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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Facts about Paul

I decided that since I'm teaching about Paul tomorrow that I would write a blog about facts about him.

1. He was born a Roman citizen.  He was Jewish and Roman from birth.  At one of his trials in Acts 22 starting at verse 22, the crowds go crazy and want him killed, but the authorities want to flog him.  Paul objects by saying that you don't flog Roman citizens.  The tribune says that he bought his citizenship, but in verse 28 Paul declares that he was born a citizen.  Then, they were afraid to flog him.

2. His birth name was Saul.  He descended from Benjamin's tribe and was probably related to King Saul.

3.  He was a Pharisee and hated Christianity.  When he went to Damascus to arrest Christians, it was Jesus who changed his heart and took over his free will.  Paul did not choose Jesus until Jesus changed his heart.  His life is a prime example of the fact that people have free will until God overrides it.  Until then, they will only oppose Jesus.

4. Galatians 1:15-24 explains that after his conversion he went to Arabia, returned to Damascus, and three years later went to Jerusalem to see Peter.  If you are discouraged about seeking ministry and not being where you want to be right now, remember that Paul himself trained for years and was not our Bible-writing missionary for a long time.  You and I have plenty of time.

5. He changed his name to Paul by the time he went on his first missionary journey with Barnabas.

6.  Paul and Barnabas split up over whether they should take Mark the deserter on their next journey.  If you are having a friend break-up, take heart.  Even Paul and the "Son of Encouragement" can have differences, but they remained friends and both came to value Mark who eventually wrote the Gospel with his name.

7.  I think I personally can be more comfortable with Paul than with Jesus.  Maybe it's because Paul is a sinner like me and Jesus was perfect.  Although Jesus is my God and I'll live forever with him, it is good to read Paul and see how a "normal" person does things.

8.  Paul is my husband's middle name.  I like how he is Timothy Paul New, a thoroughly New Testament name.  I'm glad to have New jokes about my name because I used to be a Smith, which is more common.

9.  Paul was executed by Nero in Rome.  There has been confusion in the past about him being beheaded in Jerusalem, but no.  It was in Rome, and probably by beheading since he was a Roman citizen and could not be crucified like Peter.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

SS: Proverbs lesson: Using words to encourage

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
19 Truthful lips endure forever,
    but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
    but those who plan peace have joy.
21 No ill befalls the righteous,
    but the wicked are filled with trouble.
22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those who act faithfully are his delight.

First, we will examine each verse of this passage, then we will consider an Old Testament passage where a King was loose with his words.

Proverbs 12:18 – There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

This verse compares helpful words with hurtful words.  We say something without thinking about how it may make the other person feel.  Then that person is hurt and a friendship is ruined and possibly future opportunities.  But when we think a while, say a day, before we say something, then we realize that we can say it better or don’t need to say it at all.

19 – Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is for a moment.

The truth will never change.  God is the truth.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He had no beginning, and he will never end.  Did you know that people who trust in Jesus and tell the truth will live forever with him?  Did you know that all people have lied and don’t deserve to live forever with Jesus?  If you die and have not repented of your lies, then you will not live forever with Jesus.  Thanks be to God that he sent Jesus to save us from our sins.  When he does that, then the Holy Spirit changes you.  We will always struggle with our words, but we will make more effort to tell the truth.

20-21 – Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.  No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.

So people who tell lies are always wanting war and fighting.  Put people who tell the truth find peace and joy.  The truth will set you free.

22 – Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

Think: Is one moment of avoiding trouble worth risking an eternity apart from the Lord?  Whenever you are in trouble, just tell the truth.  John 8:32 is a promise that the truth will set you free.  It may hurt at the time, but it is freeing.

Now, we will consider King Saul.   When Israel was a new nation in the promised land, they would worship God, then turn away and worship idols, then God would send wicked nations to punish them, then they would cry out to God, he would rescue them, and they would worship God again.  This cycle went on for centuries, and then the people decided that they needed a king just like the other nations.

God gave them a popular guy who was handsome and tall, King Saul.  Soon, it was clear that King Saul like to speak before thinking.  Instead of following God, he wanted to use God to help him win wars.  Here is his story in 1 Samuel 14: 24-46.  Act it out.  Who wants to be the bad guy?  Who wants to be the good guy?  Here, Saul is leading an army against their constant enemy, the Philistines.

