Sunday, October 15, 2017

SS: Day two of creation

Have you ever stopped to thank God for air today?  Why would we thank God for giving us air to breathe?  What would happen if there was no air?  Did God have to give us air?  No, God doesn’t have to do anything.  He does it all because he is good and kind. 

What about water?  What if there was no water?  Let us stop to pray and thank God for our air and water.

Read Genesis 1:6-8

And God said, “Let there be a space between the waters to separate water from water.”  So God made the vault and separated the water under the space from the water above it.  And it was so.  God called the space “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day.

For a long time I did not really understand what God created on day two.  In fact, not really until I had to teach the lesson this week.  Reading this, what do you think God created on day two?

·        God said, “Let there be a space between the waters to separate water from water.”
This shows the power of God speaking.  If he wants something to exist, he must speak it.  He said for a huge space to be between the waters.  Until this point, everything was water.  There must have not been anything except water.  We cannot imagine this.  God knew that we would need to breathe, so he made air.

·        So God made the space.
God wanted a space, so that’s what happened.  He made a space.  It does not say that God wanted a space so he kind of made one.  No, he wanted a space, so he made a space.  He made a huge space between the waters, and it was exactly how he wanted it.

·        And separated the water under the space from the water over the space.
God separated the water.  Only water filled the earth, but now God made a space in the water.  We can understand the water below the space because of the oceans and rivers and lakes.  Where is the water above?  Remember, clouds are made of water.  Rain, snow, and sleet all come from above the space.

·        God called the space “sky.”
God name it “sky.”  We still call it the sky.  God knew that we would need to call it something.

·        And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day.
So far, in two days, God created the heavens, the earth, light, and a sky space.

Basically, God turned water into something completely different: air.  Before that, people would not be able to breathe, and God wanted to create a world for people, so he made air.

Fill a bowl with water.  Scrunch up a piece of paper.  Push the paper into the bottom of the glass so that it cannot fall out.  Turn the glass upside down and plunge it straight down into the bowl of water.

What happened do that paper?  It stayed inside the glass.  That is the power of air.  It held up this paper just like it holds up the water in the sky.  How this works is that the air inside the glass takes up space and pushes.  The paper stays dry because the water can only get into the glass by squashing the air inside it.  Air can be squashed or compressed a little but then it pushes back and prevents water from reaching the paper.  This is something you can show your parents later today.

Do you want to know another time that God changed water into something else? (Does anybody else feel awkward teaching this next passage to children?  What if they ask if Jesus really made wine?  They didn't today, but seriously.)

John 2:1-12.

On the third day, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus’s mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus’s mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied.  “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fil the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.  He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples.  There they stayed for a few days.

In this passage, Jesus, who is God the Son, turned water into a drink that would bring life to a party.  Without it, a newly married couple could not properly celebrate their new marriage, and Jesus graciously turned something boring and possibly full of germs into something that tasted good and could even make people silly.

So, many times, God sees that we don’t have something that we need, and he will provide for it whenever the time is right.  For Jesus, it was after the wedding planners had run out of wine.  For God the Father, it was when he realized that people would need air to breathe.  What about for you?  When did God finally give you something you needed at the right time?

Just this year, God let me have a full-time job and a house closer to this church.  I didn’t get them until this year and I have been going to this church 4 years now and have been needing a job since I became an adult.  He also provide a husband when I was in my late 20s after being single for so long.  He brought me everything I needed in just the right time, though he did not have to do so.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

SS: Kingdom, Power, Glory - also why God gets glory in sad times

Here is the last part: For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen!  It’s the part not included in most Bibles, but it has ended the Lord’s prayer in churches for thousands of years.

Everybody likes a story with a good ending, a happily ever after.  This part of the Lord’s prayer is called the doxology, which means literally in Greek, “glory saying”. It is something said that brings glory to God.  It is the happily ever after of the prayer.  It reminds us that God is in charge.  Let’s read Revelation 4:11.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

This was also made into a song: Thou Art Worthy.  Let’s sing it.

God is worthy, he deserves to receive all of our praises and honor and all the glory for everything because he created everything.  And why did he create everything?  For his glory!  He gets to receive the credit for creating all life and forgiving his people from their sins.  Everything that he decides will give him glory if not now, then when Jesus comes back.

