Acts 15- What must we do to be saved?

“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16)

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What is the final destiny of life and how are we “saved” to receive that destiny? These could be the greatest questions that everyone needs to answer. The end of this life will find each and every one of us. There is no avoiding it. Individuals attempt to create an answer to what happens after this life ends. Culture also speaks strongly as to how or what our focus should be on during our life. Just live in the now, do “right” by people and everything will work out fine. Focusing on “living our best life now” provides a vain attempt to avoid the providing any answer. But, avoidance is not an answer. Living for the “now” does not contain the power to provide salvation from your sin and bestow admittance to enteral life in glory with God. Each religion or worldview (a worldview is a person’s fundamental orientation of looking at the world around them) must be held to the same critical standard. The all need to answer the same question; “What must I do to be saved and have access to the afterlife?”

What Paul and Barnabas answered in Acts 15 addressed an early argument within the first century church. “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.” (Acts 15:1-2) Christianity believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5) Other religions and worldviews must address this difficulty. No one receives a free pass not to provide a solution. Let’s consider three other common belief systems.

An individual who adheres to Mormonism will consider this the path to salvation:

• There are three kingdoms of glory: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom. The glory we inherit will depend on the depth of our conversion, expressed by our obedience to the Lord’s commandments. It will depend on the manner in which we have “received the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:51; see also D&C 76:74, 79, 101)

In this Mormon doctrines and covenants (D&C) passage we see Mormons believe there are “levels” to heaven and that inheritance into “heaven” will depend on obedience or works completed in this life.

Devotion to Islam also claims a route to eternal life.

• In Islam salvation is achieved through good works and including “honorable deeds” such as, keeping five “pillars,” of Islam: witness for Muhammad, ritual prayers five times daily, alms giving, fasting during Ramadan, and a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Koran states in Sura 21:47, “On the day of judgment Allah will have a set of scales to weigh one’s good deeds against his bad deeds.”

Completing enough “good deeds” to win favor with an impersonal and unknowable god is an impossible task and obedience to this leads groups and individuals down dangerous paths. In both religions, works are necessary to gain favor with god and entrance into heaven or paradise.

Finally, let’s look at Pantheism a worldview that is commonly seen in Western Washington.

• Pantheism is the belief that God and the universe are one. The “God is everything, and everything is God” approach of Pantheism creates problems as it removes the personal identity and relational attributes of God.

Without a personal identity, there cannot be a relationship. It follows there would be no human destiny of the soul after this life with god if a relationship does not exist. Some forms of Pantheism assert the divine is an illusion, therefore making a god unknowable. Pantheism doesn’t answer the question of, “What must I do to be saved and have access to the afterlife?” It appears to avoid the question entirely.

All three worldviews are in direct contradiction to the personal and knowable God of the Bible.

“4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

“26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” “9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” (Hebrews 7:26 and 5:9)

So, what must we do to be saved?

“30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)

The apostle Paul and Barnabas are refuting a basic question that remains for us today. Who is included in God’s saving grace? Apostle Paul argues that the saving grace that Jesus provided is for all, both Jew and Gentile, provided by Jesus on the cross, and is God’s alone to impart. “8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8) Paul references back to Peter in Acts 10, because the “gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:44) ensuring that God’s saving grace was provided by the Holy Spirit for all, both circumcised and uncircumcised.

How should we connect with others of a different belief system so they may have access to eternal life? Always with love, grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 22:39) For all that come to the cross, hear and believe the true words of God are invited into His infinite grace. This is very good news! Someone who believes they need to “earn” their way into heaven should find a tremendous amount of relief and comfort knowing that God loves them and has provided the way for salvation! No amount of “works” or “deeds” will appease a god or defend a god that is detached from his creation.

To the believers, pray continually asking for the Holy Spirit to use you. Be the hands and feet of Jesus, doing the hard work that needs to be completed for the Lord. Witness boldly to others showing them God’s everlasting grace as it has been shown to you.

