Pastor’s Thoughts

Thursday 6 August 2020

EZEKIEL No 9

Idolaters Killed – Ezekiel 9:1-11

Open It
  1. What sorts of wrongs particularly stir your sense of outrage and make you long for justice?
  2. When the decision is up to you, do you lean more toward justice or mercy for people who do wrong? Why?
Explore It
  1. As Ezekiel watched, whom did God summon before Him? (9:1-2)
  2. What occurrence must have emphasized God’s power and holiness for Ezekiel? (9:3)
  3. *What instruction did the Lord give to the man with the writing kit? (9:4)
  4. *What characteristics was God looking for in the people who would receive the mark? (9:4)
  5. *What orders were given to the six men with deadly weapons? (9:5)
  6. Which people were to be spared from the general slaughter in Jerusalem? (9:6)
  7. What did God command to be done to the temple? (9:7)
  8. What emotion did Ezekiel express when he was alone before the Lord? (9:8)
  9. Why was God driven to such extreme action against Jerusalem? (9:9-10)
  10. What did the man with the writing kit report back to God? (9:11)
Get It
  1. Ultimately, from where does justice and judgment for sin come, regardless of how it is carried out?
  2. Why was it necessary for God to defile the temple as well as punish the idolaters?
  3. Why does it matter to God whether we are grieved by the sin around us, even though we might be unable to change it on our own?
  4. In what way is it appropriate to feel sorrow or elation when a wicked person “gets what he deserves”?
  5. Why do you suppose injustice and bloodshed in particular are evils that God must punish?
Apply It
  1. What is a concrete way in which you can show God that you are grieved by sin?
  2. What Christian brother or sister, surrounded by evil, needs your prayers right now?

 

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Woman of Creativity 2

Drudgery or Discovery?

Christ in the Daily Grind

John 4:1-26

Setting the Stage:

“There’s a call for you on line 4.”
“Just a moment, I’ll see if he’s in.”
“I’m sorry, she’s out of the office now, would you like her voice mail?”
As she hangs up the phone and turns back to her keyboard, Jeannie Rinaldo wonders, How many times a day do I say the same thing?

At first Jeannie was excited about her job as receptionist in a busy office. There was always something going on. Now she’s realizing it’s always the same old somethings going on. This afternoon she’s especially feeling the tedium. She tells herself, I could easily be replaced by a computer with a nice voice.

Visitors come through the door with that same tentative look on their faces and ask the same questions. The stuff she types is the routine boring overflow from the other secretaries. She can tell which extensions will be answered instantly and which ones will ring forever. Her co-workers make the same stale remarks as they hurry past.

Her teeth go on edge as Will comes in after lunch. He’s worked there forever, and she knows he’ll make the same old joke: “Did the President call me back yet?”

What’s that? Did Will go by without saying a word? Good! Jeannie turns to her keyboard. In a few minutes Will gets a phone call, and when she rings his extension, he answers instantly. Very unusual.

Soon Will is on his way out again. He looks like he’s in a fog. Something isn’t right. Jeannie hears herself say, “Will! If the President calls, should I take a message?”

Will stares at Jeannie like he’s trying to remember who she is. Finally he answers, “Hold my calls, will you? I have to go back to the hospital.”

“Hospital? Why?” It’s not a polite question, but she can’t ignore Will’s obvious distress.

“It’s our little granddaughter. She was born at midnight last night, but she’s having some problems . . .” His voice catches and he starts to turn away.

“I’m really sorry to hear that.” Jeannie feels she should say more. “Do you mind if I pray for her? I mean—and for your whole family too?” Uh-oh! What if I get in trouble for asking that?

Will looks surprised but not offended. “Thanks, Jeannie. We’d appreciate that.” He manages a slight smile before he turns to leave.

Jeannie sits and lets the incident sink in. Even when the phone summons her back to work, she continues to pray for Will’s granddaughter and to think about what just happened. She hadn’t even known that Will had a grandchild on the way. Lord, is this a message from you? How much do I really know about the people I work with every day?

