Bible Study

This is a copy of the Sunday School Lessons presented to an adult class each Sunday.

Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

Retired, Lobbyist in Washington,DC - Management - BS Chemistry and various continuing education courses

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Bible Study - Stand (1) - GOD'S Promise of Faithfulness - Psalm 89:1-2, 5-8, 15-18 - September 6, 2015

Bible Study – Stand (1) – GOD’S Promise of Faithfulness – September 6, 2015

This is lesson one (1) in our series entitled “Stand Strong: Building Your Life on GOD’S Promises.”

Our focus scripture is Psalm 89:1-2, 5-8, 15-18.

GOD is faithful in every circumstance.

For the next six (6) lessons we will study various scriptures to help us focus on building our lives on GOD’S promises. It is not us hanging onto GOD but GOD hanging onto and revealing Himself to us. There will be times of questioning GOD but in those times GOD reveals more of Himself to us and we become stronger in our relationship with HIM.

The overarching message in this series of study is captured in the “Herschel Hobbs Commentary, fall 2015 edition, published by LifeWay, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0175, page7:”

“Faith in GOD is not based on blind hope or what we think GOD is like. Through Scripture, GOD clearly has revealed Himself and how HE desires to work in our lives and through our lives. Our hope, then, is grounded in who GOD is and the specific promises HE makes to us. We can live confidently because of HIS promises to us.”

I know in my early days of seeking the LORD, I thought of ways GOD could prove Himself to me. Yet with each way I considered, there was always the probability of chance stepping in, rather than being an act of GOD, it would be a chance happening. I had to take the step of faith that GOD was real and that CHRIST was HIS Son. When I did, the indwelling Holy Spirit confirmed the reality of GOD and CHRIST in my life. Although I made a profession of faith when I was about 10 years old, I committed my live to CHRIST in 1971 when I was 34 years old. It has been a learning, growing and maturing experience ever since. There have been many ups and downs but one thing has been certain, I knew, I was eternally GOD’S child through faith in CHRIST.

Psalm 89 is a Maskil, which carries the idea of wisdom with understanding. When you are in relationship with GOD, you learn from HIM and trust in HIM. You build a knowledge base through relationship. HE becomes your loving Father thus the relationship produces wisdom.

In regards to Psalm 89, the psalm writer was reflecting his experience with GOD. It was written by Ethan the Ezrahite. This is the only psalm written by him. It seems that this “Ethan of Ezrahite” lived after the period of time when King David no longer had a descendent on the throne of Israel. The psalmist had taken literally GOD’S promise to King David as recorded in 2 Samuel 7:12-17 which was spoken to him through the Prophet Nathan:

12 When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He will build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
14 I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to Me. When he does wrong, I will discipline him with a human rod and with blows from others.
15 But My faithful love will never leave him as I removed it from Saul; I removed him from your way.
16 Your house and kingdom will endure before Me forever, and your throne will be established forever.' "
17 Nathan spoke all these words and this entire vision to David.

“Ethan of Ezrahite” apparently lived in a time when there was no descendent on the throne of David and he was perplexed but yet confident in GOD and HIS promises.

As Dr. Vance Havner said “You must practice in the dark what you learn in the light.” That is why scripture memory is so important. One day we may not have the Bible to which we can refer but if we have GOD’S Word in our hearts, it will never be taken away from us.

It seems that this psalm could have been written after the fall of Judah to Babylon. Certainly, such an event would have meant that the eternal physical nature of GOD’S promise to King David would not have been true. The psalmist was dealing with that reality but trusting in the promises of GOD.

As we look back, we have a more complete understanding of GOD’S promise to King David. The promised Messiah would come through the ancestral line of King David. JESUS is the eternal King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s to rule in the hearts and lives of all who will place their faith in HIM. JESUS established GOD’S Eternal Kingdom.

In “Advanced Bible Study Commentary, Fall 2015, page 11, LifeWay, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0175 written by Curtis Honts,” he wrote: “in Hebrew the verb comes at the end of the first line or the phrase of the poem.” To me, this original word order in Hebrew revealed the heart of the psalmist and changed the thrust of the psalmist’s message. It moved it from the palmist hanging onto GOD in a desperate effort to maintain confidence in GOD to embracing the person of GOD. GOD nurtured and comforted the psalmist’s because of their intimate, personal relationship. This intimate relationship resulted in unwavering confidence in GOD and HIS promises.

