Posted by: StrongStakes | March 19, 2014

Converting “March Madness” into a March toward Maturity

NCAA_gameballThe NCAA men’s basketball tournament, otherwise known as “March Madness,” begins tomorrow and culminates with the crowning of a “National Champion” nearly three weeks later on Monday, April 7th.  An estimated 50 million Americans will participate in March Madness office pools, costing companies about $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour during the tournament’s first week.  In fact, an MSN poll in 2012 found that 56% of respondents, equivalent to 77.1 million employees, planned to devote at least one hour to March Madness.  And what about the untold millions more who will be glued to their TVs, tablets, computers, and mobile devices, simply watching the games?

Don’t get me wrong … I thoroughly enjoy this time of year and this brand of basketball.  In my opinion, the NBA [“Not Basketball Anymore”] pales in comparison to the energy, the drama, and the spirit of the NCAA tournament.

But rather than create a pool where we predict winners and losers each day during the tournament, I propose a more significant and fulfilling challenge … one that will aid our growth toward maturity in Christ.

For every half of an NCAA tournament game that we watch on TV, tablet, computer, or mobile device during these next three weeks, let’s also commit to read one chapter out of a book … any book! … on discipleship or “following Jesus” … including the Bible!

Here’s how this will work … NCAA games consist of two 20-minute halves, so simply keep track of every half of a game that you watch on TV, tablet, computer or mobile device, then later that day or week, read one chapter for every half watched.  Don’t cheat! … viewing even part of a half counts as a half.  This just may help us “redeem” some of that time spent in front of the TV or computer screen.

Need book recommendations?  Check out the titles and links on the right side of this blog under the “Worth Reading” column. Remember, the Bible counts, too!

Happy watching & reading!  May the best teams win … and the best books get read!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

OC Bereans1These are metaphors for Scripture … the Word of God … five from a much longer list within the Bible.  Click here for the handout — Metaphors for Word of God — to discover more.

If you were not with us last Monday evening, then click here to download and print the handout — Bibliology — then bring it with you for note-taking this coming Monday.  As you prepare for our next study, focus on the Scriptures listed on page two, under the headings “Revelation” and “Inspiration.”

We will also greatly benefit from hearing a brief testimony of faith from one of our members, so look forward to that.

Dessert will be available at 7 pm, with our study starting shortly after that.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | March 4, 2014

What happens when an Evangelical observes Lent?

Tomorrow, March 5, 2014, is “Ash Wednesday,” beginning the historically 40-day period of time called Lent.  Since I was raised as a “Protestant – Evangelical – Fundamentalist” … all I ever heard about Lent was a little too Roman Catholic and therefore, off limits.  That was unfortunate … click on the link above to download a one-page handout and find out why.

In addition, I was just made aware of a wonderful resource to aid our observance of Lent.  Biola University’s “Center for Christianity, Culture & the Arts” has produced The Lent Project, spanning 54 days of discovery, each week focused on a particular theme:

  • Week 1 (March 5-8), focuses on the call to discipleship.
  • Week 2 (March 9-15) on the teachings of Christ.
  • Week 3 (March 16-22) on Old Testament typologies.
  • Week 4 (March 23-29) on the finished work of Christ.
  • Week 5 (March 30-April 5) on the last words of Christ.
  • Week 6 (April 6-12) takes us on a journey to the cross.
  • Week 7 (April 13-19) walks with Christ and His followers through Holy Week.
  • Week 8, called “Bright Week” (April 20-27), finishes The Lent Project with the marvelous accounts of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances.

I encourage you to bookmark their website … The Lent Project … and visit it daily to read and ponder each new devotional.  May God use these to prepare our hearts, minds and lives to fully embrace the significance of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | March 1, 2014

How did we get the Bible & is it really true?

dead-sea-scrollChuck Missler, the founder of Koinonia House, is famous for saying, “The Bible is comprised of 66 books, penned by 40 authors over thousands of years, and yet we discover it is an integrated message system from outside our time and space domain.”

The OC Bereans Bible study is built on this foundational premise, but this begs the question:  How do we know this to be true?

John F. MacArthur, Jr., the Pastor-Teacher at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, has compiled a list of additional related questions.  The technical term for this topic is “Bibliology.”

