CHURCH ON THE CIRCLE
Monday, March 10, 2014
"Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
1 John 4:11
BRUCE'S BLOG - NEW TESTAMENT STUDY
SEPT 1 - God’s Supreme Revelation
Thursday, September 01, 2011 Comments (0)
In today’s world of competition, the world of religion has not escaped the pressure of competition. In fact, the world of religion has never escaped the pressure of competition. There has always been competition between religions and within religions for what is most important and the supreme revelation of God. This question has been who is the supreme god or the one and only god. It is also within the religions as to the correct doctrine and how has God best revealed himself. Christianity has not escaped this problem of competition. Read Hebrews 1:1-4. I am reading from the New King James Version in this blog.
God has always revealed Himself to man from His very first encounters with Adam and Eve. The Bible records the history of God’s revelation of Himself to us. The writer of Hebrews begins with a discussion of this. Hebrews is the longest and perhaps less used and most misunderstood New Testament letter is the last group of these letters which we call the General or Church Letters. Although there are many theories as to who the human writer of Hebrews might be, we really have no idea who God used to write this letter. Also, we are not sure to whom it was addressed. Setting all of these unanswerable questions aside we find that this letter is perhaps the letter which highlights the supremacy of Jesus more than any other.
The letter starts off by reminding us that God has in many ways at many times previously revealed Himself to us. God has done this in the past through the prophets, that is the Old Testament. God did this during the Old Testament period, various times. He has done this in various ways, that is He has used many different way of communication to reveal Himself, which would include, visitations, dreams, signs, parables, events, sermons, laws, and prophesies.
In this last days or age God has spoken to us through Jesus, His Son. Two very important things are being said with this. Jesus is the final and culmination of God’s revelation of Himself to us. In other words Jesus is what this is all about. Jesus is the only revelation of God to us. You cannot find a picture of God from any other source. We can see this in what is said about Jesus in the opening of this letter.
Jesus is heir of all things. As I have already stated, Jesus is what this is all about. It is through Jesus that God has made “all the worlds.” In other words, it is through Jesus that God has made or created all the universe. Everything is about Jesus. Jesus is the complete expression of the brightness of God’s glory. Jesus is also and most importantly the “express image of” who God is, “His Person.”
This is also seen in what the opening of this letter states that Jesus did. Jesus upholds everything by “the word of His power. He accomplished this through His death through which He purged our sins. After doing this through His resurrection Jesus has sat down at “the right of the Majesty on high.” Due to this Jesus is above everything from the angels on down to us. Jesus is supreme in everything in this Universe. The question then would be is Jesus is supreme in your life?
August 17 - What would Jesus Do?
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 Comments (0)
A few years ago this question was on everything Christian. Almost everything for sale in all Christian book stores had this question or the letters for it, “WWJD,” on it. Everything from wall plaques, Bible covers to rubber bracelets and everything in between had the letters WWJD imprinted on them. Maybe it just died away because the stores could only sell so much or that we can only buy so much stuff. Sadly, that fad for whatever reason has died away, for that is a good question. “What would Jesus do?” Or maybe we need do as Paul did and ask the question just a little different, “What did Jesus do?” Paul asks and answers this question in his letter to the Philippians as he describes what Jesus did for us.
In a discussion of the unity and humility that should be evident among the members of a church Paul describes what Jesus did when He came to be our Savior. Read Philippians 2:1-11. We all read this passage often. Most preachers have used this passage for many sermons. But we all usually leave off the first phrase of verse five. We start reading with “Christ Jesus, who” and go on from there. Most of us come out on the other end of the discussion with the same description of Jesus. But, we miss an important aspect of this description of Jesus. This is how we are to do just as Jesus did. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
What did Jesus do? Although Jesus is God, “equal with God,” He turned loose of that and became of no reputation and became one of us. He became one of the created, a bondservant. Reread Philippians 2:6-7. How often do we puff ourselves up, maybe even when we might deserve a little respect, and look down on others. Jesus did not look down on us. He became one of us. Read Hebrews 4:14-16. Jesus became one of us. Since He faced everything we face and was without sin He understands our situation, and is seated on the throne of Grace waiting on us to come to Him with our needs. How can we help others when we are looking down on them instead of being one of them.
Jesus was humble. He was humble not because some how He was forced into humility. He humbled Himself. Read Philippians 2:8. Most of us are only humble when we are forced into it. We don’t choose humility. Jesus did! What is our problem? Can we say sin? This kind of humility leads to obedience. Then we wonder why we have trouble with obedience. Maybe the answer is we must first humble ourselves. Notice this humility is toward God first. God is the one to who Jesus was obedient. God is the one who had sent Jesus to be our Savior. Read John 3:16.
