Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Gift of Peace

What a joyous season we are in! In a few short days we will be celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. I am re-reading the Christmas story in Luke and thought we could use the following passage as our study scripture. Right after Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds who were tending their flocks.  Then, a host of the angels lifted praises to God and bestowed “peace” onto mankind.  Peace can come in many forms.  There at least three senses of peace we will look more closely at:  Peace with God, Peace within Ourselves, Peace with Others. 

Luke 2:14
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Things to think about:
  • Peace with God
    • Just like when two nations are vying for control of the same territory, when we fight God for control of our lives, there is no peace.
    • Romans 5:10 says we “were God’s enemies”. Thankfully it goes on to say we can rejoice because we have now received reconciliation!
    • Jesus came to be the peace offering. In the Old Testament, part of the sacrificial law was the making of a peace offering. This no longer needs to happen because it has been made once and for all.
    • Do you remember what it was like when you resisted God and His earlier offers of peace?
    • When and why did you finally declare a ceasefire?
  • Peace within Ourselves
    • We are now free from guilt, condemnation, and worry. Our enemy is an accuser and a liar whose aim it is to make us doubt God’s goodness. When we doubt, we are robbed of our peace.
    • John 14:27 - Jesus says,  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
    • Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
    • How does the peace that Jesus offers you keep your heart from being troubled and/or allay your fears?
  • Peace with Others
    • Sometimes the hardest people to be at peace with are those closest to us
      • that could include family or fellow believers
    • John 17, beginning in verse 20, is Jesus’ prayer for all future believers (that would be us). It is a prayer of harmony and unity with one another so that the world might believe in Jesus.
      • when we are not at peace with one another, we belie the claims of Christ
    • Do you need to be reconciled (at peace) with someone now?
      • Might this be the Christmas present you need to give this year?

Monday, December 5, 2016

#Sinning isn't #Winning

Everyday we are confronted with opportunities to choose God or not to choose Him.  When stated so plainly, all of us would say that of course we want to choose God.  But the reality is we often don’t (#Sinning). So what happens along the way that redirects our good intentions and causes us to stumble?  Going back to the beginning of something is usually instructive and so it is in our case here.  Let’s look at the original rationalization, Eve succumbing to the serpent’s craftiness, and see what we can learn from it to be victors instead of victims (#Winning).

Genesis 3:6
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. 

Things to think about:

  • three elements to the temptation “Feels Good”, “Looks Good”, Makes Me Feel Better About Myself”
    • see 1 John 2:16  - lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life
  • any one of them is enough to cause us to stumble but if two or all three are present, DANGER!
    • let's think about how we rationalize and get ourselves into trouble
  • Feels Good
    • the fruit of the tree would taste good and be satisfying to her hunger
    • as men, we are primarily physical creatures driven more by our hormones than anything else
    • God created pleasure for our benefit but within certain parameters for our good
    • what are places in your life where Feels Good can override Doing Good?
      • sex, food, sleep, laziness
    • what is the lie of giving in to our appetites?
      • Truth - Luke 12:24, 29
  • Looks Good
    • the fruit was beautiful to behold
    • again, as men we can be overly stimulated visually (to our detriment)
    • God’s creation is beautiful and worthy of our praise
    • what are places in your life where Looks Good can override Doing Good?
      • women, materialism, your appearance
    • what is the lie to giving in to surface-level appeal?
      • Truth - Luke 12:28
  • Makes Me Feel Better About Myself
    • the fruit would feed her ego by giving her wisdom
    • with the various insecurities we have about ourselves, we can be vulnerable to things that would purport to makes us stronger
    • The Book of Proverbs is almost exclusively about acquiring wisdom, so in and of itself, it is a very good thing
    • what are places in your life where Makes Me Feel Better About Myself overrides Makes God Well-pleased With Me?
      • Possessions, power, knowledge, success, gossip, arguing a point, stubbornness 
    • what is the lie of giving in to a weak self-image?
      • Truth - Romans 8:17
  • #Winning
    • 1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
    • When Eve was tempted, she listened to the lies and gave in.  When Jesus was tempted, he refuted the lies with the Word of God.
    • When Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he RAN
    • When Moses was unable to hold his arms up any longer, his friends supported him (Exodus 17:11-12)
    • Romans 8:37-39 
      • No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.