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Faith Lives in Action

Father, give us faith and sight-by-faith to live this life looking to the reward of heaven, not present sinful pleasures. Let us live lives of self-control and self-sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and Your Name. Give us faith and strength to keep our eyes and hearts focused on Christ. Amen.

Hebrews 11:23-31
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Living a life that is deeply rooted in faith means our eyes are focused on something different, something higher than the low lying fruit of the world. There are plenty of options, plenty of things to distract us from living as God intends and avenues for setting up our life as a shrine and altar to the god of ‘me.’ Our culture promotes it, encourages it and even provides moments of slacktivism where we can feel like we’re a part of something without ever having to lift a finger. We can use a feeling like solidarity to link our emotions to a cause, but never do any real work to see that goal accomplished.

But faith refuses to operate that way, and in reality, it cannot. Faith demands action. Faith demands self-sacrifice & self-control. Faith demands that we live our lives with a real purpose laid out before us, with a goal that is greater than ourselves. And so God grants us a community of faith to walk in the daily rhythms of faith, in steps of mercy, loving-kindness and grace. And it is in this life of selflessness, walked out in rhythms of grace, that we find action happening, real results coming from the desires placed on our hearts by God.

Look at these examples form Hebrews. Moses’ parents exampled to him so that he might one day example to others what it means to resist evil and seek the ways of God. They stood up against harsh, ungodly leadership within their nation by resisting a call to death. They refused to take part in it, and so a life was saved that would bring deliverance to their people. A quiet faithfulness preserved in the way & will of God brought benefit to countless others because they had faith to do what was right and what was hard.

The nation later followed in footsteps of Moses’ faith, even though they struggled deeply with faith themselves. They marched through parted seas & rivers, defeated armies by walking away from them, and cities by walking around them. God fought battles for His faithful people. They learned through action and hardship what it means to follow and go and be faithful because faithfulness has a price. We lose comfort, earthly/temporary comfort, and we lose the ability to live selfishly.

When you and I live this way, living as those blessed by faith so that we might be a blessing to others, we will find sudden value to sacrifice, like Rahab did before Jericho fell. It doesn’t matter whether we have been good at it before, we simply need to repent of our self-centered lives and walk in the faith God provides through Christ. He writes the story, we walk in His plan, trusting in love and the outcome for His glory. This is how the world is changed.

Father, give us faith and sight-by-faith to live this life looking to the reward of heaven, not present sinful pleasures. Let us live lives of self-control and self-sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and Your Name. Give us faith and strength to keep our eyes and hearts focused on Christ. Amen.

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The Bible Project // Review

If you teach/disciple others, I hope by now that you’ve heard about The Bible Project. From their site, www.thebibleproject.com, they say:

The Bible Project is a Portland based non-profit that utilizes short-form, fully animated videos to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. We create videos, podcasts, and study guides that explore the Bible’s unified story by focusing on its overarching themes and each book’s literary design. We are committed to understanding the Bible in its historical context and communicating its wisdom for the modern world.

This is one of those resources that would have been wonderful to have when I was teaching 7th grade Bible at Christian Academy of Louisville all those years ago, or the 14 years when I was leading youth groups & children’s bible studies. The videos are fun to watch, the artwork is always engaging and the method they use for story telling captures the viewer in this grand, overarching look at the history of the movement of God among human kind.

bible-project-youtube

The Bible Project YouTube page is an easy way to engage someone when you are on the go.

Add to that the visual progression through the story board of the book or subject being covered and you wind up with something that you can quite literally carry with you as they offer printables, downloads & other bonus features that help to put the lesson right in the hand of the learner. I have been teaching the Bible for almost 20 years, and these are the types of resources that I love to use when walking people through the story of God. Using a physical story board (in hand or downloaded on your phone/tablet) you can walk backwards and forwards in big, sweeping motions or maneuver in fine detail with ease.

01-02-genesis_fnl

Every book they cover has a study guide and a downloadable storyboard/poster like this one.

But here’s the bonus-bonus: Every adult that I have shown this to has been engaged by the methods employed by Timothy, Jonathan and their team. This isn’t kid’s stuff, but a tool to be utilized by anyone and everyone who shares the Word of God with someone else. Our world is intensely visual, and the team at The Bible Project has latched on to this in a wonderful way. This method of teaching isn’t just for people under 18 years old. God has wired us with a variety of learning styles. The Bible Project allows for audio, visual & kinesthetic learners as they give you the tools to work in each of these realms of learning. This is a great tool for everyone.

