Sunday, February 28, 2010

That’s not Me.

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Feel free to follow along.

In today’s reading (Psalms 23 & 24) we find a passage that describes who gets to ascend the hill of the Lord? In this reading it describes one with clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol, and someone who doesn’t swear by what is false. As I was reading that I said there is no man that matches that to a T.

That is why we need a Savior. Christ came into this world to remove that sin from us. Christ is standing before God saying I paid their debt, they are free to enter. That is the God we serve. That is the God we call upon. No other God in any other religion came to earth die for mankind.

Just another thought. I love when I am reading through the Psalms and a song that I love to sing starts playing through my head. Does that happen to any of you?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Voice in the Dark

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

In today’s reading (Psalms 21 & 22) we see David crying out to God at a time that seems like God is not listening.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.”

We see David seeking the help and guidance of God, but for some reason God is not responding and is not providing the answers David seeks. I am sure we can all relate to this time period in David’s life. We have cried out to God, asking him for guidance, help, or many other things, but have not had the response we were looking for.

I recently had some friends whose grandmother passed away. They had been praying for nearly a year that her cancer would leave her. It didn’t, and it seemed the more they prayed the worst it got. The bone cancer recently turned into Leukemia, and then finally into tumors in the brain. This past week their grandma went home to be with God. These girls specific prayers were not answered they way they wanted them to be.

They could have felt like God wasn’t listening. They could have even turned their backs on God. But they didn’t. They continue to put their faith and praise in God. After their grandma past one of the girls posted this on her Facebook page … “My Granny is finally at peace, In Heaven praising her Lord!! No more suffering, just happiness :) Praise God!!!!” These girls knew the lesson that David was learning.

We must remember that God’s plans are bigger than our plans. What we might be praying for may not be what’s best for us. We must remember to continue praising God, because what he works out will be far better than we could ever imagine. I know it might hurt, and might be really tough, but the creator of the universe, the creator of YOU is at work, and he is creating another master piece.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Setting the Stage

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

When we started the book of Acts I did a posting on the background of the book. One of the things I mentioned in that background was why Luke wrote the book. One of the ideas is that it was part of Paul’s defense before Caesar. If this is the purpose of the book, then today’s reading (Acts 13) can be viewed as a transition chapter as well as a chapter setting the stage for things to come.

One of the first transitions we see in today’s reading is Saul’s change of name to Paul … “Then Saul who was also called Paul.” A lot of people read a lot into this. They want to say that because of the tremendous change in his life he was given a new name by God. This would be similar to the name change of Abram to Abraham, and even more like Jacob to Israel. While this might be completely right, I think we are making the name change too complicated.

At this point in Saul’s ministry he has been in and near the area of Palestine. He has been working in Hebrew speaking areas with Hebrew speaking people. Thus his Hebrew name was Saul. But Saul and Barnabas are now leaving the area of Palestine to do ministry. They are heading into a Greek dominated area. Could it be as simple as Paul was the Greek equivalent of his name? This tends to be the theory I buy into. And if this is a dissertation before Caesar then later in the book it would do no good to go back to calling him Saul when he is in Jerusalem again.

As we read on we can clearly see that this is a transitional chapter. Before the focus has been on Peter and his ministry with a few insights into Saul’s life. From here on out the focus is on Paul. In this chapter we see Paul and Barnabas begin their evangelism to the city of Pisidian in the synagogue. This would be Paul’s basic operating procedure. With each new town he comes to the first thing he does is seek out some Jews. Often times he would be welcomed to speak in the Synagogue. Why would he start there? Because these people are waiting on the messiah. He knows the messiah and can share that message with them.

But we learn in today’s reading that those in the Pisidian reject his message and throw him and Barnabas out (Barnabas is on of my favorite character in the pages of Acts). So Paul makes his declaration … while he will almost always begin with the Jews of a city, his real mission is to reach Gentiles. That is why from here on out his evangelistic efforts will be with the Greek part of the Roman Empire. He is no longer focusing on the Palestine, but branching out. He is beginning his missionary journeys.

We see his name change, and we also learn his basic approach to missions in today’s reading. Monday we will see him as he begins to reach lost people for Christ.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Screaming Scripture

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

Something stood out to me as I read today’s reading (Acts 12). Actually it did not just stand out to me it screamed out to me and made me ask the question … have I ever been a part of a church that does this?

Peter has been sitting in jail. James the brother of John, so James the Apostle, has been arrested and killed by Herod. Now the page has turned to Peter. He has been sitting in jail. An angel comes and rescues Peter, releasing his chains, opening the cell doors and providing a way out of prison. Peter then shows up at John–Mark’s house where a group has gathered to pray for Peter.

This is where God’s Word started screaming (I was a little shocked when it did this, I wanted to yell back, and weirdly it kind of sounded like Ty Pennington with his bullhorn ). This is when I asked if I have ever been a part of a church that does this. You see back in Acts 2:42 we get a basic look at what the early church did together … “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” As I look at many churches I see them doing each of these things on some level. But when I read Acts 12:12 I see what 2:42 meant about prayer.

They did not just meet once a week and say a couple of prayers during their Sunday morning service. They did not just start their Sunday School with a time of prayer request and praises followed by a short prayer recapping all of that. They did not just start their Small Group with a short time of prayer. They prayed. They allowed the spirit to lead and they poured their heart out. The reason they were at the house of John-Marks mother was to prayer for the safety of Peter. They met for that one and only one reason.