To the unbelievers, may we pray for you? We pray you find that your work placating God is unnecessary. We want you to know Jesus came to atone for your sins, transgressions, and failures. We, as Christians do not stand above you, but beside you, as sinners deserving of God’s wrath. We are all sinners. Jesus alone is the perfect sacrifice for you and for us all. Rest from your unwarranted works, my friend, they are not needed…

“29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Re-Blog- Five Tips for Leading Your Small Group | TGC

Five Tips for Leading Your Small Group | TGC.

By KEVIN DEYOUNG

As school starts back up, so will plenty of church-sponsored and church-related small groups. Some will study the Bible. Others will read a Christian book together. Almost all will have a designated leader or leaders. While knowing your Bible and having Christlike character are the more important factors, there are also a number of skills which go a long way in leading an effective small group.

1. Communicate early and often, and then follow through.

A good leader is always leading. If you wait until the meeting to lead, it may be too late. In this era of easy communication, there is no reason leaders can’t remind the group of upcoming dates and assignments. Make sure everyone knows what is expected. Conclude every meeting by highlighting what’s next–what should be read? when is the group meeting? where are they meeting? who will be leading the discussion? Then before the next meeting send out a reminder email (or call or text or tweet or Facebook post). People forget. People are lazy. People get busy. People need lots of friendly reminders to stay on task–especially students.

As for the meeting itself, respect people’s time. Get things started promptly and end at the agreed upon time. Sure, emergencies come up. There are exceptions to almost every rule. But people need to know that they can count on you to get the meeting started and ended on time.

Whenever possible, keep things consistent. Changing dates and times almost always leads to dwindling numbers.

Ask people for specific commitments. Don’t do everything yourself. Get someone to bring a snack, another person to organize the upcoming barbecue, and someone else to open in prayer next week. This not only builds up others, it will encourage greater participation. Asking for commitments is better than making a general invitation.

2. Think through your questions ahead of time.

If your group consists of nothing but very mature Christians who have known each other for years you may be able to get away with little preparation. But that’s not the make up of most groups (and if so, it’s probably time to mix things up a little for the sake of newcomers and those just starting out as followers of Christ). Make sure your questions are crisp and clear. If you aren’t sure what you are asking, you can be sure no one else will either.

If the selection you are studying (in the Bible or in a book) is hard to understand, you may need a number of knowledge questions. Don’t make them so obscure that only seminary trained Christians would know the answer. But don’t make them so painfully obvious (e.g., fill in the blank questions) that everyone is embarrassed to venture forth an answer.

Don’t stay at the level of knowledge only. Ask questions which call for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Prepare final questions which get at the heart.

Be creative in how you phrase your questions. Don’t just say “What do you think?” or “How do you feel about this?” or even “How can we apply this to our lives?” Ask questions like:

  • What is one thing you want to see change in your life as a result of this study?
  • What new promise can you take with you into the week?
  • What did you learn about God?
  • Where have you seen these things lived out well?
  • How does this relate to the cross?
  • How does this resemble our church for good or for bad?
  • Where is this a struggle for you in your marriage?
  • What do you have a hard time believing in God’s word?

You get the picture. There are hundreds of good questions you can ask on any given week. Few of them will come to you on the spot without any preparation.

3. Be mindful of group dynamics.

Being a leader is much more than opening and closing in prayer. You should do whatever you can to foster a warm, welcoming environment in your group. This means being especially mindful of new people. The 30 minutes of hang out time before the study may be a sheer delight for the old-timers, but for new people it’s bound to feel anxious and awkward. As a leader, you should do whatever you can to make them feel at ease. Ask them questions. Get the group to introduce itself. Have an exercise ready to encourage group sharing. The less people know each other the more structure is needed.

