Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Transitioning from Acts to Romans

For those who may be new to our group, we are reading through the New Testament.  Today is day 41, and today we begin the book of Romans.

In concluding Acts yesterday, two main ideas have stuck with me.  First, the idea that Acts describes for us the development of the Early Church and in that description we find a model of what the Church should be.  Keep in mind, we who are born again believers are the Church.  So, consider what elements of the Early Church are essential to a healthy and thriving Church in today’s society.  How are we measuring up?

In answering this question, I looked back at Acts 2:42-47.  Take a moment to look that up and re-read it....  

This passage tells us the Church devotes herself to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, attending “temple” together, breaking bread, praying, selling their possessions and belongings and giving the proceeds “to all, as any had need.”  Also, having “glad and generous hearts,” “favor with all the people” and praising God.  The result?  “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  

Conclusion?  When the Church functions in a healthy way, the lost are drawn to the Savior.

Are we striving to function within the Church body in a healthy way?

The second idea that struck me while reading through Acts is this:  following Jesus in no way implies or guarantees we will be physically or emotionally comfortable in this world.  Many of the disciples were martyred.  The last several chapters of the book focus on Paul, and look at what he went through!  Could we honestly say these things happened to him because he was not walking in God’s will?  No, we could not!  

As we leave Acts, and begin to focus on Romans (and the other Epistles), it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

Martin Luther describes Romans as “truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. ”  
Romans is the first of the Epistles, which are letters written to churches or individuals.  (Incidentally, Jude is the last of the Epistles.)  
Chronologically, Romans is the sixth of Paul’s Epistles.  
Romans is the longest of Paul’s Epistles.  
Paul wrote to the Romans while he was on his third visit to Corinth.  Paul had not yet gone to Rome, so he was writing to people he had not yet met.  
Theologians generally agree that Paul wrote to the Romans so that they would understand how a sinner is received as righteous by a righteous God, and how, then, one redeemed should live daily to the glory of God.

According to the ESV Introductions to the Books of the Bible:

Romans is the longest and most systematically reasoned of Paul's letters. Paul announces its theme in 1:16-17: the gospel is God's power for salvation, because it shows us that the righteousness of God is through faith for all who believe. Paul explains the need for justification through faith because of sin (1:16–4:25). He then spells out the results of justification by faith in terms of both present experience and future hope (5:1–8:39). In the next three chapters, he expresses his sorrow that many of his fellow Israelites have not embraced the gospel, and he wrestles with the theological implications of this (chs. 9–11). He concludes by describing how the gospel should affect one's everyday life (chs. 12–16). Paul wrote his letter to Rome in about a.d. 57.

As we read through Romans, I pray God would draw us closer to Himself, and make us more like Him!

Works Cited:

English Standard Version. Introductions to the Books of the Bible. Blue Letter Bible. 5 Feb 2006. 29 Sep 2010.

Vorrede auff die Epistel S. Paul: an die Romer" in D. Martin Luther: Die gantze Heilige Schrifft Deudsch 1545 aufs new zurericht, ed. Hans Volz and Heinz Blanke. Munich: Roger & Bernhard. 1972, vol. 2, pp. 2254-2268.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

John 13, 14, 15 - Love

Observe what this passage tells us about love:
  1. “Love one another” is a commandment (not a suggestion)
  2. We are to love one another as Christ has loved us
  3. People will know we are His disciples by our love for one another
  4. If we love Jesus we will keep His commandments
  5. The one who loves Jesus will be loved by the Father and Jesus will: 
    • love him/her and 
    • manifest Himself to him/her and
    • Jesus and the Father will come to him/her and make Their home with him/her
  6. Jesus did as the Father commanded so the world would know that He loves the Father
  7. Jesus loves us as the Father has loved Him
  8. We are to keep His commandments and abide in His love as Jesus has kept the Father’s commandments and abided in His love
  9. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends

Which of these has the most impact on you, and why?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Today, we begin John...

As we begin to read through this last gospel, the gospel of John, let’s take a few minutes to look at an overview of the four gospels.  (John is a much different gospel than the other three.)