This resulted in two things, salvation and God’s glory. Read Philippians 2:9-11. If Jesus did not have this attitude or mind then we would not stand a chance. If we don’t have this mind in us we still do stand a chance in living for the glory of God. How can we tell others about God’s love if we don’t act like we love God? What are you doing? What did Jesus do? Find out by studying your Bible and then do what Jesus did! Then you won’t need something with some letters on it to tell you how to decide what to do!
August 11 - Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing!
Thursday, August 11, 2011 Comments (0)
As you continue to read Paul’s letters, we always talk about the mess that the churches in Corinth had gotten into. Anytime we got off the main message or away from our primary purpose we are heading for trouble. Years ago I saw a motivational poster that had a scene of a man surrounded by alligators. The alligators seemed in the picture ready to have the man for supper. The caption read “When you find yourself up to your armpits in alligators it is hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.”
As I described in my last post, Paul identifies three reasons for the problems in the Corinthian churches in his first letter written to them as Paul worked in the city of Ephesus. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-3:4. The first reason that he addresses is that of their misunderstanding of the message of the Gospel. We might excuse their misunderstandings because they were just getting started. We have no excuse. We have almost 2000 years of Christian history and teaching. Yet, we continue to get it wrong. The Corinthians were depending on human wisdom rather than the simple preaching of the Cross.
Their dependence on human wisdom had moved them away from their main purpose and only reason that would make a difference in their lives. Problems had occurred in their churches and lives. Sin had entered into their fellowship. They had drifted into false teaching that was taking away their hope. They had moved away from the promise of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Read 1 Corinthians 15. They had lost their love for each other and for God. This led them to compare the gifts of the Spirit, judging who had the greatest gifts.
Let’s be honest, problems do occur. We do have an enemy who would want to destroy us. We must deal with the problems in the proper way. Read 1 Corinthians 2:22. The main thing that has to be kept the main thing is Jesus. Notice that Paul reminded the Corinthians that when he was with them, his message was Jesus, and what Jesus had done for us, His death on the Cross and resurection. The focal point of Paul’s message was the Gospel, Good News, that God had given Jesus to die for us on the Cross.
Paul wrote to the Galatians, who had also developed problems, that there is only one Gospel. Read Galatians 1:6-10. Paul wrote that any other message was not a Gospel at all. Any message other than the fact that “God so loved the world that He Gave His only Son,” is not Good News at all. When we move away from that message we lose the Good News that has set us free and can carry us through the problems we encounter.
The answer to any problem we encounter is always Jesus. Now that sounds far too simple. Our problems are far more complicated than that. Yes, our problems are complicated but the answer is simple. Jesus came to be our Savior. Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. God gives us the victory over everything including death through our Lord Jesus Christ. When you find yourself up to your armpits in alligators remember - Jesus is the victory, and just “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58) What is the main thing in your life?
August 10 - Why do Churches get in such Trouble?
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 Comments (1)
Everyone who comments on anything in either of Paul’s letters to the Corinthian churches starts off by talking about all the problems in those churches. I say “churches” because the church in Corinth as in all the other cities was made up of a group of small churches meeting in homes. This group of churches was a group of very dysfunctional, to borrow a modern term, churches. We should use Paul’s counter to these problems to help us to identify problems in our churches today and to find ways to follow Paul’s guidance as how to fix the problems and get on our way toward being healthy churches that can make a difference in our mixed up world. Our world is not that much different from the conditions found in ancient Corinth.
Paul identifies three reasons for the problems in the Corinthian churches in his first letter written to them as Paul worked in the city of Ephesus. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-3:4. The first reason that he addresses is that of their misunderstanding of the message of the Gospel. We might excuse their misunderstandings because they were just getting started. We have no excuse. We have almost 2000 years of Christian history and teaching. Yet, we continue to get it wrong. The Corinthians were depending on human wisdom rather than the simple preaching of the Cross.
Paul identifies a false concept of ministry as a second reason. Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-4:5. The Corinthians were looking at various ministers of the Gospel as competitors. They had forgotten that we are all on the same team. We are not building churches. We are churches who are building the Kingdom of God. Paul said, “We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s fields, you are God’s building.(1 Corinthians 3:9 NKJV) Paul then goes on to say that each of us has a different task in the building of God’s Kingdom. Paul notes that his role is that of “a wise matser builder” who lays the foundation. Others have then come after him and built on that foundation. We need to be reminded that we are not in competition with each other. There are more people around all of our churches who do not know Jesus as Savior that if reached would more than fill up all of our buildings. The church just down the street is not our competition. They are just another member of the team. The soldier in the army of God standing next to us holding the line. Or, that new church that is being planted across town is not there to steal the members of older churches. They are a new member of the team taking their place on the line in the battle to reach our world for Jesus.