Do we meet to pray? Do you come together for just that one purpose? I wander how we would all feel if we just took one Sunday morning and all we did was pray? I am not talking about sharing prayer request and praises, but I am talking about getting on our hands and knees and praying. Or what if we had someone who suddenly had tragedy strike in their family and a group of people got together in someone’s home and prayed into the wee hours of the morning? I wander how our church would look if we did that. Unfortunately this is a foreign concept to many.

Image borrow from site

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

He Keeps His Promise

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

I want to jump back to the last chapter and last verses in the book of Matthew. Here Jesus is about to ascend into heaven and leave his disciples on earth for the last time. He gives them his final command as well as their commission as Apostles and disciples … “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Many Christians and churches use this verse to support their missions work as well as their outreach programs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, in fact not only was it the Apostles commission, it was the whole churches commission.

However, I think too many times we forget the end of that verse. At the end of that verse Jesus gives a promise. He tells his disciples that if they carry out that commission … to make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them and teaching them (disciple them) … then he will be with them always. In essence, if we carry the message of the gospel, if we bring people into a life saving connection with Christ he is going to be with us as we do it.

In today’s reading (Acts 11) we see that promise being fulfilled. “The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” As they tested new waters, whether it be a distant land or a new group of people … Greeks … the Lord’s hand was with them. He hadn’t forgotten them. He was there protecting them, guiding them, and even providing a fruitful crop for their labors.

I think sometimes we are afraid to share the gospel with our co-workers or relatives because we do not know what to say. Sometimes we are hesitant because we may be afraid of how they will respond. But remember if you are carrying out this commission in your life you have the promise that God will be with you as you do so. What an amazing promise. So get out there and share the message of Christ.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another Big Move

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

A couple of days ago we talked about the fact that every time God is ready to extend the kingdom to a new group of people he does something big. That is what today’s reading (Acts 10) is all about.

Last week we witnessed God extending the Kingdom to Samaritans and a Jew from Ethiopia. Today we see God extend the family of God to Gentiles. In the text Cornelius was called a “God-fearing” man. There are two types of people who come to Judaism at this time. One was a God-fearer and the other was a proselyte. A God-fearer was a person who bought into Judaism, lived by its teachings, but had not gone all the way. A proselyte bought in 100%. For males this meant going so far as to be circumcised. (Want an interesting discussion sometime, have a group of Jr. Church kids ask you what circumcision is. Then tell them to ask their parents, and then the parents come to you and ask you what it is. It happened to me once.) This step would have been major commitment for a grown man to go that far. Cornelius was a God-fearer, which left him 100% Gentile.

God is ready to show Peter that his church is for all nations, just not Jews and people closely related to Judaism. God sends a vision to Cornelius, God gives a tripped out vision to Peter, He uses Cornelius’ men to lead Peter back, and while Peter is talking He pours out the Holy Spirit. Immediately when that happened everyone got that God’s grace was not just for Jews but for all man.

Does God have to work in powerful ways to get you to see the full picture he has for your life? Sometimes he does. But I wander, if we were a little more in tune with God, would he have to work in such big ways? Or are his plans to big for us to even grasp at times? These are questions I may not have complete answers for.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Desiring to Serve

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

Today’s reading (Acts 9) gives us our first real introduction to a man named Saul. (Saul appeared before at the beginning of chapter 8 when he was approving the stoning of Stephen.) Here Saul is bent on persecuting the church. He believes that as he arrests followers of the “Way” he is doing the work of God. Saul believes that he is a servant of God doing the work of the Lord, just as Christians believed that the message they were sharing was also the work of the Lord.

Saul would soon have his eyes opened to the real truth. Saul’s desire was to serve God and to serve God alone. When he was setting out to go to Damascus to arrest Christians he thoroughly believed that he was punishing those who were breaking the Law of Moses. When he met Jesus on that road he knew he was wrong. He knew that the followers of Christ were the real deal. Once Saul realized he was wrong, his desire to serve God overtook him, and he gave his life to Christ.

Sometimes I think we vilify Saul as a Pharisee. While maybe this is validated by his actions or not, we must remember that he believed what he was doing was for the Lord. His underlying motive was to serve God. When he realized he was wrong, he immediately changed his position so that he could continue to serve God in the appropriate way.

The reason I say all of this is this: many times we run into people in the church that believe that something should be done a certain way, or they may have a belief that is a little different from ours, but we must remember their motivation. I remember about 12 to 14 years ago when my home church got their first pop machine. This was before we had moved into Family Life Center, and that machine was located in the old fellowship hall. I remember overhearing one of the Elders having a problem with the vending machine. He believed that Jesus overturning tables in the Temple gave us evidence against selling things in church. This would include things like a pop machine.

I think when he used that story to make that point he was way off base, and that story is not about that kind of thing at all. However, I must also remember his motives. While I think he had a misunderstanding of that particular passage of Scripture, his heart and motives was to serve God the best he knew. I think we must be cautious when others differ from us on non-essentials. We must look at their motives. If their motives are to serve God the best they know, but their best might not be right, we must proceed with love and caution. If their motives are pure, when they see the error of their ways, then they too will be like Saul and continue to serve God through correction.

So how well do you deal with people who differ from you but have their heart set on serving God?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Who do you Rely On?

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

Today reading (Psalms 19 & 20) connects in a unique way.

David states “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the lord our God.” What an awesome observation David makes. I will argue that our world today is not much different. Many people turn to their own ways and trust in the creations of man to get them through. While I believe God uses those who help themselves, sometimes the only way things are possible is to rely on God. However this should not be a reliance that only comes around when the going gets tough, it should be a continual reliance on God.