  1. What made the difference in transforming Jeannie’s day from monotonous to meaningful?
  2. In your experience, what has given meaning to monotonous tasks?
God’s Word for Us

Read John 4:1-26.

  1. What does John 4:1-8 tell us about what Jesus might have been thinking and feeling?
  2. Look at John 4:6-10. What do we know about the woman’s situation?
  3. When the woman heard Jesus’ promise of living water, what were her reactions (John 4:10-15)?
  4. What was she beginning to plan and hope for (John 4:15)?
  5. When have you wished you could call a halt and resign from all your work? (Consider your job, motherhood, household chores, volunteer work and so on.)
  6. How did Jesus surprise the woman in the midst of their conversation about water (John 4:16-18)?
  7. As you go about your daily work, what wrong attitudes and actions might be weighing you down and adding to your sense of drudgery?
  8. The woman tried to involve Jesus in the old controversy of the right place to worship (John 4:19). Refusing to be sidetracked, what did Jesus tell her about true worship (John 4:21-24)?
  9. When we have a challenging job to do, it’s natural to reach out to the Lord in prayer. Why is it harder to think of Christ when we’re engaged in ordinary tasks?
  10. How can you be more sensitive to the presence of Christ in your daily work?
Now or Later

When the Samaritan woman came to the well, she was not looking for a spiritual experience. Certainly she did not expect to meet the Messiah. To this burdened person doing chores in the noonday heat, Jesus chose to reveal himself. At any time she could have filled her water jar and left, but she stayed because she was open to his revelation. When have you unexpectedly experienced Christ in the midst of mundane tasks? Maybe it happened in ways like these:

You encountered a needy person in the laundromat or grocery store and took time to listen. Afterward you remembered that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

You were irritated at something—a computer program, your car, a salesperson, a traffic light—and you prayed and experienced God’s peace in spite of the frustration.

In your annoyance at drudge jobs, the Holy Spirit exposed a nerve. Gently he showed you some attitude such as pride or discontent which you needed to confess and change. You experienced Christ’s forgiveness and renewal.

You resolved to do the most mundane task as service to the Lord (Col. 3:23), and your attitude toward that job was transformed.

You will you plan this week to be open to discovering Christ in the daily grind of housework?
family responsibilities?
your job?
bothersome people you have to see frequently?
repetitive tasks?

For further study read the rest of John 4. It tells the further results of the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus. It’s not only for the sake of relieving our own boredom that we should stay open to meeting Christ in our everyday tasks. When we encounter him and are transformed by him, others will benefit.

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Part 6.
Hello, Cruel World

Murder, They Did

Here’s a tidbit to tuck away in your memory bank: In the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not kill” is not the correct translation. The Hebrew word actually means “murder,” not “kill.” In fact, if you browse the Old Testament, you’ll see that some forms of killing—notably capital punishment—were legal and even approved by God. But murder was, and is, always wrong. Not only were some of the Bible’s utterly despicable characters guilty of murder, but so—on occasion—were some of its better ones.