A third issue which Paul identifies as a cause of problems in a dysfunctional church is that of human pride. The Devil has been getting us on that one from the beginning. Adam and Eve fell for that one. Their son Cain fell for it and killed his brother, Able. Read 1 Corinthians 4:6-13. The Corinthians had forgotten that God had given them salvation by His Grace. But, just like them we all far too quickly to start believing our own press. We get puffed up and start believing that we are smart because we have figured out all of this on our own. We are not saved on our own merit. Paul goes on in this letter to point out the sin and immorality in the church. We start looking down our noses at others for their sin while ignoring our own sin. We forget what Paul wrote to the Romans. We have all sinned. Read Romans 3:23. We cannot boast about our worthiness since we have none.
August 6 - How to be a living sacrifice
Saturday, August 06, 2011 Comments (1)
One of the things which I think sets the Bible apart from other religious or holy books is that when the Bible tells us to do something, the Bible then tell us how to do what we are commanded to do. Read Romans 12:1-2. Paul commands us to be living sacrifices. The question then arises, “how do I present myself to God as a living sacrifice?” Keep reading. Paul tells us how to do this. Read Romans 12:3-8.
“How to” or “DIY” is one of the most popular subjects in the book stores, TV or the internet these days. It seems that none of us are content any longer to just allow things to be done for us without at least knowing how it is done. Many of us would rather do these tasks ourselves. I know for myself, I find a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that I can repair a broken appliance without having to carry it to someone else. Paul, in his own practical way, uses the remainder of his letter to the Romans to explain how to the “living sacrifice” that he urges us to be. This begins with our attitude.
“Hold the ego” might be another way of saying that we should remind ourselves of our place, our talents and abilities, and gifts in the body of Christ. Paul’s advice for holding the ego begins with not thinking of ourselves as being more important than we really are to the body of Christ. Considering ourselves with “sober judgment” enables us to remember the “measure of faith” that has been given to us. We must keep in mind that we are all a part of the whole, the church. This means that we are not alone, we belong to each other.
Perhaps an attitude check is in order. When each gift is used to its fullest with correct outlook, the body functions properly. To check our attitude we should discover our gifts. This is not the difficult task that it is made out to be. What do you do best? Then we can look at the manner in which we use these gifts. For example, do you give generously, or do you just give? Check your attitude and hold the ego, please!
August 5 - A Living Sacrifice
Friday, August 05, 2011 Comments (0)
Almost daily I receive an e-mail newsletter from one of the many news services that report on church news and with a discussion of what is worship or how do we worship or what music do we use. Paul writes to the Romans with the application of his letter about worship. He calls worship a “living sacrifice.” Read Romans 12:1-2.
I memorized these verses as a boy in the Royal Ambassadors, a boy’s mission education program under the leadership of a man who knew what sacrifice meant. Our Royal Ambassador Director was a picture of sacrifice, having lost a leg in the service of our country during World War II. He had given a great sacrifice for our nation in the loss of his leg, yet his gift of service by working faithfully with a group of unruly boys was perhaps a greater sacrifice, “a living sacrifice” that has continued to challenge me since those days as a Royal Ambassador.
Paul, after having described himself as a slave belonging to God in the beginning of his letter to the Romans, urges us, in fact commands us, to give ourselves in such a complete way as well, the way of sacrifice. The command is to offer not because we must, but to offer every part of ourselves, both the physical and spiritual, in consideration of the gracious sacrifice that God has given for us, God’s only Son on the Cross for our redemption.
August 4 - Where is the hope in all this?
Thursday, August 04, 2011 Comments (0)
As Paul writes this personal letter to the Christians, saints, in Rome, he writes to people living in troubled times. Taxes were high. Government was in a mess. The emperor wanted to do things one way. The Senate wanted to things another way. Morals had hit rock bottom. Everybody was doing exactly like they wanted to do, no matter what it was. A few years before the writing of this letter all of the Jews were kicked out of Rome. The new emperor, Nero, had allowed them to return. Change the names and a few events and we could be talking about today. After outlining sin and its results Paul turns to the subject of hope and how we can have hope in troubled times.
