Monday, December 18, 2017

4 Things God Permits but Doesn’t Like

I decided to put this list together because people will take some kind of sin, usually a sexual one, that the church has historically opposed and point to reasons why it isn’t actually sinful.  Then they will point to things that happened in the Bible and say, “See, God allows this.  Why not this?”  Here are some of those things.

Divorce: Nobody explains this one better than Jesus.  Here he is in Matthew 19 when the Pharisees decided to ask him about divorce.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Polygamy: Somebody once said that God actually commanded this.  Like if a man and woman married, and the woman produced no child, then the woman was obligated to provide a servant for the man to produce a child for her.  That woman could not marry the man because of her social status and served as a concubine.  Heroes of the Bible such as David had many wives and people loved him.  So this is clearly allowed, right?
No, not exactly.  Like Jesus said, when God created mankind, he created them male and female and they would become one flesh.  Also, what people don’t realize is that the Bible accounts often describe things that did happen, not necessarily what should happen.  I read a Bible dictionary once that said that God did allow this practice, but history shows what a disaster it always caused.
For example, Jacob’s wives always fought with each other over who got to have kids and sleep with Jacob.  Hannah was heartbroken because her husband took on another wife because she couldn’t have kids.  David’s many marriages caused him to take on another man’s wife and kill him and then one of his sons thought he should be allowed to rape his half-sister and another son killed that son, tried to kill David, and slept with all his concubines on a roof in broad daylight.

So what about passages that seem to command men to take on an extra wife to provide for children.  Actually, they never command that.  God simply provides rules for when men happen to do that.

In Exodus 21:7-11 it says:

 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

It did not command a man to either sell his daughter or take on a servant consort; it merely said what to do if that happened.

This leads me to my next thing:


I think in the ancient times, slavery started as a kind of way to pay debts.  If Tim owed Bill some money or had committed a crime that was not punishable by death, he could work for Bill as a servant for an amount of time to pay off that debt.  It would save taxpayers from having to support him in a penal system and he could contribute to society.

Also, women could enter into slavery as a household servant to a woman or as a way to produce children for a man.

Through the years it became the horrifying practice that was finally condemned after the American Civil War at least in America and in England before that.  Human sin changed it into a civil debt system into the brutality that it would become. 

It was so common that Paul commanded slaves to obey their masters and masters to be kind to their slaves.  And when Onesimus was converted to a believer, Paul pled with his master, Philemon, to take him not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.

I think the issue of slavery is one of the most embarrassing things for conservative believers to support when it was the monster that it became.  It fooled even giants such as George Whitfield.  But God hates the idea of a man owning another man and he hates abuse. 

The Crucifixion of Jesus

Not only did God allow this, but the whole Trinity planned on doing this from before creation.  When God created a being in his image called human, he knew that this image would not be as perfect as him.  And he knew that the humans would betray their creator and sin.  So the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always planned on sending the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, to earth to be born as a man and to die for the sins of all the Lord had chosen to believe.  (Acts 13:48, all who were appointed for eternal life believed).

Does God love the idea that people betrayed him and that they could not come to him in their sins on their own terms?  There was no greater injustice than the only perfect human dying on the cross, but people needed a substitute for their sins and they needed his alien righteousness applied to their lives in order to come to God.  We will never quite understand the contrasts between God’s expressed will (what we know he loves and hates) and his secret decrees (what he allows for reasons only he knows).  But we know that he is God, his commandments are right, all he does and plans is right, and that Christ is the only perfect human and God himself who did not want all humanity lost in its own rebellion.  Believe on him, and you will have your sins imputed to Christ and his goodness imputed to you.  And through our perfect permanent priest who needs no replacement can we come to God and have our sins forgiven.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Honesty: the struggle is real

Back in October, I was supposed to give a talk to children about honesty.  It never happened, but here is the main verse in that talk: Proverbs 24:26, An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

The idea is that usually if you love someone, you kiss them on the lips.  If you give an honest answer, that must mean you love that person.

