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.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Hosea: wantonness - Israel's and mine

I finished Mark finally.  This year, I think I'll try to go through Hosea, but about once a month.  I teach Sunday School and children's church and want to dedicate most of my blogs to those lessons since I take pride in them.  But I won't do that every week and need to go through another book straight through.  Kelly Needham has a study through Hosea that's supposed to take women deeper into God's word.  I hope she does more.  The resources are all on her website for free and are good to take advantage of.  For her first week, her homework was to read Hosea 1-3 three times.  I was also prompted to take note of Judgment and Restoration.

First, here is the situation.  Hosea is called to be a prophet to Israel.  At this point, Israel is two kingdoms: Israel and Judah.  Hosea is called to Israel.  Israel has a long history of God saving them from slavery only to have them turn their backs on God and worship idols or false gods.  Each time he sends people to punish them, then they turn back, and then the next generation falls again.  Hosea is called toward the end of the existence of Northern Israel before God finally has enough and has another nation: Assyria, take them into exile never to be heard from again.  He graciously saves Judah as they have some faithful kings, but Israel, after they split from Judah after the reign of Rehoboam set up golden calves and worshiped them and none of its kings were faithful to God.  None.  Jeroboam set up the idols, told the people they could worship the true God through them so they would not have to go to Jerusalem, and disregarded the 2nd commandment which led way to them breaking all the others.

Meanwhile, Judah still had the priests keeping them faithful to the true God while the people would also turn away from God.  Both nations deserved God to cast them aside, but God still send prophets to warn them and save them from themselves.  He finds a unique way for Hosea to bring his message.  He tells Hosea to take a wife who would be unfaithful to him, but still love her.  Verse 2 of chapter one uses a word three times: harlotry or whoredom.  The wife, Gomer, would sleep with other men for money and treat a sex act that God created to bond a man and his wife as a cheap commodity to share with anyone.  He says the word for prostitution or wantonness three times for special emphasis.  Just like it's horrible for a wife to leave her husband and have sex with strangers for money, it is just the same as if a nation or church turns away from God to worship dead images or even people who have nothing to give and certainly can't save you from death or slavery.

So in chapter 1, God judges Israel by telling Hosea to name the kids that Gomer bears terrifying names: their meanings are "Jezreel, No Mercy, and Not My People."  Jezreel is the plain where king Jehu slaughtered the descendants of the wicked king Ahab but still went and worshiped the golden calves.  But at the same time, there is redemption because God remembers the promise he made to Abraham, to make his descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore.  He promised to be faithful and to bring about a Seed that would redeem mankind from eternal separation from God's love.  So, he would spare Israel and leave a remnant.  One day, No Mercy will have Mercy, and Not My People will be God's People.  And great will be the land of Jezreel.

In chapter 2, God would punish Israel for her wantonness, but then in verse 14 he says he will "allure" her.

In chapter 3, somehow Gomer finds herself in slavery and he tells Hosea to buy her back.  It was something scandalous and I think even against the Levitical code, yet eventually, God will do the same for Judah and all his lost children by sending Jesus to die for our sins.  Our sins must be paid for and we cannot pay it.  But God's justice must be satisfied, so it has to be paid.  Praise God, he send a substitute for us, our own betrothed, Jesus Christ.

Kelly has questions on her note sheet.
When have you experienced apathy toward God? How do you feel to know it's so offensive to Him?
Where do I begin?  How many times have I made a friend, made that friend the center of my world, and found myself worshiping that person only for them to break my heart and not live up to my expectations?  Even down to last year, I have made idols of people and slowly seen God strip them away to where I wish I could learn to love people without idolizing them.  It is why I now must spend time away and even suffer loneliness because the alternative is me not being faithful to God.

Does the harsh tone of the first couple verses intimidate you? Excite you? Distress you?
Actually, yes.  I was told one time that the "W" word was once bleeped out on TV.  It's a disgusting word for a disgusting practice yet my sin and yours are just as disgusting.  Even more, against an infinite God, it will last forever and had it not been for Jesus taking my punishment and then giving me his perfect life, I could never come to God or else I would burn forever under his just wrath in hell.