Have you ever felt that if it wasn’t for bad luck you wouldn’t have any luck at all? I find myself thinking this way at the end of most days. In fact, I think that if we were all honest even the most positive thinker would have to admit that life can produce an extraordinary amount of suffering. A quick scan of the newspaper or the network news, or the internet will back up this belief.
In the midst of one of the most encouraging chapter of the Bible Paul reminds us of the suffering that life can bring our way. Read Romans 8:18-25. All of creation has been “subjected to frustration” and groans under the load of suffering waiting for the liberation that comes with our adoption as children of God. Some would say a reminder of suffering is looking on the dark side. But Paul finds for us encouragement during suffering in the hope of the future.
This reassuring hope is based on the future glory of the redemption of our bodies and our adoption as children of God which has not yet been revealed. As we, along with creation, wait patiently for this glory to be revealed in us, we can find courage in the thought that regardless of how terrific our suffering might be, the joy of the future glory will far outweigh our present pain. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus endured the suffering of the Cross because of the joy which would come from providing for our adoption. Read Hebrews 12:1-2. At the end of a day of nothing but bad luck we can find encouragement knowing that when we see the new heaven and earth which John saw, its glory will be beyond comparison with the greatest pain.
August 3 - Are you ashamed of the Gospel?
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 Comments (0)
Almost all commentaries and discussions of Paul’s letter to the Romans begin with a statement of something about Romans containing the most systematic presentation of theology in Scripture. While that is a true description of how the Holy Spirit has put together this part of the Bible, God’s Word, we should not start our discussion of this letter which Paul wrote to the saints in Rome. Although this book does give us a foundation for the understanding of the theology of the New Testament, salvation by grace, it started out as a personal letter from Paul to the churches in Rome. Paul had reasons or an occasion for writing this letter. Let’s take some time to look at those possible reasons or occasions so that we can hear the entire message of this letter.
The churches in Rome were not started by Paul. In fact, we really have no idea of how the churches were started in Rome. Yes, there are some wild guesses. But, these are just that, wild guesses. So, one reason for the writing of this letter is that Paul wanted to introduce himself and his presentation of the Gospel to the churches in Rome. Paul, the famous evangelist and missionary was planning a trip to Rome. He wants to preach in Rome the capital of the Roman Empire, the capital of the world. He is also planning a missionary journey to Spain. Read Romans 1:16-17. He begins his introduction of himself with an introduction of the Gospel he is preaching.
Paul declares that he is “not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” What does that say about Paul? Perhaps it tells us at least that the Gospel and its declaration to the world is all that mattered to Paul and therefore best introduces him to the Roman Christians. As you read on through this letter Paul describes in detail the Gospel. As he writes about visiting Rome he declares that he is not ashamed of the Gospel, meaning that it is so important to him and so much of what he has become that he would preach the Gospel anywhere, even in Rome.
What is this Gospel that he is not ashamed of? First, let’s point out that it is the announcing of Good News. It is not just Good News. It is announcing Good News. It is the Good News of Christ. Christ is more than just a name for Jesus. I think most of the time we thing of Christ as just being Jesus’ middle name, Jesus Christ our Lord. You know that name most of us never use. How many of you know my middle name? Or, as children, that name when called along with our first name tells us we are in trouble. Christ means “the anointed one sent from God.” What Paul was not ashamed of is the good news that God has in Jesus’ words, “So loved the world that He gave (sent) His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
It is this Good News that God has sent His Son for us that is the power that gives us salvation. This Good News is for everyone regardless of their background Jew or Gentile, the rest of the world. Since this Good News is received by belief then it is said that everlasting life is from faith and by faith. It is by this faith, belief in Jesus as the Christ, the one sent from God, that we can receive salvation and become just or righteous before God and live that way. For Paul that was how he wanted to be known. This Good News was for Paul all that mattered. It was what he was not ashamed. If you were writing such a letter what would be that one thing that would describe you? What are you not ashamed?
July 28 - What does God want me to do?
Thursday, July 28, 2011 Comments (0)
This is the age old question. What does God want me to do? Again, let’s look at history for the answer to this question. Or, let’s look at history to find a way to find the answer to this question. Since what God desires for each of us to do is as unique, as each individual person is unique, there is no blanket assignment which would apply to all of us. Yes, all of us are assigned to be a witness everywhere we go. Read Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. But, the question remains, “What is my specific role in this Great Commission?”