If you know someone who wants to know more, but maybe isn’t a big reader, then why not give them a glimpse into the concepts of key biblical themes like Holiness, Covenants & the Gospel of the Kingdom. These are topics that we might not bring up in casual conversation, but we can definitely shoot someone a link to watch a video so we can talk about it later over coffee (always a good idea!) or a meal. You may not get them to read through Leviticus, but I’ll bet you can get them to watch it in less than 9 minutes.

This is still a work in process, as they are adding in videos & resources every week (as of the time of writing,) but they have done so much so well in such a seemingly short time.
They have done a good job to leave non-essential doctrinal issues out of the mix so that the teacher/disciple-maker can engage those in their own way.

On the other hand, they do not shy away from being bold with core doctrinal issues & topics. They do not try to tame God, limit the Holy Spirit or write off the miracles of Jesus. They are open and honest with the flaws of every person God has used throughout history and that transparency leaves us with an honest retelling of God’s righteous handiwork among sinful men & women.

With high quality visuals, an open heart for the Gospel & an obviously gifted team behind these efforts, The Bible Project is definitely a worthwhile addition to your teaching toolbox. It works great in large settings with discussion groups or a single point person, or one-on-one in a cafe or living room. This versatility & mobile format will give this group serious longevity in a quick-change world. I’m looking forward to what is yet to come from this crew. They also have a blog with details and news where you can keep up with what’s in the works or find a place to dig deeper into difficult subjects. And please remember that great content like this doesn’t happen for free. If you like what you find there, you can sponsor their efforts with a donation.

(There is no sponsorship of my blog or affiliation with TBP implied.)

Have you seen The Bible Project before? What are your thoughts? Any other resources in this category that you like enough to share? Let me know in the comments below.

Join The Bible Project on Facebook & Twitter

Romans 2:1-11 // Qualified to Judge You?

“1 Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. 2 We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. 3 Do you really think — anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same — that you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. 6 He will repay each one according to his works: 7 eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth but are obeying unrighteousness; 9 affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 11 There is no favoritism with God.”

Romans 2:1-11

==

When you get into conversations about sin with people, whether in real life or online, and they decide that they want to throw a little scripture out there, they are often fond of quoting this passage from Jesus: “Do not judge, so that you wont be judged.” (Matthew 7:1.) It seems to be a favorite for use out of context and for those with little understanding. But they also ignore passages like these that show us where to use judgement:

John 7:24 – ‘Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – “9 I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 10 I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. 11 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Dont you judge those who are inside? 13 But God judges outsiders. ‘Put away the evil person from among yourselves.'”

In these passages we are told to judge, to discern, what is going on in the heart of another person, to evaluate their actions. If you didn’t or couldn’t, how would you know if someone was immoral? You’d have to hold them up to some kind of standard. What if you met someone who was an abusive drunk, but ignored this passage? When you saw them and confronted them, they’d say “Judge not, man.” and you’d be left to say “Oh well, sorry.” and walk away. And how ridiculous would that be? You have to be able to judge if something is right or wrong, good or bad, righteous or unrighteous. To claim that is impossible or “wrong” to do is insane, because then the person is judging your judging and judging that it is wrong (and against what standard?) 

Instead, we need to understand that the judgement referred to is the judgment of the human soul, we are referring to an eternal judgement. When people put themselves in God’s place and make judgment calls about another human being, that is where the problem lies. There is nothing wrong in pointing out a wrong, but we are to leave the eternal type of judgment to God and God alone. But we still are called to see justice done, to see people treated properly and children taken care of, and those actions all require some form of judgement (discernment) between right and wrong. It is in our conversations with people about Jesus and the hope that we have in Him that we must have the conversations about right and wrong, standards and expectations. We must lay out what is good and profitable and right in the life, mind, heart, soul & body of a Christian, according to what we find in the Word from God. 