But then I think, I don't kiss everyone on the lips.  In fact, I only kiss one person on the lips: Tim.  I'm married to him and can do that.  Usually, you only save a lip kiss for someone you intend to marry or are married to or have a romantic relationship with.  You are making yourself vulnerable to betrayal and heartbreak.

So, if you don't kiss everyone on the lips, do you give everyone an honest answer?  You must be truthful with everyone yes.  The Lord commands us to not bear false witness.  But just like you don't run around naked in public, you also don't have to reveal everything lest it be used against you.  Be wise with who you tell the truth to.

For example, it is true that I did not give this talk like planned.  But what only a handful of people know is why it got cancelled.  Even fewer know the finer details of that.  And knowing the conundrum I'm having with this verse, it's just as well. 

But in the long run, you must be truthful and loving to everyone you meet, even at risk to yourself and your emotions.  You won't get close to people otherwise.  Just how much you reveal takes much prayer and maybe advice from someone you trust.  It's hard for me to be close to people for that very reason.  I don't know the difference of being truthful and telling too much.  But I'm not alone in that struggle.  How do you go around with that balance?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hosea: the ugly chronicles of Israel following their hearts

As Kelly Needham moves on to chapters 8-9, she highlights four parts that mention people or places from Israel's history referenced by Hosea as he is God's mouthpiece to his wanton nation.

1. First is chapter 8 verses 4-6:
4 They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction. 5 I have spurned your calf, O Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence? 6 For it is from Israel; a craftsman made it; it is not God. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces.

Hosea references Jeroboam many times.  First, King Solomon joined in wedlock to a thousand foreign women.  They turned his heart away from God to serve false idols.  A prophet came and said that during his son's reign, Israel would split and Solomon's actions would cause most of the nation to fall away from God.  Ten tribes would form a new country and Israel would be two kingdoms.  Then, his son Rehoboam became king.  He was a jerk, and the country split and made Jeroboam king.  Jeroboam knew that people would still go to Jerusalem to worship God, so he set up two golden calves, told the people that they could worship the true God through them, and thus Israel's northern kingdom would not be quite as faithful to God as the south.  Then, Omri set up Samaria as the capital, and his son Ahab, the most wicked king, brought everybody to Baal worship.

It just shows that one sin after another influences many to turn away from the true God and will destroy everybody if God never steps in and causes the people to repent.  

2. But Israel's sin goes back farther than that.  Hosea 9:9 mentions a problem in the time of the judges when everybody followed their hearts:

They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah; he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins.

Where is Gibeah?  Oh yeah, it's the town in Judges 19 where the most horrifying Bible story occurs.  A man and his concubine stay in Gibeah.  Just like in Sodom and Gomorrah, men would go around looking for someone to rape.  And this was in the nation that was supposed to be following God.  The man and his host throw a daughter and his concubine out among those men who do whatever with them all night long.  Then, when the man leaves in the morning, there is the concubine passed out on the doorstep.  He tells her, "let's go."  She doesn't.  Then he sends parts of her to all the tribes of Israel and they make war on Benjamin and nearly wipe out that tribe.  Why would people go so far from the Lord that they would think it is alright to have fun by violating women and also that it's alright to send women into such a fray to protect themselves?  This is where even little sins take you if the Lord does not step in and cause you to repent.

3. But the problem goes farther back even to Moses.  Hosea 9:10:

Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-Peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.

God had set these people apart from all the people in the world to be his prized followers among a world that has turned its back on him.  But then these people get attracted to the world and start following their false gods.  Baal-Peor is the place where in the wilderness, the Midianites send attractive women to the men who seduce them and cause them to worship Baal for the the first time.  Baal is the fertility god who sends rain when he and Asherah consort.  To induce them to do this, the worshipers sleep with prostitutes so that they can have rain and harvests.  So, God sends a plague on the nation, and Moses declares that everyone who has slept with a Midianite woman should be killed.  Then a man takes the chief's daughter, Kozbi, into his tent in front of Moses and the grieving Israelites.  Aaron's grandson kills them both, and then the plague stops.  