We can rely on God because he is trustworthy and true. David also writes … “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” “The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.”

We can put our reliance’s on God because he has given us a perfect law that reveals the heart and nature of God. His ordinances are pure and sweet because they are for our protection and support. It is easy to rely on God when we know that he has our best interest at heart. What an amazing God we serve.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Way Out

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

Have you ever said anything foolish? Have you ever shook hands on an agreement that soon afterwards you wish you had not done? Well according to God’s Word he desires us to fulfill them. However, according to today’s reading (Proverbs 6), there is a way out.

The way out God provides is the best way we can approach anyone to deal with almost any type of issue. Whether we have messed up and sinned against a brother and we are seeking forgiveness, or if we have to break bad news to a friend, or if we need to back out of something that seemed like a good idea and now isn’t. Our writer today said to do so we must… “Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor!”

No matter the situation, no matter the time in your life we should approach everyone with humbleness. I am one who is in the camp that we saw that yesterday with Tiger Woods. I believe he came humbly before the world in his apology statement. He revealed himself in a way that many close to him said they had never seen him. He did not act as if he was above everyone yesterday, and that was just the way he needed to present himself. When he wasn’t humble was when he was trying to protect his wife, children, and mother.

So do you approach people with a humble heart and attitude? When you have done wrong, does pride or humbleness take over?

Friday, February 19, 2010

He Moves in Powerful Ways

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Feel free to follow along.

God offers salvation to all that call on his name. However, at the beginning this wasn’t always clear to the early Church leaders. They had grown up in a culture that was the chosen people of God. So each time God is ready to bring a new people into his kingdom he does something big. Today’s reading (Acts 8) is full of that.

We see in today’s reading God moving in three different ways to bring new people into his kingdom. The beginning of this chapter immediately follows the stoning of Steven. We have just been introduced to Saul and we learn that he is persecuting Christians from dragging them off to prison. The Christians in Jerusalem are now scared for their lives and well being, so immediately they take off into surrounding areas.

We later see Saul/Paul as one of the greatest leaders in the Christian church. I am of the opinion that Saul’s ministry began before he was a Christian. It is because of Saul and his persecution that Christians left Jerusalem It is because of his persecution that the message of the cross began to reach people other than Jews in Jerusalem. God did something big here.

We then see Samaritans coming to Christ and being baptized in Christ name. However, at their baptism Scripture tells us that they are not given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Why is that? I believe it is so God can show the Apostles that the gospel message is for all. When Peter lays his hands on the Samaritans some type of observable outpouring of the Holy Spirit takes place. God is telling Peter that he accepts the despised Samaritans into his kingdom as well.

Finally we see God send Philip to the Ethiopian Eunuch. This is a man who would have been considered a complete outsider. However, this man was a follower of the Jewish ways. Philip miraculously appears to this man and shares the gospel with him. Again God is using a powerful way to show that even this Ethiopian convert to Judaism is considered a candidate for Christianity.

In the beginning God has to show his followers that there is no longer one chosen people Now the message of the Cross is for all people who will call on his name and give their lives to him. We can be thankful for that.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You Need to Know It

Below if the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Feel free to follow along. If you would like a copy of the reading calendar please leave me your email in the comment section below.

I think one of the faults of the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ is that too many times we do not spend enough time teaching and studying the Old Testament. We call ourselves a New Testament church, and because of that we tend to spend much of our preaching and teaching time there. It was not until about two years into college that I began to truly grasp and understand the importance of the Old Testament. As I did, so many things about the New Testament and what it says concerning the law became very clear to me. Without an understanding of the Old Testament, passages like today’s reading (Acts 7) do not make much sense.

Do you know the Old Testament well enough to stand and give a speech similar to the one Stephen gave to the Sanhedrin? Did you know who all the characters in Stephens’s story were? I am a firm believer that to truly get the message of gospel, to truly understand God’s love for you and his plans for your life, there must come a time when you begin to understand what we call the Old Testament.

Another thought … is not it amazing what people filled with the Holy Spirit are willing to do? As Stephen faces an angry mob he finds peace and solace in God; full of the Holy Spirit Stephen calls out the Sanhedrin for the murder of Christ … full of the Holy Spirit Stephen welcomes his death as privilege because it is for Christ. It is amazing what Stephen welcomed into his life for God’s Kingdom.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ever Seeking

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Feel free to follow along.

I have read this chapter in Acts many times (Acts 6), and normally my focus is on what these seven men where selected to do, not who they were. But one phrase jumped out at me. One of the men chosen to wait on table was Nicolas.

Luke gives us a lot of information about Nicolas. His name alone lets us know that he is not Jewish by heritage and that he is from a Greek speaking part of the world (All these men selected are from Greek speaking parts of the world. Many may be Jews by heritage dispersed when the Assyrians attacked the ten northern tribes). Luke doesn’t require us to figure that out on our. In the text he tells us that he was from Antioch. Then he tells us he was a convert to Judaism. This means Nicolas did not grow up in a Jewish home or with Jewish teachings. Finally we know he has also converted to Christianity because he has been selected to serve the Grecian widows.

So why did this stand out to me? This was intriguing because Nicolas was on a search for God. For some reason he wasn’t content with the polytheism his culture and society taught him was correct. Somewhere along the way he was introduced to the one true God through Judaism. However, he didn’t join a synagogue and put blinders on. He was willing to accept the gospel message and come to faith in Christ.

