Sunday, July 16, 2017

SS 7/16 - Let your light shine so others can see it

Numbers 21:4-9

Situation: Moses and the Israelites have been freed from Egyptian slavery by God and now they are between Egypt and the land of Canaan.  They journeyed for 40 years because they kept failing to trust God.  God has been very gracious to not kill them all in the desert because of their constant complaining after all he’s done for them.  He fed them mysterious bread from heaven called “manna” and quail.  He kept their shoes from wearing out and kept them all alive.  So here’s the story.

They traveled along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Remember, kids, God graciously gave them this food.  He did not have to.  He could have just made them hunt and work for it, but he gave it freely.  And he also could have killed them the first time they were ungrateful that he freed them from having to work night and day with no break in Egypt.
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

Unless you are tempted to think of how stupid the Israelites are because they are so ungrateful, let me remind you of what you all do.  You waste whole sandwiches because you want sugar.  You have the rare opportunity to tour SunTrust Park but complain about being hungry and having to walk everywhere.  And you continue to be mean to each other no matter how many times I have told you to treat each other the way you want to be treated.  And lest I think too highly of myself, I actually do the same things.  That’s why I get so mad when I see you do it. 

Do you see how miserable and pathetic we are because of sin?  We love ourselves so much that we think we are better than God.  We want our way and not his way.  And yet he still let us wake up today. 

Jesus talks about this story to Nicodemus.  John 3:14-15 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

But do you know how dark it is because of sin?  It was impossible to come to God in our sin because we would burn in his anger.  But what was impossible, God made possible.  Just like he had mercy and let Moses make a bronze snake so that the people could look to it and be healed from their snake-bites, he also sent to us a Savior to die in my place for the sin I committed, and then Jesus lived so I could inherit his goodness. 

This flashlight is made to shine.  But what happens?  Nothing.  Let’s open the battery area.  Nothing.  What if I put coins and rocks in it?  Still nothing. It needs batteries.

In the same way, you have no light or life without Jesus.  We are dead in our sins and trespasses and cannot believe because we’re dead.  Jesus has to make us alive.  And if you believe and love our Lord, then he has done that.  If you are hearing me tell you this, then you are being called and must respond.

And when you respond, you need to take the light of Jesus and share it with others.  And the meaner that people are to you, the more they need that light and love that has changed you.

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine so others can see it.  Then they will see the good things you do.  And they will bring glory to your father in heaven.

There was once a man named Jim Elliot.  He and some men and their wives went to share Jesus with native Americans in South America.  But these men did not want the light just yet, so they killed Jim and the other men.  What did their wives do?  What would you do if you were the wives?  They came back to South America to share Jesus with the same men that killed their husbands.  And they came to know Jesus and were saved from hell.  When the children grew up, they had every right to kill the men who killed their dads.  But they did not.  They treated them like dads and loved them.  We are to do the same thing to others.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

SS 6/8 - 1 John 4

Watch 2nd video on 1 John 4:7-12

To be God’s child, do we first need to become good at loving?
No.  God helps us grow in love after we become his children.  If we had to improve, we would never come.  But we must grow in love after we come to God and he will help us.

Where does true love come from?
God.  Not the kissy-face stuff on TV.  God.  In and of ourselves, we have no love but God plants it into us when he saves us.

How did God show his true love for us?
By sending Jesus to save us from death.  Was there anything in us for God to love when he did that?  No, we had completely betrayed him and had earned eternal suffering from God and he did not have to show us love.

How do we show God to others?
By loving them!  Do we only show love to the people we like?  What about the people who get on our nerves?  What if they don’t stop poking us?  What if they call us names?  What if they break promises?  What if they treat you like a baby?

Think of someone you really can’t stand.  Now think of a way that you can show love to that person.

Play God’s Word – Keep It - based on 1 John 4:1-6
Like Hot Potato except they want it.  When they get the Bible, they can read a scripture.  I will provide a false statement and then the Scripture that contradicts it.

