Saturday, 31 August 2013
HUMANITY'S DECAY
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Question: What signs of humanity’s decay do you observe in Cain’s descendants?

Genesis 4:19 (compare with Genesis 2:4) -- And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 

Genesis 2:4 -- Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 

Men are now involved in polygamy.  This is the beginning of the exploitation of women.  This shows that men are no longer interested in faithfulness, loyalty, and care for their wives. 

Genesis 4:23-24

Lamech said to his wives: "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cain's revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold."

Men are proud, arrogant, violent and vengeful; and they seem to enjoy killing others.

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Posted on 08/31/2013 10:58 AM by Larry G
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Friday, 30 August 2013
THE CHARACTER OF GOD REVEALED
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Question: What aspects of His character does God display in the following verses:

Genesis 4:5 -- but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 

God does expect the best; and things that we do that are just meaningless ritual or works done for the wrong reason don’t interest Him.  He has no regard for false worship.

Genesis 4:6-7 -- 6 The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."

God is interested in how we feel and think.  He is concerned regarding the things that impact us and He knows what we struggle with.  This is compassion.

Genesis 4:10-12 -- 10 And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth."

God knows what reality is; He knows what is really happening and He is truthful.  He demands an accounting for our actions.  He knows what kind of consequences will follow our actions. 

Genesis 4:15 -- Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.

God doesn’t kill Cain but extends mercy to him.  The mark that He places on Cain was actually intended to keep him safe; it wasn’t meant to mark him for persecution.  It basically said to everyone “Hands off of this man!”

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Posted on 08/30/2013 10:53 AM by Larry G
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Friday, 30 August 2013
Pentecost--The Feast of First Fruits
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Question:  Why was it appropriate that the events of Acts 2 occurred on Pentecost, the day when Jews celebrated the giving of the covenant under the Law of Moses? (Optional: See Jeremiah 31:31-34, Romans 7:6, 2 Corinthians 3:6)

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, "declares the LORD. 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Romans 7:6

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

2 Corinthians 3:6

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Pentecost was the “Feast of First Fruits”.  At this time an offering was made of the first of the wheat harvest.  When the covenant was given at Sinai, the people of Israel became a sort of first fruits.  When the Day of Pentecost came, as described in Acts, this was beginning of God’s harvest.  The people who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, as their Savior that day, were the first fruit.  From that point on these people, became the seed for an ever expanding harvest that is going on today, throughout the world.  The Day of Pentecost, as described in Acts, was also the day that the world received the New Covenant and the beginning of God’s Harvest.

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Posted on 08/30/2013 10:27 AM by Larry G
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Thursday, 29 August 2013
THE MIND OF CAIN
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SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Did Cain repent of his sin; did he change his mind about what he had done (Genesis 4:13-14)?  How can you tell?

Genesis 4:13-14

13 Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."

“Cain complains not of his sin, but of his punishment. It shows great hardness of heart to be more concerned about our sufferings than our sins.”  (Matthew Henry)

In 4:13-14, “Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’” Cain’s complaint is peppered with the use of seven personal pronouns. All Cain cared about was himself. There was no fear or reverence for God, no regret for the loss of innocent life, no sorrow for sin, and no thought for his parents who had lost one son tragically through murder and would be losing another through rebellion. There was only a preoccupation with himself. The killer fears being killed. He who turned on one of his relatives now must watch out for any of his relatives. (Taken from “Raising Cain” (Genesis 4:1-26), by Kevin Krell, Bible.org)

One final note:  Cain blames God for driving him away.  But the text says that Cain went away from the presence of God.  Or in other words, he left under his own power.  We choose the roads we travel.

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Posted on 08/29/2013 10:48 AM by Larry G
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Thursday, 29 August 2013
THE DAY OF PENTECOST
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Read 2:1-41, before you begin the questions.  Imagine yourself as one of the believers gathered to celebrate the feast with no idea of what was coming.  Or, put yourself in the crowd of Jews witnessing the bizarre events and Peter’s speech.  Ask God to bring this scene alive for you.