The question I have for you is … are you seeking truth, are you seeking God in such a way as to put aside foolish arguments, put aside foolish pride so that you can grow closer to him in ways you have never before? That’s what Nicolas did, and it paid off, he got his name in the most popular book the world has ever printed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Highly Regarded

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

In today’s reading (Acts 5) an interesting phrase pops out … “No one else dared joined them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” In this day the church is just in its infancy. They are still meeting in the comfort of the temple in Jerusalem. People know that they are followers of that man name Christ was hung several months before and whose body mysteriously disappeared. They don’t want to join for fear of ridicule and possibly even punishment from the Jewish ruling class. But yet the Christians are still highly regarded.

The following verses give us some insight into why they were highly regarded … people were being healed by the Apostles who were leading this new movement. The passage doesn’t give us other reasons as to why they were highly regarded, but I believe there were many.

I guess my thought after reading this passage is … Is your church highly regarded by those in your community? The first church I served at one time was viewed negatively from the community. This negative view was formed by some well meaning Christians who had a slight misunderstanding of God’s Word. The second church I served had no reputation in the community at all. One time when were passing out door hangers for our fall festival, one lady who lived a half mile up the street didn’t even know where the church building was. The reputation in your community is very important if your church seeks to save the lost.

I hope that your church is highly regarded in the community and has a good reputation for seeking and saving the lost. What are some ways your church can improve your reputation in the community and become even more highly regarded?

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Different Man

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.

I apologize for this not being posted earlier in the day. It was one crazy day of driving in Cincinnati with really messy roads. I hope you all were safe today.

In today’s reading (Acts 4) we see a completely different Peter than we saw in the closing chapters of the gospels. In the closing chapters of the gospels Peter was the disciple who was denying Jesus following his arrest. When questioned by people at the trial he told those who recognized him as a follower and swore that he was not a friend of Jesus. Now that same Peter is a different man

In Chapter 2 Peter stood up and delivered the first gospel message. Today, Peter is standing before the high priest as well as members of his family, and proudly and boldly proclaims to be a follower. Peter is being questioned for the healing we read about on Friday in Acts 3. Before he was a coward but today he is bold and proud to be a follower … “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.” So what happened to Peter to make him so bold?

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the answer. Luke writes “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit…” It is the leading of the Holy Spirit that allows Peter to go from a coward to a bold proclaimer of Christ. So my question for you is this, how has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit changed your life? Can you say you are a bold proclaimer of the gospel?

Bible Reading Info

I apologize for the Bible reading not being up yet. My brother is visiting UC. My mom stayed with us and I drove her down here and Crystal to work. it was an early morning. I will try to get it up this afternoon and evening. Right now I am updating on my phone waiting to pick up my mom and brother. Be safe in the snow and have fun!!!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rock Fortress Deliverer

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side church. Feel free to following along.

Today’s reading (Psalms 17 & 18) has one common theme. In chapter 18 David is just coming out of a time in his life where he has many enemies … one of those being his father-in-law King Saul.

David says “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.” David spends time daily in prayer with God. When things get tough for him he is turning to God to draw strength and support. Because of this he can then say this:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

David has a relationship with God. He turns to God to draw strength and support. Because of that relationship he knows that God is his rock, fortress, and deliver. Is your relationship with God tight enough that you could be confident that he is your rock, fortress and deliverer? I know I need to grow closer to God in many areas of my life, how about you?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Keep Your Distance

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church of Christ. Please feel free to follow along.

Today’s reading (Proverbs 5) has two applications; the literal application as well as an implied application. We will deal with the literal application first.

In the basic reading of this passage anyone can see that it is clearly discussing adultery. While the writer is talking to men, its teachings can be applied to either gender. It calls us to stand clear of adultery. The writer encourages the man to “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.” This is very noble advice. Be content with what you have. Your marriage should be one of constant learning of the other. This should be applied to both the sexual relationship as well as the mental relationship. The writer also compares adultery as something sweet in the beginning but quickly turning to vinegar.

The implied application is to any endeavor of sin. Listen to the writer’s words … “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.” That is exactly the pattern any act of sin takes.

We would have no desire to sin if at first sin did not seem pleasant. I cannot remember a time where I have sinned where it did not seem gratify to sin, whether it was saying something course to someone or doing something sneaky behind my parent’s backs (sorry mom). Now looking back, how did it turn out? This sin has probably left you with a hurt relationship, a bad feeling, or even regret. That is exactly what sin does.

So what are we to do? No matter if it is adultery we are facing or any other sin; I think the answer can be found in this reading as well. “You will say, “How I hate discipline!” I believe that is the answer … Discipline. If we are going to stand firm and not allow ourselves to be lead to temptation, it is going to take discipline ... personal discipline ... self induced discipline. So how strong is your own personal discipline? Are you drinking the water from you own well or cistern?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Three Promises

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church of Christ. Please feel free to follow along.

Today’s reading (Acts 3) we are given some insight into what happens when we repent and turn to God … “Repent, then and turn to God, so that you sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.”

When we turn to God, three things happen; sins are wiped out, times of refreshing come, and the Christ will be sent. This is a beautiful promise we receive from God. He promises to wipe out our sins which is justification. In Christ we are given times of refreshing. When we are in him, he provides times were we can recharge, times where we can tune back into him, times were we are protected from all the world’s toils and snares. Finally, I believe the sending of the Christ will be the collection of God’s people. If you are in Christ, the time will come when he will stand as a mediator, sharing with God that you have accepted him.

Friends, God did this for you. Is not God’s grace amazing and awesome?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What its all About!

