For the Diggers: Loving the Young Hearts in this Dig

                                        Melanie Pinedo (center) is one of our younger 2017 diggers!

 

We have several young women, even several pre-teens, who are diligently studying the Great Escapes this year with our international Digging Deep group. They are learning how to rescue souls. Kaitlyn Epling, age 12, of Elizabethton, TN was disappointed earlier this week when we failed to get to question number 10 in our podcast discussion.  Here’s her list (verbatim) of several rescues from Acts 9-17. Kaitlyn’s styles of listing and study may evolve as she grows in Christ, but grow in Christ she will if she stays in the book!

 Digging Deep- Great Escapes- Month Three- Question 10

The disciples of the Lord were saved of Saul by Jesus 9:1-6.

Saul was saved of his blindness by Ananias 9:18.

Saul was saved of the Jews by the disciples 9:25.

Saul was saved of the Hellenists by the brethren 9:29-30.

Aeneas was saved of being paralyzed by Peter 9:33-34.

Dorcas/Tabitha was saved of death by Peter 9:40.

All those being oppressed were saved of the Devil by Jesus of Nazareth 10:38.

Jesus was saved of death by God 10:40.

Sinners were saved of sins by Jesus 10:43.

Gentiles were saved of sins by Jesus 11:18

Peter was saved of contending by his dream 11:2-10.

The people were saved of famine by disciples 11:28-29.

Peter was saved of prison by an angel 12:7.

Peter was saved of Herod by God 12:11.

Peter was saved of Herod by the brethren 12:19.

Israel was saved of the nations of Canaan by God 13:19.

Jesus was saved of death by God 13:30.

Paul & Barnabas were saved of abuse & stoning by themselves 14:5-6.

A man in Lystra was saved of lameness by Paul 14:8-10.

Paul was saved of death by himself 14:19-20.

Timothy was saved of the Jews’ wrath by Paul 16:3.

Girl of fortune-telling was saved of a demon by Paul 16:16-18.

The Philippian Jailor was saved of suicide by Paul 16:27-28.

Paul & Silas were saved of prison by the Philippian Jailor 16:33.

Paul & Silas were saved of the Jews by the brethren 17:10.

Paul was saved of the crowd by the brethren 17:14.

                                                                           Kaitlyn Epling 

 

I was kind of sad we didn’t get to that question, too. I had hoped to share my list from one single chapter, noting how God can use the faithful and the rogue to rescue His own and further the gospel. Let’s look at this list of ten rescues from chapter nine:

9: 7-8 Look at how the enemies of the cross are being used to lead around the most influential 1st century missionary.

9;13 Notice Ananias arguing with God, but then going straightaway to rescue the preeminent New Testament writer. God always accomplishes His purposes.

9:15, 16 Can you think of a more unlikely candidate to be the rescuer of Gentiles?

9:25 Those disciples could not go and powerfully write and preach, but they had a rescue basket for  the one who could!

9:27 Barnabas would be greatly overshadowed in Scripture by Paul, but Paul might not have had the chance to do what he did without the jumpstart given by Barnabas.

9:30 Jerusalem was not the right place and time for Paul. But there were rescuers who knew how to get him to the right place and time.

9:33-35 Aeneas was a rescue tool for the people of Lydda and Saron.

9:39 Dorcas was a rescuer using needle and thread.

9:42 Peter rescued the recipients of Dorcas’ goodwill when he raised her.

9:42 In turn, Dorcas became a tool to rescue the people of Joppa.

Another young digger, Grace Yocum, of Louisville, Kentucky.

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Finally! The Exciting Conclusion)


Five Important Take-Aways

1. Forced to choose between culture and Christianity, I must choose Christianity every.single.time. Further, there’s evil woven into every culture and I must distance myself from that evil.

2. Fighting the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7) has nothing to do with a battle about social injustices.   It has everything to do with standing for spiritual truth; for Jesus Christ. That was the essence of the statement when the persecuted apostle penned it. It is still its essence. 

3. Faithful Christians referencing “my people” will always be speaking of Christians, not people who have the same pigmentation. “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

4. I must reject the idea that, in the church, broad reparations can be made. A person can only repent and repair violations that he/she has personally has committed. It is Biblically impossible to repent of sins committed by someone else. If the “someone else” is dead, then preaching repentance of his sins is, at least, useless, and, at most, divisive. If we extrapolate past sins, placing them on the church today, we may be stimulating the very division we profess to reject. We should be willing to look around at the vast majority of our congregations and admit that the word “racist” is not applicable to most congregations today.

5. Finally, and most importantly, I must acknowledge and rejoice in the fact that we already have the true answer to problems involving race relations. It is the cross and the church that was purchased at Calvary. Faithful members of that body have always been colorblind.  We protect, love, and offer solace to one another (Eph. 5:21). You can surely find individuals among us who persist in wrong attitudes and actions on many subjects,  but I am convinced that the  New Testament church is the one body in which the challenge has been sufficiently met by our Savior. I must not project this cultural fight into God’s body.  The church described in the New Testament is not part of the problem.  It is the solution to the problem.

May He bless us as we love and encourage each other. 

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 16)

Approaching the end of what has become a lengthy series, I want to draw several conclusions to summarize: 

First, Racism is a very temporary problem. Our thinking on the subject should always be tempered by that fact that racism, or having our faith with respect of persons (James 2:9),  is sin and it will not exist in heaven. 

Secondly, we should never forget that Jesus wants unity that’s based on truth for His people. That was the subject of His dying prayer in John 17. But that unity cannot be a reality if white Christians devalue or are prejudiced against people of a different skin color. It cannot happen if Christians of color extrapolate misdeeds and mistreatment from American history and assign those misdeeds to their brothers and sisters today. 

