Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Hebrews 5-6~ Day 98~ Share the basic principles!

"Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God's revelation again." (5:12)

Hummm..... Do I know the basic principles well enough to teach them?  I should, I've been a Christian for quite some time! How about you?  Have you turned around and taught the basic principles to others?

I just got an email from some friends we have in India.  The goal of their ministry is to spread the gospel throughout their country where less than 1% of the population are believers.  The model they use to do this is very bold (when compared to the western standard of "lifestyle evangelism"). Their model works like this; they share the gospel with one, when that person accepts the Lord as their savior, they are invited to a week long training, the first of four training sessions.  Then that person is to go back home and share the gospel with another.  The trained person has 2 ½ months to invite another to the training, then they go back for their 2nd session. By the end of the four phases each trainee will be able to establish a church and bring at least two people who will go through the same cycle of training.  When the convert has finished their training, they are encouraged to move to new areas,  away from the initial church they started, in order to start the process again. This model has been very successful!  The missionary letter showed a graph that illustrated how their ministry has resulted in 1000's of converts!!!

To be honest, the missionaries letter and the timing of today's reading has caused me to do some self evaluation.  "Although by this time you ought to be teachers...." (5:12) I am feeling a little convicted!!  What am I doing to share the "basic principles"?  Sharing Jesus is not supposed to be complicated.  The Christians in India know this.  They know the basic principles well, and then turn around and share those.  I need to learn from them....keep it simple and share it!!!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Hebrews 3-4~ Day 97~ Reading scripture through the right lens is key!

The lens you use greatly influences what you see in Scripture.  Wouldn't you agree?!

I love how the Hebrew writer connected the 7th day of the creation story, when God rested, to the rest we enter when we receive "the good news" (4:6).  He explained the concept so well, using the story of the Israelites in the desert...it made me wonder what Jews today believe about heaven.  So, I googled a site called MyJewishLearning.com.   The site "offers 1000's of articles, videos and other resources to help people understand Judaism".  I thought that would be a good place to look into what  Jews, today, think about heaven.

There was no mention of "entering God's sabbath".   They do not pick up on the symbolism of the Lord's sabbath as the Hebrew writer did.  In fact, what I read of their view (they have several theories) is that most believe people go to haven, but bad people will have a period of time in an interim state to think about the wrong doings they did while on earth.  That time of contemplation in an ambiguous place doesn't exceed 11 months.  At the end of that time, they then join the others in heaven.

Wow!  Okaaay....yet, Jewish people ignore what their Old Testament scriptures say, including their own prophet Daniel who writes, "Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to disgrace and eternal contempt." (Daniel 12:2). I tried to figure out why this is so, ignoring certain scripture. It may be that they feel that Daniel was not a true prophet.  Therefore, they exclude him from their list of prophets but include him in writings called the Ketuvim (The Writings).

Hummm...to me, this makes Ephesians 4:18 very understandable when we read, "They are darkened in their understanding, alienate from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of heart."

The site listed above also goes on to say that, Jewish people don't need to worry about the afterlife.  "God will take care of that".  They just need to worry about living a good life here while they are on earth.  Well...that explains why they don't feel like they need Jesus to be their Savior.  What do they need saving from?  Certainly not hell!

The fact is, heaven is real and hell is real.  The entire story of Jesus is based on the good news that we do not need to go to hell.  There is only one way to enter God's sabbath.  That is through Jesus.  Jesus was clear on that point (John 14:6) and the writer of Hebrews reiterated this.  I pray that the Jewish people would re-examine their scriptures with a new lens....before it's too late! 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Hebrews 1-2~ Day 96~ Pay attention!!

"For this reason (the fact that Jesus is superior~1:4), we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard (about Jesus), so that we will not drift away(2:1)....Don' neglect your salvation."(2:3)

That verse stood out to me after receiving an email this morning.  The note was from a person I knew 35+ years ago.  He was trying to get in touch with the whole gang that hung out together at the YMCA, for a couple of years.  We were a group of teens joined together under the leadership of a "Grizzle Adam's" type, Christian leader.  Those were fun years for me and pivotal in the growth of my Christian faith.

