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 cliché 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.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mark: The temple's destruction, our end, and mysteries

Mark 13:21 - 14:2

I've established the fact that I believe this passage to mostly mean the destruction of Jerusalem's temple in 70.  But it also has meaning for us today as, Jesus will come back in power and glory.

I listened to RC Sproul preach on this passage in Luke a few weeks ago.  He brought up the conundrum that Jesus said that he would appear in the clouds in power and glory and that generation would not pass away until it happened.  And it's mostly true.  John the Apostle lived until about 100 and was the last living apostle, the only one who died of natural causes.  But many people are confused because when the temple was destroyed, people did not see Jesus coming in the clouds.

RC Sproul answered this by saying that Jesus's Spirit was there in full force in judgment of the Jews who did not accept him as their Messiah, which is true.  And it's true that when he comes to complete history and to consummate his Kingdom, then we will all see him.  But verse 26 of chapter 13 says "they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory."  People did not literally see Jesus in the clouds.

But then again, when Stephen died in Acts 7, Scripture records that he could see Jesus in the clouds as his enemies stoned him.  Could this refer to the people that died that day when Rome destroyed the temple?  Perhaps.  Maybe he was there but they were too confused to notice.  Or, like RC said, it was invisible, but people could see the events coming before they happened.

I do know this.  God's word is true.  Jesus will come in a most complete way some day and we're going to know it.  All mysteries will be cleared up then.

Jesus also proclaims the mystery that even he as the Son of God incarnate did not know when the end will come.  First, it puts to shame anyone who predicts the date of Christ's return.  If he did not know, then you certainly don't know more than him and you don't know.  Second, it emphasizes that as a man, Jesus was completely God and completely human and did not draw from his deity to cheat through his life.  He obeyed God in every way.  It also shows that he is different from God the Father even though they are one God.  This mystery is much clearer then the previous one that I mentioned.

And finally, Jesus was very much threatening the Jewish leaders, their temple and their way of life.  They knew he was right and that they would suffer for eternity one day, but they never repented and only conspired how they could take Jesus's life.  Don't be like that.  Repent of your sins, come to Jesus, and he will save you.  Do not be so satisfied with your ways that when Jesus comes to change them that you decide to kill him and rid your lives of him.  Either you will suffer his wrath for eternity or you will enjoy his love for eternity because Jesus took the punishment for your sins.  Go to Jesus in repentance and he will not turn you away.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday School: Proverbs - God gives us everything

Proverbs 11:24-25
jOne gives kfreely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25  lWhoever brings blessing mwill be enriched,
and none who waters will himself be watered.

Game: Start with word search race.  Whoever gets done fastest wins.  Then, the Proverbs game.

Think about all the things that you have.  What is the most special item that you “own”?
Suppose you were asked to give it away.  What would you say?  Most of us would ask, “why should I give my most treasured possession away”?  Our answer to our own question can be answered in our lesson today.

 I would answer my guitar.  If someone gave me a million dollars for it, I would not give it away.  It was my mom’s as a young lady and now it is mine and it is a rare make, an original Guild.  I could not give it away unless I absolutely had to.

Today, our question is “why do we give?”  We give because God has given everything to us.

We are still learning from the Book of Proverbs.  A few weeks ago, we learned that wisdom is taking our knowledge of God’s Truth and putting it into practice.  Today we will learn how we can use wisdom with what God has given us.

Proverbs 11:24-25.  This verse talks about two kinds of attitudes about giving.  What attitudes to you see? (people who give and people who don’t give)

Can you think of a word that describes a person who gives freely?  What word comes to mind when you think of a person who doesn’t give or holds back from giving? (Ebenezer Scrooge)

1. We give because God has given everything to us.

I will read two passages today: one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.  The first is in the last book of the OT, Malachi.  This book was written in a time when God’s people, Israel, sinned so much that God threw them out of their land.  After 70 years, he brought them back.  Sadly, they began sinning again.  God wanted them to rebuild the temple which had been destroyed, but they had stopped when people began to oppose them.  God sent them Malachi to begin worshiping only God, build his temple, and make sure that the temple workers can make a living by giving them ten percent of everything they earn, also known as a tithe.

Malachi 3:8-12 - Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. xBut you say,‘How have we robbed you?’ yIn your tithes and contributions. zYou are cursed with acurse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 aBring the full tithe into thestorehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby bput me to the test, says theLORD of hosts, if I will not open cthe windows of heaven for you and pour down for you ablessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke dthe devourer2 for you, so that it willnot destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says theLORD of hosts. 12 Then eall nations will call you blessed, for you will be fa land of delight,says the LORD of hosts.

Do you know why we collect money for offering in church and Sunday School?  Because that money goes to pay the preachers, buy materials for Sunday School and church, and help reach out to the community.  Some churches will be greedy and misuse that money, but many churches rely on that money to continue operating and so that the pastor can feed his family.  When we make money, God wants us to take ten percent of that money and give it back to the church.  If you do not do that, then you are robbing God and his workers.  I experienced this personally as a children’s minister for three years at a small church.  If there are less tithes, then ministers can’t be paid adequately.

2. 100% of your money and everything you own belongs to God

Who created you and me?  Who gives us everything we have?  Did you know that 100% of your money actually belongs to God?  He wants you to give one tenth of it to church and then use the other nine tenths for his glory and to further his kingdom. 

This moves me to my New Testament passage in Matthew 25:14-30.
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[c]and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[d] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[e] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

I’m going to act out this passage.  I will give 5 coins to one kid, 2 to another, and 1 to another.

3. God loves a cheerful giver

2 Corinthians 9:7 - Each one must give as he has decided in hisheart, wnot reluctantly or under compulsion, for xGod loves a cheerful giver.

God loves a cheerful giver.  Do you have any stories of a time you gave something and ended up really being glad you did so?

Do you know why Jesus gave everything for us?  We know that he created us.  We know that man rebelled against him and that all people have been born with a natural bent to hate God and love ourselves more.  But Jesus saw us in our pitiful state, came to earth as a baby, and took the punishment on the cross for all believers and rose again.  Why would he suffer to much indignity for people who hated him?  Hebrews 12:2 says it was for the “Joy set before him.”  What joy?  The joy of knowing that the people he made will enjoy a perfect life with him for eternity.  That is why you should give more and care for others’ needs above your own.

Does giving save you?  No, but saved people give.  Just like in the parable of the talents, we will receive rewards in heaven according to what we have done.  Jesus does everything to save us from sin and declare us righteous before the Father in heaven, but we work to become more like Jesus and less like the world in a process called sanctification.  I have a song that will illustrate this: