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Thursday
Mar242016

Integrity

Explore the Bible
April 10, 2016

Gayla Parker
Little Rock

Acts 4:36-5:11

Integrity. With the presidential elections just around the corner, that word is being used and questioned a lot! According to Webster, it means “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility.” Added to that could be “making the right decision when no one else is watching.”

Integrity is something I watched lived out in my youngest son, Jesse. Jesse was in a minor car accident while maneuvering a roundabout in Philadelphia. The other driver put the fault on Jesse, saying he crossed over into his lane. When the police officer and the insurance agent asked Jesse if he could say with 100 percent certainty that he did not cross the line, Jesse’s answer was, “No.” All he could say was he was 98 percent sure, but not 100 percent sure. Jesse’s insurance had to pay the claim. Jesse was not happy with the decision. But my thought is this, “Jesse was honest in his statement.” He could have said he was 100 percent sure, but that would not have been 100 percent honest. And that would have been 100 percent wrong.

The Bible has much to say about integrity.

Psalm 41:12 says, “Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.”

Proverbs 10:9, one of many Proverbs to mention integrity, says, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”

And then there is the story in Acts 5 about Ananias and Sapphira, who withheld a portion of their offering from the sale of a piece of property. The cost of their lie? Death. Regardless of who sees our actions, God always knows the motives in our hearts. As Proverbs 10:9 says, they were found out, and the cost was great.

Jesse may not have liked the decision of the insurance company, but he can be sure that God was 100 percent pleased with his decision to be 100 percent honest. That alone is reason enough to be 100 percent joyful. Integrity breeds an abundantly joyful life while the lack thereof breeds a spiritually dead life. I choose life!

Thursday
Mar242016

Our need for purpose 

Bible Studies for Life
April 10, 2016

Laura Macfarlan
Siloam Springs

John 15:1-8

Why are we here? What is the purpose of life?

Do you ever ask those questions? Do you ever engage in a philosophical discussion about life and its purpose? Here’s the answer: You and I were created for Him. We are here for His glory (Isa. 43:7).

Many try to medicate the dissatisfaction in life with vacation or shopping therapy.

“Surely, a new dress, a new couch or a new view will bring pleasure,” they think.

Others believe more money or a new spouse will bring happiness. But, like the exasperation that comes with trying to use a screwdriver to do the job of a hammer, we become frustrated when our lives are squandered and not devoted to the purpose for which we were created.

Jesus meets our need to glorify God by abiding in us. His presence both enables and propels us in our need to glorify God. In John 15, Jesus employs a vine-and-branch analogy to teach us about remaining in Him. It is this “remaining” that makes God-glorifying fruit bearing possible.

Fruit bearing is the goal: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).

Fruit bearing brings glory to God. And fruit bearing cannot happen apart from Him. A branch separated from the vine cannot produce fruit.

In John 15:7, Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

God’s Word is our daily manna. Without it, we become spiritually emaciated, depleted and weak. If remaining in the Word feels more like a “have to” than a “want to,” ask God to change your heart. Ask Him to create a hunger that nothing else can satisfy. And then be ready to experience the joy and satisfaction that comes by remaining in Him – through every season, every trial and every circumstance. Fruit may only come in season – like the tree in Psalm 1:3 – but it will come. To Him be the glory!

Thursday
Mar242016

Courageous 

Explore the Bible
April 3, 2016

Gayla Parker
Little Rock

Acts 4:1-13

“If only I had courage,” the lion said to Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”

As the story unfolds, it turns out the lion did have courage as he defended Dorothy from the wicked witch. The courage was there; he only needed a reason to use it.

While the lion is just a fictitious character, the same story could be told of a few real live heroes. Alvin York displayed courage in battle to save his fellow soldiers. Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett, Mark Bingham and Jeremy Glick showed courage on Sept. 11 as they tried to save a hijacked plane. Chelsey Sullenberger showed courage when he landed his plane on the Hudson River to save his passengers. The common denominator is that they had a compelling reason to find and use their courage – the lives of others.

