Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Questions to Ponder

This morning, Nov. 22nd., 7 of the men each took one of the following questions, and tried to answer it as best he could.  A lot of good points and thoughts were presented. 

Here is the list for you to ponder during this season (and all year long):

#1.  What if God gave me only what I deserved?

#2.  What if I woke up today with only the things that I thanked God for yesterday?

#3.  If I am so blessed, why do I complain so much?

#4.  Why are we hesitant to thank Him publicly?

#5.  What would change in my life if I gave thanks as often as I complained?

#6.  Explain the difference in being thankful (an inward attitude) and in giving thanks (an outward action).

#7.  What could I do to better show (demonstrate) my thankfulness to God?

No additional message needed. 

Growth of the Church/Expansion of the Faith

Continuation of the story in John

Luke 1:1-4 - similar account written by Luke - not an eyewitness but knew many of the eyewitnesses.  This account not just hearsay.
Theophilis - "loved by God" - probably non-Jew and was a seeker after the one true God.
Acts 1:1-7 - Luke's sequel to his book.
Deut. 29:29
Acts 1:8 - "martus" - testifiers.  Where we get the word martyr - took on current meaning because eventually as people continued to testify about Christ, many were persecuted and put to death for it.
Acts 1:9-14 - Jesus' brothers - became believers after the resurrection

At Acts 1:1 - how many people were Christians??  (some estimates = 20?,  some as high as 120?)
So, let's go with 60.
Estimated 60 million people in the Roman Empire at this time.
So, 1 of 1,000,000 would be Christian.

By AD312 -(Constantine, Roman emperor, converted and endorsed Christianity.)
estimated 5% of the empire were Christians (3 million)
So.... 1 of 20 would be Christian (in the Roman empire, not in the world)

By the end of the 4th. Century, was estimated that there were 30 million Christians in the empire.  So... 1 of 2 people would be Christian - again in the empire, not in the world.


Some factors:

These 60 (+ their converts, followers) had -

#1.  FAITH - in Christ and the words of Christ - confidence (contemporary word)   Heb. 11:1 -  hope = clear, confident expectation.  everybody lives by faith in something!

#2.  FELLOWSHIP - called "church" - local and universal.  Church = called out gathering of people.  Had nothing to do with religion at this time.  Spreading the gospel not a "lone ranger" thing.  Need team support.

#3.  A MISSION - a GREAT Commission - Matt. 28:18-20,  Acts 1:8
Wherever they went.  Carried it all over.

#4.  A MESSAGE - "the Gospel" - on a mission with a clear message

#5.  the PRESENCE of the RISEN CHRIST - (Holy Spirit)
Matt. 28:20 - ..."and surely I am with you..."
Question:  what's changed?  - Answer:  this stuff HASN'T changed. 

Note:  Acts 1:1 - "began"     Acts. 28:31 - "without hindrance" - Paul was under house arrest, continually preaching, teaching, etc.  Believers had great freedom to share the gospel and witness about Christ.
THIS freedom to witness was about to change.  ie:  new Roman emperor - Nero, Rome burns AD 64 - he blames it on Christians, and enormous persecution breaks out.

BUT.. will ti stop the movement?  Momentum?  impetus?   mission?  NO.  Suddenly they didn't have the freedom, but kept right on doing what they were doing anyway.

Example:  today roughly 1 out of 3 persons in the world claim to be Christian.

Matt. 16:18

Questions:  Are you in?  Are you on board?  You can be a part of the movement.

Monday, November 16, 2015

P.S. Do You Love Me?

Luke 5:1-11 - in the beginning of ministry "fishers of men"
NOW - three years later - after the trial, denial, cross, resurrection, it's the story in Luke all over again.
John 21:1-25 = post script - John had completed his gospel with Chapter 20 - the last verse.  Then chapter 21 added.  Was not added to John's gospel years later as it is in the oldest found manuscripts. Has always been considered part of the scripture, so was most likely added immediately.  P.S. ........

