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from the editor: living like first-century christians

This issue of The Lookout is about beginnings: the beginning of the church, the spread of the gospel, the ministry of Paul, and the inclusion of non-Jewish believers into God’s kingdom. Acts 2, the first text we study in this issue, tells us how the church began and how the first followers of Christ lived, served, and worshiped. Verses 43-47 show us how the early Christians lived out their newfound devotion to Christ, giving us a pattern we can emulate today. They Were Amazed (v. 43) The first Christians felt a sense of wonder at their newly found faith in Christ. This faith wasn’t inherited from a previous generation. It wasn’t routine or obligatory. Their faith opened the door to experiences that filled them with awe. They Were United (v. 44) The first Christians “were together.” Not all lived in the same place, but all were part of the same community. They loved, encouraged, and supported one another. They “had everything in common.” A spirit of unity pervaded the lives and relationships of these early believers. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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They Were Generous (v. 45) When needs arose, the church responded. Many who had property and goods sold them and used the money to help their brothers and sisters in Christ. I get the impression that no possession was so valued that it couldn’t be relinquished for another. They Were Together (v. 46) They met daily in the temple courts and shared meals together in each other’s homes. While these new believers had much to learn about life in the body of Christ, they knew immediately that they needed to spend time together. They Were Joyful (v. 46) Whatever these new Christians did, they did with glad hearts. And why not? As Peter later explained, they had received “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” and as a result were “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1: 3, 8). They Were Authentic (v. 46) The first Christians acted with sincere hearts. No masks. 2 2

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No pretentious posturing. Everyone in the fellowship was the same—a sinner saved by grace. They had little to gain politically, socially, or economically by becoming Christians. In fact, it cost many of them dearly. Those who made the commitment to follow Christ did so for one reason—it was the right thing to do. They Were Grateful (v. 47) The early disciples expressed their gratitude to God through their praise. Worship was neither a service nor a duty to these enthusiastic disciples. It was a response—a natural reaction to the grace and mercy of God. They must have felt so overwhelmed by their new relationship with God that they were compelled to celebrate it as often as they could. They Were Honorable (v. 47) Not everyone who heard Peter’s gospel message at Pentecost became a disciple of Jesus Christ. In fact, many who did not respond became hostile toward Christianity. But for a while, the new believers enjoyed “the favor of all the people.” I’d like to think their transformation was so genuine, their character so unblemished, that even those who rejected Christ held them in high regard—at least for a time. God isn’t asking the twenty-first century church to be a carbon copy of the first century church. But certainly we can learn from the first Christians. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Christ, the blessings he provides through his atonement, his resurrection, his abiding presence, and his promised return, and let’s live daily in ways that express our love, gratitude, and devotion to him.

to help you plan ahead The following lesson topics and Scriptures will appear in the next issue of The Lookout. November 11 The Church Grows Through Missions Acts 13:2-16, 26-30, 38, 39 November 18 The Church Grows in Europe Acts 16:9-15, 22-34 November 25 The Church Grows in Greece Acts 17:16-34

@LookoutMagazine @LookoutMagazine

/TheLookoutMagazine

THE LOOKOUT

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December 2 The Church Grows in Asia Acts 19:8-20


THE LOOKOUT The Staff

table of contents [ 10.14 ]

[ 10.21 ]

[ 10.28 ]

[ 11.04 ]

from the editor Week 41

Jerry Harris, Publisher Shawn McMullen, Editor Sheryl Overstreet, Managing Editor Michael C. Mack, Contributing Editor Megan Kempf, Designer Abby Wittler, Designer Renee Little, Operations

Subscription Information

To order The Lookout for yourself, your church, or your group, visit lookoutmag.com or contact Customer Service. Bulk pricing is available.

Study | The Church Begins Application | In the Middle of It All Study Questions Mission | A Tale of Two Cultures Character | Why Won't You Bless Me? Daily Reading

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Study | The Gospel Begins Spreading in Samaria Application | What the Church Can't Do Without Study Questions Mission | Why We Went Again Character | The Considerate Christian Daily Reading

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Study | Paul's (Saul's) Ministry Begins Application | Maintenance Required Study Questions Mission | Faith and Science Character | Truth and Transformation Daily Reading

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Study | Gentile Inclusion in the Church Application | Small Paul Study Questions Mission | To the Ends of the Earth Character | Drawing Near Daily Reading

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week 42

week 43

week 44

Guest Editorial | Sue Wilson THE LOOKOUT

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The Lookout grants permission to reproduce up to 100 copies of articles in this issue —with the exception of the Bible study commentary written by Mark Scott and guest editorials by Bob Russell— for ministry or educational purposes (such as classroom, small group, and workshop handouts) with the following provisions: 1. Copied material must be distributed free of charge. 2. The following credit line must appear on each copy: “This article first appeared in The Lookout on [date].”

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The Lookout® is protected through trademark registration in the United States and in the foreign countries where The Lookout circulates. Volume CXXX. Number 11. The Lookout (USPS 319-100) is published every four weeks by Christian Standard Media at 16965 Pine Lane, Suite 202, Parker, CO 80134. Periodicals postage paid at Parker, CO, and additional offices. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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how to use this magazine Use the Prayer Journal space to journal prayers for the upcoming week of study.

Each week features four articles: Study, Application, Mission, and Character.

Use the Study Questions to reflect on the reading during quiet time, or complete with a group!

Dots are great for taking notes! You’ll find them throughout the study. Interact with the magazine by noting thoughts, drawing pictures, whatever helps you connect with what you’re reading! THE LOOKOUT

Tabs tell you which week and article you’re reading.

Follow along with the Daily Reading by using your Bible to read the reference Scripture and devotional. Checkmark the box when you’re done! -

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october 14 lesson text:

Acts 2:1-11, 22-24, 37-42 supplemental Text:

Joel 2:28-32; Psalm 110 Lesson Aim:

Expect wonderful things to happen when God pours out his Spirit on his people. Prepare your heart

by praying for the upcoming week of study and for the following churches. Town and Country Church of Christ Bartlesville, Oklahoma Elizabethtown Christian Church Scipio, Indiana Southeast Christian Church Minneapolis, Minnesota Antioch Christian Church Toluca, Illinois

prayer journal

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the church

begins

by: mark scott

The Spirit Enabled Hearing of the Gospel Acts 2:1-11

Pentecost was a Jewish festival that arrived 50 days after the Passover Sabbath—so it always fell on Sunday. The total celebration was called the Feast of Weeks. The earliest harvest was just beginning. That was the day when God decided to begin his church. The apostles were all together when the Holy Spirit came. Three signs indicated that God was up to something grand: 1) Sound like wind. Jesus had predicted that when the apostles heard such a thing they would be receiving the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). The Hebrew and Greek words translated wind are the same words for Spirit. 2) Fire that looked like a tongue. Sometimes a flame of fire looks like a human tongue. God is likened to fire (Hebrews 12:29), and fire purifies. 3) Speech beyond human ability. The Greek word for tongue means human language. The signs encompassed the ear, the mind, and the tongue. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 41 : study

On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 God turned a new page in human history. Atonement for sin had been accomplished through Jesus’ death on the cross. The resurrection of Christ from the dead had given assurance that Jesus’ death was effectual. The ascension of Christ announced Christ’s sovereignty over the enemy. Everything was ready for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the church. It is hard to improve on Charles Koller’s outline of Acts 2 (Expository Preaching Without Notes). His three points are: 1) This is That (vv. 16-21). 2) This is He (vv. 22-24). 3) This is How (vv. 25-41). Pentecost fulfilled prophecy. Miracles affirmed Jesus’ lordship. And, if people believe in the resurrected Christ, genuinely repent of their sins, and are baptized into him, they are saved and incorporated into a new social reality called the church. When God pours out his Holy Spirit many wonderful things result.


But there was something more to Pentecost than miraculous signs. Pentecost was about the Holy Spirit and people. The people (composed of Jews from 14 nations) had come to Jerusalem for Passover and stayed over for the celebration of Pentecost. They were in the right place at the right time. The sound brought the crowd together, and the dialect (language) made the gospel abundantly clear. Jews from these 14 nations heard the gospel in their own dialect and wondered how that could be since the ones speaking were all Galileans. (One could discern a Galilean dialect because the Galileans had a tendency to swallow certain syllables as they spoke.) Was the miracle in the apostles’ mouths or the Jewish ears? Maybe the answer is yes!

The Spirit Testified

to Christ

Acts 2:22-24

The Holy Spirit was the major voice on the Day of Pentecost, but he would be embarrassed if we were to think that Pentecost was about him. The Holy Spirit not only defers to Christ but points people to Christ (John 15:26). What happened on the Day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of prophecy. The minor prophet Joel had predicted a time when the Holy Spirit would come to all people—men and women; young and old. The Holy Spirit would convict people of sin (John 16:8, 9) so that they would call out for the Lord to save them (Acts 2:21).

Once Peter (he is the one whose sermon was preserved for us) quoted his text, he spoke of Jesus. Miracles testified to Jesus’ identity. The crucifixion might have looked as though humankind was in control, but things happened as a result of God’s plan. And the resurrection proved that Jesus had defeated death.

The Spirit Formed a New Community Acts 2:37-42

Peter gave the big idea of his sermon in Acts 2:36—Jesus, the very one they had crucified, was Lord and Christ. Ouch! No wonder the Pentecost crowd was under conviction. They asked if there was any way they could be right with God. Peter’s response to Jewish people who already believed in God was, “Repent and be baptized.” These two commands were followed by two promises— forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the really good news was that it was for them, their children, and for all nations (see Ephesians 2:13). The crowd heeded Peter’s strong plea (Acts 2:40). They accepted the message and 3,000 were baptized. The Holy Spirit had created something that had never existed on planet earth before—a church. This church followed the apostles’ teaching, shared all things in common, observed the Lord’s Supper, and prayed like crazy. Pentecost means that a new day had dawned, and the end was now beginning. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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middle

in the of it all

by: david faust

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of the Mediterranean Sea. There with the Great Sea as a backdrop, God gave Peter a special revelation to convince him that the gospel was for Gentiles as well as Jews (10:9-48). Isn’t it fascinating to realize that Peter received his missionary calling in the same town (Joppa) where Jonah tried to escape from the Lord’s command to preach to a foreign nation? Ancient people considered the Mediterranean Sea “the middle of the earth.” Located on the edge of that sea, the church at Antioch occupied a strategic outpost for sending missionaries to Europe and beyond. Likewise, God has placed you and your church in a strategic position in the middle of your own world, surrounded by people who urgently need Christ. To spread the gospel, first-century disciples had to find the courage to cross a formidable body of water and travel to places far outside their comfort zone. For us, like them: • The “sea” separating us from other cultures can look scary. Travel across it anyway. • The water looks deep. Push out onto it anyway. • People in other tribes and cultures think and act differently than we do. Love them anyway. God is calling. Venture out. Cross the sea.

week 41 : application

The world’s largest inland sea links Europe with Africa and the Middle East, tying together the influential cultures of Rome, Greece, Israel, and Egypt. The ancients called it Mediterranean, from the Latin mediterraneus (“midland”)— medius (“middle”) plus terra (“land, earth”). The ancients thought of the Mediterranean as the “sea in the middle of the earth.” The Hebrews referred to the Mediterranean simply as “the Sea,” “the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun,” or “the Western Sea” (Numbers 34:6; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 9:1). The prophet Micah may have had the Mediterranean in mind when he wrote that God will “hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). The Mediterranean’s shiny surface is visible from the hilltops near

Nazareth, where Jesus grew up about 20 miles from the seacoast. I wonder if sometimes the Lord gazed at the Mediterranean and envisioned how his disciples later would sail across it, taking the gospel to other lands. Near the Mediterranean’s scenic beaches Jesus crossed a cultural boundary by healing the daughter of a Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28). Most Hebrews were scared of the Great Sea. They considered it a place of danger, mystery, and dreadful storms. When God instructed Jonah to go preach in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, the renegade prophet instead bought a one-way ticket to sail to Tarshish (in southern Turkey). A great fish swallowed him, and there in the depths of the Mediterranean, Jonah began to learn about the depths of God’s love for the world—including Israel’s enemies. Jonah boarded his ship in Joppa (Jonah 1:3), a coastal town near what we know today as Tel Aviv. Centuries later Simon the Tanner lived in that same town, and Peter stayed with him for a while (Acts 9:43). Simon’s house was located “by the sea” (10:6), as salt water was useful for tanning animal skins and the sea breezes helped to clear away the foul smells associated with the tanning trade. When Peter went up on the roof of Simon’s house to pray, he enjoyed a panoramic view


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READ ACTS 2:1-11.

week

1. Pentecost is called the “Feast of Weeks” in the Old Testament and was celebrated 50 days after Passover. Passover commemorated the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. Although it is not mentioned in the Old Testament, Jews celebrated Pentecost to remember an event that happened at the beginning of the third month (about 50 days) after the exodus. See Exodus 19. How does this event mark the origin of Israel?

by: Jim Eichenberger

USE ONE OR BOTH OF THESE QUESTIONS TO INTRODUCE THE LESSON:

2. During what other specific events in Scripture did fire behave in unusual ways? See Exodus 3:2; 13:21; 19:18; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3. What do you think were some of the messages being communicated when this unusual fire rested on the apostles at Pentecost?