By the way, does this made God sound like he is conceited when we say he made everything for his glory?  We know that God is not self-centered.  There is no one more selfless than our God.  So why can he create everything for his glory and not be selfish?  Because he is not just one person – he’s three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is not three gods, just one; but he is three persons.  And everything each person does is for the glory of the other two.  And it has always been that way.  It never began, and it will never end.  It always was.

Now, let’s look at an odd verse that the writer of this lesson chose: Job 36:22-24.

“God is exalted in his power.
    Who is a teacher like him?
23 Who has prescribed his ways for him,
    or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?
24 Remember to extol his work,
    which people have praised in song.

Why do I call this odd?  Because of Job’s story.  Let’s go to chapter 1.

At this point, I will read Job 1.  Someone will play Satan, and someone will play Job.  Someone can read God’s lines, too.  Job will have animals/money, servants, and children.  God will allow Satan to take all that from him.  Then, I will explain that in chapter 2, God also allowed Satan to make Job very sick. 

Job never cursed God or turned away from him, but he did question his goodness and fairness.  His three friends started wondering if Job did something wrong to earn this sadness, but we all know he did not.  Then, a young man named Elihu came and told Job and his friends that they were all wrong and then said the verse we just read.  Let’s read it again. 

And finally, God spoke up and told Job no answers or apologies.  Simply, he is God and we are not.

Does this give God any less glory?  Let’s see the original reason God did this in chapter 1: he wanted to prove that Job would remain faithful to God.  So, he actually wanted to glorify his friend Job.  And in the end, God will receive glory through that, too.  And even better, God will send Jesus the Son to die for Job’s sins and raise him from the dead to give Job his complete goodness. 

And whenever you are going through a sad time, you must remember that God is doing the same for you.  He is glorifying both you and ultimately his Son, Jesus.

I feel like singing the Doxology again.  Let’s do that!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

SS: Lead us not into temptation

We are almost done with the Lord’s Prayer!  Let’s open the special letter from God!  It says, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”  Hold a picture of a yield sign.  Have you ever seen one of these?  What does a yield sign tell drivers to do?  When a drier comes to a yield sign, they have to slow down and let other drivers into the flow of traffic.  This sign helps drivers to be polite and make sure all drivers on the road can get to where they are going.  Yielding in traffic can be a very good thing to do.  What about in our walks with Jesus?  Are we supposed to yield to temptation, and let it into our walk with Jesus?  NO!  In this part of the Lord’s prayer, we ask God to help us NOT yield to temptation.  Temptation should never get a chance to drive on our roads.

Let’s think about what temptation is.  How many of you ride a bicycle?  Do your parents have any rules about where you can ride your bike?  The lesson’s author could only ride on the driveway.  Her parents did not let her ride in the street because it would not be safe.  When she got older, she could ride farther, but as a little child, she was only allowed to play in the driveway. Where did she want to ride the most?  On the street.  Even though her parents said she could ride only on the driveway, she was tempted to ride in the street.  She knew it was wrong, but she wanted to do it anyway.

That is what temptation is: thinking about doing the wrong thing.  Temptation is not a sin.  Everyone is tempted, but when we are tempted, we decide whether we obey the temptation or obey the Lord.  If you do the wrong thing, then it is sin.  That is why we must ask God for us to not yield into temptation.  We want to do the right thing, but sometimes, we want to do the wrong thing more.  God will change our hearts so that we don’t give into our urges.

Temptation on its own is not a sin.  Jesus was tempted, and he never sinned.  Here is the story from Matthew 4:1-11.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a]by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
How did Jesus stand up to all of Satan’s tricks?  Every time the devil tried to tempt Jesus, Jesus quoted the Bible to him.  Jesus knew what the Bible said, and it helped him to stay on the right path, the path of righteousness.  How do we know what the Bible says?  We must read it.  Every day.  Even when we don’t understand it.

Let’s look up James 1:12-14.  Who wants to find it?  Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
This verse tells us that God will never tempt us.  He does not want us to do wrong.  We, all on our own, are tempted by our own wants.

What are some temptations you may face?

