This is the study guide for our bible study tonight in Acts.
This is the study guide for upcoming lesson from this passage in 1 Timothy. You may view it online or download it by clicking the download button.
Follow this link to find previous study guides for 1 Timothy.
Peter Lovenheim, In the Neighborhood (Perigree, 2010).
In Luke 10, after sending the 72 out on an evangelistic mission, Jesus teaches about neighborly conduct. In Jesus' understanding, being a neighbor is, or at least opens the door for, the mission.
Yet, we often would like to take the evangelistic mission without the charge to be a neighbor. After all, does it really matter? If we preach or teach and the person makes a decision, isn't that enough? But it was this mindset that Jesus challenged when he taught about being a neighbor. When we seek to justify our behavior we have missed Jesus' mission. Being a neighbor means being proactive and involved--the Samaritan used his time, resources, and money to help someone who, under different circumstances, would have been an enemy. We are encouraged to go and do the same.
Peter Lovenheim wrote an interesting book called In the Neighborhood. After hearing about a neighborhood family involved in a tragedy (a murder-suicide while the children were still in the house), he realized that he did not know the family and that likely no one in the neighborhood did. This realization set him upon a goal of creating a community within the neighborhood he lived in, to enable and help physical neighbors become real neighbors to each other.
The book is very enjoyable and a quick read. Lovenheim sought to learn more about his neighbors by spending more time with them, even including sleeping over at their homes! As he began to meet his neighbors more he began to become aware of needs and he was able to make neighborly introductions between neighbors.
One neighbor he met had cancer. He realized that to be a neighbor to her he was going to have to help her. One chapter is devoted to this quest. In that chapter, he states that "the real measure of success of my whole effort [to neighborize the neighborhood] would be if someone who previously did not know Patti...woud join me in helping her out. If that could happen...we would have a real community" (204). Thanks to Lovenheim's work, it did happen. Patti and several other neighbors connected and Patti did not have to struggle alone.
I really enjoyed this book. It left me with several ideas I am thinking through:
"If we all cared about our neighbors, we could change the world one street at a time" (236).
Let us go and do likewise.
This is a bible study guide for Acts 4:1-31 for our study tonight. Previous bible study guides for Acts begin here.
You can download this study guide by clicking on the download link below.
This is a commentary on Matthew 21-25.
Jesus' teaching, though in parabolic form, is actually quite scandalous. Calling the nations to judgment is something long looked forward to by the Israelites. Their attitude, both throughout the Old Testament and into the New, was to look down on the nations and to look up to...themselves. After all, they were the recipients of God's grace; they were the ones called to be God's people through their father, Abraham; they were the ones led out of Egypt by Moses into the promised land; they were the ones given the law; they were the ones given God's glory in the Davidic lineage; they were the ones who merely needed to wait out the nations until God sent his promised messiah and lord in David's line to free the people and rescue them for God.
Yet, when the nations are gathered by Jesus (the Son of Man; the King) they are separated by him. They are not separated by nationality or ethnicity. Rather, they are separated as though they were animals—they were separated into two types, two camps. They were separated based on deeds done or not done; not by perceived value; and not by categories decided by nationality, religion ("law"), or lineage ("children of Abraham").
These separation criteria find fulfillment in judgment. The reason for separation is clear—not everyone did the will of their Father, which was surprising to some who looked to improve their religious lot in life. They were separated to be judged. Those who loved Jesus received eternal life. Those who didn't love Jesus received eternal punishment. It's that simple.
How did they love Jesus? By serving the least of his brothers and sisters; because in doing so, they served him. How did they dis-love Jesus? By not serving the least of his brothers and sisters; because when they overlooked them because of their own self-importance, they overlooked Jesus.
But how did Jesus arrive at this teaching? It has been building. Jesus didn't get here in his teaching without precedent.
His teaching began to take on a different, sharper tone once he reached Jerusalem and knew that his life was coming to an end. As he operated within Jerusalem and looked toward the end, he taught that the kingdom of God is about simple, childlike faith and fruit-bearing actions and activities (Matt. 21:15-22). He talked about the great reversal in God's kingdom which is centered around him, where many who think they should be involved completely miss their opportunity, while many who would expect to be left out are in fact both invited and welcomed in (Matt. 22:1-14).
To those who claimed to be concerned about the law (even while they tried to trap Jesus in his teaching), Jesus said that love of God and neighbor fulfill all the commands of the law (Matt. 23:34-40). He condemned hypocrisy by calling out the Pharisees and teachers of the law for leading others astray with their teaching that is focused on obedience of the law for its own sake rather than to please God (Matt. 23).
Finally, he brought it full circle—Jesus taught about his own coming (Matt. 24). The key is to be prepared and diligent, doing good to those you influence (Matt. 24:42-51). Jesus then amplifies this teaching in a series of parables (Matt. 25). First, five virgins who were to be part of the wedding banquet missed out because of failure to pay attention and plan for contingencies (Matt. 25:1-13). Second, one servant who was given money by his master to do good with missed out because he became fearful of his master and failed to use the resources given him to increase his master's reach and kingdom (Matt. 25:14-30). Third, the cursed (who were very surprised to find themselves considered as such) found themselves condemned for failure to search out and serve the least of the King's brothers and sisters, whom he shared solidarity with (Matt. 25:31-46).
We are to live in God's kingdom, being watchful, attentive, diligent in good, using the resources God has given us to serve and love the least among us. By doing so, we serve and love our master, Jesus.
This study guide contains questions for 1 Timothy 3:14-4:16. Links to the previous study guides, for chapters 1, 2, and 3:1-13, are here.
You may download this study guide by clicking on the download link below.
