Sunday, September 30, 2018

SS: Ananias and the need to obey

I write these down as the way I want them to go, now how they actually did go.  This lesson went will despite one child wanting to talk recess and nothing else and all of them learning the need to obey, not necessarily the need to follow Jesus.  Now, the lesson:

First, we played "Simon Says."  Obeying is easy when it's a game.  Why is it important to obey?  Why is it important to obey God?

Think of a carousel.  It's colorful, has music, and you get to ride animals.  You seem to be moving, but really, you are going nowhere.  You are going in circles and stuck in a rut.  Disobedience, like the ride, seems fun a first, but in the end, your life is meaningless and you are stuck.  When you start to obey God, however, life may seem more difficult, but you have more options in life and will thrive.

Next, we turned to a sheet that had a list of things to obey, and the kids had to rate whether it was easy to obey or not.

Finally, we got to the good part, the Bible story.  In Acts 9, the man who became Paul, was on his way to put Christians in jail.  Then, Jesus stopped him and his buddies with a blinding light and asked, "Why are you persecuting me?"  "Who are you?" asked Paul.  "I am Jesus, who you are hurting."  Jesus told him that he must now follow Jesus and tell non-Jewish people about him.

Then Jesus visited a Christian named Ananias to go to this house to Paul, yes that one, and pray for him to see again.  He will be a Christian now. 

Ananias had a choice to make.  He knew that Paul had been putting Christians in jail and attending their executions.  Why would he want to pray for him to see again and to become a Christian?  But Ananias went and prayed for Paul.

After that, Paul came to tell many people about Jesus, made most of Europe Christian, and wrote half of the New Testament.  If you are not Jewish, then chances are you are a Christian because of Paul. 

Luke wrote the book of Acts and told this story to show how the work of Jesus continues after he left the earth and until he comes back.  Does he need us to help?  No.  But he wants us to help, and we do that by obeying him.  Just like Ananias kept on obeying, YOU can keep obeying. 

Here is one more story of a man who obeyed God even when it was hard: John the Baptist.  He had many followers.  But God told him that when Jesus comes, he is to tell everybody to follow him because he was the one that people have to believe in to have their sins forgiven and to go to heaven.  And what happened?  More people followed Jesus than John.  In John 3:30, John tells people, "He must become greater, and I must become less."

Would it be hard to tell people to follow Jesus only to know that it will result in them loving him more than you?  It is hard for me because I like having people listen to me and follow me.  I like my fans.  But if they follow Jesus in a way that leads them away from me and to thrive more, then I will have to cheer them on even though I miss them greatly.  But I hope to talk and interact with them forever in God's completed kingdom, and maybe even for a time in the here and now.

Judges: Samson - God's dumb jock

It took me a month and a half to get around to blogging about Samson.  Why?   My schedule changed and I still don't have a rhythm.  Samson's story is 4 chapters long.  Samson is so conflicted.

First, the Philistines are attacking Israel.  Israel sinned by worshiping other gods again, and God sent an enemy to seriously scar them.  Israel is repenting again and they need a savior.

So God goes to a childless couple in the tribe of Dan to announce that Manoah and his Mrs. will have a son.  He was to be a lifelong Nazarite and avoid alcohol, grapes, and never cut his hair.  Just like Jesus, he was a longed for child, and he was supposed to be set apart and holy.  The only thing is, Jesus was the only perfect man who ever lived.  I don't see any indication that Samson ever tried to live holy.

He grew up and saw a sexy lady among the Philistines.  He wanted to marry her.  His parents warned him not to do so because she was not an Israelite.  But Samson followed his urges and married her.  Then he found a lion along a path and killed it.  He passed by the lion again, and some bees made honey in it.  Samson ate some knowing full well that it is unclean to touch a dead body.  He also gave some to his parents and defiled them.  Then he made a riddle and messed with the minds of his new in-laws.  He placed bets on if they could solve it.  They threatened Samson's new wife for the answer and she made his life miserable until he told her.  Then they found out.  In payment, he went to a Philistine town, killed some men, and took their clothes.  Then he went home and they gave his wife to the "best man."