1. Who is your favorite superhero? Every superhero has an origin story—the tale of how that hero gained special powers. How do origin stories help explain everything that follows in the life of a hero?

2. What is your origin story? Tell about events that continue to shape who you are today.

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3. Greek was the language commonly spoken throughout the Roman Empire at the time. Why might have God chosen to speak miraculously in the native “heart” languages of those gathered rather than the learned language of Greek?

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READ ACTS 2:37-42.

4. Read verses 22 and 23 aloud, raising your voice to shout the word you each time it appears. Because the two pilgrimage festivals (those requiring a person to travel to the temple in Jerusalem) of Passover and Pentecost occurred about two months apart, Jews living far from Jerusalem would often stay in Jerusalem for both festivals. Why does that help explain Peter’s repeated and pointed use of you here?

6. Try to paraphrase Romans 8:1-3. The Jewish festival of Pentecost celebrated the beginning of Israel being ruled by the law of Moses. Note what happened in Exodus 32, almost immediately following the giving of the law. Compare the numbers found in Exodus 32:28 and Acts 2:41. Why is this significant considering Paul’s words?

5. Peter said that the identity of Jesus was “accredited” (NIV)— demonstrated with evidence—by miracles that were witnessed by many at one time. See also John 10:25, 27, 38; 14:11. What is the difference between faith in Jesus and “blind” faith?

7. As in all origin stories, the event that started the church helps explain everything that follows (Acts 2:42). Note the four elements of Christian worship in that verse. Which of those four do you need to strengthen, understanding the power behind the church?

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week 41 : questions

READ ACTS 2:22-24.


a tale of two

cultures

by: Richard J. Cherok

In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul told his readers that God sent his Son into the world at the “fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4, English Standard Version). This fullness of time to which Paul referred was the proper time for God to send the Messiah into the world and to set the church in motion. Nevertheless, this perfect time may not have been what we would expect. Less than two years after Jesus’ birth, the crazed and paranoid King Herod murdered all the infants of Bethlehem in an effort to eradicate this child he perceived to be a rival to his rule. Moreover, as Jesus went about healing the sick and proclaiming the good news of salvation, he repeatedly found himself at odds with the deeply divided Jewish leadership of his culture. The Pharisees and Sadducees, who had religious and political influence in firstcentury Israel, were opposed to one another in nearly everything. One thing they appeared to agree upon, however, was their disapproval of Jesus. Ultimately, they were able to bring about his crucifixion.

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Opposition to the Way Following Jesus’ resurrection and directive for his disciples to share the gospel message with the world, the opposition the Jews had for him was quickly transferred onto his followers. As thousands of people heard the gospel and were baptized into Christ (Acts 2:41, 4:4), Jewish aggressions toward the followers of Jesus heightened. Stephen was martyred for his belief in Christ (Acts 7) and Saul of Tarsus, the same guy who later told the Galatians that God sent Jesus into the world at the ideal point in history, was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (9:1, NIV). It’s hard to imagine this as the prime time for Christ’s appearing and the commencement of the church. But as Scripture asserts and as history confirms, God’s timing was perfect. The Roman Empire’s initial perception of Christianity was somewhat ambivalent. To Rome, the newly formed Christian community was merely another sect of the Jewish religion and Judaism was a legal belief system within the Roman Empire. Yet, the disturbances that arose as a result of the Jewish animosity to the emerging Christian sect threatened to undo the tenuous peacefulness that Rome had established in Palestine. As the Christian movement advanced beyond the borders of Israel and throughout the Roman Empire (partially in an effort to escape the Jewish persecution in Israel), others found reasons to contend with Christianity. Some viewed Christianity as a challenge to their accepted religious and moral ideas (Acts 17:22-32), while others saw it as a threat to their economic prosperity (19:23-28). So great were these challenges that the Roman Emperor Nero, less than 35 years after the church’s inception, endorsed localized persecutions that specifically targeted Christians. Accompanying the escalating political and cultural opposition to Christianity were a series of inaccurate and unfair charges that were levied against the believers. When Christians refused to worship the emperor or pay tribute to the other gods of the Roman pantheon, they were accused of being anarchists and atheists who sought the demise of Rome. They were also alleged to be cannibals who ate the body and drank the blood of their dead leader (a corrupted understanding of the Lord’s Supper) and sexual deviants who both married their “brothers” and “sisters” and met in suspicious nocturnal worship services. Among the culturally elite, Christians were also characterized as the intellectually deficient members of society who believed in the virgin birth and resurrection of the one they called Lord.

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week 41 : mission

Unfounded Prejudice


Problems that Led to Opportunities While the church’s early centuries were filled with roadblocks and hardships, they were also filled with possibilities and opportunities. The various captivities and conquests of the Jews in the centuries before Christ, for instance, caused a diffusion of Jews throughout the empire. As these dispersed Jews formed synagogues, many early Christians used these synagogues as forums for announcing to the Jewish audiences that the Messiah had indeed come. Moreover, the conquests and influence of Alexander the Great some 300 years before Christ made Greek the universal language of the Roman Empire. Both evangelists and biblical writers relied on Greek as the most effective dialect for communicating the Christian message to the widest possible audience. And, as missionaries traveled the empire to proclaim the good news of Christ, they discovered that Rome’s governance of the Mediterranean world made travel much safer and efficient than ever before. Over 50,000 miles of paved roadways crisscrossed the Roman Empire and seafarers on the Mediterranean were safeguarded from piracy by Rome’s military might. By taking advantage of the opportunities and refusing to allow the difficulties to deter them, early Christians overtook the Roman Empire with the gospel message. While there are no precise statistics on the early growth of Christianity, sociologist Rodney Stark suggests a very plausible growth-rate estimate of 3.4 percent throughout the church’s first four centuries. Using Stark’s model, a Christian population of roughly 1,000 people in the year A.D. 40 would have grown to over 30 million by 350. Regardless of the trustworthiness of speculative growth quantifications, early Christians clearly took Jesus’ evangelistic commission seriously and pushed beyond the barriers that were designed to impede them to make Christianity the predominate religion of the Roman Empire.

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"no other era in history has possessed the technologies of our age for travel, education, communication, and the advancement of the gospel."


Advancing the Faith Today

After 20 years as professor of church history at Cincinnati Christian University, Rick Cherok recently accepted a position as professor of history at Ozark Christian College. Dr. Cherok is also the founder and executive director of Celtic Christian Mission (www.CelticChristianMission.org).

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week 41 : mission

As modern society appears to be trending more toward secularism and religious apathy, many Christians have expressed great angst as they ponder the future of Christianity in our Western culture. Amid the religious pluralism that marks Western civilization, many Christians fear the encroachments of other religions or of no religion at all. It’s also quite easy to lament the social decay of a once vibrant Judeo-Christian standard of morality or to complain that certain Christian beliefs are being called into question by our culture. As modern opponents to Christianity both mock the Christian faith and make spurious and baseless claims against it, just as their earlier Roman counterparts did, some wonder how long it may be before governmental policies infringe upon the church’s free expression of those Christian convictions that are deemed unacceptable to our non-Christian culture. Amid these potential threats to our Christian comfort, however, one must wonder if we are overlooking the opportunities and possibilities that exist for advancing our faith in this modern culture. No other era in history has possessed the technologies of our age for travel, education, communication, and the advancement of the gospel. The early church thrived and advanced throughout the Roman Empire because they refused to see their pagan society as a threat to their personal wellbeing. Instead, they viewed their non-believing culture as a fertile soil into which the seeds of their Christian faith might be planted. And God brought growth to his church because of their faithfulness. When Jesus came into the world at the “fullness of time,” it was not a comfortable and accepting culture that he entered. In fact, it was a hostile culture that had no tolerance for Jesus or his message. And it was into this hostile culture that Jesus sent his followers, commissioning them to make disciples. Jesus did not promise these faithful witnesses that they would have comfort and safety, or that there would never be trials or difficulties. But he did promise that he would be with them always, “to the very end of the age.”


why won't you bless me?

Patience and Faith When Prayer Seems to Go Unanswered by: carol stine

Christians correctly believe that God will hear our prayers, answer our prayers, and bless our lives as we follow him. We cannot separate the Word from our prayer life because we learn about these beliefs in the Bible. From the Israelites’ walk through the sea, to Peter’s walk right out of shackles and a jail cell, we learn to walk with Christ, trusting in his ability and inclination to help us when we are in trouble.

Sometimes God Says No However, if we’re honest, we tend to discount the many incidents in Scripture when God delayed or denied heartfelt petitions. Job said, “There is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure” (Job 16:17, English Standard Version). He refused to give up on God and endured the kind of personal loss and suffering most of us will never experience. Job had to wait before God restored him. Habakkuk, knowing the destruction that was coming for his people, begged God to “do something.” God said, “Wait for it.” He promised to do a great work that Habakkuk could never even imagine (Habakkuk 1:1-5). Eventually he did bring salvation to his people, generations later through Jesus. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 41 : character

David cried out, “I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 143:6, 7). Jesus promised trouble—along with his presence in the midst of trouble. We expect God to do amazing work in our own lives, although sometimes our definition of amazing is different from God’s definition. If the pain and suffering lands on our own doorstep we can become confused and discouraged when it seems that God has hidden his face from us. My two-year-old granddaughter has already learned that sometimes momma and daddy say things she doesn’t want to hear. When they presume upon her will, she covers her ears and squeals a little for good measure. We don’t like it when our requests are not granted, especially when we can’t imagine any alternative. A faithful Christian will always envision how prayer requests align with the will of God. We would never seek something that is clearly against his will, so it is natural to wonder why God doesn’t answer prayer as we expect. It’s easier to cover our ears when God seems to say no and pretend we don’t hear, or worse, that God no longer loves us. Some believers teach that petitions are denied because we do not have enough faith. Well-meaning friends may suggest that some sin in our lives prevents God from granting requests. Only God knows the heart, but these may also be convenient ways to deny an inconvenient truth: Sometimes God says no even to the reasonable requests of faithful believers. Maybe a better question to ask God is, “How can I have patience and faith when you say no?” Luke records Jesus’ promise, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:9-12).


When God's Answer Seems Wrong God knows that sometimes his answer may seem wrong to us. Jesus’ question about giving a scorpion to a child is akin to, “Would your momma substitute broken glass for chocolate chips in your cookies?” Heaven forbid! But catch the insight into our soul! God knows we rely on human understanding, which sometimes causes us to be repulsed at what God allows. He gets our attention with this parable. Jesus prepared his followers for the persecution that would come. He wanted them to hold on tight even in the worst. Perhaps you’ve thought to yourself, God is all-powerful. He could stop this cancer, this natural disaster, child abuse, this _____ (fill in the blank). He insists that we not only have an ask-seek-knock faith, but that we also accept his answer with faith. With faith we must accept he would never give us anything that would harm us. He is the father who gives good gifts. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). Hugh Redwood observes that “sincere prayer is never without result. Apart from the fact that the act of prayer is in itself a blessing, I believe that God finds other uses for the trust and love in a prayer which He cannot grant. I believe that were we but willing to realize it, he turns them to our benefit.” THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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sometimes God says no even to the reasonable requests of faithful believers. maybe a better question to ask God is, "how can I have patience and faith when you say no?”


Jesus’ conclusion to the parable in Luke 11:13 speaks to the work of his Holy Spirit. He will put everything into perspective if we let him. Do not allow a misunderstanding of how God answers prayers to hinder your prayer life or your faith. We ask with earthly needs and desires in mind and he answers with heavenly, eternal realities in mind. Be careful that you do not see the bad or hard things in your life as a serpent or a scorpion. Do not insult God by rejecting the eternal value of what he allows to occur.