How do you think Hosea felt hearing what God was asking of him?
Awkward.  That is something nobody did, to keep taking back an unfaithful wife.  A man was supposed to put her away for life.  Some liberals even said that this was simply metaphorical, but no, I believe Hosea really did this at God's command.  It is so embarrassing for Hosea to have to go redeem his wanton wife again and to take her back.  And it was humiliating for Jesus to hang naked on a cross when he never committed a sin or made any errors for someone like me who keeps wandering to other loves and interests.  When will I be healed of this?  It will take a lifelong process that will finally end when I die or when Christ comes back.  I wish I could restrain my mind.  I must pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide me.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mark: last one, the rest of the story

Mark 16:9-20

It's the longer ending of Mark's gospel, Charlie Brown.  Many scholars, conservative ones, believe that the part of Mark 16 after verse 8 was added by later people who did not like that the gospel ended without a post-resurrection siting of Jesus.  Ligonier ministries accepts it as God-inspired Scripture because it was accepted among the New Testament canon for so long and that God included it.  And it's good.

First, we have Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene.  If people had simply made up Jesus's resurrection in the first century AD, then they would not have a woman be the first witness to it as women could not testify in court.  But it is true, and God reveals his truth to whoever he wants and uses anyone to spread his message.

Then he appeared to the two guys going to Emmaus.  Then Mary and the two guys tell the duh-sciples who still don't believe.  Even though Jesus told them at least three times that he would be killed and then rise from the dead three days later, they still did not get it.

Finally, Jesus himself appears to them and rebukes them for not believing.  This is testimony to God's irresistible grace.  Although stubborn people resist it for a time, when God calls you to salvation, to believe in the Son whom he sent, he will not give up on you but work on you until you believe and reach God's kingdom as a child of God.  Jesus did that for his eleven.  He did not do that for Judas who had already killed himself before this time.  But if you are hearing the message of Scripture, then he is calling you and his death on the cross and resurrection have your name in it.  You need to answer.

And when you do, if you have not been baptized, then you need to get baptized.  One of my Sunday School girls said that she did not want to get baptized because she did not want to get wet.  God does not leave that option for you.  If you believe, you need to make a public declaration that you have died to your old life and are now raised to new life in Jesus.  Jesus commanded people to baptize people who have come to believe.

Then, here comes a troubling part of the text: the snake-handler text.  Jesus said that you could touch snakes and drink poison and not be harmed, but certain Pentecostals (not all) have used this to prove that you should try to touch snakes and drink poison to show your faith.  No.  You should not actively seek danger.  It will come, yes, and people will survive, though some don't.  But you should not seek it.  Jesus did not say you should seek it, but to just not be afraid when danger comes.

And then finally, he ascended into heaven and sits and God's right hand.  He rules everything and nothing happens outside of his control.  Things may go wrong and death happens in this sin-cursed world, but even that is under his control.  Would you want to believe otherwise?  I don't.  I don't want to believe there is anything that God did not plan from all eternity.  Yes we have responsibility and choices, but God is the ultimate planner of our lives and had orchestrated every day of them.  And who better to do it than the one who made me and loves me more than anyone?  Will you put your trust in him today, join a church body, and get baptized?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

SS 7/23: Prayer Dos and Don'ts

I taught on the Dos and Don'ts of praying today.  I had the children read different Scriptures and then I told them Dos and Don'ts from each.

Proverbs 15:8 - The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
Don't: Be wicked
Do: whatever pleases the Lord

James 5:16 - Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Do: confess your sins and pray for each other

1 Thessalonians 5:17 - pray continually
Do: pray continually
Don't: stop praying

Romans 12:12 - Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer
Do: be happy while waiting (even if bored, find something to be happy about)
Wait while bad things happen
Continue praying
Don't: complain, try to repay evil, stop praying

1 John 5:14 - This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Do: have confidence (you can talk to God about anything)
Find out God's will.  How? Read the Bible.  Yes, you have time.