There is another group of heroes who share a compelling reason to find and use courage – missionaries who have died while sharing the gospel. These include missionaries like Bill Hyde, who was killed in an airport bombing in the Philippines, and Jack Logan, who died in Nicaragua. They found and used the courage that only Jesus can give.

Courageous living did not start with these heroes; it started long before with a group of disciples who spoke the message of salvation fearlessly. In Acts 3, Peter and John heal a lame man. In Acts 4, the priests are furious with them. Healing and preaching the Resurrection went against all they stood for, and they intended to put a halt to such things. In Acts 4:4, many people became believers in spite of the efforts to thwart the gospel message. The disciples’ courage paid off; it did not matter that they were imprisoned. The impact of their message could not and cannot be stopped. That courage is still available today.

David gave good advice on living courageously to Solomon: “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished” (1 Chron. 28:20).

Thursday
Mar242016

Our need for peace

Bible Studies for Life
April 3, 2016

Laura Macfarlan
Siloam Springs

John 14:1-7

What comes to mind when you think of peace?

– 1960s-era protestors holding up two fingers?

– A treaty between warring nations?

– An argument-free family reunion?

Peace is more than the absence of conflict. It’s more than relationships between neighbors and nations.

Ultimate peace is peace with God. Consciously or unconsciously, it’s the longing of every human heart. And it can only be found in Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

Our sin separates us from God and puts us at war with God. But through Jesus, we have peace with God, as Romans 5:1 says: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What are the implications of having peace with God? Certainly, eternal security for then – the peace that provides salvation. But what does peace with God bring to believers in this life?

Among other things, it brings joy, contentment and satisfaction that can be found in nothing and no one else. Paul calls it the peace “which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

Anxiety, worry and angst should have no place in our lives. If those are present, it’s time to draw near to God, to lean into Him and onto Him. A lack of peace might indicate our eyes are on our circumstances and not on our Lord. Because of Jesus, we can trade up – give God the worry and receive His peace.

Jesus warned in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble.”

But that trouble does not mean we have to respond with a troubled spirit. Peace with God allows us to face trouble with peace because we face trouble with Him.

Sometimes God calms the storm. Sometimes He calms the believer in the midst of the storm. Either way, we need not have a troubled heart when trouble comes. Our trust in Him for eternity surely means we can trust Him with our now.

Are you appropriating His peace for the troubles in your life today?

Thursday
Mar102016

Resurrected!

Explore the Bible
March 27, 2016

Ann Hibbard
Hensley

Luke 24:1-12

No matter how often I hear the story of Easter, somehow the thrill never fades. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Paul reminds us of the critical nature of Christ’s resurrection. Without it, we have nothing. In fact, without it, we would be “of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19).

Yet, we do have the Resurrection. We can walk through the story again and again, feeling the thrill of discovery right alongside those who walked with Jesus during His time on Earth. But is it just a story, or is the Resurrection a personal revelation in our hearts?

As I ponder this question, a contrast stands out to me in Luke’s version of the Resurrection. First, look at Luke 24:8: “And they remembered His words.”

A handful of women, faithful followers of Jesus during His earthly ministry, had listened to His words all along. But in their grief, they had forgotten His eternal promises – until this moment.

In Luke 24:11, though, we are told that, when the women went to tell the apostles what they had seen, “these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.”

While I hesitate to stretch this comparison too far, I am struck by a powerful picture here. Acting in love to minister to Jesus even in death (Luke 24:1), the women were present at the tomb. As a result, they had a personal encounter with the reality of the Resurrection. This experience revived the words Jesus had spoken earlier – words tucked into their minds for the opportune moment.

The apostles, on the other hand, received second-hand news at first (Luke 24:9). Until their experience with the risen Lord became personal, both the unbelievable tale of the women and the older words of Jesus remained “as nonsense” (Luke 24:11) in their minds.

Jesus is resurrected! It is true! But, unless the Resurrection is truly personal in our lives, it will remain just a story. Which will it be this glorious Easter?