Archive for May 17th, 2008

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Christmas

May 17, 2008

Christmas time is when a lot of people reflect on the gift of Jesus, and what He means in our life. Regardless of whether 25 December is an accurate date for Christ’s birth, it becomes an opportunity to remember the joy of life found in Jesus.

Some simple ways to reflect on the gift of Jesus and the gift that He is:

* read the Biblical texts about the birth of Jesus
* give gifts to others
* share the joy you have found in life with Jesus – let others know who Jesus is and the significance of His coming to Earth
* give to the needy
* invite a lonely person to join you for Christmas lunch or dinner
* hold a Christmas dinner party for your friends – engage in some hospitality!
* visit a Christmas day church service
* reflect on the meanings of traditional Christmas carols
* when you write the annual Christmas cards, try to purchase Christmas cards from a charitable organisation, or write something more meaningful to each individual than you normally would, or include a favourite Scripture

This is not to give you a religious checklist or a way of earning your way to God. These are simply ideas you might like to consider in the time leading up to Christmas.

*Do you have any ideas for what you can do to share the love of God with people in your life? Not just at Christmas, but all year around?

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Preparing for the New Year

May 17, 2008

This is an activity I ran with my Bible study group late 2007. Inspired by Luke 10:27, it was an opportunity to reflect on the year just gone, and the year ahead.

Luke 10:27

He answered: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

From this Bible text we identified 4 areas in which we demonstrate love for God:

  1. heart
  2. soul
  3. strength
  4. neighbour

We roughly translated this into the following aspects of life:

  1. mind
  2. spirit
  3. body
  4. others

Steps to do the activity:

  • divide a page into two columns.
  • at the top of the left column write the year just finished (e.g., “2007″)
  • at the top of the right column write the year to come (e.g., “2008″)
  • in each column write the 4 categories mind, spirit, body, others – leaving enough room between each to write a sentence or two.
  • for the year just finished (e.g., 2007), write one thing you achieved in each category.

Mind – represents the things you have achieved in developing your mind this year. For example, did you do well in a particular subject at school or university? Did you undertake a short course? Did you learn a new skill, such as learning a musical instrument?

Spirit – represents your spiritual journey. For example, what have you achieved in your Christian walk? Are you closer to God now than you were earlier in the year? Have you experienced increased fruitfulness in your prayer life? Have you read the Bible more consistently? Have you been baptised this year?

Body – represents what you have done to take care of your physical body. The Bible has a lot to say about the human body. The way we use and treat our bodies can be a way to honour God. (See 1 Corinthians 6:20; Philippians 1:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Timothy 4:7-8). So, have you made an effort to eat better, or exercise more? Maybe you’ve made the transition to a healthy plant-based eating lifestyle. Or you bought a gym membership – and actually stuck with it!

Others – what have you done to share God’s love with others? Did you give away your possessions to the poor? Give to the homeless? Help out at a soup kitchen or drop in centre? Did you serve in a church ministry? Did you give hospitality to your friends and family? Did you give encouragement to others?

  • For the year to come (e.g., 2008), write something for each of the four categories that you hope to achieve.

Some possibilities…

Mind – “I am going to try and read one novel every month.”

Spirit – “I am going to seek God first, rather than using Him as a last resort when life gets hard.”

Body – “I will assess my eating habits and looks for opportunities to improve.”

Others – “I am going to join my church’s team of ushers, and meet and greet people at the door.

*What are some ideas you have for transforming your life in these areas, and for demonstrating your love for God through these areas?

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Why did Jesus come to Earth? – Romans 7 and 8

May 17, 2008

There are a few answers to that question, but for now I want to focus in on one area.

To get the most out of this Bible Study, read the Scripture excerpt carefully, then answer the questions based on what you read in the Scripture text.

Romans 7:21-25, Romans 8:1-9

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (NIV)

•    Why did God send His Son, Jesus? (Rom 7:24-25, Rom 8:2-4)
•   Verse 1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” Taken in the context of the rest of this Scripture, mean that there is never any sort of condemnation for a follower of Christ?

•    Compare this to Romans 6:1-4:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (NIV)

•    Does being saved by faith and grace mean that it is acceptable to continue walking in sin?
•  Why is there “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… who do not live according to the flesh..”? (Rom 8:1,4)
•    Who is unable to please God? (Rom 8: 8 )
•    What are the characteristics of the person who cannot please God? (Rom 8:5-7)
•    What are the two laws competing for our attention? (Rom 7:21-25)
•    How is a slave to sin released from sin? (Rom 7:24-25

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Jesus – Luke 3

May 17, 2008

Luke 3:23-38

When Jesus began his work, he was about thirty years old. He was the son, so people thought, of Joseph, who was the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Kenan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (GNT)

  • What nationality is Jesus, according to this genealogy?
  • Can you find Biblical references to any of the individuals listed here?
  • How far back in history does this genealogy trace Jesus’ human family? Does it suggest any gaps (in a plain reading of the text)?
  • How old was Jesus when He began His work? What does this suggest to any 20-something Christians who are worried that they’ve missed their ministry calling?
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Jesus, The Word – John 1

May 17, 2008

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (TNIV)

Where the other three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) focussed more on the natural aspects of Jesus’ birth, the Gospel according to the Apostle John gives us another perspective.

  • Who is the person addressed as “The Word?”
  • In the first paragraph, what are three attributes of the Word?
  • What does this passage say about Jesus’ role in Creation?
  • Who was the John who wrote this Scripture, and who was the John mentioned in the text? Are they the same person?
  • What have we received from Jesus Christ?
  • How do we know God the Father?
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Wise Men Visit Baby Jesus – Matthew 2

May 17, 2008

Matthew 2:1-23
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.” (NIV)

  • Does the text indicate how many wise men, or magi, there were?
  • Why was Herod disturbed?
  • Why did Herod say he wanted to find the Christ child? What was his actual motive to find the Christ?
  • How did God communicate to Joseph the need to escape? Where did Jesus spend His childhood?
  • What happened to the young boys in Bethlehem?
  • What are the different ways that God communicates to His people in this text?
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Prophets Speak Over Baby Jesus – Luke 2

May 17, 2008

Luke 2:21-40

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then had been a widow for eighty-four years. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. (TNIV)

  • What was Simeon’s prophecy?
  • What was Anna’s prophetic revelation about? Does it surprise you that the Bible records both men and women as prophets (not only men)?
  • What is the prophecy directed to Mary, from Simeon? If this was said to you, how would you feel?
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