Jesus was just a spirit or Jesus wasn’t completely God.  1 John 4:2
We must go to someone else to get to God like a priest or a dead saint.  1 Timothy 2:5
If you sin, then you have to atone for it again and again.  Hebrews 10:17-18
Jesus is never coming back and we can do what we want.  1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
All people will be saved.  2 Thessalonians 2:10b
We can come to God through any path.  Acts 4:12
We don’t need someone to die for our sins.  Hebrews 9:22

God is guilty of divine child abuse by sending Jesus to die for our sins.  Philippians 2:9 and John 10:17-18

Bonus: A kid asked me what was a Christian.  I need to answer it.
Romans 10:9 - If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Simply, a Christian is someone who has been saved by Jesus when he was crucified from God’s wrath for our sins and given a new righteousness from Jesus.  Now that person lives for Jesus and looks to him to sin less.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

SS 6/18 - 1 John 3:1-10

This month we are doing a series by Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer called "What Is a Christian?"  It is a series on 1 John and this week, I was assigned chapter 3.  This dialogue is from verses 1-10

Who were the ones who could talk to the king at any time and not get in trouble?  His children.  Think about it.  What does your dad do?  What if I just went into his office, spun around on his swivel chair and played on his computer?  Would that be weird?  But what if you did that?  It would be perfectly normal.

Since God created everything and is in charge of everything, what does that make him? The King of everything

And John says, because of Jesus, we are invited to be…what?
The children of God.  That also means that only Christians are God’s children.  If you are a Christian, you are God’s child.  If not, then you need to know Jesus.  You cannot come to God unless you know Jesus and accept his sacrifice for your sins.  When you do that, you are covered by his blood, your sins are forgiven, and the Holy Spirit baptizes you.  You are now adopted into God’s family as a child.

If you are God’s child, then when can you talk to God and be with him?
Whenever you want!

If we are God’s children, will we stop being mean and selfish all at once?
No, in this life we will never be sinless, but with God’s Spirit, we will sin less.  We will do what we can do to please Jesus, not because we are afraid of him but because we love him.

When Jesus comes back we will see him “as he really is.”  What does that mean?
Let’s be honest, what does the world, or people who don’t go to church, think about Jesus?  He’s boring, not necessary for life, a goody-two shoes, a great teacher but not God, a killjoy, stifling, suffocating.  But when he comes, how will we see him?  As exciting, beautiful, nothing more desirable, God in the flesh, the one we love and long for.  Who is someone you really look forward to seeing?  Why?  Jesus is all that and more.

And what will we be like then?  And our whole world?

We will be like him for we shall see him as he is

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Eek! - My Lighthouse lesson for 6/11

1 John 4:18 – Perfect love drives out fear

Do you know what I think of when I read this verse?  I think of a golfer with a driver and a ball on a tee.  That ball is our fear, and the golfer is our Lord.  It takes that club and smacks that ball so far away that it won’t be found for a while.  When we say this verse, let’s say it like a golfer sending a ball far, far away.

I also think of the Lord taking my fears into a car, driving it into the desert, and leaving it there.

I want to show you a few things that scare people.  As I show them to you, I want to see how many of you are afraid of these things.

Snake doll:  Back in 2006 I worked at Rainforest CafĂ© in Nashville at Opry Mills.  Has anybody been to one?  It has robot animals, jungle decorations and a story.  The store has toy snake dolls and one of the employees had one.  On the other side of the whole mall was a shooting.  The employee with the snake doll was scaring another employee with it.  She was not afraid of working in the same mall as a shooting, but she was afraid of any snake.  Real or fake, dead or alive.  She was afraid of snakes.

Toy spider:  I know somebody who will not watch certain movies because they feature giant spiders or bugs.  My own dad originally would not watch Charlotte’s Web because it has a spider.  However, I am the one who picks up roaches with my bare hands and throws them away.

A doll:  Did anybody have any dolls that would talk if you pull a string or press a button in its hand?  Did any of those dolls talk without you doing that in the night at some point?  We used to have a toy train that would do that.

Everybody has something they are afraid of.  Here are some other fears:
Arachnophobia? (Spiders)
Acrophobia? (Heights)
Thanatophobia? (Death)
Achluophobia (Darkness)
Ophidiophobia? (Snakes)
Pediophibia? (Dolls)
Sesquipedalophobia (Fear of long words)

Even the bravest soldiers and the boldest explorers have fears.  The key is not to let your fear overcome you.  If a soldier lets his fear of death overcome him, he can’t fight.  If an explorer lets fear of heights or darkness overcome him, he’s missing out on a great adventure.

The Bible talks about a cure for fear: taking them to Jesus.  And you know what else it says?  Jesus himself was afraid.

Jesus is God.  He always was and he always will be.  He created the world.  He created you and me.  He saw his creation rebel against him and turn their backs on him, earning permanent separation from God and death.  If you sin, you must die for your sins.

But God kindly sent him to pay the only price that could save us from hell: blood from a perfect man: the only man that could survive God’s wrath.

He also did all that for joy that he would see his people in heaven and rule the earth with them.

