Do you believe that university life is about more than classes, assignments, studying and weekends? Are you interested in finding more meaning and purpose in your life? Do you enjoy listening to and sharing ideas with others? Then, please join our weekly Bible discussion group.

Campus Bible Talk meets every Monday during the school year (except during holidays and during Reading Week Breaks) at Athabasca Hall, Heritage Lounge, at 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Handling Criticism

Last Monday we focused on "Handling Criticism."  We saw an example of criticism from Acts 11 and how Peter handled his critics.  God gives us wisdom through His word and we can learn from it how to face similar situation to that of Peter's.  Providing all the facts regarding the issues we are questioned about can help clarify any misunderstanding or confusion.  We should strive to get all the facts straight from the interested party, in order to learn exactly what has taken place, before jumping to conclusions.

Here are the notes of our study.

August 22, 2011
Handling Criticism
Opening Question: Have you ever been criticized and what was your reaction to the criticism, whether warranted or not?
No matter how well we perform in our life, sometimes we may face criticism.  At times, this criticism may be deserved – if we made a mistake or did something wrong.  Other times, the criticism may be out of place or because the critics have misunderstood or are misusing some information.
Today we are going to look at a story from the Bible and see what does the Bible have to say about how to handle criticism.
The story is found in Acts 11.  Let us read verses 1-4: 1 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.  2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him  3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”  4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story:
The criticism that Peter faced came from the events that took place in Acts 10, some of which we studied the last time.  Peter had seen a vision, the Spirit had instructed him to go and visit Cornelius, which had seen an angel of God and had sent men to ask for Peter.  However, the critics only focused on a small part of the story and on the one that had to do more with the outward appearance, the form, rather than the essence of the story – which was that the non-Jews had now received salvation in the same way as the Jews.
What was Peter’s response to them?
In verse 4, we read that Peter told them the whole story. 
The way to respond to criticism is to inform the critics about all the facts, the entire story, not just a fragment of the truth, but the whole truth.  This is what Peter does, so that the people can know directly from him what happened and, after knowing all the facts, directly from Peter, now from someone else, they can make a decision.
The rest of the chapter is a recount of the story that we studied, from Acts 10.  This is done so everyone opposing Peter can hear and know what happened and what were the circumstances that led him into the house of the “uncircumcised men.”

What are our lessons here for us today?
1.         When criticized, educate the critics about all the facts.
2.         Changes may be necessary in your life in order to get to know God
Hebrews and people from other nations did not have much association with each-other.  These were traditions of men, not of God, that were put in place to supposedly keep the nation of Israel pure and dedicated to God.  However, this lack of relationship prevented the apostles and the believers from bringing the Good News all the people of the world, not just the Hebrews.
When God made it clear to Peter and the other believers that they were to go to everyone, not just the Hebrews, this was a big change for them.  Everyone they knew was a Hebrew, everyone they had relations with was a Hebrews, they did not have friends, relatives, business associates who did not belong to the same nation as them.
We may be facing some changes in our life in order to get to know God and it may take some effort and some time in order to realize that these changes are needed and to actually be able to do those changes.
3.         You may be facing criticism because of your choice to follow God.
In the same way that some people did not like what Peter did, our friends or relatives or acquaintances may not like what we do in order to follow God.  We may be facing some criticism about why we are acting in the way we are or why we are not doing some of the things we used to, before we decided to make changes in our life.  We should be prepared to give a response to such people.
In verse 18, we read the good ending to this story: 18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
When in doubt about the actions or the non-actions of someone, it is important to address those concerns with the interested person.  Many times, issues are blown out of proportions simply because the conversation does not take place with the person who has the answers.  Instead of talking to other people about what you have heard happened, it is always better to talk to the interested party, Peter, in this case, to hear from him what exactly happened.  Notice that the critics did not go and talk to the other apostles or to someone else who may have heard about what happened.  They talked to Peter himself, against whom they had the criticism.
Another lesson for us from this verse: Talk to the people when you have concerns about their behavior.  Many times a simple chat can clarify many misunderstandings.
Criticism is a part of our life and we need to learn how to handle it.  God gives us His wisdom through His word.  Whenever we are faced with criticism, if we provide all the facts of the matter, this can help toward clarifying any misunderstanding or confusion.  At all times it is advisable to get the facts straight from the interested party, in order to hear exactly what has taken place, which may help up in our accurate understanding of the events.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Process of Accomplishment