Let’s read Psalm 89:1-2:

Perplexity of Ethan the Ezrahiteplexity about God's Promises

A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite

1 I will sing about the Lord's faithful love forever; with my mouth I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I will declare, "Faithful love is built up forever; You establish Your faithfulness in the heavens."
Notice the difference of placing the verb at the end of the line:
1 The Lord's faithful love forever, I will sing;  Your faithfulness to all generations, with my mouth I will proclaim.
2 "Faithful love is built up forever; You establish Your faithfulness in the heavens", I will declare.

To me, there is a shift of confidence when the verb is placed last. In the English translation, verb first, it seems that the writer is hoping that if he believes his words enough then he will arrive at this conclusion. However, when the verb is last it seems to me that the writer has already discovered what he writes about GOD. His words come from knowing and not from hoping to know one day. He was expressing what he had discovered as the result of experiencing GOD in his life. GOD is real to him and 
trustworthy and he will let everyone around him know that reality by not remaining silent. He was so enthralled with the reality of GOD that he would make it known to others.

I recall a young man who received CHRIST as his Savior, about two years ago, shouted as he left the building, “I have been saved!”Coupled with that exclamation was a countenance of unspeakable joy. CHRIST became real to him that day and it was overwhelming. Not all people have this same experience but if anyone asks CHRIST to forgive him or her for their sins and for HIM to come into their lives, HE does. Doing so results in the miracle of rebirth into GOD’S family. The person is born-again as GOD’S Son or Daughter into GOD’S kingdom with all the rights and privileges that go with being born into the Royal Family of GOD. His or Her citizenship is now in heaven, never to be taken away. Now that is something to get excited about!

The promise GOD made to King David appeared to have been terminated because there was no physical heir on his throne. Yet, the psalm writer had the utmost confidence in GOD and HIS promise to David.

The heavens were considered the immutable display for GOD’S eternal sovereignty and the psalm writer’s trust was in GOD and not what appeared to be a contradiction of HIS Word.

We know, in time, GOD’S promise to King David was fulfilled in the birth of the LORD JESUS. The psalmist trusted in GOD’S promise even though he did not physically see it. 

Do we have such a relationship with GOD? Do we doubt HIM when things do not go as we think they should? We must practice in the dark what we learn in the light.

The psalmist continued.

Let’s read Psalm 89:5-8:

5 Lord, the heavens praise Your wonders- Your faithfulness also- in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies can compare with the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord?
7 God is greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, more awe-inspiring than all who surround Him.
8 Lord God of Hosts, who is strong like You, Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds You.

Again, the psalmist referred to the consistency, order and awesomeness of the heavens and the angels, holy ones, who reflect and know of GOD’S presence and power.

When you view all of nature which surrounds us, is your heart drawn to the reality of GOD’S awesome handiwork and HIS love for the human race that HE created such a magnificent place for us to live until we escape human existence? One day every human will exit their earth suit, human body, and go into eternity. Those who accept CHRIST as their Savior will enter heaven to be eternally with GOD and CHRIST. Those who reject CHRIST will exit their earth suits and enter into eternity without GOD.

Oh, some may say, “So what if I go into eternity not believing there is a loving GOD!” When you exit your earth suit, you will know without question the reality of the One True GOD and Father of our Lord JESUS and that you rejected HIM. Please accept CHRIST as your Savior while there is still time.

The psalmist asked three questions regarding GOD:

-         For who in the skies can compare with the Lord?
-         Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord?
-         Lord God of Hosts, who is strong like You, Lord? 

The answers to the three questions are “No One!” These questions and the answers reflect the heart of the psalmist, his relationship and confidence in GOD through relationship. Such experiential knowledge of GOD results in peace and overwhelming joy, which we see in our next scripture.

