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Bible Studies For Life
November 1, 2020
COMMITTED TO HIS WORD
The Bible speaks of the Word of God in two ways. First, there is the revealed, inspired, written truth of God, the Bible. But in John 1, Jesus is also described as the Word. That is, He is the manifest, living truth of God. In the same way that the Bible reveals God, Jesus reveals God. While the written word and the manifest (incarnate) Word are not identical, they are inseparable. Jesus will never contradict the word of God, and the word of God will never contradict Him. For this reason, we should love the written word of God and obey it every bit as much as we love the manifest incarnate Word of God—the Lord Jesus—and obey Him.
Psalm 119 is all about God’s written word. In fact, only two verses out of the 176 verses in this psalm do not make reference in some way to God’s word. The tone of this, the longest of the psalms, is joyful and celebrative. God’s word is not simply a collection of rules and regulations to make our lives more difficult; rather it is a treasury of godly principles to make our lives better! And ultimately to lead us to Christ. In these opening verses, three key truths are mentioned.
God’s word keeps us happy (vv. 1-4). These first verses set the stage for the psalm. The theme is that God’s word is central to all that we are as believers. Through parallel statements, the magnificence and uniqueness of God’s written word is highlighted throughout. In the first four verses, the word of God is described as His instruction (v. 1), His decrees(v. 2), His ways (v. 3), and His precepts (v. 4). Those who live by them are happy and blameless (v. 1), as are those who keep His word and seek Him passionately (v. 2). Further, those who follow His ways are free of iniquity (v. 3) if they are diligent in keeping His commands (v. 4). The old English “blessed” means happy; contented; satisfied; or fulfilled (see also the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10). Notice that these opening verses are general, describing as blessed anyone who seeks God and faithfully obeys His word. For reflection: Why do you think so many people see God as angry and judgmental rather than loving and redemptive? What can you do to help them see God as He really is?
God’s word keeps us humble (vv. 5-8). Here, the psalm becomes much more personal. The pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my” occur seven times in four verses. Notice that there is a progression in these verses as well. First, there is sorrow and disappointment at the writer’s failure to keep God’s commands (v. 5). Then, there is shame brought out by God’s convicting Spirit (v. 6). Next, the psalmist looks forward to discovering the riches of God’s teachings (v. 7). Finally, he pledges his obedience to God’s word, and makes the plea that God would never leave him (v. 8). For reflection: Think about some ways that God speaks through His word to bring conviction of sin. (See 2 Tim. 3:16-17 for some helpful hints).
God’s word keeps us safe (vv. 9-11). The final verses in this week’s lesson combine the general and the personal. The rhetorical question in verse 9, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” is answered with “By keeping Your word.” The application, however, returns to the psalmist in verses 10 and 11, where the writer links seeking God with “all his heart” with treasuring God’s word “in his heart.” The results are similar as well. Seeking God keeps him from wandering (v. 10); and treasuring God’s word keeps him from sinning (v. 11). For reflection: Why do you think it is so important to maintain a regular routine of Bible study and meditation? Are you consistent in doing so?
November 8, 2020
COMMITTED TO HIS CHURCH
Both church attendance and church membership have been in a steady decline for mainline Christian denominations since bout 1970. Southern Baptists were able to hold off that trend until the mid-1990s. But a troubling SBC Annual Church Profile released just a few months ago showed a dramatic drop in SBC church membership last year; the biggest drop in over 100 years! Such findings ought to make us not only examine our evangelism and outreach methodologies, but also re-emphasize the essence and role of the New Testament church. She is, after all, the Bride of Christ! If there was ever a need for an “All In” Commitment to the church, that need is today.
In this week’s text, Paul emphasizes the individual believer’s role and responsibility in the life of the church. Three distinct areas are mentioned.
Sensibility in thought (vv. 3-5). In the first verses of Romans 12, Paul reminded church members to present themselves as living sacrifices (v. 1) and to be transformed “by the renewing of the mind” (v. 2). Having provided the broad overview, the apostle then filled in some of the details. The beginning point of the renewed mind is perspective.To think sensibly (translated soberly in older translations) means “to be of sound mind.” Believers are to think soberlyabout themselves. There is no room for the haughty and proud in the body of Christ. A renewed mind understands that God is the One who gives out faith to every believer (v. 3). Second, believers are to see themselves as parts of the body. According to verse 4, the body of Christ is like the human body; it is made of numerous parts all of which have different functions. Verse 5 is a little awkward, but basically, it teaches two truths: (1) the body of Christ is made up of many different members, and yet, (2) while those members function independently, they do depend on one another to insure the body functions properly. For reflection: Why do you think God’s word uses the analogy of a body to describe the function of the church?