This is a depressing list.  There are lots of ways we can be tempted to do the wrong thing.   But there is good news!  Whenever we are tempted to do wrong, God provides a way out.  1 Corinthians 10:12-13, 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

What a wonderful promise!  No matter how much we may want to yield to temptation, we know that God will never let us face more temptation than we can handle.  God makes us strong enough to say NO to any wrong thing we may be tempted to do.

Sometimes we are tempted to do wrong things, but God makes us strong enough to do the right thing.  I have one more passage of Scripture: Matthew 7:13-14.   “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Since we are Christians, we want to follow Jesus and spend all of forever with him.  To start doing that now, we have to avoid doing what everyone else is doing.  Most of the world wants to sin and the most popular things can lead to sin.  But less people will do the right thing and you want to do what less people are doing.  We want to follow Jesus so that we can avoid giving into sin.  We can do that by asking God to help us stay strong and avoid being tempted.  We must read the Bible and learn what Jesus wants us to do.  His Holy Spirit will guide us to the right thing.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

LH: Ruler

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Choose one kid to help with the lesson. Give him the blue marker and ask him to draw a straight line. Examine the line closely and look for where it’s not so straight. Give him the red marker and have him try again. Then give him the green marker to try a third time. Finally, let him use the yardstick to draw with the black marker.

You can draw and draw and draw free hand, and you’ll never make a line as straight as you do with a yardstick. The yardstick keeps your hand steady and keeps your marker from wavering. With a yardstick, you can draw straight and true every time. God has a path he wants us all to take, and like this line, it’s straight and narrow. But on every side of this path are distractions and temptations designed to pull us off on a different path. God wants us to lean on him, just as we leaned on the yardstick with this marker, so He can make our path straight.

Spend time with God every day. Pray at all times. Remember what God has done for you, and lean on Him. He will make sure you stay on a straight path.

What’s the fastest route from here to the boy’s room?  What’s the fastest route to the sanctuary?  Does anyone know the fastest route to the nearest restaurant after church?

When you and your family hop in the car to go some place, you take the shortest route possible.  Not many people drive ten miles out of the way to go to a place that’s only a few blocks over.  You take the quickest route possible. 

Can anyone tell me what the shortest distance is between two places?  It’s a straight line.  And what school supply makes the best straight lines?  It’s a ruler.  Rulers are an important tool in our backpack, especially if we’re doing math or art.  Rulers help us to measure distance, but they also provide a straight edge that helps us connect two dots in the shortest, most direct route possible.  Rulers are also a great reminder of today’s scripture.  What is it again?

Read Proverbs 3:5-6.

Solomon wrote most of Proverbs.  He says to trust in the Lord with all our hearts.  Instead of following our own wisdom, we need to lean on God – the way our pencils lean against our rulers when we draw straight lines.  If we do so, then God will make our paths straight.

Why is it so important to find that straight path?  Because this world is full of temptations and distractions, things that will pull us away from God if we’re not careful.  God wants us to rely on him so that we will not go astray.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and stay on the straight path.

Psalm 73 tells the story of Asaph who was once comparing himself to other people.  Then it tells of what happened when he finally compared both himself and them to God.  I have the text in bold and stage directions in unbold.

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Show “Asaph” with a “bad guy” played by two kids

They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. “Bad guy” flexes
They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Show bad guy going to doctor and getting healed while Asaph coughs.
Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. Bad guy starts punching the air.
From their hardened hearts comes sin; their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Bad guy: ha, ha, I’m going to beat you up!  Beats up Asaph
Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of earth.
Have bad guy stealing things from Asaph.
Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters of abundance.
All the crowd asks the bad guy to be their friend.  Boo at Asaph
They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?”

This is what the wicked are like – always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.  All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.
Asaph wears rags and is sick all the time.
If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children.  When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply…till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. Bad guy falls down.
How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
Bad guy can’t sleep at night and has nightmares.
They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
Bad guy is taken away and Asaph takes center stage.
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.  Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
Have someone put an arm around Asaph and stay there.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.  But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Let’s look closer at this Psalm.  Asaph was jealous of a wicked person because everything seemed to go his way while Asaph always suffered.

The wicked people were healthy all the time while he always seemed sick.  I feel like this is the case today.  I know people who have smoked cigarettes for years and years and they live long lives into their 80s and 90s.  Then I know people who take good care of their bodies, who eat healthy and exercise, and they get cancer at a young age and die.

