Thursday
Nov132014

Living out the faith

Explore the Bible
November 30, 2014 

Daniel Johnson
minister to students
First Baptist 
Dover

Hebrews 13:1-8

When a person becomes a Christian, salvation comes by grace through faith. His subsequent actions will show whether or not that faith is authentic. The lives of true believers will be marked by acts of submissive obedience to their Lord. In Hebrews 13, the author pushes his readers to give action to their faith.  

He encourages these first-century readers to be faithful in several specific areas. During this time, believers would need hospitality as they traveled from place to place. Where better to find it than from fellow believers? Christians should be willing to show hospitality to those in need of it. These believers also faced persecution in the form of prison because of their faith. The author writes that Christians have a responsibility to care for their own. Caring for these fellow believers in prison meant publicly identifying with them, which would reveal the caregivers’ status as Christians and put them at risk of a prison sentence of their own. Christians should be willing to meet the physical needs of other believers, in spite of this risk. Certainly the family lives of believers should be honorable, wives respecting their husbands and husband loving their wives, both guarding the sacredness of the marriage bed. Believers should also be content in their circumstances, relying on the Lord to provide for their material needs.  

The application for Christians today is fairly straightforward. In today’s times of selfishness, if there is a physical need that a believer is able to meet, he should meet it, even though the cost may be uncomfortable to bear. In today’s times of loose sexual morals, believers should resist the temptation to fall into sexual sin and should instead model obedience. In today’s times of greed, believers should use their resources to the glory of the Lord, being content with their blessings, while resisting the siren song of material wealth. Lastly, believers should put their faith into action in all areas of life, imitating the example of mature saints who have modeled a lifetime of obedience to the Lord.

Thursday
Nov132014

Mental illness

Bible Studies for Life
November 30, 2014 

Sandra Hardage
member
First Baptist
Bismarck

2 Corinthians 1:2-7

Mental illness comes in many forms, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and many others. Mental illness is considered a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, mood, feelings and ability to relate to others or daily functioning. 

It touches the lives of people of all ages, races, genders, religions and incomes. Most families have been affected by this illness either through a family member or through someone they know.

We are to treat people with mental illness with Christian love. A dear friend, who operated an adult home for mentally ill patients, would bring some of her residents to church. These sweet adults would participate in class and ask for prayers for their family and friends. They loved the Lord with all their hearts, having accepted Jesus as Savior. It was a delight to be associated with these of God’s children.  

Christians with mental illnesses have the same Holy Spirit as Christians who do not have a mental illness. Should the family of God treat them differently?

Jesus does not call us to be standoffish and avoid those not like us. We are to show Christian love to all and serve as Christ would serve. Be aware of those sitting next to you in the pew at church. Are they hurting? What comfort and kindness can you show? Allow them into a conversation and give them an encouraging word. Share His love and grace. We are to give comfort and encouragement with our presence, our prayers and our acts of kindness. 

Remember the words of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

It is through Christ we are able to comfort because we have been
comforted.

Thursday
Nov132014

New kind of community

Explore the Bible
November 23, 2014 

Daniel Johnson
minister to students
First Baptist 
Dover

Hebrews 12:18-24

One of the challenges of living on this side of heaven is that Christians must live by faith. Spiritual realities known only through the testimony of Scripture will one day be as tangible as the physical reality seen now; however, presently, they are quite invisible.  In his continuing encouragement to remain faithful to the gospel, the author of Hebrews compares Mount Sinai, representing the Old Covenant, with Mount Zion, representing the New Covenant (Heb. 12:18-24).   

Mount Sinai was intimidating, as God made His holiness known to the Israelites. Similarly, the Law reveals to mankind the serious nature of their sin because of their complete inability to live up to God’s standard of righteousness. At Mount Sinai, men were separated from God. The opposite is true at Mount Zion. Where Mount Sinai is intimidating, Mount Zion is intimate. Here men are not separated from God; instead, forgiven saints are welcomed into the heavenly Jerusalem.  

