Friday, August 20, 2010

Bible Study James Chapter 4 Discussion

Original Study is Bible Study - James 4 Conduct 

Key Points discussed:
1. Watch out for Bad Conducts of
  1. Selfish Passions resulting in fight, quarrels, murder, envy (we discussed in Chapter 3)
  2. Friendship with the World:
    • Much time spent on what it means. It does not mean not to befriend the people of the world. It is about worldly values. But 'Worldly Values' should not be defined by us but must be defined according to the Bible.
    • A Brother did some digging and shared with us the Biblical definition of Worldliness. This is very important as we find that there are the Chinese, and other non-Christians, having values that agree with Biblical values fully like "honoring parents". Hence, when we read about values of the world, we should not jump to the conclusion that they are against the Bible. Some are, like greed, lusts, trusting and seeking wealth, power, selfishness, taking short-cut etc. But some are not like honoring parent, helping others, etc.
    • We must use the Bible as the yardstick to judge the teaching and values of the world. Not all the world teachings are against bible as man is created in the Image/Character of God. We must use the Biblical definition to judge.
  3. Speaking Evil of Others and Condemning (original word is Judging. But in the context, the judgment has been made. There as a transgression and hence the evil is spoken of. So I feel condemning or prejudging could be better words).
    • We must not misunderstand 'judging' here. We are not called not to judge but not to prejudge and condemn (speak evil of).  In James 5:19, Gal 6:1 1 John 5:16.... we are to warn and correct brothers that are committing transgression. Without judging, how can we know? The yardstick should be of the Bible. The evidences should be of 2-3 witnesses. Sometimes, Elders are to be involved. Corrections must be done in private first, with 2 or 3 others if necessary and 'exposure and disassociation' if not heeded to. Such processes are discussed well in the Bible.
  4. Sin of Omission - knowing what is right and failing to do it.
2. Repent & Change by Asking & Drawing Near to God
The ways to overcome our bad conduct is not just to say sorry and try harder next time! James teaches us to do two things. See Heb 4:15-16
  1. Be humble and ASK God for Grace - the power to overcome.
  2. Draw Near to God 1st and with Power given, we are to obediently, submit to God, then
    • resist the devil; 
    • clean our hands
    • purify our hearts - single-mindedness - not God + World of double mindedness.
    • be truly mournful of our sin
  3. The Outcomes:
    • God will draw near to us, give us the grace, exalt us and the devil fled.
3. The Better Way - Living with the Knowledge of God's Will
The better way to lead a victorious life is not to focus on sin but to focus on God. Find out what the Will of God for us is James 4:15.

It does not mean we should not plan, but we involve God in all our planning and execution. Some of us dived God into parts. We do things on our own first and then only involve God when we are in trouble. We make our own plans and then ask God to endorse our plans. That is not what the following verses say: 
    (Prov 3:5) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.
    (Prov 3:6) Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.
    (Prov 16:3) Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

The right steps are:
  1. seek the Lord 1st - involve God in your plans. Your plans must follow God's will.
  2. need to plan even more - details and contingency (I know most our plans are at too crude a level and seldom take care of the details, resulting in unforeseen events, and hence put in contingencies. When God leads, I am not sure if you need contingencies. It is not contingencies but lack of details. The Japanese spend more time in planning to take care of all the details and result in smooth and fast execution.)
  3. do not assume only one scenario for your plan.
Dwight David Eisenhower In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bible Study John 2 Public Ministry