Keep in mind that newcomers may not know your history, your humor, or your theology. I made the mistake once of teasing one of our longtime small group members about not yet being convinced of paedobaptism. It was playful banter between me and these friends, but for the new folks visiting it sent them the (wrong) signal that credobaptists weren’t welcome here. I later apologized and explained that I was only joking with my friends and that we’d love to have them (the new couple) in our group. My bad.

One of the hardest and most important things a leader must do is try to include as many people as possible in group discussion. Obviously, the aim is not to make quiet members feel embarrassed, but often the quiet members simply need to be asked. A good leader won’t allow every discussion to be dominated by the same two or three people. He will specifically call on those who haven’t said much. He may need to gently add from time to time,  “Let me see if anyone else has something to add before I come back to you.”

A good leader will be sensitive to the mood of the group, discerning whether there is hurt, confusion, sadness, or frustration that needs to be addressed. Don’t just play traffic cop. Be a shepherd.

4. Know how to handle conflict.

The worst fear of most small group leaders is that they will be called upon to quell some raging inferno of disagreement. Thankfully, most Christian groups (in my experience) play pretty nice (almost to a fault). Angry conflict is rare, but it does happen. Depending on the circumstances, here are some of the things you may want to say in the midst of disagreement:

  • Sam, it sounds like you are trying to say XYZ. Am I hearing you correctly?
  • Amanda has offered a different interpretation. What do the rest of you think? How should we interpret this verse?
  • I know it’s hard to talk about such a controversial or painful topic, but I don’t think we should we run away from constructive conflict. I’d love to hear what everyone else is thinking.
  • This is an important discussion, but it’s not really involving the whole group. It would be great if the two of you could get together and continue the conversation at a different time.
  • It sounds like I may have done something to upset you. Why don’t we talk about it after the meeting is done?
  • Guys, I’m happy for us have disagreement in this group. But that sounded personal. Let’s try to be gentle even when we are passionate.

There may be times where the leader needs to be even more direct. You may have to shut down the conversation, explicitly correct a wrong interpretation, or reprove someone for speaking in a harsh and unedifying way. While we don’t want hot-headed leaders who make conflict worse, neither can we afford passive “leaders” who put their own people-pleasing and fear of man above the good of the whole group.

5. Plan for prayer.

If you expect prayer to just happen it will only barely happen. There is nothing wrong with 60 seconds of prayer to begin and end a meeting, if that’s your plan. Just to know that without preparation, that’s what will almost always happen. Effective times of prayer–whether short or long–take intentional planning. Are you going to ask for prayer requests? If so, how will ensure your “prayer” time is not all sharing with almost no praying? What are prayer requests from previous weeks that need follow up? How long do you want the prayer to be? How many people are you hoping will pray?

Leading in prayer requires clear direction. Don’t be afraid to call on certain individuals to pray (usually not newcomers). Remind people that their prayers can be short (in fact, you may want to encourage them to be short). Guide people through different topics (family, church, nation, world, etc.). If your prayer time is generally brief, consider setting aside a meeting every few months for nothing but prayer. We’ve often done this in our group, usually separating men and women for these most extended times of sharing and prayer.

The biggest difference between a small group that is spiritually, relationally, and biblically edifying and one that feels like an awkward waste of time is leadership. Good leaders do not always get good followers. But it almost never happens that you get good small groups without faithful, wise, skilled men and women to lead them.

We cannot do without the doctrine that Jesus Christ is God

G Sidney Smith

G. Sidney Smith (1805-1875) was my great, great, great Grandfather.  He was the Rector of Aghalurcher, March 1838, Professor of Biblical Greek at Trinity College, Dublin, and Rector of Drumragh, 1867

This is his work, and it was written sometime in the mid 1800’s.  I like it, it needs to be posted.

