Vacation – June 9

Text: John 15.26-16.33 (Read it here.)20160609

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
(John 16.33, NIV)

Help for Our Struggles as We Live in the World
Author: Charles Stephenson

This section begins with a repeat of the promise stated in John 14:26 (ESV). The Helper, which is the Spirit, was to be sent when Jesus left his disciples to return to his Father. John 15:26-27 (ESV) states that the Spirit will bear witness about Jesus along with the witness of Jesus’s disciples. In our study of Acts in our adult Bible classes we saw that Peter stated (Acts 5:32), And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Peter’s statement indicates the fulling of that promise given in John 14 and 15. He also stated the Spirit, our Helper, is given to all those who obey God. As God’s obedient kingdom people we have the Helper sent from the Father by Jesus, the risen Christ.

We should note the Greek word translated Helper is translated as advocate when referring to the enthroned Jesus (1 John 2:1, ESV). Jesus referred to the Spirit as another Helper sent to those who love and obey him (John 14:16, ESV). The Spirit is our helper like Jesus was when he was on earth. John 16 contains warnings from Jesus about how the Jews and the world would treat his disciples when he went away. He forewarned the disciples so they would not be caught off guard when these things happened.

Jesus not only forewarned his disciples he sent them a helper like himself, the Spirit of Truth. The fact that Jesus was leaving them did make them sad. They did not understand what was happening. Jesus said to them when they were filled with sorrow, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

And, what help the Helper offers! He comes to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment. What help this is for our witness about the power of God in Christ! Those early disciples were struggling to understand what they witnessed happening in Jesus Christ. The Spirit led them to the truth, the good news. THE truth that they preached, taught, and wrote, which is still available to us in the record of what they preached, taught, and wrote, the Bible. (John 14:1-7, Jesus, the only way to God) Compare John 5:19-20 where Jesus spoke of how he received this knowledge from God with John 16:12-15 where he spoke of how the Spirit received his knowledge from Jesus, which is from God.

Look at what Jesus said in John 14:13-17: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” In these words, Jesus said to ask him for anything in his name. Then, he said he would ask God for the disciples needs.

Now, note what Jesus said in John 16:23-24: “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Jesus continues in John16:26-28: “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” In these words, Jesus said to ask for anything in his name. Then, he said he would not ask God for the disciples needs. Jesus stated that the Father loves us because we have loved Jesus, the one who came from God the Father.

Jesus and the Father know that we have struggles in our world because the world does not believe in Jesus as the One who came from God and returned to God where he remains in glory until his return in glory. Knowing that, they have offered us great help: the presence of the Helper in our lives and a close loving relationship with our Father. In Christ, we can go directly to our Father who loves us!

Questions:

What are the kinds of struggles mentioned by Jesus in John 16?

Where do you see these struggles in the world around us?

What are the implications for understanding Jesus and the Spirit when you know that they can both be called helper, advocate, counselor, and comforter?

What is implied about the Spirit in the lives of Christians and the life of the church when Jesus said that it is to our benefit that he returned to be with God?

What are the implications of the prayer life Jesus described for us? Do you want that prayer life? How can you have such a prayer life?

 

Vacation – June 1

Text: Genesis 1-2 (Read it here.)20160601

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2.2-3, NIV)

God and Us
Author: Charles Stephenson

In Genesis 1:1 God makes the move from no material existence to the material existence we now share. In this chapter “create” is only used in 1:1, 21, and 27. Each time marks a major move of significance for our creation. Yet, nothing in this text attempts to give a modern scientific explanation for our universe. Here, God is explaining our relationship to the world around us and with him.

Genesis 1:1 brings before us our material existence, which is then organized over the first four days of the creation story. Day five (Genesis 1:21) brings the second use of create. Here the move is from inanimate nature to animal life. This gives us living, breathing, eating, digesting, and reproducing-after-its-kind animal life. All of this animal life shares in the material existence around us.

Day 6 starts with the introduction of more animals. “Create” is not used because nothing new is introduced that had not already come into existence. These are only different forms of animal life, which share in the previous creation of the material and the previous creation of animal life.

Genesis 1:27 introduces a different form of animal life, which shares in the previous creation of the material and the previous creation of animal life, which also has a very significant difference from all previous creation, the image of God. This last move in the creation is signaled as the most significance move in our creation story. Here “create” is used three times to indicate the significance of this move. We human beings share in the creation of all material and animal life. But, far above all of that, we have the very image of God. Just think about the majesty and power of the creation! Then, note that we are the crown of God’s creation.

As we look into Genesis 2 we see human beings as necessary for bringing out the very best in creation. Genesis 2:5 points to the need for watering the garden and for a man to work the garden. We get to work with God to complete the potential of his creation!

Please read again Genesis 1-2. Now think about other things in these chapters that point to our place in creation and before God. Discuss implications for how we should live in God’s creation.

Questions:

In the beginning, God created the earth from a world that the author of Genesis calls: “formless and empty.” How difficult do you find creating order from chaos?

Throughout the seven days of creation, God calls each day of his created work “good” until he gets to the creation of humankind, to which he announces: “It is very good.” Why do you think the creation of humankind evokes this response from God? In what ways was creation incomplete until humans were created? How is humankind different from anything God had created prior?

Do you sense your life is one of chaos or one of peace and rest? Which describes your story: a world without form and empty, or one in which everyone lives together in peace? Why do you think this is the case? How would the peace of a regular rhythm of rest help move you from a world of chaos to a world that reflects “Shalom?”(Shalom is the the Hebrew word for peace and a description of the scene we see of Adam and Eve in the garden in Genesis 2.)

Proverbs 4 – June 4

CC Image courtesy of Charley Lhasa on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Charley Lhasa on Flickr.

Proverbs 4
Author: Charles Stephenson

A Reflection on Proverbs 4: Please read this chapter before reading this reflection.

As you read this chapter there are three divisions marked by their introductions. Note the following:

4:1 Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight, . . .

10 Hear, my son, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many. . . .

20 My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.

In each division the father emphasizes the kind of life he wishes for his son, or maybe his sons, to live. The grandfather is quoted as he required instruction for his son, this father. Such quality of life is passed from generation to generation. This grows out of the foundation for the godly life:

1:7  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The first division (4:1-9) emphasizes the need to embrace wisdom and insight. These do not just happen. The fear of the Lord should move each one to “get” (4:5-7) these by listening to instruction and listening for the Word of our Lord. Note getting is mentioned twice in this section.

Wisdom will offer deep and wide value to the one who will embrace her, who will love her:

8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
she will honor you if you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

The second division (4:10-19) emphasizes the imperative of attention. Attention to the road traveled in life. The father has taught “the way of wisdom” and led “in the paths of uprightness.” He is certain his son can walk the correct path without being hampered and can run through life without stumbling. The father has taught the son in words and example to stay on the right path for a live based in the fear of God. Still, the son must choose wisely.

13 Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
15 Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.

The father knows a wise path for life is the difference between living in light and darkness.

18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.

The final division (4:20-27) emphasizes the proper care of the son’s heart. This is the totality of his life;

20 My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.

A heart filled with the fear of God will enable a life always on the path of righteousness; a heart with no place for the world’s wicked paths. This does not happened easily. One must choose to walk the path of righteousness knowing the world offers so many paths contrary to righteousness. How much attention should be given to the language of righteousness?

23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.

This father closes by calling his son to give full attention to his righteous walk. The person who has chosen to live for God through Christ in the power of the Spirit cannot be indifferent to the path taken in life. This choice must dominate all of that life. (Matthew 7:13-14)

25 Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.

All scripture quotations from the English Standard Version.