Thursday, February 23, 2012

Forgiving the Sinner

“To err is human, to forgive divine”
We are forgiven by God and therefore are commanded and enabled by God to be forgiving.
Religious leaders of Jesus' day asked a “trick” question to make Jesus appear too forgiving or not forgiving enough. They went so far as to drag a woman “caught in the act” of adultery into a public setting and then quoted a Bible verse!
Jesus’ response is so wise and so wonderful! After writing on the ground(we don’t know what), He challenged her accusers to throw stones at her if they had no sin. (The Bible expositor, G. Campbell Morgan said that got him out of the stone-throwing business.) Each accuser left and then Jesus forgave the woman. He did not condemn her but exhorted her to do better.
Talk about hope and change!
So when we are confronted with sin in others, let’s remember our own shortcomings and focus on doing right instead of what’s been done wrong.
See you Sunday.

1. Some ancient manuscripts don’t have this Bible story in them. Why do you
think it might not have been included?
2. What Scriptures did the religious leaders base their question on: See
Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22.
3. How do you feel about the “sinner “being put on public display? John 8:3
4. If she was “caught in the act” why isn’t the adulterer also brought to
Jesus? John 8:3
5. Can you think of any instances where someone would use a Bible verse to
their “advantage”?
6. Compare the following Scriptures with John 8:7. Matthew 7:1-5, James 2:13
and 4:11
7. Why didn’t Jesus condemn the woman? Consider Luke 12:14, John 3: 17
8. Do you find it more challenging to be forgiving in regard to “big sins”?
It is interesting to study the mixture of sins listed together in Galatians
9. How do you think the woman felt after her encounter with Jesus? How would
a “sinner” feel after encountering us?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hope of a Future

The man was pleasantly surprised to hear his teenage daughter answer the telephone and then hang up after only 20 minutes. When she had hung up, he congratulated her and then asked which one of her friends had been so cooperative in keeping the conversation so brief. She replied, “Oh, that wasn’t a friend, it was a wrong number.”

The man writes, “Their faults are nearly all errors of exaggeration. They overdo in cases of love and in all other things. They imagine that they know everything and stubbornly stand on their point. They like to crack jokes, for joking is their most suitable tool of diversion.” You say, “That perfectly describes the youth of today. They are extreme in their exaggeration – whether it’s the number of earrings they wear or their location, or their tattoos, or their incessant texting. And they think they know everything. At age four they know all the questions, and at 20 they think they know all the answers. And stubbornness, you’d better believe they’re stubborn. It’s probably George Will writing, he’s that insightful.”

No, actually it’s Aristotle. He wrote it 2300 years ago. Though times have changed, there’s a lot about youth that hasn’t. George Bernard Shaw once said, “Youth is a wonderful thing, it’s a shame it’s wasted on the young.” But I would remind you that history is filled with some remarkable achievements of the young. Pascal wrote his first great work on projective geometry at 16. Tennyson concluded his first volume at 18. Joan of Arc completed all of her works and was burned at the stake by age 19. Romulus founded the city of Rome at 20. Alexander the Great conquered the world by 23.

In the final chapter of John’s gospel, he says that Jesus turns to Peter and says, “I tell you the truth, when you were young you dressed yourself and you walked where you desired. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” But here Jesus’ point is greater than numerical age. His point is spiritual maturity.

Now this translation is a little bit different from the NIV. Actually it’s different from the KJV and the NKJV, also. The ESV comes closest. A literal translation of the Greek text is most useful in communicating what Jesus is saying to Peter. Three years earlier Jesus had called Peter to come and follow Him. He had said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you a ‘fisher of men.’ Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” And here in these final verses of John’s gospel Jesus reiterates that call, but this time He adds some important detail. Why? Because until now Peter would never have been able to understand it. It’s only after walking with Jesus and falling badly that any one of us can ever really know what walking with Him entails.

This Sunday is our third message on the Hope we find in the transformed life. We’ve looked at the hope of our healing and the hope of our calling, and this week we turn to the hope of a future. The thesis this Sunday is that when the Holy Spirit transforms your life there are new characteristics that show up, chief among them is a growing sense of Hope.

Think of it. Into a culture that is lost, dying, and increasing in hopelessness day by day, the Holy Spirit comes and empowers a host of transformed lives marked by an ever-increasing level of Hope.

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:

1. How does Jesus address the purpose of a disciple in this text?
2. What lessons is Jesus teaching about maturing in Him?
3. What do you make of Jesus’ call in that culture?
4. What is the parallel between what Jesus says in verses 18 & 19 and Peter’s
betrayals in the courtyard? (See Matthew 26:69-75)
5. How does the “catch” in verse 10 relate to verses 15-22? Where’s the hope
in this?
6. What is the relationship between the breakfast Jesus provides and His
instructions to Peter in verses 15 and 17?
7. What is Jesus’ problem with Peter’s attention to John?
8. What is the principle product of keeping your attention on Jesus?
9. What is the usefulness of sin in the life of the Christian?
10. What was the last song Whitney Houston sang publicly? What is the tie-in to
Peter and us in this text?