Blessings…

 

We cannot do without the doctrine that Jesus Christ is God

To what is religion reduced, if the belief in the Divinity of Christ be taken away? Your attention is invited to this important question, apart from any discussion of the Scriptural argument for the doctrine.
There are some who do not doubt it, and yet do not seem to fell how completely it penetrates into every truth, and doctrine, and promise of the Word of God.
Christianity becomes meagre and hopeless and comfortless, if you leave this out. Rob religion of this jewel, and all its peace and power and glory are gone. We cannot do without the doctrine of a Divine Christ.
Go over the truths, which form the leading features of the hope and the knowledge of a true and happy believer.

Man is a sinner, and cannot save himself. He is in love with sin. He is condemned for his sin. He has a polluted heart, and the sentence of death is written upon him.
He cannot be saved unless two things take place. His guilt must be blotted out, and his heart must be changed. He must be pardoned or justified. He must also be made alive, or born again.
The sinner can only be pardoned in one way, namely, be the sin being laid upon a substitute. The sinner can only be made holy by passing from death unto life. And when alive, he can only be kept alive, not by himself, but by a power greater than himself.
He believes that when he dies it is to rise again; that his condition hereafter shall be eternal happiness; that he shall be conqueror, and more than conqueror, over sin, and death and Satan, forever.
He is one that even now has free access to his Father in heaven. He knows that his prayer reaches to Him, and prevails; that all things are working together for his good; that the earth may tremble, and the nations be shaken, but that the evil shall not overtake him.

This is but a sketch of these great things- justification, sanctification, glorification, victory. Would you consent to part with any of them? Which of them would you give up?
Now, all these privileges and blessings hang upon this fact, that the Lord Jesus is God. Take this away, and all collapses. We cannot do with a Divine Savior.
Take the subject of sin. A thoughtful mind sees that it is a mightier one than we can conceive. Who can estimate its effects, for these reasons, that God hates it to a degree that is beyond our comprehension, and will punish it with a penalty far beyond what men think it deserves? “Fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” These are words of awful import. How is such an evil to be dealt with? There is only one way made know to us: the sin must be transferred to another. A SUBSTITUTE comes forward to take it on himself, and he bears all the penalty. But who can do this? None but one. None but the Eternal himself can bear a penalty sufficient to counter-balance enteral woe.
We cannot, then, be satisfied with any substitute unless that substitute be Divine. No created angel could stand in my place and say, “I will bear all his iniquity, and heal him by my stripes, and give him peace by enduring his chastisement.”

We are told that this satisfaction for sin has been paid in BLOOD. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Life has been forfeited, and life has been surrendered. “The life is in the blood” (Lev. xvii), and the blood has been shed. It is blood that purges consciences from dead works, to serve the living God. In blood are made white robes of the great multitude before the Throne. It is by blood that the sinner is justified. By blood he overcomes. By blood he enters into the holiest. Peace is made by the blood of the Cross. Redemption is obtained by the precious blood of the Lamb. The Church of God is purchased by blood. Can the blood of a creature do all this? How can this blood be so potent and precious, unless there be a Divine element in its value?
Dead in trespasses and sins all are by nature. The unconverted, unchanged sinner is dead- incapable of serving or glorifying God. Unless the be implanted within him the principle of a NEW LIFE, he cannot be saved. Life must be created in the soul, or it is dead forever. Born again he must be, or he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. He must pass from death to life. Who can effect this? Was he a creature only that restored life to the daughter of Jairus, or called Lazarus from the tomb? Who but the Creator can give life to a dead soul? Can you be satisfied that anyone else has power enough to take the dead, motionless heart, and breathe life into it? No; you cannot dispense with Him who is “Resurrection and the Life.” You cannot be born again with the power of the Creator.

Do I know my own heart? Can I penetrate into the mysteries of my own nature, or search into the mysteries out my own spirit? No; it is beyond my powers. This This heart is “deceitful above all things.” It has depths and dangers in it that I cannot fathom. I want ONE WHO CAN SEARCH AND TRY IT. I want a power that can pierce into the joints and marrow, and discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. None but He who made the soul can do this. None but a Divine Spirit can hear and understand the unutterable groaning’s. None but such a one can detect the deceits, and spy out the perils, and reveal to myself what I am. The Word of God alone is living and powerful enough for this. None else can claim to have the manifold wisdom. None else has all truth. None but He has the light shining in the dark place.