  1. Who was the world’s first murderer?
  2. What great leader of Israel killed an Egyptian for abusing a Hebrew slave?
  3. Which of his military men did David have murdered by sending him into the thick of battle?
  4. In Genesis, which character boasted that he had killed a young man who had injured him?
  5. Which two sons of Jacob slaughtered Shechem and his kin while they were recovering from circumcision?
  6. What book of the Bible records the sordid story of a poor woman who was literally raped to death by a group of men?
  7. What man in the life of Jesus was in prison for being both a revolutionary and a murderer?
  8. What obese king of Moab was murdered in a sneaky way by the Israelite judge Ehud?
  9. Which captain of King Saul murdered Asahel by ramming a spear through his belly?
  10. Which half brother (who wanted to seize the throne) did Solomon have murdered?
  11. Who killed off the dynasty of King Baasha of Israel, then committed suicide after seven days?
  12. What means did the woman Jael use to murder the Canaanite captain Sisera who rested in her tent?
  13. Which son of David avenged his sister’s rape by murdering his drunk half brother Amnon?
  14. Which son of the judge Gideon murdered 70 of his own half brothers?
  15. Which captain of David’s avenged his brother’s murder by stabbing Abner in the belly?
  16. Who did Jesus say was a “murderer from the beginning”?
  17. The Jewish Sanhedrin stoned what saintly man for blasphemy?
  18. What cruel king of Judah had all his brothers killed by the sword?
  19. Which king of Israel’s dynasty was entirely wiped out by Baasha?
  20. What was Joab doing to Amasa when he suddenly stabbed Amasa in the belly?
  21. Which king of Sennacherib was murdered by two of his own sons while worshipping in the temple of his god?
  22. Which of the apostles was beheaded by wicked Herod?
  23. Which son of King Saul was stabbed in the belly then beheaded by Reca and Baanah?
  24. What evil royal couple had Naboth executed because he refused to sell them his family’s vineyard?
  25. What good king of Judah was murdered on the road by two of his own officials?
  26. What wicked king’s assassins were all killed by the people of Judah?
  27. Which king of Aram was murdered by being smothered with a wet cloth over his face?
  28. Which king’s seven sons and grandsons were murdered and exposed on a hillside by the Gibeonites?
  29. What evil king of Judah “shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end”?
  30. What wicked queen, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, almost exterminated her husband’s entire family after he died?
  31. What evil son of the judge Gideon (Jerubbaal) was mortally wounded when a woman dropped a millstone on his head?
  32. What wounded king tried to get his armor bearer to kill him so he wouldn’t die at the hands of the Philistines?
  33. Which son of David was speared three times while he dangled in midair, his head caught in a tree?
  34. Which king of Judah had the prophet Zechariah stoned to death because he predicted disaster for him?
  35. What persecutor of Christians was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples”?
  36. What Babylonian ruler killed the king of Judah’s sons right before the king’s eyes, then had him blinded?
  37. Which apostle wrote that “anyone who hates his brother is a murderer”?
  38. Who lamented that God’s prophets and wise men were always persecuted and murdered?
  39. Which apostle was assumed to be an escaped murderer when a venomous snake bit him on the hand?
  40. What evil king of Israel killed everyone in the city of Tiphsah, even ripping open its pregnant women?

Murder, They Did (Answers)

  1. Cain, who killed his brother, Abel (Genesis 4)
  2. Moses (Exodus 2:12)
  3. Uriah the Hittite, husband of Bathsheba, with whom David fathered a child (2 Samuel 11:15-17)
  4. Lamech (Genesis 4:23)
  5. Simeon and Levi (Genesis 34:25-31)
  6. Judges (19:25-28)
  7. Barabbas (Luke 23:18-19)
  8. Eglon (Judges 3:12-30)
  9. Abner (2 Samuel 2:22-23)
  10. Adonijah (1 Kings 2:23-25)
  11. Zimri (1 Kings 16:11-19)
  12. Drove a tent peg through his head (Judges 4:21)
  13. Absalom (2 Samuel 13:23-29)
  14. Abimelech (Judges 9:5)
  15. Joab (2 Samuel 3:27)
  16. The devil (John 8:44)
  17. Stephen (Acts 6:11-15)
  18. Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:4)
  19. Jeroboam’s (1 Kings 15:27-29)
  20. Kissing him (as a greeting, that is) (2 Samuel 20:9-10)
  21. Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:36-37)
  22. James (Acts 12:2)
  23. Ish-bosheth (2 Samuel 4:5-8)
  24. Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21:10-24)
  25. Joash (2 Kings 12:20)
  26. Amon (2 Kings 21:23-24)
  27. Ben-hadad (2 Kings 8:7-15)
  28. Saul’s (2 Samuel 21:1-9)
  29. Manasseh (2 Kings 21:16)
  30. Athaliah (2 Kings 11:1)
  31. Abimelech (Judges 9:52-53)
  32. Saul (1 Samuel 31:4-6)
  33. Absalom (2 Samuel 18:9-15)
  34. Joash (2 Chronicles 24:20-22)
  35. Saul (Acts 9:1), who later became the great apostle Paul
  36. Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 39:5-7)
  37. John (1 John 3:15).
  38. Jesus (Matthew 23:37)
  39. Paul (Acts 28:4)
  40. Menahem (2 Kings 15:16)