Fullness in action (vv. 6-8). Here, the emphasis is on function. The members of the body are all given spiritual gifts, not to be lauded, but to be used in the ministry of the church. These verses name several of the gifts with the exhortation to use those gifts to the fullest measure that one’s faith allows (v. 6). The first example named is prophecy. This suggests both hearing from God and speaking on His behalf. Verse 7 mentions service (or ministry) which is derived from the same word as “deacon;” and teaching (or instruction). These are followed by exhorting (or encouraging) in verse 8. These four gifts are grouped first, perhaps having to do most with the handling of God’s word, from its proclamation to its application. The second set seems to focus more on interpersonal relationships within the body. In verse 8, giving is to be done with generosity (that is, without prejudice or “strings attached”); leading is to be done with diligence (or haste); and the showing of mercy is to be done with cheerfulness (or tender care). Again, all the gifts are to be exercised with full commitment of the “measure of faith” entrusted by God (v. 6). For reflection: Part of our commitment to the church is exercising the spiritual gifts that God gives. Do you see clear and compelling evidence of these gifts being exercised in your congregation?
Humility in attitude (vv. 9-16). The remaining verses in the focal text read like a “laundry list” of “do’s and don’ts” for the body’s behavior. The list begins with purity of love and ends with honest personal evaluation. Yet the singular theme of deep humility runs throughout. Things and thoughts that contradict Christian values (like evil, sloth, cursing those who attack, pride and arrogance) are to be rejected and replaced with the godly attributes of goodness, affection, honor, service, joy, hope, patience, prayer, giving, hospitality, empathy, conciliation, and personal humility. For reflection: If those in Christ are “living sacrifices”(Rom. 12:1) and “new creations” (2 Cor. 5:17), why does Paul find it necessary to point out the flaws in believers and encourage Christian character? What’s going on here?
November 15, 2020
COMMITTED TO PRAY
Prayer is often called the great mystery. We are not really sure how prayer works. We are only sure that prayer works. Or are we?
How sad that all too often, prayer is the “go to” discipline…only when all else fails! Dr. Adrian Rogers was fond of saying, “There is no failure in the Christian’s life that is not first the failure to pray.” He once wrote, “I believe when we get to heaven, one of the things that will amaze us is that we prayed so poorly, and we prayed so little, while we were here on earth.” Let’s face it, while we all agree with him in principle, we seldom pray sufficiently in practice. So how do we spend less time “wringing our hands” and more time “bending our knees?” By being “all in” in our commitment to pray. In this passage, Paul gives us some help for effective praying.
WHY they were praying (vv. 3-6). Notice that Paul did not say “if we pray for you,” but rather “when we pray for you.” This indicates the apostle’s thankfulness in praying (v. 3), as well as his faithfulness in praying (v. 3) for this church, which was likely founded by his fellow servant of the Lord, Epaphras. Notice that those enduring Christian traits—faith, hope, and love (I Cor. 13:13)—not only characterized the congregation at Colossae but were reasons for Paul’s celebration and intercession on behalf of this church. The church had a good reputation in the things that really mattered. He heard of their faith in Jesus Christ, their love for all saints (v. 4), and their hope reserved in heaven (v. 5). Moreover, the church was firmly gospel-centered. They had heard the truth of the gospel, responded to it, and recognized they were part of the fruit-bearing that came along with it; a harvest that was spreading around the world. Such bright and godly characteristics thrilled the heart of Paul and sent him to his knees in prayer. For reflection: Notice that Paul was not simply praying with intercession for the negative issues in the church but was praying with affirmation for the positive aspects of the church. How much time do we spend affirming the good we see in God’s people?
WHO they were praying for (vv. 7-8). Paul’s encouraging affirmation didn’t stop with the church but extended to its leadership. Little is known of Epaphras (who is mentioned only a few times here and in Philemon 1:23), but what is known is significant. In these few verses, Paul refers to him as an effective teacher, who is dearly loved, a fellow servant, a faithful servant, an intercessor on the church’s behalf, an advocate for the congregation, and a proud witnessof their love. The implication is that Paul’s prayer includes Epaphras, and by extension, fellow servants of the church. For reflection: Last month was Pastor Appreciation month. Did your church honor its pastor and other leadership? Did you know that one of the greatest encouragements that you can ever give is, “Pastor…we are praying for you”?
WHAT they were praying about (vv. 9-12). The apostle’s devotion to the congregation which he never met (see Col. 2:1) is displayed again in these verses. We see it in the continuity of Paul’s praying (“we haven’t stopped praying for you”), as well as in the content of Paul’s praying. The phrase “We are asking” in verse 9 indicates continual action. These are ongoing requests for the church, that Paul prays for in an ongoing way. Several specific petitions are mentioned. In verse 9 he prays for a deepening of their knowledge of God’s will, and for their spiritual wisdom. In verse 10, he prays for their walk with the Lord, their effective witness, and their good work. In verse 11, he prays regarding their power, their perseverance, and their patience. He finishes the section by directing all praise and thanksgiving back to the Father who is responsible for it all (v. 12). For reflection: While these requests are technically offered in regard to the church at Colossae, are they not desirable traits for all churches…even yours?
