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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bible Study - Earth (1) - GOD'S Work of Creation - Psalm 104 - August 24, 2014

Bible Study – Earth (1) – GOD’S Work of Creation – August 24, 2014

This is lesson one (1) in a two-part study entitled “And It Was Good.”

Our focus scripture is Psalm 104:1-5, 24-30.

Everything in creation is the work of GOD who loves us.

The writer of this psalm is anonymous. There is a possibility it could have been David.

The origin of the universe continues to be debated. Some do not see the relevance of the Bible to science but those who study GOD’S Word marvel at the truth GOD reveals through HIS Word. One of the most fascinating lectures I heard many years ago was by Dr. Smith who taught logic and scientific logic at Columbia College, Columbia, SC.

I studied mechanical engineering and chemistry in college and received my BS in Chemistry. I went through a period of time, even though active in church, I doubted the existence of GOD. GOD allows us to ponder the questions of life and HIM to strengthen us. When I considered conception and the formation of our children in my wife’s body and when they were born going from breathing embryonic fluid to breathing air it boggled my mind. The human body itself is so intricately and wonderfully made, especially the eyes, digestion, the brain and nervous system. This led me to ponder the order found in the universe, earth, human, animals, plants and the huge variety of species upon earth from micro to macro. I concluded that the creation of such a variety of the things seen and unseen could not have happened by random probability. There had to be a Master Designer. So I concluded that Master Designer was GOD.

If you placed all of the parts for a fine Swiss watch into a bag, would it ever be able to reassemble its self? No! Not without a watchmaker.

Then, I pondered where CHRIST fit into the scheme of things. Now mind you this pondering took place over years, while active in church and reading the Bible and teaching.

Notice reading the Bible is not studying the Bible but in reading it, trying to understand it, it was powerful because GOD’S Word does not return void. Mostly, I read what I needed to read to teach a lesson.

Let’s roll back the time when my Christian journey began.

When I was about 9-10 years old, we had a visiting pastor who spoke to a group around my age one Sunday morning. He presented the plan of salvation and I responded. He asked those who responded to join him in another room where he explained what we had done but it do not stick with me. That moment is vague, yet I knew I felt different inside.

We were not planning to stay for worship service that Sunday because my dad’s family was coming to our home for Sunday lunch. I asked my parents if I could stay for church and ride to our house with my Uncle Monroe. My parents agreed. I did not tell them what I had done during the Sunday school hour. I wanted to hear more. Something different was happening internally but I did not know what was going on.

The visiting pastor preached and I do not recall what he preached about. He gave the invitation or alter call to join the church. Back then, we equated joining the church to salvation. I went forward.

Now in the Baptist church that means walking down the aisle of the church in front of all the people to the front and telling the pastor whatever you want to tell him.

I walked down the aisle. I don’t recall what I said, if anything. I just remember that I was asked, “Do you want to join the church and be baptized or do you want us to pray for you?” Well, I can tell you I did not like the idea of being baptized because in the Baptist church they let you go back into the water, face up. That is what I called ducking. I had played duck with my friends and we played to see how long we could hold someone under the water before we would let them up for air. I never liked for anyone to duck me when we went swimming in the creek. So I opted for them praying for me.

Normally, those who asked for prayer would return to their seat in the church but they had me to stand in front of the church as if I had joined the church. Many in the congregation came by and shook my hand. My relatives were excited for me. Some were crying with joy and hugging me. To all in the church, I had accepted CHRIST as my Savior and had joined the church subject to baptism. In essence, I had responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit but I did not know that. I guess in retrospect, I became a member of the living church.

After all the people had shook my hand, I lingered back because I wanted to talk to that visiting pastor. He was busy talking to well wishers. I finally got his attention and told him that I had a strange feeling inside of me. I did not tell him that I was puzzled and wanted to know what was going on inside of me. He in effect said “ya, ya” and kept speaking to other well wishers. I left the church that day not knowing what had happened Spiritually.

When I got home, my parents told me if they had known that I was going to join the church they would have stayed for the church service.

I taught/read lessons from the time I was about 11 or 12 years old.

I recall that the person who was supposed to be our teacher often missed coming to teach us. So I decided to read the lesson to those who attended. My peers liked it and claimed they got more out of the lesson when I taught (but really read it) than when the teacher taught it. To GOD be the glory because I had nothing to do with it, except read it. But we know that GOD’S Word never returns void.

My, sweet, Christian mother had built a foundation in me because she read Bible stories to me from as far back as I can remember. My dad was a Christian and we went to church every Sunday.

I don’t recall much happening in my life after that until college. I was baptized my sophomore year in college and was active in a Bible study group. We had a guy in the class that asked questions our Bible leader could not answer. I thought they were good questions. Long story the guy asking the questions got straightened out but I went on a long journey of seeking answers. I continued in church and Bible study while seeking answers. GOD continued to place me in situations which forced me to continue reading/studying the Bible.

I have always asked GOD questions and in time HE has answered them or answered them to the degree possible with my capability to comprehend. But at least HIS answers satisfied my curiosity for a period of time. I have found that we need to grow Spiritually before we can comprehend some answers.