Let’s read Psalm 89:15-18:

15 Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Lord, they walk in the light of Your presence.
16 They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted by Your righteousness.
17 For You are their magnificent strength; by Your favor our horn is exalted.
18 Surely our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

The psalmist relates having an intimate, knowing, personal relationship with GOD to overflowing joy and happiness. Those who know the LORD GOD of the universe walk in the light of HIS existence. Light dispels darkness. Those who have this intimate relationship cannot keep quiet but want to shout to others so they may know the truth of GOD’S reality and to express HIS unfathomable love for them.

The word “horn” means power.

The psalmist considered whatever a person, including the king, had achieved was the result of GOD’S power and protection as expressed in the words “horn” and “shield.”

Psalm 46:1:

1 God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.

GOD is faithful in every circumstance. 

Do you have such a relationship with GOD through CHRIST? If not, ask CHRIST to forgive you for your sins and to come into your life now. For today is the day of salvation! Blessings!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bible Study - Hospitility (Standalone Lesson) - Luke 14:12-24 - August 30, 2015

Bible Study – Hospitality (Standalone Lesson) – August 30, 2015

This is a standalone lesson entitled ‘Hospitality: How Ordinary People Can Live on Mission.”

Our focus scripture is Luke 14:12-24.

Hospitality is a practical way to share CHRIST with others.

A huge field of opportunity for Christians is for us to show hospitality. We have class and church functions – luncheons and socials – we could invite others to attend. We can reach out to our neighbors and friends and the lists go on.

It is vital that Christians build a relationship with those to whom they are led to minister. As we build relationships, GOD is preparing the hearts of those to whom we are witnessing to receive JESUS at some point in their lives.   
Often, when those with whom we are building a relationship start asking questions it is a sign that GOD is opening their hearts to receive CHRIST as their Savior. Make sure that you pray for that person and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you minister.

The Holy Spirit will lead you to and reveal the right entry point. Christians need to wait upon the LORD and go through the door of opportunity, when it opens ever so slight, as GOD gives it. It may be very subtle and will likely be just a brief moment to plant a seed. Scripture is vital in seed planting because GOD’S Word does not return void. The person may not pray to receive CHRIST but seeds have been planted which can come forth later as a child of GOD. Satan often plants seeds of doubt in your mind when a person does not receive CHRIST as their Savior

First of all, GOD wants the person to whom you are witnessing to accept JESUS as his or her Savior more that you do. After all, JESUS gave HIS life just for him or her to have the opportunity to experience the miracle of rebirth and become the Son or Daughter of GOD. Timing is important. When the opportunity opens, take it. If it hits a snag, then let the Holy Spirit guide you regarding your next steps, which may be to back off. You may be sowing Spiritual seeds that will germinate and bring forth a beautiful life for CHRIST. Some Christian’s may plant, some may water, some may do a little weeding, some may fertilize and the list goes on. Our role is to trust GOD however HE leads us with the results. We are instruments in GOD’S hands and HE works where you and I cannot and that is in the person’s heart or eyes of his or her heart.

Hospitality is a gift. Hospitality is about building relationships. GOD is in the hospitality business. Leading a person to CHRIST is important but continuing a relationship with that person is important as he or she grows and matures in CHRIST.

The teaching and parable in our lesson reveals GOD’S great love for all people. HE offers salvation to everyone but it is up to each person to either accept or reject HIS invitation.

JESUS was speaking to a group of Jewish religious leaders on the Sabbath. Let’s read Luke 14:1-11 to set the stage for our lesson scripture:

A Sabbath Controversy

1 One Sabbath, when He went to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching Him closely.
2 There in front of Him was a man whose body was swollen with fluid.
3 In response, Jesus asked the law experts and the Pharisees, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?"
4 But they kept silent. He took the man, healed him, and sent him away.
5 And to them, He said, "Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?"
6 To this they could find no answer.

Teachings on Humility

7 He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves:
8 "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don't recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host.
9 The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place.
10 "But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests.
11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

JESUS had been invited to the home of a leading Pharisee. JESUS accepted the invitation and used the opportunity to teach. There was a man who had dropsy, which is a condition where the human body collects fluid. JESUS used the man’s condition to get a Spiritual discussion started by healing the man on the Sabbath. Then JESUS addressed the attitude of some of the Jews who took the seats of honor at an important event such as a wedding. Doing so reflected the attitude of their heart.