And then these wicked people seem to be able to get married, have children, move into their own houses while honest people do all the right things but can’t get pregnant, can’t move out of their houses, and can’t find jobs.

And then, they think of all the wicked things they can do.  Perhaps they have found a way to destroy a certain group of people and then make a profit off of their destruction.  And people who are kind to everybody can’t seem to make friends.

But then, Asaph went to temple, the church of his day and noticed that the infinitely good God, his goodness has no end, is still alive and still watching his planet, planning everything that happens in a way that we don’t always understand, but that will benefit his church in the time to come.  For example, it was bad that Jesus died on the cross, but God planned that so that everyone who believes in him can have their sins paid for and live forever with Jesus in his new kingdom.  It was bad that Adam and Eve sinned and brought evil in the world, but God always planned on revealing Jesus to them who would save them from their sins.  It is bad that some people have lost their lives in standing up for their faiths in Jesus, but God took that and brought other people to Jesus through their testimony.

Jesus will never die, but wicked people will die and never spread their evil again. Asaph said that he was once a brute beast and ignorant, which is just another word for uninformed, even, dare I say, stupid.  Even Asaph was evil, but he came to know God in a saving way and to look forward to a day when Jesus would come.  He stopped comparing himself to an evil person who always seemed successful and compared himself to God who is the definition of good to see that both the wicked person and himself are sinful and need to be saved.  Only one person can save us, and that is Jesus.

What are some ways you have strayed from what God wanted you to do?  I know many times when I lose my patience and get angry with people.  I know God hates that.  I pray that he will heal me of that.  Have you been tempted by other kids to follow the wrong crowd, listen to the wrong music, do the wrong thing?  Maybe you cheated on a test, or were tempted to. 

Don’t be fooled.  People who hate God and his laws seem to star in all the shows, get the music or movie awards, get elected to office from all political parties and have many people who love them.  And other children who disobey teachers, parents, and God may seem to be having fun and friends right now.  But one day, if they do not turn to God and accept Jesus as their savior and Lord, their end will not be very good. 

If you die apart from God’s will, you will remain under his anger forever.  All have turned away from God and deserve this.  But Jesus came to take that punishment if you will only surrender your life to him and love him.  He will take your punishment and replace all your evil with his goodness so that you will grow more like him through the Holy Spirit for the rest of your life and then enjoy a perfect existence with him forever in his permanent Kingdom.  Measure your life against Jesus, and not against other people no matter how much you like them.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

4 observations from Hosea 2 and a search for satisfaction

Here is my second post in interaction with Kelly Needham's inductive Bible Study on Hosea.  I'm taking the slow track.  Last time I had read through chapters 1-3 and answered questions.  This time, Kelly had her class take a copy of Hosea 2:2-23 and underline and highlight things.  I was a little dismayed to be in chapter 2 again, but the idea is not only to study Hosea, but to also help women learn inductive bible study.

Women need to come to the Bible and read what it says rather than come with pre-conceived notions that they have heard all their lives.  I don't think I come unbiased.  I don't think anyone does.  I do my best to follow the instructions but still need to put my own interpretation on them.  So here are 4 things I noted when I tried to follow directions.

1. Kelly had her class underline all verbs and then double underline any command.  The very first word of verse two is a command: "Plead."  Plead with your mother for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband - that she put away her harlotry from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts.  The command is addressed to the children of Gomer and more greatly, the children of Israel to plead with God's lost loved ones to quit cheating on him with other gods and looking to them.

I also went and double underlined any verb that had "you" in front of it.  In verse 16 it says, "in that will call me 'My Husband,' and no longer will you call me 'My Baal.'"  The kings of the Northern kingdom of Israel would set up golden calves so that they would not have to go to the Jerusalem temple to worship and told them that the people were really worshiping the true God through calves.  They didn't have direct access to the priests who had the law saying you should not worship God through images - ever.  So they were led astray into worshiping God in ways that he forbid, and often it did involve literal prostitution to try to appease fertility gods.

God wants his lost loved ones to return to him and relate to him in his terms and not on theirs.

2. In three different places there is a list of assets prized by the woman addressed in this passage.  In one sense, this woman is Gomer, Hosea's wanton wife, and in a greater sense, the woman is Israel/the church, God's wanton bride.  Verse 5b, "For she said, 'I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.'"  Verse 8, "And she did nto know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her slver and gold, which they used for Baal."  And verse 22, "and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel."

We need to stop crediting our incomes and all we have to anyone other than God.  Do you have a house, heating and air, internet, food, a job?  Do you thank your own self for those things and not God?  I don't know how many times I've heard somebody say that "mother nature" is doing such and such or the universe has planned life differently than I did.  Mother nature and the universe are all non-entities along with evolution and chance.  They don't exist.  God does, and he is tired of not getting credit for all that happens.  He gives us everything and he doesn't have to, and we need to love him more than anyone or anything else.

3.  There is a series of "answering" in verses 21 through 22.  I will start with verse 20.  "I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.  And you shall know the LORD. 'And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel."  And before that in verse 15, "And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt."  God formed a covenant with Abraham and later on with all of Israel that if the nation would follow him, they would live, but if not, somebody would die.  And God passed through the torn animals in Genesis 15 when he covenanted with Abram saying that if the covenant was broken, then he would take the punishment.  Israel has done nothing but break the covenant promises.  Yet, God faithfully held them accountable by still claiming them as his bride and later sending Jesus to die for the sins of his Church.  And God answered all of heaven, which answered the earth with its grain, wine, and oil, which answered Jezreel, the plain where king Jehu slayed Ahab's family and also another name for Israel.

4. Despite the Church's unfaithfulness, God still desires her for Christ's bride.  Verses 2 through 13 show God's judgment for unfaithful Gomer's adulteries.  He is going to divorce his wife because she always goes after other men/gods who give her luxuries that she already had with her husband.  He will publicly shame her in front of everyone for her shameful behavior.

In ancient Israel, it was unheard of for a man to take back his wife after she had had affairs.  Sometimes she could live with her man but not have conjugal relations again.  But in verse 14, God changes his tone and says, "I will allure her."  He still wants to take her back.  She will face consequences as he will take her into the wilderness until all that she knows is God, the only true oasis in this cursed life.  I feel like this is my life.  I long for something, get it, but it is never enough and I always want more.  But in this life, I will never be truly satisfied because I was made for God and I don't know him in his fullness in this life.  And I have been unfaithful, longing for friends and relationships that would fill a hole in my life.  But they don't satisfy and my desires are unrequited.  But they will never be filled with anything other than the physical presence of Jesus which I will not know until the end of time.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

SS: on earth as it is in heaven

Lately, in Sunday School, we've been using a curriculum that I don't really have to change much, just print.  Today, I changed it up.  Instead of going from verse to verse, I really like to just take one passage and camp out.

Today's part of the Lord's Prayer is "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  The curriculum started out with the verse from Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

Not everyone who says they are a Christian is a Christian.  I will explain two types of that, but first, I will deviate from the lesson and contrast heaven and earth.

For heaven, I will go to Mark 9:2-8.

"After six days, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.  There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up three shelters - one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: 'This is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to him!'

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus."

What is heaven like?  Jesus is there in his complete God-ness.  Believers who died are there alive.  No pain, frustration, sadness, crying.  Only excitement.

Now for earth, I will go to the next passage, Mark 9:14-29

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.
So, in heaven, we have Jesus in his complete God-ness, believers who died are there alive, no pain, frustration, sadness, crying, only excitement.  On earth, there is unbelief, arguing, demon-possession, illness, death, and believers who struggle.  Jesus helped make earth more like heaven by healing the boy of his demon-possession and erasing the father's unbelief.  He also gradually got the disciples to stop arguing with each other.
So this leads me to two signs that someone might be a person who says "Lord, Lord" but isn't really a follower of Jesus.  A false Christian.  They don't necessarily mean a person isn't a real Christian, and even I struggle with both of them from time to time.  1: People who are nice, know Scripture, lead worship, but watch vulgar TV shows with violence, nudity and bad language.  They also spend time looking for guidance from luck, horoscopes, and mediums.  2: People who never watch bad shows, and never live bad lifestyles, but they judge people and put limits on who they can be friends with.
All these people need prayer and love and this is one way we can pray for God's will to be done on earth in heaven.  Also, if we are praying for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, then we are praying for earth to be more like heaven now.
How does God answer this prayer?  Through you and me.  How are we going to help God answer this prayer? 1) Tell people about Jesus.  2) Obey Jesus.  3) Cheer people who hurt.
Also, we made Christian road signs such as "Stop sinning," or "Yield to Jesus."  And I started the lesson with funny road signs such as this:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

SS: Your Kingdom Come

It's week five of series on Lord's Prayer in 1 and 2 grade girls' Sunday School.  I taught week 2, skipped 3 and 4 and am now on 5.  This week, we talk about "Your kingdom come."