Acts 2:1-41

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine. " 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 " 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' 22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him: " 'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.' 29 "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, " 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." ' 36 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

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Posted on 08/29/2013 10:08 AM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 28 August 2013
MANKIND'S TRAGIC PATH
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What is life like when you have rejected God’s garden?  Genesis 4 shows the tragic path of Cain’s descendants,

Here are a few thoughts concerning this passage.  First, God warns us that sin will overtake us, if we aren’t careful.  Thinking that one sin will have a minimal effect is a delusion; one sin will lead to another, and another and we will eventually find ourselves in situations that are totally out of our control (Isaiah 64:6 -- We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away… ).  Second, the passage reveals that God is actually merciful; He doesn’t give Cain the death he deserves but as a way of preserving his life, The LORD GOD gives Cain an identifiable mark, so nobody who encounters him will attack him.  Third, it is interesting to note that even though Cain thinks that it is the LORD who is driving him away, the text shows that it is actually Cain who leaves the presence of the LORD.  He moves away from God under his own volition.  Now back up a moment to the curse GOD pronounces on Cain.  Think about this: GOD has created everything; He has set in place all of the physical, moral and ethical laws that govern or control our existence.  GOD knows what is going to happen to Cain when he decides to leave His presence.  GOD knows that things are going to go bad for Cain.  We later see that life takes a turn for the worse, primarily because of Cain’s descendants.  We learn this just by examining the names of his relatives.  The second one mentioned is IRAD which means “wild ass” or “runner”.  One can imagine that this individual was not exactly a good guy; he probably caused Cain and his father Enoch quite a bit of heartache.  Then we have MEJUJAEL, which means “Smitten by God”; I don’t think this means that everything was good with this guy either.  Next comes METHUSAEL, which means “Champion of El” or “Man of God;” which may be implying that even though things are going downward, men still know about God.  And finally, we are told about LAMECH which means “The Strikerdown” or “The Wild Man.” His name also implies that he was physically powerful.  Now this man represents a real milestone in the development of sin in the human race.  He is violent, proud or arrogant, and vengeful.  He likes killing.  He is a polygamist.  All we can say to this is MANKIND,  FELL FAR AND FAST.

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Posted on 08/28/2013 10:44 AM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 28 August 2013
Aspects of Prayer
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FOR FURTHER STUDY ON PRAYER:  Trace references to prayer in Acts.  Who prays?  Why?  What happens when people pray?  What do your observations imply for your life?

1:14    These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers

2:42     They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

3:1       One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon.

6:2-4       2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."

10:31   and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.

12:5     So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

16:13   On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.

16:16   Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.

The verses above tell us that we are to earnestly devote ourselves to prayer.  It is appropriate in the life of the Believer for him or her to have a set time for prayer or to set aside time for prayer.  They also tell us that we should constantly look for a place to pray and that doing so, we can be assured we will find the place to pray.  These passages also reassure us that God hears our prayers.

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Posted on 08/28/2013 10:02 AM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 28 August 2013
God's Love
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Read Romans 8:31-39, a companion passage that sheds more light on the love of God.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.  34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."  37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Question:  How do God’s actions confirm His love for us?

He does what He says He will do; and we see that ultimately, everything will work out for our good.

Question:  Nothing can separate us from God’s love, Paul proclaims.  What can you recall in Paul’s experiences that would give him such confidence in and assurance of the love of Christ?  

Acts 23:11

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome." 

This is just one incident.  But all along starting in Acts chapter 9, going to chapter 14, God tells Paul about everything that is going to happen and then we see how it does happen.  Paul learns over and over again, that he can trust God.

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Posted on 08/28/2013 10:20 AM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 27 August 2013
The Line of Cain
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What is life like when you have rejected God’s garden?  Genesis 4 shows the tragic path of Cain’s descendants, but Genesis 5 points toward another hope.  Read 4:1-26 prayerfully, for the overall point.

