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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

First off, I have to say I was completely blown away by our discussion on Tuesday about Destiny. It would be impossible to encapsulate all that was discussed, but I know for me personally, I took a few interesting things home with me to think about.

First, I know deep down inside I want to believe I have complete free will over my destiny. But as one person pointed out, this is certainly a form of pride–and being a follower of God is all about turning aside from one’s selfishness and aligning one’s will with that of God. Yet at the risk of sounding too Calvinistic, we all discussed several examples in the Bible where God is pretty clearly giving humanity a choice in whether to follow Him or not. It seems to me that a God who created people to have a relationship with needs to give the people a choice in the matter, otherwise there is no true relationship. So contradictory and inconclusive, as always; I love Tuesdays!!!

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In a (temporary) shift in format, we’re moving away from weekly topics for a little while and going through the book of Hebrews chapter by chapter. For one thing, we want to change things up a bit, but more importantly this book has many passages which are quite challenging and I just want to see how much we can help each other to find relevancy in this often difficult book.

So for this week, let’s read Hebrews 1:1-2:4 — I read through it in less than five minutes, so I plan on reading it each morning before work for the next week. Here are a few questions you may consider pondering each day:

Study Questions for Reflection and Discussion

First Day: Read Hebrews 1. Focus in on Hebrews 1:1-4.

1. List the characteristics or activities of Christ according to these focus verses. What overall picture of Christ emerges immediately?

2. What is the spiritual condition of human beings that is implied by these verses? In other words, why was it necessary for Christ to be revealed the way these verses say that he was revealed?

Second Day: Read Hebrews 1. Focus your attention on Hebrews 1:5-9.

1. How do you discover that most of the words in the focus verses are quotations from the Old Testament?

2. Verse 5 quotes from Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. Find those verses and read the surrounding verses. What other insights into Christ do you receive from those Old Testament passages?

Third Day: Read Hebrews 1. Focus on Hebrews 1:5-12.

1. Verses 8 and 9 quote from Psalm 45. Read Psalm 45 and discover the verses there that are quoted. What does the author of Hebrews find in Psalm 45 that causes him to apply it to Christ?

2. What common elements do you discover between Psalm 45 and Isaiah 61:1-11?

3. As you compare Hebrews 1:8-9, Psalm 45, and Isaiah 61 what character of life is the Spirit calling for from you? What changes will you need to make in your life for that character of life to take shape in you?

Fourth Day: Read Hebrews 1:1-2:4.Especially focus on Hebrews 1:10-14.

1. Hebrews 1:10-12 quote from Psalm 102:25-28. Read Psalm 102. What other elements in the psalm seem to apply to the life of Christ?

2. The idea that Christ was the agent of creation is also found in John 1:1-5 and Colossians 1:15-20. Read those passages and think about why it was important for the New Testament to describe Jesus as being involved in the Creation of the world. Jot down some of your ideas.

3. If the role of angels is to serve, what role do you suppose we are called to fulfill?

Fifth Day: Read Hebrews 1:1-2:4. Now focus in on Hebrews 2:1-4.

1. What warning does the author give in Hebrews 2:1-4?

2. What argument does the author use to show how serious the danger was? Is the danger equally dangerous for us today? Why?

3. What activities and disciplines could help you to not drift away from what you have heard?

I’ll see everyone on Tuesday!

–Cheers!

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Reminder: NO MEETING THIS WEEK. NEXT MEETING IS AUGUST 10th.

Last week’s discussion of sin was intriguing. We’ve all heard of the various descriptions of what sin is…in essence it’s the putting of ourselves before God…but the interesting question was raised by Jake, “okay, great….so why do I care?” It’s sometimes fun to attempt to figure out things like the essence of sin, but it’s another thing entirely to have a true reason to actually care why this information is valuable. I can’t speak for everyone there, but for me at least, I know I care about the nature of sin because I can’t come back into fellowship with God before I first see that I have removed myself from Him in some way. Once I’ve recognized it I can turn back to Him.