Your sins don't just hurt yourself.  It plagues everyone you know.  And Israel's sin starts in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan, goes on through Gibeah and all the judges and then comes to a head long before Jeroboam comes along.

4. Hosea 9:15:
Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels.

Gilgal is where Israel decides it needs a king: just like everybody else.  God was supposed to be their king, but he isn't cool, so they need a king.

How many of our sins start by trying to be like everybody else?  Sure, you heard in church that sex is to be saved for marriage between a man and a woman but all your friends are doing it and you have these strong feelings for someone.  Sure, you heard that you should only worship the God who revealed himself through Jesus and not bow down to stars, but horoscopes are so interesting and harmless.  Sure, the teacher told you to not touch her things, but they looks so inviting and I'll look cool if I touch it.

the solution: Israel's history is one big example of them betraying God who did everything for them and God showing them that they simply cannot follow God without his help because they love themselves so much.  How did he solve this problem?  After he exiled them from the land, he brought them back, and then he sent Jesus to die for their sins.  And not just their sins, but for the sins of anybody, whether Israeli or not.  God does not forgive sins, and if you don't believe in Jesus, then you will be punished for your sins.  But if you believe, then Jesus takes that punishment and then gives you his righteousness so that you can follow him completely.  Only a perfect man could do that, and only a man who was God himself could do that.  Will you believe in him so that he can give you his Spirit and change you?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hosea again: learning to interpret

I began following through Kelly Needham's inductive Bible study lessons using the book of Hosea in August.  I was only going to do it once a month but then my life took a left turn at Albuquerque.  Now I'm going through it quicker.  It turns out my church has started a Bible study on Hosea, too.  That's awesome.  I'd love to do it, but if you are in children or music ministry, you can't really do anything else on Wednesday nights unless you say no to the former, which I can't at the moment. 

Just the same, the idea of this one that I'm doing is to learn to read the Bible with as little extra help as possible.  To not rely on commentaries or study notes or other people's words, but to read what it actually says within its context.  She started with observation, and now she is moving to interpretation.  To take verses and post questions that you have.  The thing is, the questions will probably lead to me getting out a Bible dictionary or commentary.  But here is the Hosea passage from 7:11-16 and questions I form for each verse.

HOSEA 7:11-16

11 Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. 12 As they go, I will spread over them my net; I will bring them down like birds of the heavens; I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation. 13 Woe to them, for they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me. 14 They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. 15 Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. 16 They return, but not upward; they are like a treacherous bow; their princes shall fall by the sword because of the insolence of their tongue. This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

11. 1. Why compare Ephraim to a dove?
2. Why call northern Israel Ephraim?
3. What is so special about Egypt?
4. What is so special about Assyria?

12. Why does God use the word net?
2. Why does he still call them birds?
3. Why is the nation called a congregation?
4. Whose report is he talking about?

13. What does he mean by “woe”?
2. What lies to they speak?
3. How have they rebelled?
4. Why will God destroy them?

14. Why would they turn away from God?
2. Why would they gash themselves simply for grain and wine?
3. Why would they wail upon their beds?

15. What does he mean by “train” and “strengthen”?
2. What evil do they devise against God?

16. Where do they turn?
2. Describe “bow.”
3. Egypt again
4. What rulers have been killed by the sword?

I do know that when the kingdom of Israel split into a northern and southern kingdom during the reign of Solomon's son Rehoboam, the northern kingdom began to be called Ephraim.  Ephraim was one of Joseph's sons that Jacob adopted as his own.  He was younger than his brother Manasseh, but Jacob blessed him more than the other.  They became tribes of Israel along with Joe's 11 other brothers.  The southern kingdom was Judah, David and Jesus's tribe. Egypt was the country that held Israel captive for 400 years that God rescued them from through Moses.  Assyria was the frightening country that later took the Northern kingdom captive.  It was the country that Jonah ran away from.  Israel wanted to leave God and go back to the sinful people that made their lives miserable. 

