It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.

Author Unknown

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Study Notes - Chapter 15: TO LIVE IS CHRIST

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

Acts 15:19

My Study Notes Chapter 15: TO LIVE IS CHRIST

ACTS 15: 1-35

Paul and Barnabas loved the church in Antioch. This was the first church they started. This was their home base. The believers there welcomed them like family and honored their testimonies. In the last verse of Acts 14 we see that ‘ They stayed there a long time with the disciples.'

Just as in our own lives about the time things seem to calm down a bit, something or someone usually comes along to throw a kink in it. Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to settle a dispute there.

AS they traveled they told what God had done among the Gentiles and this made believers glad. However there is a dividing faction. The legalists .

When they reached Jerusalem, one of the most important meetings in history ensued.
Some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." Acts 15:5

Two sets of legalism emerge in this portion of Scripture

1. Judean visitors to Antioch told Gentile Christains they must be circumcised to be saved.

2. The believers in Jerusalem told them they must also obey the law of Moses.

Peter argued for acceptance of the Gentile believers on an equal basis with their Jewish counterparts.

James stood and delivered the verdict. He said ‘ It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles that are turning to God” Acts 15:19

The Jerusalem Council drafted a letter to the church in Antioch and appointed Judas and Silas to accompany Paul and Barnabas in their return. The council asked the believers to avoid four practices that were particularly offensive to their Jewish brothers and the believers in Antioch were glad to receive the encouraging message.

God uses many methods to draw people to Himself. He is far more creative than we want to think. Only He can judge the heart.

James reminded the Jewish believers in Acts 15:18 that salvation coming to the Gentiles had been known for ages. They were seeing the fruition of an old plan in which God would do a new thing. He gave His Son on the cross to set the captives free, not to imprison them under the impossible laws of men.

They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of that yoke, and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them” Ezekiel 34:27

God can break any yoke, even those we don’t realize we are wearing. The message of freedom prevailed at the Jerusalem Council and Paul and Barnabas departed with a letter for the Gentiles in Antioch.

These believers were urged to abstain from several practices forbidden under Jewish law. They were free from the Law of Moses (circumcision) but not from the life giving laws of God.

These four areas offer us an important learning opportunity.

The were told to abstain from food sacrificed to idols. Old sinful lifestyles are like eating food sacrificed to idols. Sometimes they seem so harmless – old friends, old hang outs etc can weaken us and cause someone else to stumble.

They were wise to avoid anything that would place them close enough to the vacumn to be sucked back in.

Next we’ll see Paul and Barnabas reminding their flock about a few ways to stay free.

If we are to remain close to God, we must study His word, pray for His help and encourage the people around us.

‘On Ya’ - ma

Monday, October 16, 2006

My Study Notes: Chapter 14 TO LIVE IS CHRIST

My Study Notes: Chapter 14, TO LIVE IS CHRIST

They retuned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them ot remain true to the faith, ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God” , they said.

Acts 14 21b-22

Acts 14: 21-28

In just a few verses in Acts 14 we see Pual and Barnabas backtrack through a number of cities on their way to Syrian Antioch where they had been commissioned.

Acts 22 tells us why they backtracked into to perilous places. They faced the risks to tell the new believers “We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God”

The key here was the word ‘MUST’ . Hardship is inevitable in the nature of things.

In II Corinthians we read “ our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

I John 4-4 reminds us “You dear children are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Hardships are inevitable for us because:

God wants to give us eternal victory by working His glory in and through them

Satan wants to bring us defeat by causing us to struggle and fail

The glorious nature of God and the heinous nature of Satan

Their message of encouragement through the warning of hardship may seem to be a paradox to us.

We might not find a message about unavoidable troubles very strengthening. Lets see if we can discover some strength or encouragement from their message.

If we recognize the inevitable nature of hardships , we can redirect our energies. Fear of trials sometimes depletes more energy than the trial itself.