One of the images that ministers comfort and strength to the Christian is that which exhibits Christ as the SHEPHERD, and his people as the sheep. Very precious are the thoughts that gather around this idea of the Lord Jesus. How many have rejoiced in the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” It would be painful indeed to be deprived of the belief that our Savior is truly “the great Shepherd.” Weak, straying defenseless, the sheep want this Mighty One. He must be so strong that none can pluck them out of his hand- so strong as to be able to lay the lost sheep on his shoulder, and to carry the lambs in his bosom. He must be so loving as to lay down his life for them- so great as to give them eternal life. These things are very precious. We must not be robbed of them; if Jesus is not God, what becomes of his power to give eternal life to his sheep? They cannot do without him. Their great Shepherd was brought again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant. Can this be the blood of a mere creature?

Again; we are soldiers. We have a battle to fight- such a battle as cannot be matched with any earthly conflict. The devil is the foe. The battlefield is the heart of man; the issue of it must be the loss or salvation of the soul. Out only hope lies in this, that the Captain of the salvation is FIGHTING THE BATTLE; that he comes forth to make war, conquering and to conquer, putting all enemies under his feet, and securing the victory to his people. Who can he be but one, “King of Kings, and Lord of lords”? Shall we trust our battle to any one less? Can we be defended in any other armor than his- the armor of God?

Death has a sting. The grave has a victory. Who is to take that sting away?- to rescue from that victory? Who is to ABOLISH DEATH, and to bring to light life and immortality, but the Almighty God? Unless this be so, I cannot meet death. I shudder and shrink from the thought of it, did I not believe that my Savior is one who has overcome death, and destroyed him that had the power of death. Deity must be in that Savior to whom I can trust my spirit when life is on the ebb, and the world fading away. In that solemn hour, what would it be to have none but a creature mediator!

When we look round and look forward, how much seems dark and perplexing! The Christian suffers much. Losses and griefs, pain and danger, come upon him. Many a bitter trail meets him, and dark clouds gather, and the way is slippery. But we read that “all things are working together for his good.” No matter how sharp and obscure and bitter they may be, there is a giant hand ruling and guiding and causing all these things- these events so harsh and untoward- these blows so heavy and unaccountable- to work together, to converge to one end, the good and blessing of the children of God. Will you part with this text? No: it has been the consolation of millions. But if you are to take it and lean upon it, you must have a SAVIOUR WHO CAN HOLD ALL THINGS IN HIS HANDS, and shape all the events, and wield all the influences and doings and occurrences of earth, according to his own will. He can do this of whom we know he “upholdeth all things by the word of his power.” He has power over all flesh. All power in heaven and earth is his, and all things are given into his hands.

It is not on his power only, but on his LOVE, that the Christian delights to dwell. What amount of love is to satisfy us? Must it not be a love which shall know no change? Which shall not be affected by our unworthiness? Which shall not be enough to take in even the enemy and the ungodly? There is a love which passeth knowledge. (Eph. iii.19.) There is a love from which no power can separate us. (Rom. viii. 35.) Shall anything less content the soul? Can any other but God so love us? If we are to rejoice in this marvelous love, must we not feel also that it is but a sad and miserable doctrine which gives us a Savior whose love could never rise to such a Divine and unutterable intensity as this?

It is a happy and blessed thing to believe that Jesus KNOWS ALL THINGS, AND FORSEES ALL THINGS, even those which men call contingencies- every danger which is approaching, every enemy who threatens, every trouble which is ahead of me. These things of the future are all dark to me; there may be rocks and breakers at hand, but I cannot see them. But there is One who knows and foreknows all that concerns me, and can provide for all. Every minute circumstance of my history, every step of my march, are known to him long before; and therefore I will not fear. Can I afford to trust my ship to a pilot who knows not the channel? Can I commit my way absolutely to a creature who cannot foreknow the future, and cannot provide for it?