Psalm 145:13 says, "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations."
Everlasting means that it has no end.  It also had no beginning.  God's kingdom has always been and always will be.  "Dominion" means kingdom.  And "generations" means our children, their children, and so on.  
Lots of kingdoms have come and gone.  The Roman empire lasted thousands of years, arguably up until the 20th century according to some people.  It's gone.  Before that there were the Greeks, Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians.  They are all gone.  Israel as a kingdom did not last and they thought they would because they had the temple.  God's actual temple lasts, but the earthly one did not.  Even America will not last.  But God's kingdom will always last.  
When Jesus was on trial before Pontius Pilate before his crucifixion, Pilate asked if he was a king.  Jesus said in John 18:36, "Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Right now Jesus is in heaven with our loved ones who have died who believed in him.  But one day he will be here on earth and there will be no more death or sorry or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4)
And he invites all the ones he died for to come to him and believe.
How do we get to heaven?  Some girls gave the typical answer: you die.  But not everyone who dies goes to heaven.  And some said that murderers and liars will go to hell.  Yes, but we all have lied and sinned and deserve hell.  Only one person never made mistakes or sinned: Jesus.  He is God and he did not want his loved ones in hell forever, so he came, lived a perfect life, and then took my punishment on the cross and gave me his goodness.  Then he rose from the dead, and now I and those who believe him will go to heaven and be forgiven.
And the best part is that we don't have to wait until we die to enjoy heaven.  Using scenes from Acts 3 and 4, I showed how God's kingdom comes now through healing (Peter and John healed the lame man), through us sharing the Gospel with people, through our enemies (Peter and John had to stand trial because of their faith and had to share the Gospel through conflict), and then simply spending time with Jesus now in the Bible and in prayer.  Acts 4:13 says "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."
John and Peter were backwoods fishermen who probably couldn't read.  My class is children who can read and me.  We are ordinary people, but we will stand out because we have been with Jesus.  And that is what we must desire when we pray, "Your kingdom come."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

LH: Pencil - a lesson on listening

What is this? (a pencil) What do pencils do? (take notes) If you are at a restaurant and the server has a pad and pencil, what is she doing?  Listening to write down your order and not make a mistake.  Do you know that the internet is not a good listener?  If you google something, it tries to finish the sentence before you are done.  The worst thing is Autocorrect.  Here are some funny Autocorrect mistakes.

1. I like watching how I Met your Mothballs.  The person was trying to say, How I met your Mother.

2. Ugh, I just hate sitting by the phone waiting for it to ripen.  Reply: Is your phone a banana?  Ripen instead of ring.

3. 1:Are you coming to my New Years Eve party? 2: Of course I will be there. 1: Ok cool, because I am going to kill you at midnight.  The person meant to say kiss.

4. 1: I’m sorry, I should have told you sooner. 2: I’m mad.  I don’t want you to keep squirrelmeat from me!  Intended word was secrets

5. I start my new job with the police force on Thursday.  I just picked up my new unicorn.  2: I would never get mad if a cop pulled me over on a unicorn.

6. 1: I had a huge tag sale this weekend and made $450. 2: nice, I’m selling my father’s organs.  Should make a pretty penny.  He meant to say organ.

7. I Love that new eye slicer you bought me last year.  She meant egg slicer, I assume.

8. Need anything from Taliban?  The person meant some store named Ralph’s, not Taliban.

9.  One time autocorrect changed a woman named Chelsea to “Cheesy”

10. One time it change my name, Meghan, to Methane.

If you want to have friends, you have to be a good listener.  You have to listen to what they say without forming in your head what to say next so that you know exactly who they are and why they do what they do.  You may not want to actually have a pad and pencil when you talk to your friends.  That may seem weird though it’s not a bad idea either.  I’ve never done it. 

