Redeeming the Time in Isolation

With the outbreak of the corona-virus, we find ourselves in a new and unusual situation; something out of a movie script like Outbreak.  Our lives have ground to a halt as we become isolated from the rest of neighborhood, community and world.  Though this “social distancing” seems strange, it’s necessary to fight the spread of the virus.

This surprising turn of events provides us with an opportunity to slow down our lives, and take a break from the busyness.  As you consider what to do while locked at home, here are some ideas for how to redeem the unique time that we’ve been given in service to God and your neighbors:

  • Pray through your church directory and send messages to each person after you pray for them.  Especially pray for those who are sick and those whose jobs are threatened by an immobile society
  • Pick a specific book of the Bible and really dig into it using the digital resources available such as YouTube, online commentaries and Kindle books.  Summarize what you discover and teach others in your church via video in 10-15 minute mini-lessons
  • You could also do with with a specific theology topic or event from church history to have a better understanding of God and His work across time
  • Learn or practice an instrument so that you’re better prepared to help with music when church services resume
  • Call people single people such as widows who don’t have others around them during this time of isolation.  To them, it’s not much different that solidarity confinement in a prison and they need interaction with friends and family, even if it’s digitally
  • Find ways to serve others outside of the church by getting their grocery list when you run to the store, sharing tools and other resources or helping them by mowing their lawn or using others skills you have
  • Write friends and family notes telling them how much you love and miss them and sharing how God loves them too
  • Devote time to learning a new skill so that you’re in a better position to impact the world when life returns to normal

Don’t spend the time you’ve been given on movies or other media, but instead find ways to redeem it to the glory of God, so that you can say when this is passed that what was meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

 

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The Importance of Teaching the Apostles Creed

The Apostles Creed on the most historic and foundational statement of the Christian faith.  It’s used by many denominations as the summary statement of what Christians have believed for hundreds of years.  The creed itself isn’t found in the Bible nor was likely written by the Apostles, but captures the key elements of theology and is a good starting point for youth.  Other creeds such as the Nicene or the Chalcedonian are longer and were written to address a specific issue in the church, but the Apostles is concise enough to be quickly memorized and often repeated during liturgical church services.

This document focuses on the creed a one leg of a three legged stool as key summaries of Christianity with the The Lords Prayer and The Ten Commandments serving as the other two.  Together the three should be taught to children, so that they understand how God wants us to pray, what we must believe and how we’re guided to act.  It includes the creed, scripture references and questions to ask about each point of belief: Teaching the Apostles Creed

For more information the creed, see the following two three-minute videos:

 

For more ideas about the importance of teaching the faith to children, read Grounded in the Gospel by JI Packer.

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Church Denominational Positions on Alcohol

Church denominations differ in their views on alcohol from somewhat tolerant to completely restrictive.  All of them view drunkenness as sinful and therefore clearly out of bounds.  Reformed churches generally allow their members to follow their conscience and state that to block drinking goes beyond the bounds of Scripture.  In contrast, churches in the Baptist and Holiness traditions see the effects so damaging and risks so great that they don’t allow drinking at all.   The list below captures a list of position statements split into those allowing alcohol consumption in moderation and those prohibiting it from their members.

Alcohol allowed in moderation

  • Christian Reformed Church position on alcohol (CRC): Abstinence from alcohol may be an appropriate moral response in particular situations, but it is not demanded by Scripture and therefore should not be demanded by the church
  • Presbyterian Church in America (PCA): Scripture neither makes total abstinence a mark of holiness nor a universal requirement….Our churches and presbyteries must not make total abstinence a requirement for membership or office as a matter of principle; this would be to go beyond Scripture
  • Orthodox Presbyterian Church: Moderate drinking is permitted in Scripture but drunkenness is sin (Gal. 5:19-21)….Since God is Lord of the conscience, the church may not declare something to be sin which has not been so declared by God. Christians may (not “must”) drink in moderation but may not drink immoderately (Phil. 4:5)
  • Lutheran Church Missouri Synod: The Bible nowhere condemns the proper and responsible use (consumption) of alcoholic beverages, Church. Scripture does warn strongly and repeatedly against the abuse, misuse or excessive use of alcoholic beverages, and the Missouri Synod has also repeatedly warned against such dangers

Alcohol discouraged or prohibited

  • Church of the Nazarene: Holy Scripture teaches that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. With loving regard for ourselves and others, we call our people to total abstinence from all intoxicants
  • United Methodist position on alcohol: We affirm our long-standing support of abstinence from alcohol as a faithful witness to God’s liberating and redeeming love for persons
  • Salvation Army: …members of The Salvation Army voluntarily refrain from the use of alcohol, standing in solidarity with those who suffer from its harm
  • Southern Baptist: …(we) express our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages
  • Brethren: The Church of the Brethren has consistently and repeatedly stated its opposition to the manufacture, sale, distribution, and use of alcoholic beverages. We therefore recommend and urge Brethren to abstain from the manufacture, sale or use of alcoholic beverages
  • Assemblies of God: …we urge all believers to avoid the Satanic tool of alcohol which destroys lives, damns souls, and blights society

If you’d like to see the issues summarized well, Piper lays they out clearly in his message on abstinence from alcohol and concludes that abstaining is recommended, but not required for membership.