Along my journey in my twenties, a little boy was lost in the woods about 10 miles from where we lived. It was during winter but it happened to be the warmest day of the season. The little boy was dressed for the warm day. But that night was the coldest night of the season. They found the little boy, dead, the next morning with a tear frozen to his cheek. That news threw me into a tailspin regarding the existence of GOD and love of GOD. The GOD of the universe to me had the power over the weather and the animals. HE had power over the animals surely HE could have prevented that little boy from freezing to death.

Yes, I continued to be active in church but harbored this attitude of bitterness toward GOD.

It was not until one of our children was born that I began to think about the sperm and egg coming together and producing a human body. I thought of the intricate nature of the human body, its functions and all the parts which come together for it to function. I considered all of the senses and their function. We take in food which is converted into energy. The eyes can see up close or far away without having to turn a dial to focus them. I thought about the order of earth and the universe.

Finally, I concluded that GOD existed. Later, I began to explore CHRIST. Was HE real or a myth? I still attended church and even taught Sunday school during this questionable period. I tried to live the Christian life in my own strength. I really tried for months.

My wife and I were in a fellowship group with couples about our age. Several of them were having new experiences with CHRIST. I had dealt with several of the men in the business world and they were the same at work and socially. I concluded I needed what they had. So, I tried harder to live the Christian life but every time I failed. When driving to work one morning I was talking to the LORD and told HIM that I had really tried to live the Christian life for the past several months but could not. I told HIM I had cleaned up 60-70% of my life (notice the “I”) but the remaining 30-40% was just rotten according to Christian standards. I asked HIM to take all of my life, the good and the bad, lock, stock and barrel, and give me the strength to live the Christian life.

I can tell you in a flash, HE took it. It wasn’t but a few minutes when Satan came into the picture with words to discourage. I said, NO! I want to be GOD’S man doing things GOD’S way. That was in 1971. Oh, yes I have disappointed GOD many times but I have always known that I was HIS child. In my 70’s and I am still learning from HIM and building a stronger relationship with HIM through my relationship with CHRIST.

Why I have gone into detail about my journey with GOD? It is because we all have a story to tell. The Psalm, we will read, reveals some of the writer’s understanding of GOD. Theology is revealed in the revelation of GOD as we seek to know and understand GOD. Let’s explore!

Some Bible scholars believe that this psalm was written to reveal truth to those who worship the things GOD created rather than the GOD Who created all things. The psalm parallels the Genesis account of GOD’S creation:

Verse 1 – lays the foundation that GOD was the Master Designer and Creator of all that humans encounter around them, as such, only GOD is to be worshipped and not the things HE created.

Day 1 - Genesis 1:3 – light – 104: 2

Day 2 - Genesis 1:6 – heavens and waters – 104:2-3

Day 3 – Genesis 1:9-13 – land and vegetation – 104:6-18

Day 4 – Genesis 1:14-16 – sun, moon and stars – 104:19-23

Day 5 – Genesis 1:20-23 – fish and birds – 104:25-26

Day 6 – Genesis 1:24-31 - animals, man, and food to sustain them – 104:21-24, 27-30

GOD is sovereign and in control of all things. It begins with “my soul” which indicates that the writer acknowledges his need for GOD and GOD meets his need in a personal way through relationship. The use of “soul” means his entire being praises “Yahweh,” his GOD. The writer has such a relationship with GOD that he reveals what he has learned from that relationship regarding creation. Creation was the result of GOD’S Master Design and HE did not just create it but cares for it to maintain it.

Let’s read Psalm 104:1-5:

1 My soul, praise • Yahweh! Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with majesty and splendor. 2 He wraps Himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy, 3 laying the beams of His palace on the waters above, making the clouds His chariot, walking on the wings of the wind, 4 and making the winds His messengers, flames of fire His servants. 5 He established the earth on its foundations; it will never be shaken.

The writer referred to GOD as “clothed with majesty and splendor” which refers to dignity and impressive presence. GOD is “light” and in HIM there is no shadow of turning because HE is the source of truth and light. GOD is not fickle like the manmade gods some people worship. GOD uses the elements to sustain life upon earth and to reveal to mankind that HE is in charge. HE speaks through HIS creation to mankind.

GOD placed earth in the exact spot to sustain life. Science confirms that earth is in the exact spot with the exact ratio of sunlight, atmosphere, water and reproducible food to sustain life. GOD created it and maintains it. If that perfect position is ever changed it will be GOD that changes it because HE established its foundations. The earth is HIS and all that is in it.

These verses and those to follow reflect both poetry and words which can be sung regarding GOD creating earth, sustaining it, its inhabitants and revealing Himself to mankind. Earth and life are no accident, GOD created it all for a purpose and HIS desire is for mankind to acknowledge HIM and ultimately HIS redemptive love for mankind through faith in HIS only Son, JESUS.

Let’s read Psalm 104:6-23:

6 You covered it (earth) with the deep as if it were a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At Your rebuke the waters fled; at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away— 8 mountains rose and valleys sank— to the place You established for them. 9 You set a boundary they cannot cross; they (waters) will never cover the earth again. 10 He causes the springs to gush into the valleys; they flow between the mountains. 11 They supply water for every wild beast; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 The birds of the sky live beside the springs; they sing among the foliage. 13 He waters the mountains from His palace; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of Your labor. 14 He causes grass to grow for the livestock and provides crops for man to cultivate, producing food from the earth, 15 wine that makes man’s heart glad— making his face shine with oil— and bread that sustains man’s heart. 16 The trees of the Lord flourish, the cedars of Lebanon that He planted. 17 There the birds make their nests; the stork makes its home in the pine trees. 18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the cliffs are a refuge for hyraxes. 19 He made the moon to mark the festivals; the sun knows when to set. 20 You bring darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals stir. 21 The young lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. 22 The sun rises; they go back and lie down in their dens. 23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until evening.

