New 2 Faith: “Read The Bible Regularly”

Most of us would agree that the Bible provides quite a lot of reading material – some of which may seem overwhelming and unclear at times. Here are a few facts about the Bible which will help you navigate through your reading time with a frame of reference and better understanding.

First, you’ll find that the Bible is separated into two sections:

The Old Testament is a compilation of writings beginning with the creation of the world, the history of the people of Israel – including their defeat as a nation, the resulting captivity by their enemies, and ultimately their return to occupy Jerusalem once again a few hundred years prior to Christ’s birth. The Old Testament is also God’s law to the people of Israel.

The New Testament is a compilation of writings beginning just prior to the birth of Jesus, continuing with His life and ministry, His death and resurrection as our Savior, and ultimately the establishment and expansion of His Church throughout the world. The message of freedom in Christ by grace as revealed in the New Testament fulfills and replaces the need for the rituals imposed in the Old Testament.

Second, and generally speaking, there are three types of writings you’ll find throughout the Old and New Testaments in the Bible:

Historical Account – writings which tell a true story and give an important historical perspective of people and important events.

Instructional Writings – books and verses which provide instruction on many aspects of Christian living, church organization and personal and family matters without specifically providing some historical account of events.

Inspirational Writings – poetic, artistic writing designed to encourage, uplift and express emotion from the author to the reader.

The New Testament writings which provide a Historical Account of the life and ministry of Jesus are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four books are also referred to as the Gospels. The book of Acts is another historical book in the New Testament which chronicles the establishment and expansion of the Christian church after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The New Testament books which represent Instructional Writings are Romans through Jude. These are actual letters from church leaders giving advice and instruction to other Christians and churches throughout the world.

The Old Testament book of Psalms is a great example of Inspirational Writings. Below is an inspiration from a Psalm which assures us of the blessings God gives to the one who is investing God’s Word into their life regularly.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1:2-3

To plant the seed of God’s Word into our lives, we need to make reading the Bible a part of our daily routine. As the seed of God’s Word blossoms in your life, His blessings will become more evident. You will receive strength from His Word to sustain you, even through seasons of drought and difficulty.

All New Things: Final Words of Encouragement

Peter is sometimes referred to as the “apostle of hope”. He is quick with encouragement to all followers of Jesus. His final letter and words offer us great assurance in our calling. Peter, the once reactionary disciple has matured into the wise leader of the Church.

Peter leads with a beautiful list of qualities we should be going after in our own lives and then a powerful statement that should encourage us all. When we allow Jesus to shape these characteristics into our souls, we will NEVER be ineffective or unfruitful. Once again God through his people is reminding us that who we are is more important than what we do. And if we will be who God wants us to be, we will always be able to do what he wants us to.

A few years ago I spent a month living in this passage and I realized that somewhere along the years of ministry, I had rewritten verses 5-8 in my head. They sounded more like this:

“Complementing your basic faith with great events, “bless-my-plans” prayers, hit or miss disciplines, entitled frustration, quantitative effectiveness, shallow leadership, and no-cost love. With all these qualities active and growing in your lives, no event will lose money, no training will be ineffective, and no task force a waste of time.”

How I long to live the real 2 Peter 1:5-8

“Complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet and no day pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus.”

Reading: 2 Peter 1:3-15 and 2 Peter 3:14-18

Reflection

· The qualities in verses 5-8 build upon each other. Which one are you struggling with the most currently? What might God be doing right now to refine that in you?

· Peter leaves a beautiful letter to believers as he comes to the end of his life. He has seen and experienced much. What would you like to tell young believers to encourage them based on what you have seen and experienced in following Jesus?

All New Things: BALLPARK GUIDE A-Z

Embedded somewhere in the fan program at most stadiums is a guide to assist those attending the event. The purpose of these A-Z guides is to inform those in attendance of all of the resources available to them as they watch their favorite team do battle on the court, rink or playing field. All eventualities are considered including injury, weather emergencies, illness etc. They are told where to go and how to find help in each of many possible scenarios.

These guides offer a blueprint or template for how to live while at the venue. Almost all eventualities are anticipated and addressed.

How often do we as followers of Jesus long for a template for day-to-day living that outlines recommended responses and ways to move forward in all possible situations?

Such a blueprint does exist and is found in 1 Peter 5:1-11. It’s really quite simple – yet profound.

This blueprint identifies some fundamentals that are essential as the Gospel shapes us daily.

First there is something each of us can choose to wear each and every day that will position us well for any and all life situations. “Clothe yourselves in humility”. Allowing the Gospel to shape us as we daily follow Jesus’ example of humility ultimately shapes how we relate and respond to everything and everyone. Talk about transforming!

Then comes the instruction to be on the “Alert for an enemy that isprowling and seeking to devour.” That teaching ought to be headlines for every follower of Jesus.

When we are alert we will be less vulnerable to the sometimes subtle, but more often overt tactics of an enemy that is quite clever and very determined.

The blueprint also states that as we follow Jesus humbly and alertly we do so in an environment that includes suffering. Suffering is often something that we want to avoid if at all possible. The blueprint calls for suffering to be embraced as “after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you” (nlt).

Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-11

Reflection

· In what ways do I consciously choose to clothe myself in humility?

· What does my “early warning” detection system look like as I face an enemy on the prowl?

· What place does suffering occupy in my life? What kinds of suffering do I embrace and what types of suffering do I run from?

All New Things: Preaching the Gospel to yourself

You’re kneeling, nose to the ground. You’ve come for help. This is the only place to get it. Terror is your companion. Living life this way is unbearable. Shame. Guilt. Brokenness. Alienated. Failed. Hopeless. You cannot continue this path. Your only hope is in your Creator. But you have rebelled. You chose your way instead of God’s. Independence. You deserve what you’ve gotten and your Creator is justified in an eternal punishment.

But only your Creator can help. Mercy is your only chance and it seems inconceivable. By your own judgment, He should wipe you from existence. There you kneel, frozen in fear, silent, trembling, afraid to look up.

Someone is standing in front of you. Is this the end? Are you getting what you deserve? You raise your head just enough to see a pair of feet. Scarred feet. A hand on your shoulder beckoning you to rise and look into His eyes. “Its alright. I’ve taken care of your punishment.” Sobbing. More sobbing. On the Son’s shoulder no less. Hours pass.

Having forgotten your need for help, you speak the only thing that makes sense to you. “Abba. Here. Take my life, all that I am. We already know what happens to it in my possession.” Abba replies, “Thank you my chosen one. I have given you the Holy Spirit. You are now a royal priest, part of a holy nation, a people for my own possession. You have offered your life to me. Take it back up and go proclaim my excellences as the one who called you out of darkness into my marvelous light. You shall offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to me through my Son. Go. By my divine power I have granted you all things that pertain to life and godliness through your relationship with my Son who has called you to his own glory and excellence.”

It’s good to remember. 2 Peter 1:9 says, “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” So don’t forget. Preach the gospel to yourself. Personalize it. “It is the power of God to us who are being saved.” 1Cor 1:18

Reading: 1 Peter 2:1-10

Reflection

· Is the Gospel good news for you today? Not just for eternity. Read 1 Peter 2:1-10 and look for the good news.

· Is there a fear holding you back from your call? Hold that fear up to the gospel, even the good news shared in this passage, and see which is standing in the end.

· Who are you desperate to share your good news with? Go tell them of His excellences and how you have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light by receiving mercy.

All New Things: Peter Making Way for Paul

How many times have you seen a leader who is in charge, who is the best at what they do, make way for a younger leader and even support them and set them up for success? How many times have you seen that same kind of leader stand in the way of the younger leader and not show support for them, even though it would be in everyone’s best interest? We see this all the time in the sports world—a coach, who has been one of the best is nearing the end of their tenure, has a younger coach on staff who is ready to step up and take the reins. Yet instead of stepping aside and helping the younger coach to flourish, the coach resists and stays longer than they should, often only to be forced out within a year or two. In Acts 15:1-21 Peter is the veteran leader, empowered by Jesus to lead the early church. Paul is the new guy on the scene, and is showing signs that he is the future leadership of the church. At this point in Acts, Peter is still in charge and could easily stand in Paul’s way, but instead, he supports and empowers him by giving up some of his control and allowing Paul to step up in his leadership of the church. In looking at Peter’s life, this moment of mature and unselfish leadership shows that he has been transformed and made new by God. When we look back at Peter’s story throughout the gospels, he is often bold, brash, and sometimes abrasive. It wouldn’t be all that hard to imagine how he might have reacted to a leader like Paul challenging his thinking during that time in his life. It is easy to imagine that Peter would have been prideful, and would have resisted Paul and his ideas. Yet because of the transformational power of the gospel of Jesus, in Acts 15, we find Peter at a place where he is mature enough in his faith to see that it’s not all about him.