Our joy and hope is, that we shall be put in possession of an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away- a KINGDOM that cannot be moved. But who is to be the King? Is it the King eternal, immortal, invisible, or an inferior being? To whom is the regal power in heaven and earth to be committed? The kingdom is to be one that cannot be moved; but unless the King be Divine, it has an insecure foundation, and is the object of a shadowy hope.

The Christian is one who knows the comfort, the value, the power of PRAYER. What would be his condition without it? It is the source of his strength, the means of this victory. The weak, trembling human soul can thereby wield a marvelous power. The electric telegraph is one of the greatest triumphs of man’s skill; and wondrous indeed is the fact that he can take the lighting’s power and force it to obey him, and carry his message thousands of miles in a moment of time. Wondrous it is that thoughts and words can be made to travel over hill and valley, and along the bottom of the ocean through deep waters! But what is this in comparison with the power of a believer’s prayer? It traverses in a moment the space between this world and the right hand of God, and reaches the great Intercessor there. But prayer does more than this. It not only reaches God, and but it has power with God. It is a force moving a mighty hand. It has promise, “Ask, and ye shall have.” “Ye shall have your petitions; I will so direct events, and so shape the course of history, and so bend the wills of men, that your prayer shall prevail.” And there are few of the children of God who could not furnish striking proofs of this: the answers to prayer are oft-times so plain, so wonderful, so unexpected, as to fill us with awe as well as gratitude. This is an amazing privilege: can we give it up? If Jesus be not God, prayer is no longer such a power. It may be a homage, a worship; but the mighty prevalence of the effectual fervent prayer is gone: prayer to Him then becomes only prayer to one who cannot answer; for unless He rules and reigns, and worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, how can He promise to do whatsoever we ask?

Again: we want a Savior EVER AT HAND, and not far off. I cannot have one moment’s peace, security, or strength, unless my Lord be nigh. Leave me to myself, out of the reach of his hand, and, like Peter, I must sink into the waters. The millions of the people of God throughout all the world- all count upon this nearness: He must be nigh unto every one, by the side of every one: He must be omnipresent; but neither saint, angel, virgin, nor any other created being, could be ever present with each and all. He who is, must be God.

Go over the promises that are sweetest and most precious, and see how they are shorn of their beauty and power, of this be not so. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Who was he that could say this? “Fear not, little flock. Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. I am the Resurrection and the Life. Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Let the idea enter for a moment that Christ is not God, and what are all these promises worth? Would you part with any of them? What would the Christian do if any one of them were shaken” Take all the promises that you love best, that have whispered comfort and courage to you in the hour of trouble and pain- would you lose them? No. But they all collapse and melt away, if this doctrine be not true. Take away the elements of Deity from “the doctrine of Christ,” and your faith is vain; your hope is gone: the sin-stain is still upon the conscience: death has not been abolished: Satan has not been casted down.

Happy is the man who has learned this truth, and who hold it fast, so as to feed upon it and build upon it. He has a peace that flows as a river, a joy full of immortality, a hope which cheers and sustains him in life’s darkest hour; for he knows that He who loved him, and has redeemed and saved him, is the eternal Word, who was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us: that He was with God, and was God: that He has the keys of hell and of death, and is alive for evermore!

To whom shall we go but to the Son of God, who has the words of eternal life?

 

Zeal is good for a Christian’s own soul…

“Zeal is good for a Christian’s own soul. It will help mightily to promote inward feelings of joy, peace, comfort, and happiness. None have so much enjoyment of Christ as those who are ever zealous for His glory—jealous over their own walk—tender over their own consciences—full of anxiety about the souls of others—and ever watching, working, laboring, striving, and toiling to extend the knowledge of Jesus Christ upon earth.” Sermon excerpt from, Be Zealous by J. C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool in the late 1800’s. His writings are as timely now, as they were then.