To act like we cannot speak into behavior or attitudes, again, is crazy. Even the people who misquote “judge not” do this on a daily basis, and when they do it, they justify it. So, we see what the real issue at hand is: people do not want to be convicted of their sin. They don’t want a standard set in front of their heart just to see that they do not measure up. Instead, they want to be left to their own devices, to do as they please. And in that desire, they set up perceived protection around their actions so that they are not confronted with the ugliness that lies in their hearts. And so “judge not” becomes their rally cry. But judgment is coming, and it is coming from God Himself. And those of us who know His standards have been given a responisibility to lay them out for people to see and hear, and even in that way, we are to do it with gentleness and respect. Prophets were sent to speak to God’s people for thousands of years, to point out what is right and wrong and direct their hearts toward God. Today, God uses us, the church, to speak to the world at large and declare His righteous judgements. Those judgments do not come from us, but from His Word, and we must be able to share with people what is good & bad, right & wrong. The Holy Spirit is responsible for conviction of sin, but we are responsible for communicating the message. We don’t hold judgement over men’s souls, but we do weigh their actions, the fruit of their lives. In fact, the more we read the Word, the more familair we bacome with the heart of God, the more we see that this judgement is done out of love.

James 5:19-20 – “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

There must be a discerning so that we can GoLove people, warning them of the judgment that God will bring for every single one of us. There must be a line drawn between sin and faithfulness. It is irresponsible & illogical to think or live otherwise. If we are going to love people as God does, then we must do so in a way that reveals the truth about men’s actions and the motivations of the heart. 

Acts 22:1-5 // Building Credibility Through Transparency 

“1 ‘Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense before you.’ 2 When they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even quieter. 3 He continued, ‘I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel and educated according to the strict view of our patriarchal law. Being zealous for God, just as all of you are today, 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women in jail, 5 as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. After I received letters from them to the brothers, I traveled to Damascus to bring those who were prisoners there to be punished in Jerusalem.'”

Acts 22:15
==

Paul begins addressing this hostile crowd in Jerusalem by addressing his own past & by exposing his personal history to them. Before they hear anything else, they need to see and know who he is and who he once was. This isn’t for Paul’s credit, but it does establish him as a human being in their eyes. With this kind of mob-mentality and violent rage going on, they needed to be reminded of the simple fact that he was a real human being. They also needed to know that he was someone that understood them. Paul firmly established his credibility in stating that he learned under Gamaliel & by addressing his proximity to the High Priest. He was basically saying that he was, at one point, one of them. He was zealous for the old traditions, just like they were, and he held a deep and abiding love for Jerusalem, the Temple and everything that they held dear…but obviously, something had changed.

When you and I speak to people who are opposed to Christ, who rail against us, it may also be helpful to establish our past with them. I usually tell people that breaking down your testimony into three parts will help them understand you more, see your heart more clearly and discover that you’re not some self-righteous hypocrite. The three parts are quite simple: “This is who I was before I met Jesus. This is how I met Jesus. This is what He’s working in me now.” A personal testimony is difficult to dispute. It is even more powerful when we let them see our imperfections, foibles and flaws. 

Paul wanted this crowd to know who he was, so he could establish a credible link with him and what he was getting ready to tell them. When we GoLove others for the sake of Christ, we need do the same, and that is often best established through personal transparency. Transparency helps people see that we aren’t just trying to lord something over them or to guilt them for not being like us. Instead, it introduces them to the story that God is writing in us, and it allows them to see our weaknesses, which in turn makes them more comfortable and reestablishes our humanity in their eyes. In short, transparency is disarming. 

But transparency does not come naturally. We have to endure it as a discipline. We want to be guarded, we want to keep our walls up. Exposing our weaknesses might give our opponent an opportunity to assault us further or do malign our character. Transparency lets them see into the depths of who we really are and it leaves us standing exposed. But that’s also why transparency is so powerful. It points past us and directly to the handiwork of God. It says, “I don’t have everything together.” Instead transparency points toward our own need for a Savior, and at that point becomes our witness to God’s goodness, faithfulness, mercy and grace. When we are transparent, we quit blocking the view toward Christ. Paul does that wonderfully, both here and in all his writings. We should go and do likewise and let people see Jesus Christ instead of seeing us. 

Acts 17:1-9 // Jealousy of a New Life

“1 Then they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As usual, Paul went to the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and showing that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead: ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah.’ 4 Then some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, including a great number of God-fearing Greeks, as well as a number of the leading women.

