Timothy brought back to Paul.

Read also Colossians 3:1-17*** on how Paul instructed another church to impact the social order.   

    In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

*James 1:19-27
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
*James 2:8-13

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

**1 Thessalonians 3
1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

***Colossians 3:1-17
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Chapter 15.5 Baptist Beliefs and the Social Order

During the weekend of Disciple Now, we are pausing from our study in the book of Believe to look specifically at the family of humanity, the family of God, and the family of the home. Much of the following is based on the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) discussion “The Christian and the Social Order” (a phrase used as title of Article 15 of the statement) and “The Family” (Article 18). Otherwise the comments and questions below are mine.

The Family of Humanity (Part 1)

    As we are at the mid-point of Believe, we saw last week that we as Christians should be totally surrendered to Christ and His Cross. After all, since He gave His all to us, in order that we should have all that He has, how can we do less?

    But what does that look like in the lives of Christians? All Christians are under an obligation to do what Jesus prayed in his model prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Many have often wondered why the Bible does not speak more about heaven and the afterlife. The reality is that Christ and the Bible speaks much more about bringing heave to earth more than bringing humanity to heaven!

Read Luke 10:9-11; Matthew 5:13-16,43-48; 22:36-40; 25:35; Mark 1:29-34; 2:3ff.; 10:21; Luke 4:18-21; 10:27-37; 20:25; John 15:12;  17:15*

Ask “Have you noticed that in almost every chapter under the Key Idea, the work book asks the same four questions, about the topic of the week?”

“Why does what we believe impact us personally (Question 1  in every chapter) and visibly in our attributes (Question 2)?”

“How do our core beliefs have obstacles (Question 3)”

“Why do our beliefs need action steps (Question 4 in every chapter after the Key Idea)?”

     The BF&M concludes its section on the Christian and the Social Order by stating the following: Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

    Now that is something far more important than reserving our seat on the Back Row of the church. In fact, it almost makes me want to dance!

*Read Luke 10:9-11; Matthew 5:13-16,43-48; 22:36-40; 25:35; Mark 1:29-34; 2:3ff.; 10:21; Luke 4:18-21; 10:27-37; 20:25; John 15:12;  17:15

Luke 10:9-11
9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’
Matthew 5:13-16
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor;and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 22:36-40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 25:35
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Mark 1:29-34
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. 32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 
34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Mark 2:3
Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.
Mark 10:21
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Luke 4:18-21
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisonersand recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 10:27-37
He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denariiand gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 20:25
He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
John 15:12
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 17:15
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.