Living Words

Acts 7-8

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Wednesday, June 7

Stephen had an interesting life that was cut way too short.  I wonder what would have happened had he lived longer?  How many more people could he have reached?  I admire the way he knew his Old Testament history.  Beginning with Abraham leaving his country, Stephen then recounts stories of Isaac and Joseph and Moses.

 

In verse 38 of Chapter 7, it tells us of the living words Moses received to pass on to us.  These words are still being passed on to this day.  Even when people hear the living words, they have a choice of what to do.  Back in Moses’ day, these living words were rejected.  The people refused to obey and in their hearts turned back to Egypt (7:39).  How have you heard the living words and what has your response been?  Are you listening to these words or rejecting them?

 

I respect the courage Stephen had in saying what needed to be said even if it meant angering those who could kill him.  Even as he was being stoned, he was full of the Holy Spirit and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  Stephan prayed that the Lord Jesus would receive his spirit and he asked him to not hold this sin against them.  This is an example of an extremely dedicated and devoted man of God.  How many of us can praise God as Stephan did while being persecuted?

 

While Godly men buried Stephen, Saul began to destroy and persecute the church.  Tomorrow we will hear more about Saul and his stories.

 

-Jason Railton

 

 

 

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Cease to do Evil – Learn to do Good

Isaiah 1-3

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Sunday, February 5

The Old Testament is split up into five major categories: (5) Law, (12) History, (5) Poetry, (5) Major Prophets, and (12) Minor Prophets. Isaiah is the first book of the Major Prophets.  The word “prophet” occurs 324 times in the Old Testament alone.  Therefore, it is no doubt that whatever a prophet is, it is important.  A prophet is simply someone who speaks on behalf of God.  Isaiah then is someone who spoke for God, so the word Isaiah spoke had authority.

Isaiah begins his writing by stating all the wickedness that is being done by the people of Israel, God’s chosen nation.  Verses 2-15 go into detail as to what they were doing.  However, I want to take note at verses 16 and 17 of the first chapter.  Verses 16 and 17 are Isaiah’s (really God’s) call to repentance.  There are two main steps to this call for repentance.  Step one found in verse 16: “cease to do evil.”  Step two found in verse 17: “learn to do good.”  These are the two fundamental steps to repentance that Isaiah pleads the Israelites pursue.  The Israelites need to rid themselves of all the wickedness they are doing as was stated in the first 15 verses.  However, this is just the first step to repentance.  After they rid themselves of evil, they must then learn to do good.  Once the evil is removed from one’s life, they must then fill it with something good.  If not, then they will fall into the same pattern of sin.  This is an oft neglected part of repentance.  This completely applies to us over 2,000 years later.  To repent, we must cease to do evil and learn to do good.  If we do this, then our sins, “shall be as white as snow,” (Isaiah 1:18).  What a beautiful reward.

Something that caught my eye in chapter two was the end of verse 9.  It clearly stated, “do not forgive them!”  What a bold statement that is from Isaiah (and again, really God), and a rather controversial one in modern Christianity.  Once again, Isaiah goes on about how the Israelites are sinning.  It appears as if they have not repented and continue in their wicked ways.  Isaiah then declares not to forgive them!  This is contrary to what many modern Christians think.  There is a nasty word floating around that is being connected to Christians nowadays with movements such as the LGBT.  That nasty word that people are throwing at Christians is “tolerate”.  Many believe that the duty of a Christian is to tolerate and “love”.  Nowhere in the Bible is this message of “toleration” found.  Rather, there are passages such as Isaiah 2:9 which state, “do not forgive them!”  These Israelites that Isaiah is describing are sinning without any signs of repentance.  Isaiah doesn’t go on to tell others to accept and tolerate them for who they are as idol worshippers.  Instead, he blatantly states to not forgive them.  It appears from this verse alone that we should not be tolerating other people who live a life of sin.  However, this is just one verse, and you should rely on the Bible as a whole to make decisions such as this.  Therefore, I encourage you to look more into this, and I just think you might be convinced that the message of “tolerate” is ridiculous.

I hope you all have a splendid week and I look forward to starting off the Major Prophets with you all!

-Kyle McClain

No “Works Cited” In Prayer!

Psalms 85-89

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Monday, January 9

Have you ever stopped to think about copyrighting? In our world, even words can be trademarked and copyrighted. For example, if I was going to start making a comic called “Superheroes of Scripture” (which would be awesome), I would be infringing on the trademarked word “superhero”, a trademark of Marvel and DC Comics. That’s pretty impressive that the word “superhero” can’t be used in a product that you desire to sell unless approved by Marvel/DC! Also, if I use someone else’s words or even information in a paper for school, it is considered stealing unless I cite my source. (I know my seniors doing research papers understand the pain of a “Works Cited” page.)
However, the authors of Scripture felt no such compunction to cite their sources or honor “copyrights” of previous authors. You’ll see tons of quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, when you get there. But there will be parts without quotes that you may recognize were pulled out of the OT without a reference to the original author. The authors of Scripture quoted, summarized, paraphrased and referenced previous books of Scripture with abandon, because the books and words were part of how they thought.
A prime OT example of this is Psalm 86:15. The author (David, here) writes “But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth.” If you have been following along since August, you may catch what is being referenced. Know what it is? It is Exodus 34:6 – “Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth…”  In this Psalm, David turns the narrative of Yahweh passing in front of Moses, hidden in the cleft, into a prayer. YOU, Yahweh, are compassionate and gracious, etc. David knew that this was written before, but he is not writing something new, he is not breaking ground, he is using what God has already said about Godself to speak to God.
We can do the same. Sometimes, we have no words to say about God or our words to God sound so small. I’ve been there; thinking that what can I say to God? If you don’t know where to begin to pray, one of the best places is to look to Scripture and use the words you find there to pray. We have permission to pray using the words of Scripture in the Psalms and the Psalms themselves are great passages to use. If your prayer life is struggling, or if you are wanting to grow closer to God, may using God’s own words bless you!
-Jake Ballard
Pastor Jake attended Atlanta Bible College, and has been a professor there in the past. He would like to encourage those who want to know more about the Bible, about leadership and about Christian Spirituality, to get in contact with the college. It is a wonderful opportunity, and if you are one of those juniors or seniors working on research papers, as you are applying to and investigating different college options, don’t forget ABC!
(Photo credit: http://www.heartlight.org/gallery/psalm86_11.html)