Reading: Acts 15:1-21

Reflection:

· What matters more to you: that you are the person to lead your ministry and do the bulk of the work, or that regardless of who is in charge, that the ministry is successful and honoring to God?

· Are you empowering others to lead, or mentoring anyone else?

· What areas of control can you give up to allow others to step up and lead?

All New Things: An All Inclusive Message

Have you ever walked into the middle of a movie and tried to figure out what was going on? Stories just don’t make sense if you don’t have any context for them. That’s why the beginning is so important and why a good story is worth taking the time to tell and to listen to.

In Acts 10:24-48, the Gospel story is being shared by Peter… and God. While Peter shares a simple message, God really knows how to get his point across.

God goes first and sends an angel to visit Cornelius and Peter has a vision.

Peter gets to share the gospel story. By this time he knows some of Cornelius’ story, that he’s an “upright and God-fearing man.” Undoubtedly as any God fearing man would in his day, Cornelius knows the beginning of the story; creation, the garden, man’s declaration of independence, man and Israel’s rebellion, etc. While those in this story knew very well the beginning of the story, most people don’t know much about the Old Testament and many who do still don’t see how much it connects to our stories today. People connect with this story. Why? Whether they know it or not, it’s their story, both literally and figuratively.

Peter also recognizes “you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea…” I wonder if they had heard even more stories than we have recorded in the four New Testament Gospels.

In case they hadn’t heard, Peter shares with them the death and resurrection of Jesus. Then he asks them to raise their hands if they would like to accept Jesus as their personal savior, right? Nope. Peter describes the command Jesus gave them and returns to the Old Testament pointing to how “all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Maybe now would have been right for an alter call … but God wasn’t finished yet. He finishes the story by fulfilling the promise Jesus gave. “The Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.” That’s good news! Get the baptismal ready! Have you ever stopped at forgiveness and left the Holy Spirit out of a good news presentation? Seems silly, but it’s done all the time.

Reading: Acts 10:24-48

Reflection

• When’s the last time you shared the whole story with someone? How about with your yourself?

• What do we lose when we skip much of the story or break it down into simple doctrinal statements?

• How much of your story can you find in the gospel story?

• How is the Gospel Story continuing in your own story? Is it alive and still at work?

All New Things: Just who have You been Hanging Around?

This is a question often asked of us when we were younger and had begun to exhibit a form of behavior not learned in our home or normal sphere of influence.

Typically the question was asked when we had spent a lot of time with a new friend or a new group of friends resulting in our language or our decision making ability being noticeably altered.

Our concerned and observant parents knew that our behavior was noticeably altered and that the source of the unwelcome transformation in all likelihood was some new “friends” influencing us.

Spending large amounts of time with people increases the degree to which we adopt their behaviors and attitudes.

In Acts 3 and 4, we see Peter and John standing before the council in Jerusalem after the Spirit had done amazing works through them including the healing of a lame beggar followed by some very powerful teaching and preaching to large crowds. In Acts 4 after careful investigation the council was unable to determine how they had been able to accomplish these things. The council realized that these men were unschooled and ordinary. They were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus.

The transforming element of their behavior was simply because they had been with Jesus!

Being with Jesus made the difference. It shaped and gave power to the lives of Peter and John.

Reading: Acts 3 through Acts 4:21

Reflection

· Identify the varied ways that you spend time “hanging out with” Jesus in a typical day, week, or month.

· In what ways do you see how this time you spend with Jesus manifests itself in how you live your life?

· Do you think that those observing you would first and foremost give credit to your “spending time with Jesus” as the primary shaper of your life? If not what other influencers might they point to that seem to have molded who you are?

· Who or what are the things that typically rob you of spending the amount of time with Jesus that you desire to have?