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church of Christ. Please feel free to follow along.

In my college American Literature class we spent a lot of time understanding how a story is put together. Whether you are reading a book, watching a movie or playing a game there is literary devises used to flesh out the plot of a story. The parts of this literary devise are exposition … introducing the character and the problem to be solved; rising action … the action and course of events that build suspense; the climax … the point the entire story has been building up to, and where the conflict is finally resolved; falling action … this part of the story shows the results of the climax and its effects on the characters of the story; and finally the resolution … this is the conclusion of the story, and shows how the characters have resolved the conflict and how they are progressing through life. If you have watched, read, or participated in any story, you can probably point out each of these parts of the plot.

The Bible is not any different. Throughout the stories of the Bible are many expositions, rising actions, climaxes, falling actions, and resolutions. Each story in the Bible has all five of these parts. However, when reading the Bible as one story, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, we see all five of these literary devises used. In Genesis 1:1 the characters of the Bible are introduced … God and man. In Genesis 3 the problem is introduced … Man sins and a chasm is created between man and God. From Genesis 4 on we see God’s plan of restoring man, this is the rising action. During this time we see God completely destroy man, pick one man to build his nation through, develop his nation while in slavery in Egypt, deliver them into their own land, protect them from the surrounding people, allow foreign kings to conquer them and send them all over the world, protect them and keep them in a time of silence, and finally allow the Romans to come in and rule over them.

It is at this time Jesus enters the world. Paul says “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a women, born under law, to redeem those under law that we might receive the full rights of the sons.” Jesus came when the world was best prepared for him to come. He came when Jews were spread all across the world. He came when the Jews were looking for a messiah. He came when the Romans had the world best set up to take the gospel message to all ends. This is all the part of the rising action of the Bible.

I believe the climax of the Bible happens in today’s reading (Acts 2). Jesus ministry, death and resurrection, were all part of the rising action. What God has been building up is the salvation of mankind and the beginning of his kingdom. We read about that today. It is now that God pours out his spirit. It is now that Peter stands and preaches the first gospel message. It is now that the people realize they have crucified the Christ. It is now they are cut to the heart. It is now that Peter, through the Holy Spirit, shares how one can find true salvation. It is here the church begins and 3,000 are baptized into Christ. It is here the church begins to function as God intends it. It is here the bridge if finally crossed and man and God begin to walk again as one.

All of God’s preparation throughout the ages comes to fruition today. Jesus death and resurrection built the bridge … at Pentecost man crossed it. God allowing his people to be dispersed by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, brings Jews from all around the world to the feast at Pentecost. Those who believed were then able to go back to their communities and share the message of the Cross. God’s kingdom was established. You have just read the climax of the Bible. As we continue to read Acts, and the epistles we will see the falling action as well as the resolution of the Bible.

Thank you for bearing with me on this long post. I truly love this chapter of God’s Word.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Benny Loves The Snow

Today's Bible reading is down below.

We found out this past weekend that our dog Benny absolutely loves snow. He thinks it is the greatest thing he has ever encounter. Whenever I come home he gets all excited because he wants to go out and sniff around, run and jump, and eat the snow. He goes nuts seeing it on the ground. The other day Crystal and I took him up to the church were we let him play in the field behind the church. I believe he thought it was his greatest day in a long time. Do your animals enjoy the snow?

God’s Plan for Growth

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church of Christ. Please feel free to follow along.

Below is a post from yesterday. In that post I give some background information on the book of Acts. Before reading any further, please take a moment to read that information.

The book of Acts is one of my favorites in the Bible. I love seeing the way God worked and grew his church. And that is what we get in this amazing book. In today’s reading (Acts 1) Jesus lays out how the church is going to spread. As we go through the book of Acts we will see that process unfold exactly the way Jesus instructed.

So what was Jesus’ plan for growth … “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” … Jesus’ plan was simple. Start at home. Start where you are with the people you see everyday. After that, leave the city, and go into the surrounding area. From there you go to people who are just a little further away and maybe a little different. Finally once that area is saturated, you take the message to all ends of the earth. That is just what we will see happen throughout Acts.

So how does this apply to us? I think our primary mission field is within our close nit groups. Whether this is our family, our co-workers, or our social groups, we start where we have relationship built. From there we begin to go to our neighbors, to people we might not know as well. From there we might even venture into areas that are a little unknown. Maybe this is calling on a family visiting the church that you do not know. Maybe this is helping throw a block party for a neighborhood in town that is often neglected. From there you take the message to all points in the world. This may be done through the dollars you give, or the mission trips you take, or the hours you put in helping organization like Kids Against Hunger. (Image taken from Kids Against Hunger Site)

Friends, this is the same pattern I envision West Side taking. I see us working as a church to evangelize our family and friends. I see us establishing a great name in the community of Lebanon. Something I see our small groups doing is service projects. We are looking at asking them to do four service projects a year. Those four service projects will have to be in Lebanon, because that is our target community. From there the church will go outside of Lebanon. We will use our members who live in places like Mason, Franklin, and Monroe to help reach people far from God. While we do that, we will have a continued focus on global missions, and the ministry they have.

Matthew ended with the Great Commission. Now that Jesus is arisen, we have a message to share. Acts opens with Jesus’ plan for church growth. How are you doing at evangelizing the lost?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Introduction to Acts!

If you are looking for Tuesday February 9ths Bible reading please look below.

Throughout the year we will begin many new books of the Bible. With each new book I will try to provide you with some information concerning the background of the book. That background will typically be: Purpose, Author, and Date of the book.