Once we accept our hardship, we often sense a heavenly strength filling our souls. If you fear having your heart broken, ask God to redirect your energies toward faithfulness instead.

Realizations also encourage us in the faith.

First Peter 1:7 tells us one more reason. It says of trials “ these have come so that your faith, a greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire, may prove genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Be encouraged to know that difficulty is not a sign of immaturity or faithlessness. The Holy Spirit will do His job and let you know if you are suffering because of sin. Otherwise, remember we must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom.

After encouraging the new believers the time came for Paul and Barnabas to leave, but they did something to ensure an ongoing strengthening and encouraging of these new disciples.

Acts 14:23 tells us they appointed elders in each church. These men were probably spiritually mature as well as old. Oder men were not the only ones charged with responsibility.

In Titus 2:3-6 Paul also charged older women, younger women and younger men to faithful service He choose people of every age whose hearts are turned to Him.

Life is difficult. We don’t have Paul and Barnabas to encourage us, but we do have lots of older people who are willing to share the faithfulness of God, if we just stop and ask them.

I know that many times my faithful love of God is looked down upon as being over zealous and maybe even silly in some of my expectations, but I can only say that when it comes to my faith in God, I’ll never back down in my beliefs. He is my reason for being.

We can never know, nor are we supposed to know just how great our God is, we can only stand in AWE of our wonderful Lord and Savior.

On Ya’ - ma

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My Study Notes: Chapter 13 TO LIVE IS CHRIST

My Study notes: Chapter 13 TO LIVE IS CHRIST

Some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

Acts 14: 19-20

Paul and Barnabas traveled south in the province of Galatia to the city of Iconium. Paul was about 40 years of age at this time. In spite of opposition they spent considerable time there speaking boldly for the Lord. When things took a turn for the worse they ran for their lives.

In Proverbs 22:3 it says: that “prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

Christ often chose prudence. In John 7:1 it says “ Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely straying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life” No one could mistake His prudence for cowardice. In Matthew 26:1-2 we read “When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to the disciples, ‘As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified’

Christ did not resist His accusers this time because the time had come for him to sacrifice His life .

Christ delivered Paul and Barnabas from evil attacks by using their heads and feet, not miraculous intervention..

There are two principals regarding miraculous intervention in the New Testament

1. Miracles were used more often for authenticity than intervention
2. Miracles were used most often when natural means were not available or not conceivable.

Whether God uses natural or supernatural means to deliver us from danger, both are divine provisions.

The pair then proceeded to the city of Lystra and began to preach the good news. There they healed a man who had been crippled from birth.

Because of their miracle the crowds declared ‘the gods have come down to us in human form.’ This wasn’t what Paul and Barnabas had hoped to convey. They wasted no time in setting the record straight. One minute the crowd was singing there praises , the next minute they were stoning Paul and dragging him out of the city.

Many years later Paul would write in 2 Timothy 3: 10-11
You , however, know about…what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecution I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

The word rescue in the original Greek was rhuomai which means ‘to draw or snatch from danger, rescue , deliver. This is more with the meaning of drawing to oneself than mere rescuing from someone or something. God wasn’t only interested in drawing Paul out of difficulty, or danger. He wanted to draw Paul closer to Himself.

Every time God delivers us, the point is ultimately to draw us closer to Himself. Whether we get to avoid pain or suffering or we must persevere in the midst of it, our deliverance comes when were are dragged from the enemy of our souls to the heart of God.

So many times I’ve been helped by God and now I understand why, He wanted me to come closer to Him. I believe I have slowly but surely done that. I’ve always believed, but I’ve not always been as close as I am now.

Every time I hear or see hatred, jealousy, irate anger, selfishness, or lies, it makes my heart break. Every time I catch myself in one of these sins, I wonder where did that come from? I am only human, but a human trying hard to get closer and closer to the heart of my God.

Each day I get another chance to do it right, I guess that’s what life is all about.

‘On Ya’ - ma