Now, time has shown that not all in our group maintained their Christian beliefs.  They didn't pay attention to what they heard, so they drifted away.They neglected the one who was offering them salvation.  😔

I love the directive the Hebrew writer gives, "we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard."  Learning about Christ is an event in time.  Choosing to follow him is a life time commitment.   It's not something  you do at a ceremony, checkoff the box as being done and then move on to something else.  That would be like having a wedding ceremony, but never living with your new spouse!

Rather, Christianity is a lifestyle change that needs to be fed with reminders of "what we have heard".  That is why daily reading of the Bible is so helpful!  By doing this reading plan, I am reminded daily of what I have heard and why I made that decision, all those years ago to follow Christ.

I pray for that old group of friends that I had.  Many, as a result of "drifting away", have suffered from their choices and missed out on "signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts form the Holy Spirit according to his will." (2:4). But, I take heart that it is never too late, as long as one has breath, to make Jesus one's Savior.  I pray that Jesus draws these friends back to himself.  I pray their eyes are opened to what they have missed out on so that they can chose now to stop neglecting such a great salvation. (2:3)

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Philemon ~ Day 96~ Am I quick to forgive?

So, the other day I noticed and commented on that horrible list Paul wrote to Timothy of what people would be like in the last days.  One stood out to me that I hadn't noticed before.  "For people will be....irreconcilable." (3:3)

Being that we are in the last days now (Acts 2;17, Rom. 13:11-12, Heb. 1:1-2, James 5:3&8 and 1Peter 4:7), I'm sure you can share a story of two people you know who were never able to reconcile their differences.  I can! An argument can occur between Christians,  neither will humbly back down and as a result, the relationship is forever damaged.  If this occurs between two believers, then we can safely say, that neither of the two can clearly see the fact that Jesus forgave them from their own wicked ways. If they truly understood that, they would be able to turn around and forgive the other.

I bring this up because I think it's very consistent of Paul to first tell Timothy to look out for people who are irreconcilable, and then he writes to Philemon, as if to remind him of these same facts.  "There will be people who are unable to reconcile, but it better not be you, Philemon!"
To paraphrase Paul to Philemon, he says, "I hope, as a Christian, you can reconcile with Onesimus.  I'm not going to force it (vs8),.....it's up to you....but remember, you owe me (vs 19)...I'm just say'n."

Christians today need this reminder.  Paul gives us a great example on how we can encourage fellow believers to forgive if they are in an angry state. In addition, we (or at least, I) are reminded that we have been forgiven by God, so forgiving others should come quickly and easily. I am still working on the "easy" part. 😜 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Titus 1-3~ Day 94~ Be the moon, reflect the Son.

Can God's word be slandered by things I do?
.....yup...you bet it can!

Paul gives a list of instructions on how a Christian should present themselves to the world, which include, reverent behavior, not slanderous, not slaves to excessive drinking, teaching what is good, encourage others to love their family, be self-controlled, pure, etc. (2:3-5). It's a pretty long list, but certainly not exhaustive, so Paul adds a line at the end that catches everything else that can be included in the lifestyle of a Christian, "so that God's word will not be slandered." (2:5b). That statement doesn't leave wiggle room.  Anything that can malign the word of God should be avoided.

Rephrasing that line can become a great question to use when self-evaluating.   "Will what I am about to do put a negative light on Jesus, Christianity, the church, and God's Word?"
to put it positively, "Will what I am about to do reflect well on Jesus?"   I gotta remember to do that!
If I could remember to ask myself those questions, there would be no need to memorize a list of behaviors (which is good for me since I have a terrible memory for lists!).  The motivation for right living would simply be to make Jesus look good.

This reminds me of a t-shirt I bought several years ago that my oldest son adopted as his own.  I loved the sentiment on the shirt and was proud of my son when he wanted to wear it a a witness to his own faith.  On the front of the shirt it said, "Be the Moon", and on the back it read, "Reflect the Son."  That is what a Christian wants to do, right?  But, it's one thing to say it and another to do it.  When my son put that shirt on, he was raised to a new level of accountability.  Everyone who read it would be watching to see if he lived it.  His actions would reflect how others would think of Jesus.

Since my kids accepted the Lord as their savior at young ages, I would often remind them, "Remember, for some people at school, you are the only Bible they will read."  I didn't need to give my kids a list of behaviors to try to abide by, instead, I just reminded them as Paul did to Titus, watch what you do, "so that God's word will not be slandered."