  • Where did the Bible come from?
  • Did any Bible books get lost in history?
  • What does the Scripture claim for itself?
  • Who wrote the Bible … God or man?
  • Has Scripture been protected from human tampering over the centuries?
  • How close to the original manuscripts are today’s translations?
  • How did the Bible get to our time and in our language?
  • Is there more Scripture to come, beyond the current 66 books, or is the “Canon” closed?
  • Who determined that the Bible would be composed of the traditional list of 66 books?  On what basis?
  • If the Scriptures were written over a period of 1,500 years (ca. 1405 B.C. to A.D. 95), passed down since then for almost 2,000 years, and translated into several thousand languages, what has prevented the Bible from being changed by the carelessness or ill motives of men?
  • Does today’s Bible really deserve the title “The Word of God”?

Join us for the next few weeks as we delve deeply into this topical study on and about the Bible.  Consider bringing a friend (or 2) as well!

We enjoy a dessert at 7 pm, followed shortly thereafter with our study, plus a brief time of prayer.  We conclude by 9 pm.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

I once had a friend who told me he held to the “85/15 Rule of Learning” when it came to studying the Bible.  I sat in stunned silence as he went on to describe that a person can learn “pretty much everything that needs to be learned” … 85% … of any subject matter by using only 15% of one’s mental effort.  When applied to Bible study in general … and the OC Bereans in particular … he didn’t see the point in expending the remaining 85% effort to extract whatever the final 15% of biblical truth had to offer.

Since that conversation I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions …

… confusion, frustration, disappointment, disbelief, etc…

After many hours of pondering his postulation, plus some time praying about its implications for our Bible study … both individual and corporate … my emotions have settled into a stronger conviction … the Bible is worth 100% of our effort to read, meditate, memorize, study, unpack, teach, apply and obey!  Amen?!

God did not create us and then turn us loose to try and figure out how to live this life on our own.  He carefully prepared an “Operator’s Manual” to show us the way and provide the guidance needed.  It behooves us as followers of Jesus to focus our full attention and effort on His Word.

Our recent 14-month study of the first 11 chapters of the Book of Revelation have amply illustrated some of what can be uncovered in that final 15%.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times to you, prior to this in-depth study, I had never seen the primary emphasis on God’s grace in this final book of the Bible.  His grace far overshadows the “shock & awe” of His judgment yet to come!

For additional insights gleaned from the past few weeks, click on this link for the Revelation 11:1-19 Notes.  Several observations from the men in our group are shared on the next-to-last page.  The lyrics to Revelation Song are also included on the final page.

Brothers, I urge you, exhort you, encourage you, and strongly recommend that you “… receive the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”  (Acts 17:11)

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | February 8, 2014

Woe! Woe! … What do two martyrs reveal about the future?

Two_WitnessesRevelation 11:14 states that “the second woe is past,” which when analyzed, includes strange happenings in the previous 13 verses.

  • The apostle John is given a “measuring rod” and told to measure three things in Jerusalem.
  • Two mysteriously powerful martyrs are introduced, who first witness to unbelievers, then are killed, and then are resurrected!
  • The “beast out of the abyss” takes center stage.

To aid your preparation for our initial look at Revelation chapter 11 this Monday evening, here are some questions to think about as you read the chapter.

  1. What is behind the metaphor of “measuring” the temple, the altar, and the worshipers in v. 1?  *Hint: Read Ezekiel 40:1-4; then scan 40:5 – 42:20; then read 43:1-12.
  2. Why was John instructed NOT to measure the “outer court” of the temple?  (v. 2)
  3. Who are potential identities of the “two witnesses”?  Why?  (vv. 3-6)
  4. Who is the “beast out of the abyss”?  (v. 7)
  5. What city is referenced in v. 8?
  6. Much has been written about the various combinations of specific numbers in this chapter (e.g., 42 months, 1260 days, 1/10 of the city, 7000 people).  What might these describe?
  7. Why do the earth-dwellers “throw a party” when the two witnesses are martyred?  (v. 10)
  8. What is the unexpected response of survivors after they observe the resurrection of the two witnesses?  (v. 13)

Download, print, and bring this attachment with you for note-taking … Revelation 11:1-19.

Our study of this chapter will begin shortly after 7 pm on Monday, after we enjoy a dessert.  See you then!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | February 7, 2014

Overcoming “Spiritual Bulimia”

John_Eats_BookHow often do we “binge & purge” God’s Word at conferences, retreats, and even at Sunday services? … without daily ingesting, digesting and metabolizing the spiritual truths He has prepared for us?

In our recent study of Revelation chapter 10, the primary imperative for the apostle John was to “eat the book.”  This metaphor is not new in Scripture.  The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was told to do the same (Ezek. 2:8 – 3:11).  His contemporary Jeremiah wrote about the benefits of eating God’s Word (Jer. 15:16).  Wisdom literature also points to the desirable effects of feeding on God’s Word (Psalm 19:9-10; 119:103; Proverbs 24:13-14).