Chapter 2 recorded the pubic ministry of Jesus. The first miracle was essentially forced out by His mother. This chapter can be divided into 3 parts.
  1. The Wedding Miracle at Cana 2:1-12
  2. The Temple Cleansing 2:13-22
  3. The Nature of Man 2:23-25
The Inductive Bible Study Method is usually recommended for the study of the gospels. It consists of 3 steps of
  1. Observation - what are the facts? What actually happened from an objective view point.
  2. Interpretation - what does it mean? This is a part that will have more arguments and different people with different culture, in different times, will see the same thing differently and form their own interpretation.
  3. Application - what can I learn and apply from this? There are two parts to this. The first is the lesson learned and the second is personal application. What lesson is learned bear the danger of over generalization. This is where we have to be careful. We may have the tendency to over generalize an instance. For example, Jesus healed a blind man by spitting on him. Could we generalized that we must spit on people to restore their eye-sight? We must gather more evidences before we generalized. With this caution in mind, we can begin to dig deeper into this gospel of John.
Here are the Questions for Reflection:
  1. What can we learn about the social life of Jesus?
  2. How much did Mary know about Jesus?
  3. What I learned about the Miracle of Water to Wine at the Wedding?
  4. What we learned from Jesus' Cleansing of the Temple?
  5. What can we learn about the nature of man?
  6. What is the best learning here? What next action shall I take?
1.  What can we learn about the social life of Jesus?

Jesus, mother and his disciples attended wedding 2:2
Jesus, mother, brothers and disciples stayed together for a few days 2:12
Jesus was not so alone as we might thought. He has a family and social life too, at least at the beginning of His ministry. Further on, we will learn about His brothers teasing Him. But we later known that the books of Jude and James were written by His brothers.

2. How much did Mary know about Jesus?

  1. Mary brought the 'run out of wind' issue to Jesus 2:3. She told the servant to follow Jesus' instructions 2:5.
  2. Jesus said "it is not my time" 2:4
  3. Jesus did help: water to top quality wine... 2:6-10
  1. Mary knew Jesus could and had the ability to help. Mary did not tell Jesus how to help but just bring the problem to Him, knowing and trusting Him to help.
  2. Mary knew Jesus character of love and miracle power. If not miracle power, at least some great intelligence to solve problem.
  3. Jesus at first appear reluctant (not time yet) but still did it.

3. What I learned about the 'Miracle of Water' to Wine at the Wedding?

  1. We must know Jesus as willing and able to help at any time of our calling. (This specific instance is at Mary's request. There are other instances in the Bible where Jesus responded to cry for help by healing, casting of demons etc.)
  2. We must call for help but leave the how to Him. We just faithfully follow the instructions given. This is how Mary asked and how the servants follow exactly (fill to the brim 2:7, not half way). Other instances in the Bible tell us to follow exactly to get the desired outcome. 
  3. God uses what we have to bring forth the miracle that we need. The Jar and Water.
  4. God can transform the plain water, or person like us, into something wonderful, the great wine and the great person in God. (This is symbolizing and need extra evidences. This exertion is ok because the Bible heroes are generally people with problems like runaway Moses, cheating Jacob, coward Gideon, all the disciples of Jesus, etc.)
  5. The principles learned 
    1. bring our problem to Jesus (1Pet 5:7) casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
    2. follow his instructions; Do NOT give God the instructions.
    3. God uses what we have and not what we don't or can't.
4. What we learned from Jesus' Cleansing of the Temple?
We need to check out the commentaries to understand why and what Jesus was angry about. We can learn the following:
  1. Bad and evil things happened right in the house of God. People use the name of God to gain benefits from themselves and even do evil things. Be extra careful of people, including your leaders, doing things in the name of God and yet you find it uncomfortable. We have the responsibility of holding our leaders accountable too. It is a proper balance of obedience and keeping in check. We are not sure how many the great men of God could be saved from falling if their members are wise and hold them accountable instead of blindly following them.
  2. There is the right and wrong way of expressing anger. Again, we have to watch this too. It is easy for us to cite this example to justify our actions as 'righteous anger'. On the other hand, how must evil and injustice are continued because no one reach out to help.
5. What can we learn about the nature of man?
Jesus did not entrust himself to man because he knew all people v24,25.
He knew man could not be trusted fully then yet He now use us to witness and spread the Gospel for Him. Why? There is the Holy Spirit given to us to help and empower us. He need not and yet He chose to use us.