James 5:15 - And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.  If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
Do: Pray for the sick.
Pray for forgiveness for people, especially ones you are mad at.

Colossians 4:2 - Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Do: continue praying

Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Don't: worry
Do: Thank God and ask him.

2 Chronicles 7:14 - If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Do: humble yourself, call on God's name, live as if God is always watching (he is), turn from sin and disobedience

Lastly, I read from Matthew 6:5-8 and asked what two things does this text say not to do when praying.  Some said turn from sin and not be hating anyone.  That's not what the text says, but that is true.

I told them even if you have hate, take that to God.  Say, "I feel like I hate this person right now, Lord, and I know it's not what you want, so can you heal me of this?"

But the first thing it says it to not be a hypocrite.  Do not say you believe one thing but then live your life as if you did not.  So, the kids were right, stop sinning and hating.

The second thing is to not pray loudly for all to hear.  If I took one of the kids and wanted to talk to her but then went out to the atrium and shouted for all to hear, who am I really talking to?  Her or everyone else?  It's the same with God.  Talk just to God and don't care what others thing.

Part two of the second thing is to not babble like the pagans.  It's like if I went to my dad and asked, "Dad, can I have a cookie?  Dad, can I have a cookie?  Dad, can I have a cookie?..."  Just have a normal conversation with God.  Tell him what you want once and then just let him work.  And continue talking to God.  Pray without ceasing.

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.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mark: a streaker, hypocritical religious leaders, and screw-ups with a future

Mark 14:50-end of chapter

This next section starts with unlikely humor in the saddest time in human history.  Jesus has been betrayed and is being taken to an illegal trial when someone runs away from the scene.  Someone takes hold of his clothes and he escapes completely naked.  No more mention is made of this guy.  History says that this is likely a cameo by John Mark, the author, himself.  He is there in all honesty, completely scared and not sure what to do.  He is showing more honesty than the clothed disciples and is much more clothed than the hypocritical religious leaders.

Here are Annas and Caiaphas holding a trial at night, in a house when it is the law to hold it in public in the day.  They are not to make a rushed decision for capital punishment on the eve of a religious festival, but that is exactly what they do.  And why is this?  They don't want to defile themselves before Passover.  Can it be more ironic to be trying our God in the flesh in order not to defile oneself before a festival made to point toward him?

And lastly, Peter, not knowing what to do, sits in a courtyard warming himself.  Three people ask him if he knows Jesus, and each time, he says "no."  This is hours after he declared that he would never leave Jesus even if he had to die.

I find it amazing that this section starts out with a naked man who people think is Mark and ends with Peter.  They were both cowards and runaways who later on became bold in their witness in the Lord, and Peter even trained Mark in the ministry after he ran away from Paul and Barnabas on a mission trip.  Paul would not take him back, but Barnabas took him and he was trained by Peter later on to be very useful to both Peter and Paul and he wrote one of the four gospels.  All the people in this story failed, but Mark and Peter repented and turned to the Lord.

If you have screwed up, you can also repent.  Judas Iscariot could have repented had he not given up and committed suicide.  But he did not do that.  Peter did.  Mark did.  You can do the same.  Will you do that?  Tomorrow is never guaranteed.  You need to decide today.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mark: our intercessor

Mark 14:26-49

This has got to be the second-most agonizing moment in Jesus's life.  Just knowing what he was about to do for all of his elect must have frightened our very human Jesus.  He knew that he would rise again from the dead and he knew he would live forever with the Father and all the people he saved in the Kingdom of the Lord some day, but first he will die on the cross and be forsaken by God the Father to take our punishment and replace it with his righteousness.

And before he does that he takes time to pray for all the believers - past, present, and future - who believe that their Redeemer lives and will intercede for them.  He also asks God if it is possible that he could save them another way.

But no, sin has to be punished, and a just God must punish sins.  Unless someone perfect dies in my place, I must suffer for eternity for my sins against an infinite God.  But God, in his mercy, sent his perfect Son to take my place because he could survive it.

