Carriers of the Message

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S (Scripture): Acts 17:1Paul and Silas journeyed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, then came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was Paul’s custom, he entered the synagogue and for three Sabbaths interacted with them on the basis of the scriptures. 3 Through his interpretation of the scriptures, he demonstrated that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. He declared, “This Jesus whom I proclaim to you is the Christ.”

O (Observation): Paul and Silas (now released from prison) travel to Thessalonica, and there Paul begins to teach the Jews about the continuation of God’s work in the person of Jesus. How? By taking the Scriptures and interpreting them through the lens of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenants made in the Scriptures, if you read the promises as being fulfilled by Jesus the Christ.

These steps are what is necessary to plant a church…for Paul. Make sure they have the scriptures and how to see them through the lens and purpose of Christ.

A (Application): What is your lens? How do you frame the world around you? Are you caught up in living for yourself alone? The framework in which we live determines the outcomes of our actions.

Paul’s framework was against Jesus, before he was visited by Jesus. Paul looked at the same scriptures and had come to one conclusion (as Saul), and another conclusion (as Paul). The framework (what Saul was taught) brought one set of conclusions. The new framework sent him in a different direction.

We do well to share the Gospel like Paul. Meet people where they are in their framework. Don’t make them jump over to yours, first. Chat without condemnation. Get an understanding of where they are coming from. THEN, show how your framework influences your thoughts and decisions. You are not giving up your framework by talking to someone different.

If the other person sees the Gospel in what you say, you have done a good deed and it has born fruit. Will their framework be changed? Will their hearts and minds be changed? Perhaps. But know this, the work of changing someone’s heart and mind is done by God. We simply carry the message. Kind of like Paul and Silas.

P (Prayer): Lord, give us the words to say. Receive those who believe. Amen.

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Interpret This!

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S (Scripture): Exodus 21:20 When a slave owner hits a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner should be punished. 21 But if the slave gets up after a day or two, the slave owner shouldn’t be punished because the slave is the owner’s property.

22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that she has a miscarriage but no other injury occurs, then the guilty party will be fined what the woman’s husband demands, as negotiated with the judges. 23 If there is further injury, then you will give a life for a life, 24 an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, 25 a burn for a burn, a bruise for a bruise, a wound for a wound.

O (Observation): God’s people have just received the 10 Commandments and are still living into life as freed people – freed from Egyptian enslavement, yet they still have slavery within their own system.

These words are a shock to the modern hearer. Slavery has long been outlawed in our modern time, but in the time this text was written, slavery was a reality. If you owed someone, you were in their debt and had to work off the debt.

As a slave, you were property.

In regards to “eye for an eye,” it seems that the words here are meant for restricting punishment, rather than “getting even” with someone. In other words, let the punishment not exceed the harm done.

In both cases, I wish to lift up the importance of seeing the Scriptures through the eyes of Jesus. I could take these scriptures and support getting even with our neighbor and I could twist the words to justify slavery. Yet…as a follower of Jesus, I cannot accept those interpretations.

As one who follows the ways of Jesus, I look at the Scriptures through the “lens” of Jesus – his words and actions.

Instead of enslavement, he wishes folks would be set free and forgiven of their debts. Instead of getting even, Jesus says, “Turn the other cheek.”

A (Application): How we interpret Scripture is very important and has led to major schisms within the Church. To those outside the Church…perhaps they see hypocrisy amid the actions of those inside the Church.

What lens are we using to interpret scripture? We all come to the Scriptures with some kind of pre-conceived notions of what we are reading. Do I read Exodus in the same way I read the Gospels…and the Psalms?

One of my notions is to read the Scriptures (all of it) through the lens of “Jesus.” What does that mean? Any interpretation that counters the words and actions of Jesus is no longer a valid interpretation FOR OUR TIME. What if Jesus was silent on a subject? I do my best (along with the Church) to interpret the reading as Jesus might have.

Basically, we cannot simply “forget Jesus” in our interpretation of any Scriptures (even those that come after Jesus in time).

We forget this important step all the time: look at the readings through the lens of Jesus. We think that simply because we read it from the Bible, it must be able to be lifted cleanly and without interpretation.

Some suggestions: don’t ONLY read the Scriptures alone. Personal reflection is great, don’t get me wrong…just be sure to include others in your discernment from time to time…or attend worship where others are helping to interpret the scriptures. And if you’ve spent enough time reading up on devotions and other people’s reflections on the scriptures, you are certainly not reading “alone,” for you are carrying the thoughts of others with you as you read.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see clearly your words in the Scriptures. Amen.

Hello.  Who is this?

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S (Scripture): Hebrews 1:1 In the past, God spoke through the prophets to our ancestors in many times and many ways. 2 In these final days, though, he spoke to us through a Son. God made his Son the heir of everything and created the world through him.

O (Observation): As God’s people move further and further from Christ in the flesh, they seek clarification of Jesus’ identity.  Many in Jesus’ day claimed to have messianic powers, but this text shows Jesus as the true Son of God, higher than the angels.  

Ultimately, Jesus – the Son of God, is God’s true Messenger.   

A (Application):  The author of Hebrews makes pretty clear that God is speaking through Jesus. We hear clarification of the law and prophets through the lens of Christ. We interpret the Scriptures and our personal and communal discernment through the lens of Christ.  

As such, I seek to share Old and New Testament scriptures through the lens of Christ. 

I seek other new revelations through the voice of Christ, God’s Messenger.  

I seek communal discernment regarding how we are to be a Christian community through the messages of Christ. 

I seek to share a position of welcome and acceptance, because I see the world (at least I try to) through the lens of Christ, the voice of Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  

Our world twists and turns, and the only steady presence is the Spirit. The Scriptures give us a glimpse of God and God’s grace.   Now, we must interpret the present times through the lens / voice of Christ.   

May we be humble, yet bold in this process of discernment.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep us steadfast in following your Messenger, Jesus Christ, through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.