Thursday, September 22, 2011

What does a passionate love do?

Photo by Andrei Merkulov, courtesy of
Welcome! I am so glad to see you here in A Good Bible Study! We are soaking ourselves in A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and you. But, what does a passionate love do?

We've begun to search the bible for synonyms of the word "passion." They are sprinkled throughout God's Word like an invigorating spring shower.

I love knowing the passion I have for life, for living, and for loving, comes straight from the heart of God! God is passionate and wants to see you express that passion actively!

You know, one of the first books I read as a new Christian was Paul's letter to the Romans. Some people think Paul's letter is a sort of what not to do, for Christians. I disagree! It reads to me more like the way to live passionately for Christ!

Let's read Chapter 12, verses 9-11. I included three translations so you can really get a feel for Paul's message. These passages follow Paul's encouragement to all Christians, to use the gifts given to each of us by the Holy Spirit.

That's right. Gifts. You've got 'em.

Don't you know when you recognize that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to buy you and me out of slavery to sin (redeemed), and that He not only died for our sins but was raised from the dead just as the Scripture foretold - did you know at that point of sincere belief that you receive the Holy Spirit, as a bonus!?

And that's not all! The Holy Spirit doesn't come empty handed - He brings gifts! And it's our job to put them to use! Read Romans 12:6-8 for a listing of some of the gifts later. For now, let's continue with zeal and passion!

What does it mean to love God, and His children, passionately? Romans 12:9-11 describes such a love: it's love in action! (I bolded the words that mean passion.)
Romans 12:9-11 New International Version (NIV)
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Romans 12:9-11 New Living Translation (NLT)

9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[a] and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.[b]
Romans 12:9-11     The Message (MSG)
9-10Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Paul is talking about really loving passionately, self-sacrificially and without hypocrisy! He wants us to mean it. In Romans 12:12-21 Paul continues to get real specific on this passion thing:

 Romans 12:12-21
New International Version (NIV)

12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[a] Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[b] says the Lord.
20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[c]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

You know, this is kind of a check list:

"What do I do in this situation?" Look in Romans 12!

"How should I respond to this person?" Look in Romans 12!

"What should I do next?" Go to the mattresses! What? No - look in Romans 12! (I admit I have watched You've Got Mail too many times.)

Let's pray: Lord, thank you for giving us something specific to get our teeth into. Sometimes I just want to know what to do! Romans is that answer. Give us insight into our situations today, and into the people we meet. Help us to love passionately, sincerely, and actively, in Your name, as Your representatives. Amen

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Passion in action: Apollos, Priscilla, and Aquila in Acts 18

Photo by Arvind Balaraman, courtesy of
Welcome again to A Good Bible Study, where together, we are exploring A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and you!

I can't wait to share with you about a really cool trio of friends: Apollos, Priscilla, and Aquila in Acts 18. It's truly passion in action!

Let's start by reading Acts 18:24-28.

This is one of my favorite passages and if you've got any desire at all to share God's passionate love and grace to anyone, it might soon become a favorite of yours, as well. 

"24Meanwhile, there was a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, who came to Ephesus. He was a cultured and eloquent man, well versed and mighty in the Scriptures.
25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and burning with spiritual zeal, (the NKJV says fervent in spirit) he spoke and taught diligently and accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he was acquainted only with the baptism of John.
26He began to speak freely (fearlessly and boldly) in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him with them and expounded to him the way of God more definitely and accurately.
27And when [Apollos] wished to cross to Achaia (most of Greece), the brethren wrote to the disciples there, urging and encouraging them to accept and welcome him heartily. When he arrived, he proved a great help to those who through grace (God's unmerited favor and mercy) had believed (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Christ as Lord and Savior).
28For with great power he refuted the Jews in public [discussions], showing and proving by the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah)." Amplified Bible

So, here's this guy, Apollos. He's grown up in Greece, so he probably looks and sounds like a gentile, though he is a Jewish Christian. Like all Greeks, he is an educated man. As a Jew, he's also well-read in the Scriptures. So, if anyone is going to know what the Old Testament says about the coming Messiah (Jesus), it's Apollos.

Someone had gotten ahold of this guy and shared the truth of Jesus's coming with him, and he was on fire about it! And Apollos knew that any Jewish scholar should be able to review the Scripture and come up with the same inevitable conclusion, that only Jesus could be the Messiah. So, I figure Apollos' opinion was that if knowing all this, you still couldn't put two and two together, you must have been knocked on the head as a child, you know what I mean?

The thing I love about Apollos, was that he hadn't even met Jesus. He didn't even know all that had gone down, he just knew Jesus fulfilled the prophecy and that alone was exciting enough! Peter says Apollos knew only the baptism of John, but so much more happened since!