There are two things that insult this loving gift from our God.
1) to say that we still need an intercessor between God and man other than Jesus.  We don't.  Jesus always lives before the Father and mediates between us and we need nobody else.  Nobody else died for my sin and I recognize no other husband for the Church.  We can come directly to him.

2) to say that Christ's sacrifice was divine child abuse.  Theological liberals say this.  The author of "The Shack" says this.  Even NT Wright, from what I understand, has said it.  People who say this don't understand the deity of Christ and don't know how loving our Lord is.  Christ laid his own life down for us.  He even said the he could have called down legions of angels to stop the guards from taking him to trial, but he didn't.  He went through with it.  To say that we don't need this to be saved, that this is merely an example for us, is outright blasphemy, and I question the salvation of anyone who says it.  There was nothing more loving God could have done for us and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Without him, we don't even want to be saved.

We need a substitute for our very serious sins if we ever hope to see God and it to be pleasant.  Come to our Lord, and he will change you.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Mark: Mary, Judas, and communion

Mark 14:3-25

In the first story, we have woman who was sinful and never pretended to be righteous that Jesus healed and changed into a Christian.  She knows that somehow it is one of the last times she will see Jesus, so she takes a very expensive jar of perfume, probably worth a lifetime of wages, and breaks it and pours it on his head.  Other Gospels indicate that this is Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  She could possibly be Mary Magdalene, but that is not certain.  Either way, this lady had been saved, her life made more valuable by Jesus, and now she takes her most valuable possession and gives it to him.  Someone, we know it was Judas Iscariot, sees this as a waste, but Jesus says that what Mary did was beautiful and will prepare him for his burial.

What, burial?  Jesus isn't supposed to die.  So, Judas Iscariot, who cares too much about money, decides he's had enough of Jesus and offers to betray him to the priests for 30 pieces of silver.  Judas, who followed Jesus for the past three years pretended to be righteous and did all the right things, but on the inside, he only cared about money and fame.  What a contrast to Mary who started out loving money but surrendered to Jesus.  Judas pretended to love Jesus, but really only cared about himself.

Next Jesus asks his disciples to find a place for them to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem.  This, along with the incident where they found a donkey and her son for Jesus to ride on in the triumphal entry, shows that Jesus specifically planned his last week on earth.  From before creation, God in his threeness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, planned on sending Jesus to die for his people's sins should they fall like they did in the Garden.  They planned every detail from who would betray him, to which donkey he would ride, to which upper room he would celebrate passover in.  While all the people involved made their own decisions during that week, God orchestrated the whole thing to his glory and to the salvation of his people.  We may not always understand why God plans things the way he does or how our wills and responsibilities fit in with his sovereignty, but he knows what he is doing down to the smallest detail.

And lastly, Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper.  As baptism replaces circumcision, so the Lord's Supper replaces Passover.  No longer will lambs be killed over and over.  Now there is only one sacrifice -- Jesus's death on the cross -- that will forgive sins for all Christians for all time.  No more blood will be shed to atone for sins after this night.  Christians need to celebrate communion to remember this.  Not only does this visual represent Jesus's broken body and his spilled blood, but it transports our spirits to Jesus's body in heaven where we can enjoy him in his realness spiritually.

The really sad thing is that Community Bible Church does not celebrate communion enough.  Jesus said to do it often to remember him.  The church does a lot of things right.  It preaches the Word faithfully and baptizes people frequently, but it neglects the Lord's Supper.  Jesus said to do all of this.  It's like forming a relationship with someone but only going on dates with him twice a year.  This should not be.  We need to commune more than Christmas Eve and Good Friday.  We should do communion at least a week before or after we do baptisms.  It connects us to the Lord and connects us to each other in a very real spiritual way and must not be neglected.

Monday, April 3, 2017

SS: Proverbs lesson: Pride or Humility

Proverbs 3:5-8
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment[c] to your bones.

