Bible Study

Our weekly Bible study is now online!  Thank you to Steve for this insightful study; we hope and pray that you will be blessed.

Bible Study Memorials

This weekend is Memorial Day, a day when we honor all those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving our country and what we stand for.

John 15:13 (ESV):
Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Psalm 82:3-4(NIV):
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

This Memorial Day I am reminded of something that happened a few years ago to my granddaughter Allison. She is a Girl Scout and each Memorial Day they go to the national cemeteries and place flags on each of the graves to honor the memories of those who have served. 

What started out as something she was looking forward to doing with her troop soon became an overwhelming experience. As God would have it, she placed a flag on my father’s grave, looking up from that grave site she looked around. Now seeing how many graves there were she realized that these were not just grave sites. It became real to her that these graves represented real people who lived, served and died.    

This overwhelming emotional experience brought a new and deeper meaning to this holiday. This made me give thought to what this holiday is all about.

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who are serving and have served in the military. It is also a day to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom in giving their lives. When we celebrate Memorial Day, it doesn’t mean we are agreeing with our government’s decisions and wars, but that we are taking time to recognize those who are willing to protect us.

Unfortunately it has for some become more about the start of summer then what it was meant to be. (See the photo below.) There is a real cost for our freedom and for standing up for what is right.  This memorial celebration is to remind us of who we are and what we stand for.  Perhaps with this year’s celebrations being limited and almost completely changed, maybe we can focus on the importance of this day.

When I looked up the meaning of Memorial in the biblical dictionary I found:

The concept of “remembering” recurs prominently in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. God remembers his covenant with his people, whereupon God’s people are enjoined to remember him. Remembering, frequently placed in opposition to “forgetting,” focuses not only upon the past, but upon the present and future as well

Memorials are especially important ~ so important that we read about memorials that were commanded by God and Jesus.

The rainbow, which reminds us of God’s promise, symbolizes the Noahic covenant:
Genesis 9:12-13 (NIV): And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:1-28) are a feast and sacrifice to remember God’s grace and mercy, and what the Lord has done for His people.  God knows how easily we can forget and stray so he reminds us to do whatever we can to remember. 

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV):
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

“TEPHILLIN” – Hebrew or “PHYLACTERIES Greek:
Tephillin are two small cube-shaped boxes made of leather with long straps attaching them, worn by Conservative and Orthodox Jews during prayer services. Phylacteries are worn in pairs—one phylactery is strapped on the left arm, and one is strapped to the forehead of Jewish men during weekday morning prayers. The word phylactery comes from a Greek word meaning “safeguard, protection, or amulet.” They contain four passages of Scripture handwritten on parchment. These are Exodus 13: 1-10 (the redemption from Egypt), Exodus 13: 11-16 (the dedication of the first born), Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 (God’s unity and God’s Word), and Deuteronomy 11: 13-21 (the Promised Land).

A Mezuzah is hung on the door post of a Jewish home.  It is the case or container in which the same parchment is enclosed. A mezuzah serves two functions: Every time you enter or leave, the mezuzah reminds you that you have a covenant with God; second, the mezuzah serves as a symbol to everyone else that this particular dwelling is constituted as a Jewish household, operating by a special set of rules, rituals, and beliefs.

Now let us read about the ultimate memorial: 

Luke 22:14-20 (NIV):
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

“Do this in remembrance of me.”  We drink the cup and eat the bread; we reflect on Christ’s sacrifice and look forward to his return.  Yet communion is more than a memorial.  Our continued participation in this powerfully symbolic ceremony molds our thinking and brings to life deep spiritual truths in very concrete ways. It shapes our identity as a people of God and provides the truly blessed assurance that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. The “message” of communion is important and deserves our full attention.

God and Jesus left us these memorials so that in our human nature we will not slip into our humanness and disregard all that God has done and taught us.