At the same time, Jesus was completely human.  He was born to a mother, got sick, got hungry, had to learn in school, had to learn to obey, and he did all that perfectly.  But he also cried and was afraid.

At this point in the scripture that I will read, Jesus was about to face the worst day in his whole existence: his death on the cross.  On that day, the soldiers would beat his back with a bony whip that would tear his skin and expose his bones.  They would put a nasty robe on him and press a crown of thorns into his head.  Then they would nail him through his wrists and his feet and he would eventually choke to death on the cross.  But that isn’t nearly as bad as God the Father turning his back on him so that he could take the full punishment for all our sins.

Does it ever feel like God has turned his back on you?  I can happily tell you that it has never happened to you.  You may disobey your parents, cheat at school, get in arguments, disappoint your teachers, make expensive mistakes, even end up in jail or dead, but God the Father has not turned his back on you while you still live on this planet.  But he did that to Jesus so that he could save you from your sins.

With all that, I will now read from Matthew 26:36-46.

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Why is Jesus afraid?  Because he knows what is coming.  Jesus had come to earth to die, and the thought of being tortured, hung on a cross, and dying had become very real.  Jesus is sincere when he prays to his Heavenly Father, “If it’s at all possible, please don’t let this happen.”  And yet, even in his hour of great fear, Jesus is willing to do what it takes to complete his mission – “Your will be done!”

Was Jesus afraid of where he would go when he died?  Not at all.  Jesus came from Heaven, and he knew where he was going after he died.  Jesus was afraid of the pain, of the suffering, of the agony, and the loneliness he would face.  He was human, and he knew that paying for our sins would cost him greatly.  Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to free us from our sin, but he would have gladly taken another way if God had offered it to him.

But Jesus didn’t let the fear get the best of him.  He had come to Earth to save us from sin, and he was not about to run out on us at the last minute.  He could have run and hid.  He could have found another garden to pray at – one Judas would not know about.  But Jesus trust his heavenly Father’s plan.  He knew that death was not the end.  It was his whole purpose in living.  He knew that if he died, he could save us from our sins.  Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that he could be the cure for sin, for fear, and even death.  His death destroyed our sin and punishment and his resurrection gave us new righteousness (his righteousness) and life. 

What does that mean for us today?  What are some things that make you afraid?

I will talk about some of the things that make me afraid and why I would still face them.

I’m afraid of heights.  But if I am playing with a frisbee, and it gets stuck on a roof, then I would climb a latter with the joy of knowing that I would be reunited with my frisbee.

I’m afraid of confrontation and having to discipline children.  I do that as my job, but I do not enjoy that.  But if a kid is misbehaving, I would rather put that person in time out than have to see them continue in their bad behavior.  I do it for the joy of possibly being friends with that kid when they grow up and knowing that that person loves Jesus and wants to obey him.

I’m afraid of not succeeding in life.  I have been turned down for so many jobs and opportunities that it makes me not want to apply.  But I also still do it because I have a husband to support who also supports me, and I have a goal to move to another house.  I keep those in mind as I continue to look for better jobs and situations.

I can take all of those things to Jesus who was afraid of the worst possible thing yet still went through with it for my sake.  He saw the vision of living with us in eternity as friends and decided to go through with his worst fears.

But all these fears have one thing in common.  I take all my fears to Jesus and ask him to help me through them.  I cannot even wake up in the morning without Jesus allowing me to live another day.  I did not come to believe in Jesus without his Holy Spirit changing my heart to want to love and follow him.  And that is the same for you.  Every move you make really is from God, just like the song says.  You are still responsible for your choices and decisions, but you still rely completely on God to guide you through your life.  You must take your fears to God.

What are other things you fear that you will face?  Why would you face them?  What prize is at the end of them?

I have had one other fear that even I’m afraid to take to Jesus: fear that somehow God and the Bible are not true and that when I die, that will be the end.  But even that fear I had to take to Jesus or else I would not be cured from it.  I must believe that there is more to this life than right now and what I can see or else I won’t be able to move.  If you have that doubt, you must do the same.  If you don’t have that doubt now, but you do later on, you will know what to do.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

There is no one more perfect love than in Jesus.  And his love takes a golf club to fear and drives it far, far away.  Or he will put it in a car, drive it out to the desert, and leave it there.  You must trust in this love, bask in this love, and share this love with other people, wanting only the best for them, which is Jesus.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mark: what if it just ended there?