But, isn't it exciting that not having all the information didn't stop Apollos from sharing what he knew so far? He didn't say, "Well, before I get excited about this and spread the awesome news, I'm going to go back to school and learn everything there is to know about Jesus." Neither did he go ask someone in authority if he should share his good news. Because I think that's what a lot of us do.

We know Jesus is the Messiah, we have had some personal life-changing experience, but we are afraid of what people will think if we share it. We think we need to get a PhD in Scripture before we've got any business sharing what we've learned so far. We think we've got to get someone in authority to give us the thumbs up before we talk about it!

I'm not suggesting any of us, educated or not, proclaim to be the ultimate authority on Jesus. I'm not suggesting you purport yourself as knowing one thing more than you actually do. I'm saying only you can share your personal experience with Jesus Christ; only you can explain the effect He's had on your life, and only you can share your insights gleaned from reading His Word, just as I am doing now, with all of you.

No one can argue that, and you don't have to defend it. It just is. Just like Apollos knowing the Scripture backwards and forwards, and that Scripture could only point to Jesus as Messiah. It was what it was; what it is.

So, Apollos didn't wait around for permission to share what he knew to be true. In fact, Peter says Apollos was fervent in spirit, he was burning with spiritual zeal. He was gonna jump up and shout the news!

Now, Apollos wasn't exactly ignorant, to be sure. He really did have the equivilant of a PhD in Scripture. He knew his stuff. Nothing was getting by this guy.

But he didn't know the rest of the story. He only knew the baptism of John, and nothing about the Holy Spirit or the work of the apostles, or what he should do if he couldn't convince the Jewish leaders of the truth.

He knew the Messiah had come, but he didn't know what that meant for both the Jews and the Gentiles. Luckily for Apollos, he ran into Priscilla and Aquila.

Priscilla and Aquila were prominent leaders in the early church. They were a husband and wife team, and contrary to Jewish tradition, Aquila was not the leader, or Pastor, with Priscilla merely a wife helping out in her husband's ministry.

Scripture mentions the pair 6 times and in four of those instances (Acts 18:18, 26; Rom 16:3; 2 Tim 4:19), Priscilla is mentioned first, followed by Aquila, which bible scholars familiar with the style of Greek writing, suggest indicates an equal role.  It is likely that in some areas Priscilla was in charge, while in other situations, Aquila took the lead.

This is only one of many examples in which God shows us that women are a vital resource in Christian church leadership. So take heart, ladies, you can be an Apollos, too.

Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos preaching, and they invited him to their home. They recognized the passion he had for Jesus, and realized Apollos was missing some vital information.

Did they contradict him in public? Did they talk about him behind his back? Did they undermine his ministry? Did they pull him aside and let him know he wasn't good enough to preach because he didn't know as much as they? Praise God, no! What a resource that would have been lost had that been the case.

Neither did they say, "Oh well, he doesn't have some vital information, but he is passionate and enthusiastic, so let him do what he's doing." That would have been just as much a diservice to both Apollos and to his listeners, as if they'd ostrasized him.

Instead, Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos home and fed him, then filled in the missing pieces. The Greek says they took him aside to teach him undisturbed. Can you imagine the joy of Apollos when his new friends shared what had all happened after John the Baptist announced the arrival of the Messiah?

Apollos was so excited about this news, so enthusiastic to work with other passionate Christians, he couldn't wait to get back to Greece and get involved. Peter says Priscilla and Aquila sent word to the leaders of the church to welcome Apollos and off he went, becoming "a great help."

Can you imagine the outcome if Apollos had been too full of pride to accept their instruction? What if he had said, "Hey, I know a whole lot more about Scripture than you, and I am doing just fine on my own. I like running my own show, so thanks, but no thanks."

Apollos was fervent, passionate, zealous for the Good News of Jesus Christ and so he wanted to know more. He was willing to be taught, and he was willing to spend time learning and working with those who had the experience he lacked.

I love this story for so many reasons! What about you? What speaks to your heart? Is it the passion for Apollos? Is it his determination to get out there and share the Truth, even though he didn't know everything?

Is it God's example of a women in Christian leadership? Is it the genuine grace and love of God evident in both Priscilla and Aquila, who stoked the fire of Apollos instead of shutting him down? Or is it Apollos' desire to learn, and be useful to God?

Spend some time thinking about where you fit in this story, and what you can do with what you already know. What more do you need to learn?

Let's pray: Father, thank you so much for leaders and teachers who point us to you, who encourage the gift you have placed in us, who share their insight and knowledge without extinguishing our passion to be of service to you. Give us each the courage to share what we do know,  even if we don't have all the answers.