His Grace Is Enough

Carol Stine is a writer and speaker who lives in Florissant, Missouri. Check out her blog, Addicted to Joy (addictedtojoy.blog). THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 41 : character

Paul boldly taught that God’s grace was enough even when he did not grant relief from a crushing problem (2 Corinthians 2:8-12). Isaiah declared, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). To accomplish this he must reform us. In repentance, we yield to that work. The amazing work of salvation not only makes us fit for Heaven, but also equips us for the rest of our time in this world of trouble. God’s proclamation that “He is the potter and we are the clay” is not a punishment. It is a promise to help us reflect the glorious, victorious Christ who lives in us. Christ identified with us to save us. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). And now that we are saved we must identify with Christ. As we yield, we see life on earth through God’s eyes and understand him when he says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Lean in to God and give the burden of the outcome to him. If you have come to the end of your own will, your patience is thin, and you do not like what you have to endure, step aside and allow God to have his way. Make the conscious decision to choose God’s no over your yes.


by: Lindsey Bell

aily readin

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John 2:12-25 James 3:13-18 Ecclesiastes 5 Jeremiah 14-15

John 3:1-15 James 4:1-10 Ecclesiastes 6 Jeremiah 16-18

John 3:16-21 James 4:11-17 Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 Jeremiah 19-22

Ecclesiastes 5

Jeremiah 16-18

James 4:11-17

We all want to feel heard. We want to have someone in our lives who will listen—really listen—when we speak. Unfortunately, there are not enough good listeners in this world. Most of us are better talkers than listeners. This is even true in our relationship with God. Many of us tend to tell God what we want rather than waiting for him to speak in his still, small whisper. Ecclesiastes 5:1 reminds us to “go near to listen” to God. This week, don’t just tell God what you want from him. Rather, listen for what he wants from you.

Most of us have probably been told by a wellmeaning friend to follow our hearts. Are you unsure which career path to take? Follow your heart. Are you torn about a decision that needs to be made? Follow your heart. Unfortunately, this is misleading advice. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” Why would you want to follow a heart that is “beyond cure” as the text tells us? Instead, choose to follow God, his Word, and his Spirit within you. Though our hearts might lead us astray, we can trust these things to keep us on the correct path.

Most of us typically think of sin as doing something bad. For instance, when we lie, gossip, or lust, we sin. In our minds, sin equates to doing something wrong. It’s an action or, at the very least, a thought or a desire. What we don’t often equate with sin is inaction. James 4:17 tells us, “If anyone . . . knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Apparently, we can sin even when we do nothing. This week, don’t let sin rear its ugly head, either by your actions or by your lack thereof.

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John 3:22-36 James 5:1-6 Ecclesiastes 7:15-29 Jeremiah 23-25

John 4:1-14 James 5:7-12 Ecclesiastes 8 Jeremiah 26-29

John 4:15-26 James 5:13-20 Ecclesiastes 9 Jeremiah 30-31

John 3:22-36

Jeremiah 26-29

James 5:13-20

John the Baptist said about Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). He recognized that his job was to point people to Christ. This is an admirable goal for any Christ follower. This week, how can you make Jesus greater? How can you make him greater at home when you’re with your family? How can you make him greater when you’re at work? How can you make him greater at the coffee shop or fast food restaurant? Making Jesus greater wasn’t a job only for John the Baptist; it’s a job for each of us too.

Many of us cling to Jeremiah 29:11 in difficult times: “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” These are powerful promises. Unfortunately, many who read this verse miss the one preceding it. In verse 10, Jeremiah told the Israelites they would experience 70 years of captivity. God had plans to prosper them, but that didn’t mean it was all smooth sailing. God has good plans for us too, but they might include some difficult things. Don’t let the challenging things cause you to forget the beautiful promises.

Do you feel like your prayers are effective? Many of us have felt at times that our prayers didn’t reach much further than the ceiling. Regardless of how we may feel, James 5:16 is clear: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James goes on to remind his readers about Elijah, a man who was just like us but who prayed that it wouldn’t rain. God heard Elijah and answered his prayer, holding back the rain for over three years. It doesn’t take a superpower to move mountains; all it takes is a bold prayer.

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week 41 : daily reading

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october 21 lesson text:

Acts 8:5-24 supplemental Text:

Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Jeremiah 31:31-34 Lesson Aim:

Take care that your belief transforms your heart as well as your mind. Prepare your heart

by praying for the upcoming week of study and for the following churches. First Christian Church Waynesville, Missouri Capital City Christian Church Lincoln, Nebraska South Rock Christian Church Derby, Kansas Plymouth Church of Christ Plymouth, North Carolina

prayer journal

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the gospel

begins spreading in samaria

by: mark scott

Acts 8:5-13

Philip went “down” (north) to a city of Samaria (probably Sebaste, Shechem, or Sychar). This was not a long trip in terms of geography, but it might as well have been across the globe because “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9, English Standard Version). More than bad blood existed between these two ethnicities. From the Jewish perspective the only good Samaritan was a dead Samaritan. But a biblical understanding of the gospel causes all kinds of borders to be crossed. Philip had great success in preaching and power. The content of his preaching was about the identity of Jesus (Messiah and Christ). The evidence of the truth of his preaching was in miracles (both the casting out of demons and the healing of the lame and paralyzed—Isaiah 35:6). The joy of God filled the city. Heaven collided with earth when Simon the Sorcerer also became a believer. This religious magician had mesmerized the people of Samaria for some time. He practiced magic (basically this means that he played for the other team—see Leviticus 20:27), proclaimed himself to be great, and would later try to purchase apostolic power and position. But even Simon could tell the difference between his counterfeit ways THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 42 : study

Jesus geographically outlined the Book of Acts (Acts 1:8). He predicted the growth of the church would take place in Jerusalem (vv. 1-7), all Judea and Samaria (vv. 8-12), and to the ends of the earth (vv. 13-28). Acts 8 is the “near-far” chapter in the New Testament. The Samaritans were geographically near the new believers, but they were far away religiously. The Ethiopian Eunuch was geographically far from the new believers, but he was religiously near in faith and interest in the gospel (Acts 8:26-40). God used the persecution that happened after Stephen had been stoned to scatter the church farther into the land of Israel (Acts 8:1-3). For whatever reason, the apostles stayed behind in Jerusalem while the other believers evangelized as they went (v. 4). The rest of the chapter highlights the ministry of Philip who, like Stephen, was a Hellenistic Jewish believer and was one of the original “seven” selected to wait on tables in Acts 6:16. What happened when the gospel spread into Samaria?

Heaven and Earth Collided


and the real McCoy of the gospel. He believed and was baptized. These words are Luke’s way of talking about Christian conversion. Heaven and earth had collided.

The Holy Spirit Went Wild Acts 8:14-17

“Went wild” does not mean being out of sorts with the Bible nor does it mean being chaotic and disorderly (1 Corinthians 14:33). It simply means that when the church takes the Great Commission seriously, Holy Spirit phenomena usually results (Acts 2, 8, 10, 19). This, of course, counters the efforts of the devil to nip the growth of the church in the bud (Acts 8, 13, 16, 19). Peter and John were dispatched to Samaria to check out the revival efforts of Philip. In one of the strangest doctrinal passages in Acts we read that the apostles prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Had they not already received the Holy Spirit when they were baptized in the name of Jesus? What is going on here? Some suggest that conversion comes in two stages (initial and confirming). Some suggest that there was something inadequate in their baptism since they were simply baptized in Jesus’ name (no use of the Trinitarian formula as in Matthew 28:19, 20?). Some suggest that

while they had received the Holy Spirit as a result of their conversion (Galatians 3:3) they had not received the miraculous powers of the Spirit. (After all, Simon saw something later and evidently apostolic hands were necessary for passing on miraculous gifts). Or, could it be that God in his wisdom decided to (albeit momentarily) delay the coming of the Spirit in the conversion of the Samaritans to make clear to the apostles that God had accepted the Samaritans? Maybe Acts 8 is more about the conversion of the church (Peter and John and the mother church in Jerusalem) than the conversion of the Samaritans.

Spiritual Immaturity Was Confronted Acts 8:18-24

Perhaps Simon was not a true convert. Or perhaps he quickly slipped back into his bad past. He saw the apostles serve as instruments of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and he wanted to cash in. He even offered money to have this power (a practice later in church history known as simony). Peter had harsh words for Simon and urged his repentance. Simon seemed sincere and made a prayer request to the apostles. True conversion for Simon (and us) demands the conversion of head and heart. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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church

Dynamic koinonia. In Acts 2 fellowship was more a verb than a noun—a shared life, not just a shared meal. Jesus’ followers ate, prayed, served, and communed together. They pooled their resources, even selling their personal property if that’s what it took to meet a neighbor’s needs.

what the can't do without

by: david faust

The second chapter of Acts reveals many positive qualities for today’s church to imitate. But do you ever consider what Christ’s first-century followers had to do without?

What They Didn't Have

The Holy Spirit. Starting at Pentecost, God poured out the gift of his own indwelling presence. The first-century disciples relied on the Spirit’s power to preach, pray, and persevere when persecution arose. Inspired instruction. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (v. 42). The disciples eagerly devoured spiritual bread served up by teachers like James and John, Peter and Andrew, Matthew and Thomas, fresh from three years of “seminary” training at the feet of the Master Teacher. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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It’s fine when the church meets in attractive facilities and uses every honorable means to get the message out, but by themselves nice buildings, impressive budgets, the latest technology, and the sharpest paid staff won’t guarantee success. The church could do without those things if we had to, but we can’t do without the spiritual dynamics described in the second chapter of Acts. Without the Spirit’s power we will never duplicate the way “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (2:47). Unless we love people well and faithfully teach the Word, we’re just making noise.

week 42 : application

Despite lacking the amenities of modern life, those first-century disciples were used by God to spark a global movement that changed the course of history and impacts our lives 2,000 years later. They had several important things going for them. A clear mission. Jesus’ Great Commission rang in their ears: make disciples, baptize, and teach. The Great Commandments kept things uncomplicated: love God, love your neighbors. Unencumbered by the barnacles of tradition and propelled by the winds of grace, the Savior’s ship was free to sail.

Confidence in the resurrection. Peter declared, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it” (Acts 2:32). Since even death itself couldn’t vanquish King Jesus, his followers preached fearlessly and took risks without flinching.

A reputation for community impact. At first the church enjoyed “the favor of all the people” (v. 47). Later the church had many detractors, but who couldn’t help but be impressed by the unselfish lifestyle of a disciple like Tabitha (Dorcas) who “was always doing good and helping the poor” (9:36)?


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week

READ ACTS 8:5-13.

1. Who was Philip (Acts 6:1-6)? Why did he (and others) leave Jerusalem (Acts 7:54–8:1)? Why might it have taken an extreme situation to cause Jews to enter Samaria (John 4:9b)?

by: Jim Eichenberger

USE ONE OR BOTH OF THESE QUESTIONS TO INTRODUCE THE LESSON:

1. What comes to mind when you hear the word pioneer? What are some benefits of pioneering, breaking new ground, pushing the envelope? What risks are involved?

2. When have you pushed yourself to leave your personal comfort zone? Was it worth it? Would you do it again? Explain.

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2. Knowing the hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans, how might one rate the chance of a successful missionary effort there? What might be some reasons that the common wisdom was proven to be wrong?

3. Think of someone you know that you would consider to be the last person who would accept the gospel. What are some reasons that Simon could have been considered a person unlikely to accept Philip’s message?

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READ ACTS 8:18-24.

4. What was the role of the apostles in the early church (Acts 1:8; 2:42, 43; 5:27-32)? Do you think it would be accurate to describe Jerusalem as the headquarters of the early church at that time? If so, why is it not surprising that Peter and John would go to Samaria when they heard about what Philip was doing there?

6. When bringing the gospel into a new culture, why is it unrealistic to anticipate that new believers in that culture change completely and immediately? Why might the backsliding of Simon not be surprising? What was Peter’s approach in confronting Simon’s sliding back into his old way of thinking?

5. The lives of Samaritans were changed by Philip’s evangelistic efforts. But the church of that day changed as well. How did the membership and even prevailing attitudes change in the church because of Philip’s pioneering efforts?

7. Imagine that your church would attempt to push the envelope by starting a missionary effort in a difficult mission field (prison ministry, campus ministry, cross-cultural ministry). By reflecting on the first Samaritan believers, how would you: 1) recruit workers to be pioneers in the effort? 2) convince your congregation’s members to accept the new believers who come from a culture different than theirs? 3) anticipate challenges of the new believers in distancing themselves from their past actions and attitudes?

