Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Studying Acts (part two)

This week the study focussed on chapters 1 & 2 of Acts.

There is always a debate about whether Matthias' appointment was God ordained or Peter's 'good idea'. I wrote about this here and I don't think I've changed by mind after this week's lectures despite the fact that the lecturer felt very strongly that Matthias was not God's choice. The lecturer did point out that Peter's requirements for a replacement apostle: "...have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us...For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection" (1:21-22), would make apostleship obsolete these days, which I don't think is the case.

The other interesting topic in this early part of Acts is, of course, the number of miracles and the number of conversions, and are these directly related? It is significant that the places where the church is experiencing much growth in the world today is also the places where there are many miracles. This requires some serious thought and prayer if we want to see churches in our part of the world experience serious growth.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Grace (part two)

In Ruth 4:12 the women of Bethlehem pronounced this blessing on Ruth and Boaz when their marriage was announced: “may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” Why refer to Perez in the blessing? Surely Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob would have been a more suitable choice because the story of Perez is rather unsavory. The account is in Genesis 38. Tamar became pregnant by her father-in-law, Judah, and gave birth to twin boys named Perez and Zerah. Initially it seemed that Zerah would be the firstborn and inherit the privileges of that position but it was Perez who was born first. His birth was a reversal of what should have happened. The name, Perez, means an overturn of events.

When the women of Bethlehem blessed Ruth they were saying God was bringing about a reversal in her life. God had told the Israelites to have nothing to do with the Moabites and Ruth was a Moabite. She was not entitled to be included with God’s people or the blessings associated with being a part of God’s family. However she committed herself to God and he overturned her circumstances. The full extent of this reversal becomes clear when we read Ruth’s name in Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:5). Ruth is the recipient of God’s amazing grace.

We are like Ruth. We are not entitled to be included in God’s family. He is a holy God; we are unworthy people. God should have nothing to do with us. Yet, God sent Jesus. It was an act of unmerited favor. Now there is a complete reversal in our circumstances when we commit ourselves to God. He puts us in the privileged position of being a favored son or daughter of God. We are the recipients of God’s amazing grace.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Studying Acts (part one)

This semester I am going to be studying the book of Acts at Bible College and I thought I would share some of my discoveries here.

It is generally agreed that Luke wrote Acts as well as his gospel particularly because they are both addressed to Theophilus. It seems that Luke was a Gentile, making him the only Gentile author of a Biblical book. This should not be a surprise God was always including Gentiles - Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, Bathsheba.

One of the interesting questions in regard to Acts is, when exactly did the church stop being Jewish? In the early chapters it seems the Jewish believers continued with their Jewish customs but when Paul starts his missionary journeys he did not make new believers follow Jewish customs. Church history records a lot of tensiion/conflict between Jewish believers and non-Jewish believers which is very sad. There are many views on whether the Jews are still God's people or whether the church is now God's people. From Romans 11 it seems that currently the Jews are experiencing a period of "hardening" or of being "broken off" but the time is coming when "all Israel will be saved" (11:25-26). So I feel the Jews are still God's people and the church is God's people, but one day, "there shall be one flock" (John 10:16).

I believe God's promise to Abraham is still valid, "I will bless those who bless you" (Genesis 12:3). For this reason I hope my nation continues to support Israel.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Grace (part one)

I plan to write a series of articles on grace. It seems to me many Christians seriously underestimate the extent of God's grace.

A group of teenage prisoners in America played football in a team called the Tornados.* They played against other high school teams in the area. One of the teams the Tornados played against was a Christian school and the coach from this school had an idea.

It was the last match for the season and he knew that no one ever came to support the Tornados —no family, no friends—to cheer for them. So he wrote an email to his school community asking them to come to the match and support both teams. To fill the visitors’ stands as well as their own stands.

A simple request led to an amazing outcome. The school community responded and came in droves. They cheered and shouted for these young men who were considered to be a burden on society. They showed love and grace towards those who were usually disregarded. These prisoners had broken the law, maybe even hurting the very people who were cheering for them and as a result they were deeply moved, some even cried. They knew they didn't deserve such support. But that’s the truth about grace, it means being given something we don’t deserve and cannot earn. It's a beautiful picture of what God does for us. God cheers for us, even though we have no right to expect it. We’ve broken his rules and failed to measure up to his standards for our life. Nevertheless he is on our side, cheering for us, supporting us and being there for us. When we open our hearts to his overwhelming grace we suddenly find ourselves changing, because the surprise is, it is not punishments or resolutions that change us but rather it is grace. It changes us from the inside out.

*Thanks to Jeff Goins for bringing this story to my attention.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Don't stop singing

"The church has always sung...whether on the high mountain of victory and celebration or through the low valley of persecution and despair...still the church has sung with great fervor." Ralph Carmichael.

Sometimes I hear about churches that meet in coffee shops. I don't have a problem with churches meeting in a non-church building but my first thought is always, how do they sing? do they sing? Because I can't imagine a church that doesn't sing. 

The Old Testament contains many stories where God's people sang as well as a song book - Psalms. In the New Testament there are also references to songs/singing. So why is it so important that the church sings?

Firstly it is an opportunity to express how we feel about God and all that he has done for us. Secondly it is spiritual warfare. We declare to the enemy of our souls what we believe. Thirdly we join with other believers in a shared activity which promotes unity. Fourthly God speaks to us through the songs we sing. 

I suspect that some don't like to sing because of the emotion it can invoke. However God has made us emotional beings and if we want to be all that God intends us to be, we sing.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Legally Blonde (again!)

I have posted about this movie before; here. I watched it again the other night and I was again surprised to realize that it is more profound than it appears. The movie industry has lead us to expect a romantic comedy to be amusing, shallow, have doubtful morals, mild bad language and be unrealistic but believable. Legally Blonde is all these things but shallow.

The subtle message of the film is don't allow the opinions of others to limit your potential. Elle, the main character, grew up pleasing others as most young girls do and she excelled at being attractive, popular and fun to be around. Her wealthy parents and peers didn't encourage her towards high academic goals, and even her high grades didn't seem to excite anyones' expectations. Elle had come to believe that success and happiness were found in conforming to the life plan that her mother and thousands of women before her had followed. It all went badly wrong for Elle when her boyfriend not only didn't propose but actually dropped her. This wasn't just the end of a relationship but a total disillusionment in a system that promised love and security but had failed to deliver either.

Elle goes to Harvard in an attempt to win back her boyfriend but leaves with a whole new self-concept based not on other's expectations, or defined by others' opinions, but on her own unique gifts and abilities.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

On becoming a Grandma

Another reason for my lack of posts here of late is that I become a grandma last week.

I've discovered that being a grandparent creates a new dimension in your relationship with your adult child. There are lots of things I'd like to say, lots of advice I'd like to give, lots of stories I'd like to share but I also know that now is not the right time for much of this. There is a balance between being supportive and being overbearing. I remember being a first time Mum myself.  I was reluctant to accept advice unless it came from a very trusted source with a good explanation.

It is important to recognize we are individuals and there is no one right way of doing something, even when it comes to raising children. God has given us the children that we are the right parents for, because God has equipped us with the necessary ability to be their parent. Also we can know that God will always give us the wisdom we need if we ask.

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Friday, February 03, 2012

Studying Genesis

Over the next 10 weeks I will be studying the book of Genesis. This week we looked at the first five chapters. It has been a while since I've read Genesis and it has been refreshing to revisit this book. Slowly but surely God reveals his purposes and plans over many generations. God it seems is never in a hurry. Click here if you would like to join me.

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