November 22, 2020
COMMITTED TO WORSHIP
Jesus told the woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). That explains how we are to worship. The focal passage this week helps us to understand why we are to worship. The psalmist offers three good reasons:
We worship Him because of His power (vv. 1-3). The construction of these verses suggests a great contrast between the heavenly realm and the earthly. The Lord reigns, and He is enthroned. As a result, the people tremble and the earth quakes (v. 1). Two truths stand out. First, there is distance (and difference) between the two realms. The Lord is above and the people are below. To belong to Him does not mean to be equal with Him. Second, there is legitimate fear expressed. The word for peoples normally refers to the lost nations. Certainly, all people should revere the Lord. But in this case the lost especially! The word tremble adds to the idea. It means “to shudder,” “be agitated,” or be “moved to anger.” Those who do not know the Lord are often angry at Him. How ironic that sinful mankind shakes his fist in the face of the Almighty! But because the remainder of the psalm speaks so much of God’s people, the warning also applies to those of Israel who disobey Him or rebel against Him. Verse 2 continues all of the same themes. Zion (v. 2) refers generally to Israel, more specifically to the holy city Jerusalem, and even more specifically to the temple. The Lord is great in Israel, and exalted above all people, everywhere. He alone is worthy of awe because He alone is holy (v. 3). For reflection: Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Why do you think so many people are angry at God, rather than fear Him?
We worship Him because of His position (vv. 4-5). The Lord who reigns over the earth (and the people) in might, is the same God who rules over the people with authority. Verse 5 commands us to worship Him in humility. Why? Because He is a King who loves justice, establishes fairness, and administers righteousness (v. 4). The construction of the first phrase is interesting. Its literal meaning is, “His strength loves justice.” Or put another way, “His strength favors justice.” In other words, His strength is on the side of justice. Once again, Israel is mentioned (v. 4), as Jacob is the source of the name Israel (see Gen. 32:28). As well, the Lord’s position is emphasized by the contrast made between Him and man. We are to exalt the Lord our God, while we bow our own knee before His throne. Some commentators place this entire scene in God’s temple, with Christ seated between the cherubim of the ark of the covenant (v. 1) and the footstool (v. 5) referring to the ark itself. In any case, He is worthy of worship because He is a mighty King, and He is holy. For reflection: What are the differences between justice, fairness, and righteousness? Why do you think God loves justice?
We worship Him because of His compassion (vv. 6-9). The Lord’s power is frightening, and His authority is humbling. Thankfully, both His power and His authority are tempered by His compassion. The examples the psalmist chose to illustrate this are notable. Moses was a prophet and Aaron was a priest. They are both mentioned because of their intercession for God people. Samuel was the last of the judges, but he too was a prophet of God. What is their significance? They all “called to the Lord…and He answered them.” Notice the action and reaction: they called, God answered (v. 6); God spoke, they obeyed (v. 7); they sinned, God forgave (v. 8). For His compassion and salvation, He is to be exalted (v. 9). He is worthy of worship because He forgives, and—for the third time—because He is holy. For reflection: an intercessor is one who stands between God and man. What does it mean then, when the Bible calls God’s people “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9)?
During her 30 years as Florida Baptists’ director of communications, Barbara ventured across the state — and to Cuba and Haiti — to report on Baptist witness and, amid natural disaster, Baptist compassion.
Barbara and her husband, Dick, are currently enjoying spending time with their first grandchild, Finley, along with Finley’s parents Ashford and Chantal and Barbara and Dick’s daughter, Addie.
Keila earned a B.S. in Communications from Florida International University in Miami. She writes news and stories about Florida Baptist churches, creates and posts social content to the FBC’s social media channels, and is a Baptist Press contributor.
When she’s not working, Keila enjoys bike rides and spending time with her family.
Barbara, a member at Eau Gallie First BC, Melbourne, and a graduate of Florida State University, B.S., Speech Pathology/Audiology, taught Pre-K/VPK for many years. While living and serving in Maine, she wrote articles for the NEW ENGLAND BAPTIST, and currently writes for the Brevard Baptist Association’s newsletter, THE BRIDGE. She loves serving alongside her husband Mike (Associational Mission Strategist, Brevard Baptist Association), spending time with their three grandchildren, sewing and reading.
David Moore has been writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Florida for more than 20 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. A proud member of First Baptist Church of Ocala, David serves in the worship, deacon and NextGen ministries. He and his wife Beth have three children.
Jessica received her B.S. in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She contributes to Florida Baptist Conv, Biblical Woman, Baptist Press, The Devotional for Women, and Daily Devotional Bible for Women. Her greatest joy is serving beside her husband who is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church.
Brandi is a writer and editor for N2 Publishing, a community magazine that honors God. She and her family attend Fishhawk Fellowship Church and are a Host Family for Safe Families for Children, Bethany Christian Services. Her background is in Healthcare Management, Policies & Procedures.