Because of an arrogant heart many religious people cannot humble themselves to receive CHRIST as their Savior. This is true today with those who live very moral lives and depend upon their own goodness as their opportunity to go to heaven when the leave this earth. Each of us must see the need for salvation because even in the best of us none are justified to enter heaven. GOD demands perfection and only through the shed blood o CHRIST and placing our faith in HIM are we justified (just-as-if-I-never-sinned) or made righteous in the sight of GOD. I am sure if you have lived long enough you have heard someone say, “I don’t need salvation because I lived a better life than so-and-so who is a (fill-in the blank) at a certain church.

Christians sin and must confess their sins, repent (stop) and keep going in the power and strength of GOD’S grace.

Let’s explore!

Let’s read Luke 14:12-14:

12 He also said to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid.
13 On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind.
14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

JESUS was teaching. These verses were an introduction to the parable HE was about to tell. HE set the stage by going outside HIS audience’s comfort zone. As we learned in our scripture, JESUS was dining with Pharisees. Normally, you think of inviting your closest family, friends and relatives but JESUS was saying to go outside those you know.

JESUS was NOT saying not to invite your friends, family or relatives. HIS reference was to fellow Jews who knew what the prophets had revealed through the scriptures regarding the coming of the Messiah. The Jews knew that they were GOD’S chosen people and that the Messiah would come to them first and, in fact, was already in their midst. But they did not recognize HIM because they were looking for a military leader who would deliver them from Roman rule. They were looking for physical deliverance and not eternal deliverance from sin and eternal death. Yet the scriptures revealed the purpose of the promised Messiah and the religious were charged with the responsibility to know the attributes of the promised Messiah.

Often, when we have preconceived notions about certain things, we miss the obvious. Those present at this meal were missing the opportunity to dialogue with the promised Messiah.

JESUS was, in essence, telling them to go beyond those with whom you are comfortable and know their relationship with GOD. Go to those who are in need of eternal salvation, regardless of their status in life, with the Spiritual food which has already been prepared by GOD and is ready for the taking.
Recall the verse from last week’s lesson in Acts 14:36:

36 For David, after serving his own generation in God's plan, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed. 

Our presence upon earth was chosen by GOD to minister to our generation according to HIS will and purpose. Father, open our eyes to the opportunities around us each day and give us the strength to act upon them according to your will and purpose. Help us never to think more highly of ourselves because we know the truth. We are all sinners saved by GOD’S Grace. Amen!

Let’s read Luke 14:15-24:

The Parable of the Large Banquet

15 When one of those who reclined at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, "The one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God is blessed!"

This person had the right idea but the kingdom of GOD is for everyone and not just for the Jews. So JESUS gave them a parable to drive this idea home.

16 Then He told him: "A man was giving a large banquet and invited many.
17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his slave to tell those who were invited, 'Come, because everything is now ready.'
18 "But without exception they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, 'I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.'
19 "Another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.'
20 "And another said, 'I just got married, and therefore I'm unable to come.'
21 "So the slave came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his slave, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!'
22 " 'Master,' the slave said, 'what you ordered has been done, and there's still room.'
23 "Then the master told the slave, 'Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled.
24 For I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will enjoy my banquet!' "

I understand that it was customary for a host to send two invitations to their invited guests. The first invitation was a heads up that an event was being planned and they were invited. The specific date had not been set. When the second invitation was given, it was party time. But in this parable, all of the invited guests who received the first invitation refused to attend for various excuses.

What was the message JESUS wanted to convey?  

The banquet has being prepared by GOD before HE created the world. The scriptures had revealed GOD’S plan over the ages through the prophets. GOD knew that man would sin and lose eternal life. HE already had HIS redemptive plan in place, which is salvation through faith in HIS only Son, JESUS. HIS only Son would come to earth, live as a human, yet without sin, and willingly give HIS perfect, sinless life to pay the eternal death penalty for sin upon the cross. As proof that JESUS accomplished HIS appointed task, GOD raised HIM from the dead as the scriptures had revealed. All who will accept CHRIST as their Savior will receive eternal life through the miracle of rebirth.