This is also reflected in Psalm 106:1-13 (ESV):
Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord because he is good! His faithful love will last forever! 2 No one can describe how great the Lord really is. No one can praise him enough. 3 Those who obey his commands are happy. They do good things all the time. 4 Lord remember me when you show kindness to your people. Remember to save me too! 

5 Let me share in the good things that you do for your chosen people. Let me rejoice with your nation. Let me join with your people in praise. 6 We sinned just as our ancestors did. We were wrong; we did bad things! 7 Lord, our ancestors learned nothing from the miracles you did in Egypt. They forgot your kindness at the Red Sea and rebelled against you. 8 But the Lord saved our ancestors for the honor of his name. He saved them to show his great power.9 He gave the command, and the Red Sea became dry. He led them through the deep sea on land as dry as the desert.10 He saved our ancestors and rescued them from their enemies. 11 He covered their enemies with the sea. Not one of them escaped! 12 Then our ancestors believed what he had said. They sang praises to him. 13 But they quickly forgot about what he did. They did not listen to his advice.

This Psalm goes on to give a complete account of this cycle that reflects human nature, and how quickly we can forget God and all he has done.   There are many distractions in our lives, all of which can lead us away from God.  That is way we must remember the lessons of the Bible. 

Hebrews 3:12-14(ERV):
So, brothers and sisters, be careful that none of you has the evil thoughts that cause so much doubt that you stop following the living God. 13 But encourage each other every day, while you still have something called “today.” Help each other so that none of you will be fooled by sin and become too hard to change. 14 We have the honor of sharing in all that Christ has if we continue until the end to have the sure faith we had in the beginning.

God has shown us that memorials keep us constantly reminded of his presence.  One of the major functions of church is to keep reminding us of all that God has done, telling the story of Jesus over and over, because otherwise we forget or the story loses its place of significance in our lives. This is done through the traditions and memorials of things like Christmas, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost and the celebration of The Lords Supper.

The church joins Christians in fellowship to support each other:

  • Bible study to renew our minds
  • Songs and hymns to worship God 
  • Prayer to bring us closer to God 
  • Sunday School to insure the future of our church.

God Knows how easily we can forget and stray from him so He reminds us to do whatever we can to remember.

Let me leave you with this Old Testament reminder:

Deuteronomy 8:10-14 (GNT)

10 You will have all you want to eat, and you will give thanks to the Lord your God for the fertile land that he has given you.

11 “Make certain that you do not forget the Lord your God; do not fail to obey any of his laws that I am giving you today. 12 When you have all you want to eat and have built good houses to live in 13 and when your cattle and sheep, your silver and gold, and all your other possessions have increased, 14 be sure that you do not become proud and forget the Lord your God who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves.

God be with you, talk to you again soon.

Steve

Bible Study: Fully Embracing the Gospel

Do we believe the Gospel is true?

Of course we do; that is why we are sharing in this study.

There is plenty of evidence in the gospel that the teachings of Jesus can give us the full and joyous life we desire.  So what holds us back from fully embracing his Word?

Our fear and our brokenness can be obstacles.  God invites us to surrender, but we are afraid to let go.  Many of us did not start out as Christians, so we bring the baggage of our lives with us to Christianity.  There are all sorts of things in our past that we won’t let go of: fears, memories, angers, addictions, biases, prejudices, and an unwillingness to forgive.  There is the culture we live in and the distractions of our everyday lives.  All these things are obstacles to living a life guided by the teachings of Jesus.

The truth is that most Christians don’t  truly believe that holiness is possible.  Many times, we say “I’m a sinner and will never be perfect,” and that is true, but it doesn’t disqualify us from living a holy life.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 (NLV) For God has not called us to live in sin. He has called us to live a holy life.

Please open your Bibles to  John 8:1-11 (NIV): 

1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 

5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

What starts out as a trap set by the scribes and Pharisees to catch Jesus turns into a valuable lesson.  The trap:  if Jesus does not agree with the Law then he would be disobeying the laws given to Moses.