I do remember when my grandmother was old and really hard-of-hearing, I would bring a pad and pen and write in big letters what I was telling her.  When I first started dating my husband, he went with me to meet her and she first thought he was my brother Andrew.  She said, “Drew! You got bigger!”  I had to write in big letters, “THIS IS MY BOYFRIEND, TIM!”  I miss Granny.

But if you have good hearing, then being a good listener is hard, but important.  One time a teacher had some kid in time out for 5 minutes or so.  When it was up, she told her she could go, but she stayed and they just talked.  Then she asked, “Am I free to go?”  She wasn’t listening.  Not listening cost play time.

Not listening can even lead to tragic results.  The Challenger Explosion was a result of not listening.  NASA tried to launch a rocket into outer space with 7 people on it.  The rocket had a faulty O-ring.  The people who examined the O-ring said to not launch the rocket.  They did not listen but launched the rocket.  It exploded and all 7 people died.

But more importantly than costing you things you want or your friendships or lives, not listening means you think you already know.  And if you think you already know, then you could miss out on life or death information not just for this life but for the life to come.

What is more important thing to know to be saved?  What question do you need to answer correctly?  If you answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” correctly, then you are saved and are going to heaven.  If not, then you are in big trouble and need to listen to know how to be saved.

Jesus asked his disciples this one time in Matthew 16 starting at verse 13.

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,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Simon Peter had been a good Jewish boy and knew the prophecies of Isaiah.  Prophecies like Isaiah 9:6-7:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Good Jewish children also knew about the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:1-6

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
Did Peter have the right answer?  You know he did because Jesus celebrated it like crazy.  How did he know Jesus was the Messiah?  Peter had traveled with Jesus who healed people, had answers to the toughest religious questions, and called all people to repent.  He had a following.  And if he was Messiah, that means he was also God in human skin.  But nobody in his time realized that the promised Messiah and the suffering servant would be the same guy.  Here is what happens when Jesus tries to tell him:

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Why would Jesus all Peter Satan?  Peter wasn’t listening, and Jesus called him Satan because Satan did not want Jesus to die for the sins of his people.  Satan wanted God’s prize creation lost forever in their sin and rebellion and to suffer in hell forever with him.  And right now, Peter was encouraging Jesus to not give up his life, following Satan’s plan.  But Jesus knew better, that he would die for Peter’s sins, mine, and yours. 

But the point is, Peter wasn’t listening.  Peter thought he already knew what Jesus was going to do, and dying on a cross was not one of those things.  None of the disciples got it.  They weren’t listening, and that lack of listening could have cost them their salvations.  I did for Judas Iscariot.  He betrayed Jesus and never repented but hung himself without knowing about Jesus’s glorious resurrection.

But even in Mark 16:9-11, the disciples are still suffering from not listening:

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

They did not believe it!  How thick can you be?  But Jesus was determined that they would be saved, so he appeared to them and gave them their faiths.  He does the same thing to you and me, too.  If you are going to be saved, then he will teach you his message until he finally brings you home to belief in him and eternity in his glorious presence.

Does anybody have a story of a time when they finally understood something after a long time of not understanding?  Did a teacher have to tell you something over and over and over until you finally got it?  Or your mom or dad?

I remember one time I was listening to rock music and mom came in and told me that she could tell I was kind of sad because I was listening to rock music again.  I was so mad at her because it was Switchfoot which has always been one of my favorites.  A Christian band.  But years later, I still hear her telling me that because it’s true.  If I’m sadder, I listen to more rock music.  But is that necessarily a bad thing?

What does the world listen to when its mad?  Nirvana.  I liked Smashing Pumpkins once.  Those nineties rock bands on MTV that I listened to for a spell in college and in my twenties.  If you listen to them long enough, you become angry and hopeless.  But when mom passed away, something changed in me and I decided that dark music wasn’t cool anymore and started listening to more Jeremy Camp and godly music.  Now, if I’m sad, I just switch to Flyleaf or its former lead singer, Lacey Sturm.  It’s rock, yes, but it has hope in the Lord and helps me to heal and live.  If I need to scream, I scream with hope.

So today, I’ve talked about why you should listen to your friends, why it’s a matter of life and death whether you listen to Jesus without thinking that you already know, and the importance of listening to music that has hope in the Lord.