But I digress…this week (August 10th) is about divine healing. We’ve all seen the crazy preachers on the t.v. heal those in wheelchairs and cast out demons…or at least they appear to be doing these things. Although there are certainly charlatans out there, why do we so quickly discount miraculous healing when the Bible is very explicit about God’s healing power in our lives. Perhaps even worse, what does that say about our faith, that we doubt so completely in God that we can’t bring our disease and injuries to Him?

For me, this is not a question answered simply by talking about God’s healing power. One’s answer in this matter hinges quite profoundly on how one view’s God’s relationship with the world today. How active is God, exactly? If he isn’t active in our lives (or at least when it comes to healing) when did He stop? (Because he clearly at least USED to be involved in this sort of thing.) If he is active in our lives even to this day, what is God’s ultimate purpose? What is He trying to accomplish on this earth right now? I believe one’s answer to this question has a direct impact on whether one believes in divine healing.

See you NEXT Tuesday!

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Continuing our focus on the issue of salvation, this next Tuesday we’ll be discussing the opposite of salvation. In other words, “can we be unsaved?” You know the story: Nice guy/girl from your church that used to be passionate about God is now living a life completely removed from God–he/she may even outright denounce God’s saving Grace in this world at this point as a lie. Yet at one time, he/she was very passionate about God, believed wholeheartedly that Jesus was his/her salvation and lived a life of obedience…for a time.

Or another example from my own life: someone is passionate about God most of his/her life, but then suffers a tremendously painful loss due to terminal illness (or an accident). That person is now angry with God and denounces his/her faith. Is a lifetime of obedience undone in one fell swoop?

Another question I have is, “is there a sin God won’t forgive?”

In addition to more C.S. Lewis, I’ll be spending a lot of time going back through the Gospels and the New Testament to seek answers regarding this. I also think at some point I’m going to have to tackle Revelation…as that is where the saved and unsaved are finally separated.

…and is it too much to hope Alehouse has a Stone or Rogue beer back? It’s been two weeks without either of my favorite breweries. Although I have to say, last week’s “Dark Heffeweizen” was pretty tasty–and I was glad to see Union Jack IPA back up where it belongs.

Cheers!

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We have a great discussion. As much as I read and researched the topic of salvation, it was actually Jason bringing in the always classic “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis which gave us the most profound insight this time. I cannot put it better than Lewis, so I will provide the main excerpt we studied last week. Yes, it makes this post much longer than my usual, and may go largely unread, but it’s darn good stuff.

In short, Lewis talks about how we have a “debt” that Jesus paid for us, much like a friend would bail us out in life–but he quickly gets on to what true repentance is about. To Lewis, and I think to everyone at B&B last week, we agreed that repentance was the key to true salvation. But repentance isn’t simply a “feeling bad about stuff” kind of thing. Repentance, Lewis says, is a kind of willing submission to God; a death of sorts to one’s past and a rebirth. He also points out that the only way we can repent is because of Jesus, for reasons he explains so much better than me below. Finally, and the biggest point for me, is that repentance is not some set of “stuff” one does to get saved, it is a description of what going back to God is like. Asking God to save oneself without repentance is like asking God to let you come back to Him and then not coming to Him. Impossible.

Anyway, here is an excerpt–I’ve added red to emphasize the parts we discussed the most. I recommend re-reading several times as this book really rewards repeated reads; I’ve gotten new insight from this each time I’ve re-read it:

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“On the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. Or if you take “paying the penalty,” not in the sense of being punished, but in the more general sense of “standing the racket” or “footing the bill,” then, of course, it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.
Now what was the sort of “hole” man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of a “hole.” This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all.
It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person—and he would not need it.

Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another.”

—“Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis; Book II, Page 33–

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As I suspected, salvation is simply too big for us to discuss in one week…and probably even in two. So we took the rather long list of subtopics apart piece by piece and took a quick stab at each to see where we stood and to see which one felt like a natural starting point.  In the end, our discussion on Baptism seemed the most promising as a lead.