Deuteronomy 22: 22 (ESV) “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.”

If he agrees with the law and says “stone her,” he is in trouble for breaking the Roman law, which forbids Jews from carrying out the death sentence.

John 18:31 (ESV):

31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”

Here are a few points that show the heart of the Pharisees.  First, they twisted the law. The law was being applied to a specific set of circumstances: consensual sex between a betrothed woman and her husband’s brother was a sin.  Secondly, both people were to be stoned.  This obviously smells like a set up.  The woman was caught to bring her to Jesus so they could trap him. They just didn’t realize who they were dealing with.

Let’s look again how Jesus answers them.  He begins by writing in the sand. 

The Bible is completely silent on what Jesus was carving into the dust. The fact that it’s mentioned more than once suggests that it’s an important part of His response. He might have been writing Old Testament Scriptures which supported His point. Or, as some have suggested, He may have been recording the names and sins of some of the woman’s accusers. One can assume that whatever He wrote was at least part of the reason the Pharisees and Scribes abandon their attempt.

In general, Jesus reacts by proving that the mob who has brought this woman is not actually trying to follow the Law, either in spirit or even in letter.  Jesus proposes a test of his own “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Then he continues to write in the sand.

All walk away, starting with the oldest (those who lived the longest had time to commit the most sins) until finally there is no one left.  Jesus, the only one without sin, then stands up and asks where everyone is.  He demonstrates His grace and mercy by removing the woman’s sins before instructing her to live right.  Grace and mercy doesn’t promote sin; it produces gratitude and holiness. 

We do not obey God in order to receive forgiveness; God’s grace and mercy should motivate us to obey God. When we understand this we DO Not go out and sin less; instead, we desire to “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Romans 6:1-7 (NLT): 
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

 

This lesson doesn’t tell us that sin is acceptable to God.  Instead, it teaches us that sin doesn’t disqualify us from the chance to become holy.  What does disqualify us is living in disobedience to God, as seen in the removal of Saul as king of God’s people Israel.  When King Saul decided to stop following God and be guided by his own will, God choose to replace him with King David.

1 Samuel 13:14 (ESV):

But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

Psalm 89:20-21 (NIV):

 I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. 21 My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.

Paul refers to both verses in Acts 13:22, RSV: 

And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’

No man after God’s heart (a follower of Jesus) is perfect; they recognize their sin and repent.  We will never be perfect, and God knows this, but we can still live holy lives.  How?  Let us turn back to John 8: 12-19 (NIV):

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 

Jesus makes the statement, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  When we follow Jesus, we walk in his light (as his true disciples) and not the darkness of sin.

The Pharisees question the validity of Jesus’ claim. He tells them they judge by human standards, but He judges by a higher standard that of his Father God.  Jesus bears witness that he is sent by God as the son of God, and that whoever knows him knows God.

John 14: 6-7 (ESV): 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Let us turn back to John 8:31-32:  31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus has brought us the word of God, yet we still choose earthly ways and allow our earthly ways to stop us from truly being free.  We have the opportunity to live the life God wants for us, a life of grace and joy, but we often reject it!  We act on our own feelings, experiences and desires, but when we refuse to change, we invite less fulfillment into our lives instead of more. 
Romans 12:1-2: 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In order to live a holy life, we must be transformed.  The only thing limiting us is ourselves.

Psalm 149:10 (ESV)

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

Let us not fall prey to Satan’s lie that we cannot live a holy life. Let’s strive toward the goal of holiness!  God knows that we will be tempted.  He knows that this life may be difficult.  But the better life is within our grasp, with God’s help.

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) 

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

He has given us His word, The life of His Son, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He is with us every step of our walk.

Mathew 19: 26 (ESV):

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 

Our Christian life is a walk, not a run.  Be of good courage, trust in God, and keep your focus on Jesus.

God be with you, talk to you again soon.

Steve