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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Friday, October 28, 2011

Wasted Talent

The topic of our discussion last Monday was "Wasted Talent".  We looked at the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  The first two servants used the talents their master gave them, while the third one was lazy and wicked and did not work.  God expects us to use our skills and our abilities for His service and we need to do just that.  It does not matter when we have five skills, two skills or just one.  What matters is what we do with them.

Here are the notes of our discussion.

October 24, 2011
Wasted Talent
We are introduced to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  Jesus has already given an example of what will the Kingdom of Heaven be like earlier in this chapter, when he talked about the parable of then maidens, five of which run out of oil, verses 1-13.  They were not prepared for the coming of the bridegroom.
Then, Jesus begins this section, with the word “again”, hinting that he is going to tell them another story to illustrate the same idea, what will the Kingdom of Heaven be like.  This shows us that the meaning of the parable is related not to talents as money, but to talents in the sense of what God has entrusted us and how are we using that for the benefit of the Kingdom of Heaven.
1.         Discover your talent
The first point I would like to make is that we all need to discover our talents.  In the parable – verses 14-15 – a man traveling to a far country calls three servants and gave the first one five talents, the second one two, and the third one one, each according to his own ability.  The talent was a considerable amount of money, that was the wage of a common man for about twenty years.
The rich man, the master, knew his servants.  He perhaps picked them when he hired them because of their abilities.  He knew what each of them could do and could not do.  So, he did not give them more than they could handle or less than they could handle.
God created us and He knows us individually.  He knows what our abilities are, what we can do and what we cannot do.  He knows what to expect from us.  We are born with different abilities and skills, but the amount is not important, it is what we do with those that matters.
Also note that the talents did not belong to the servants, they did not owe them.  Instead, they were trusted to them by their master and they knew the expectation that they would have to return not only the talents they received, but also something more, something for which they used their talents.
Now, what is your talent?  What abilities or God has given you?  How do you know?
Well, in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks at length about the spiritual gifts that the church in Corinth had been blessed with.  Apparently, there was some who were not happy with the gift they had been given.  In clarifying this situation, Paul says in verses 4:6:
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
In the next few verses, Paul explains that some people are given a message of wisdom, some of knowledge, some of faith, others have gifts of healing, others miraculous powers, and so on.
While we may not have these miraculous powers today, we do have the skills and the abilities that God has given us.  Examine yourself and see what you are good at.  See what you know how to do and how well can you do it.
Sometimes, discovering a talent you have requires going into a new territory.  Imagine if you lived in the mountains and never saw the ocean.  You don’t know how to swim, because you have never been in the water, have never been taught, have never gotten your feet wet.  But then, you move to an coastal town and you start going to the beach, and see other people swim, and then your friends teach you and a few weeks later your swimming like a fish. 
At times discovering our talent means moving out of our comfort zone and into new territory.  It is not called discovery in vain, you find out something you didn’t know about yourself.
Perhaps you are good with money and can keep your family on a budget and also able to save some money.  Think how you can use this talent in the service of the Lord.
Perhaps you are good at encouraging people, at finding the best in what they do and in building them up.  How can you use this talent in the church?
Perhaps you are good at sharing your faith with your coworkers.  You may not be good at public speaking or singing, but you can still invite people to church or other activities and find a way to affect them positively with the Word of God.
Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 12:12: 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  Then, in verse 18: 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
We are all the body of Christ and we should all do our part.  Whether we are the mouth the speaks the message, the eye that looks out for visitors, the ear that listens for the needs of the people, the hand that helps them or the foot that goes and visits them in their need, we all have a role to play with our talents.
2.         Use your talent
Once discovered, you need to use your talent.  In the parable, in verses 16-17: 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.
Both these servants worked.  They did not sit around and stare at their talents, or show them off to their friends or enemies.  They were not proud of the talents given to them, but they humbly considered this as a part of their job.
Let us remember that these talents were not theirs, but of their owner, who expected something of them.  When God gives us our talents, our skills and our abilities, he expects us to use them.  Whether we are successful in our use of them is not really important.  The important thing is that we use them.
If you are the eye or the eyes of the body, you cannot be asleep the entire time.  If you are the hand, you cannot be resting the entire time.  There is a time and a place for everything, says Ecclesiastes 3:1, and we need to make sure that our talents are in use.
In Matthew 25:35-40, we read: 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Remembering that everything we do for other people, we actually do for God motivates us to go out there and use our talents to the fullest.
It is important to note here the good use versus the bad use or the misuse.  While we are all blessed with different talents, their use, like their discovery, will need some time and some training.  Einstein is quoted to have said that “genius is 1 percent talent and 99 percent hard work”.  While we may strive to perfection in our service to our Lord, we will make mistakes and will stumble as we use our talents in His service.  This is quite normal, something to expect and something not to be ashamed or afraid.
If you teach a lesson for the first time, you will make some mistakes, but this should not be a reason for you to shut your abilities and never teach again.
When you encourage people, serve them, invite them to your homes, help them with donations or whatever way that you trying to reach them, you will make mistakes, but you can learn from them and from other people who have done similar activities before and grown.
On the other hand, perhaps you are a very good speaker, but this talent can easily be misused and abused in gossip.  Proverbs 26:20 teaches us that: Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. 
Pretty much every talent that God has given you can be used in a bad way or abused. 
If you are the eye, you may be tempted to look at inappropriate things.  As the mouth, you may say things that hurt people, instead of building them up.  As the hand, you may steal the things you are supposed to share and cause people to stumble and sin.
Remember that in the parable, the first two servants used their talents wisely.  They were not involved in any misuse or abuse of their money and they brought in good profit for their master.  In return, in verses 21 and 23 of Matthew 25, their lord or master told them: His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
If you have noticed that you are not growing, that you are not being trusted with much, perhaps it is because you have not been faithful with few things.  We all have to start small and as we use our talents, we improve them, we grow and God will trust us with bigger and more important tasks as we serve in His kingdom.
3.         Do not waste your talent
Finally, do not waste your talent.  In the parable, verses 24-25, we see that the last servant hid the talent in the ground.  He did not use it to trade and he also did not allow other people to use his talent.  In the words of his master, recorded in verse 27, the last servant could have put the money in the charge of the bankers and had received some profit for his master.
But he did not do that.  He did work, he dug a hole and shut down his talent, but this work did not allow for his talent to be used.  And he also finds an excuse for his lack of work, accusing the master of being a hard man and sowing and gathering where he did not seed?  But the truth was that the master gave the last servant one talent, enough money for twenty years of salary of a common man and the servant did not do anything with it.
We should strife our best not to be like the last servant.  We can find many excuses why are talents are not being used.  We can blame God as a hard master, especially when things do not go in accordance with our human plans.  We can blame our lack of this or of that, lack of time, lack of money, lack of tools, lack of energy, being too busy with our human families, with work, sports, hobbies, wives, etc. 
Still, the truth is that God expects us to use our talents and not to waste them.  Many times in life something happens because some stands up and talk, takes a stand about something, uses their words, their hands, their feet, to do something they believe in.  Inaction cannot bring about the spreading of the word of God.  We are commanded to go into all the worlds and let our light shine before men, so that they can glorify our Father in heaven.
If our talents are wasted, we will meet the fate of the last servant, cast into outer darkness.  Do we want to be like that?  Do we want to hide our talents, bury them in a hole, because we are scarred of using them?  Or do we want to stand up, use what God has given us and honor him with the talents He has given us?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Drawing Closer to God

