Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014 – Acts 1 – Evangelism

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Today we begin the book of Acts. Acts was the second book written by Dr. Luke. Luke’s first work was the gospel named after him. Many scholars believe Luke wrote both Luke and Acts for the purpose of the Apostle Paul’s trial before the Roman Emperor. These two works would possibly serve as a foundation for the Emperor for who Paul was and what Christianity is. The way this book ends gives some credence to this theory as it all the sudden stops with Paul in Rome.
  • In our reading we have not yet read Luke’s first work; his gospel. Luke’s gospel was about the life of Jesus. The book of Acts is about the early life of the church. It picks up where his gospel leaves off. It gives us a glimpse into Jesus final day and His final teaching before being called up to Heaven.
  • Through Acts we learn that Jesus spent forty more days on the earth after His resurrection. During this time He taught His disciples all they would need to know and do to prove to the world who He was. In the beginning pages of Acts Jesus gives us His mission strategy; Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all ends of the earth. Basically Jesus taught them start at home and move on from there. After all His teaching was done Jesus was called up to Heaven.
  • These disciples have a huge task before them. For ten days they will be without the power of the Holy Spirit. There used to be twelve in their inner circle of Jesus followers, but now, after Judas decision, there are only eleven. They felt it necessary that there be twelve men. Maybe they thought because Jesus choose twelve they must continue with twelve. Maybe they thought the number twelve represented the twelve tribes of Israel. For whatever reason they choose a twelfth man by drawing straws: that twelfth man was Mathias, a man who saw Jesus entire ministry from baptism to death to ascension 
What is this passage teaching?
  • Jesus had a specific purpose for the men He chose to be a part of His inner circle. These men had the responsibility of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven into existence upon the earth. The work would not be easy, but Jesus would give these men all the preparation they needed, including an evangelism strategy. The work was not easy, so they disciples found it necessary to include all the men they could into their inner circle. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • The book of Acts opens strongly with the hint that evangelism is going to be a key virtue of the Kingdom of Heaven. How are you doing at living a life of evangelism? How are you doing at sharing your faith? Join us as we learn some practical lessons in Acts in ways to share our faith. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 8, 2014 – Proverbs 4 – Light in the Darkness

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

As we venture through the Psalms and Proverbs portion of our reading it will take on more of a devotional thought and less of the passage teaching of the New Testament study.

I love contrast. Sometimes we can only see the full beauty and complexity of something when it is contrasted against something else. The writer of Proverbs does that today with righteousness and wickedness.

He describes wickedness as darkness. Have you have ever been in complete darkness? That is a hard thing to come by. When I was in high school my youth group went to Summer in the Son at Kentucky Christian University. One day during our free time we went caving in nearby caverns. We found a spot where we could turn off the flash lights and spend some time worshiping in the dark. It was an awesome experience, but a little unsettling as well. It was completely dark and the darkest environment I have ever encountered. It was a fun experience, but not one I would want to live in for any amount of time. This darkens though is what the writer says wickedness is consumed with.

On the other side he compares righteousness to light … “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18 NIV. Have you ever watched the sun rise? My favorite place to do it is at the beach. I love to go out before the sun even thinks of rising. It is fun to watch the day get progressively brighter. What an awesome picture of righteousness the author paints for us. And as a side note, what is light supposed to do? Illuminate the darkness. That means, as people striving for righteousness, it should be our desire to remove as much wickedness from our world as we can. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 5, 2014 – Matthew 26 – Never Give Up