Genesis 4:1-26

1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." 8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" 10 And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." 13 Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." 15 Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. 23 Lamech said to his wives: "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cain's revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold." 25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, "God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him." 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD. 

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Posted on 08/27/2013 10:41 AM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 27 August 2013
Joined in Prayer
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Question:  What role did prayer have among the believers between the Ascension and Pentecost (1:14, 24-25)?

Acts 1:14

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Acts 1:24-25

24 Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs."

They prayed to come into the presence of the LORD.  They wanted to talk with Him and be with Him.  They also prayed when it was time to make a decision and they realized and wanted it to be God’s choice.  In praying during these direction-seeking situations, they acknowledged God’s sovereignty.

Question:  How is this a model for us?

Obviously we too should use prayer as a time to talk to God about our concerns, our worries, our triumphs, our defeats, our future, everything.  We needn’t be afraid to talk to Him about anything.  That doesn’t mean we can be irreverent.  But just as we would respectfully talk to our earthly fathers about our lives, we can approach our heavenly Father.  If we ask him to show us the reality of things, He will do this.  In doing this, we will see and acknowledge that He is in control of events.

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Posted on 08/27/2013 9:59 AM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 27 August 2013
The Power and Love of Christ
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Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,16  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. 

Question:  Why does Paul pray for the inner strength of the Spirit?  

So that Christ may dwell in our hearts, that by this, we will come to know the immensity of God’s love for us, so that we can come to understand the meaning and totality of our salvation and God‘s power.

Question:  What is the result of the fact that Christ dwells in our hearts through faith?  

When we trust Him and do His will He settles in us and we come to know His goodness.  We come to understand Him.  Our hope is then built on our knowledge of the immensity of His love for us.

Question:  What does it mean to “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge”?

I think it has to do with actually experiencing His love on a moment to moment basis.  He loves us and wants the best for us.  It’s like we test Him out, when we trust Him enough to actually do His will.  Once we do this, we find that He is worthy of our trust. We come to know experientially that He loves us.  Now the question  has to deal with knowing the height and breadth of this love--and the answer is that there is no limit to His love.  

Question:  How are God’s love and power related?  

It is only when we begin to understand the enormity of His love for us, His trustworthiness, only then can we begin to see His power in our lives.  As we come to understand His love more and more and trust Him more and more in our lives, then we will see Him work and we will be awed by what we see Him do.  

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Posted on 08/27/2013 10:01 AM by Larry G
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Monday, 26 August 2013
Man in Exile
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Sin killed Adam spiritually; he lost the capacity to be intimate with God and the freedom to escape the state of sin

Ephesians 2:1-2

 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--

Spiritual death corrupted man’s soul, so that his reason, emotions, and will, became flawed.  Eventually, Adam faced physical death, the last ravage of the cancer of sin.

Adam’s children inherited his disease.  Genesis 1-2 revealed God’s intent for man, in chapter 3 man shattered that intent, and now in Genesis 4-11 we see the depths to which man plunged in his flight from God.  In these chapters, watch for the repeating cycle of sin, judgment, and mercy.

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Posted on 08/26/2013 10:34 AM by Larry G
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Monday, 26 August 2013
The Promise of Christ's Return
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SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:  How was it going to be possible for the apostles to fulfill their mission (1:8)?  Why is this important for us to remember?

They were ordinary uneducated men.  They were not men of uncommon courage or ability.  Yet they were the ones God called to be His initial witnesses to a hostile world.  They should not have been able to do what they did; but they did.  How? God enabled them; or put another way, GOD DID IT!

Does 1:11 encourage you?  If so, what does it encourage you to think and do.

Acts 1:11

They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!"

This verse is an absolute encouragement.  If this were not the case, what would be the point of our trust in God?  We would have no hope for the world.  But Jesus is coming back.  Therefore, we need to live our lives in such a way to glorify Him and prepare ourselves and the world for His return.  We can rest assured that we should do whatever He has instructed because He is coming back.

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Posted on 08/26/2013 9:51 AM by Larry G
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Monday, 26 August 2013
The Cross of Peace
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Question:  Why is the cross of Christ a true equalizer, and thus makes unity possible in the church?