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week 42 : questions

READ ACTS 8:14-17.


why we went again

. . . One Missionary Couple's Motivation for Taking Christ to the Nations by: John Bliffen

Two years ago we embarked on a journey to return to full-time overseas missions. We have served with Team Expansion for the past 32 years in various mission locations. In June 1986 we left for one year of language school in Costa Rica and then served for nine years in Uruguay, South America. In 1996 we moved to Miami and served in Hispanic ministry for the next 20 years in Miami, Florida and in Memphis, Tennessee while also continuing mission trips to Cuba and Mexico as well as other Spanish speaking countries. In May 2015 we made the decision that has brought us to Spain. We arrived here in April 2017 and have been here one year working with the Team Expansion team in Granada. The Scriptures that motivated us to enter missions in the first place are still our motivation today: Matthew 28:19, 20 and Romans 10:13-15. Also, the need in Spain has been evident to us since 2008, when we were first presented with the fact that evangelical Christians made up

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only 0.7 percent of the population. (Today the percentage is closer to 1 percent). Our mission, Team Expansion, is dedicated to reaching the least reached people groups and the nation of Spain is one of the last unreached Spanish speaking populations. In 2009 we began to plan a potential transition from Miami to Spain, but circumstances beyond our control prevented us from going at that time. We moved to Memphis and I began work at Mid-South Christian College. However, I remained active in missions, going on a couple of mission trips each year and continuing to train and mobilize others to go into the field. Missions was always in my heart and in the back of my mind. The more that I encouraged others to go, the stronger the pull toward missions continued in me.

Called Again

New Challenges The first time we left for the mission field we had few possessions and were living in a rented house, having just started our family. This time we would be leaving our grown children, our

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week 42 : mission

Now let me take you back to May 2015. Becky and I were visiting our daughter Carol Marie Maxey and enjoying our time with our grandkids. We worshiped one Sunday at Western Hills Church of Christ in Cincinnati, Ohio. The minister, Dan Lang, had recently finished a sermon series based on The Story, and was speaking about the need to share the gospel with the people of Cincinnati. As I listened to the message, the Lord impressed on my heart the need to go to Spain. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but the message was unmistakable. I began to weep knowing that God was calling me to step out in faith again. As I sat there weeping, my wife put her hand on my back and asked if I was OK. During an emotional time of communion we sat together in the back and I told her what I had felt from the Lord. Then she began to weep along with me. Later as we talked about the experience and I asked her what we should do, she responded, “How can we say no?” So we said yes! After talking to our church leaders and our mission organization we began to devise a plan of action to raise support and receive training for the specific ministry we would join in Spain. It would take about two years to get everything ready. We had to transition out of ministries and jobs, sell our house, visit churches, attend training events, and apply for a religious visa from the Spanish consulate.


five grandchildren, my aging parents, and Becky’s sister who was terminally ill. We are older and have our own health issues as well. Many of our friends are retiring and we are nearing retirement age as well. Some of our friends asked, “Why are you doing this now?” Our answer was that we were being obedient to the Lord’s will for our lives. As we went through the training sessions, sometimes with couples who were going out in missions for the very first time, our colleagues said on more than one occasion, “You could be teaching these classes.” It’s true that many of the classes served more as a review for us. But it’s also true that mission strategy has changed drastically since we first began in 1986, and for us it was important to become familiar with the new terminology, the new strategies, and the changes in policies in our mission. The gospel is the same but mission strategy has changed significantly. When we arrived in Spain we found that the pioneer family of the mission was going on an extended furlough and I was asked to become the new team leader. We began to see why the Lord had called us to come to Spain at this time. Of course the challenges of life are never ending, and the distance from family is a great difficulty. Thanks to advances in technology we can talk to our kids and grandkids frequently through texts and video calls, and we are able to stay in touch with our family and friends; but it’s not the same as giving a physical hug to your children and grandchildren.

A Disciple-Making Movement Whereas our previous work was with traditional church plants, the current strategy of Team Expansion, Spain is

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"the gospel is the same but mission strategy has changed significantly."


focused on helping develop a disciple making movement among the unreached population, beginning in Granada. During the first years, the team identified 25 towns around Granada where no evangelical churches exist. We have started a prayer network of over 1,000 individuals who receive prayer updates weekly or daily and pray specifically for the establishment of a disciple making movement in Spain. (If you would like to join our prayer network, please go to www.WePray4Spain.com and enroll.) Our team conducts several weekly prayer walks in these towns for up to three months at a time. We share our testimony and share God’s story with people as we walk and pray for open hearts and open homes. Our goal is to find people of peace in many of these unreached towns (Luke 10:1-9). A person of peace is one who welcomes us into their homes, listens to God’s Word, and is willing to obey and share with others. Once these people of peace are identified, we start Discovery Bible Studies with them where they discover truths from God’s Word, agree to specific ways of obeying God, and commit to sharing with someone else. The goal is that these disciples will multiply and that these groups will also multiply and eventually become a movement. This is our first year of full implementation of this strategy. We praise God for having found one person of peace who is obeying the Lord and sharing her faith, and we continue to develop strategies for reaching others.

A Ripe Harvest

John and Becky Bliffen serve as church planting missionaries with Team Expansion, Spain. The Bliffens served for 10 years in South and Central America, 20 years in Hispanic ministries in the USA, and most recently in Spain.

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week 42 : mission

The work here is quite challenging and the hearts of the Spanish people are generally hardened by centuries of oppression from traditional Catholic religion, and a reaction against all religion in general accompanied by a turn to a secular and worldly way of life. However, we are convinced that there is a harvest here, people of peace who are seeking truth, purpose, and fulfillment in their lives. Please join us in praying that God will lead us to these people and that they will have open hearts to accept the gospel message and become disciples who make disciples.


the considerate christian by: ann l. coker

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17). My husband and I stood in line to confirm our flight schedule at the airport. A native of that country cut ahead of us without a word. Perhaps it was their custom or he had good reason, so we kept quiet. Various countries have different views about what being considerate means. Other cultures, as we have found, are not bound by schedules but wisely put people above timeliness.

What It Means to Be Considerate The writer of Proverbs repeated three words throughout the book, not always in the same order: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Before understanding a concept we need to know the facts. The application of knowledge and understanding is wisdom. James indicated that being considerate is an aspect of wisdom, not worldly wisdom but heavenly and pure. James listed several attributes of the wisdom that comes from God. Being considerate should mark a Christian’s life. But many outside the faith also value being considerate. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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I asked two acquaintances to give me examples of what it means to be considerate. One is a Christian young adult; the other has drifted away from the faith. Their answers, however, were similar. Keeping a promise ranked high on their lists, then such things as being on time and honoring a request. The conversation turned to examples associated with driving, like not cutting others off in a line of traffic and allowing another driver to take the first available parking space. Both spoke about punctuality, citing friends who don’t consider it important and who repeatedly arrive later than the arranged time. They also mentioned people who get in a rush and focus only on their own schedules.

Why Should Christians Be Considerate?

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week 42 : character

We expect a Christian to be considerate. Why is that? It must be the motivation behind the action, the reason for one’s good behavior. As we examine the connection, let’s look at the perfect example, Jesus Christ. Jesus put others’ needs before his own. Even coming from a season of prayer Jesus took time to teach, heal, and feed people. The feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21) became a touchstone of his ministry. Jesus reminded his disciples of this experience when their faith was lacking (16:9-10). In his story about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35), Jesus told of a man who took care of someone even when it meant sacrifice and a delay in his own journey. Samaritans would have been the least likely to show compassion to a Jew. When Jesus talked with the woman in Samaria (John 4:4-26), he requested that she assist him, thus showing regard for her. Jesus was considerate of others, even the least and the unlovely. As Jesus suffered on the cross he thought of his mother’s needs. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, 'Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.’” (John 19:26, 27). When we’re considerate we’re being like Christ.


Putting Others First at Home The apostle Paul instructed the church at Philippi to imitate Christ. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others” (Philippians 2:3, 4). Some translations render it, “not only looking to your own interests,” but several ancient Greek manuscripts do not include the word only, thus the NIV translation has adopted this as a more pointed command. We see this injunction lived out in marriage and family. In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck wrote, “I have defined love as the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Peck goes on to indicate that to love someone, you put that person’s interest above your own. Such biblical wisdom leads us to be considerate. Jesus’ love, agape love, showed his obedience to the Father’s will as he emptied himself and became a servant. He “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:6, 7). Our love for others will be reflected in our consideration of them, putting their interests above our own. During my preteen years my dad and I took frequent walks around our neighborhood in the evenings. Those precious times gave me a better understanding of my parents’ relationship, for Dad would encourage me to help Mother around the house. I learned to love my mother more because of my dad’s love for her. I shall never cease to be grateful for the union I have with my husband who demonstrates unconditional love. He considers me above his own feelings. He’s ready at once to forgive and show affection. As we taught values to our children, they learned early how to share and take turns, cultivating the way for being considerate of others when they reached adulthood. Values are caught as much as taught. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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As we now live in a three-generation home, each family member respects the privacy of others, paying attention to space, noise, and time. It’s important to communicate. For example, one evening, knowing that I was in charge of dinner, my grandson texted me to say he would be late and not to wait dinner on him. I appreciated his simple message.

Cultivating a Considerate Spirit

Ann L. Coker lives in a three-generation home in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she writes devotional literature and is completing her first book related to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Connect with Ann on her blog: abcoker.wordpress.com. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 42 : character

In his spiritual classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan described how the pilgrims were bathed and dressed for the remainder of their journey. Christiana, her four sons, and their friend Mercy entered the Bath. They not only washed away the filth of their travels, but they also felt energized. Afterward, their host clothed them in fresh white linen garments, and their vision surprisingly cleared. They saw others as better than themselves. How considerate is that! Paul used the imagery of clothing when writing to the Colossian church. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love” (Colossians 3:12, 14). It would suit each of us to make a practice of getting dressed each morning with the qualities found in the third chapters of James and Colossians, reciting each virtue and mentally clothing ourselves with Christ’s goodness. While this dressing requires some effort on our part—the deeds of faith as James instructs us—there is one important lesson we cannot ignore. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to grow as considerate Christians. Before we can put on the character of Christ we must acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord, surrendering to his way within our lives. This is where the character of Christ meets the mission of the church.


by: Lindsey Bell

aily readin

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John 4:27-42 1 Peter 1:1-9 Ecclesiastes 10 Jeremiah 32-34

John 4:43-54 1 Peter 1:10-16 Ecclesiastes 11 Jeremiah 35-38

John 5:1-15 1 Peter 1:17-25 Ecclesiastes 12 Jeremiah 39-43

Jeremiah 32-34

Ecclesiastes 11

John 5:1-15

Is there something you think God can’t help you with? Sometimes we feel like our prayer requests are too huge or our sins too great. We might not say aloud that we think God can’t handle them, but our actions speak louder than our words. We don’t pray because we don’t really think God will do the miracle. Or we claim God can forgive sins but struggle to believe he can forgive ours. The Lord said in Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” No sin is too bad and no prayer too big for God to handle.

Have you ever tried to understand God? Many of us have. Especially if a trial comes our way. We ask why and we seek answers. Seeking understanding isn’t wrong. In fact, many times it can lead us to deeper intimacy with God. But the truth is, we shouldn’t expect to fully understand God or his motives. That’s part of what makes him God, after all. He’s beyond understanding. In reality, it’s a good thing we can’t completely understand him. If we could, what would that say about him? He wouldn’t be much of a God if we were just as smart as he.

John 5:6 records that Jesus asked a man who could not walk, “Do you want to get well?” It would be easy to read this question and think, Why wouldn’t he want to be well? Then again, sometimes what we know, even if it’s painful, can be less scary than the unknown. Maybe the man feared change. Maybe he enjoyed the pity of others. We don’t know. What we do know is Jesus was willing to heal him. Today, whatever you are struggling with, ask yourself if you really want to be well.

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John 5:16-30 1 Peter 2:1-8 Song of Solomon 1 Jeremiah 44-46

John 5:31-47 1 Peter 2:9-17 Song of Solomon 2 Jeremiah 47-48

John 6:1-15 1 Peter 2:18-25 Song of Solomon 3 Jeremiah 49

Jeremiah 44-46

1 Peter 2:9-17

John 6:1-15

When Jeremiah warned the Israelites about their idolatry, they replied, “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 44:16). It’s easy to judge these people harshly because they rejected God so openly. Nonetheless, we sometimes react in a similar way when someone tries to convict us about our sin. For instance, when the preacher delivers a message about a sin we struggle with, we might ignore the message, say he’s out of touch, or get angry. The next time you begin to feel convicted about sin, don’t get angry. Get repentant.

Peter told his readers to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (verse 12). How many unbelievers have you led to the throne of God this year through your behavior? The sad reality is, many unbelievers think less of God, rather than more of him, because of the actions, words, and behavior of those who claim to follow Jesus. This week aim to change minds. Be the one who leads people to glorify God because of your speech, actions, and love.