The psalmist reveals the personal involvement GOD had in creation and its functionality and care. Earth was not an accident but purposely designed, implemented and continues to be cared for by GOD.

Let’s read Psalm 104:24-26:

24 How countless are Your works, Lord! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures. 25 Here is the sea, vast and wide, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small. 26 There the ships move about, and • Leviathan (a sea creature), which You formed to play there.

GOD created all for a purpose including the large sea creature called the Leviathan. In ancient legends, the Leviathan was a sea creature that fought with the gods. In the Bible, the Leviathan is depicted as an enemy of GOD. In this scripture, the Leviathan is depicted as GOD’S creation, which is not to be feared because it is under GOD’S control.

This draws us back into the fact that GOD is sovereign and in control of all things. HE imparts HIS wisdom to HIS children to deal with all matters no matter how frightening they may be. All living things, including mankind, depend upon GOD maintaining earth. Can man change the weather patterns? No! But we see the importance of weather patterns upon where we live and the production of food.

Let’s read Psalm 104:27-30:

27 All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right time. 28 When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When You send Your breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.

GOD is sovereign and takes care of all living things including people.

The Bible is clear; there is a time to be born and a time to die. We are living in the time GOD has appointed for us, who are living, to experience life upon earth. It is every person’s opportunity to accept or reject CHRIST as his or her Savior.

Between birth and death is time. Keep in mind that mankind was not created for time but for eternity. Time upon earth is mankind’s opportunity to discover GOD and HIS redemptive plan of eternal life through faith in CHRIST. Salvation is the beginning process of building an intimate, loving relationship with CHRIST. Through our relationship with CHRIST, GOD is revealed and understood.

Every living thing depends upon GOD to provide their physical food and in doing so HE reveals Himself. The use of the word “breath” means “Spirit.” HIS desire is for all to acknowledge HIM by accepting CHRIST as their Savior. When a person dies, his or her spirit leaves his or her body goes into eternity and the physical body returns to dust. Those who place their faith in CHRIST receive the free gift of eternal life through the miracle of rebirth. Their natural spirit is transformed by the Spirit of GOD and they become GOD’S Son or Daughters. They will spend eternity with HIM and JESUS in Heaven.  

The psalmist reveals his heart toward GOD in this psalm. If you were to write a psalm reflecting your journey and discovery of GOD and CHRIST, what would it be? I challenge you to write your psalm.

The psalmist sums up his psalm:

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works. 32 He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they pour out smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to Him; I will rejoice in the Lord. 35 May sinners vanish from the earth and wicked people be no more. My soul, praise Yahweh! • Hallelujah!

Since the psalmist wrote this psalm, the promised Messiah, JESUS, has come to earth and HE revealed GOD in the flesh. Place your faith in CHRIST, receive salvation and discover the awesomeness of being GOD’S child. Start your journey building a loving, intimate, personal relationship with GOD through faith in CHRIST. Blessings!!!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bible Study - Resilient Faith (6) - Victorious Faith - 1 Peter 5:6-11 - August 17, 2014

Bible Study – Resilient Faith (6) – Victorious Faith – August 17, 2014

This is lesson six (6) and our final lesson in our series entitled “Resilient Faith: Standing Strong in the Midst of Suffering.”

Our focus scripture is 1 Peter 5:6-11.

GOD will strengthen and restore me.

This has been an awesome study. When we examine the first few verses of 1 Peter 5:1-5, we see that the Apostle Peter was challenging church leaders to be prepared to help fellow Christians when bad times get worse. The Apostle Peter is bringing GOD’S message for them to a conclusion.

The church leaders were to submit to GOD and trust HIM to guide them through the troubling times which lay ahead. Church leaders are to never overlook the fact that Satan roams the earth seeking those he can devour. Persecution is one of the powerful weapons Satan uses in an effort to defeat Christians. Satan intends for persecution to be bad but GOD uses it to refine and produce a stronger Christian. In many social circles today, being a Christian is not the popular label to wear and may result in some Christians being shunned or experiencing difficulties.

Young people especially want to be included in their peer group. It can be very tough for them when they are excluded. But often exclusion can be a blessing but when they are excluded their parent or parents must pray and be available to their children during this troubling time.

It is time for all church leaders to walk the talk. Christians are not to walk the talk of legalism but to walk as led by the indwelling Holy Spirit in truth. Verse 5 puts our Christian walk into perspective.

Let’s read 1 Peter 1-5:

1 Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the • Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you:

2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly;

3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

5 In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Peter’s use of the title “elder” refers to pastors and Spiritual guides of the church. Peter confirmed that he was an elder. Peter knew the struggles Christians face when they are not on a solid foundation especially with weak or no Spiritual leadership. Growing Christians need mature Spiritual leaders who are filled with the Holy Spirit. They need Spiritual leaders (shepherds) who have walked with JESUS and know HIM through an intimate relationship. They do not need Christian tyrants or holier than thou Christians (those who lord over them) but those who are Spiritually strong and mature but those who are humble and walk the talk.

