Category Archives: relationships

In Context: Living as a Gentile “In Christ”


I am truly frustrated! Fortunately, it drives me to learn more. Perhaps it comes from my background, my family history, and the supreme stubborn streak that my husband, family and friends know about me. The thing I am frustrated about is what I hear in the Christian community as I seek to understand what both Jews and Gentiles think of the term “in Christ”.  Having recently developed an “ear” that now hears the various made up doctrines of those who believe they are “in Christ,” I am at a loss as to where to start to help people understand that they are lost, as a friend of mine says, “as a ball in high weeds!” Unfortunately, those who are lost are seeking to “save” those who really know what is going on.  How do you talk to a person who has no clue but thinks they do?

I was at a Bible study last night, and not to denigrate the people in the study, the things they were talking about were nice, but completely not connected to Messiah. They thought they were talking about Jesus, but frankly, He would shudder at the conversation. Why? It was totally devoid of His people, His culture, and His worldview. In fact, it was espousing His Word through a worldview that His people despised and vehemently fought. However, the people in this study were clueless that their view of Jesus was not the Jesus of the Bible.

So again, frustration! I kept silent for the most part. Where could I begin? How do you talk to people who, while using the same words, have no understanding of the meaning. I have turned to my Jewish friends for answers. It is ironic that although my Jewish friends do not accept the version of Jesus that has come as a result of Christian Anti-Semitism over the last 2,000 years, they do relate to what I am saying when I talk to them about Messiah! Funny! Isn’t that what Jesus said He was?

My calling, as I see it currently, is to try to translate to the lost (who don’t think they are lost) what it means to be a Jesus follower; not the pagan Jesus, the Jewish one.

I see a need for shalom between Jew and Gentile.  As the Apostle Paul vehemently espoused, God has not put Israel aside (Romans 11).  God is actively working in His Messianic Community (Church is a word coined many years after the death of the Apostles and not at all related to the Greek word ecclessia) to join Jew and Gentile in ONE community that works together.  Christians need to heed the warning of Romans 11, as for 2,000 years we have slowly detached ourselves from the root.

Scholarship for the last 50 years or more, my entire lifetime, has shown this. However, the church, in general has paid lip service to acknowledging their connection to Israel; or worse, has tried to reconstruct the idea of Israel making Israel the “nations” and the Church Israel. This is done through doctrine that frankly most Christians don’t understand. Couple that with the anti-intellectualism generated in the American church and there is left a really lost group of people.

Pray for me please…I need strength to learn, to talk, and to reach those who do not understand.  As God leads, I will follow, and as Esther said, “if I perish, I perish”. What drives me is Mordecai’s words in Esther 4:14; “who knows, it may just be that you were born for such a time as this”….hmmm maybe that’s why I love Hammentaschen….

See Ya Next Time

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Trusting God’s Faithfulness

Trusting God’s Faithfulness

James 1:12-18

 

Being equipped for faith does not always mean that we will appropriate that grace given to us. In fact, almost on a daily basis, we thwart the very purpose of our faith. We do this because we desire our own will, even to our detriment. There is a reason that God equips us with our own ability to trust Him and there is a reason that God calls us to use that trust–or faith–during trials that we all know will come.

If we persevere, and it is our choice, God will give us the Crown of Life.

 

Christ told us that we would be persecuted; that we would be hated, and that if we stuck it out, there would be a reward. St. Peter told us that when we do suffer, even for righteousness sake, we should not fear or be troubled. His advice was just to respond in holiness–set apart for God’s use. He told us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ. St Paul told us to act like an athlete in a race, keeping your eye on the prize. In the end, your Savior will reward you for your loyalty to Him. If we remain loyal, we will certainly remain blessed.

 

But look what we do. We desire things that are unholy. We desire things that do not honor God. Those things constantly war inside us for control. When we want something, we sometimes even blame God for the temptation. However, we cannot do that; God is not a tempter, nor can He be tempted. Our sin comes from our desires, and if we do not get them under control, they will eventually kill us. Our desires bring us to the temptation. Giving in to those temptations leads us on the deadly sin trail.

 

What do we need to do? We need to remember who God is and whose we are. God only brings good things. We do not have to fear that if we are obedient to God that we will not have good things. We know that God never changes…He is always faithful. It is we who are not. The good news is that on His own He brought us forth; and it is He who will be faithful, even when we are not. We can trust Him even when we can’t trust ourselves and He will bring us forth as Gold. 