5 But the Jews became jealous, and they brought together some scoundrels from the marketplace, formed a mob, and started a riot in the city. Attacking Jason’s house, they searched for them to bring them out to the public assembly. 6 When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, 7 and Jason has received them as guests! They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king — Jesus!’ 8 The Jews stirred up the crowd and the city officials who heard these things. 9 So taking a security bond from Jason and the others, they released them.”

Acts 17:1-9

“But the Jews became jealous…” They weren’t really concerned for Caesar, his reputation or his rule. They weren’t concerned about ‘order’ in society or about maintaining the cultural status quo. They were plainly and simply jealous. They wanted the attention, they wanted to be the ones who were ‘morally right’ and they didn’t like contesting that position with anyone. Not too long before, weeks & days, they had been the representatives of God to that city. They likely did not do outreach, but stood apart, allowing those who gained an interest to join them. But now, passionate men & women were growing in numbers and they were not only speaking about God, but about His Messiah. And if anyone should have known about the Messiah, well, it should have been t hem.

And so they quickly found themselves less significant, maybe even a little irrelevant, and they didn’t know what to do about that but to fight back. 

When we turn from our previous ways of life and begin to follow Jesus, we are going to find we have people who were our friends who are now fighting against us, who don’t accept the changes taking place in us, and so they struggle for relevance, and even within themselves. That frustration is usually taken out on the person who introduced the change, in this case, Paul and company. We need to be sensitive to their frustrations and try to use those conversations as opportunities to explain, to show from Scripture why we’ve made these decisions, why we’ve chosen Jesus. It doesn’t mean they’ll come to the same understanding the way we did, but it will give them a relevant point to begin from and to at least consider Christ, if they are willing.

As Christians, we should expect hardship and opposition from those who stand outside Christ. That shouldn’t be a surprise to us. But as we GoLove others in His Name, we should definitely speak from those points of conflict or difference and present the reason for the hope that we have in an intelligent and reasonable way. We do not fight like the world fights, we answer conflict with love.

Acts 17:1-9 // 

“1 Then they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As usual, Paul went to the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and showing that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead: ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah.’ 4 Then some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, including a great number of God-fearing Greeks, as well as a number of the leading women.

5 But the Jews became jealous, and they brought together some scoundrels from the marketplace, formed a mob, and started a riot in the city. Attacking Jason’s house, they searched for them to bring them out to the public assembly. 6 When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, 7 and Jason has received them as guests! They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king — Jesus!’ 8 The Jews stirred up the crowd and the city officials who heard these things. 9 So taking a security bond from Jason and the others, they released them.”

Acts 17:1-9

“But the Jews became jealous…” They weren’t really concerned for Caesar, his reputation or his rule. They weren’t concerned about ‘order’ in society or about maintaining the cultural status quo. They were plainly and simply jealous. They wanted the attention, they wanted to be the ones who were ‘morally right’ and they didn’t like contesting that position with anyone. Not too long before, weeks & days, they had been the representatives of God to that city. They likely did not do outreach, but stood apart, allowing those who gained an interest to join them. But now, passionate men & women were growing in numbers and they were not only speaking about God, but about His Messiah. And if anyone should have known about the Messiah, well, it should have been t hem.

And so they quickly found themselves less significant, maybe even a little irrelevant, and they didn’t know what to do about that but to fight back. 

When we turn from our previous ways of life and begin to follow Jesus, we are going to find we have people who were our friends who are now fighting against us, who don’t accept the changes taking place in us, and so they struggle for relevance, and even within themselves. That frustration is usually taken out on the person who introduced the change, in this case, Paul and company. We need to be sensitive to their frustrations and try to use those conversations as opportunities to explain, to show from Scripture why we’ve made these decisions, why we’ve chosen Jesus. It doesn’t mean they’ll come to the same understanding the way we did, but it will give them a relevant point to begin from and to at least consider Christ, if they are willing.

As Christians, we should expect hardship and opposition from those who stand outside Christ. That shouldn’t be a surprise to us. But as we GoLove others in His Name, we should definitely speak from those points of conflict or difference and present the reason for the hope that we have in an intelligent and reasonable way. We do not fight like the world fights, we answer conflict with love.

Psalm 119:73-80 // י Yod // Dependent on God 

“73 Your hands made me and formed me;

give me understanding

so that I can learn Your commands.