A humble Christian is strong because he or she rests upon a solid foundation, the solid rock of JESUS and HIS righteousness which is confirmed and guided by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Peter challenged all to clothe themselves with humility. How do you clothe yourself? You make a decision. Do I live according to the way I wish to live or choose to bring my will into conformity with the will, purpose and plan of GOD for my life?

Those who humble themselves under the “mighty hand of GOD” will be rewarded the “Crown of Glory.” Unity is important in the community of faith. The Spiritual body, the true church, is made up of those with various Spiritual gifts according to the will and purpose of GOD. These Spiritual gifts are to be used to minister both within the Spiritual body and outside.

Verse 5 leads us into verse 6, “because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” There is no place for Spiritual arrogance. All Christians are sinners saved by grace. When a Christian begins to think he or she is beyond sinning, he or she needs to be on the watch for that roaring lion.

Let’s read 1 Peter 5:6-7:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. Conclusion

Christians are to humble themselves “under the mighty hand of GOD.” Here our attitude can raise its head. What is our motive for humbling ourselves? Are we hoping that GOD will “exalt” us at the proper time? If so, we have an attitude problem.

To humble ourselves under the mighty hand of GOD is to trust HIM completely with our lives and a willingness to obediently serve HIM. We can humble ourselves to test GOD but that will lead to an interesting journey of refinement. But that is okay because GOD allows us to venture out because we learn from it.

Keep in mind that the crucible of life is part of the sanctification process which can result in Christians being more useable to GOD.

When we cast all of our care on HIM, we trust HIM to carry the issues and burdens of life. The word “casting” is a moment of decision in the life of a Christian. It is a once in a lifetime moment. It is that instant when a Christian makes the decision that it is no longer “I” but CHRIST Who lives within me and I will trust HIM completely. It is that moment of embracing trust in HIM. It is overwhelming. It is that moment some Christians experience when they receive their salvation. In fact, it can be equated to salvation because it is a moment of releasing all of your doubts, questions, concerns and trying to figure out Christianity to trust CHRIST completely. Often Christians try to hang onto the world with one hand and CHRIST with the other and they are pulled between the two. When Christians recognize their dilemma, it is time for them to make a decision: The world or CHRIST!

Casting is the release from a self controlled life to a CHRIST controlled life. It is casting “all” of our “care” upon HIM. The word “care” is often associated with apprehension or being pulled in a different direction. Care embodies the things we worry about or are anxious about. Why cast our cares from us to CHRIST? Because HE cares for us!

The word “cares” is a different word from “care.” “Cares” means that GOD is actively working to remove suffering and to restore Christians who are caught in these situations. HE is working whether we realize it or not. HIS work in behalf of Christians does not depend upon them knowing that HE is working but the facts are HE is.  

We need to keep in mind that GOD can allow certain situations to come into our lives for the purpose of making us more useable for HIM. But in all things GOD is sovereign and in control. HIS ways are not our ways and HIS thoughts are higher than our thoughts. That means we have to trust HIM even in bad times because even in bad times our faithfulness brings glory to HIM. HE can use our faithfulness to open the Spiritual eyes of others to seek a personal relationship with CHRIST.

Do you think GOD really “cares” about you? Yes, HE does. HE allowed HIS only Son to give HIS life for all who place their faith in HIM to be redeemed from sin and death and to receive eternal life. Through the miracle of rebirth those who place their faith in CHRIST become GOD’S Sons or Daughters. WOW!!!

But with every “WOW!” there comes a caution as we read in our next scripture.

Let’s read 1 Peter 5:8-9:

8 Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.

All Christians have an adversary the Devil or Satan. Satan/Devil is no myth. He is a fact. The Good News is that CHRIST defeated Satan when HE gave HIS life upon the cross. CHRIST is victorious and as Christians, we too are victorious. Christians must be vigilant as one walking through lion country and hungry lions are on the prowl for food. Peter was telling Christians then and Christians today that they must not become Spiritually arrogant or lax in their walk with CHRIST.

I understand that a roaring lion is a hungry lion and you do not want to become his meal for the day. Christians are to be alert and when the alarms bells go off heed them. I know, I have been there and not heeded.

Notice that Satan/Devil is looking for anyone. To a lion food is food and to Satan defeat is defeat. He will do anything to bring shame and try to discredit CHRIST. Why Christians? It is because they represent CHRIST to a lost world. What is the objective when we fight in a battle? It is to neutralize and destroy. Don’t let Satan neutralize you and destroy your witness. Even if you sin, confess it, repent and GOD restores.

What is our part when Satan/Devil attacks us?

Christians are to resist him by remaining firm in their faith. Quote scripture and know that as written in 1 John 4:4:

4 You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them (the agents of antichrist), because the One (JESUS) who is in you is greater than the one (Satan/Devil) who is in the world.

James 4:7:
7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

The question often becomes do we really want to resist the Devil or do we want to use situations we encounter as an excuse or opportunity to do what we really want to do.

The Apostle Peter made it clear that Christians around the world are facing various issues and suffering in their lives. Often, we think we are the only ones suffering or being tested.

Let’s read 1 Peter 10-11:

10 Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. 11 The dominion belongs to Him forever. • Amen.

All Christians are called by GOD to HIS eternal glory. Once those who are called respond to the call of salvation, they enter into eternal glory.