Later on, Samson came back for his wife, found out that she had been given to another man, and then grabbed 300 foxes, tied their tails together, and set them on fire.  They ran and burned down towns.  Then, men came to attack him and he killed them all with the jawbone of a donkey.

Samson led Israel for 20 years, but in his old age, he had not learned to stay away from Philistine women.  He went into a prostitute in Gaza.  The paparazzi ambushed him, hoping to catch him in the morning, but at midnight, he took the gates of the city and marched them all the way to Hebron.

Then, he fell in love with Delilah who coaxed him into telling the secret of his strength.  He told many lies such as, "Bind me with new cords," or "Bind me with old cords" or "Tie my hair to a loom."  Each time she told her Philistine friends.  Each time they came.  He knew he couldn't trust her. Yet he still told her that he had never cut his hair.  So she told her friends and they cut his hair, captured him, gouged out his eyes, and made him do slave labor.  But then his hair grew back, he found the main poles of the place he was in, and caused the building to collapse and kill many Philistines and himself. 

Samson was a puzzle.  He slept around and never tried to honor the Lord with his choices, and yet God chose him to judge the Philistines.  He's like Donald Trump.  I can't stand him, but he still is doing what he said he would do when elected and he's still better than the alternatives.  It shows how far away from God both Israel and America had come to fall under such weak leadership.  We only have the choice between godless and more godless.

And yet, I know I have not always followed the Lord in my attitudes and practices either.  I certainly don't deserve to be leading the church in any capacity, but God can made straight lines with crooked sticks.  And I'm thankful that he uses anybody at all to carry out his will.  And I'm certainly thankful he finally sent Jesus to save us and will do so again.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Take care of what you got

For the first time in ten months, I taught Sunday School.  And it was good to be back.  And for my comeback, I taught on a parable I didn't understand for the longest time until I heard Brooks preach on it about a year ago.  It is in Luke 16:1-12.

Basically, there is a wealthy man who has a manager that is going to have to fire because he was being dishonest with his money.  The manager, let's call him Bob, was frightened and had to figure out a new source of income.

So he went to one of the men who owed the rich man money and said, "How much do you owe?"  "800 bushels of wheat."  Bob said, "Why don't you just pay me 400 bushels?' 

Bob went to another guy and said, "How much do you owe?"  "1000 jugs of oil."  Bob told him he only had to pay 800.

At the end, the wealthy man took back Bob and he had new friends.

At first, it seems like Jesus is praising Bob for cheating the rich man out of his dues. But then you remember what tax collectors did.  They would take more money than the people owed so that they could make a profit.

Suppose I worked for a library and some child had a late book and owed a dollar for a fine. If I took only a dollar, I would have to give it to the librarian, and I wouldn't have any left.  But if tell the kid he owes 4 dollars, then the library gets its dollar, and I get 3.

Basically, Bob was making the people pay more than what they owed to the rich man to make money himself.

But do you know what's more valuable than money or houses or cars or iPhones or even your friends?  Knowing Jesus.  What are we supposed to do with what we know about Jesus?  Share it with people.  Tell them how they can become right with our holy God even though we have sinned and sin can't be forgiven.

You see, we all have sin.  And if that sin goes on in itself, we can't see God or live in heaven with him.  But Jesus said that he would take the punishment for our sins by what he did when he came to earth.  He lived the only perfect life and then died on the cross.  And since he was perfect, he came back from the dead.  Knowing this and believing Jesus is the only way to be forgiven of our sins and to live in heaven.  Nothing is more valuable. 

So, what if I treated Jesus the way Bob treated the rich man's money?  I would probably go to my friend and say, "To get to heaven, you need to pay for your sins.  You need to know Jesus, but first you also have to life a perfect life starting now, oh, and give me $100."  Is that good?  No, because the only thing you need to do to get to heaven is to know Jesus.  He will make you good.  Knowing him will make you want to obey his commands.

Finally, I turned to John 1:35-37 to see how telling about Jesus was done correctly.  John the Baptist had two disciples.  Then Jesus walked by, and John said, "This is the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world."  The two men turned and followed him.  John didn't say to first get baptized or sell their money to the poor.  He said to follow Jesus and nothing more.  And his job was done.