The saints, both pre-Christ and post-Christ, have fellowship in a new community with each other and with God. This fellowship with the righteous Judge is made possible because of the Mediator, Jesus, and His blood, which makes possible the forgiveness of sin. Before Jesus, fellowship with God was not possible for humanity. Sin disrupted this community, as seen in the blood of Abel, the very presence of which on the ground testified to sin, as opposed to the blood of Jesus, which gives the perfect testimony of redemption.   

Christians accept this reality by faith, but one day it will be seen to be true. In the meantime, believers must stay faithful to the gospel and enjoy the fellowship with each other made possible through the local church. One day that fellowship will be expanded to include the community of all believers. For now, it is constrained to a more limited manner as believers look forward to being united in God’s presence in the heavenly Jerusalem.  

Thursday
Nov132014

Earthly mindset

Bible Studies for Life
November 23, 2014 

Sandra Hardage
member
First Baptist
Bismarck

Genesis 50:15-21

Joseph’s brothers had been so terrified they could not speak when this powerful Egyptian ruler revealed his identity. Joseph had told them numerous times they did not send him to Egypt – God did. From the moment of revealing his identity, Joseph had been nothing but kind, forgiving and gracious to his family. Jacob had moved the entire family to Goshen in Egypt, and there Joseph had taken care of them. Goshen had provided the choicest of land, and the family’s flocks and herds had thrived. The family had multiplied in number rapidly over the last 17 years of Jacob’s life, but now at his death, the brothers feared Joseph.

When Joseph received the message from his brothers asking for forgiveness, he wept (Gen. 50:16-17). Joseph’s tender heart was broken. How many times had he told them God had sent him to Egypt? How many times had he lovingly taken care of them and yet they still felt the guilt for their actions?

Each brother must have felt the overbearing weight of guilt. Guilt visited them often.  

In this culture, an act against someone meant retaliation by the offended party. Though Joseph had offered forgiveness, the brothers feared what was to come. Joseph understood God had placed him in Egypt to fulfill His plan. Joseph had focused on God’s will rather than on earthly understanding of his trials. Joseph offered forgiveness. The brothers did not accept it nor understand it.

How many times do we go back to the Lord asking for forgiveness for the same sin already forgiven? Is the heart of God saddened by our inability to understand His loving, forgiving nature? Do we truly understand what Jesus did for us on the cross? Do we focus on ourselves instead of the forgiving grace of Jesus? To rid ourselves of guilt, we must recognize the sin, ask God’s forgiveness, accept the gift of forgiveness and let go of the sin the gripes us. Jesus has it covered.

Thursday
Oct302014

Discipline of suffering

Explore the Bible
November 16, 2014 

Daniel Johnson
minister to students
First Baptist 
Dover

Hebrews 12:1-7

Not many children enjoy the activities assigned to them by their parents – activities designed to develop maturity and character. Chores are not at the top of many teenagers’ list of favored activities. Teens often desire to complete chores as quickly, and not necessarily as thoroughly, as possible. Yet the discipline of routine chores and household duties instills character in ways more enjoyable activities do not. The obligation of parents, however, is not to provide a good time and easy ride, but to develop their children into God-fearing, responsible adults. Discipline is necessary for this development to occur. 

In Hebrews 12:1-7, the author of Hebrews is urging his readers to continue in their faith even when faced with hardship, looking to the examples of believers who lived in previous times. Past generations endured all manner of persecution and adversity while remaining faithful. Additionally, Jesus Himself faced greater suffering than anyone and was rewarded for His faithfulness by His Father.

The persecution and hardship that believers often face should be viewed not as a cause for distress and discouragement, but as discipline from a loving Father who designs to use it for the good of His children. Christians should not “grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3) in the face of discrimination, oppression and other forms of persecution the world brings upon them because of their faith, but instead should regard such trials as an opportunity to identify with their Savior as God the Father uses this discipline to mold and mature them in ways not possible without hardship. Discipline, while challenging, is a sign of salvation and membership in God’s family and should be received as such. When it becomes apparent that negative consequences will come from the world when believers stand firm in their faith, Christians should press on, remain faithful and accept the hardship with joy, knowing that their Father in heaven will use it for their spiritual growth, ultimate good and His glory.