JESUS, the promised Messiah, was living in the flesh upon earth and was speaking to these head knowledgeable religious experts. HE was right there with them and next to them in the flesh. JESUS, GOD’S slave/servant was announcing that GOD had issued HIS invitation through Moses and now the banquet was ready. The invitations had already been sent out for those selected, the Jews, to attend but there was a problem. Those invited had excuses for not attending, although they had agreed to attend and were looking for the coming of the Messiah.

The scriptures have been clear that the Messiah would first come to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. JESUS’ parable highlighted that point but the chosen had rejected HIM.

The Master’s slave reported that those invited were not coming. The Master (GOD) was angry and instructed the slave (JESUS) to go where ever there was human life, regardless of their Spiritual condition and compel them to come to the banquet. The servant was obedient and returned to HIS Master and reported there was still room in the banquet area.

The Master instructed HIS servant to go to the uttermost and most unlikely places and make/compel them to come to the banquet.

This reveals the extent GOD will go to reach those in need for Spiritual food, salvation. Truth is truth.

JESUS said it best in Matthew 7:21-23:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’

The Jews were GOD’S chosen people but they must accept CHRIST as their Savior. The Jews are still looking for the coming of the promised Messiah. There are some Jews who do accept CHRIST as their Savior. They are called completed Jews and worship as Messianic Jews.

Hospitality is a gift that can be used to reach those in need of salvation or words of encouragement. Seek to serve! Blessings!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bible Study - Awake (6) - Return to the Task - Acts 13:1-3, 44-52 - August 23, 2015

Bible Study – Awake (6) – Return to the Task – August 23, 2015

This is lesson six (6) and the final lesson in our series entitled “Awake: The 
Call to a Renewed Life.”

Our focus scripture is Acts 13:1-3, 44-52.

A revitalized church spreads the gospel.

First, Christians must experience a revitalized life before the body of believers can experience a revitalized church. Allowing CHRIST to rule and reign in our lives through confession of our sins, repenting and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us is imperative. Christian leadership can plot a course of action and will achieve a result. When we seek the leadership of GOD, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the will of GOD is achieved according to HIS plan and purpose and not according to the dictates of man.

Supporting social issues are one thing but they do not define a Spiritual church. It is paramount that CHRIST is preeminent in a Spiritual body.

Second, unity is vital as Christians take action as led by the Holy Spirit.

Our lesson focuses upon the spread of the gospel of CHRIST. The early Christians leaders were obedient to the scriptures that instructed them that the promised Messiah was to be presented to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. Some Jews received CHRIST as their Savior but many rejected HIM. The Gentiles have always been included in the plan of salvation.

Saul, who we know as Paul, was the apostle, appointed by GOD, to the Gentiles after his conversion from Judaism to becoming a Christian. This happened when he was traveling to Damascus, to capture Christians and carry them to Jerusalem as prisoners.

Saul, his Jewish name, became Paul, his Roman name sometime after his conversion experience. Barnabas took Saul under his wing and vouched for him as a true Christian.

The Christian church leaders in Jerusalem heard of Christian activity in Antioch and sent Barnabas to check it out. He found that Christians who had left Jerusalem, due to persecution, had relocated to Cyprus and Cyrene and then, in turn, traveled to Antioch. These displaced Christians were spreading and teaching the gospel of CHRIST and the Gentiles were responding.

There was such a hunger for the good news of CHRIST in Antioch that Barnabas went to Tarsus to locate Saul and to bring him to Antioch to help him in ministry. It was in Antioch that the phrase “Christian” was first associated with the followers of CHRIST or “CHRIST ones.” It was a designation given to them by the non-Christian community. Would those with whom we associated know that we were followers of CHRIST based upon our lifestyles and actions?

Let’s explore!

Let’s read Acts 13:1-3:

Preparing for the Mission Field

1 In the local church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 
2 As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work that I have called them to." 
3 Then, after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.