Below is my bible study guide for Acts 3, including connecting themes from my Introduction to Acts, study questions, answers (don't cheat too badly!), and notes.
You may download this as a PDF by clicking on the download link below.
How do you read the bible?
Ron Martoia, in his new book, The Bible as Improv, points out (accurately) that all bible reading is interpretation. To understand is to interpret. Otherwise, we bog down in details about what is timeless and what is cultural. In other words, what can we ignore and what are we obligated to do.
Here's an example: In 1 Timothy 2:8-15 Paul says both that women are to be silent in worship (women are not permitted to teach and/or assume authority over a man) and that women are not to have elaborate hairstyles and wear "gold or pearls or expensive clothes." In conservative churches, we uphold the former teaching as essential and required but not the latter teaching. I personally know of no church that bars their women from doing their hair however they'd like and wearing gold or pearl jewelry. I also personally know several churches that prevent their women from teaching men.
How do we hold these things together? How do we look at one passage, and in that passage find things that are universal and timeless on one hand, but on the other hand, find things that are cultural and time-bound? This way of reading seems very arbitrary and open to abuse of interpretation by the one reading.
Martoia proposes a different way--that of seeing the bible as a classic. He argues that, while the bible may be or is much more than a classic, it is at least a classic in that it forms and shapes our worldview according to the spiritual categories represented in it. We ought to read it as we read other classics of literature (Shakespeare, Homer, etc.) by reading entire books in one sitting, or by reading larger sequential chunks. Reading the bible verse-by-verse, in a piecemeal way, is not how it was intended to be read.
Martoia, building off the work of N.T. Wright, proposes that we see the bible as a script. This script is made of up of five acts of which we are missing the fifth (because the work of the church is the fifth act). The first four acts are 1) creation; 2) the fall; 3) the life and ministry of Israel; and 4) the life and ministry of Jesus. The fifth act, from which we take our cue, is missing. But we have clues about how it will end (Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 15) and how we are to "fill in the gaps" (the New Testament). It is up to us, as "actors," to understand the first four acts so we can live out the fifth act and complete the script.
Since we don't have the script in front of us, we cooperate with the Spirit to improv our way forward, much like jazz musicians improv during their play. We improv based on the themes and tones we pick up from the other four acts. As we read the bible in large chunks (and read books sequentially and straight through), we begin to understand the themes and tones and how they play out through the script-ure. We read the bible for this larger story, God's story, and discover the importance of the smaller details in this larger context.
Martoia offers some ways churches and groups might approach bible reading as an improvisation of the first four acts of a five-act script:
Chapter 6: The Myth of a Christian Nation
In chapter 6, Boyd addresses several negative consequences of viewing the US as a Christian nation, which he refers to as the "myth of a Christian nation."
First, this myth harms global missions because US aggression becomes associated with Christ when America is identified as a Christian nation. This view compromises the spread of the kingdom of God (KoG) because the KoG is associated by others as tainted by or because of the kingdom of the sword, which is how all kingdoms of the world operate.
If we profess allegiance to Jesus, Boyd argues, we must commit ourselves to proclaiming in action and word the truth that the kingdom of God always looks like him. When the US operates by the power of the sword, it is not evincing the love of Christ to others. We must resist this myth for the sake of the spread of the kingdom of God.
Second, this myth harms missions within the US because civil religion is seen as real Christianity. Civil religion is useful to bind people together and to give them a shared vision to work towards, but it is only an aspect of the kingdom of God. There are two dangers in this: 1) We may lose our missionary zeal because we believe we live in an already-Christian nation; there is not much need to evangelize because most people already know God. 2) We end up wasting time and resources o the civil religion, trying to tweak it to make it more "right" or "godly," rather than spreading the kingdom of God.
Instead, what if we did the kingdom of God? What if, instead of tweaking the civil reigion, what if we fed the hungry, found housing for the homeless, etc. What if we replicated the loving sacrifice of Jesus to all people, at all times, in all places, regardless of their circumstances or merit?
Third, this myth tempts us to trust the power of the sword to create the conditions by which the kingdom of God might spread. This is faulty thinking because it assumes that, once overtaken by the power of the sword, people will be willing to listen to or accept the power of the cross. This myth causes us to trust the kingdom of the sword to change things rather trusting God in prayer.
What if, instead, we truly believed that we can influence God through prayer? What if truly believed that God was seeking to bring his kingdom to bear in our midst and we worked for that, "from below," as it were?
We can counter these myths by focusing on the kingdom of God. But it will be difficult and not all who claim to follow Jesus will be on board. Our goal needs to be to love Jesus and others in his name...not the expansion of the kingdom of this world.
What do you think?
The Myth of a Christian Nation: Chapter 5
Before getting too far, I should note that I agree 100% with Boyd's assertion in this chapter that this phrase, "taking America back for God," is wrong to begin with because it implies that America once was God's. When, asks Boyd, as he cites a number of occasions in which ungodly behavior by the nation's leaders would call into question their following of God (pgs. 98-100).
Further, this quest, to take America "back" for God, lies in the realm of the power of the sword. It is a quest for power, a quest to mold others (by force, if necessary) into a particular brand of Christianity's views of religion.
When?, asks Boyd, did Jesus ever act or talk like this?
Jesus' example demonstrates that God no longer acts nationalistically. He calls together a spiritual nation, embodied across cultures, operating under the banner of the Kingdom of God.
Boyd asks these questions about Jesus (p. 92):
What do you think?
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Although I work for the Otisville Church of Christ in Otisville, Michigan, this blog represents my own thoughts and does not necessarily correspond to the views and workings of the Otisville Church of Christ.
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