Today's reading was a good reminder for me to get back into focus what is important. Even though I know it and taught it, a daily refresher course (daily Bible reading) is always needed to accurately reflect the Son.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

2 Timothy 3-4~ Day 93~Hard times are at hand...

I really gotta stop reading my news feed before I do my Bible reading!  It can be depressing!  And boy, was it depressing yesterday!
"Princeton Grad, 34, Faces Life Behind Bars, Convicted of Killing Dad Who Cut Off His Allowance", was the title of the article that caught my eye.
😵At 30 years old, this spoiled brat, who golfed, surfed and traveled-all paid for by his parents-decided to shoot his 70 year old father because his allowance of $1000 a week was being cut back. His father felt he needed to learn some responsibility and get serious in life.

The story made me sick to my stomach, so I pushed it away, picked up my Bible and started to read, "But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanders, without self-control brutal, with our love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power.  Avoid these people." (3:1)

Well, I had two thoughts on that.
Yeah, I want to avoid those people!  Yet, I looked at the picture of the surfer dude who killed his dad.  He looked like a pretty nice guy!  Before he did the actual killing, how would anyone know he was a lover of money, without self-control, brutal and conceited?  Well,....I suppose his friends would be able to tell he was "a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God".  But, still,.....It would be hard to avoid all people on this list! 
I am reminded of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "I wrote to you a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.  I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world,  But actually I wrote you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister and is sexually immoral or greedy....Do not even eat with such a person." (1 Cor. 5:10-11)

So, with that in mind and going back to what Paul said to Timothy, he is implying that this horrible list of character traits will be displayed in people who are calling themselves Christians!! 😱 Avoid these people!😬 
Even though this narrows down the pool of who to avoid...I still think that would be hard to do- avoid Christians who are, i.e. holding to a form of godliness but denying its power. We are not taught anywhere in our churches and Bible studies to avoid anyone, yet Paul says it twice in the New Testament to do so.  Hummm.....very hard, indeed.....

My second thought has to do with, "Hard times will come in the last days."  That sentence actually gets me excited!  I know people who claim to be Christians, but can be found on that ungodly list.  Well,... you know what that means....(I like to look on the bright side), we are in the "last days"!!  
That's exciting!  Jesus will be returning soon! 
I can't wait for that day! It's exciting to think about the "crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give" us on that day..."to all those who have loved his appearing."( 4:8)  
Yes, that is exciting!!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

2 Timothy 1-2~ Day 92~ Biblical Christianity verses Cultural Christianity

"Bachelorette Hannah Brown sends Luke P. home over premarital sex spat" was the headline on my news feed.  I haven't watched the show so, I was in the dark as to what that meant.  So, curious, I clicked on the title to read more about it.  I didn't really care to hear a secular side of the story, but I was interested to hear what Luke's brother, Mike, had to say in an interview.

He stated, "I want people to know, if anything, I want to be more like Luke.  Luke loves, he loves and he cares for people and he has a heart for Jesus and he wants to share the biblical truth of Jesus to people.  I'm proud of Luke, I am proud of the way he conducted himself.  He stood for biblical Christianity in opposition against this cultural Christianity of  'I can be a Christian and believe whatever I want to believe about God based on my own ideas and not what God's word says'."

Well, I think that was quite bold (and very naive) of Luke to go up against the editing master's of ABC, on a show known for it's "fantasy suit"  to try to come across looking like a good guy.  The editors held all the power!! If the world hates Jesus, they will certainly do everything they can to make His followers out to be stupid, judgmental dweebs.   So apparently, Luke was sent off in that light.

Yet, the editors couldn't edit out all of the truth.  I like what Mike said about his bother, Luke P., who "stood for Biblical truth", not subjective truth that the bachelorette seems to advocate.  Luke P. was taking the stand that Paul called Timothy to, "Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  Guard the good deposit through the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (1:13)
"Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth." (2:15)

Good job, Luke P. for guarding the good deposit, holding to sound teaching, being diligent, and not ashamed!
I would want to be known to do the same,...but I don't think I would be bold enough to go on a nationally televised show to do it! 😜