• Be zealous in leading yourself and your family.
• Be zealous in working for His glory.
• Be zealous in pouring yourself out every week for the souls of people around you.

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

Continue to remember what an honor it is to serve in a Christ centered community of faith.
As a church we are the living body of Christ. Love, hope and faith are what the Bible demands Christians zealously proclaim.

As J.C. Ryle said, “Beware, I beseech you, of checking zeal. Seek it. Cultivate it. Try to blow up the fire in your own heart, and the hearts of others—but never, never check it.”

Be Zealous and God Bless

Link to sermon: http://www.reformedsermonarchives.com/ryle1.htm

A Parent’s Guide to Discussing Halloween

free-halloween-happy-halloween-clipart-free-large-images-clipartwiz“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Theologian. 1906-1945)

It was a cool, dark Halloween evening in that small town in northern California. The group of friends accompanied by one parent was lagging far behind. At nine years old, I was in the lead, a few houses ahead of the others.  There a house was set off from the street, beyond the vacant lot and nearly covered by bushes and shrubs. I knew there was a prize to be had at the end of that long driveway. However, the prize would take risk. It was a dark, shadowy place with no streetlight to show the way. As a pirate, I was prepared.  A red bandana tied firmly on my head, a small dim flashlight in one hand, and a plastic pirate knife in the other, I set my sights on the glowing porch light of my targeted destination.

The journey started well, my band of brothers was still well behind me. Suddenly a shadow moved to my right.  I froze.  Out of the murky mist came a large imposing figure of a teenager.  Not fully recognizing the threat, I stood toe to toe with him, each of us sizing up the other.  He wore a zombie mask.  A quick mental inventory of my open options produced little. The group was behind me and a choice needed to be made.  It was him or me and I was not keen on relinquishing the candy bounty for which I had worked so hard.  My right hand slowly raised the plastic knife.  It was over as quickly as it started.  In a flash, the teenager grabbed the bag and was gone.  Completely stunned, I could not give chase, I did the only thing I could do.  My plastic knife dropped to the ground, and I started to cry.  My bounty of candy was gone, all gone.

Once home my Mother dried my tears and my friends shared their candy. The bitter memory of the Zombie Candy Thief slowly began to fade.  Everything was going to be fine, but at nine years old, something was lost.  On a small scale, I began to understand that there is evil in this world.  Who steals a child’s candy? From Mother’s point of view, the situation was much darker as she lamented about what the world was coming to and questioned her decision regarding her child’s participation in any further Halloween festivities.

While this true story ended well, it does raise important questions about how Christians should view the Halloween experience. Should we allow our children to participate in Halloween? Is Halloween appropriate?

This parent’s guide will not attempt to answer that question with a simple yes or no.  Rather, it will raise discussion points and topics for consideration.  Can Halloween be a part of a Christian life and walk? What can parents express to our children about the main theme of Halloween?

Parents, our first and foremost responsibility is to protect and guard our children’s hearts and minds. (Philippians 4:7)  The Bible states  that we are to take God’s words and “teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house…”(Deuteronomy 6:7) The traditions surrounding Halloween can be a teaching moment guiding what is providing influences into your child’s life. Additionally, non-Christian parents are observing our actions. They are watching to see how we react to this world, and how significantly our faith guides our own thoughts and actions. (Matthew 5:13)   As fall progresses, we challenge you take the opportunity to teach and instruct your children as to what is good, what you believe and how you view the world. (John 15:19) Acts 19 Apologetics provides this guide as a means to encourage you to seize this chance to speak truth and wisdom into your children.

Will you join us in completing this worthwhile task?

Deuteronomy 5-7: 5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Blessings,

Acts 19 Apologetics

An outline for discussing Halloween and God’s providence over creation with your family.