It provides a common focus for all believers.  We were all rescued from the same inevitable destruction.  We were all saved by the same blood and the same Savior.  We were all baptized into Him; we all have the same hope.  

Question:  In The Cross of Peace, Sir Philip Gibbs has written: “Today there are all sorts of zig-zag and criss-crossing fences running through the races and peoples of the world.  Modern progress has made the world a neighborhood and God has given us the task of making it a brotherhood.”  Is this just wishful thinking?  How is this really possible?

No doubt about it, it is wishful thinking.  Modern progress hasn’t created the neighborhood; it’s just made it more crowded and has none nothing to create any kind of benevolent brotherhood.  In fact, technology has probably done more to bring about the condition of Genesis 5 and 11, man’s inclinations are all for evil and when we get together the only result is that we strive and work to accomplish that evil.  This thing that Gibbs talks about will never be accomplished by mankind; only God can do it.  It can only be accomplished by changing the heart and the focus of mankind.  Only Jesus can clean us up; only He can give us a new heart and empowered us to live righteously and only He can give us a true focus of eternal life; only He can give us hope.

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Posted on 08/26/2013 9:57 AM by Larry G
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Sunday, 25 August 2013
Christ in Our Personal Relationships
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Question:  What is the practical significance of the truth expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:17 for relational conflict in marriages, families, churches, and between races and nations?

2 Corinthians 5:17:  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

I think that the practical significance is actually expressed earlier in the passage.  The bottom line is this:  now we see things through God’s eyes.  Everything we do; everyone we meet, everything is now seen through God’s eyes.  Paul talks about this when he says that “all things are of God.”  So since everything and everyone is “of God” that definitely changes the way we see them, use and treat them.  

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Posted on 08/25/2013 9:54 AM by Larry G
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Saturday, 24 August 2013
Ambassadors for Christ
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Question:  If Christ if the Great Reconciler, and we are His “ambassadors,” what does this mean?  (What does an ambassador do?)

Ministers are ambassadors for Christ, as they are sent to do what he would do were he personally present. They are to make known, and to explain, and enforce the terms on which God is willing to be reconciled to people. They are not to negotiate on any new terms, nor to change those which God has proposed, nor to follow their own plans or devices, but they are simply to urge, explain, state, and enforce the terms on which God is willing to be reconciled. Of course they are to seek the honor of the sovereign who has sent them forth, and to seek to do only his will. They go not to promote their own welfare; not to seek honor, dignity, or emolument; but they go to transact the business which the Son of God would engage in were he again personally on the earth. It follows that their office is one of great dignity, and great responsibility, and that respect should be showed them as the ambassadors of the King of kings. 

Our message is to be regarded as the message of God. It is God who speaks. What we say to you is said in his name and on his authority, and should be received with the respect which is due to a message directly from God. The gospel message is God speaking to people through the ministry, and entreating them to be reconciled. This invests the message which the ministers of religion bear with infinite dignity and solemnity; and it makes it a fearful and awful thing to reject it.

Be ye reconciled to God - This is the sum and burden of the message which the ministers of the gospel bear to their fellow-men

An ambassador is a representative who bears a message from his sovereign.  

They or we explain the terms of salvation.  We cannot make new terms.  God created all things; he set all of the physical, spiritual, moral and ethical laws in place.  He sets the boundaries and conditions of our existence now and forever and we cannot alter them.  (Taken from the commentaries of Matthew Henry & Bakers Dictionary of Theological Terms)

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Posted on 08/24/2013 9:49 AM by Larry G
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Saturday, 24 August 2013
How God Responds to Sinners
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Question: What do you learn about God from the ways He responded to sin and sinners?  Look at the following passages.

Genesis 3:9, 11, 13

9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?"…. 11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" …..13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." 