First part of Mark 16:

It's been a while.  My life got busy and then it got less busy and then my brain burned out.  But I plan to eke this out to make at least one, if not two posts about Mark 16.  This is the famous chapter where in original manuscripts it ends after verse 8.  But later on, people needed to read about seeing the resurrected Jesus and they borrowed verses from the other gospels.  I might be wrong, but if I recall, that's how John MacArthur sees it.  RC Sproul disagrees.

But anyway, the women go to the tomb to embalm the body and wonder how they will roll away the stone.  A guard was placed there.  And by guard I don't mean one lonely guard, but 50.  The Pharisees were so paranoid that either the disciples would fake a resurrection, or even worse, that one would actually happen, that they thought they could stop it with 50 measly men.

The women get there to see the stone already rolled away.  Angels are there saying that he is risen.  And then, in the original manuscript, Mark ends it in a cliffhanger at verse 8.

And often, that is how many people end their encounter with Jesus.  They hear that he is alive, but the story ends.  They say they believe that people don't have to work for salvation, but then they go overboard with trying to make up for their sins or doing good things for people as if Christ's work on the cross was not enough.

They say they worship nobody else but God, but then they find salvation in other people like their friends, their parents, other people's parents, people who are no longer alive, or human priests/preachers.  But no, Jesus came so he could be the mediator between God and man, being both himself.  There is now no wall dividing Christians from God and we can come to him freely.

Or they ask Jesus into their hearts only to still live the same lives they lived before.  They still watch whatever their friends watch, take whatever dares are offered, and listen to awful music only because it is popular.  Or they neglect to read the Bible so that when heresy comes along and is sold in the popular Christian novels and books, they swallow it up and buy copies of the book/movie for everyone.

But no, Jesus is alive and he doesn't just want to live in your heart; he wants to live outside in your live and rule over you.  He wants you to read his direct words to you in the Bible.  He wants you to know both the bad news and Old Testament history that lead to him until you realize that the story is relevant to you because you have a history of turning your back on God before Jesus comes and pays your penance for you and then sends his Spirit to change your heart so that you can accept him.

I'm so glad the story doesn't just end with a wondering about what the angel said, but with a actual encounter with Jesus that grows and never ends.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mark: After it is finished

Mark 15:33-47

At this point, Jesus breathed his last breath.  The women disciples come take his body down and prep it and then Joseph of Arimathea buys a tomb for him to lay in.

Jesus himself said, "It is finished!"  And after the worst day of his whole eternal existence, Jesus begins the return the glory that he had always had as the second member of the Godhead.

Normally, a criminal who had died by execution would not receive a proper burial but probably be thrown in a garbage dump.  Not Jesus.  One of his closet followers among the Pharisees who did not agree with them in opposing Jesus finally came out asked if he could bury him.  This was his first time publicly showing his faith in our Lord and accepting that Jesus was the Messiah.  Another gospel says that Nicodemus also helped Joseph, another man who was originally silent on his love for Jesus.

Also, the women, who rarely get mentioned, get to shine.  Normally, the male disciples get the attention, but since they all deserted except for John, the women who their love by embalming him.

His resurrection still comes, but now his followers still don't get it.  But slowly, they come back to Jesus and give him the honor he deserves.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mark: How we know God cares

Mark 15:1-32

In this passage, Jesus is tried before Pontius Pilate.  Pilate is the governor of Judea and in town for Passover.  He sees Jesus as innocent but still condemns him to crucifixion to please the people.  Politics are more important than the right thing as they always seem to be.

As Jesus carries one part of his cross, at some point he can't hold it longer so the guards compel a random man named Simon of Cyrene to carry it.

And at the last, Jesus is at Golgotha hanging on the cross but as verse 32 ends, he has not died yet.

I don't have much to say at this passage.  Many people can articulate it better than me.  But in the world there are unfair politics, innocent people dying, and people even forcing people to carry crosses although they don't need to do so.  Jesus already suffered for you.  You don't need to suffer anymore.

But in this world of death, car wrecks, cancer, infertility, holocausts, abortions, rape, sex trafficking, and other horrors, it is sometimes hard to know if God cares.  Yes, all of these are a result of man turning away from God in Adam and Eve.  Yes, I believe that God has planned all things that happen without being the author of sin or evil.  But one thing is even greater than this.  In all the horror and misery, we can still know that he cares and loves us because he sent Jesus, the only innocent man, to die and suffer hell in the place of those who believe and call on the name of Jesus.

God always initiates reconciliation and grace when we least deserve it.  We can always trust him to carry us by his Holy Spirit until he finally ends this present age with Christ's perfected kingdom.