Thursday, March 28, 2013

Two Against One

“Keep watch and pray…  For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matt 26:41, NLT).  In the second half of this verse, Jesus points out two parts of a human being the body (also known as the flesh) and the spirit.  Often we use the words spirit and soul interchangeably, but Hebrews 12:4 tells us that “the word of God … is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit…”   Our soul relates to our mind, intellect, and personality.  Our spirit is that new creation born within us as a result of receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior (John 3:6).  As we have talked about our identities in Christ, it is our spirits that perfectly display each aspect of that identity.  Try to recount (without looking ahead) the different parts of your identity in Christ.  You can recite them … write them down … whatever works for you.

Here’s my attempt without cheating (beforehand) or editing (afterward).

  • I am a part of Christ’s body that is, in the marriage relationship of Christ and His bride, the church (Eph 5:29-30).  
  • I am set free from the power of sin that leads to death (Rom 8:2).
  • There is no condemnation (Rom 8:1).
  • We are all one in Christ Jesus neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek (Gal 3:28).
  • I am sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).
  • I have been brought near to God through the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph 2:13).

I missed:

  • ŸI am being (more and more progressively) brought under Christ’s authority (Eph 1:10-11).
  • Through Christ, I am the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).
  • In the third bullet point, I should have included that no condemnation awaits me.

How did you do?  For those of you who are saying, “She didn’t tell me I needed to say/memorize the verse addresses.”  Don’t worry about it!  I included them for the sake of verification and also to encourage you to connect the address to the description as well.  If you could only remember one or two, well then, at least you have a foundation to work from.  For those of you who couldn’t list any of those above … if you are already my brother or sister in Christ, then it has been my privilege to point out to you some of the traits we share!

We may never look like each other in our physical bodies, but we have identical spirits the very Spirit of God (1 Cor 3:16).  The key to being able to consistently walk (physically) according to the direction of the Spirit is to get two against one.  Our minds are either in agreement with our spirits or they are in agreement with our flesh.  Going back to the opening verse, “Keep watch and pray…  For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matt 26:41).  Jesus had been begging Peter, and James, and John to “keep watch.”  This required mental clarity.   When Jesus returned, he found all three asleep.  Their minds had agreed with their bodies, choosing sleep over what their spirits desired focused prayer.

So how in the world does this relate to this past Sunday’s lesson?  Honestly as I began writing today, I wasn’t sure that it would, and yet here we are.  Turn to Acts 17 and read verses 10-12.  Luke (the writer of Acts) describes the Bereans as “more open-minded than” the Thessalonians (Acts 17:11).  Reason being?  “They listened eagerly to Paul’s message.” (vs. 11).  In Thessalonica, however, not all of them listened, and then only “some … who listened were persuaded…” (Acts 17:4).  The Bereans had their minds in agreement with their spirits, and as a result their bodies followed suit in that “they searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.  As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.” (Acts 17:11-12, emphasis mine). 

If you read on through verse 14 (which we did in Sunday school), you’ll see that the mind-body agreement, which the majority of the Thessalonian Jews had, led them to pursue Paul to Berea.  Their minds would not let their bodies be still. 

Where are you today?  What is your two against one?  Is your willing spirit being held hostage by your weak body because of what your mind is in agreement with (Matt 26:41)?  If that’s the way you feel, I want to encourage you today with another trait we have inherited through Christ “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16).  The key is to “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think…”  (emphasis mine).  Allow God to get your mind in agreement with His Holy Spirit and there will be no limit to what He will be able to do … through you for His glory.  Amen.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Too Good to Be True

I've been working on this Sunday's lesson, and I'm going to give you guys some homework before coming to class.  Don't panic!

We've all had times when we've believed something that was too good to be true.  I want you to think back on one of those times.  Sunday we can compare experiences.

... Now that isn't too bad.  Right?  See you Sunday!

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Induced to Believe" (Acts 17:1-9)

Last week (3/10/13) and this week (3/17/13), our study in Tentmakers has found us in a now very familiar book – Acts – but an unfamiliar chapter – 17.  If you would, please grab your Bible and read Acts 17:1-3.  As you read, ask yourself the five ‘W’ questions.  Who?  What?  Where?  When?  Why?  Of course you could cheat by looking ahead, but Bible study (any study for that matter) works best when you give yourself a chance to record your own thoughts before looking at anyone else’s.






When?  Who?  Acts 16:40-17:1 tell us that “they” (i.e. Paul and Silas without Luke) have just left Philippi and have “passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia” and have come to Thessalonica. 

Where?  What?  You may have included ‘Thessalonica’ in your ‘Where?’ answer, and you would have been correct (if you‘re worried about being correct), but within the city itself where did Paul go and what did he say there (see vs. 2-3)?



Verse 2 reminds us that it was Paul’s custom, when entering a new city, to first make his case to the Jews in the local synagogue.  (I wonder if that is why Paul and Silas stopped in Thessalonica and not in the other two cities mentioned in verse 1.)  The what of “his case” was the explanation of Scripture.  He spent three Sabbaths reasoning with them, showing them proof “that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, Whom I proclaim to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:3, Amplified version).

Why?  It wasn’t that the Jews were resistant to the coming of their Messiah.  They looked for Him, hoping every day for His coming, but they missed it.  How?  The Old Testament includes many prophecies that rabbis and teachers of the Mosaic Law had studied and taught throughout the centuries leading up to Christ’s first coming.  The problem was that the prophecies set side-by-side didn’t seem to fit together.  For example (just to show one of many), Daniel 7:27 describe the “everlasting kingdom” while Daniel 9:26 says that the Messiah “will be cut off.”  Early scholars couldn’t reason how their eternal King could suffer, and so (because of their lack of understanding) they largely ignored that part of the prophecy.  Jesus’ crucifixion sealed the deal for them; He couldn’t be their King.  Before Paul could get his fellow Jews to accept Jesus as their King, he had to correct the error in their theology.  Paul didn’t have to use fancy words of his own.  All he needed was the common ground of Scripture.  Read Acts 17:4 to see (and record) how the Jews reacted.