The Purpose
There are several reasons this book may have been written. The author … Luke … states in the opening verses of his previous book … The Gospel of Luke … that he wanted to provide “an orderly account for you.” Many see the book of Acts as a continuation of the book of Luke. Thus you would have an account beginning at the announcement of the birth of Christ, traveling through his ministry to his death and resurrection. The second book picks up with the beginning of the church and then highlights the spread of the church … beginning in Jerusalem and going to the outer ends of the world.

Many also believe that Luke was also putting together a defense for the Apostles Paul. At the end of Acts Paul is on house arrest awaiting trial before Caesar. Some argue that Luke has researched all this information to present to Caesar to show what Christianity was and how it spread.

Both of these reasons present us a work that gives us insight into the beginning and growth of the church. Without Acts we would have not know about Pentecost or have information of conversion to Chrisitanity. Without Acts we would have no record of the early Christian church.

The Author
The book of Acts provides for us internal evidence as to who the author is. No where in the book does the author identify himself. It does indicate that whoever wrote the third gospel also wrote Acts. We can also see that the style and language indicates one author for both books. Within the book we see passages that indicate the author is personally familiar with what he describes. The author is also present in several places as indicated by the usage of “we.” (15:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16). Paul identifies Luke as one of his companions on several occasions … Philemon 23-23 & Colossians 4:10-17, we also learn here that Luke is a Doctor. Throughout his writing we see that many technical terms are used.

While the book itself points to authorship of Luke, externally there is evidence that credits him as author. Some early Christian writers give Luke credit for writing the third gospel. Since they are of the same author we can take liberty and assign him credit for Acts. But we do not have to stop there. Other early church fathers and writers, men like Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Jerome, speak directly of Luke as author. Thus the case can be closed; Luke is the author of Acts.

Date of the Book
Dating the book is directly linked to authorship. If Luke wrote Acts, it had to be in the first Century. This is especially true if Luke is a contemporary of Paul. Acts would have been written after his gospel, which tends to be dated around 60 AD. Thus a date of 63 AD is very likely.

There could be a chance the book was written later than that. Is the imprisonment of Paul that is described in the closing verses the one where he is martyred? If so, tradition tells us Paul was killed around 67/68 AD. This would allow Acts to be penned after Paul’s death, and could allow writing in the 70’s or 80’s. However, many scholars believe the imprisonment described was not his final Roman imprisonment. Thus we believe 63 AD. to be a very good date for the book of Acts.

He’s Arisen!

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church of Christ. Please feel free to follow along.

Throughout Jesus ministry he has been one step ahead of the Pharisees and Jewish elders. He has caught them in their own game. He has backed them into corners. He has aggravated them so much that they even put him to death. Jesus does not disappoint. Even in death he trips up the ruling class of Jews as we see in today’s reading (Matthew 28).

Three days after dying Jesus arises from death. The stone is rolled away and he is alive. It is that conquering of the grave that separates Jesus death from all other deaths. He is the only man to ever bring himself back to life. That is because he is fully God while being fully man. That conquering of death allows him to provide salvation to all.

While doing that, he causes the rulers of the Jewish people to dig themselves deeper into the hole. They have seen the miracles many times. They have heard Jesus talk about being the Son of Man. They have put him to death and witnessed the tearing of the veil in the temple. Now they even have a first hand account of his resurrection. But instead of believing he is the promised Messiah, their hearts are hardened, and they devise a lie to spread about his disciples stealing the body.

Friends, do you know people who have all the evidence in the world to show who Jesus is, but they too have heard hearts, and no desire to accept Christ as Lord? I pray that the closing verses give you a challenge to continue presenting the message of the resurrection to them. Those final verses call us to make disciples. I pray that is a challenge you live by each day.

Starting tomorrow we will begin the book of Acts. Before we do, I would like to provide you some background information on the book of Acts. That information will post at 7:00 tonight … Tuesday Feb. 9th.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Greatest Game Ever?

If you are looking for the Bible reading it is down below.

This morning on the radio there are many people talking about the Super Bowl. Many people believe it was a great game. Maybe it was. But I tend to disagree. The best part of the Super Bowl to me was the coverage leading up to the game and CBS’s job of covering the game.

When I look back on this Super Bowl I probably will not remember it. To me some of the most memorable games were the St. Louis Rams VS Tennessee Titans, last years game between Pittsburg and Arizona, the Patriots and Giants, as well as a few others. This game lacked anything exciting. From the National Anthem, to the half time show, to even the commercials, this game was a dud. The game itself did not live up to the hype of the two best offenses in league matching up. It was what I thought it would be, the Saints defense overcoming the Colts offense. I will remember the onside kick and the interception, but other than that, nothing else.

I wish football season would have ended with a bigger bang. I wish it would have had a more memorable game, but it did not, and now there is no Pro Bowl to conclude the season. At least I have NFL Network, where football season never ends, and the Combine to look forward to.

Sorry for a depressing post, just thought I would share and vent. I hope you enjoyed the game and got more out of it than I did.

The images above were taken from Film School Rejects and Plan Buzz.

A Couple Observations

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for West Side Church of Christ. Feel free to follow along.

Today’s reading (Matthew 27) packs a lot in it. I would like to point out a couple things that raised my attention.