Our topic last evening was "The Process of Accomplishment."  We studied the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10 and noted the steps he took in this story.  In our lives, we need to take certain steps in order to be in the right relationship with God.  Believing in God, praying to Him and showing through our actions that we believe in Him are some of the crucial steps in this process.  After we learn the basics, we need to grow in our faith and knowledge, as we learn more about God and how we can enjoy the salvation He offers all mankind.  

The notes of our discussion are below.

August 15, 2011
The Process of Accomplishment
Opening Question: What is something that you have achieved or accomplished recently and what has it been the steps or the process in which it took place?
In order to complete a project or a task, there is a specific process, with chronological steps that should take place.  These steps need to be in the right order and should be taken one after the other for the project or the task to be accomplished.
Today we are going to look at a story from the Bible and talk about a few steps in the process of accomplishing salvation in our lives.
First of all, it is important to note that God offers us salvation as a gift.  In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read that: 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.  However, there are certain steps that need to be followed in order to receive this grace of God.
In Acts 10, we read the story of how Cornelius became a Christian.  In verse 2, we read that Cornelius had been doing several things in his life.
What were these things?
Cornelius was devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
What do these things mean?  What do they show us about Cornelius?
Cornelius had taken the first steps in getting to know God and building a relationship with Him.  He was God-fearing, meaning respectful of God’s person and His commandments, he was generous (showing through his acts his beliefs) and he communicated, he talked to God regularly through prayer.
The story continues in verses 3-8: 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”  4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.  The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.  5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.  6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”  7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants.  8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
Cornelius had certain preconditions (which we just mentioned) in his life, which made for God to send an angel and to talk to him directly.  In the Old Testament and the New Testament times, God used visions and direct interventions of angels to give people His message.  This was a time when there was no writing of the New Testament.  The stories that we read about today were happening or had just happened, like the accounts we read in the Gospels.
However, today, God does not intervene anymore in this way.  We have the Bible that teaches us about what we need to do.  In fact, this story that we are reading comes from the Bible.  Cornelius had to listen from Peter explanations about those things he did not know or understand and about the things he needed to do.  Today, we can read about the same message that Peter spoke to Cornelius in the words of the Bible, recording for us and for all the people in the world.
In verses 36-38, we read that besides Cornelius being a good, generous men, who prayed to God, he also had certain understanding about God and about Jesus.  We read in these verses that word that Peter says to Cornelius:  36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.  37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
It was important for Cornelius to have a basic understanding of what God had done and who Jesus was, in order for Peter to continue teaching him more advanced truths of the Word of God.  Like in other areas of our life, our research, we have to follow certain steps in order to advance in our knowledge and to achieve the wanted results.  In order to know God, we need to start at some point, at the beginning, with the basic truths and facts and then move to more in-depth studies and understanding.
Furthermore, Peter instructs Cornelius in those things we did not know.  In verses 39-43, we read his words: 39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.   41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.  43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Peter explains to Cornelius how Jesus died and was raised on the third day.  More importantly, Peter says in verse 43 that everyone who believes in Jesus, receive forgiveness of his sins through His name.  Forgiveness of one’s sins allows for us to have a true relationship with God again.
Finally, after Cornelius had learned everything that it was necessary for Peter to teach him, in verse 48, we read that Cornelius is baptized: 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
We will study more about baptism in our next lessons, but for now it is important to mention that baptism is always a crucial step in the process of being saved by the grace of God.
In order for us to be in a good relationship with God, we need to follow a few steps in our life.  Believing in God, praying to Him and showing through our actions that we believe in Him and are trying to live good lives are preconditions to moving forward in our faith.  Learning the basics about God and the Bible is essential, before we can move along with more advanced teachings.  And finally, baptism is a crucial step in the plan of salvation created by God for all mankind.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What does the Bible Teach about Repentance?