 

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Questions: Faith through Trials

Questions:

Read: James 1:1-4; 1Peter  1:6-7; Romans 5:3; Hebrews 10:36; and 2Peter 1:6)

 

1. In your life, what are some trials that you and your church are experiencing?

2. What lessons have you learned in that suffering?

3. In what ways can you now identify more with Jesus?

4. In what ways is a tested faith less perishable than gold in a crucible?

5. In what ways can a faith become stronger?

6. In what ways can you rejoice in suffering?

7. In what ways to you find it hard to rejoice in suffering?

8. What do these things say about your faith?

9. Read 2Peter 1:6

10. Trace your “trial history.” Discuss how these virtues in the passage can be learned from suffering…

11. Pray, ask God for the wisdom to see that which you cannot see.

12. Thank Him for the experiences He will give you to learn.

 

You are free to use this study on your website or blog as long as you include the following:

Rev Dr. Cheryl A Durham, Biblical Counselor, Discipleship Coach, Above and Beyond Discipleship Ministries, a Living Truth Ministry, provides services for individuals and groups online and via teleconference.  www.abovenbeyonddiscipleship.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grace as the Basis for Gifts

Grace as the basis for Gifts
 
Romans 12
 
In Romans 12, Paul again gives us a basis for gifts. In verse 1, he tells us that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. This verse is a little cryptic. What does Paul mean by “sacrifice” here? What does he mean by suggesting that this is our worship? Let’s look at this closer.
 
In order to worship God, which is a sacrifice in and of itself to us; we are to put away our self-interest in whatever we are doing. I used to attend a church where the people were pretty intent on having what they called worship, and what most would call music, be attractive to those in attendance. I believe this is the opposite of worship. I see this as putting self-first and God last. When I come to God with an agenda of my own, when I have to be pleased with the way I am worshipping God, then I am not worshipping God; I am worshipping my own preference. Our own way is what God wants us to sacrifice. We are to come saying, “God, here I am, use me.” Whatever YOU want, God, not my will but thy will be done, sound familiar?
 
Paul goes on to tell us that we are not to be conformed to the pattern of the world. We should be transformed by the renewing of our minds, during testing, that we may discern what the will of God truly is and what is good and acceptable to Him. To do this we must be prepared to face things that are not pleasant, and learn from them. Your suffering is not a lack of faith; it is the means to faith.
Another thing that this sacrificing will do is let us experience God’s grace more acutely. It will teach us who we really are, or are not. We should each consider the “other” more important than we are, which is something we don’t do easily. Our measure of faith is used to assess our situation. As we start to become more like Jesus, our faith grows and changes.
 In this context, Paul begins to talk about gifts. Each of us has been given certain gifts to accommodate the situation we find ourselves in. No one is a superstar; no one is a hero. Each of us has gifts that are in proportion to our faith and are used for the good of the body, not for us. (1Cor 12:10) (Acts 13:1) (v3-6)
 
In Verses 7-8, he names particular gifts as examples of how Christians should be working together and not competing for “show” gifts. Whatever the gift, it should work in harmony with the other gifts that are present in the church. There is room for everyone. If there is competition, someone is being selfish and not using their gifts for the good of others, but for the good of themselves.
 
In verses 9-21, Paul gives rules that will reveal whether or not the gifts are being used correctly. Love, as we saw in 1Cor. 13, is the primary and underlying principle which drives all gifts. Here in Romans, Paul tells us that the love exhibited must be genuine. There is nothing worse than a person who thinks they are exhibiting love when everyone around them knows it is fake. Real gifts should be exercised with the behaviors outlined in verses 9-21. Otherwise, there is no point to the gifts.

 

You are free to use this study on your website or blog as long as you include the following:
Rev Dr. Cheryl A Durham, Biblical Counselor, Discipleship Coach, Above and Beyond Discipleship Ministries, a Living Truth Ministry, provides services for individuals and groups online and via teleconference.  www.abovenbeyonddiscipleship.com

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A Day in the Life– questions/study

Bible Study Colossians 3

 

Sometimes we humans do pretty silly tricks in an attempt to earn God’s favor.  We think if we are “holy” (meaning sinless or trying to be) we are mature Christians. That is not the case according to this passage.  This letter, written to the Colossians, indicated their wrong idea of how to live the Christian life.  They were worshipping angels and practicing asceticism or harming their bodies.  Paul corrected them by saying that the true Christian life is living out the reality of the understanding of one’s death and resurrection with Christ. It is not about getting God’s attention; we have that. It is about being the ambassador of the message, method and character of the King. We are to do what He would do in order to win others to Him. The Colossians practice did the opposite. Their life looked weird, not wonderful. Christian maturity is not magic, and it takes a lifetime for God to perfect us. The Christian life is walking day to day, putting off what is idolatrous and putting on Christ.