The Christian church in Antioch was well equipped Spiritually. They had prophets and teachers. They were in tune with the Holy Spirit. Being out of touch with the Holy Spirit is a tragic missing relationship in many of our churches today. When the Holy Spirit is absence, it leaves a void for unholy spirits to move in and believe me they will.

The Holy Spirit gave them direction for Barnabas’ and Saul’s first missionary journey. GOD commissioned them to go. The church leaders fasted, prayed and laid hands on them and sent them off. Likely, the reason they fasted and prayed a second time was to reconfirm the Holy Spirit’s instructions. They went to Seleucia and sailed to Cyprus and preached in Salamis and then in Paphos.

Any time we send those called into missions, we must commission them before they begin their journey. The leaders fasted, prayed and laid hands upon them before they went. Do we take our mission trips as seriously? Do we take our everyday life as an opportunity to minister? In essence, every Christian is called to serve each day where ever he or she is.

Let’s read Acts 13:26-41: (Background and lead-in to our next scripture.)

26 "Brothers, sons of Abraham's race, and those among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us.
27 For the residents of Jerusalem and their rulers, since they did not recognize Him or the voices of the prophets that are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled their words by condemning Him. 
28 Though they found no grounds for the death penalty, they asked Pilate to have Him killed. 
29 When they had fulfilled all that had been written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and put Him in a tomb. 
30 But God raised Him from the dead, 
31 and He appeared for many days to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now His witnesses to the people. 
32 And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our forefathers. 
33 God has fulfilled this to us their children by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second Psalm: You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. 
34 Since He raised Him from the dead, never to return to decay, He has spoken in this way, I will grant you the faithful covenant blessings made to David. 
35 Therefore He also says in another passage, You will not allow Your Holy One to see decay. 
36 For David, after serving his own generation in God's plan, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed. 

David was a man after GOD’S own heart but when he had served according to GOD’S plan, he died and decayed. However, when GOD’S Only Son, JESUS, gave HIS life on the cross, HE died, was buried but GOD raised HIM from the dead to reveal to the world that HE had conquered both sin and eternal death. When a person asks CHRIST to forgive him or her for his or her sins and asks CHRIST to come into his or her life, HE does. At that instant, the person receives the miracle of rebirth into GOD’S kingdom as GOD’S Son or Daughter, eternal life and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that GOD has a plan and a purpose for every person. Some chose to accept CHRIST as their Savior and fulfill GOD’S plan and purpose. When GOD’S plan and purpose has been fulfilled it is time for us to go home to be with our Father.

37 But the One whom God raised up did not decay. 
38 Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, 
39 and everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything, which you could not be justified from through the Law of Moses. 
40 So beware that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you: 
41 Look, you scoffers, marvel and vanish away, because I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe, even if someone were to explain it to you."

The people of Antioch were very interested in what was being taught and wanted more as we read in the next scripture. But some wanted more to debate Spiritual issues. When we will study the scriptures, they will not return void. They will enlighten and convict even when our hearts are not in harmony with CHRIST. I have heard of people who have studied the Bible in order to debate it and received CHRIST as their Savior.

Let’s read Acts 13:42-52:

Paul and Barnabas in Antioch

42 As they were leaving, they begged that these matters be presented to them the following Sabbath. 
43 After the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and persuading them to continue in the grace of God
44 The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the message of the Lord. 
45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to oppose what Paul was saying by insulting him
46 Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: "It was necessary that God's message be spoken to you (Jews) first. But since you reject it, and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles! 
47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have appointed you as a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth." 
Paul and Barnabas used the debate as an opportunity to enlighten. It is GOD Who brings conviction for sin and reveals CHRIST as a person’s Savior. The decision to accept or reject CHRIST is left up to the individual.
We need to keep in mind that Paul was trained in Judaism by the best Jewish teacher, Gamaliel. Paul understood the connection between what we know as the Old Testament which reveals the coming of the promised Messiah and CHRIST. He knew that CHRIST had fulfilled all prophesy and had come to earth as a human, yet GOD. The Holy Spirit had put it all together for him so he could teach others this Good News. His writings still teach us today, as we study and allow the Holy Spirit to give us insight, understanding and application.
When Paul stated:
46 Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: "It was necessary that God's message be spoken to you (Jews) first. But since you reject it, and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles! 
47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have appointed you as a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth." 
The Gentiles responded as revealed in our next scripture. Why did the Gentiles respond with exuberance to Paul’s words?
Let’s read Acts 13:48-52:
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified the message of the Lord, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed. 
49 So the message of the Lord spread through the whole region. 
50 But the Jews incited the religious women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district.
51 But shaking the dust off their feet against them, they proceeded to Iconium. 
52 And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