Step 1:  Set the Theme:

  • A contemporary celebration of Halloween can be non-demonic or a remembrance of evil spirits.  It should be a time to gather as a family, reach out to your neighbors, consume delicious candy, and have an entertaining evening.
  • As Christians, we believe that God’s providence over all creation directs everything to fulfill his purposes!

Step 2:  Read these Bible passages aloud:

*Consider having others in your family read the passages.*

  • Called according to God’s purpose: Romans 8:28
  • Do all to the glory of God: 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
  • God continually directs everything: Matthew 5:45
  • All actions are under God’s care: Acts 25:28
  • The Lord directs our steps: Proverbs 16:9
  • The Lord’s prayer: Matthew 6:9-13

Step 3: Address the points of discussion.

  1. First main point: Participating in Halloween is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • There are many reasons to gather as a family, a neighborhood, or a community of faith.  The modern Halloween celebration is a good reason to come together and rejoice with the people God has placed in our lives. (1 Corinthians 7:5) The important point to remember is to “do all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
  • Jesus commands us in the book of Matthew 5:14 that we are to be the “light of the world”. Going to where people gather and spreading the gospel can accomplish this command. Whether the gathering is a Halloween celebration, or an office party at a pub we must be strong in our faith, and by doing this, we can prayerfully and responsibly take part. Romans (4:20 and Colossians 4:2)
  1. Second main point: Participating in Halloween should not degrade the Christian life or a spiritual walk with Christ if observed in moderation.
  2. Third main point: Although, Halloween can be frightening, God has provided this time to gather with our neighbors, share our lives with them and have fun.
  • Jesus Christ’s authoritative word abolishes the work of Satan and evil spirits. (Luke 4:31-37) This fact is our hope, joy and the cornerstone of the Christian faith! Therefore, we do not focus on the dark shadowy side of the holiday, but fashion our Halloween festivities to celebrate in a positive and uplifting manner.
  • Good and evil are real in this world, but all events are under God’s care.  (Acts 25:28) and God continually directs everything in this world. (Matthew 5:45)
  • God’s calls us to His purposes in this world.  God displays who he is, and what his intentions are in the proper time. (1 Timothy 6:15). When confronted with any situation, we are to rely on the Lord and continue to walk with him.  The celebration of Halloween is not different. Provide glory to the Lord in how we gather for a modern Halloween activity. Does this fulfill a part of God’s mission and purpose for us? Yes, if our focus is spreading the gospel of Jesus.  (1 Corinthians 10:23-24 and Matthew 28:19-20)
  • The Lord directs our steps in all that we do and where ever we may go. (Proverbs 16:9) When Jesus prayed for his disciples, he prayed to the Father that his disciples would be protected in this world after his ascension to heaven. (John 17:11) He prayed this to God the Father in verse fifteen, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” As followers of Christ we are to be “in this world”, but not “of this world.”  Whether we are faced with problems at school, or with friends, or tough choices we need to make, our Lord is walking with us, guiding our steps.  When the frightfulness of some Halloween celebrations comes in to question, we are sure that we should prayerfully consider the options and go on living out God’s purpose and plan for us.  Any Halloween festivities are an opportunity to provide fellowship and grace to believers and non-believers alike.
  1. Summary of Points:
  • The apostle Paul tells us, “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NASB)  A Halloween celebration should be worthwhile and beneficial to you and your family’s Christian life.
  • Jesus spent time going to where the people congregated to spread the good news.  Considering that, as followers of Christ our responsibility is to do the same.  Redeem the Halloween experience by spending time with people in your neighborhood. Provide them the opportunity to see the light and grace of our savior.
  • A modern Halloween celebration does not need to be frightening, dark and ghoulish for our children.  Small adjustments to any event can provide a positive and uplifting experience for the young and the “young at heart”.  Focus on the grace and providence of our Lord for he is in control, and that He sent His Son as an indication of his love for us. (John 3.16)