Sunday, September 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

SS: Lead us not into temptation

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

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

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

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

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

What are some temptations you may face?

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

LH: Ruler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Proverbs 3:5-6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

4 observations from Hosea 2 and a search for satisfaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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