God doesn’t abandon man; He still calls to him.  It’s interesting that what we see with both Adam and Eve that God doesn’t condemn them.  What He does is He gets them to look at their situation…they’re naked and afraid…and then God helps them to recognize the events, or their individual actions, which brought them to where they were at.  God gives understanding and wisdom and He is compassionate and faithful.  God still desires fellowship with His creation.

Genesis 3:14-15

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." 

Interesting that God tells Satan, the serpent, that for his efforts in deceiving the man and the woman, he will not receive anything more than humiliation.  Satan is literally going to “eat dirt” every day and every moment.  God also gives a “gift” to the woman that will actually protect her from further harm from the devil; He puts a built-in “enmity” or dislike or animosity between the descendants of the woman and Satan.  God acknowledges that there will be a conflict between the woman’s offspring and the offspring of the serpent.  But the bottom line is that this conflict will culminate in the utter destruction of the serpent; he will be crushed by “the seed,” a specific descendant of the woman.   It is significant to note that we see that God will not be mocked and going against Him brings nothing but humiliation and dishonor.  We also see that God is committed to His creation and its redemption.

Genesis 3:21

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 

Only what God does can effectively deal with our sin situation.

Genesis 3:22-24

22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Here we see that God is a person and His reaction to what has happened is sarcastic.  “So you were going to be like Me?  Where are you now?  How did it work out?”  Basically, He's saying: "I TOLD YOU SO."  Essentially He also tells us that He wasn’t going to let man exist eternally in this fallen state.

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Posted on 08/24/2013 10:10 AM by Larry G
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Friday, 23 August 2013
New Creation In Christ
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Consider how the following passage from 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 relates to the message of Ephesians 2:11-3:13.

16Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.18Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,19that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.20Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.21For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 

Question:  What new insights does this passage add to the startling notion that in Christ everything changes?

Once we realize who Jesus the Christ, the Messiah is, we see, we actually begin to see.  We see people differently, we begin to see the world differently.  We begin to see that God is the ultimate reality.  It’s all about Him.  We also come to understand that GOD IS ACTUALLY FOR US!  THIS IS HUGE!!!

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Posted on 08/23/2013 9:41 AM by Larry G
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Friday, 23 August 2013
What is Truth?
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FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION: God said man would die when he ate the fruit.  The serpent said he would not die.  Which spoke the truth?  How do you know? (See Genesis 3:7-10, 19, 22, and 5:5 and Matthew 6:31-33)

Genesis 3:7-10, 19, 22

 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself."…. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."…. 22 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever--" 

Genesis 5:5

Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died

Matthew 6:31-33

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

The bottom line is that after 930 years—Adam died.  He’s not here today; and that’s a fact!  From the point of his fall, things take a definite turn for the worse.  He is now out of the garden where he and his wife were provided for in a pleasurable and stress-free manner, and is now outside the garden where getting something to eat became a struggle.  The fact that the relationship between him and Eve had changed also brought stress into the situation for both.  But the big thing that happened, the thing that caused everything else to happen is that now he and Eve fear God and don’t want to be near Him, the one who gave them life and maintained them.  Did Satan lie?  Without a doubt!  But the LORD GOD still calls and He still offers to provide for everything we need.  As a matter of fact, he still provides it even though, we run away from it.  We are afraid of the One who has only done good for us, to follow the one who only done us harm…..INSANITY.

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Posted on 08/23/2013 10:06 AM by Larry G
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Thursday, 22 August 2013
Paul's Mission and Call
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Question:  What was Paul’s mission and call (Ephesians 3:6-9)?

6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.  8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;

He was a minister of the gospel.  He was to preach the “unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery…”

Question/Task:  In your own words, summarize the mystery revealed to Paul that he relates in this passage.  

God’s purpose has always been that the gospel, His plan to save us, was always for everyone, Jew and Gentile.  It wasn’t just restricted to the Jews.  Jesus, God the Son came to die for everyone. He intends for us to become His dwelling place and that is how the two, Jews and Gentiles, will unite to become “holy temple in the Lord”.  We will all be united in Him.  That is our purpose. 

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Posted on 08/22/2013 9:35 AM by Larry G
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