Judas, accompanied by armed troops, discovers Jesus and the eleven other apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane. After Jesus identifies himself, Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. This short scene is packed with lessons for us including: the danger of greed, a remarkable but little-known prophecy regarding Judas, and Jesus’ teaching on nonresistance.
In our recent three-day retreat in Pennsylvania, we laid a foundation of what the Scriptures teach about the Holy Spirit. In this follow-up lesson and in light of those foundational teachings, we look at Paul's letter to the Ephesians in perhaps a new light, as Paul has much to say about the Holy Spirit, and its role and importance in our lives as Christians.
On Saturday evening of our 2019 Retreat, several brothers taught on different topics in a session entitled The Spirit of Wisdom. In the second session, Timothy Adams asked whether our times with God equip, strengthen, and refresh us. He then shared many practical lessons from his own spiritual journey that have helped him deepen his relationship with God.
In this third of three foundational lessons on the Holy Spirit, we build upon Old Testament stories (introduced in the previous lesson) to explore what it means to live a life that is led by the Spirit today. We review the Spirit’s role in leading the apostles to “all truth” and inspiring the Scriptures; and consider how Jesus urges us to pray boldly and persistently for (more of) the Spirit. The Spirit also calls us to live holy lives, as Paul calls us to avoid immorality because “our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit”. Finally, we consider the Spirit’s role in helping us toward one of the toughest challenges of all: the unity of all Christians.
Understanding the nature, purpose, and role of the Holy Spirit is essential to our Christian faith. In this second of three lessons on the Holy Spirit, we begin by looking at the Trinity. We borrow from early Christian insights to understand (and explain to others, including 1.6 billion Muslims in the world) the "oneness" of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as their distinct roles and characteristics. Next, we look at pictures from the Old Testament that help us understand the role of the Holy Spirit, including: the pillar of cloud and fire in Israel's exodus journey and the rock which produced water in the desert. These examples provide great insight into the role of the Spirit in our lives individually, as well as collectively in the Church.
The night before He was crucified, Jesus told His closest disciples that He must depart in order to be able to send them the Holy Spirit: a Helper who would abide with them and be in them. Yet some churches today virtually ignore the role of the Spirit! We start this lesson by recounting the clash in perspectives that took place 100 years ago in the Churches of Christ on this subject, and its tragic aftermath. From there we begin the process of taking a fresh look at the character of the Spirit, starting with key insights from the Old Testament. This is the first lesson of a foundational 3-part series on the Spirit.
Paul is able to write that he takes “pleasure” in his infirmities, needs, persecutions, and distresses. How can this be? In this third lesson on dealing with bitterness in our hearts, we focus on Paul’s example in the face of extreme suffering, and the unexpected ways God used Paul’s afflictions (and Christ-like spirit) to His glory.
Since the beginning, Satan has sought to use injustice and man’s sin to turn people against one another and against God. Yet God has a very different plan. In this second of three lessons, we examine the example of David, who faced terrible injustice and persecution, but responded with great faith and righteousness. We also look at how David responded when he was confronted with terrible sin in his own life. David is a tremendous example for us, to confront hardship and our own sin, as our loving Father intends.
Since the beginning, Satan has used bitterness as a weapon to turn men and women against God. Most of us have been, or will be, tempted to become bitter about different things in our lives, including sickness, injustice, and being wronged by others. In this three-part series, we examine the lives of men and women in Scripture who found victory over bitterness. The first lesson is a study of Naomi and Job, who found hope and strength in our omnipotent and loving Father through extremely challenging times.
In John 17, Jesus prays that His followers may be one as He and the Father are one. The goal of this unity was so that the world might know that God sent Jesus and loved the world as God loved His Son. Sadly, not only does this unity not exist today, but most Christians ignore this central (and extremely difficult) teaching. This lesson takes a hard look at Jesus' expectations regarding unity, what Christian unity does and does not look like, and provides an example from history to inspire us to strive for the unity Christ prayed for before His death.
In this lesson, Ray Wenger looks at the story of Martha and Mary—not just the tale of Martha’s serving and complaining in isolation, but the whole scope of their story with Jesus—and explores what it means to “sit at Jesus’ feet.” The arc of Martha and Mary’s lives illustrates the way a transformed mind gains new desires, and who those desires are directed towards.
In Romans 12, Paul appeals to Christians to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind.” This type of transformation is not superficial, but leads to a new, heavenly perspective on everything we encounter. This lesson explores this transformation, including how Biblical nonconformity affects how Christians treat each another and those outside of the church.
In Matthew 16, Jesus grants Peter special blessings and privileges, but then promptly rebukes Peter for minding the things of men and not the things of God. This lesson looks at Peter (as well as good and bad examples from the Old Testament) and the temptation to embrace human interests and worldly methods, even as we seek to accomplish God’s purposes. Jesus’ clear direction points to a better way, that the world will simply never follow.
In 2 Corinthians chapter two, Paul directs the Christians not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Instead, they are to come out from the world, so that God might receive them, dwell in them, and be a Father to them. In this lesson we take a close look at Moses’ hunger to know God, His ways, and to have God’s presence with him. Our longing as Christians to meet with God and to have close fellowship with Him is central to our Biblical separation from the world.
In this first of a five-part series on Biblical Separation from the World, Ray Wenger describes foundational principles of Biblical separation from the world, including God’s goodness, examples of artificial separation, and how compromise in our obedience to God’s commandants leads to spiritual destruction. May we find decisive victory over our spiritual Canaanites where Israel failed, and reap the rewards that God seeks to bestow upon us.
Jesus has much to say in his farewell discourse. In this passage, we learn more about Jesus promise of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also speaks directly about His departure and return. Jesus then begins to pray, with a focus on the glory He shares with the Father and His longing to return to His Father's glory. Jesus' words have practical and significant application to our own lives and understanding of God.
In John 15, Jesus promises that the world will hate His followers. In this lesson we look at what Jesus had to say about persecution, including why the world will hate His disciples. We also look at examples of martyrdom and accounts of Christian persecution in the early Church. May Jesus' teaching on persecution and the faithful witness of the Church through history strengthen those Christians suffering around the world today. May it also prepare us in the West for persecution that may await us in the coming years.