Restoration of Peter:
When Jesus says, "Do you love me?", he uses the Greek word, 'agape' - self-sacrificing, intense, willful, highest form of love - God kind of love
When Peter answers, "You know I love you." he uses the Greek word 'phileo' - affection for, fondness = lesser form of love.
Note:  third time Jesus asks the question, He uses 'phileo' -came down a notch.  Peter doesn't own up to having that intense, chosen form of love.

APPLICATION:  (written for US!!)
Obviously = so you'll believe  - John 20:31
But also = that you'll follow and serve!! - Chapter 21

#1 = Forgiveness and Restoration are available to faulty servants!  (as Peter was, so are we).  Many times we say, "YOU are LORD", but I will DO as I please!!

Forgiveness and restoration  A)  Begins with confrontation, ie. His word, Spirit, our conscience, etc.
Note:  1 Cor. 11:31 - judge self, so don't come under judgment.

                                            B)  must be accepted and received. - Contrast Peter and Judas Iscariot
When we fail miserably, we have the choice to go back and seek restoration.

#2.  Devotion to Christ is demonstrated (partly) by tending His flock.  (identified, expressed)
      A.)  the definition - Christians only?  Mark 6:34 - we don't know who is a lamb of God, about to become a lamb, needs to become a lamb.
      B)  the demonstration = "Love Me?  Feed Mine!"
 On one hand, this is not the only expression of Love for Christ.  However, it IS an inseparable expression of love.   Love for Christ, Love for man.

#3.  The Primary Charge is "follow me".

The charge is  1.  Imperative --- a command!  DO IT!!
                      2.  Continual command -- present tense  "keep on, continue"
                      3.  Personal - "YOU......"

How long?  how far?   Isa. 6:11-12 - other example Jeremiah - don't expect any victories in following.

Simple definition:  Col. 2:6 - continue to live in Him.

John was written so that we might believe and have life, and then, follow and serve.

Monday, November 9, 2015

That You May Believe

John 20:19-22 - disciples had every reason to believe Romans would be after them as well.  Unnerved at Jesus' appearance.  Scars = testimony of debt paid.  No mention of other scars - so probably not on glorified, resurrected body.
Greek word "breath" here used no where else in New Testament. Imparted to disciples - spiritual life, eternal life.
However, used here:  Gen. 2:7 = physical life, soul life.

John 20:23 = troubling verse - but, we have clear teaching that ONLY GOD can forgive sins.  Seems to be telling disciples to go and tell people HOW sins could be forgiven.

Contrast:  the authority to forgive sins with the authority to declare forgiveness of sins. (tell how to obtain)
Translators = "what did John say".  Interpreters = what did John mean!

John 20:24-28 - Thomas - doubted - didn't have the advantage of seeing Jesus that first Sunday night.  This = one week later - BUT, he's still there - in essence Jesus said, 'stop not believing'.
His statement - "My Lord and my God" = very strong statement for a Jew who believed there was only ONE God.  Thomas spent 20 years in India and died there a martyr.

John 20:29-31 - has carried down for 20 centuries.

John's purpose in writing this gospel?

1)  that you (the reader) might come to believe

2) that (by believing) you might have life.

Objection!!  I have life or couldn't read this!!!
Answer:  this is not about biological life - John knew that when he was writing to his readers.
It is about spiritual/eternal life... the kind of life God designed and desires for you!!

A theme in John:
John 1:12-13 - new birth, John 3:3 - born again, John 3:16 - eternal life, John 6:35 - bread of life, John 10:10 - fullness of life, John 11:25-26 - will never die, John 14:6 - the way, the truth, and the life, John 17:1-3 - eternal life - knowing God and Jesus

Bookend John's Gospel:  John 1:1  and John 20:31

It is important:
#1.  THAT you believe
#2  WHAT you believe

Definition of belief, faith in Biblical context - CONTENT, ASSENT, TRUST - these necessary to Biblical faith

CONTENT -   Rom. 10:13-14 - must know what the gospel is about.
ASSENT = agreement - I know the content and agree with the content
TRUST = James 2:19 - no crossing over if don't trust.  Also very important what you trust in!!