GOD will:

-          personally restore, This is a beautiful statement. Notice that GOD is personally involved in the restoration. The Greek word used for “restore” means to “make complete or to put in order.” The word was used medically for setting a broken bone. The doctor has to inflict pain to align a broken bone so that it is straight, will heal properly and restore the person back to normal life activities. The pain of setting the broken bone is temporary but the results are rewarding and lasting. Once Christians go through an ordeal their temporary suffering achieves its intended purpose for them while they are upon earth and into eternity. GOD will bring order when HIS Kingdom is complete and put in order. The Apostle Peter knew what it felt like to be restored after denying CHRIST. Notice after JESUS restored Peter; Peter was qualified to teach others by feeding others the message of truth. (John 21:15-19)

-         establish Christians upon a firm foundation, The Greek word for “establish” means to be strong and unfaltering. In Luke 22: 31-32 JESUS told Peter, before Peter denied HIM, that the ordeal he was about to experience would work for a purpose - 31 “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

-         strengthen through the process of sanctification. The Greek word used for “strengthen” means to strengthen one’s resolve. The process of sanctification refines and confirms our relationship with GOD through our intimate relationship with CHRIST.

-         and support Christians after they have suffered a little. The Greek word for “support” means to set upon a firm foundation that does not fail when tested. When Christians suffer it is not a sign that CHRIST has abandoned them. Suffering has the purpose of witnessing to others and bringing Christians closer to HIM because they are to cast their cares upon HIM. When they can release their cares to HIM it brings healing to them Spiritually.

GOD is sovereign and all belongs to HIM. The Roman Empire was powerful and reached a vast area but GOD’S Kingdom covers the universe and is forever. The Good News is, as a Christian, your citizenship is in heaven and you are GOD’S Child through your faith in CHRIST and the miracle of rebirth.

If you are not a Christian, now is the opportune moment. Ask CHRIST to forgive you for your sins and ask HIM to come into your life. When you do, thank HIM. It is CHRIST in you that makes you a Christian. Ask HIM to guide you to the right place where you can be fed Spiritually and grow Spiritually. But most of all read your Bible, I suggest starting with the Gospel of John, pray, which is simply talking to GOD, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in all you do. Blessings!!!


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Bible Study - Resilient Faith (5) - Joyful Faith - 1 Peter 4:12-19 - August 10, 2014

Bible Study – Resilient Faith (5) – Joyful Faith – August 10, 2014

This is lesson five (5) in our series entitled “Resilient Faith: Standing Strong in the Midst of Suffering.”

Our focus scripture is 1 Peter 4:12-19.

GOD provides joy even in life’s difficulties.

Suffering is an area where many Christians and even non-Christians get the wrong idea about GOD and being a Christian. Often Christians and non-Christians think that Christians, being GOD’S Children, should not suffer. It is a matter of understanding that when Christians suffer for righteousness, they glorify HIM and GOD equips them with a special anointing of HIS presence to endure the suffering and bring glory to HIM. It is difficult for many Christians to comprehend this until they experience it.

Looking to the possibility of suffering, Christians often conclude, “We could never go through such-n-such.” However, when faced with the ordeal, they experience the presence and power of GOD for them to endure.

I think an honest thought for many Christians is “I hope, I would remain faithful but I do not know.” When Christians grow and mature in CHRIST, through the process of sanctification, they are secure in their personal knowledge of CHRIST. Their love for HIM is such that they count it joy to suffer because of their faith in HIM.

One way we can think of this type of love is the love parents have for their children. If one of our children needed a kidney and we were a match, we would give our kidney. Or if one of our children or grandchildren were in harm’s way, we would take action without regard for our lives. That is love in action. As Christians, when we comprehend and internalize the love CHRIST has for us, by giving HIS life that we might have eternal life through the miracle of rebirth, then this temporary life upon earth pales in comparison to eternity with HIM. Often, the problem is that GOD knows that but we only hope that. That is why Christians need to build a loving, intimate, trusting relationship with CHRIST to get to know HIM and not just to know about HIM.

Suffering for being a Christian is designed to bring Christians closer to HIM. Suffering removes the barriers that insulate us from knowing HIM in the most intimate way possible. The Apostle Peter was preparing Christians for what was happening and would likely get worse. Let’s Explore!

Let’s read 1 Peter 4:12-13:
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the • Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.

The Apostle Peter addressed his readers as “Dear friends” or “beloved.” They were not just his friends but his brothers and sisters in CHRIST and GOD through the miracle of rebirth.

There is a distinction between friends as the world interprets “friends” and as GOD interprets “friends.”

The brother of JESUS wrote in James 4:4:
4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

When trials come into the lives of people there is a distinction. Fiery trials are tests designed to bring Christians closer to GOD. Often “fiery trials” are considered to be things that happen to people such as cancer, various health issues, divorce, loss of a job, and problems with children but these are not necessarily “fiery trials” because non-Christians can suffer these things as well. In non-Christian lives these things can result in them being brought to a saving knowledge of CHRIST. GOD can use these issues in the lives of Christians as well but the intent was to separate those things that can happen to non-Christians from those designed for a specific purpose for Christians.

For Christians, “fiery trials” are tests designed to reveal and refine their faith in CHRIST. Such tests can reveal the Spiritual strength of Christians, as well as, areas in their lives that need to be strengthened to help make them more useable for the plan and purpose of GOD.