Usually doves symbolize peace.  God calls them silly and senseless.  I guess doves are birds that are sweet but naive.  Only Israel isn't that innocent.  They reject the God who loves them and will later send his Son to die for them but they go for the Egyptians and Assyrians and their false gods who have nothing to give.

In verse 14, I ask, why would they turn away from God.  Then I remember, why do I lose faith in God?  Because he is taking too long to give me what I want.  But why do I think I know more what is good for me than God?  God is God and I am not.  If God doesn't answer my prayer the way I want, that's his right.  He's God.  I don't deserve anything good from him.  But he does give me good things.  Why should I want more?  In my natural sinful state, I can only love myself and my own ways and not God.  My free will needs to be changed before I can truly love God and be content with the situation that he has given me and know that he will do the right thing in his time.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hosea: I make observations about verses and then summarize at the end

Here is a continuation of the online Bible study through Hosea from Kelly Needham that is based on the prophet Hosea.  It's been about a month since I listened to the lecture.  The exercise Kelly asked us to do was to take a verse and write five observations about it.  I wrote them down starting with chapter 4:10

“They will eat but not have enough;
    they will engage in prostitution but not flourish,
because they have deserted the Lord
    to give themselves

VERSE 10 1. Just like eating and not having enough, their rebellion against God will never satisfy.
2. They deserted the Lord.  He did not force them to worship other gods or commit their bodies to literal prostitution.
3. Even though they have much sex, they will not produce many children or generations.
4. Deserting the Lord is the reason why they cannot eat enough or flourish

5. They gave themselves to prostitution.

 to prostitution;
old wine and new wine
    take away their understanding.
VERSE 11 1. People who created the verse system decided to start a verse in the middle of a sentence
2. Is the wine literal?  Are they getting so drunk that they no longer wait for good old wine but just drink whatever is available?
3. They are so addicted to their sin that they don’t even wait for anything good to worship besides God.  They worship anything and everything.
4. They already had the best in God.  They did not have to wait.
5. They don’t even understand why they do what they do anymore.

My people consult a wooden idol,
    and a diviner’s rod speaks to them.
A spirit of prostitution leads them astray;
    they are unfaithful to their God.
VERSE 12 1. They have resorted to talking to a lifeless piece of wood rather than talk to the very real God
2. They think the wood has magic powers to talk to God
3. They already could talk to God.  They did not need another medium.
4. They look for a stick to tell them God’s word when they should be faithful to only him. 

They sacrifice on the mountaintops
    and burn offerings on the hills,
under oak, poplar and terebinth,
    where the shade is pleasant.
Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution
    and your daughters-in-law to adultery.

VERSE 13 1. They worship God in places that he did not command. 
2. God commanded worship at the temple and in their homes, not under every tree according to their preference.
3. They are teaching their own children that God’s express commands are not enough.
4. God does not want us to make up ways to worship him.  He has already said how to worship him.
5. Often this did include literal prostitution.

“I will not punish your daughters
    when they turn to prostitution,
nor your daughters-in-law
    when they commit adultery,
because the men themselves consort with harlots
    and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes—
    a people without understanding will come to ruin!

VERSE 14 1. God decides not to punish them.  What they do is its own punishment
2. The children also will not be punished.
3. He didn’t say he wouldn’t punish the men.  They were supposed to hold the women accountable, much like Adam didn’t stop Eve from eating.
4. The men are also seeing shrine prostitutes in order to convince Baal to send rain.
5. He no longer tells them to stop and waste his precious words on people who only defile them.  They will come to ruin.

Chapter 4 Theme: Sin is prostitution and a downward spiral that influences others

The following are verses from chapters 5 and 6 that really stand out at me.

Chapter 5
Verse 6. With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them.
7. They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord for they have borne alien children. Now the new moon shall devour them with their fields.
10. The princes of Judah have become like those who move the landmark; upon them I will pour out my wrath like water.
11. Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after filth.

Chapter 6
1. Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
2. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
4. Both Ephraim and Judah: Your love is like morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.
5. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.
6. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burn offerings.