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • It feels sort of like decision day. Jesus knows that the hour is closing in that He will be killed. Jesus has predicted His death before, but what a shocking statement this is when He includes the mode of death. All that Jesus has said these last few day has become the final nail in the coffin. There is now real activity in the planning of Jesus death.
  • For the past week Jesus has been staying in Bethany, a small town outside the city of Jerusalem. From other accounts we know He is staying with Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha. It is in this home that a woman pours out an expensive perfume all over Jesus. This woman does a beautiful thing, but the disciples, possibly lead by Judas, rebuke her … there might be a mix of motives here, maybe they have learned from Jesus and their hearts are really for the poor or maybe they are covering up evil intentions … i.e. Judas whose betrayal to the religious leaders is immediately shared. Jesus reminds them that His presence is only temporary and the time stamp is almost up.
  • On Thursday night Jesus sends the disciples ahead to prepare the Passover feast. He has arranged a room for this to happen and they go and secure it. During the traditional Passover meal, Jesus shares that one will betray Him and another will deny Him. He presents them both, and tells Judas to go do what he has set in his mind to do.
  • It is during this meal that Jesus establishes the Lord’s Supper, a meal Christians partake of each and every week. This meal reminds us that Jesus body was given up for our life. This meal reminds that it is the shed blood that saves man from sin. The elements of bread and fruit of the vine represent this sacrifice!
  • After the meal, Jesus and His disciples return to the Mount of Olives. Here on the Mount is a private garden named Gethsemane that Jesus probably has an open invitation to visit. More than likely from this spot Jesus can see all of Jerusalem, especially the Temple mount. The week has been long. The week has been exciting … remember how it began; people lining the streets, Jesus riding in on a donkey to the shouts of praise? Jesus has taught and strongly confronted the Pharisees. Whatever Jesus is getting ready for the anticipation must be at a boiling point. But along with this long week comes exhaustion. As Jesus heart feels overwhelmed and as He goes to pray, He asks His disciples to keep watch and to pray, but they are not able; they fall asleep.
  • Jesus returns to His disciples in between prayers, prayers where He asks God to take the cup of wrath that is coming, understanding that is not God’s will, and finds them asleep. While talking with them, the one, Judas, who has betrayed Jesus, arrives with a crowd of guards sent by the High Priest. Judas kissed Jesus signaling that He was the one, causing Jesus to be arrested.
  • It is here that Jesus is brought in for His first series of trails before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees. They were the ruling body in the legislative branch of Judaism.  Here Jesus is presented His charge … blaspheme. It is during this first trial that Peter denies any relationship with Jesus to the crowds standing on the outside watching. 

What is this passage teaching?
  • Jesus has had a remarkable week. It is all coming to a crashing end. The last few hours of Jesus life is consumed with Jesus pouring into His disciples. All the way until the end He is teaching them and guiding them and building them up. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Do you have someone you are investing into? Do you get frustrated with their slow growth? Do you feel like they just don’t get it? Jesus had to feel that way from time to time. But He never gave up. Until the very end He was pouring into them; at Lazarus home, at the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and after Peter cuts the ear the servant. Do not give up. Find patience, Continuing pouring into and investing in those you love and care for. Who knows but God when the seed will begin to grow.

My response to the Ken Ham and Bill Nye debate

I applaud both men for striving to have a civil honest discussion about their disagreements. If more people especially our government would take their civil approach our nation and our churches would be much better off. These two men were both very passionate about their stated stance and both articulated without destroying the other in a humiliating and nonsensical manner.

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It was very evident that Ken Ham was much more prepared for this debate. That isn’t an attack on Bill Nye. Ham has devoted his life’s work to promoting a Biblical explanation for the theory of origins. He has spent a considerable many hours researching and understanding the evolutionist theories, teachings, and process. A simple walk through the Creation Museum indicates that Answers in Genesis knows and understands evolution.

Bill Nye wasn’t underprepared for the debate, he simply lacked the storerooms of knowledge that Ham has ready. He did say he learned something for Ham’s thirty minute presentation. I would love to have known what that lesson was. Was it a better understanding of what Ham believes? What it a better understanding of the process of creation scientist? Was it something else? Nye did an excellent job but it was evident he isn’t complete in his knowledge of the whole of creation science.

I found the debate format a little troubling. Nye asked Ham several questions that I just don’t believe the format gave Ham the proper ability to respond to. I would have liked to have seen the debaters be allowed to ask each other questions and then responses given to the others questions. The Q&A portion was fine, but real questions were raised without a time to have a dialogue before the next question was presented. Maybe this was done to ensure the civility of the debate, but it would have provided answers and real debate.