When Jesus asked his disciples where they could buy food to feed the people, Philip immediately thought about the cost. “It would take more than half a year’s wages,” he said in verse 7. When you see a need, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Do you think first of how much meeting the need would cost? Or do you think of the person behind the need? Jesus thought of the person. Though there is wisdom in counting the cost, there’s also much to be said about faith. Don’t let finances cause you to miss the person behind the need.

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week 42 : daily reading

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october 28 lesson text:

Acts 9:1-20 Lesson Aim:

Even when people are doing their very worst, God can mercifully intervene. Prepare your heart

by praying for the upcoming week of study and for the following churches. Blachleyville Church of Christ Wooster, Ohio Rummel Church of the Brethren Windber, Pennsylvania Chapel Church of Christ Montpelier, Virginia Walnut Christian Church Johnson City, Tennessee

prayer journal

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paul's (saul's) ministry

begins

by: mark scott

Paradigm Shift #1: From Seeing to Blind Acts 9:1-9

These verses cannot be overstated. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus was so significant that Luke repeated the story (giving additional details each time) three times (9:1-20; 22:3-21; 26:2-23). Paul also told his story in some of his letters (Galatians 1:13-16; 1 Timothy 1:12-17). Saul had already been introduced into the narrative (Acts 7:58; 8:1, 3). He disappeared from the narrative while the gospel spread to Samaria, but now he returned and became a major player in the drama of redemptive history. Saul was sincere but sincerely wrong. He believed he was right and the Christians were wrong. In reality he was blind and the early disciples had 20/20 vision. Saul continued his persecution of Christians by asking for letters (warrants of arrest) to the synagogues in Damascus (one of the oldest cities in the world and mentioned in our text five times). Saul helped expand the geographic persecution of those who belonged to the Way (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 43 : study

Acts 9 is a bridge chapter. The gospel had spread to the Samaritans, and, through the Eunuch, to Ethiopia as well (Acts 8). But for the gospel to spread to the Gentile world (Acts 10) leadership would be key. Acts 9 is about the two leaders of the early church, Peter and Paul. Peter was the apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2:8), but he opened the door of the church to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, but went when he entered a city he consistently went to the Jewish synagogue (Acts 13:5). Acts 9 records the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (vv. 1-20) and some of the early miracles of Peter (vv. 32-43). These two men were the pillars that held up the bridge so that all nations could cross over to God. In a manner of speaking both leaders needed a conversion. Saul would have to be converted to move from persecutor to preacher. And Peter would need to be reconverted to move from announcing that God would pour out his Spirit on all people (Acts 2:16-21) to really embracing the idea (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-17). There was another person who would need a conversion of sorts, and that was Ananias. Each of these men needed a paradigm shift.


Saul no doubt headed out of Jerusalem through the Damascus Gate. While nearing Damascus a light from heaven flashed around him. It was about noon (Acts 26:13), but this light was not the light from the sun—it was from Heaven. In God’s tender mercy Saul was confronted for his persecution of Christians. To hurt a believer is to hurt Christ. Jesus has great solidarity with his people and does not take lightly to their persecution. Jesus repeated Saul’s name twice (emphasis?). This would get even the most stoic person’s attention. God told Saul to go (a word that appears three times in our text) into the city. Saul’s companions heard something, but they were not privy to the visionary part of the Christophany. Paul opened his eyes but was blind and remained that way for three days. He even imposed a fast, no doubt to contemplate what all of this meant. He would experience a new paradigm.

Paradigm Shift #2: From Objection to Compliance Acts 9:10-20

Saul was not the only one who experienced a paradigm shift. A Christian living in Damascus by the name of Ananias (not the same as Acts

5:3 or 23:2) also had one. The Lord commissioned Ananias to go to Saul and further bring about his conversion and heal his eyes. God was even working ahead of Ananias by giving Saul a vision about Ananias. The Lord gave Ananias the name of the home owner as well as the street (Straight Street is in Damascus to this day). Ananias had good reason to object to the Lord’s commission. He had heard reports of Saul’s “bad deeds” toward believers. He was also aware of the current mission Saul was on with letters from the high priest. But the Lord repeated his command for Ananias to go and mentioned three things about Saul: 1) His chosenness (even though he could elect to say no to it—Acts 26:19). 2) His mission (preaching to the Gentiles, Roman officials, and Israel). 3) His suffering (Saul would have his own passion experience). Ananias complied, went, laid his hands on Saul, and healed him. He probably baptized him into Christ. Saul ended his fast, spent time with the Damascus believers, and started his mission of preaching. One can be sincere and be sincerely wrong, but God’s tender mercy can turn even terrorists into believers. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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Caring for Our Souls

maintenance required

by: david faust

Just as it takes regular maintenance to keep a car functioning at peak performance, a healthy soul requires an ongoing posture of humble, obedient faith. The fellow we call Simon the Sorcerer “boasted that he was someone great” (Acts 8:9) and tried to manipulate God’s power for his own selfish ends, which is a prescription for spiritual engine failure. Simon took a THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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positive step when he was baptized into Christ, but afterward his soul required ongoing maintenance. He needed to repent and pray for the Lord’s forgiveness to ensure faith transformed his heart as well as his mind. Staying Close to the Father

A friend of mine has two sons whose personalities are wired very differently. As a young boy, one son moved slowly. He had trouble keeping up and usually dawdled along behind the family. His brother was just the opposite. Quick moving and easily distracted, he would run ahead and wander off. One day the family went shopping in a large store, and as usual the slowwalking boy lagged behind while his wayward brother sprinted off. My friend decided to follow the straying son, and watched him from a distance to see what he would do. Suddenly the boy realized he was lost and started to cry. A store worker rushed over just as the father stepped in and scooped up his little boy. The dad told the store worker, “He just needs to learn to be with me.” I wonder if the heavenly Father says the same thing about us? To maintain spiritual health, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).

week 43 : application

My cell phone is a treasure chest of untapped potential. The device contains several features I don’t understand and apps I’ll never use. Speaking of untapped potential, the speedometer in my car indicates my little sedan is capable of going 140 miles per hour, but I’ve seldom driven it more than half its maximum speed. (Maybe the car manufacturer should give me a refund.) An indicator light on the dashboard demands my attention. In bright yellow letters it says MAINT REQD, the car’s way of reminding me it’s time to change the oil. I can disregard the tachometer and pay only passing attention to the cruise control button. But I dare not ignore the basics like keeping the tires properly inflated, changing the oil, and making sure the brakes work right.

You and I aren’t equipped with yellow lights that let us know when our souls require maintenance, but if we pay attention it’s clear when something is out of whack. Does your heart lack love? MAINT REQD! Do you have a critical spirit? Have you grown apathetic toward God’s Word? Do you have an aversion to prayer? Are you growing weary in well-doing? MAINT REQD! Caution lights like these foreshadow impending breakdowns in our relationships with God and others. When such warning signs appear, it’s time to pull over for a rest stop. On one occasion Jesus pulled his disciples aside and said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). If your soul requires more serious repairs, perhaps a wise Christian friend or counselor could help. “The wise listen to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).


43

week

READ ACTS 9:1-9.

1. Compare Acts 9:1-9 to Acts 22:3-8; 26:4-15; Galatians 1:13, 14; 1 Timothy 1:12-15. From these passages, try to create a list of positive and a list of negative characteristics of Saul (Paul).

by: Jim Eichenberger

USE ONE OR BOTH OF THESE QUESTIONS TO INTRODUCE THE LESSON:

1. For what types of jobs are you especially qualified? What would you say to a prospective employer who asked, “Why should we hire you?”

2. Note where Saul’s persecution began (Acts 8:3) and where it went from there (9:1, 2). Locate both cities on a map. Note that Acts 26:11 implies that even more cities were involved. Looking at the map, tell what some of them might be. What does the area encompassed between Jerusalem and Damascus tell us about Paul’s religious zeal (Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14)?

2. What qualifies someone to be a minister of the gospel? Imagine you were on a pulpit committee for your congregation, searching for a new minister. What qualifications would impress you? What qualities of a person would keep you from considering that candidate?

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3. What immediate physical limitations would Saul’s blindness have caused? How do you think these physical limitations would have prepared Saul for the changes coming in his life? Note how blindness is often used in Scripture to describe a spiritual state (Isaiah 44:9; Matthew 23:17, 19, 24; John 9:39-41). Since Saul was undoubtedly aware of this metaphor, describe some of the thoughts he might have had during his three days of blindness.

5. The grace of God was more than grace to a persecutor, but part of a much larger plan of grace. Describe that plan (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Galatians 2:7-9).

6. Compare Ananias’s statements and commands concerning Saul’s conversion (Acts 9:17-19; 22:16) to Peter’s command to the first believers on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:28-40). Although Saul’s conversion was unique in many ways, how was it like the conversion of every believer throughout the centuries?

READ ACTS 9:10-20.

4. The believer in Damascus, Ananias (Hananiah), had a popular Hebrew name (Acts 5:1; 23:2; 1 Chronicles 25:23; Jeremiah 36:12; Daniel 1:6). How did God’s command to Ananias confirm the truth of the meaning of his name, “the Lord is gracious”?

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week 43 : questions

7. Today’s text is bracketed by a radical before and after contrast (Acts 9:1, 20). What made this dramatic difference? How does Saul’s experience challenge us to rethink the qualities that qualify or disqualify someone for ministry?


faith and science

. . . a partnership

by: Dr. Sharon R. Bloch

As a Christian and a scientist I’m often asked how I can be both. My initial response is, “How can I not be?” Scripture is replete with references to how God’s attributes are displayed in nature (consider Psalm 19:1; Psalm 139:14; and Romans 1:20 just to name a few) and throughout history men and women of faith have studied nature because of, not in spite of, their faith. Some of them described their scientific studies as a holy activity and even a duty, on the same level as Bible study. While prominent atheist Richard Dawkins would like you to believe in the myth of the atheist scientist working to stamp out religious belief, in reality that is just a myth. In fact, a 2010 comprehensive study of nearly 1,700 elite scientists from around the world found that nearly half of them identified as being religious, while only 34 percent described themselves as atheists.

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The Natural Philosophers Before the development of modern science there was natural philosophy, the practice of studying nature and the physical world as a way to understand how things worked. The field was dominated by the ideas of Aristotle who spoke of “causes” that explain why things behave has they do. Aristotle’s ultimate “final cause” existed outside of the thing itself and was the reason for the thing’s being. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) was a German Dominican friar who taught theology and also studied and wrote extensively about a wide range of topics in both the physical and life sciences, including botany, astronomy, zoology, and alchemy, the forerunner of modern chemistry. He and his student Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) sought to develop a natural philosophy that operated within a Christian worldview, sometimes described as “Christianizing Aristotle.” When Magnus wrote that one should seek to “investigate the causes that are at work in nature” he understood that God was the final cause Aristotle was looking for.

The Scientific Revolution (c. 1543-late 1700s)

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week 43 : mission

It is no accident that the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution occurred in roughly the same time and place. The mid-16th century was a time of tremendous societal change. While Martin Luther and the reformers were rethinking how the church operated, natural philosophers were reconsidering their ideas about how the universe itself operated. Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, and many others were Christians who firmly believed in a God who was rational. It followed that a rational God would create a world that operated according to rational laws. Further, they believed that God endowed humans with the ability to reason so that we would be able to discern these laws. German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), best known for developing the mathematical laws of planetary motion, wrote, “It is a right, yes a duty, to search in a cautious manner for the numbers, sizes, and weights, the norms for everything [God] has created. For He himself has let man take part in the knowledge of these things . . . . For these secrets are not of the kind whose research should be forbidden; rather they are set before our eyes like a mirror so that by examining them we observe to some extent the goodness and wisdom of the Creator.” Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) believed that God designed the universe along mathematical principles, and that this design could be seen in the symmetry found in nature. He also believed that Christians have a duty to study this design and that doing so is an


act of worship. He wrote, “To know the mighty works of God, to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful workings of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than knowledge.”

Natural Theology and Faith in the Age of Reason Advances in science led to the period known as the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason (mid 17th to early 18th century). This period was characterized by an increase in skepticism, particularly of religious doctrine, and the rise of secularism. Some saw the increase in scientific knowledge as a threat to religion. However, a number of Christian scientists believed in natural theology, the idea that proof of God’s existence could be seen in nature, and saw the rise in science as a good thing because they could use science to demonstrate God’s involvement in the universe. For these scientists, the study of nature was a religious duty. One such scientist was Robert Boyle (1627-1691) who is widely regarded as the father of modern chemistry. Boyle was a devout Christian who wrote extensively about theology, particularly about the study of nature as a Christian vocation. He personally financed translation of the Bible into a number of languages and supported missionary organizations. Boyle was highly critical of Aristotle’s ideas and the practice of speaking about “Nature” as a personified intelligent driving force, calling the idea of placing something between God and his creation “idolatrous.” Boyle wrote a number of works on apologetics and the use of the design in nature as a way to “acknowledge God, to admire him, and to thank him.” One of Boyle’s last works, The Christian Virtuoso (1690) summarized his ideas about scientific study as a form of worship and his vision of the scientist as priest. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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"as a christian and a scientist I’m often asked how I can be both. my initial response is, “how can I not be?”