Jealousy blocks many from seeing truth. As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.” Truth is truth regardless of what we think. JESUS said in John 5:24-30:

24 "I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life. 
25 "I assure you: An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself. 
27 And He has granted Him the right to pass judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 
28 Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice
29 and come out-those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.
30 "I can do nothing on My own. I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

Judgment day is coming. Truth is truth. 

Place your faith in CHRIST while there is still time. Salvation from sin, eternal death and not having to face judgment is CHRIST’S gift to all who will place your faith in HIM.

The choice is yours to make! Blessings!!!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Bible Study - Awake (5) - Return to Unity - Acts 4:31-37 Plus - August 16, 2015

Bible Study – Awake (5) – Return to Unity – August 16, 2015

This is lesson five (5) in our series entitled “Awake: The Call to a Renewed Life.”

Our focus scripture is Acts 4:31-37.

Walking with CHRIST brings us together in unity and purpose.
Unity is vital in any organization, especially the church and in our relationship with GOD. In Revelation 3:16:

16  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. 

Do we make GOD sick because of being lukewarm by straddling the fence? Where does political correctness, when it is contrary to GOD’S Word, fall? Have we studied and understood GOD’S Word such that we know what GOD’S Word has to say about certain issues? Do we have the courage to take a stand or do we remain silent and let wrong things happen?

Unity is important but not at the expense of violating GOD’S Word. Christians need the gift of discernment. In the church community, if you challenge a decision, it is interpreted as not being in unity. Such a challenge can be based upon a concern that GOD’S Word has been compromised or personal desires. The Holy Spirit can reveal the intent.

Walking with CHRIST is based upon walking in the Spirit as recorded in Galatians 5:16-18:

16 I say then, • walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

When we walk in the Spirit, we rise above pettiness but that does not mean avoiding issues that need attention as led by the Holy Spirit.

The disciples were in Jerusalem waiting for the Holy Spirit to arrive. The Holy Spirit arrived during the celebration of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was manifested by sound, like a mighty rushing wind to draw attention, by sight, what seemed to be like tongues of fire, and by indwelling and filling evidenced by speaking in other languages which they did not know. The Apostle Peter preached that day and 3,000 accepted CHRIST as their Savior.  The Apostles Peter and John were on their way to the temple to pray when they encountered a man lame since birth. The lame man was over 40 years old. JESUS healed the lame man through them. They continued to preach in the temple and about 5,000 came to receive CHRIST as their Savior.

But not everyone was happy. When certain people’s status is challenged, they become vindictive. The Jewish leadership felt threatened and had Peter and John arrested.

Let’s read what happened to Peter and John in Acts 4:1-30:

1 Now as they were speaking to the people, the priests, the commander of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them, 
2 because they were provoked that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in the person of Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 
3 So they seized them and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening. 
4 But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about 5,000.

5 The next day, their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem 
with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, and all the members of the high-priestly family. 

Recognize these high priests. No wonder these priests were upset that JESUS these disciples were preaching that JESUS had been resurrected from the dead.

7 After they had Peter and John stand before them, they asked the question: "By what power or in what name have you done this?" 

GOD provided an opportunity for Peter to witness to the Jewish leaders. They had witnessed some 5,000 people accepting CHRIST as their Savior. Now the Apostle Peter has the opportunity to witness and to present the Gospel of CHRIST to these Jewish leaders.

8 Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders: 
9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man-by what means he was healed-
10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead-by Him this man is standing here before you healthy.
11 This [Jesus] is The stone despised by you builders, who has become the cornerstone. 
12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved."