From this chapter we discovered several practical take-aways that can be applied to our lives as disciples of Jesus:

  • We must ingest, digest and metabolize God’s Word … daily!
  • Then as bearers of the knowledge of God, we testify to both life (sweetness) and death (bitterness).
  • We do not shrink from studying and declaring the whole counsel [purposes] of God (Acts 20:27).
  • Our charge is not to dilute or adapt the message to audience preferences, but to simply share God’s truth (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
  • Christ-like character is not formed from a random collection of favorite texts and personal experiences, but by digesting and metabolizing whole books of the Bible, allowing the Holy Spirit, Who inspired these books, to determine our spiritual diet.
  • Finally, we can only effectively proclaim and share what we have actually assimilated into our being.

For more details from the past three weeks of our Bible study, click here for the handout:  Revelation 10:1-11 Notes.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Prediction: Most men in America will …

… be left with a mysterious feeling of “emptiness” … a sort of “funk” on Monday … no matter who wins the Super Bowl! … Why? … Because football is officially over until mid-August!

But not the OC Bereans! … Why? … Because we will meet to unpack more mysteries in God’s Word, plus enjoy the strong company of committed men following Jesus in 2014!

As we continue our in-depth look into one of the stranger encounters in the New Testament … John’s meeting with a “strong angel” who is straddling land and sea … here are five questions remaining to be answered. Use these in your preparation for Monday’s discussion.

  1. What is the “mystery of God” that is finished?  (v. 7)
  2. What do you think is written on the scroll that John is told to eat?  (v. 8)
  3. Why will it taste “sweet as honey” in his mouth, yet make his “stomach bitter”?  (vv. 9-10)
  4. Compare this chapter with Jeremiah 15:15-16 and Ezekiel 2:8 – 3:11.  How do these Old Testament passages help you understand what is happening to John?
  5. God’s grace is once again very evident in this chapter 10. Identify where and explain how.

Download, print, and bring this attachment with you for note-taking … Revelation 10:1-11.

Arrive by 7 pm to enjoy dessert, before we “break the Bread of Life” together!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | January 26, 2014

What to do if an angel offers you a scroll to eat …

What would you do? … How would you respond? … if an angel offered you a scroll to eat?  Revelation chapter 10 shows us what the Apostle John did.  To aid your preparation for our Bible study on this chapter, think through the following eight questions:

  1. How does John’s description of the angel in 10:1-3 change your previous impressions of angels?
  2. What might be the significance of this angel placing his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land?  (v. 2)
  3. Why was John instructed NOT to write what he heard from the “seven peals of thunder”?  (v. 4)
  4. What is ominous about v. 6?
  5. What is the “mystery of God” that is finished?  (v. 7)
  6. What do you think is written on the scroll that John is told to eat?  (v. 8)
  7. Why will it taste “sweet as honey” in his mouth, yet make his “stomach bitter”?  (vv. 9-10)
  8. Compare this chapter with Jeremiah 15:15-16 and Ezekiel 3:1-11.  How do these Old Testament passages help you understand what is happening to John?

Download, print, and bring this attachment with you for note-taking … Revelation 10:1-11.

Bob B. is bringing Monday’s dessert, so plan to arrive by 7 pm to sample that tasty treat.  We will then feast on chapter 10!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

6thTrumpetRevelation chapter 9 contains cryptic descriptions of horrific judgments brought on earth-dwellers during the first half of the Tribulation.  This is one of the “shock & awe” sections that have puzzled biblical scholars, and confused everyday Christians for centuries.

By the end of this chapter, more than half of the world’s population has perished.  But why? … to what end?  Often while attempting to define the minute details of John’s vision, this bigger question of purpose gets lost.

The primary purpose of such mass destruction is redemptive!

In addition, here are several stunning take-aways from the 5th and 6th “Trumpet Judgments”:

  • God is in control and omnipotent over the evil gods of this world.
  • Nothing is random … not one detail … in His plan and purposes.
  • God’s grace is still being offered in the midst of these judgments.
  • Humanity remains belligerent and refuses to repent.
  • The most alarming aspect of Revelation 9 is not God’s judgment, but mankind’s persistence in sin.
  • Idol and demon worship are followed by unrighteous deeds (cf. Romans 1:20-32).
  • A primary purpose of these judgments is to give earth-dwellers another (final?) offer of salvation.

Click on this link to download more details in the Revelation 9:1-21 Notes.

Now we’re on to an in-depth study of Chapter 10!  Another handout and study questions will be posted to this blog later this week.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

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