Remember, each of the gospels is named for its author.
  • Matthew (one of the 12 disciples) wrote specifically to the Jews to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.  Matthew emphasized the fulfillment of prophecy and uses a lot of Old Testament Scriptures.  
  • Mark (not one of the 12, a cousin of Barnabas and a close associate of Paul) wrote specifically to the Christians in Rome (Gentiles), to present the person, work and teachings of Jesus.  Some believe Peter was the source of his information.
  • Luke (not only not one of the 12 disciples, but also the only Gentile author in the New Testament) wrote to Theophilus (a Gentile) and to Gentiles in general to present an accurate account of the life of Christ and to present Him as the perfect human and Savior.
  • John’s gospel was written last, after the destruction of Jerusalem and before John’s exile to the Island of Patmos.  John (also one of the 12 disciples) wrote to prove that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in Him will have eternal life.  He wrote both to new Christians and to those who may be seeking.  
As you begin reading John, ask the Holy Spirit to speak specifically to you, to teach you whatever He wants you to see in this book.  Take special note of what John shows us about the deity of Christ, and what John shows us about Who God is and how He relates to us.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Upcoming Bible Study Schedule

We will conclude the 90 days through the New Testament journey on the day before Thanksgiving (the reading schedule is on the Facebook page under the "photos" tab).  Bible "studies" during this time consist of a verse of the day posted on the Facebook fan page (most days!) and devotionals posted sporadically, as the Holy Spirit leads.

Following Thanksgiving, we will “celebrate” Advent together, with weekly studies posted related to the coming birth of the Messiah....

Starting in January, we will have weekly studies (probably for around 12 weeks) on the subject of living a life of worship.

Also in January, for those interested, I am again challenging people to join me in reading through the entire Bible in 90 days.  A separate Facebook Fan Page will be set up for those interested in joining that challenge, and the link will be posted on the “Better Things” Facebook fan page.

As always, I am continuing to pray for us all, that we will know Him more fully and more intimately with each passing day!

In His Love,

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mark Conclusion

What do we know about the book of Mark?  According to Scofield’s Reference Notes (1917 edition):
  • The author was also called “John Mark”
    • Son of one of the New Testament Marys
    • Nephew of Barnabas
    • Associate of the apostles 
      • Mentioned in the writings of Paul and Luke
  • The purpose of the book is to reflect Jesus the mighty Worker
    • Jesus’ servant character is reflected
      • There is no genealogy listed
    • Jesus was both servant and “Mighty God”
    • The book is called “a Gospel of deeds”
  • And according to the People’s New Testament Introduction to Mark, Mark wrote for the benefit of the Gentile Christians; and since there is no evidence that he was an eye and ear witness to the events, it is most likely Mark’s information came from being Peter’s interpreter.

I think, in all the things I read in Mark over the last several days, the thing that hit me most was the fear the disciples felt when they saw a glimpse of the power of Jesus.  I can only imagine what that felt like for them.  First they feared the storm, then they feared the one who controlled the storm.

What part of the book of Mark was most meaningful for YOU?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mark 7:18-23 - Heart Check

And He said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” 

Here, Jesus lists several heart issues that “defile” a person.  Let’s take some time today for a “heart check” and ask the LORD which of these are issues in our own hearts.  Here’s the list Jesus gave, along with some definitions from Strong’s Concordance:

Evil Thoughts - (depraved, injurious, bad, evil, harm, ill, noisome, wicked) discussion, internal consideration, external debate, dispute, doubting, imagination, reasoning
Sexual Immorality - harlotry, idolatry
Theft - stealing
Murder - slay
Adultery - adultery (also lust - see Matthew 5:28)
Coveting - avarice (extreme greed), fraudulency, extortion, greediness
Wickedness - depravity, malice, plots, sins, iniquity
Deceit - trick, craft, deceit, guile, subtilty
Sensuality - licentiousness (promiscuous and unprincipled, sometimes including other vices), filthy, wanton
Envy - derelict, vicious, malicious, jealous
Slander - vilification, evil speaking, railing
Pride - haughtiness, appearing above others, conspicuous
Foolishness - senselessness, egotism, moral recklessness, folly

I’m so thankful that “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9)!