What I found that was lacking from the debate was belief. Ken Ham reminded everyone several times that his starting point is the Bible. He admits that and doesn’t back down. What I would have loved to see Ham do was remind that because we cannot observe the world that we are looking back to, the evidence we see takes some level of faith to believe in. At the very least, if I have to have faith to believe one of the systems, I like the one that gives me hope and purpose and doesn’t say I am here by accident.

Bill Nye was trouble by Ken Ham’s lack of being able to predict an outcome. I failed to follow his logic on this one. The debate was centered on the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” What Nye was troubled by was not a part of the debate. Was Nye implying because Ham was working through the debate to support Biblical Creation to look at origins, that creation scientist could not predict outcomes and invent technology? If so Ham did answer that question by presenting the scientist who invented the MRI that is a creationist.  Nye was troubled by Ham looking back but wasn’t that the point of the debate?

I was troubled by Nye when he kept promoting education and scientific exploration for America’s (specifically Kentucky’s) youth. His promotion didn’t trouble me, but his undermining idea that a creation scientist would find no success did. That I believe is the fallacy of his and other evolutionist’s problem. They see creation scientist as people who are faith based and not intelligent. Nye reinforced the notion that creationists are not given proper academic accolades simply because they have faith. Nye really showed this when he misrepresented the Bible. While he claimed to not be a theologian, he didn’t have to, it was evident that he doesn’t understand the words contained in the Bible and the narrative it tells. He doesn’t understand the knowledge that it takes to understand the Bible whether that is through an academic institutions or from simple years of studying scripture. This notion that intelligence is not present in the Biblical Creation community was amplified in Nye’s poor understanding of scripture and his promotion of science education for the future.

I understand that I am biased. There were questions Nye raised last night that I cannot answer. There were questions asked to both men that Nye could not answer. But my faith … I understand to those outside the church find it silly … answers those questions. My faith reminds me that I serve the creator of the universe. My faith tells me He can do in Nye’s 4,000 years what might take billions in Nye’s view to accomplish. I understand that faith is the foundation for me, but I am ok with that. What I love is that when given the evidence, even with the pieces we are missing, God still shows himself through the scientific evidence. My faith isn’t blind. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February 4, 2014 – Matthew 25 – While waiting Jesus expects busyness

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Matthew 25 opens where we left off yesterday in our reading. Jesus has taught the principle that we do not know the day or the hour, now He uses an illustration of virgins waiting for the bridegroom. Some were prepared for the long wait with extra oil, others were not. Where do you stand? Are you ready for our bridegroom to return … Jesus?
  • Jesus continues His thought but switches up the subject. He has been teaching about being prepared for the coming of the kingdom, or as the last story called it the bridegroom. Now He is concerning His words with what we are to do in the time we are waiting. Jesus wants us to be productive. He tells the story of a master who has three servants that he entrusts a sum of money to. Two of the servants make the money work for them and double what the master gave. Their actions please their master. The third servant did not do anything but bury the money in hole. This displeased the master. Jesus instructs that whatever gifts, talents, resources, or abilities we have we are expected to use them while we wait on His return.
  • Jesus then finishes His discussion by showing the final judgment. Now here is where things get confusing. Jesus is illustrating believers verses non believers with goats and sheep. The sheep represent believers and goats represent non-believers. Jesus then says He will distinguish the believers against the non-believers by their works. Does this teaching by Jesus then stand in opposition to salvation by grace? No. Here’s why … we are not saved by works, we are saved by faith, but our works are the proof of our faith. If our faith is real then our works should support it. Jesus told us in the parable of the talents that we are to be busy working. Jesus then says our work will be a demonstration of our faith. These six elements Jesus highlights are not an exclusive list of works but a good start because they support the basic needs of people. 