6. What is the best learning here? What next action shall I take?
I leave it to you then to decide.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bible Study on John 1:35-51 Disciples Found Jesus

This was the starting stage of the Ministry of Jesus. The key of any growth is simple - people recommending and bringing other people to come. In the past, it is physical contacting. At this present age, it is much easier through internet. The media may change, the basic ingredients don't. Let ask ourselves though questions and discover the truth.

Q1  Describe the Growth Process.
  1. Baptizer John tell Andrew + another disciple. 1:36
  2. Andrew tell Peter his brother 1:42 after he was convinced by spending a day with Jesus (1:39)
    (We don't know what the other disciple did with the knowledge of Jesus as the Lamp of God. May be he just stayed with Baptizer John without understanding of the true implication. He surely missed knowing Jesus the true God. Are we like Andrew who grasped the truth well and take action on it or just like the disciple who missed it?)
  3. Jesus found Philip 1:43. Jesus made a special trip to the town of Andrew & Peter to locate Philip and gave him a specific offer - follow me!
  4. Philip brought Nathanael after his encounter with Jesus (1:45 We found Messiah)
  5. Jesus convinced Nathanael that He was the ONE. 1:50
  6. We can conclude that the growth takes place by one person bringing another personally plus one more thing which we will discuss in the next question.
Q2 How do we spread the Gospel ?
  1. Introduce and bring others as per Andrew and Nathanael. Go to find them as Jesus did with Philip 1:43 and Philip with Nathanael 1:45.
  2. Your life testimony and an encounter with Jesus. (1:39 Come & See). A personal experience of extra-ordinary. 1:50 Jesus said he saw Nat under a fig tree - a fact He could not have known ordinarily. 
  3. So beside the invitation, we need a solid encounter that is personal and meaningful about and with Jesus. This could come from
    1. Your own personal encounter with Jesus.
    2. What Jesus said about Himself. The Gospel Message of Truth & its relevance to the person concerned. 
      1. There is no fixed rules. Some are convinced by evidence based reasoning (like me)
      2. Most are convinced by needs. A miracle healing. A deliverance from fatal accidents. A love experienced during time of needs.
  4. This leads naturally to the question "what do we have to offer from Jesus to people that they will see the truth?
Q3 What is the next action that I want to take this week?
Some suggested possibilities:
  1. introduce Jesus to a friend after prayer
  2. send a message of encouragement to a person that I lost touch with.
  3. start communicating with a person that you don't like.
  4. write down my testimony and the gospel message.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bible Study on John 1:19-34 The Testimony of Baptist John

As we study John 1:19-34, here are the questions that we want to find the answers for.
  1. Who investigated John? What did it imply?
  2. Who is John the Baptist? What did he do?  What is his mission?
  3. What did John the Baptist say about Jesus?
  4. What about you? What is your calling or purpose of life?
Q1 Who investigated John? What did it imply?
The investigation team was sent from the HQ Jerusalem from the Pharisees. John 1:19-24   
The team of investigators were highly qualified people - priests and Levites from Jerusalem. They were not any lay people from some unknown towns.
This mean it was an important affair. It was done not by one person but by many qualified domain experts. It was a finding should be taken seriously. They did not considered John the Baptist as a lunatic to be ignored but as a prophet to be listened to. They were there to investigate and report back. Hence, what John said were to be believed.