I grew up in a church where baptism was largely symbolic and the act was practically unnecessary. However, in some traditions–particularly Catholicism–baptism is largely held to be necessary for salvation. We talked about our different backgrounds and experiences with baptism. It seemed like this was a great starting point for next week–everyone goes home and reads up on baptism and next week we come back and report what we found. So just as I’m opening my mouth to say, “Alright, next week is Baptism….” Nathan up and asks a great question: “Which items like these are actually a PART of salvation…and which ones are more of the stuff that comes afterwards?” (His version of the question was much more eloquent, but my 22 oz. Rogue Ale was empty at this point and my attention span was growing skittish, so I’m paraphrasing here).

Once we thought about how we would likely spend the next few weeks discussing aspects of salvation, it seems logical to start with the beginning. So that, my friends, is next week’s topic:

How exactly are we saved? What is absolutely central in order for salvation to occur? Let’s chip away all that packaged add-on stuff and get to the bare bones of the situation. Salvation 101.

Hopefully they have a Stone beer back on tap next week, I was sad to see the Imperial IPA was gone.

Cheers!

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So next week we’re gonna go for salvation. This one can be broad too; I’m interested in seeing where it goes. Issues relating to salvation can include:

  1. How is one saved?
  2. What happens when one is “saved” and then only goes on to be a complete scumbag anyway?
  3. Is baptism important and/or necessary for salvation? If not, what’s the point? Is so, why?
  4. Can one be “unsaved?”
  5. I was just telling a very conservative Christian on Monday about Bible and Brew and she seemed concerned at first, and then said suddenly, “Well, Jesus went where the sinners were, I think that’s great.” Although I appreciate the vote of confidence, I am kind of offended on behalf of everyone at my favorite pub that they’re “sinners” because they go to a bar. So why is it we assume a regular Pub-attender is unsaved?
  6. How much of salvation is something we do and how much of it is God? It’s easy to say God does it all, yet why isn’t everyone saved then? Clearly we are responsible for something at least.

Okay, I’ve run out but I’m sure there’s more. Go find your favorite salvation verses…Paul’s letters, the Gospels are a place to start…although I think I’m going to hit up Genesis and Revelation again. I’ve noticed a fun trend that in every week’s topic, I’ve found something valuable at the very beginning and the very end.

Till next Tuesday!

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I was a little nervous heading into this discussion on Tuesday; it’s complicated topic and by far the most difficult concept we undertaken. Although I think every person in a discussion of the Trinity needs to admit at some point that this is a concept beyond a perfect understanding.  My main concern while researching this week was to find value in the concept of the Trinity–why should I care whether God is three or one?

The good news, at least for me, was that we had a great discussion about how important the Trinity is. The short version is that God created us in His image. So many of our characteristics and traits come from Him. We are relational beings; we relate to each other, and we relate to God. But we do this because God Himself if relational, since he is One God and Three Persons. Relationships are a part of God’s very nature; without this relationships would not exist. Taken further, it says in the Bible that God is love. We love because God first loved us. Yet if God was only one person, he could not be love. It is because He is both One God and Three Persons that He is love…it is part of His nature, which is then reflected in us who are made in His image. We love because God literally is love.

We also spent a great deal of time talking about Jesus. Most of the verses in the New Testament that describe God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are made by Paul in response to heresies popping up in the early church. People tended to think Jesus was either only a man, or only God. They did not believe He was both. Yet Jesus has to be both. If he wasn’t fully human, he wouldn’t have been able to be a true sacrifice and would not have been able to overcome death (God doesn’t die)–but if he wasn’t wholly God he wouldn’t have been perfect and would have not been able to take on the sin of the world. So Jesus has to be simultaneously completely God and completely Human. Jesus also says he and the Father are one. If that is the case, God is clearly not simply one person, but three.

Plus Cory brought his mobius strip to demonstrate the Trinity, which was fun. In his words, “this may not help us understand particularly well, but it’s fun anyway.” I also enjoyed one of the last glasses of a Sierra Nevada/Anchor Steam collaborative Stout that was quite glorious–almost as glorious as the Stone Ruination IPA I switched to on the second round.

Cheers!

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