We aren’t told that they eagerly accepted Paul’s message; rather that some “were induced to believe.”  Other translations use the word persuaded here.  Like us watching an infomercial, they stopped on Paul’s channel skeptical, at first, of what they were being told and by the end, they had the telephone in their hand giving their credit card number to the operator on the other line.

Now what?  Well those who were persuaded in Thessalonica became witnesses to the truth; they had seen it firsthand in the Word of God.  It is the duty of a witness to testify … like it or not.  You and I have a duty today to testify to what we have witnessed God say through His Word and what we have seen Him do in our lives.  Some days, our job is fun; others are hard or painful.  Just ask Jason in Acts 17:5-9. 

… I’m going to have to leave it here for today.  I’m planning to write something about Jason later in the week.  If God knows otherwise, then I’ll catch up to you on Sunday at church or next week right here on Now What?  As for now, I have to get a little girl some Cheerios and chocolate milk.  Have a blessed day!!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Farewell Philippi (Acts 16:27-40)

Isn’t it funny how God uses a seemingly isolated experience/insight to inspire new directions in our lives and fresh insight into His Word?!  That is exactly what God did with me and Psalm 27:1 last week – “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation…” (Amplified).  In presently studying the jailer from Acts 16 – his call for light and his desire to know the way of salvation – I could almost hear Paul using Psalm 27 (vs. 1 and beyond) to minister to the jailer in that moment.  The new direction this insight inspired was a deliberate reading of the book of Psalms.  There are so many gems I’ve been missing because of my satisfaction with superficial knowledge of a few of the biggies – Psalm 23, 119, 139.  So in the last week, I have begun including one psalm in each day’s study (working backward from Psalm 150 to Psalm 1).  …Some of you may be thinking that I’ll finish reading the book of Psalms about the same time we finish our study of Paul’s second missionary (through Acts 18:22).  Lol…  You may not be far off. 

For now, we’re going to catch back up with Paul and Silas in Philippi by way of another verse from Psalms.  I read it this morning, and it reminded me of our most recent Sunday school lesson:
            “Bring my life out of prison, that I may confess, praise, and give thanks to Your name; 
           the righteous will surround me for You will deal bountifully with me.” (Psalm 142:7)

We started last week with Acts 16:27 and concluded with Acts 16:34.  In these few verses – and the few hours of time depicted by them – the jailer went from the “point” of suicide to jumping for joy because of his (and his family’s) newfound belief in God and Christ!  That being said, there was still the legal matter of Paul and Silas’ imprisonment.  It was still the jailer’s charge to guard them from escaping.  So when in verse 35 – the very next morning – “… the magistrates sent policemen, saying, Release those fellows and let them go,” can’t you just imagine the relief the jailer must have felt in receiving this message and delivering it to Paul and Silas?!

…Grab your Bible (if you haven’t already) and read it for yourself.  While you’re at it, go ahead and read through verse 37...

The jailer’s relief at the quick release of Paul and Silas must have turned to nausea when Paul‘s response was, “… No, indeed!  Let them come here themselves and conduct us out!” (vs. 37).   The magistrates wanted Paul and Silas to walk away with a lesson learned, but it was Paul who was teaching the lesson that day.  The magistrates came fearfully, and apologetically they brought them out of the prison.  In that moment, I’m sure that Paul expressed his gratitude … maybe even in the presence of the magistrates, but it wouldn’t have been them he was thanking.  Instead, I imagine Paul saying words similar to David’s in Psalm 142:7.
            You have brought “my life out of prison, that I may confess, praise, and give thanks to Your name; 
                       the righteous will surround me for You will deal bountifully with me.”

Now released from prison, Paul and Silas made one more stop before leaving Philippi – Lydia’s house.  There they were surrounded by God’s righteous ones in Philippi, including Luke and Timothy.  Luke tells us that Paul and Silas (1) encouraged the believers – perhaps by recounting the ways in which God had dealt bountifully with them during their (24-hour) imprisonment – and then (2) they left.  As simply and quietly as that … they “departed” (Acts 16:40).  Does it seem kind of anticlimactic to anyone else … given the crescendo of events throughout the rest of the chapter? 

As we have looked at Paul and Silas’ last day in Philippi with the backdrop of Psalm 142:7, I ask you to reflect on your own journey.
1.      What prison God has brought you out of?  If you don’t think you’ve ever been in a “prison,” I ask you to step lightly.  Even the jailer himself had his own prison to be brought out of.
2.      Did your release (or your lifelong freedom) prompt you to “confess, praise and give thanks to” the name of the Lord?
3.      In seeing Paul and Silas surrounded by believers at Lydia’s, think about the righteous ones with whom God has surrounded you.  Remember righteous doesn’t mean perfect.  Another aspect of our identity in Christ is that, in Christ, we as believers have become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).
4.      As Paul and Silas look forward to new cities and the inclusion of new believers, how are you expecting God to deal bountifully with you this week/month/year? 

I look forward to seeing God deal bountifully with Paul and Silas as we move forward in our study, and I hope that you will share how He is dealing bountifully with you.  Now What?  “Every day [with its new reasons] will I bless You … yes, I will praise Your name forever and ever.” (Ps 145:2).