Later, in verses 15-19, the Apostle Peter, gives us a clearer understanding of this distinction.

The Apostle Peter altered his audience by stating “don’t be surprised” when these “fiery trials” come in your lives for being a Christian.

Verse 13 puts verse 12 into perspective. When a Christian faces “fiery trials” for being a Christian, the Christian needs to rejoice because his or her life has reflected CHRIST. Just as CHRIST suffered for being obedient to GOD, suffering can be a part of the Christian’s life. When Christians suffer for CHRIST, HIS glory is manifested through them.

Peter took it another step in that when Christians have suffered for being a “Christian” they will be overjoyed when CHRIST’S glory is revealed because they have participated in the sufferings of CHRIST.

Let’s read 1 Peter 4:14:
14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

The word “ridicule” means “to be insulted” or intimidating insults. Again, “ridicule” was the result for being a Christian.

The name “Christian” was first used in Antioch a recorded in Acts 11:26:

26 and when he (Barnabas) found him (Saul/Paul who was in Tarsus) he (Barnabas) brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.   

The name “Christian” was first used by those opposed to those who were followers of CHRIST. It was used to identify them. It was not intended as a badge of honor but it was to identify and label them as followers of CHRIST.

In the early days of Christianity, the movement was called “the way.” Christians were thought to be a cult, cannibals because they observed the Lord’s Supper which refers to the blood and flesh of CHRIST and they were referred to Christians as atheists because they did not have a visible god to worship as the many pagan religions.

When Christians suffer because they are faithful, obedient Christians which glorified GOD, they honor GOD.

The Apostle Peter puts suffering into perspective as we go to our next scripture.

Let’s read 1 Peter 4:15-19:

15 None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. 16 But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? 18 And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? 19 So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator.

Christians are sinners saved by the shed blood of CHRIST and receive GOD’S grace. Christians do not live a perfect life after salvation but they are forgiven and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Their faith in CHRIST renders them perfect in the eyes of GOD. The shed blood of CHRIST cleanses them of all sin – past, present and future.

Christians are GOD’S Children through the miracle of rebirth. They never lose their heritage but in order for them to remain in fellowship with GOD they must confess their sins to GOD. Christians can suffer for the things they do. When they suffer as a result of their own actions, that is not suffering that brings glory to GOD or to themselves as Christians. To put this into perspective Peter listed some of the sins that people commit which result in suffering.

Murder is taking a human life. A thief steals another person’s property. An evildoer is a word used for those who do all sorts of criminal acts. Then Peter used the word “meddler.” A meddler is a busybody, troublemaker or agitator. A meddler loves to stir up trouble. It refers to the bellicose, very visible disgruntled person in the community who creates controversy. Christians cannot be labeled with any of these sins because the person who is guilty of them deserves to suffer.  

The Apostle Peter was making it clear; when a Christian suffers for doing what is good, as a “Christian”, it glorifies CHRIST. These sins he listed do not glorify CHRIST and if a Christian does them he or she will pay for it along with any non-Christian.

We need to keep in mind that in the early days of Christianity the word, “Christian” was not a common name that followers of CHRIST used to refer to themselves. It was actually a derogatory name used by the non-Christian community to refer to the followers of CHRIST. So when a Christian was referred to as a “Christian” it was a badge of honor, as long as, the reference was not due to sin.

Therefore, when a person was labeled “Christian” for the right reasons it glorified GOD. To “glorify” means to honor, praise, extol, and magnify GOD. Christians should not be ashamed when they suffer for the right reason but know that it glorified GOD because they are being called a “Christian” because their suffering glorified GOD.

When Christians are being singled out, it is a sign that judgment day is coming. For the Christian, it is a time of strengthening and refining their faith in CHRIST and GOD but for the non-Christian it is a warning to get their lives ready for the ultimate judgment day, when GOD will judge non-Christians and reward Christians.

Peter wrote in verse 18 that a righteous person is saved with difficulty; therefore, the person without CHRIST has no hope. Let’s consider 2 Corinthians 5:20-21:

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He (GOD) made the One (JESUS) who did not know sin to be sin for us (Christians), so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

For a person to receive salvation he or she must place their faith in CHRIST. When he or she does, he or she is made righteous by GOD. For this miracle to happen it cost the life of GOD’S only Son, JESUS. This was GOD’S redemptive plan before the foundation of the world. It was difficult but it was accomplished and FINISHED on the cross by the shed blood of CHRIST. It was confirmed by the resurrection of CHRIST.

What does salvation mean to those who place their faith in CHRIST? JESUS said it best in John 5:24:

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 (Spiritually 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.

GOD is GOD and Christians must focus on that fact when they suffer, while doing good according to GOD’S will and purpose for their lives. The key words are – “doing good” according to GOD’S will, which means they were led by the Holy Spirit.

What should Christians do when they suffer for being a “Christian?” They should entrust themselves to their faithful Creator, GOD. GOD is sovereign, created all and takes care of it every day; therefore HE can take care of HIS children who reflect HIM through their obedience to HIM. Suffering is not something of which to be ashamed, when it is the result of being obedient to HIM but it is to refine us as Christians and to glorify HIM. To glorify means to give praise and honor to HIM.