13 When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus. 
14 And since they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in response. 
15 After they had ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin, they conferred among themselves, 
16 saying, "What should we do with these men? For an obvious sign, evident to all who live in Jerusalem, has been done through them, and we cannot deny it! 
17 But so this does not spread any further among the people, let's threaten them against speaking to anyone in this name again."
18 So they called for them and ordered them not to preach or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 
19 But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it's right in the sight of God [for us] to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; 
20 for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." 
21 After threatening them further, they released them. They found no way to punish them, because the people were all giving glory to God over what had been done; 
22 for the man was over 40 years old on whom this sign of healing had been performed.

Today, society is doing all it can to silence Christians and forbid the use of the name of JESUS.

23 After they were released, they went to their own fellowship and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 
24 When they heard this, they raised their voices to God unanimously and said, "Master, You are the One who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. 
25 You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David Your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot futile things? 
26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers assembled together against the Lord and against His Messiah. 
27 "For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, 
28 to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place. 
29 And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness,
30 while You stretch out Your hand for healing, signs, and wonders to be performed through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus." 

Peter and John were not going to stop sharing JESUS with others and their experience gave other Christians confidence and courage.

Christians it is time for us to speak out in the name and power of JESUS, as led by the Holy Spirit!

These are the events which had occurred. Peter and John had reported them to fellow Christians. They had resorted to prayer and GOD gave them a very physical sign that HE was with them, as we read in our focus scripture. All present were in unity of one accord. What happens when Christians are in one accord and in unity with GOD, CHRIST and each other?

Let’s read Acts 4:31:

31 When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God's message with boldness.

When needed, GOD gives signs of HIS presence to encourage those HE has called to do HIS will according to HIS plans and purpose. This could mean that the place where they were assembled was both physically and Spiritually shaken. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke truth with boldness.

Christians are human in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Boldness to speak Spiritually comes from GOD through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our flesh is weak but also can be strong because of our personal traits. But it is vital that, as Christians, we speak truth in the power of the Holy Spirit lest we speak with human boldness.

Let’s read Acts 4:32-33:

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common.

33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them.

The Apostles had walked with JESUS, witnessed HIS death, resurrection, 40 days upon earth, HIS ascension and experienced the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They knew and experienced GOD’S grace upon them. JESUS had taught HIS disciples and now it was time for HIS disciples to teach fellow Christians.

The Christian community pooled their resources so they could live together to be taught and put into action what they were being taught.

It is interesting that today, we go to church and hear the Word being taught and many leave and rarely put what has been taught into action. Most of us have been studying the Bible for many years but has it made a difference in us and those around us?
Christians are the salt and the light. Are we being salt and light as led by the indwelling Holy Spirit? What are we waiting for? Procrastination is one of Satan’s most favorite tools; Waiting until we are ready is another one of his tools; discouragement is another tool and the list goes on. The key is to be led by the Holy Spirit. What are some of the attributes of salt? What are some of the attributes of light?

Let’s read Acts 4:34-37:

34 For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,
35 and laid them at the apostles' feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need.
36 Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, whom the apostles named Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement,
37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Christians banded together to spread the Gospel and to learn all they could from the Apostles. They shared their material possessions in order to have the time to receive Spiritual wealth. Notice the Apostles distributed according to a person’s need.

How would we respond if we could spend time with JESUS? We can because through the indwelling Holy Spirit all truth is revealed. Our part is to seek and we will find. We are to search the Bible, pray and take action as led by the Holy Spirit.

These early Christians focused upon the most important, which was Spiritual wealth and not material wealth. Their home was not earth but heaven. They knew the truth and they wanted others to know this same truth. JESUS is the only way to GOD by placing your faith in HIM. JESUS said it best in John 14:6:

6 Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

In unity, Christians can spread the Gospel of CHRIST to others but when we squabble, Satan rejoices. Unity, based upon truth as revealed in GOD’S Word and not political correctness, among the Christian community is vital. Forced unity will not last but unity as the result of being filled with the Holy Spirit and being obedient to the call of CHRIST is a natural part of being a healthy branch of the Spiritual body of CHRIST. JESUS said it best in John 15:5:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. Blessings!!!