Yesterday we focused on how we can draw closer to God.  We studied two examples from Acts 18 and Acts 19, where some disciples needed a little bit of guidance to draw closer to God.  We noticed that we may have a different amount of understanding of the word of God and that sometimes correction is necessary to guide us in the right way.
The notes of our study are below.

October 17, 2011
Drawing Closer to God
Opening Question: Think of a situation when you did something wrong or did not do something completely in the right way.  What was it and how did you correct it?
We often make mistakes and correction is necessary from parents, relatives, friends, teachers or coworkers.
Today, we’ll see a situation when some of the disciples of Jesus needed a little bit of correction in their understanding of the Word of God.
In Acts 18:24-26, we read about Apollos:  24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
Where was Apollos in his relationship with God?  How far or close to God was he?
Do we have any “Apollos” today?
How should our approach be toward them?
In verse 26 we read that Priscilla and Aquila invited Apollos to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.  They carried out this necessary explanation in private, by showing love and hospitality and in a gentle way, for the purpose of correction, not embarrassment or humiliation.
In Acts 19:1-7, we read about another situation when some disciples needed to be guided in the right path: 1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”  “John’s baptism,” they replied.  4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”  5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  7 There were about twelve men in all.

These disciples had not heard about the Holy Spirit and had received only John’s baptism.
In Mark 1:4-8, we read that John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins:  4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In verse 8, John said that he baptizes you with water, but He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
Paul explains them the truth and they are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then, they receive the Holy Spirit and the power to do miracles.
In Acts 2:37-41, we read about the true baptism in the name of Jesus Christ: 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”  40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
We may have a different amount of understanding of the word of God and sometimes correction is necessary in guiding us in the right way.  We need to draw nearer to God and to learn the correct way in which we can approach Him.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Characteristics of the Kingdom of God – The Church of Christ

The topic of our discussion yesterday was "Characteristics of the Kingdom of God on Earth: The Church of Christ."  We saw that the Kingdom of God on  or the church is of Jesus Christ, who built it.  The church has a unique design, with Jesus as it head and with all members contributing willingly with their God-given talents.  The purpose of the church is also unique: it is the foundation of the truth and it should uphold it and made known this wisdom of God to all the world.

Here are the notes of our study.

October 3, 2011
Characteristics of the Kingdom of God on Earth:
The Church of Christ
Opening Question: How would you describe your favorite vacation spot?
Whether it is a spot at the beach, in the mountains or a busy downtown capital, we all are looking for specific qualities or characteristics when deciding on our holiday destination.  And as much as we would like our holidays, they are not forever, even the longest holidays come to an end and we have to return to our daily lives, where most of us have to work.
Over the last couple of lessons we have discussed the Kingdom of God.  We talked about its importance and what this Kingdom is on Earth.  Today, we are going to look at a few of the characteristics of the Kingdom of God – the Church of Christ.
1.         The Church has a unique name
In Matthew 16:13-18, Jesus said: 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
What is Jesus saying here, specifically in verse 18?
Jesus is saying that He will build His church, not on Peter (like some believe today), but on the confession that Jesus made – that Jesus is the Chosen One, the Son of the Living God.  Therefore, the church that Jesus build is His church, or the Church of Christ.  This body of people is not called by any other name, but the Church of Christ.
What does the word “church” means?  It means “the called out” and that’s what the people that make up the church are – they are called out of a word of sin and into the group of people that are saved.  The Church of Christ is not a building – the early churches met in the houses of people (Romans 16:3-5: 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.)  5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.
So, what is so important about the name?  What is so important about your name?  About the name of a location?

2.         The Church has a unique design
Last week, we talked a little bit about how the church is different from earthy kingdoms that have been around in the past or even now.  The church is the body of people, from all places and countries that worship God and follow His commandments.
In the Bible, we are told that Jesus is the head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23: 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior) and that Jesus purchase the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.)
So, Jesus is the head of the church and there are no earthly leaders of the church.  Each local church is independent, meaning that they are not directed or led by another church in the same city or in the same province or country that may be larger or richer.  In the Church of Christ everyone can serve and help one another in accordance with their talents that God has given everyone.  There are elders and deacons, two terms for people the church has selected to take care of some aspects of the day-to-day work, but in terms of the teachings and of the way in which the church functions, Jesus is the only teacher and leader of the church.
3.         The Church has a unique purpose
What is the purpose of the church?
In 1 Timothy 3:15, we read: 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
The church is the foundation of the truth and it teaches that truth that God wants everyone to be saved and not perish and come back to Him and have a chance to enjoy the pure relationship men and God had in the beginning.
The purpose of the church is also to make this wisdom of God known – Ephesians 3:10-11: 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
These are the two main goals of the church that constitute its unique purpose.  No one can come to the Father, our God, but through Jesus Christ and the way in which to come to the knowing of the truth and the wisdom of God is by becoming a part of Jesus’s body, His church.
The Kingdom of God on Earth or the church is of Jesus Christ, who built it.  The church has a unique design, with Jesus as it head and with all members contributing willingly with their God-given talents.  The purpose of the church is also unique: it is the foundation of the truth and it should uphold it and made known this wisdom of God to all the world.