1. Two Paths: Pride and Humility

First, what does it say not to do?  Do not lean on your own understanding.  Do not be wise in your own eyes.  Don’t follow your heart or rely on your own smarts.  Your trust should be outside of yourself.  And there is a wonderful promise for those who turn away from themselves and turn toward the Lord: It will bring healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.  You will have a peace within yourself.

Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”

Pride – arrogance, conceit, an overly high sense of one’s own value.
Disgrace – loss of respect, honor or esteem.
Humble – to lower in condition, importance, or dignity.  Or, it can mean a lower sense of one’s own value. 

2. Example from another Saul

Let’s study a man named Saul.  Not the king from last week, but someone in the New Testament.  We can read his story in Acts 9:1-19.  When I read this story, if I read the name “Saul”, I want us to go, “rawr!”.  When I say, “Light from heaven,” I want us to sing, “aahh”, like we’re angels.  When I say, “Ananias,” I want us to hold our hands like we’re praying.  When I say, “Scales fell from his eyes,” I want us to wipe our eyes.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
First, Saul’s pride was the reason some new Christians were arrested or even killed.  He thought he knew everything and that God approved of his actions.  He was raise a Jewish man and raised to follow every rule.  And when Jesus came and threatened the Jewish way of life, he thought he did the right thing by opposing him and his followers.

But then, Jesus had enough.  He stopped Saul on his way to Damascus and made him blind for a time.  God’s Spirit led him to Ananias who prayed for him.  Scales fell from Saul’s eyes and then he learned under the Apostles for a time.  He changed his name to Paul, brought the non-Jewish world to know Jesus, wrote most of the New Testament, and eventually lost his life to beheading because he followed Jesus. 

At first he thought he was great, but then Jesus humiliated him, and only when he lost everything did he realize that Jesus was better than any of that.  Paul lost his family connections (a Jewish family would disown people who became Christians), his position, his home, and had to make friends with people he originally hated.  In the end, he lost his life.  But in the end, he got more than that because he now has eternal life with Jesus.

Mark 8:35, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

3. The mirror

Have a mirror made from foil spread over a cardboard oval. 

Before I leave the house every day, I look in the mirror.  I make sure my hair looks normal, that my make-up is on, and that I don’t look crazy.  Who else looks in the mirror every day?

Mirrors are great, but they don’t show what is inside.  Sometimes, in the old days, people couldn’t afford mirrors, so they had to look in a lake or a pool of water. 

Proverbs 27:19, “As water reflects a face, so a man or woman’s heart reflects that person.”

The mirror can show what you look like, but it can’t show you what you love, how deep you love it, how good you are, or even if you are saved.

Crumple the foil.  Does this new mirror say that you are crumpled?  No, it just reflects the outside.  Just the same, what you say and do reflect your heart.  If you are doing things to fit in with your friends or society that don’t honor God, then it may reflect that you do not truly know him.  Or if you disobey your teachers that your parents trust over you or are mean to other kids, it may mean you need to spend more time in God’s Word.

Just the same, if you are kind to people, obey teachers, and obey God even when other people make fun of you because of it, then it shows that your heart truly belongs to God. 

Trust in the Lord and don’t lean on your own understanding.  Don’t be wise in your own eyes, but turn away from evil.  It will heal your bones.

I will close with these three paragraphs from World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips:

God set his love on us in eternity past, and granted us to Christ, for him to save us.  In our lifetimes, God the Holy Spirit convinces us of our guilt and of the truth of the Gospel.  God grants us repentance and saving faith, regenerates us, and declares us righteous.  He comes to live within us himself, by means of the person of the Holy Spirit, empowering us to live life on a plane we would not have imagined outside of Christ.

It is literally true, then that God in sovereign grace has given us everything we need in Christ for life and godly living.

How is this a world-tilting truth?  The world is all about pulling itself up by its bootstraps.  It has programs, rules, principles, tips, disciplines, and a thousand other things that promise perfection…or at least marked improvement.  And happiness.  And fulfillment.  And meaning…

I closed with 1 Corinthians 15:1-11