Monday, December 24, 2018

SS: Light of the world

Has anybody ever been to Ruby Falls?  In the caverns that go to this underground waterfall, there are lights and interesting rocks that look like steak and potatoes.  I don’t think they really do this anymore, but at some point when you get to the falls, the tour guides would turn the lights off to see what it was like when Leo Lambert discovered it.  What would you feel like in a cave with the lights out?  I already feel nervous being underground because of fears that the ground above me would fall and I’d be crushed.  But in the dark it would feel scarier. 

Leo Lambert must have been a strange and brave guy.  Do you know why we have lights up at Christmas time?  Because in John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

At Christmas, we celebrate him entering the world as a baby.  He is the light.  If he is light, then what was it like before he came?  Dark.  Why was it dark?

I’ll tell you another story.  Greek mythology has the story of Sisyphus, a man who had made the gods mad.  As his punishment, he was doomed to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity.  Once, the rock got to the top, it would roll back down and he would have to start all over.  He would never be able to escape this punishment and please the gods.  The job could not be done.

Now, back to reality.  Who are our first parents?  Adam and Eve.  They were the first people God created and the parents of us all.  God placed them in a perfect garden for them to enjoy and care for.  He gave them one rule.  What was it?  Don’t eat from the tree of Knowledge.  What did they do?  Eat from the tree of Knowledge.  Since then, they had to leave the garden and God took away their privilege of living forever.  They died and so will we one day.

But even sadder is that all of their children and grandchildren born after them are born outside of God’s will.  We are all people who love ourselves first.  We want to sin because we want our way more than God’s.  And when we disobey God and sin, we have a punishment.  Death and separation from God forever. 

How do we solve this problem?  For the Old Testament believers, God formed the nation of Israel and said you can have someone die in your place.  So they would take a lamb or a goat and sacrifice it at the temple.  But what would happen after that?  Leviticus 9:7 They would sin again and need to do it again.  They needed something better than an animal to take their place.

So God sent Jesus as a baby who would live the only perfect human life, and then as an adult, he was killed on a cross by the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers, and doing that, he suffered hell for us so that anyone who believed in him would be saved from their sins and live with him in heaven after they die.  Hebrews 9:11-12

After this we acted out the Christmas story, reviewed the lesson, and played bingo.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

SS lesson: camels and needles

This was over a week ago.  My life gets so busy and I get so tired.  And these lessons work so much better on paper than in real life and I need to start on the next one soon.

I had many glasses and one measuring cup.  They had different amounts of water.  The question was, could it fit in the measuring cup?  Two out of 5 could.

Then we moved on to a needle with an eye.  Can it fit?  A thread could.  A yarn couldn't.  A whole cloth couldn't.  And even with the thread it took me and my assistant and some of the girls many tries before we could get it in.

Jesus actually talked about this in the Bible, only instead of trying to fit yarn and fabric through the hole, He talked about something MUCH bigger.  Let’s read this account.

We acted out Mark 10:17-25.
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
So what was the rich man’s problem?

I’m going to propose that the problem isn’t greed or his riches.  It is that he wanted to follow Jesus using his own means and his own resources.  And we simply cannot be saved from our sins and live with Jesus in heaven using our own skills. 

There’s this story that says the Eye of a Needle was a gate outside Jerusalem that was so short that a camel carrying riches had to kneel down and take all its cargo off to enter through. 

Let me tell you the truth.  There was no such gate.  Nobody would make a gate that way.  People who tell that story make entering God’s kingdom humanly possible.  But it is not possible for a sinful human being such as me and you to see God’s face and be able to live without help.  Jesus said an eye of a needle and meant a literal eye of a needle. 

The disciples give the important part of the story next in verse 26: Who then can be saved?

And Jesus give his glorious answer: With man this is impossible but not with God.  All things are possible with God. 

Let me take you to another passage where Jesus said something that made no sense – John 6.  First, in verse 35 he said, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

Skipping to verse 53, Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me.”

So, did Jesus says we have to eat and drink him to be saved?  What did Jesus do to save us from our sins?  He died on the cross.  His body was broken and his blood was spilled and he took the punishment for our sins. 

What must we do with this information?  We must believe in Jesus and accept his punishment for our sins.  We can’t pay our debt against God the Father, but Jesus could.  And Jesus did.  So now we must be friends with him and follow him.  And to do that, we spend time with him.  How do we do that?  Reading the Bible, praying, going to church.  Jesus said that only God is God, and Jesus is God.  So Jesus was good for you, and he came back to life so that he could still be with you. 

After the lesson, I told them that the piece of fabric is really many threads in one.  We unraveled it some and then we could fit it in the eye.  In much the same way, the Lord has to unravel me over and over and eventually I will receive a new body that doesn't want to sin anymore and then I can finally reach the kingdom of God all by his work and not through anything I could do or decide.