Led by the Holy Spirit

Acts 15

May 3

Acts 15 is a chapter of disagreements. Our first disagreement comes within the larger church and is about the rules for Gentiles regarding circumcision. Some of the church had been instructing new Gentiles to be circumcised and debate arose amongst the apostles and elders. Paul, Peter and James all make statements that are recorded in this chapter.

I’m going to bring up a couple of highlights from this chapter that may or may not be related. In verse 8 the marker that Peter uses that Gentiles are now welcome to the family of God is that the Gentiles recieved the Holy Spirit, the same way that the Jews did. The Holy Spirit being a marker for Gentiles is a significant statement about how critical the Holy Spirit is to Christianity. This statement shows that the apostles had a high view of the Holy Spirit.

At McGintytown we are currently revising our constitution. If any of you have been a part of one of these committees you know how much work it is. One of the questions that gets brought up is how much power should each individual person or group have over the church. Acts 15 is an interesting case study of this because of the scope of the decision being made. The decision the apostles and elders are making for Gentiles is going to affect ALL Gentiles. The apostles and elders are representing God for his people.

In verse 28 we have the reason provided for this decision. The apostles told the Gentiles that it seemed good to them and the Holy Spirit. If I were them I would want some sort of lighting bolt or some Gideon like signs or maybe having God rewind time like he did for Hezekiah. The apostles and elders feel good imposing only four rules on the Gentiles.

How could the apostles be so confident that they were doing what God wants? In Dallas Willard’s Hearing God he presents the idea that the same way that you may know what a friend or spouse or boss would want done in a situation, that as we progress in our spiritual lives, that we should know what God wants. This is why having a daily progressing relationship with God is so important. It is impossible to know what God would want if we don’t know God. This doesn’t mean God won’t continue to speak to us, it just means that we don’t need to be paralyzed by decisions. That is as long as you feel you know what God would want.

We encounter situations that the Bible doesn’t necessarily give us a direct command about. As long as we are spending time with God and have a sense of where he is leading us we don’t need to wait for some miraculous sign to make a decision. Being led by the spirit doesn’t mean having to pray what cereal to eat, what route to take to work or how to handle work decisions. We can lean in to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and proceed.

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In this chapter, what can we learn about handling disagreements that arise in the church? Consider how they handled the question of circumcision as well as the debate over John also called Mark.
  2. How do you tend to handle disagreements? What can you put into practice next time?
  3. Would you consider yourself more Spirit led, or self led? What’s the difference? When making decisions and living your life, how important is it to you to be doing what God wants? How do you work at knowing what He wants?

Starving for God

Job 21-23

Job 23 12b NIV

Poor Job.  I do pity him.  But not just for the extreme losses and suffering he endured.  Not just for the additional pain of unsympathetic, accusing friends.  But for being born when he was.

Previously we have mentioned Job’s yearning for a mediator – someone to stand before God on his behalf.  Someone in the middle who would reach out his hands to touch both God and man and draw them together.  Wise Job.  Can you imagine how thrilled he would have been to have the opportunity to meet, listen to, accept and follow the Messiah, God’s Son Jesus?  But, it wasn’t time yet.

It also wasn’t time yet for him to hold God’s precious living, giving words of life in his lap.  Job knew the power and gift of God’s words.  He stated, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12).  But, at this time in history God would speak when He chose, where He chose, to whom He chose, and the record of his words would be passed down, mostly orally, to any who would listen. It was a good start – but Job longed for more.  He said:

“If only I knew where to find him;
if only I could go to his dwelling!
 I would state my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
 I would find out what he would answer me,
and consider what he would say to me.”

(Job 23:3-5, NIV)

We know that Job will get the amazing opportunity to have the Almighty speak directly to him (that is coming in next week’s reading).  But that didn’t help him yet at the time of today’s passage.  He is searching for God.  He is starving for God’s word.  He needs to hear from God.  And he does not yet have the gift of God-breathed scriptures on his lap or in the palm of his hand.  God’s Word is powerful and a great treasure.  What a blessing we have in the gift of the Bible – where we find God, His wisdom, love, majesty, truth, encouragement, correction, as well as His Son, forgiveness, and a hope and a plan for eternal life.  It is an incredible gift to hear God.  It is an incredible gift to read the words of God.  It is a gift we too often ignore.

God warns that His Word will not always be readily available.  “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land– not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Amos 8:11). Perhaps He was first referring to the 400 years of silence that would take place between the inspired Old Testament and New Testament.  But, I fear that it also refers to a time in the end days.  Perhaps we are seeing the beginnings of it even now.  Prepare by stockpiling God’s Word in your heart now.  It will help you both today and tomorrow.

If you ever feel God is distant – check to see how far away your closest Bible is.

If you ever feel you can’t hear God – turn off the distractions and open His Word.

If you ever feel you are starving for God – feast on His Word.

 

Seeking God in His Word,

Marcia Railton

 

To read or listen to today’s passage – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+21-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 24-28 in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

 

 

Be More Open

Ephesians 1 18-19a

This week I have been talking a lot about all different New Year’s resolutions, that many Christians try to add into their lives every year around this time. Today, our last day is no different. This week I talked about looking for Jesus, and being willing to look silly for him, we looked at the story of Zacchaeus for this teaching. Then we looked at the parable of the talents in Matthew and talked about making good investments, not only with finances but also with the people that we surround ourselves with. We continued throughout the week talking about building our prayer lives, and trying to read our Bibles more. I also talked about striving for fellowship with other believers, and working on having more patience as well. (Let me tell you, patience is definitely one that I need to work on big time, and that is okay.)