Faith and Science Today

Dr. Sharon R. Bloch is an associate professor of science at Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Illinois. Prior to joining the faculty at LCU she was a senior scientist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.

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week 43 : mission

More than 200 years after the Enlightenment, Christians still find the motivation to study science rooted in their faith. One prominent voice in the discussion of the relationship between science and faith is American paleontologist Peter Dodson. A leading expert on dinosaurs and self-described “deeply committed Christian,” Dodson has written extensively on the relationship between science and faith. In his essay “Science and Faith in Dialogue,” Dodson recounts his experiences growing up Christian with an interest in science. He writes that throughout his education he never saw a conflict between studying science and being a Christian. It was only after Dodson was well into his career that a seminar speaker raised the issue, saying that one cannot be a scientist and believe in God. Struck by the idea that science and faith were incompatible, Dodson sought out other scientists who are Christians and found many. Dodson sees himself as part of the long tradition of scientists who viewed studying nature as a way of learning about God. He writes, “Many of the great scientists who pioneered the development of science, Kepler, Copernicus, Newton, Linnaeus, Buckland to name but a few, regarded their activities as studying the Creator through his works.” Describing his interest in science, he says, “For me, doing science is an act of worship, exploring the richness of God’s creation.” Also notable is American astronomer Jennifer J. Wiseman. Although Wiseman is emphatic about not using science to prove God exists, she is inspired to study the universe to learn more about the majestic nature of God and describes science as “a godly activity” and “an instrument of worship.” Wiseman says that when we view science through the eyes of faith, “One can look at some of the things we see in the universe and infer some characteristics of God. Such characteristics could include God’s apparent love of beauty, color, faithfulness, unfathomable magnitude, and even life itself.” In addition to her research, Wiseman is a popular speaker and writer and a leader in supporting young Christians pursuing scientific studies. Wiseman is president of The American Scientific Affiliation, an international organization for Christians in the sciences.


truth and

transformation

by: Thilini Cate

Truth “Is, has been, shall be. . . without Truth, philosophy moves to the existential, art moves to the sensual, religion moves to the mystical, education moves to the skeptical, and individuals move to the transcendental.” These words of renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias accentuate the impact of a faulty interpretation of truth. Our culture is in constant pursuit of its acceptance. It claims that truth is relative, evolved, segregated, existential, and experiential. It suggests that the standard of truth is entirely subjective. It persuades that truth should be navigated through individual exegesis. However, Scripture refutes these notions and identifies truth as a personal being. John 14:6 declares that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, while Hebrews 13:8 affirms that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever—meaning, truth is, has been, and shall be. Here, Jesus represents all three truths at once, in agreement, in unchanging and perfect form. Therefore, we can be assured that a conflict between these three would not be the truth. Truth is absolute, steadfast, immutable, and its standard is God. It is only truth upon which humanity may exist and prevail. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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Know Truth, Know the Lie

Transformation Prior to the digital age, most of us recorded pictures on film which had to be developed in a dark room. Conditions in the dark room had to be carefully controlled in order to achieve the desired result. In a similar way, our destiny is only achieved through a slow and careful process of transformation guided by God’s hands. God’s desire is to take us into a dark room of anonymity, develop us in obscurity, and imprint his image on us, so that we may be exposed to the light, and propelled into our destiny. We will never reach our destiny until we become like him. And becoming like him is a transformation that occurs in the unknown, side-by-side, step-by-step, with him. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 43 : character

Lies are unrecognizable without truth. For instance, at some point in our lives, we’ve all found ourselves wrestling with unrecognizable voices of self-doubt. We then legitimize these doubts through the lens of societal standards and humanistic values, creating a pathway to self-deterioration. Eventually, we accept those claims and profess them as truth, initiating a slow process of spiritual, mental, and emotional self-sabotage. Lies work each time, unless you know the truth. Saul had surrendered to his personal lies, by way of pride, prior to his encounter with Christ (see Acts 7:58 8:3; 9:1, 2, 22:3-5, 26:10, 11). He was proud of his ideologies, his work ethic, his ancestry, and his beliefs. But in the presence of God’s truth and its revelation, none of Paul’s personal lies mattered. The one thing that mattered was God’s destiny for him. When you know the truth, you are equipped with the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to discern the lie. Proverbs 2:6 says, “The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding,” while Isaiah 11:2 confirms that the Spirit of the Lord contains the Spirit of wisdom, of understanding, and of knowledge. Therefore, to receive the correct form of truth, it must be viewed through a biblical lens.


Reconfiguration After Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Saul was blind (we might say, “in the dark room”) for three days, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally undone. He was vulnerable and fearful, unable to influence what he could not see. He sensed his old soul being revamped, restored, rejuvenated, and reconstructed. By the time he came out of his dark room he had surrendered his physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental authorities to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Transformation occurs when God establishes his destiny within us, for his pleasure, his work, and his purpose. God took a man with the loyalty of a Semitic, the passion of a Roman, and the ingenuity of a Greek and transformed him into a powerful vessel for his glory—a proclaimer of Christ’s deity and Messiahship.

Journeying Through Truth and Transformation “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Beloved poet and author Maya Angelou’s words embody the truth behind the beauty of God’s image in us, and the preparation, patience, and persistence required to remain confident in that truth while venturing through transformation toward our destinies. How we interpret the truth directly affects our transformation and how we respond to that transformation directly impacts our destiny. When we believe who we are, based on his truth and his transformation, our spheres of life become engineered for success. Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The Greek word for workmanship sometimes has the connotation of a “work of art” while the phrase “prepared in advance” carries forward the theme of God’s sovereign purpose and planning. The charge in Ephesians 4:24 coincides with this verse and speaks of creating a “new self” within the context of his truth and transformation, to be “like God.” It refers less to the indwelling of Christ or an essential nature (both achieved as a new believer), but more to the kind of person he desires to produce in a believer. Essentially, a new way of life that is “put on” positionally at conversion, and experientially as a Christian. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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Thilini Cate is an educator and a writer who is passionate about equipping individuals in both local and global capacities. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership while traveling for the purpose of experiencing various cultures and people across the world.

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week 43 : character

Acts 9:3-6 offers four scriptural principles for our journey of truth and transformation into becoming men and women of Christ. A revelation that led to intervention (v. 3). The light through which God revealed himself to Saul created a physical disorientation that caused him to fall. God typically shows up most frequently and most unexpectedly when we are on a path we control, and will cause deliberate physical, spiritual, and mental setbacks so he may regain control. Learn to discern between deceiving destinations and divine detours, as one will lead to your destruction and the other to your destiny. An inquiry that led to grace (vv. 4, 5). God asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?” revealing to Saul the true object of his persecution. This revelation of personhood was so evidential that it compelled Saul to question its authority (“Who are you Lord?”). The person of God is revealed through his grace and where Saul’s sin abode, God’s grace was greater (Romans 5:20). Our redemption depends on God’s grace, an essential truth to understand and impart as we journey toward our destiny. A statement that led to intention (v. 5). The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” God exposed Saul’s sin not to humiliate him, but to humble him. Later we see the outcome of this moment when “at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (vv. 20-22). Likewise, we must be spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and morally undone before God can use us to make an impact. A command that led to purpose (v. 6). “Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” This instantly launched Saul into a new purpose. His imprint on humanity was so significant that he came to be known as the founder of Christianity. Paul’s message became a declaration of what he himself had become convinced of on the Damascus road: Christ’s deity. God’s message will never deter from his Son (Hebrews 1:1-4). His bottom line was, is, and will always be Jesus, and he will use his transformed followers to point the lost and broken to Jesus.


by: Lindsey Bell

aily readin

1

2

3

John 6:16-24 1 Peter 3:1-7 Song of Solomon 4:1-7 Jeremiah 50

John 6:25-40 1 Peter 3:8-12 Jeremiah 51

John 6:41-59 1 Peter 3:13-22 Song of Solomon 5 Jeremiah 52

Song of Solomon 4:1-7

John 6:25-40

1 Peter 3:13-22

Though Song of Solomon can make some believers uncomfortable, it’s included in the Bible for good reason. One reason is to remind readers that God designed sexuality. In Song of Solomon 4:1-7, Solomon praised the feminine figure of his beloved. He described her eyes, hair, neck, breasts, and even her teeth. The language he used might sound strange to us today, but the message is clear: her beauty impressed Solomon, and he wasn’t afraid to tell her about it. Today, if you’re married, tell your spouse why you love him or her, and be specific!

Why do you follow Jesus? In this text, Jesus realized that the crowd of people who came to him on the other side of the lake followed him not because they wanted to get to know him better but because of what he might be able to give them. They followed him because he had fed them miraculously on the other side of the lake. They were self-centered. Today, there are still many people who follow Jesus for selfish reasons. What about you? Don’t follow Jesus because of what you hope he can give you; follow him because of what he has already done.

Peter encouraged his readers to be ready to explain why they had hope (v. 15). This tells us two things. First, it tells us we need to be prepared. We should be ready anytime, anywhere to tell others about our hope. Second, it tells us we need to have— and demonstrate—a kind of hope the unbelieving world lacks. The unfortunate reality is that many Christians don’t look any more hopeful than their unbelieving friends. Why would anyone ask us about our hope when we don’t appear hopeful? This week remember why you’re hopeful and be ready to tell others about it.

Song of Solomon 4:8-16

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4

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John 6:60-71 1 Peter 4:1-11 Song of Solomon 6 Lamentations 1

John 7:1-13 1 Peter 4:12-19 Song of Solomon 7 Lamentations 2

John 7:14-24 1 Peter 5:1-7

Lamentations 1

John 7:1-13

1 Peter 5:1-7

In the book of Jeremiah the prophet spent the majority of his time warning the Israelites to repent. Later, in the book of Lamentations, he lamented that they did not. By outward appearances it would seem that Jeremiah failed in his task. The people refused to turn from their sins and subsequently were led into captivity. Outward appearances, though, can be wrong. The truth is, Jeremiah was faithful in his call. Even though the people did not always listen to him, Jeremiah did as God told him to do. God’s definition of success is faithfulness, and by this definition, Jeremiah succeeded.

John 7:13 says that none of the people would say anything about Jesus because they were afraid of the religious leaders. Have you ever been afraid to speak out for Jesus? Maybe you don’t want to appear different from everyone else at work. Maybe you’re afraid of what people will think or say about you. It’s true that being a Christian should make you different. But being different isn’t always a bad thing. This week don’t be afraid to speak out for Jesus. Sure, it might make you stand out. But in this case, being different is exactly how you should be.

Have you ever served because you felt like you had to, rather than because you wanted to? Most of us probably have. We say yes to something out of obligation, instead of saying yes because we actually want to do it. Peter admonished elders in 1 Peter 5 to be eager to serve, rather than serving out of obligation. It’s good advice to all of us, even if we’re not leading a church. This week, when you’re serving those around you, remind yourself that you don’t have to serve them; you get to serve them.

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Lamentations 3

week 43 : daily reading

THE LOOKOUT

Song of Solomon 8:1-7


november 4 lesson text:

Acts 10:28-48 supplemental Text:

Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7 Lesson Aim:

God includes all in his church. Prepare your heart

by praying for the upcoming week of study and for the following churches. Monroe Church of Christ Monroe, Oregon First Christian Church Wheatland, Wyoming Lamar Christian Church Baldwin, Georgia Vine Grove Christian Church Vine Grove, Kentucky

prayer journal

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gentile inclusion in the

church

by: mark scott

Years ago Dr. Marshall Leggett was preaching on Acts 10, 11 at Broadway Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, and his opening line of the message was, “That door just keeps getting wider.” One cannot read the Book of Acts without being impressed with the wide embrace of the inclusiveness of God. Acts is the story of an unhindered church that includes all people—Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28). God includes all. Luke’s story of Cornelius (a Roman centurion) celebrates that truth.