Q2 Who is John the Baptist? What did he do?  What is his mission?
John was clear in declare his mission of life. He started with who he was not to clarify the various rumors about him.
  1. “I am not the Christ.” 1:20
  2. “I am not Elijah.” 1:21
  3. "I am No Prophet" 1:21
He is : the one who witnessed and proclaimed Jesus to the world.
  1. “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 
  2. ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 1:23
  3. “I baptize with water to attract Jesus to him and all to Jesus 1:26,33 John created a following and point the following to Jesus.
  4. that he might be revealed to Israel.” 1:31
His testimony:
  1. I did not know Him 1:26,31,33
  2. I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 1:32
  3. He who sent me  said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 1:33 
  4. (Who is the He that tell John? Did not the Investigation Team question this? They did and did considered John as a prophet.)
Q3 What did John the Baptist say about Jesus?
  1. the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 1:29
  2. the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. 1:27
  3. the man who ranks before me, because he was before me 1:30
  4. He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. 1:33
  5. this is the Son of God. 1:34
Q4 What about you? What is your calling or purpose of life?
    What you are? What you are not?

A created being does not know his purpose of life. He must ask his Creator, what he is created for. Jesus comes to reveal the purpose and calling of man. His purpose and our calling of life is the same thing. Our purpose of life is to know Jesus, the Son of God and to have eternal relationship with Him. Simply put, to know our Creator and live with Him. That is the starting point, knowing Jesus as our God who loves us and who has created us for a unique purpose. It takes us a earthly life-time to find out our journey and destination of life. God will reveal step by step in details. Experience the love of God and trust in Him to lead and provide for you. Christ saved us for good work. You are wonderfully created and loved and is a glorious witness for Him as did John the Baptist. Not in worldly sense and worldly value, but precious and valuable from His sight. ref Eph 2:8-10. Not forget about the v10, We are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them. We are no accident but intentional created masterpiece. Find out what you are called to be....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bible Study James Chapter 3 Discussion

The main point of the discussions are summarized below:
  1. Self-Control is best measured by whether we can control our tongue.

    • The poetic words are mapped to meaning words as (you may have different opinions)

      • unrighteousness, staining whole body - as evil speeches reflecting bad character
      • restless evil: frequently and uncontrolled evil talks
      • poison: gossips, slanders, personal attacks against others.
      • setting on fire the entire course of life from hell: causing hell's suffering & fighting & hurts to be on earth through such evil words & practices see 3:16
    • How then should we speak? Col 4:6 gracious, seasoned with salt: encouraging, healing of hurts & relationships, peaceable words.

  2. Godly and Worldly Wisdom are contrasted
    •  Godly Wisdom - pure, peaceable, gentle, reasoning, mercy, good fruits, impartial and sincere. 3:17we can compare to Paul's fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:22-23, Paul's Good Things in Phil 4:8
    • Outcomes:
      • Godly: peace  -> a harvest of righteousness v17
      • Worldly: bitter jealousy & Selfish Ambition/Strife -> disorder -> every evil practice v16
      • Much time is spent on the Word G2052 translated as Selfish Ambition (in newer Bible translations) and Strife/Fraction (in KJV)
      •  The meaning of the Greek G2052 from Vines if Fraction but with meaning of :ambition, self-seeking, rivalry,” self-will being an underlying idea in the word; of “seeking to win followers,”. Thayer and Strong also give similar meaning.
  3. Self-Interest vs Selfish Ambition:

    • Self Interest: taking care of growth and benefits for self without harming others. We are uniquely created and loved by God. Self-demotion and condemnable is not biblical. We are called to love others as oneself (after loving God first). Seeking promotion, better pay jobs, learning and building oneself up are OK.
    • Selfish Ambition- benefits for self without consideration of others; usually at the expense of harming others.
  4. Christ-Centred Self vs Self-Centred Selfishness

    • A true Christian should be Christ Centred rather than Self-Centred.
    • Nevertheless, it is a natural growth process that we start with self-interest first; we want God to save us and bless us. See will learn about his when we study 1 John. Child-> Young Man -> Father. As child, Me first. As young man, we fight for God (best to knowing it is God's strength and authority given us), and as Father, we sacrifice and give to others that they may know and come to God. We have the heart of God!
    • It is a journey of faith - do we trust Christ to take care of us or do we fight for ourselves? Those who truly experience the love of God will trust God more rather than self.