I feel like the verses explained themselves without me having to make observations about them.  I think in my life I have found an idol that has distracted me from God which in and of itself is a good thing.  I think children's ministry became an idol in my life.  It gives me pleasure to transform a lesson and to be intelligent and to have young people paying attention to what I say.  It's not a bad thing, but it is if it becomes more important to me than God.  Now that I find it slipping away for now, I find that my whole livelihood is changing and I need to refocus on God to give my life purpose and meaning and pleasure.  

He has already given me more than I could imagine and could possibly restore me to what I was three weeks ago, but he needs to be first and I can't make him first without him changing my heart again.

When times get rough, do you find yourself turning to things other than what God has already given you to commune with him?  He has given you his Spirit, his Word in the Bible, and his church.  It is idolatry, even spiritual adultery, to seek him outside of what he has already given you.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

SS: Day three of creation

What did God create on the first day of creation?  Heavens, earth, light
What did God create on the second day of creation? The sky to separate the water
What is the difference between ‘making’ and ‘creating’? To make something is to already have the ingredients.  To create is to make from nothing.
Did God create or make the world?  Create…He didn’t have anything to start with

What did you have for breakfast today?  Cereal, doughnuts, toast, bacon, eggs.  Let’s think of cereal and doughnuts.  They were made from wheat or corn or rice which is grown on farms as plants.  Have you stopped to thank God for plants today?

Have you stopped to thank God for the ground you walk on today?  Did you know that God didn’t have to give us land to walk on?  But he did because he is loving and kind.  Let’s stop and thank God for making the land and the plants that give food.  Pray.

Genesis 1:9-13
God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”  And it was so.  God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.  The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit according to their kinds.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.

* God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”  And it was so.  Pull out a dish and pour water into itPut a rock in the middle of the dish.
God created the dry ground!  Why did he create dry ground?  He created dry ground because not everything that he was going to create would be able to live in water.  So now he made dry ground appear so that the earth wouldn’t just be covered with water.

* God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”
God is naming things again.  He named the land and the water.

* And God saw that it was good.
God is pleased with his work.  He sees that what he has done is good.  This shows that God has feelings and that he thinks about things.  He made dry ground and stood back to admire what he did.  He looked at it and saw that it was good.

* Then God said, “let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants. Place pants and flowers on the side of the dish.
This is the first living thing on the earth that God has created.  Up until now he had been preparing the earth for living things.  He makes sure that plants have their own seeds.  Why would plants need seeds?  God needed the plants to make more plants, so he gave them seeds.  The food would not run out.

* and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” Have an apple somewhere on there. 
So not only did God create plants with seeds. He now creates trees with fruit.  The fruit also needed to have seeds.

* And it was so.  The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit according to their kinds.
This is actually repetitive and annoying simply because we needed to know that it happened exactly the way God wanted.

* And God saw that it was good. 
God looks at his creation to admire it and call it good.  Everything he made was good.

*And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.
A lot happened on day three.  He made both the land and its food that grows from plants. 

Did you know there was a time when God took away the land?  When God flooded the whole earth because of man’s wickedness, he saved on only Noah and his family.  And then the flood ended and God brought the land back.

Then, after God rescued Israel from Egyptian slavery, but before they came to the promised land, they were hungry, so God send bread from the sky for them to eat, and the people called it manna.  God did that for 40 years.

And then one time, Jesus was teaching people in the land of Israel in a land far from food.  In John 6:1-13, we read…

Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick.  Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples.  The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”  There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).  Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.  He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over.  Let nothing be wasted.”  So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 

Did you know that this is the only miracle besides Jesus coming back from the dead that is told in all four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?  That generation thought it was Jesus’s most significant miracle second to his resurrection because it showed that he is God, the same one who gave the Israelites manna in the wilderness, and the same one who created land and plants that give food on the third day of creation.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

SS: Day two of creation

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

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

Read Genesis 1:6-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 2:1-12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

SS: Lead us not into temptation

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

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

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

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

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

What are some temptations you may face?

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

LH: Ruler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Proverbs 3:5-6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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