Getting Peter on Board Acts 10:28, 29

Bringing in Cornelius Acts 10:30-33

Almost without exception (though see Acts 27:11) centurions get good press in the Bible, and Cornelius is no exception. He rehearsed in Peter’s hearing the details of Acts 10:1-8. Cornelius testified as to the day and time of the angelic visitation. He quoted the affirmation that the angel delivered from God. He gave context for his request for Peter to come from a tanner’s house in Joppa (think back to the prejudicial prophet Jonah who boarded a ship at Joppa) to Caesarea. “We are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” It does not get any better than that for a preacher. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 44 : study

Christian maturity does not occur instantaneously. Peter struggled with God’s inclusiveness (Acts 10:14; Galatians 2:11-14). Old habits die hard. But by the third time (Peter seems to like the number three; see John 13:38; 21:17) that the vision occurred (Acts 10:16), Peter was beginning to understand the wideness in God’s mercy. Once inside Cornelius’s house, Peter affirmed his old prejudice (it is not lawful for a Jew to associate—

be joined to—with a Gentile) but also affirmed his new perspective (God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean). Peter realized that his vision was not about the Levitical dietary code. It was about people. One has to laugh when reading Acts 10:29. “Came without raising objection?” Luke must have grinned when he wrote that.


Tying the Gospel to the Event Acts 10:34-43

This is not just a nice story of people willing to lay down their prejudices and live in harmony. This story is really at the heart of the gospel. Peter ties the person and work of Christ to what is happening in Cornelius’s house. Peter’s lead line is Acts 10:34. God does not play favorites (literally “does not regard the face of a person”). God accepts (welcomes or receives) people from every nation (ethnic group) who believe in the finished work of Christ and strive to live out the righteousness that comes from that. In Acts 10:36 Peter launched into his “kerugma” (Christian message). In many ways, this paragraph is a summary of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The gospel story contains many parts: God sent Jesus to fulfill his promise to Israel. Jesus announced (evangelized) peace and became peace to make people one (Ephesians 2:14). Jesus’ formal beginning to his ministry started with his baptism and continued through his three-year ministry of doing good and healing people (1 John 3:8). Jesus’ ministry was conducted publicly. People witnessed his murder as well as God’s resurrection of him on the third day. Peter confirmed that Jesus had commissioned the apostles to preach that he was the coming judge at the end of

time. Therefore, forgiveness is offered to everyone who believes in him. Jesus is the exclusive Savior from the inclusive God. The true nature of the gospel is inextricably linked to this event in Cornelius’s house.

Affirming with the Power of the Spirit Acts 10:44-48

The God of patience was very impatient in Caesarea. Before Peter could finish his remarks, God acted dramatically from Heaven. The Holy Spirit came on the hearers. The Holy Spirit was poured out on this Gentile household as he had been poured out on the day the church began (Acts 2:1-4). The Jewish believers who had come with Peter were astonished (literally “to stand outside of oneself”). They were essentially witnessing the Gentile Pentecost. “Came on,” “poured out,” and “gift of” were synonymous expressions of the baptism of the Spirit. The evidence for such was speaking in tongues (now just the second time that gift was activated in Acts). If this event was parallel to Pentecost, then water baptism logically followed. Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of (literally “hinder”) water baptism. Cornelius’ household was baptized, and Peter stayed for a few days. Cornelius may have said, “I cannot believe I get in.” Peter may have said, “Pass the bacon.” THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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small paul by: david faust

More Than a Speck

Do you ever feel like you are nothing more than a tiny speck on planet Earth? With over seven billion people sharing space on this globe, do our individual lives matter? Only God knows the total significance of a solitary human life. What if a smart, stubborn man named Saul of Tarsus never existed? What if he never experienced a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus? What if a relatively obscure Christ-follower named Ananias had refused to visit, teach, pray for, and baptize the intimidating enemy of the church THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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who became the apostle Paul? His name Paulos in Greek meant “little.” He considered himself “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9), and he endured a nagging “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7), but what would the world be like without him? Without “little” Paul, we would miss more than a dozen books of the New Testament. Without “small” Paul’s inspired pen we wouldn’t have the classic exposition of God’s grace in the book of Romans or the poetic description of love in First Corinthians 13. There’s nothing small about his impact. A Pharisee well-schooled in the Hebrew Scriptures, he was at the same time a Greek-speaking Roman citizen uniquely equipped for missionary service. God transformed him from a cold-hearted opponent of the church to a zealous proponent who introduced the gospel to Western culture. The world would be a very different place if “small Paul” never lived. Never underestimate what the Lord can do in your life. You’re not just a meaningless speck in the universe. Like Paul, you’re created in God’s image, redeemed by Christ’s blood, empowered by the Holy Spirit, equipped to be a vessel of grace. Your life has immeasurable value. Period.

week 44 : application

They’re almost too small to see, but it’s hard to imagine what we would do without them. This page contains dozens of them, but if I didn’t point them out you would never notice them. By the time you finish reading this sentence three of them already will have passed your eyes, but you weren’t aware of them. I’m talking about the tiny punctuation marks we call periods. These little specks of printed ink play a vital role in written communication. Once in a while they flex their muscles and join together in ellipses . . . but most of the time periods stand alone. Though small and obscure, they dig in their tiny heels and bring our written thoughts to a full stop, ending sentences in their tracks. Periods allow us to abbreviate and write “Mr.” instead of “Mister,” “Dr.” instead of “Doctor,” and “St.” instead of “Saint.”

They show up in mathematics, too. It would be harder to talk about percentages without decimal points. Imagine how cumbersome it would be if instead of saying “4.3 per cent” the bank had to advertise mortgage rates by saying “four and three-tenths per cent.” Decimal points come in handy in athletics as well. Baseball hitters want their batting average to be above .300 and pitchers aim for an earned run average under 3.00. These humble dots squirm their way into economics and politics (“The unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent this year”). Periods even make their mark in chemistry, lending their name to the periodic table.


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week

READ ACTS 10:28-33.

1. Acts 10:28, 29 is Peter’s summary of the events described in verses 9-23. Do you think Peter left out some significant information when summarizing his experience? Explain.

by: Jim Eichenberger

USE ONE OR BOTH OF THESE QUESTIONS TO INTRODUCE THE LESSON:

1. Comedian Groucho Marx is famous for saying, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” What did he mean by that? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.

2. Acts 10:30-33 is Cornelius’s summary of the events of verses 1-8. In verse 4, the angel mentioned Cornelius’s “prayers,” but when Cornelius retold it, he said that his “prayer” was heard (v. 31). What would you speculate was the basic request of Cornelius?

2. What is the difference between being exclusive and being inclusive? When is exclusivity preferable? When is inclusivity preferable?

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READ ACTS 10:34-43.

READ ACTS 10:44-48.

3. Notice that Luke describes Cornelius, his family, and one of his soldiers as being “devout” (vv. 2, 7). Luke uses a similar Greek word to describe Gentiles who attended Jewish synagogues but who did not convert to Judaism (13:50; 16:14; 17:4, 17). Why do you think that God chose people described that way to be the first nonJewish members of the church? Why might this explain why Peter could repeat the words “you know” when addressing the friends and family of Cornelius (10:36, 37)?

5. The reaction of the Jewish Christians accompanying Peter was astonishment. Why? Explain why this unmistakable act of God’s power was necessary, given that Peter would open the door for Gentiles to enter the church. What vital role did these circumcised believers play when Peter was later criticized for his actions (Acts 11:1-3, 12, 18)?

6. Although Peter stayed with the Gentile believers and presumably took meals with them, he would later temporarily bow to the pressure of Jewish believers (Galatians 2:11-14). Why are these wrong actions easy to understand nonetheless? What is necessary in our congregations to keep favoritism from creeping in?

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7. Today many would argue that being inclusive as a church is the same as unconditional acceptance. What guidelines can we use to help us see whether we are excluding honest seekers or excusing ongoing sinful behavior?

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week 44 : questions

4. Verses 39-43 contain the basic words of the typical apostolic sermon—a summary of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, the fact that the resurrection had multiple eyewitnesses, and that these events were predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures. Compare that outline to Paul’s words that he claims to have received from others (1 Corinthians 15:3-7). Why are these facts essential to the proclamation of our faith?


to the

ends of the earth

by: T. R. Robertson

Jesus’ last words to his disciples were a stirring charge to spread the gospel beyond the comfortable homelands of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, all the way to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). They quickly discovered that some of the places at the known ends of the earth were not entirely hospitable to the gospel. First century trailblazers encountered skepticism, resistance, riots, violence, persecution, imprisonment, and death. And yet the gospel spread and the church thrived even in the most difficult places. Christians in the 21st century are still working to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, in places unknown to those original missionaries. And today’s trailblazers are still encountering extreme resistance in some countries. And yet the gospel continues to spread and the church still thrives in the most unexpected of places. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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Closed Nations For 17 years in a row, North Korea has been ranked #1 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the most oppressive environments for Christianity. Even as hesitant steps are taken toward peace and reconciliation between North and South Korea, the totalitarian government of the north is still not welcoming to Christians. And yet there are thousands of Christians in North Korea, according to Dr. Yoon Kwon Chae of Korean Christian Gospel Mission. “By the reports of foreign visitors who were thoroughly screened by the North Korean government, we are convinced of the existence of the underground churches,” Dr. Chae wrote in a recent online newsletter. “They cannot meet publicly, of course. They meet secretly and sing hymns without making sounds or by using the melody of government songs. They read the scriptures by memory and whisper sermons. We have a secretly delivered letter from a converted Christian which says, “I am no longer a Socialist, nor a Capitalist, but I am a Jesusist.” North Korea is just one of many nations where the gospel is changing lives in spite of extreme opposition. Central Asia Christian Mission reports they have started 75 house churches in one of the most restricted nations in the world (unidentified to protect the church there). They tell of baptizing entire families who repented and turned to Christ. China is ranked 43rd on the World Watch List, but as recently as 2000 it was listed at number 3 overall. Over the past two decades secretive house churches have spread like wildfire through much of the country. The largest Protestant or Independent Christian denomination in the world is the network of Han house churches in China, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.

Violent Nations Even in countries where Christianity is the predominant religion, life for active and vocal believers can be difficult. In most Central and South American countries, around 95 percent of the population is considered to be Christian (85-90 percent Roman Catholic). But in countries like Mexico and THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 44 : mission

Firm numbers are hard to come by for a movement that operates underground, but organizations involved in supporting those house churches estimate there may be 100 million or more Christians participating. Many believers are drawn by access to the broad and diverse social network provided by the house church network, a factor that mirrors the rapid growth of the first century church. The extended Christian community also provides access to Bible-based homeschools for children, as well as medical, financial, and other support for families.


Colombia, any Christian or church that actively evangelizes or speaks out against the pervasive criminal culture and rampant corruption is subject to persecution. Economic discrimination and outright violence are common, especially against vocal nonCatholic congregations. And yet Christianity thrives. Places like Collegio Biblico in Eagle Pass, Texas, and Mexico Christian University in Queretaro, Mexico, continue to train Spanish speaking ministers, who are planting new churches and serving the poor throughout the country. In Colombia, a nation in the grip of the drug cartels, eight new churches have been planted by Arizona-based Christ’s Church in the Valley, with plans for 22 more. The goal is that “these churches create spiritual transformation and community revival that will change that country. They will serve as a house of worship as well as a child development center, where all of the sponsored children go to be fed, attend school, and receive medical care.”

Post-Christian Nations European countries were once the center of Christianity. By the late 20th century, this was no longer true. According to Kontakmission USA, “97.5 percent of all Europeans have no relationship with Jesus Christ.” Generations have been raised in a culture largely devoid of faith and lacking respect for the church. Missionaries like Nick and Mallorie Burczyk have set out to reverse that trend, but it’s a slow process. The Burczyks spent their first two years in Hannover, Germany focusing on making friends in the community. Then they invited people to come to their home once a week for a meal and discussion of spiritual things. Some of those who come are already Christians, but several are not. Those discussions tend toward a more skeptical and analytical tone than the sort of Bible studies most American Christians THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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"they meet secretly and sing hymns without making sounds or by using the melody of government songs. they read the scriptures by memory and whisper sermons.”


would expect. Having grown up in a culture that is cynical and often hostile toward the Bible, the Burczyks’ friends don’t take the usual Sunday school approach to stories from the gospels. They’re more interested in asking questions, trying to understand why the people in the stories would say and do things that seem completely opposite of what they’ve come to expect. Interest is growing, though. Their first group includes 15-20 regulars and they’re working toward starting a second home group, as well as meeting quarterly with another home group for the purpose of worship. That sort of growth may seem slow and small compared to church plants in America, but in such a resistant culture it’s a promising beginning. Similar inroads are being made by believers in other post-Christian countries like France, where the number of small churches is growing steadily.