Can't believe (Biblical sense) without a CAT!
Simple witnessing tool - helpful in today's thinking:  Content, Assent, Trust.

So:  it's important:  A.  that you believe
                             B.  what you believe
also important       C.  that you Share that belief!

John 20:21-23 - clear that Jesus is:
                                       Sending them  forth
                                       Authorizing them - be My spokesman
                                       Empowering them

Application for us?  = two things traditionally recognized and accepted:
On one hand, the Apostles held a special office and commission.
Nevertheless, ALL believers are expected to "go". -  not JUST apostles, missionaries, preachers, etc.

Because Christians took this responsibility, world has been changed tremendously.  Whether this will continue will depend on whether Christians continue to take on this commission.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Resurrection

The most central part of Christian doctrine.  

Setting:  Jesus is dead - on the cross

The Burial - Matt. 27:57-61 - Joseph of Arimethea - unused tomb probably very close by.  The women saw where He was laid.

The Guard - Matt. 27:62-66 - seal on stone.  Roman soldier posted as guard.  Anyone breaking the seal would face SEVERE punishment.

The Resurrection - John 20:1-20 - early Sunday morning.  The one Jesus loved = John (author of this book)
Cloth folded up, napkin folded separately at head - doesn't speak of "stolen".  Brothers = disciples.  He saw and believed - what? - most likely that the body was really gone as Mary had said. 

The Nature of the Resurrection
It was not just "back from the dead" or "alive again".  Was infinitely more than that.
It was #1 in a glorified body - no longer subject to age, disease, death
          #2 an eternal state - transformed AND perfected - will be this state forever!!

On one hand, resurrected body was clearly physical, BUT also capable of "de-materializing".
It was a continuity of the original, BUT not always recognizable
Luke 24:36-43          Resurrected body - "mystery"

The Message of the Resurrection
Again, was more than alive again, overcame death, glorified body!!!
The message is:  HE IS RISEN AND REIGNING!!!! 

The Importance of the Resurrection
(an abbreviated summary from 1 Cor. 15)
"if Christ has not been raised ..... your faith is useless"
 ie:  unfounded - ineffective for salvation, transformation, etc.  - foolish
Have no more reason to believe in a dead prophet than does anyone else to believe in their dead prophet.  No point in gathering together on Sunday morning if He didn't rise as the risen LORD!

The Significance, relevance of the Resurrection ... TO US!!

Because He Rose...... 

#1 - we can be sure of His identity - Rom. 1:4 - was declared to be the Son of God BY the resurrection.  Is very, very important - question still today is:  Who was this Jesus?
#2 - We can trust His teaching(s)
         on moral issues, on life/death questions - example:  John 14:6 - only way?  = only one reason to believe this because of the man who said it - the resurrected man.   The guy who said to do these things is the ONLY one who rose from the dead.
#3.  we can trust Him
These are more than the teachings of a dead prophet - He = ALIVE & INTERACTIVE (involved in our lives)
When you follow Jesus, He will never hurt you, will make you, develop you, and sometimes may be a lot of pain in this developing, but He will not HURT you!

Therefore - because He IS involved in our lives -
He confronts, corrects, comforts, encourages, leads, instructs, etc., through His Word, Spirit, PRESENCE

Resurrection also offers us:

#4.  Confidence to face death - with no fear - our own and others who are Christians

#5.  Great Expectations after death - "HOPE"
1 Cor. 15:20-26
1 John 3:2 - we will be like Him
#6.  Encouragement to persevere until death
1 Cor. 15:1-57 0 Resurrection - His and ours ....   NOTE:  1 Cor. 15:8 - "therefore stand firm"

Question:  Where do you stand in terms of Relevance?
Are you - 1) certain of His identity? have you acknowledged that? professed that?  followed in believers' baptism?

                2) trusting His Word(s)?
                3)  following Him?  (seek His Presence, voice, Spirit?)
                4)  confident in your salvation - AT death?   AFTER death? 
                5)  committed to service until then?