11 October 2019

Numbers 21:4–9, Galatians 5:22–24, 2 Corinthians 6:3–13

The story is of the staff is fascinating, and we can see its long-reaching effects even today (look at many ambulances). However, as fun as that might be, we need to talk about one of the underlying causes of the tale…the impatience of the Israelites.

In many ways, the tale of the Israelites is like a long car ride with children…are we there yet?
One commentator pointed out that the staff forced the Israelites to stop looking down at the world and their problems, and look up to God for life. Seems pretty poetic when we look at it that way.
In many respects, the impatience of the Israelites was based upon them looking at their situation, and thinking it has to be better than this. They spoke against God and Moses. Now, in earlier devotionals and during the sermon series on suffering, we talked/read/listened to how God can handle our anger. For those who are parents and have withstood their children’s anger, imagine what it took God to get to this point.

The Israelites were impatient to get to this great home that they had been promised and had been told about for generations. Knowing the active imaginations of today, what “fairy” tales and legends did they hear or invent. Maybe none. The tale that brought the promise was already pretty impressive.
If we take a step back, however, from the Israelites, we can see that while the Israelites are on a quest to “go home”, for God this is where they belong to be the (foreshadowed) light in the darkness. Israel was an ancient thoroughfare. By being where they were, they could (if they were faithful) be able to share God with the ancient world. Granted, they did. Imagine, however, what could have happened if they had truly trusted and waited on God. In other words, what if they had been patient (not just in the story from Exodus), and had let God’s (good) plan for them unfold.

Patience is not a word any of us like, and often don’t like to live. We often are impatient to do something, when patience could have done it better. When Paul speaks of patience as a fruit of the spirit, he is talking about the Holy Spirit. As a child of God, you have the Holy Spirit working inside of you. That means you have patience. That doesn’t mean you like it. However, patience (and long-suffering) are key tools for missions and outreach.

In today’s world, impatient evangelism will not win as many long-term salvations. It is long-term relationships. Are they quick? Nope. The truth is that we are no longer at a cultural point where quick evangelism will work. The “ground” is hard, rocky, and/or filled with weeds. It will take a very long time to work the ground into what it could (and should) be…fertile ground for the Word of God.

The fruit the spirit is for the mission, not to say, yay, we made it. The mission is to reach people for Jesus Christ. When it comes to the Gospel, patience isn’t a virtue, it is a necessity.

1) What is the dark side of patience? What problems for sharing the Gospel can too much patience create?

2) Who is someone you are being patient with? Why?

3) Do you think it is true that the fruit of the spirit is for the mission? Why or why not?

4) What do you think was the mission of the people of Israel?

10 October 2019

Ezekiel 47:1–12, 2 Corinthians 3:17–4:1, Matthew 28:16–20

This image of the River of Life spreading out into the world provides us something to reflect upon. The further the river gets from the presence of God, the wider and deeper it gets. Eventually, it takes the Dead Sea and makes it living water, too. In the case of the Dead Sea, there is an echo of baptism and resurrection…from death to life, and not just any life, a Godly life.

The “four” walls of the church building should be so filled with the Holy Spirit that it should be overflowing into the community in which it sits. These walls are not meant to be containers, keeping the Holy Spirit captive or “preserved”, but enabling each of us to take this concentration of the Holy Spirit out into the world with us.

If there is to be freedom where the Holy Spirit is moving, why does it often feel as if we are trapped in church? If there is freedom, why do we seem unable (or unwilling) to be able to share it?
The church (which has been said time and time again) is not the building (though we often act like it). The church is the people. The freedom of the Holy Spirit enables us to freely share the Gospel and the love of Christ. However, we continually put on the chains that weigh us down, whether fear or pride or something else. We certainly don’t act free.

Therein lies the problem. We have been commissioned to take the Gospel to our families, our neighbors, our communities, our cities, our counties, our state, our nation, our continent, our world. It is not a commission we can decline, for God has already commissioned us. We are plan A–Z.

1) Do you feel free in the Holy Spirit? What does that mean to you?

2) What are your thoughts about the River of Life being deeper and wider away from the temple of God? What does that mean in regards to how you live?

3) You have been commissioned. What is your response to that? How do you fulfill your commission? How do you see others fulfilling their commission?

9 October 2019

Genesis 20:1–18, 1 Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 21:2, Romans 1: 18–25

When you look at someone, can you tell they are a Christian? If you can, there are a few reasons why: (1) Pride…yours for God knows and weighs the heart; (2) Their life and spirit show Jesus; (3) is there a 3rd one?

In the Scriptures, we are cautioned to not assume that a person is right with God. Abraham made that mistake and almost caused a man to commit adultery who was innocent. Abraham assumed Abimelech did not fear God. Abraham may have been right when it came to the surface. However, Abimelech listened to God.

As a tradition, Christians have taken affirmations of faith at face value, for the very reason that we do not know the heart. Paul does note in 1 Corinthians 12:3, that no one can say that Jesus is Lord without it being of the Holy Spirit. However, in Romans 10:9, Paul also says that we are only saved if we believe in our hearts. One is an outward statement, and the Holy Spirit goes before all. The other is an inward statement that can only be between a person and God.

There is a lot of finger-pointing in the world, and some of it involves avowed Christians (i.e., people who say they are Christians and/or follow Jesus Christ) pointing at other avowed Christians, and accusing them of apostasy (i.e., false teaching and/or walking away from the faith) or not being Christian. If we take the Scriptures seriously, then accusing another of not being a Christian because they don’t agree with us on certain issues (especially non-salvation issues) is not in line with what the Scriptures say becomes a very dangerous road to walk.

1) Have you ever accused (whether out loud or in your mind) another person of not being a Christian, when they state they are one?

2) What are some good ways to engage other Christians regarding important topics on which we disagree?

3) When should disagreements be brought up, and when should they be left alone?