When Pilate is trying to decide what to do with Jesus the people ask that Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, be handed over to them instead of Jesus. Then after their discourse the crowd begins to shout “Crucify Him.” A lot of times we paint these people as villains. Maybe we do this because it is the truth. However, they are a cog in the wheel to God’s plan. I think we are just as guilty for the crucifixion as these people there that day. It is our sin that made it necessary for Christ’s death. Had we been there that day, I wander how we would have responded? Would we have blended in with the crowd, or would we have stood up for Jesus? Because of their understanding of the coming messiah, I think we may have been chanting along side of them.

Another thing I saw was the veil tearing in two. I love this image. When Jesus dies, a new covenant is beginning. The veil tearing is God himself leaving the temple. No longer is God going to reside in the temple. No longer is God going to be in one place for people to come and worship him. Jesus discussion with the Samaritan woman is coming to light. The old covenant has served its purpose, and the new is beginning.

Finally, there is something strange that happens. When Jesus dies, the veil is torn, and the earth shakes, tombs with many holy people are opened and they begin to appear to people in the holy city. I am not going to comment any further other than … weird.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

You have been Justified!

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for West Side. Feel free to follow along.

Today’s reading (Psalms 15 & 16) lays out how one can dwell in the Sanctuary of God. When I think of dwelling in the Sanctuary of God, I am imagine being in the prescience of God himself. So how does one dwell in the Sanctuary of God, by upholding the list David gives.

Walking blameless
Speaking truth
No slander on the tongue
Does his neighbor no wrong
No slur on his fellowman
Honors those who fear the LORD
Who lends his money without usury
As well as a few other things.

So are you able to keep that 100% of the time? Do you ever fear that you will not get to dwell in the Sanctuary of God? You shouldn’t. You see, Christ came to remove sin. Christ's death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead paid the price for the times when you don’t keep these things. This is justification. At baptism you have been justified. In the eyes of God, you are 100% righteous. When you do slip up, you must have a repentant heart, but you have been forgiven. That is why there is nothing you can do to save yourself. Christ did the work so you can dwell in the Sanctuary of God.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Hedge of Wisdom

Bellow is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Feel free to follow along.

So far through the book of Proverbs we have been given a heavy dose as to ho to handle the power of wisdom. Today’s reading (Proverbs 4) is no different. Wisdom is the thing that should guide our lives.

In today’s reading we are shown that if we follow the paths of wisdom, if we let it play an important part in our lives then it will protect us.

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.”

“When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.”

I think that when wisdom guides our lives, we make only the decisions we feel are best for us. If we continue to do that, it hopefully will eliminate many hardships and trials. Now this only works in our lives when we can control the situations and possibly the outcomes. It won’t protect us from the poor decisions of our family and friends. However, this is where we must step in and help them make wise decisions just like the writers father did in his mother’s house. Remember these words:

“Make level paths for your feet and take only way that are firm.” If you do this, wisdom will protect and rule your life.

Friday, February 5, 2010

All For You!!!!

Each day I am doing a post for the Bible reading we are doing at West Side. Feel free to read along.

Today’s reading (Matthew 26) shows an amazing progression. The passage begins with the disciples planning the Passover feast. I am sure they know something amazing is getting ready to happen. Just five days before they witnessed Jesus riding into town on a donkey and people laid palm branches and cloaks in the road. They have heard some amazing testimony from Jesus about the life he has called them to live. In other gospels he has even talked about the end of his life approaching. Having witnessed all that, they still aren’t ready for what is to come.

Before dinner Judas agrees to betray Jesus. While at dinner Jesus sends Judas out to do what he has sold his heart for. During dinner Jesus tells Peter he will disown him three times. While in the garden, Jesus prays that God take away his suffering, but knows it must be fulfilled. Finally Judas arrives with the guards and Jesus is arrested.

When Judas arrives several things happen. Peter cuts the ear off of the servant of the High Priest. Jesus then scolds Peter saying that he could call thousands of angels to defeat these few men. While being questioned by the Sanhedrin he stands silently not denying their claims of him.

Why did he send Judas to do what his heart was set on doing? Why did he accept the will of God? Why did he not call the angels to his rescue? Why did he stand quietly by? Why? Because of you. Jesus left heaven, left comfort, and humbled himself so that you can have life. So that you can be cleansed of your sins, washed in the blood and have the privilege of spending eternity in the prescience of God. Again, what an amazing God we serve!!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

West Side Website

So I am currently looking at our website for the church. If you do not mind, will you go to the website, look through it and mention to me anything you see that you like, do not like, or think needs improvement. There are a lot of things I am looking at to add to the website so that it is very appealing to guest coming to our church.

I am looking to clean up the links, add a calendar of events type deal, add some pictures of church activities, as well as some more information about the church.

While I am not in love with the look of this website, I love the content in the website. This was the site I helped create at Laurel Avenue in Chesapeake. I would like to add some of the same features.

Thank you for your comments. You can leave them in the comment section below or on my Facebook page.

Help Wanted

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for West Side Church of Christ. Feel free to follow along.

As a preacher reading today’s passage (Matthew 25) a sermon outline came to mind. In this post I would like to flesh out that sermon outline.

The passage opens up with Jesus telling his followers about ten virgins. Five were prepared for the coming of the bridegroom and five were underprepared. The five who were underprepared had to go and buy more oil for their lamps. While they were gone, the bridegroom came. The five did not get to go in because they were not there, and when they arrived they were turned away.

Then Jesus begins to talk about a rich man who entrusted his servants with different amounts of money while he was gone. To one he gave five talents, to another he gave two, and to a third he gave one. The one who got five, invested the money and earned the master another five talents. The one who got two did like the man with five and doubled the master’s money. The man with one talent knew the master was a hard man, instead of investing he put the talent in the ground so not loose it. The master then rewarded the two who invested the money and scolded the one who buried it.