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Church of God Bloomingdale

I had some members of the Church of God Bloomingdale (Illinois), which is a part of the Church of God World Mission Society, visit my front door this morning.  Here’s a quick summary of their heretical views in case you encounter them:

  • They don’t believe in the Trinity (though they say they do), but say that the Father, Son and Spirit of different manifestations of God who is just taking different forms at different times in history (similar to the view of Oneness Pentecostals)
  • They believe that a mother God exists who is named Jerusalem (based on a misreading of Galatians 4:22-26 and Revelation 21:2) and is the bride of the Father in Revelation 19:7.  She provides life and salvation (because Revelation 22:17 references the bride giving the water of life which is necessary for salvation in John 4:10-14).  They point to Genesis, where it says God created us in His image, male and female, implying the necessity of a female god.
  • They claim to have secret knowledge about the second coming of Jesus (they believe he returned in the form of a Korean pastor named Ahn Sahng-hongand) the hidden message from the seven thunders of Revelation
  • They require the keeping of the passover for salvation and hold to other Jewish feasts as well

Be warned.  They are teaching a false message about an untrue Jesus as 2 Corinthians 11:4 warns of.  For a more thorough summary, visit CARM on World Mission Society or the best source of additional detail Examining the World Mission Society Church of God.

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Book of Romans Overview Video

Here’s another Bible survey video from The Bible Project.  This one covers and overview of Romans in two parts

Romans chapters 1-4

Romans chapters 5-16

If you liked this one, view the Overview of Hebrews Video

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Book of Hebrews Overview Video

This video from the Bible Project does a nice job of providing an brief (8 minute) overview of the Book of Hebrews.

The video breaks Hebrews into five sections:

  • Angels and the Torah (chapters 1-2)
  • Moses and the Promised Land (chapters 3-4)
  • Priests and Melchizedek (chapters 5-7)
  • Sacrifice and Covenant (chapters 8-10)
  • Follow Great Models of Faith (chapters 11-13)
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Old Testament Overview Video

This video does a nice job of telling the story of the Old Testament in a five minute video.

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Bible Memory Test – Colossians

One good method of testing your memorization of long Bible passages is to strip out most of the word in the verse and leave only the first letter.  It looks like this:

He is the i______c of the i________ ______, the f_______ of a________ ________. (Colossians 1:15)

If you’d like to practice in this way, you can find some passages prepared here:

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Bible Questions Answered in Ephesians

The book of Ephesians in a question and answer format  in the same way as Questions Answered in Galatians and Questions Answered in Philippians. The first three chapters cover doctrine and the latter three cover life application.

  • What we were like before Christ [came]? We were by nature children of wrath, dead in our trespasses and sins following the prince of the power of the air living in the passions of our flesh and carrying out the desires of the body and mind. We were separated from Christ, alienated from Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise and had no hope without God. (Ephesians 2:1-3, 11-12)
  • What is our life like in Christ? In Jesus we are made alive, brought near by the blood of Christ, raised up and seated in heavenly places, sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, His dwelling place, blessed with every spiritual blessing, created for good works, holy and blameless before Him, redeemed through His blood, reconciled through the cross, forgiven of our trespasses and citizens and members of the household of God to access Him through the Spirit and to obtain an inheritance from Him (Ephesians 1:3-14, 2:4-22)
  • What does Paul pray for? He gives thanks for the church and asks that it would have wisdom and the knowledge of God to know the hope that He has called them to. He prays that God would strengthen them in the power of His Spirit, that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith, that they would comprehend the love of God and be filled with all of the fullness of Him. (Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21)
  • What mystery does Paul reveal? The mystery hidden for ages and revealed to the apostles by the Spirit is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs of God’s kingdom with the Jews (Ephesians 3:1-9)
  • What is the church’s role? The church is to make known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places the wisdom of God realized in Jesus. It is to build itself up by speaking the truth in love and by growing into Jesus as the head (Ephesians 3:10-13, 4:15-16)
  • What offices did God give to the church? God gave apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers (Ephesians 4:11)
  •  Why did He provide these offices? He gave them to equip the saints for the work of ministry and build up the body to maturity, so that it won’t be deceived (Ephesians 4:12-14)
  • How should we live our life? We are to live our life in a manner worthy of God’s calling by putting off our old self and replacing it with the new self through a renewed mind to walk in the light as imitators of God. We should try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, walk in love, not be foolish, not get drunk with wine, not be angry and do not sin. We must make the best use of our time, speak truth with our neighbors, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, address one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Ephesians 4:2-3, 22-27; 5:1-2, 8b-10, 15-21; 6:18b)
  • How should we not live? We are not to be like or partner with non-Christians, who are futile in mind, darkened in understanding, alienated from God, callous, sensual and greedy. We must not steal, speak corruptly or foolishly, be bitter, wrathful, angry, clamorous, slandering, malicious, sexually immoral, impure or covetous (Ephesians 4:17-21, 4:28-31; 5:3-8a, 11-14a)
  • What will happen to those who disobey God? His wrath will come upon them (Ephesians 5:6)
  • How do we protect ourselves from the devil? We must be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might by putting on the whole armor of God including the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, Gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit and praying at all times in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:10-18a)
  • How should we relate to other Christians? We should be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving and speak the truth in love to each other (Ephesians 4:15-16, 25-27, 32)
  • How should we treat our spouse? Wives should respect their husbands and submit to them in everything as to the Lord. Likewise, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:22-33)
  • How should we relate to our children? We shouldn’t provoke them to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesian 6:4)
  • How should children relate to parents? They should obey their parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-3)
  • How should we relate to employers/employees? Workers should serve their employers from a sincere heart as they would the Lord knowing that He will reward their work. Employers should not threaten workers knowing that have a heavenly Master who will judge how they treated their workers. (Ephesians 6:5-9)
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Bible Questions Answered in Galatians