See you Sunday.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hope of a Calling

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking at a Disciple-Making Church conference in Florida. In addition to making my presentation on Thursday, I had the opportunity to participate in all of the sessions of this four-day conference and I was struck with how little discipleship and disciple-making was discussed. We had presentations on vision casting, spiritual formation, program evaluation, and the like, but next to nothing about the how’s and why’s of disciple-making. It was disappointing to say the least.

As you know, in His final words to the disciples Jesus mandates disciple-making. Indeed, His absolute final words reveal the source of power with which He expects them to carry out that task. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And it’s the “playing-out” of all of this that is in focus this Sunday as we consider the Hope of Our Calling through the transformational power of the Holy Spirit.

I’m not sure of the origin of our notions of disciple-making these days; my guess is that they come from the standard American educational pedagogy of the past two hundred years. Think classroom. Think instructor and student. Think data dump. Think the gathering of facts, theorems, and postulates. Such a view has infiltrated the evangelical world disciple-making is seen in the accumulation of information. Indeed, for many, Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” have much more to do with “the truth” than “the way” and “the life”.

And yet the model of disciple-making Jesus utilizes is far different. His call to follow was a call to enter His manner of life. In fact, all of the instructions to His disciples, with a few notable exceptions, were exemplified “on the way.” It is to just such disciple-making that Jesus calls each one of us.

Last week our focus was on the Hope of our Healing in Luke 8. There we saw an unnamed woman who became a “daughter.” She is a wonderful example, “a tracing pattern” of every transformed heart for every transformed life is called to go out into the world and touch others with the power of the Holy Spirit found in the completed work of Christ.

This week we look at a great passage that demonstrates the Hope of Our Calling. Like Philip on the Gaza Road, the Holy Spirit empowers every transformed heart to lose our self-importance as a dispenser of information and gain our new identity as guides to Christ.

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:

1. What in your opinion is the most difficult musical instrument to play?
2. Where was Philip when the Lord called Him to go to the Gaza Road? What was
he doing there?
3. Who is this Philip? What do we know about him?
4. What characteristics does Philip share with Stephen?
5. What is the meaning of the “textual variant” in verse 26? (Hint: direction
and time of day)
6. What differences exist between Philip and the Ethiopian?
7. What does God make of those differences?
8. Compare the NIV’s rendering of verse 31 and the ESV’s or the KJV’s. What do
you make of the difference in what the eunuch is asking?
9. What is the difference between the Ethiopian’s previous questions and the
one he asks in verse 36?
10. What is the message of verse 39? How does this verse summarize effective
disciple-making and give us hope and freedom in our calling?

See you Sunday.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hope of Healing

Back in the early 1960s, songwriter Bill Gaither was asked to play the piano at an evening service where an evangelist was scheduled to speak. Though he was busy, he agreed to take time out to do it. He was glad he did. As Bill watched, hundreds of people flooded the “stage” that night; and he witnessed a tremendous outpouring of the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the power of the Holy Spirit was so prevalent that night that on the way home the evangelist turned to Gaither and said, “Why don’t you write a song about what you experienced tonight?” Gaither gulped and said, “Maybe some time I will.”

That night he couldn’t sleep. All he could think about were the words, “Why don’t you write a song about God’s touch?” By morning Bill Gaither had written it. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times - He Touched Me.

Shackled by a heavy burden,
‘Neath a load of guilt and shame.
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same.
He touched me, Oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.

Throughout the New Testament more than a dozen times Jesus is said to have touched someone. I think of the blind man Jesus healed by touching his eyes with the mud He had made. I think of the daughter of Jairus whom He raised from the dead by taking hold of her hand. There are many similar accounts. As John might tell it, “If all of them were recorded, all the books in the world would not be able to contain them.”

But this week, as we begin a new section of Living a Transformed Life, I want to focus our attention on the one person in Scripture who is said to have reached out and touched Him. In this account, recorded in each one of the synoptic gospels, we find a perfect picture of the power of Jesus to heal and transform lives. On this Communion Sunday we will be in Luke 8:40-48 to draw a powerful example of hope. In preparation for Sunday’s study you may wish to consider the following:

1. Of all five senses, how important is touch to you?
2. What is the significance of Luke’s record of this woman’s touch?
3. What is the context for her touch?
4. Where is she when she “touches Him”?
5. What is her condition and the costs associated with coming to Jesus?
6. Where does she “touch” Him? What does it mean?
7. What is the meaning of Jesus’ words in verse 46?
8. What do you make of His declaration in verse 48?
9. How important are the 12 years of her suffering?
10. What does Jesus mean by calling her “daughter”?

May the Holy Spirit touch all this Sunday!