GOD uses suffering to purify HIS church. The church is not the brick and mortar church but the living church of which CHRIST is the cornerstone.

I think Hebrews 12:1-13 captures some of the essence of what the Apostle Peter was expressing to fellow Christians:

1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.
Fatherly Discipline

3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. 4 In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, 6 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives. 7 Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline —which all receive —then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead.

Matthew 10:29-31: (JESUS was speaking.)

29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bible Study - Resilient Faith (4) - Ready Faith - 1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2 - August 3, 2014

Bible Study – Resilient Faith (4) – Ready Faith – August 3, 2014

This is lesson four (4) in our series entitled “Resilient Faith: Standing Strong in the Midst of Suffering.”

Our focus scripture is 1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2.

Suffering brings opportunities to point others to JESUS.

No one likes to think about suffering and most would not choose to suffer. The Greek word for “suffer” carries the idea of having been affected by something which caused pain, mentally or physically. As used by Peter, it referred to suffering due to righteousness as CHRIST suffered to pay in full the penalty for sin in behalf of all who will place their faith in HIM.

The question many Christians may have “if I had to suffer for being a Christian, would I remain faithful?” Many of us hope we would but we will never know until we face that time in our lives. Peter was writing to encourage Christians in Asia Minor or modern day Turkey that when they faced suffering for being a Christian, how they could be prepared.

When Christians encounter suffering for righteousness, they need to consider the passion of CHRIST. When Christians exemplify CHRIST, it is a witness and testimony to others who may want to know their source of strength. Christians need to be ready to reveal that their source of strength is CHRIST because HE suffered and gave HIS life for them. Christians know that there is more to living than this temporary life upon earth, therefore, they can face suffering with the assurance, that regardless of the outcome, GOD is in charge of their lives and eternal destiny. Let’s explore!

Let’s read 1 Peter 3:12b, 13-14:

12b But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.

13 And (therefore) who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed,

Verse 12 b helps us to understand verse 13. Since the LORD is against those who do what is evil, who will harm Christians who are obediently doing the will of GOD? The word “harm” includes injury, oppression, and persecution but also includes “to affect with evil.” GOD provides protection for those obediently serving HIM. When Christians encounter suffering for being obedient to GOD, they are secure. They are secure in the fact that GOD is with them and their eternal destination is Heaven and HE rewards them for being faithful to HIM.

Those who do not know GOD through faith in CHRIST fear death. When those without CHRIST see those with CHRIST face suffering and possible death, they see an attitude and a reflection from their hearts of hope and assurance. Those without CHRIST see that they do not have the security Christians have in CHRIST. The non-Christian does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit Who gives the Christian strength and positive assurance that GOD is in control of their destiny. As the Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 1:21:

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (KJV)

GOD made us to be protective of our human life. HE has a plan for each of us upon earth. When we become a Christian we belong to HIM and are secure in HIM. We are to obediently follow HIM as we carry out HIS plan and purpose for our lives. When we are obedient to HIM, we are to trust that in whatever circumstance we face, HE is there with us. We are to trust HIM even with our earthly lives. Whether we live or die, it is all for the glory and purpose of GOD.

When Christians have grown and matured Spiritually to that point, then facing times of suffering becomes more understandable. Do Christians believe that? And I agree that many of us have not grown enough Spiritually to have that attitude of the heart. It is not a careless disregard of human life but an assurance of our life continuing when we exit earth.

Let’s consider the attitude of the heart as we read the account of the crucifixion of JESUS in Luke 23:32-43:

32 Two others —criminals—were also led away to be executed with Him. 33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. [34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”] And they divided His clothes and cast lots. 35 The people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing: “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine 37 and said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” 38 An inscription was above Him: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “•I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”

The three men were sentenced to death by crucifixion. What was their attitude toward death? We know that one of the men was JESUS, The Only Son of GOD in the flesh, fully human and subject to physical death. The other two men were criminals, also human, and subject to physical and eternal death. Each man revealed the attitude of his heart during suffering.

Our LORD JESUS was the only One of the men Who had the power to come down from the cross if HE chose. If HE had, HE would not have been obedient to GOD’S redemptive plan for the world. Instead of using HIS power to come down from the cross, HE said “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”

One of the criminals yelled insults at JESUS and demanded that JESUS prove Himself by saving Himself from crucifixion and save them. This man only wanted to use JESUS to deliver him from a bad situation. This man said “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”

The second criminal had a different attitude. He was facing the same physical death and eternity as the first criminal. He rebuked the first criminal for his callous remarks. Notice the second criminal’s confession, which reflected the attitude of his heart – “But the other (the second criminal) answered, rebuking him (the first criminal): “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

 “Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”

CHRIST’S response to the second man’s confession and request was – “43 And He said to him, “•I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.

JESUS, the sinless Lamb of GOD, suffered and gave HIS life for each person who will place his or her faith in HIM and receive HIM as his or her Savior.

JESUS though HIS obedience to GOD, HIS Father, was a witness to others when HE gave up HIS Spirit as written in Luke 23:44-49:

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three, 45 because the sun’s light failed. The curtain of the sanctuary was split down the middle. 46 And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.” Saying this, He breathed His last. 47 When the • centurion saw what happened, he began to glorify God, saying, “This man really was righteous!” 48 All the crowds that had gathered for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, went home, striking their chests. 49 But all who knew Him, including the women who had followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Suffering even unto death is a witness to the assurance Christians have in CHRIST and eternal life.

Death is a fact of life. JESUS came that those who place their faith in HIM can have eternal life but also to experience the abundant life upon earth as HE stated in John 10:10:

10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Once a person has settled his or her eternal destiny through faith in JESUS, he or she is free to live according to the plan GOD had for him or her to accomplish. Death is a fact but life is also a fact and GOD wants HIS children to live it to the fullest while keeping in mind that obedience has eternal rewards.

The Apostle Paul died, went to heaven and returned to earth. He had a life after death experience as written in 2 Corinthians 12:2-9:

2 I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven 14 years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don’t know, God knows. 3 I know that this man —whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know, God knows— 4 was caught up into paradise. He heard inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak. 5 I will boast about this person, but not about myself, except of my weaknesses. 6 For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, 7 especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. 8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

Paul knew what he had to look forward to. He could have boasted about it but instead he used his experience to obediently serve CHRIST. GOD allowed a “thorn in the flesh” in his life to keep him focused on HIS plan and purpose for Paul.

 Most of us have not had such an experience. But in essence, when CHRIST died upon the cross, all who place their faith in HIM died with HIM. They were buried with CHRIST and GOD raised them from the dead to live eternally with HIM. CHRIST received HIS glorified body at HIS resurrection and those who place their faith in CHRIST will receive their Glorified bodies at the second coming of CHRIST. As we studied in last week’s lesson, when Christians die physically they go immediately to Heaven and will return when CHRIST returns to rapture the church from earth. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

A Christian’s hope and assurance is in CHRIST, confirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Since Christians have that hope and assurance, they are to honor CHRIST by getting to know HIM and honoring HIM through obedience.

Let’s read 1 Peter 3:15-16:

15 but honor the • Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.

When Christians face suffering for being righteous, they are to honor CHRIST by staying focused on their salvation through faith in CHRIST. Staying focused on CHRIST is a reminder to Christians that CHRIST suffered for them and it is a witness to others that their lives are in the hands of CHRIST. Remaining steadfast is a witness to fellow Christians, to others and reflects their hearts.

Christians are to study the Bible and interact with GOD to get to know HIM and be ready to explain why they have hope in CHRIST. Because they know that they know they have eternal life and are eternally secure, they are not to become Spiritually arrogant. Christians are sinners saved by the grace of GOD and the shed blood of CHRIST. No Christian can boast.

Christians are a positive witness when they are in situations due to acts of righteousness. They need to have a clear conscience that they are in the will of GOD and not following their own plan. They must confess any sin in their lives so that their walk with CHRIST and the direction of the Holy Spirit is not compromised.

As Christians, we are to be ready to give a defense or explain why we trust in CHRIST. Can we?

Let’s read 1 Peter 3:17-18, 22: (Transition verses)

17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.

22 Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.

Verses 17-18 and 22 lead into our next scripture and helps us understand “therefore.” GOD has given CHRIST all authority. Christians do not serve a Savior Who is without authority. JESUS has full authority in Heaven, upon earth and the universe.

Let’s read 1 Peter 4:1-2:

1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve —because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin— 2 in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.

CHRIST was sinless and righteous, yet HE suffered in the flesh as a human for all who will place their faith in HIM. Therefore, when Christians suffer they know that CHRIST suffered for them. HE died where they should have died. HIS death was a substitutionarys death for all who will place their faith in HIM. HIS suffering paid the penalty for sin. No human can live righteous enough to be acceptable to GOD for his or her sins, therefore CHRIST died for him or her. Christians owe a debt that cannot be paid, even with their own lives. CHRIST broke the sin barrier for all who place their faith in HIM. Christians are to equip themselves first by yielding their will to CHRIST, studying GOD’S Word, the Bible, and committing to building an intimate, loving, obedient relationship with CHRIST. Through the miracle of rebirth their citizenship is in Heaven, they are GOD’S Sons or Daughters and they have eternal life. Christians must comprehend who they are in CHRIST. CHRIST is a present reality which is confirmed and guaranteed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Do you know this truth in your life as a Christian? If not, confess it to our LORD and ask HIM to reveal truth to you as you seek to know HIM personally and intimately. Blessings!!!, Spartanburg, SC, posted this story on July 30, 2014 and is fitting for our study:

An Upstate (SC) man in West Africa on a work assignment has found himself caught in the middle of the Ebola outbreak that's killed hundreds and sickened many others.

"People are very concerned as they should be," said Dave Crockett in a phone interview from Liberia. "And they're taking face guards - protecting themselves."

Crockett, who lives in Greenville, works for Greer-based group Water of Life, an organization that travels to third world countries to drill water wells. He said even though it's difficult to contract the disease, people there are taking extra precautions. "Liberians are noted for their greetings and their handshakes, which they're restraining from that, and the hugging is cut out."

Roland Bergeron, who founded the organization and who has been to Liberia more than 40 times, is planning another trip there at the end of August. He said he's not afraid because the contaminated water there actually kills more people than Ebola.

"I learned a long time ago that you can't let fear and faith can't exist at the same time," said Roland Bergeron, who plans to head to Liberia at the end of August. "You either let fear control you or you let faith control you."

So far, at least two Americans have caught Ebola, a doctor from Texas and a woman from the Charlotte (NC) area.