The reading today is from Ephesians 1:15-21, & John 11:1-44

Today I am going to talk about something that is built into the rest of these “resolutions” this week. We as believers should be more open. How many times have you felt like you were not being heard, or that you were not hearing from God? How many times have you felt like absolutely nothing is going your way? Have you ever felt completely alone, and confused? God works in mysterious ways sometimes, and I am not always quick to understand what he is doing in my life, and I am sure you are the same. There have been times where I just want to ask God what in the world he is doing, because none of it makes sense to me, at all.

Sometimes I have felt like I was not being heard, or that God was not speaking to me, but I often forget to look in the little things. God gives us comfort when we need it, and he gives us hope and strength, and more often than not, it comes in ways that we would not have ever expected. This fall was one of the most difficult for my family, and I remember there being a few days where I felt lost and confused, worried, anxious and scared for so many things. There was one day in particular where I felt very lonely and forgotten. On that day I walked back to my room at school and on my door was a hot pink and sparkly card that said, “Peace, Love & Glitter.” I opened it and inside were many folded up little notes that had instructions on the outside that said, “Open when you need strength.” “Open when you need peace.” “Open when you need comfort” & me being the impatient person that I am, ( I said that I need to work on that) I opened all of them. Each note contained a Bible verse that had been hand picked by some of the residents in my building and given to me to help me through a tough time. This was God reaching his hand out to me and saying, “Hang on, I’m going to get you through this, I am always here, but I have given you people to lean on also.” Had I been closed off, I would not have been able to see the love and care that God was trying to show me through the people that he intentionally placed in my life.

One more moment I would like to share with you happened yesterday morning. A memory popped up on my facebook, and usually it is a post of pictures that my Grandma tagged me in years ago, but this time it was something that I said a year ago. This is what I said, “It’s always a good day when you get chills all over in the middle of a worship service. It’s like a big hug from God saying, ‘I’ve got you my child, I hear your praises, and I’ll never let you go.'” Again, this was a great reminder of how wonderful our God is, and as soon as I read this post on facebook I remembered the exact service I was at, and a wave of peace washed over me. If I was not open to hearing God in the moments that he makes himself known, in the moments where he is desperately reaching out to me, I may have missed these moments of peace and comfort. These moments that have gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life, and that I will bring with me into the countless storms of this life.

Ephesians 1 talks about Paul’s prayer for the hearts of the Ephesians to be open, that they would appreciate the calling of the Lord, that they would have their inheritance, and understand that power that God has, and they would know the reward for believers. That all sounds pretty awesome to me, God is going to give us rewards for being open to him and his powers. I feel like I have already been rewarded by being able to have a relationship with God, but I know that it will be better someday because the Kingdom of God will be here.

John 11:1-44. These verses are all about the resurrection of Lazarus. This is an important story because we see a blessing where Mary and Martha did not expect one, but because they were open to the power and love that God has and that God had given to his son they were able to receive a tremendous blessing. Their brother Lazarus died of an illness, and they had believed that if Jesus had been there, their brother would not have died. They believed him to already be gone, but because of their intense faith and belief and openness to the power of God and of his son Jesus Christ, their brother was resurrected and they were blessed beyond belief. (I am not saying your loved ones will be brought back to life right now because of your belief) but I am saying that there may be unexpected blessings in the little things, that you would not notice unless you are open minded.

I want to leave you this week with a couple of songs that I think follow this week well, and will support you as you possibly add some or all of these resolutions into your life.

Thank you for reading this week!

“Blessings”- Laura Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ

“Open the Eyes of My Heart” – Michael W. Smith https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vnqb7Vn4AEE

-Thanks, Jana Swanson

Dealing with Depression (1 Kings 19-20)

Thursday, November 3

66897-still_small_voice7

Melissa New

An important lesson can be garnered from the life of Elijah in chapter 19 of I Kings. If you haven’t dealt with depression yet, there is a good chance you will at some point. Jesus said, “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) So how do we deal with depression? I believe all the steps are provided for us here…

1. Sleep – Elijah had just been through a pretty significant experience. He challenged the prophets of Baal and God used him in powerful way. On top of that, Elijah then ran mighty fast for about seventeen miles using the “special strength” God gave him! When we are physically drained everything seems worse. And at this point Elijah was ready to die. “Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree.” ( I Kings 19:5)

2. Eat – God knew what Elijah needed. He let Elijah sleep for a bit and then sent an angel with some fresh bread and water. (Food directly from God must taste extra yummy and it was undoubtedly super nutritious too!) Then Elijah slept some more and the angel returned to make sure he ate again so that he would have the strength to keep going.

3. Go to God – The spent and sorrowful prophet headed to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. He needed some quality time talking to God and he poured out his heart to Him. Elijah was lonely. He felt like he was the only one left who wasn’t worshipping Baal. God, in a gentle whisper, told Elijah that it was time to anoint a new king in Israel and a new prophet to replace himself.

4. Remember you aren’t alone – Elijah wasn’t alone. There was a very good man in Abel-meholah that would become like a son to Elijah. There were “7,000 others in Israel who had never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!” And whatever trials we may face as Christians, we can be assured that we aren’t alone either.

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