My husband and I travel around the U.S. visiting many congregations each year. We do not see assemblies or fellowship times or relationships that are tainted by racism in our travels. We do see the opposite of racism regularly. We see Christians of all colors eating together, hugging one another, helping one another, serving side by side as elders and teachers together, and listening to pulpits that are sometimes filled by white brethren and other times filled by brown brethren. In our home congregation, we have regular singings with two other churches. Two of the churches involved are mostly white, with minorities of African Americans, Mexican, El Salvadorian and Samoan people. The third church is mostly African American. I think many folks at all three of these churches would tell you that our times together for these services are some of their favorite worship times. I believe our elders would love to merge with either of these churches if their leaderships were so inclined. I do not believe there is any correction that needs to be made by the elders in these churches with regard to racism. 

The unity for which our Lord prayed cannot be a reality today if reparations are required by any constituency in the body. This is true because Christians cannot repent of sins committed by others. Further, one Christian cannot apologize for the whole church, even if the entire body had been guilty of a sin. 

When I think of reparations, I think about Paul. He had done some awful things to Christians prior to Acts 9. Notice the reaction of Barnabas when Paul became a godly man. 

“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:26-27).

Paul could not “undo” or materially pay for his past crimes against Christians. All he could do is what all of us can do: apply the Golden Rule to all people and go forth with the gospel to save as many men and women as possible. 

Thirdly, Galatians 3:26-27 does teach us to be colorblind. We set aside all ethnic and cultural differences, realizing that God has made us all of one blood. We see only souls.

If we allow any militant fight in defense of any culture or ethnicity to invade the church, it will be met with confusion and, ultimately division.  

Sister to Sister: Heads Up for the Diggers

First of all, my apologies for an error in this month’s study. Number seven (page 68) if you have the workbook) refers you back to the previous month’s chart. That chart is actually in Month Seven, number 13 (page 56 in the book). It’s the chart we did comparing the Old Testament priest to our High Priest, Jesus Christ. So make that correction as you study. 

Next, several ladies have had questions about the cities of refuge in question two of this month’s study.  Perhaps the instructions were not very clear. Here’s where we’re going with that one. 

Notice the meaning of each city’s name and try and find characteristics of our refuge (the church) that correspond to the Old Testament name. For example, the first site is Kedesh, meaning “Holy Place”. So we are looking for passages that describe the church as being holy, or passages that instruct us to be holy, or sanctified, as His church today. 

My passages for this particular city begin with a prophetic passage about the church. It’s Isaiah 66:17-24. ( I know this is not a New Testament passage, but I had to cheat here. This one is so good for this!) Just go there and read this passage and marvel at the emphasis on sanctification for the church. Then I noted the holiness commanded in I Corinthians chapters five and six—just throughout those chapters, the emphasis is keeping clean and holy. Then I made a note of I Peter 1: 15, 16 in which we are commanded, as his people, to be holy:

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Finally, for this city, I noted that the Greek word for “church” is ekklesia meaning ‘the called” or “called out”. 

Obviously for the next city, Shechem, we will be looking for passages about the strength of the Lord, since Shechem means strong shoulder. The shoulder upon which the church rests is Jesus. 

You get the drill. Just give yourself a little wiggle room. Your passages do not have to have the same wording as the name of the city. They just need to refer to the church or Christians using the same general characteristics or descriptions that lend themselves to the general idea suggested by the city’s name. 

This is a beneficial study when we consider the purpose of the cities. It’s not a complete parallel between these cities and the refuge we have in the body, but it is an interesting comparison. May He bless your study!

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 15)

The last specific passage I’d like to notice is the book of Philemon. It’s the story of a heathen slave-turned- Christian-runaway and his decision to go back to his master. You know Onesimus, as the runaway who ran into the great apostle Paul and became a slave to the ultimate Master, Jesus Christ. Notice verses 15 and 16 of this short letter from Paul beseeching Philemon to accept Onesimus back as so much more than a slave. Onesimus was Philemon’s brother in the Lord. 

For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So many observations could be made. Paul, it seems to me, assumed that Onesimus would be very happy to be a brother to Philemon. There would be no resentment.  There were no cries for reparations from Paul or Onesimus.  Of course  in this case, we can also safely assume that Philemon had behaved as a Christian master to Onesimus. It’s interesting and stirring that Paul did not make a specific plea for the freedom of Onesimus from slavery. Perhaps this is because the church (Christians) was to refrain from civil disobedience as we have noted from Romans 13. Paul did expect and demand their love and respect for one another. Of course, their decisions about the master/slave relationship were to be guided by their allegiance to Christ and their love for one another. 

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 14)

But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (Galatians 2:6,7).

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? (Galatians 2:11-15).

This passage speaks for itself. I cannot think of a New Testament mandate taught more clearly through an example than this one. I cannot think of one that finds application to our  culture more aptly than this one. The apostle Paul withstood Peter, rebuking him for his hypocrisy in refusing to eat with the Gentiles when it was unpopular among the Jews for their people to have fellowship with non-Jewish people. The Holy Spirit saw fit for us to have the particulars of this incident. He graciously gave us this sample of what should happen if there’s respect of persons today with regard to race. 

From this text, we know that it is right and good for leaders in the church to promptly and firmly correct brethren who show favoritism based on externals. How vain and pompous was Peter in switching off the fellowship with Gentiles when the Jews approached! How sinful it is today if and when brethren—mere men or women— exalt themselves above or think that they are, in any way, superior to those with a different pigmentation, language or background. May they find space for repentance and may God grant them mercy.