 

Read Colossians 3

 

  1. In verse 2, what are the “things above” that Paul is talking about? How do they relate to verses 12-17?
  2. List the items given in verses 12-17 on the left side of a piece of paper.
  3. What are the “things below” that Paul says to put to death in verses 5-10?
  4. List them on the right side of the same paper.
  5. Match the words on the left (things above) with their opposites on the right (things below).
  6. How did the Colossians miss the point of Paul’s message?
  7. Are you missing the point? How?
  8. What can you do differently?
  9. Ask God to show you those things in your daily life this week.
  10. Ask Him to help you change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Psalms 36: The Shrinking Power of Sin

Psalms 36: The Shrinking Power of Sin

 Have you ever met a person, who was drunk with his/her own delusions? No one else appears to see their situation the way they see it. Puffed up with their pride, they feel as if they are invincible. They believe they are untouchable, even by God. In order to believe their own lie, they must convince themselves that they are superior. Their self-flattery and manipulations are sickening. They are the type of people David refers to in verses 1-4 of Psalms 36. The person David describes is the epitome of evil. His sin of pride is the core of all sin. However, look what it does for him.

 

He must convince himself. He must hide what he knows from others. He must manipulate other people to go along with his schemes. His world narrows to a small circle of friends. His blatant pride pushes people away! He is caught in his own trap. In verses 5-8, David contrasts the small and shrinking power of sin, with the ever-expanding love of God.

 

In verse 5, David talks about God’s “steadfast love extending to the heavens.” In verse 6, God’s righteousness is compared to mountains, and His judgments to the depths of the oceans. In verses 7-8, we all see that God’s love is so big that the people of the Earth find refuge in it, and feast upon His abundant resources.

 

Verse 9-10 David extols God’s character and exclaims that everyone needs God to live, but God is generous to those who respect Him. In verses 11-12, David throws himself on the mercy of the Lord and asks God to protect him from the oppression of the arrogant, the hand of the wicked, and the fate of all those who do evil. The shrinking power of evil in the hand of a mighty all-loving God doesn’t stand a chance.

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Psalms 23: Makarios and Peace with God

Makarios and Peace with God

Psalms 23: Makarios and Peace with God

As I write this, my husband and I are anchored on the Bay in our sailboat. The name of the boat is Makarios. In Kaine Greek, the name means, “supremely blest,” or well off. It is the nature of a believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Sitting here, on my boat, I am Makarios. Not many people have the opportunity to spend Sunday afternoons just floating, or sailing on the water in quiet calm. I am reminded of Jesus, who sailed to get away from the business of life, to be with the Father. In good weather, and when tourist season is not in full swing, you can hear only the gulls, and the lapping of the water against the boat. You can imagine how the apostles felt when they cast off on the water with Jesus in tow. They were Makarios! Just like the Sea of Galilee, squalls or quick storms can suddenly appear, and things are not the same. In fact, they are far from tranquil. You have to take cover quickly, or you could be tossed into the water with potentially dire consequences. Far from home, with no friends around, that describes David’s situation when he wrote Psalm 23.

David was far from home and being chased by King Saul. He was a small vessel at sea in a serious situation; yet he was not afraid. He knew that the person he trusted for his very life would be at the helm, protecting him.

When God found David, he had been a Shepherd. It was his job to protect the sheep from enemies. He was well aware that shepherding was not lolling around a bucolic environment. David knew that there were predators he had to deal with. It is in this spirit that David trusts the “Good Shepherd,” who watches over his people, and is always with them. David was surely Makarios. He strongly acknowledged God’s protection in his life, and for this reason he could say, “I shall not want.” What does it mean to, “Not want”? Let’s look at how David describes it.

In verse 1, the fact that David acknowledges God as his Shepherd shows that David is trusting God for his life. Even if he dies, David is confident in God’s goodness. In verse 2, David tells us that God provides “green pastures,” or a comfortable environment for him, and within that environment, God provides peace. Shepherds know that green pastures and quiet waters are important to sheep because they frighten easily. Humans also frighten easily.

In verse 3, David tells us that after calming us down in green pasture, God “restores our souls.” This means that he turns the creatures he made and loves, back to Himself to realign our thinking in order to give us a better perspective. As we yield to Him, he leads us. He sets our path straight, so we do not stumble. God does this for his name’s sake or because of the nature of His character as we have spoken about in the last few chapters. What a God we have, huh?

In verse 4, the going gets rough. As David walks through dark and terrible places in his life, or the Valley of the Shadow of Death, God is leading the way. His way leads David through to a better place. Because of this, David says he “fears no evil,” meaning that he will not anticipate any wrong to be done to him. He will have an expectation that God will always help him, which is demonstrated in several ways. God will protect him with His rod by keeping him from predators and God uses His staff to protect David from himself.

In verse 5, God will supply all of David’s needs, even in the presence of David’s enemies. God is symbolically responding to David’s worship by anointing David’s head with oil. David’s worship cup “runs over.” Consequently, by trusting and following his God, David will constantly be filled with the joy of the Lord.

Verse six sums up what “Makarios” means. David says, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” David is saying that when he is indwelled with God’s spirit. He will experience what believers today call “the fruit of the spirit.” He is most certainly makarios.

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