Divided Nation

T. R. Robertson is a freelance writer living in Columbia, Missouri. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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The dominant culture in the United States is well on its way to being as post-Christian as Europe. Americans are leaving behind what was once a national inclination to accept Christian beliefs and morals as the standard. This can be a positive change, resulting in a distinction between intentional followers of Christ and passive adherents to lifeless religion. On the negative side, this seismic change has produced a sharply fractured nation politically, culturally, and spiritually. Countless niches of American society have developed a thickskinned resistance to the gospel and a hostility toward the church. And yet the church thrives. As in other closed or resistant countries, Christians on mission in America are becoming more creative in reaching out to societal niches that have often been ignored or rejected by the church. The Black Sheep: Harley Davidsons for Christ is just one of several ministries dedicated to spreading the gospel to bikers. They have more than 60 chapters across 38 states. Churches across the country are reaching out to people with addictions through the Celebrate Recovery program. Rural churches like First Christian Church in Belle, Missouri, are thriving as the entire congregation focuses on this ministry. The church always finds a way to thrive, even in the least hospitable ends of the earth.


drawing near by: Bob Hostetler

Fanny Crosby had been composing hymns since the age of six. One evening in 1874, in her mid-fifties, she was visiting in the Cincinnati home of fellow hymn writer William Doane. The two talked at length about drawing near to God, and Fanny retired for the night with words and phrases playing through her mind. When she came down from her room the next morning, she recited a new hymn to Doane, who composed a tune on the spot: I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, And it told Thy love to me; But I long to rise in the arms of faith, And be closer drawn to Thee. Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, To the cross where Thou hast died; Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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The hymn was soon published and, like many of Crosby’s 8,500 gospel songs, became popular and meaningful to multitudes. It reflects the biblical command to “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” (Hebrews 10:22, NIV) and expresses the desire of many—to rise in the arms of faith and draw nearer, nearer to God. But how do we do that? What does it mean for those of us “who once were far away [and] have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13) to draw still closer to God? Anyone who longs to get closer to God should begin with the awareness that God has already taken the first steps. He is nearer than you think, always. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with him.” That was the experience of Moses, as recorded in the Bible. From his inaugural encounter with God, we may be able to identify seven steps that will take us “nearer, nearer, nearer.”

Starting Where You Are

Listening for God's Voice The Bible says that when Moses noticed the burning bush, God spoke to him. He even called his name. Twice: “Moses! Moses!” (3:4). He knew Moses already; He knows you. He knows when to shout and when to whisper. He knows whether to speak your name through a song or a sigh, a breeze or a bruise. So live in expectation, listening for his voice in the ebb and flow of your daily life, and you will become more attuned to the sound of his voice speaking your name. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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week 44 : character

The third chapter of Exodus begins, “Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up’” (Exodus 3:1-3). Wherever you are, God is there. He is not distant. He will not ignore your efforts to draw near. He has already taken the first steps toward you. He may even light a fire to get your attention.


Adopting a Servant's Tone Moses answered God, “Here I am” (3:4). It is easy for us to miss something important when reading those words, something ancient readers would have known immediately. “Here I am” was the familiar phrase used by servants when they were called (see 1 Samuel 3:4, Isaiah 6:8). Sometimes we long to draw near to God, but we want him to come our direction. Or we insist on certain terms of our own in the process. But God said, through Isaiah the prophet, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). And James said, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6). So humble yourself and adopt the tone and posture of a servant if you want to draw near to God.

Removing All Hindrances “Do not come any closer,” God told Moses. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Why? Scholars debate many possible reasons why God told Moses to remove his footwear, but one possibility is especially intriguing: sandals were a human construction, but Moses’ feet were God’s creation. Perhaps God wants us to remove whatever comes between him and us, whatever will hinder complete vulnerability and intimacy in our relationship with him—whether it is sin, shame, fear, or anything else.

Dialoguing with God The Bible account of Moses’ mountainside meeting with God relates a dialogue between them. God speaks and Moses answers. God speaks again and Moses answers again. Back and forth, numerous times. Yet when we approach God and desire to draw near to him, we sometimes do all of the talking, which may be part of our problem. Relationships are twoway streets; they are fueled by roughly equal parts give and take, talking and listening. We get to know God better and draw closer to him as we learn not only to talk to him but also to listen to him—by reading his words, being silent, and waiting for him to speak. THE LOOKOUT LOOKOUT THE

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Being Open and Honest As God’s conversation with Moses continued, and God made his call and will clear to the shepherd of Midian, Moses balked. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” “Suppose I go . . .and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’” “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” (see Exodus 3:11, 13, 4:1). The same guy who moments earlier had taken off his shoes and fallen on his face was arguing with God. But there is no indication that God took offense. As we become more and more honest with God, we draw closer to him. He doesn’t even mind an honest argument, provided we maintain the posture of a servant (as Moses demonstrated in Exodus 4:10 and 13, for example).

Keeping the Conversation Going

Bob Hostetler is an author and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His more than 50 books include Falling in Love with God and The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional.

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week 44 : character

After Moses had lodged several objections to God’s plans, they continued talking. In fact, Exodus 4 records them exchanging 300 more words (in the English translation) of conversation. A quick glance at the next chapter even shows that the conversation between them continued after Moses left Mount Horeb. So with us, drawing near to God is not a one-anddone occasion; he invites us into an ongoing conversation that includes not only our heartfelt confessions and requests but also our panic, our questions, our suggestions, affirmations, protests, suspicions, qualms, and regrets. He wants us to keep company with him. Every day. Throughout the day. When we’re alone and when we’re with others. These simple suggestions may not call down fire from Heaven, but they may spark something new in your relationship with God. And sometimes that’s all it takes to experience the beauty and blessing of James 4:8: “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”


by: Lindsey Bell

aily readin

1 John 7:25-36 1 Peter 5:8-14

2

3

Lamentations 4-5

John 7:37-44 2 Peter 1:1-11 Job 1 Ezekiel 1-3

John 7:45-53 2 Peter 1:12-21 Job 2 Ezekiel 4-8

John 7:25-36

2 Peter 1:1-11

Job 2

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day should have been the first ones to recognize him. They knew the Scriptures better than anyone else. They should have been the first to bring him before the people as their Savior. They should have realized he was the promised one, but they didn’t. It’s a warning to those of us in Christian leadership today. Don’t assume that because you know the Scriptures you cannot be led astray or miss Jesus. Don’t just know the Bible. Know the God of the Bible. Don’t just know facts about Jesus. Know Jesus.

Do you want to be effective and productive in your faith? My guess is, you do. We all do. Today’s text in 2 Peter tells us how. “Make every effort,” Peter said, to add the following characteristics to your life: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love (2 Peter 1:5-8). Grow these qualities, he says, and they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive. The question then is how do we strengthen these qualities? The best way is to stay close to God. Let him grow them in you. He’ll do a much better job than you anyway.

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job’s question in verse 10 shows the depth of his faith in God and the wisdom he possessed. When struggles come our way, many of us question God’s goodness. It’s like we assume that if we believe in him he should protect us from bad things. If God did this, however, people would only believe in him because of what they could get from him. Belief would be all about greed and self-preservation instead of about faith and trust. Job, in contrast, understood that God is God, and Job was not.

Song of Solomon 8:8-14

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John 8:12-20 2 Peter 2:10-16 Job 4 Ezekiel 13-15

Ezekiel 9-12

John 8:12-20

If you’ve ever watched a potter working at his wheel, you understand the importance of pliable material. If the material isn’t pliable, it won’t be shaped or molded properly. It will remain stiff and unmovable. In Ezekiel 11:19, God promised to restore the Israelites. He promised to replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. Hearts of stone are immovable and hard. God can’t work with them. Hearts of flesh, on the other hand, are pliable and responsive, like soft clay in a potter’s hand. What is your heart more like today: stone or flesh?

Have you ever tried to get ready in the dark? Most of us wouldn’t want to leave the house if we had to get ready without any light. That’s because light helps us see things correctly. Without light, we are bound to make mistakes. In John 8, Jesus said he was the light of the world. He is the light that helps us see the world (and ourselves) accurately. He’s the light that helps us see where we came from and where we need to go. Today, don’t walk around like you’re in the dark. You’re not. You have the light of the world with you.

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rest day

Today is a rest day in our Daily Reading schedule. Please use this time to catch up on your reading, to meditate on God's goodness and faithfulness, or simply rest!

week 44 : daily reading

John 8:1-11 2 Peter 2:1-9 Job 3 Ezekiel 9-12


guest

editorial:

Beginning- Again? by: sue wilson Recently, my husband and I embarked on our next “new beginning,” as God began to impress on our hearts a need for someone to come alongside pastors and their wives to encourage them in their own beginnings. We passed the baton of leadership at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona to those who will experience their own new beginnings in a ministry that has shaped so many lives. At age 70, we stepped into a new world, trusting God to show us what that will look like. He has given us a heart for the church and a desire to encourage and equip those who have been called by God to serve local churches around the world. My point in sharing this is to say to others: Never be afraid of beginning again. We may experience many THE LOOKOUT

new beginnings as we travel the road of life. There will be roadblocks, detours, and washed out roads. But there will also be beautiful mountaintops, aweinspiring life changes, and magnificent surprises that could only be orchestrated by God. Our lives on earth are meant to make a difference for the kingdom of God and sometimes we get stuck in a rut because it takes too much effort to pull out and get back on the road. I’m reminded of something I wrote several years ago that helped me keep perspective on the constant changes in life, and the need to remain alert as we begin again and again and again. I call it the “WGOD Traffic Report.” “Good morning everyone, welcome to WGOD and another day in the Journey of Your Life. Before -

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you get on the road, let’s go to the Big Guy up above for a traffic report. Good morning, Big Guy! How’s it look for our journey today?” “Good morning to you down there! Well, it could be worse, but I see a pretty big jam-up at the intersection of Selfishness and Sacrifice today; you need to beware that you don’t get bogged down at that spot. You might want to take the bypass through Psalm 86:11 which will lead you around Brokenness and into Whole-Hearted Devotion. Be sure to watch out for the outbreak of Wickedness that will keep you swatting at your dark side near the off-ramp to Despair. You may need to slow down and refer to your map which outlines the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. But if you shoot straight down Purpose 101, persevere through the Curves of Corruption and pray over the Potholes of Pride, you should be Home in no time!” You’re probably thinking, that’s cute, but we’ll never hear anything like that from God. Well, guess what? We already have! Take a look at The Message Version of Proverbs 4:10-19. It seems to me that God has used the author to make a clear point: life is full of change and we need to stay on the path he has outlined for us in his Word. We’ll probably still hit a few potholes because we’re prone to taking shortcuts, but the Bible is our roadmap for survival in this world as we navigate its many twists and turns. Dear friend, take my advice; it will add years to your life. I'm writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I'm drawing a map to Righteous THE LOOKOUT

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Road. I don't want you ending up in blind alleys, or wasting time making wrong turns. Hold tight to good advice; don't relax your grip. Guard it well—your life is at stake! Don't take Wicked Bypass; don't so much as set foot on that road. Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth. Make a detour and be on your way. Evil people are restless unless they're making trouble; They can't get a good night's sleep unless they've made life miserable for somebody. Perversity is their food and drink, violence their drug of choice. The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker—travelers can't see a thing; they fall flat on their faces (Proverbs 4:10-19, The Message). As you face new beginnings throughout your life, don’t be afraid. Instead remember these words in Proverbs and follow the map God has laid out in his Word. It will add years to your life! “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11, NIV ). Sue Wilson and her husband, Don, have recently retired from Christ’s Church of the Valley in Arizona, a church they started together in 1983. They are now leading a ministry to encourage pastors and wives, to give consultation to church leaders, and to help the global kingdom of God grow through healthy churches.

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Because learning God's Word should be fun for kids too.

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ISSUE NO. 10


SUPPORTING Bob & Dawn Baird faithfully served Christ’s Kingdom by spending 25 years as missionaries in the Congo. Bob was stricken with Meige Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder. Your gifts to KBF paid for the Bairds’ cross-country trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, plus a sizable portion of Bob’s final hospital costs.

Dawn set up a book-signing station in the KBF booth at ICOM, which enabled her to connect with many longtime supporters and generate additional income to help with their family expenses. She wrote us recently: “From the Baird family, we say a huge ‘Thank you!’ for all you have done for us. Just as precious is the way this trial has brought the beginning of new friendships. And thank you for the ongoing prayers!”

KINGDOM SERVANTS Kairos Benevolence Fund donors made this possible for the Baird family. Your donations fulfill the biblical call to honor, appreciate, and love one another.

PLEASE GIVE TODAY Call 855.524.7677 or visit us at CDFcapital.org/benevolence

The Lookout | Issue 11 // 2018  
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