As Luke tells us how Paul was called to be the great missionary who was to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles, he gives a look into the things we should be doing to find the answer to our question. Read Acts 13:1-3. If you will look at the events leading up to this description of God’s call for Paul and Barnabas to take a missionary journey you will notice that God was working out things so that these two men are in a place to hear God’s call. A church had been started in Antioch that was reaching Greek speaking Jews, Hellenists. Barnabas was sent to Antioch to see what was going on in that church. Barnabas, being full of the Holy Spirit, immediately set out for Tarsus to find Paul, still known at this time as Saul. Read Acts 11:19-26. After finding Paul, they return to Antioch and taught in this church for a year. The ground work is laid. We must first study God’s Word and learn the truths found in the Bible.
Then this church started serving God. Read Acts 11:27-30. They began a disaster relief ministry to their brothers and sisters in Christ in Jerusalem who were suffering the effects of a famine that had struck the Roman world. It was especially bad in Judea since this is a farming region. Surprise, surprise, Barnabas and Paul are the ones who carry this offering to the elders of the church in Jerusalem. We see two parts of this equation: learn the truths of the Bible and start doing things for God. This then sets the stage for Paul and Barnabas to hear the call of God. Reread Acts 13:1-3.
As the members of this diverse church met together God called out two of their leaders to a specific task. “The Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Luke tells us that this happened while they “ministered to the Lord and fasted.” It has to be pointed out that the word translated as “ministered” in many English translations is the Greek word from which we get the English word “liturgy” which means a system of worship. This word in Greek has several connotations that all have to do with serving God in a public formal way as in a worship service. There is much more to say here but for the purpose a short discussion such as this let’s just say that this is at least about public worship, while the mention of fasting has to do with personal and private worship. Every time Jesus mentions fasting He commands that one should “anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting.” Read Matthew 6:16-18.
Let me end this with the suggestion that the stage is set for knowing what God wants us to do when we are involved with a church that is learning the truths of God’s Word and that is actively serving God is physical ways, doing for others in the name of Jesus. We are then to be involved in the public worship and service of the church while being involved in private worship and commitment to God. Do you really want to know what God wants you to do? Then get involved in the church and get serious with God!
JULY 25 - What are you praying for?
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 Comments (0)
In spite of calling the book of the Acts of the Apostles a book of history there are many great spiritual lessons to be found in this story of the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the church in the 1st Century. For example, we look to other places in the Bible to talk about how to pray and what we should pray for. Usually when we talk about learning to pray we immediately turn to the Lord’s Prayer or to the letter of James. But, have you ever looked to Acts for guidance on prayer. Well, if you haven’t, will stick with me for a few minutes, and we will. Read Acts 4:23-31.
As you will read all of chapter three and four of Acts you will notice that after Peter and John had healed the lame man at the Gate Beautiful in the name of Jesus there was an uproar in the temple. Peter then preached a sermon to the gathered crown telling them about Jesus and how this man was healed in the name of Jesus. As a result of this the number of those who believed in Jesus had swelled to about five thousand. Peter and John were immediately arrested, beaten and thrown in jail overnight. The next day they were called before the Sanhedrin. After much debate it was decided that these men should no longer preach or teach in the name of Jesus. At least that was what the Sanhedrin called for. Peter and John raised the question of who should be obeyed, God or man. Since it was so obvious that God had done something great in healing this lame man the Sanhedrin was afraid of public opinion. They were threatened and released from custody. By the way, did you notice that the man who was healed was over forty years old and had been lame all his life.
When Peter and John were released, they immediately returned to the church. Naturally, a time of worship and prayer followed. Reread this pray, Acts 4:24-30. Here is the spiritual lesson of history. Notice what they prayed for. James wrote that our prayers are not answered because we pray for the wrong things for the wrong reasons. Read James 4:2-3. While the church that day was honest about the situation, the difference is in what they asked for. The leaders of the church had just been arrested and threatened by the same council that had been responsible for the death of Jesus. They had just been told by the ruling authorities that they could not do what Jesus had told them to do, be a witness.
I think most of us would focus our prayer on asking God to get this council out of their way. We would most likely ask God to make the government side with us and make things easy for us. We might go as far as asking God to get the government to do this for us. They didn’t ask for any of this. In fact, they asked for just the opposite. They asked for the very same things that had just gotten them arrested. The church asked for boldness to preach God’s Word. We might ask God to repeal the order not to preach. They asked for more miracles like the one that caused such a stir. They were meeting daily in the temple. Not many people noticed them until this lame man was suddenly leaping and running throughout the temple. After this, there was such an uproar that the Sanhedrin had to take notice. Reread Acts 4:31. Their prayer was answered. “They spoke the word of God with boldness.” In the next chapter of Acts, Luke tells us that they were arrested again for the same thing, preaching in the name of Jesus. Their prayer was answered.
What are you praying for?