74 Those who fear You will see me and rejoice,

for I put my hope in Your word.

75 I know, Lord, that Your judgments are just

and that You have afflicted me fairly.

76 May Your faithful love comfort me

as You promised Your servant.

77 May Your compassion come to me

so that I may live,

for Your instruction is my delight.

78 Let the arrogant be put to shame

for slandering me with lies;

I will meditate on Your precepts.

79 Let those who fear You,

those who know Your decrees, turn to me.

80 May my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes

so that I will not be put to shame.”

Psalm 119:73-80

Wisdom begins in us when we learn to fear God properly. Understanding grows in us when we gain a proper perspective as to who we are in light of just who He is, too. We cannot have a healthy perspective on life so long as we see ourselves at the top of the ladder of importance. Instead, with a dose of humility and an honest evaluation of reality, we see just how much we need God, His love, grace, mercy & His rule over our hearts, minds and lives. Pride has no place before the throne of God.

Read this portion of Psalm 119 again, a little more slowly, taking in the depth of what David is saying & admitting.

Read it a third time, acknowledging your own need for God’s guidance.

Read it a fourth and final time, and make it your prayer as you see Him out. 

  

Psalm 119:73-80 // י Yod // Dependent on God 

“73 Your hands made me and formed me;

give me understanding

so that I can learn Your commands.

74 Those who fear You will see me and rejoice,

for I put my hope in Your word.

75 I know, Lord, that Your judgments are just

and that You have afflicted me fairly.

76 May Your faithful love comfort me

as You promised Your servant.

77 May Your compassion come to me

so that I may live,

for Your instruction is my delight.

78 Let the arrogant be put to shame

for slandering me with lies;

I will meditate on Your precepts.

79 Let those who fear You,

those who know Your decrees, turn to me.

80 May my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes

so that I will not be put to shame.”

Psalm 119:73-80

Wisdom begins in us when we learn to fear God properly. Understanding grows in us when we gain a proper perspective as to who we are in light of just who He is, too. We cannot have a healthy perspective on life so long as we see ourselves at the top of the ladder of importance. Instead, with a dose of humility and an honest evaluation of reality, we see just how much we need God, His love, grace, mercy & His rule over our hearts, minds and lives. Pride has no place before the throne of God.

Read this portion of Psalm 119 again, a little more slowly, taking in the depth of what David is saying & admitting.

Read it a third time, acknowledging your own need for God’s guidance.

Read it a fourth and final time, and make it your prayer as you see Him out. 

Acts 15:22-35 // Appreciation for a Simple Faith & Freedom

“22 Then the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, decided to select men who were among them and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. 23 They wrote this letter to be delivered by them:

“From the apostles and the elders, your brothers,

To the brothers among the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

Greetings.

24 Because we have heard that some without our authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, 25 we have unanimously decided to select men and send them to you along with our dearly loved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who will personally report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it was the Holy Spirits decision — and ours — to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things.

Farewell.”

30 Then, being sent off, they went down to Antioch, and after gathering the assembly, they delivered the letter. 31 When they read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 Both Judas and Silas, who were also prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers and strengthened them with a long message. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent back in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch teaching and proclaiming the message of the Lord.”

Acts 15:22-35

If you have never had the joy of packing up and moving to a new location, then you have never had the unusual perspective given by physically laying hands on everything that you ‘own’ in a short amount of time, getting to evaluate it, getting to count it, to see how much space your stuff takes up in a moving truck or a storage space. It always makes me want to just get rid of it all and start over because I see just how much baggage I have accumulated, and just how much nonsense gathers around us. Here in the West, we have so much, too much. But we also seem to want to surround ourselves with even more as time goes on. For some it even becomes an obsession, in dealing with loss or grief or change, they gather and hoard and hem themselves in with more and more trying to physically fill in the space that they are emotionally struggling with…it is a cultural disorder. 

So, When these new Christians hear about the simple joys faith, and hear about freedom that God offers in Jesus Christ, they are overjoyed and rightfully so. It is like waking up in the middle of your hoard and finding freedom to walk away and not need those extras anymore. It is like having your eyes opened up for the first time, someone taking lead boots off your feet. It is the sweet release of freedom that only can be brought to you by someone else, like a prisoner being unchained and their door being left to swing wide. 