What is this passage teaching?
  • Like yesterday’s passage, Jesus tells us to be ready for His return. We do not know when it will be, but we need to be ready. Part of being ready is by being busy using the gifts, talents, and resources God has blessed us with. Jesus finds this highly important as He teaches it is our service in His kingdom that will define our faith. We are not saved by our works, but our works define the faith that saves. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • So, knowing that you are supposed to be waiting on an unknown time of return for Jesus, how busy at work are you? Jesus expects us to be actively serving Him. Analyze your life? Are you serving Him? If not, maybe a good place for you to start is with the six human needs Jesus lists in verses thirty four through thirty six. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

February 3, 2014 – Matthew 24 – The Day and the Hour Unknown

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus is at the Temple and He knows about its coming destruction. In AD 70 the Roman armies went into Jerusalem and destroy the Temple. Our reading is Jesus prediction of this historic event. This comment gets the disciples to think. They heard Jesus and figured that the destruction of the Temple would coincide with Jesus coming kingdom, so they ask.
  • Jesus explanation raises more questions than it really answers, at least for us. Is Jesus talking about future end of the world events? Some would say yes. Is Jesus talking about the destruction of Jerusalem under the Romans only? Others would say yes. Is Jesus talking about end of the world events and the destruction of Jerusalem in the same response? Still others would say yes.
  • Here is what I can tell you … Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple and it happened. We know that the days that surrounded its destruction where horrible days for the ethnic Jews living in Judaea. We also know that Christians faced immense amounts of persecution during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero in the 60’s. We also know that Jesus Kingdom is here. It is not something we are waiting for and anticipating. We who belong to Jesus are living in the kingdom, a kingdom that was released on the Day of Pentecost. We also know that there will be a day when Jesus returns to call home those who have believed and called Him Lord.
  • To answer the questions I think we are safe to say some of these events that Jesus speaks of have happened, some are continuing to happen, and some will happen. 

What is this passage teaching?
  • The underlying principle of our reading today is to be ready. In the 1984 edition of the NIV the editors topical notes titles verses 36-51 “The Day and the Hour Unknown.” This is a very appropriate section title. We do not know when our final day on earth is going to be, regardless if it is by our death or it is by Jesus return. We must be ready. For some it is calling Jesus Lord. For others it is walking with Him each and every day. We do not know when the day will come, but Jesus charges us to be like the servant, busy at work, anticipating His return. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Are you ready for Jesus to return? Do you have any unfinished business? Would Jesus be proud of you for the task you are involved with when He returns? Fortunately His return has not happened. You have time to get busy.  So get busy, serve Him, walk with Him, and share the love Jesus with all you encounter. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

February 2, 2014 – Psalms 13 & 14 – God is there!

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

As we venture through the Psalms and Proverbs portion of our reading it will take on more of a devotional thought and less of the passage teaching of the New Testament study.

There are times in life where God feels distant. There are times in life where we feel that we are on an island all alone, even though we are surrounded by people. David felt that way throughout his life. But he knew that God was there and that even though he felt distant from God he put his trust in God. He knew God’s love was never failing and that God offered ultimate salvation. When you feel alone, when you feel distant from God, remember He is there, and His love is never failing. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

February 1, 2014 – Proverbs 3 – Life giving words

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

As we venture through the Psalms and Proverbs portion of our reading it will take on more of a devotional thought and less of the passage teaching of the New Testament study.

How do you view the Word of God? Do you see it as some historic book telling the story of God? This is a proper view of God’s Word, but not a complete view. Do you see it as a book for of rules and regulations that will help you get to heaven? This too is a correct but incomplete view. I think a full understanding of God’s Word is present in the first few chapters … “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV)

God’s Word does give us insight into His story, and it does teach us the life He calls us to live. But His Word is so much more. His word teaches us a healthy lifestyle. It teaches us that we are the caretakers of the earth. It teaches us much more than rules and regulation. And Solomon’s Words instruct us to internalize and live by the Word of God, words that give life and prosperity in Him.