The book of Galatians in a question and answer format.  The key them is the nature of the law and justification by faith.

  • What should be our response to those preaching a different gospel? They should be rebuked harshly (Galatians 1:6-9)
  • Whom should we please? We should seek to please God rather than man (Galatians 1:10-11)
  • How did Paul learn the Gospel? He learned it directly through a revelation of Jesus (Galatians 1:12-23)
  • What is the law? The law is a guardian or prison until Christ came to reveal justification by faith. It is a curse for those who try to keep it (Galatians 3:10, 22-23)
  • Why was the law given? It was a temporary provision or guardian given because of our sins until the promised offspring of Abraham (Jesus) would come and be revealed to those who were to believe in Him. It cannot give life (Galatians 3:19-22)
  • Are we required to keep the law? No, righteousness is not through works of the law. We have died to the law and are no longer under it as a guardian. (Galatians 2:3-4, 11-21; 3:24-25; 5:18)
  • Should we return to the law? No, it is weak and worthless to us for we are no longer slaves to it but free (Galatians 4:9-10, 21-31; 5:1-6)
  • What happens to those who rely on works of the law? They are under a curse (Galatians 3:10)
  • What is a summary of the law? You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14)
  • Why are we given freedom from the law? To serve one another through love (Galatians 5:13)
  • How are we justified before God? In the same way Abraham was, by believing God to be counted as righteous. Not by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus. This is true of the Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 2:16-21; 3:6-9, 11-18)
  • What are we in Christ? Sons of God, Abraham’s promised children, through faith (Galatians 3:6-9, 26
  • How did Jesus redeem us? By becoming a curse for us by hanging on a tree (Galatians 3:13)
  • What was the covenant with Abraham? It was one of promise and not law because the promise preceded the law and the law did not annul it (Galatians 3:15-18)
  • What does it mean to follow Jesus? I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20)
  • Who were Peter and Paul’s missions to? Paul’s mission was to the Gentiles and Peter’s to the Jews (Galatians 2:7-10)
  • How will the Spirit accomplish His work in us? By faith rather than through the law or flesh (Galatians 3:1-6)
  • Who are the sons of Abraham? Those of faith just like Abraham the man of faith (Galatians 3:7-9, 29)
  • How many gods are there? There is one God (Galatians 3:20)
  • What is our relationship to God? In Jesus, we are adopted children of God through faith and heirs (Galatians 3:26-29, 4:4-7)
  • What is our relationship to other Christians? We are no in Christ regardless of background (Galatians 3:28)
  • Why did Jesus come? Jesus came to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5)
  • Why has God sent His Spirit? Because we are His (adopted) children (that we might be like Him) (Galatians 4:6-7)
  • What we were like before Christ [came]? We were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world and to those that are not gods (Galatians 4:1-3, 8)
  • What is the relationship of Spirit and flesh? They are against and opposed to each other (Galatians 5:16-26)
  • What are the works of the flesh? Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (Galatians 5:19-21)
  • What is the fruit of the spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22; 6:7-9)
  • Who should we do good to? Everyone, but especially to other Christians (Galatians 6:10)
  • What should happen to someone caught in sin? Their burdens should be borne by others that they might be restored in gentleness (Galatians 6:1-5)
  • How should we relate to sin? By keeping watch on ourselves, so that we are not tempted (Galatians 6:1b)
  • What is the law of Christ? Bearing each others burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • What should those taught relate to the teachers? We should share what we have with them (Galatians 6:6)
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