Last Monday we talked about "What does the Bible Teach about Repentance".  We discussed how we all make mistakes and often need to change our ways and repent of our old actions.  If we have faith in God, we can seek and find him.  As we understand God's kindness shown toward us in Him sending His son to die for our sins, we will try to act in such a way as to be appreciative of this kindness.  When we realize that we are in our sins and we need to change in order to avoid certain death, we can turn our lives around, repent of our sins and look up to God for salvation.

Here are the notes from our discussion.

August 8, 2011
What does the Bible Teach About Repentance?
Opening Question: What does it something that you have noticed you have changed recently in your life or in the life of a close friend and what cause you to make that change?
Sometimes we can make mistakes in our life and once we realize them, it is time to change.  Other times, we may not have all the information when we make a decision.  Once we have all the facts, we may need to change our mind about our previous choices.
What does the Bible say about change?
The Bible uses the word “repentance” – but the Greek word in the original language of the Bible means “to change one’s mind.”  How does this changing of the mind happens?
In 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, we read: 8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—  9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.  10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Paul’s letter had caused “sorrow” to the Corinthians, but this “sorrow” had motivated them to “repentance” or a change of their previous ways in which they acted.  Paul noted that this “godly sorrow” lead to salvation and leaves no regret.
If you are trying to give up a vice, let us say “driving over the speed limit” and you are caught by a policeman, the sorrow you feel about this act (and not just sorrow about being caught) should lead you to change, in this case, toward a behavior of respect for the traffic rules and regulations.
For most people, repenting or changing your ways happens as a process.  What are the stages or what is the way in which this repentance, this changing of heart and mind happens?
1.         Faith in God
If you believe that you are always doing the right thing, you will not see a need to change.  We change things in order to make them good or to make them better.  If you do not see a need in your life to change, you will not change.
So, in order for you to change in conformity with the Word of God, you should have faith in God and see the need that some change should happen in your life.
In Hebrews 11:6, we read that: 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
What does it mean to have faith in God?
So, first we must have faith in God and trust in Him that He will reward those that earnestly seek Him.
This faith comes from hearing the Word of God as we read in Romans 10:17: 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
2.         Understanding the kindness of God
In Romans 2:4, we read: 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
What is the kindness of God?
Understanding how much God loves us (by sending Jesus into the world) and what God has done for us (by Jesus dying on the cross for our sins).
Kindness if a very strong motivator for people – we usually respond positively to people who are kind and polite to us, even if they do not do anything for us (imagine the situation of calling someone for servicing a broken computer ).  The kindness of God is much more than what people can do for us.  No one can give us the same kind of peace and eternal life that God can only give.
3.         Understanding the sin in our life
In John 16:7-8, Jesus says that: 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:
We have studied in the past that the result of sin is separation from God, spiritual death and eventually physical death.
One of the tasks of the Holy Spirit is to prove the world to be in the wrong about sin.  We do not have to look far in order to realize that many things are wrong in the world today.  And until we come to the understanding that we need to change and we need to change in accordance with the Word of God, we will not make meaningful changes in our life.
The realization of the sin in our life should make us full of godly sorrow, a strong desire in our heart to become better, to change for the best, to the full potential of our abilities. 
While we sin and fall short of what is expected of us, God offers us the opportunity to repent.  As we learn of God’s kindness and of the effect of sin in our lives, we can come to the point of repenting, changing our hearts and our minds and live our lives pure and holy while following the Word of God.