The final story in this trilogy Jesus talks about separating the sheep from the goats. As he moves on he talks about the service people have done for others. He compares clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving to the thirsty as doing something for him.

This trilogy breaks down into an amazing three part sermon. I find it odd that most sermons you hear are three parts. I guess that is the basic way we are all taught to create a sermon.

I. We must be constantly prepared as we wait for the coming of Christ
II. As we wait we are to be investing the gifts and talents we are given by God back into his kingdom.
III. When we serve others, we are serving Christ.

Friends, many times I see Christians living any way they want. They are not anticipating the return of Christ. We are called to be prepared for the return. While we are waiting on that return, we are not to sit idly by. We are to be investing in the kingdom. Each has been given gifts and abilities. We are to use those gifts and abilities to help God’s kingdom along. Finally as we bless others we have the privilege of blessing God himself.

So, when you examine your life, are you sitting idly by not prepared for the return? Are you using your talents to further the kingdom? Are you blessing Christ by blessing others?
The Image above is taken for the site - biojobblog

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

This I Know

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for West Side Church of Christ. Feel free to follow along.

I personally do not claim to understand everything Jesus talks about in Scripture. Today’s reading (Matthew 24) is one of those sections. Jesus describes what the end days will be like. For some these days look desperate. Jesus says that wickedness will increase, many will turn away from faith, love will grow cold, it will be dreadful for pregnant women and nursing mothers, nation will rise against nation, famines and earthquakes will take place, people will continue to marry and have children even as the flood waters come, and the list goes on and on. Jesus does not paint a happy picture.

Now some say we are living in that day. I do not know if I can agree or argue with that. I am not an eschatological (end times study) expert. But the picture Jesus paints at the end of this passage does provide comfort.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.”

Friends, the end is going to come sometime. What side do you want to be on when it happens? Jesus says it is good for the servant to be doing what is asked of him when that time comes. He also says that those who aren’t will be thrown where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. We can stand confident that when the unknown hour approaches…when those dark days arise…that if we are in Christ, we will be on the side of hope, peace, and salvation.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Living like a Pharisee?

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for West Side Church of Christ. Feel free to follow along.

Today’s reading (Matthew 23) is not the first time Jesus has confronted the Pharisees. In fact he has already done so on many occasions for many different reasons. Today’s attack was his worst one yet. Jesus really cut to the heart of their issue and almost damned them to an eternity in Hell.

Like we have said before, the Pharisees were part of the Jewish ruling class. They were well trained in the scriptures. In fact they would have had the majority if not all of our Old Testament memorized. Not only did they follow the laws of Moses to a “T”, they also imposed their own laws upon the people so they had no chance at violating the Law of Moses. While everything on the outside looked great, inside they were a mess. Inside their hearts were not motivated by piety, but by greed and community recognition.

For those of us who have been around the church for a while, I wander how much we have moved into the area of being a modern Pharisee. Maybe our hearts are not motivated by greed and community recognition, but maybe we have taken the commands of scripture to the extreme to guard against sin. Now I am not saying that this is completely a bad thing. But Paul tells us that we have been set free. What does that mean? Well, I think it means that we do not have to work so hard to guard our lives of sin that we find ourselves not enjoying the salvation we are offered.

I grew up in a congregation that from the pulpit had a very strong stance on alcohol. Our ministers own family had been devastated from the use of alcohol. His feelings on the stuff eventually permeated throughout the congregation. Growing up I had a very negative view of alcohol. Before I went to college I had the impression that the consumption of alcohol was a sin. Over the past several years my views of alcohol have changed. I personally have no desire to even taste the stuff (never have had), but I recognize that drinking alcohol is not banned in the Bible. Drunkenness is banned, but alcohol is not.

Having said all that, when I see someone drinking alcohol, even someone I know is not a Christian, a negative impression comes into my mind. I am still weak in that area of my life. Thus on my view of alcohol I have become a modern Pharisee. I have taken something that is not sinful to consume and made it sinful. Why? Because I know that it is easy for it to pass into the sinful category.

Here is what I am getting at. I think we have to be careful to not place parameters on being a follow of Christ that are not there. When we do that we become a Pharisee. Now our motives might not be destructive, but we have to be careful not to take the joy out of being a Christian.

I hope I did not confuse anyone today, or even offend anyone. Thank you for reading along.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Silencing His Critics

Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for West Side. If you would like to follow along, please feel free to join us.

Jesus used many tactics in his day. Sometimes he would tell stories. Some times he was creative, other times he used present day illustrations. Other times he would ask questions. Jesus was a master. In today’s reading (Matthew 22) we see Jesus perfecting his craft.

Several times Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees and Seduces. He sees through their disguise. He knows their hearts and knows that they are trying to trap him. However each time he knows exactly what to say and do to counteract their disguises.

While Jesus stepped on the toes of the ruling class, and while Jesus silenced his critics, he answered the questions of those with pure hearts. Those seeking true knowledge, seeking to be closer to Christ, their hearts were turned, their hearts were changed. Jesus was revolutionary in his time. He opened the kingdom of God to the least expected and shut out those who thought they had a first class ticket in.

I think Jesus calls us to be revolutionary followers of him. To be called a disciple means to follow the leader’s teachings and actions. If we are going to be disciples of Christ, we are called to be like Christ. Jesus was revolutionary, we too must be revolutionary.