But then they meet people who have already been ‘free’ for a while, and they are given a suitcase, and maybe a backpack loaded with all the extras that they ‘must have’ in order to enjoy their freedom. They are loaded with expectations and arguments, with to-do lists and burdens that were never meant to accompany their freedom by the One who gave it to them. And in time, they are expected to fall in line with everyone else. Let the excitement wear off, get in step with reality, and polish the edge off that joy a little and THEN you will see what it really means to be ‘free’ like me. 

These new believers were being loaded up with extra burdens, extra ‘joys’ that were not joyful from any angle of observation, and told that the freedom that had been purchased for them came with a few extra…caveats, that they needed to understand and carry along for themselves. (I hope this sounds incredibly familiar for us today.) And when they groaned under that burden, the church stood up, prayed, consulted Scripture, and stated that they were indeed allowed to enjoy their freedom to the fullest extent of the word. There were not going to be any rules that did not point their hearts toward God and God alone, or attempt to replace their new identity in Christ.

And so when they heard the good news, that ‘freedom’ really meant FREEDOM like they had hoped, then they rejoiced, as we all should. So, as you GoLove people like Jesus does, don’t bind heavy burdens on their backs, hearts and minds. Instead, show them that when we are free in Christ, we are free indeed! 

  

Acts 15:6-21 // Clarity, Unity & Grace in the Church

“6 Then the apostles and the elders assembled to consider this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them: “Brothers, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.”

12 Then the whole assembly fell silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they stopped speaking, James responded: “Brothers, listen to me! 14 Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for His name. 15 And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written:

“16 After these things I will return

and rebuild David’s fallen tent.

I will rebuild its ruins

and set it up again,

17 so the rest of humanity

may seek the Lord —

even all the Gentiles

who are called by My name,

declares the Lord who does these things,

18 known from long ago.”

19 Therefore, in my judgment, we should not cause difficulties for those among the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but instead we should write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For since ancient times, Moses has had those who proclaim him in every city, and every Sabbath day he is read aloud in the synagogues.”

Acts 15:6-21

Here we find our example of the first council taken by the church in her early days, and here we find our example for how to handle matters in question. They discussed & debated, listened to the evidence and sought God out in HIs Word. They allowed themselevs to be led by the Holy Spirit rather than by their gut or their own preferences. If it had simply been a matter of appeasing those who were upset, they would have made circumcision a requirement for faith, stepping beyond the bounds that God laid out. If they had been bullied into it by Peter, Paul & Barnabas, forcing their way on everyone, then there would have been a split internally caused by dissention. But instead, they sought council with one another and with God. 

I offended someone last Sunday. Last night we sat down and talked about it. I shared Scripture with them, we discussed what God requires and what seems to be preference, and we parted happy and reconciled. 

If we are honest with ourselves, it’s not a matter of if we have confilct with another believer, it’s simply a matter of when. And people who claim Christ who get into conflict with one another have caused some of the nastiest fights and divisions that I’ve ever seen. They aren’t interested in listening to Matthew 18, in taking the proper stpes to be reconciled. They’re just set on being ‘right’ in their mind when the dust settles, and that is not a God-honoring attitude. That is selfish and sinful, full of pride and self-righteousness. The church is never served well by people who refuse to actually dialogue, to consult the Scriptures and spend time in prayer. When someone just wants to ‘win’ the church and the kingdom loses, and I for one don’t want to have to explain to God why my preference for myself and my own opinion outweighed the grace He had for me and for the person I am having difficulty with…

The church in Jerusalem did things perfectly. The people who were upset had their moment to be heard. They weren’t stifled or shut down. Their feeling weren’t invalidated and their opinions weren’t laughed off or scoffed at publicly. After hearing them, the Apostles & leadership considered testimony, consulted the Scriptures and arrived at their decision in a calm manner.  

As we GoLove others in the Name of Christ, we need to make sure we aren’t just self-justifying decisions because that’s our preference. Instead, seeking out God’s wisdom, we should listen to those who oppose us, respecting their opinion, we should listen to examples and seek out testimony and then consult the Scriptures. We should be willing to do anything and everything that still honors God in order to maintain the unity of the church and do do it all in love with a humble heart. 

  

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