24 And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying,
SAUL: “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.”
So none of the people had tasted food. 25 Now when all the people[g] came to the forest, behold, there was honey on the ground. 26 And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright. 28 Then one of the people said,
PERSON: “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food this day.’”
And the people were faint. 29 Then Jonathan said,
JONATHAN: “My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little of this honey.30 How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies that they found. For now the defeat among the Philistines has not been great.”
Consequence number 1: Because Saul made all the people take a vow to not eat food, they were all hungry and weak.
31 They struck down the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. And the people were very faint. 32 The people pounced on the spoil and took sheep and oxen and calves and slaughtered them on the ground. And the people ate them with the blood. 33 Then they told Saul,
PERSON: “Behold, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood.” And he said,
SAUL: “You have dealt treacherously; roll a great stone to me here.”[h]34 
And Saul said,
SAUL: “Disperse yourselves among the people and say to them, ‘Let every man bring his ox or his sheep and slaughter them here and eat, and do not sin against the Lord by eating with the blood.’”
So every one of the people brought his ox with him that night and they slaughtered them there. 35 And Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first altar that he built to the Lord.
Consequence 2: The Jewish people had certain foods that were clean and unclean.  They could not eat food that still had blood.  That was unclean.  Because of Saul’s careless words, they were so hungry that they were willing to eat unclean food and disobey God.  Saul’s words caused them to sin.
36 Then Saul said,
SAUL: “Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them until the morning light; let us not leave a man of them.”
And they said,
PERSON: “Do whatever seems good to you.”
But the priest said,
PRIEST: “Let us draw near to God here.” 37 
And Saul inquired of God,
SAUL: “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into the hand of Israel?” 
But he did not answer him that day. 38 And Saul said,
SAUL: “Come here, all you leaders of the people, and know and see how this sin has arisen today. 39 For as the Lord lives who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.”
But there was not a man among all the people who answered him. 40 Then he said to all Israel, “
SAUL: You shall be on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul,
PERSON: “Do what seems good to you.” 41 Therefore Saul said,
SAUL: “O Lord God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O Lord, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.”[i] 
And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped. 42 Then Saul said, 
SAUL: “Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan.”
And Jonathan was taken.
43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, 
SAUL: “Tell me what you have done.”
And Jonathan told him, 
JONATHAN: “I tasted a little honey with the tip of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am; I will die.” 44 
And Saul said, 
SAUL: “God do so to me and more also; you shall surely die, Jonathan.” 45 
Then the people said to Saul,
SAUL: “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.”
So the people ransomed Jonathan, so that he did not die. 46 Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.
Consequence 3: Saul rashly made another vow.  And eventually, Jonathan and Saul were both killed in battle.  Not right away.  First they met David, he killed Goliath and started winning battles.  Jonathan made friends with David, but Saul knew that David was meant to be king in his place and tried to kill him while Jonathan remained faithful.  But because of Saul’s words and desire to use God and not really follow him, Saul and Jonathan, both died.

There is this clichĂ© that says, “Loose lips sink ships.”  It was originally on a poster in World War II warning people to be careful what they say in case the enemy heard and used it to literally sink ships.  This is so true.  I probably have a hard time finding a job because of the careless things I post on facebook and lose friends.  I also lose battles because I will raise my voice to children in frustration.  Don’t do the same thing as me.  Think before you speak, even if you have to walk away and think for a day.

Jesus had two disciples who did not think before they spoke or did something that gave messages.  The first was Judas Iscariot.  He pretended to be Jesus’s friend and even kissed his face right before he betrayed him to his enemies and caused Jesus to be crucified.  Later, he was sorry, but instead of coming to God for forgiveness, he committed suicide and hanged himself.

The other was Peter.  Jesus told all his disciples that they would turn their backs on him, but Peter rashly said that he would die for the Lord.  Later that night when Jesus was on trial, Peter was asked if he knew Jesus and he denied it three times.  He also was sorry, but after Jesus died and rose again, he came to Peter, asked him three times if he loved him, and forgave him.  He became the leader of the disciples after Jesus ascended back into heaven and lead the church. 

Your mistakes have a happy ending.  Place your hope in Jesus and ask for his forgiveness and he won’t turn you away.  He will even heal you.