Monday 3 August 2020

Abiding in Christ

A Week’s teaching for week 6: Fulfilling the Purpose of Christ

THIS WEEK’S PARABLE FOCUS

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”John 15:13-16

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 6

Day 1: Christ’s Friendship: Its Origin and Evidence
Day 2: Christ’s Friendship: Its Intimacy
Day 3: Election
Day 4: Abiding Fruit
Day 5: Prevailing Prayer

VERSES TO MEMORIZE

Level 1: John 15:16
Level 2: John 15:15-16

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 6

POSSIBLE RESPONSES TO THIS WEEK’S STUDY

I will grow in my abiding relationship with Christ and demonstrate my love for Him by doing things like the following.

  • I will publicly and privately express my gratitude to Jesus for laying down His life for me.
  • I will be faithful in obeying the Lord’s commands so I can be His friend.
  • I will surrender my life to do all He asks so that He can bear lasting fruit through my life.
  • I will devote myself to prayer for the causes and purposes of Christ’s kingdom.
  • I will lay down my own desires, preferences, expectations, and resources out of love for my brothers and sisters in Christ (see 1 John 3:16).
Day 1: Christ’s Friendship: Its Origin and Evidence

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:13-14).

Today’s Key Idea: Jesus gave His life for me as proof of His love and friendship. Through obedience to His commands, I can enjoy His love and friendship (brs).

Pray: Lord Jesus, I can’t understand the love You showed for me when You died on the cross. I want to respond to Your love by obeying Your commands and living in friendship with You. Show me the way.

“… [that you] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”—Ephesians 3:18-19

“By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.”—1 John 2:3

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

In verses 13-15 our Lord speaks of His relation to His disciples from a new standpoint—friendship. He points us to the love that has its origin on His side (v. 13), to the obedience on our part by which it is maintained (v. 14), and then to the holy intimacy to which it leads (v. 15).

As I have stressed, our relation to Christ is one of love. He showed us what His love was in its heavenly glory: the same love with which the Father had loved Him. Here He refers to it in its earthly demonstration: laying down His life for us. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Christ longs for us to sense that the deep root and strength of all He is and does for us as the Vine is love. As we move to believe this, we begin to feel this not as a truth we must think and know about but as a living power and a divine life we must incorporate within us. Christ and His love are inseparable and identical. God is love, and His Son, Jesus Christ, is love. God, Christ, and the divine love can be experienced only by having them—by their life and power working in us. “This is eternal life, that they may know You” (John 17:3). We cannot know God except by having this life; the life working in us alone gives the knowledge. That’s true of His love. If we would know His love, we must drink of its living stream; we must have it shed forth by the Holy Spirit in us.

Read Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus above (Ephesians 3:18-19). Pray that the Spirit will help you comprehend all the dimensions of Christ’s love for you.

Our Lord gave proof of His friendship through His teachings and His actions: He unselfishly gave His life for us. He then explains what our role will be—to do what He commands. He poured out His life to secure a place for His love in our hearts to rule us. His love challenges and then empowers us to follow His commands. As we obey His commands, we will know the love and friendship more profoundly. Christ had already asserted, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (John 15:10). He found it necessary to repeat that truth again: the one proof of our faith in His love, the one means of abiding in it, the one mark of being true branches is doing what He commands us. He began with absolute surrender of His life for us. He can ask nothing less from us. This alone is a life in His friendship.

Match the phrase on the left with the correct action on the right.

a. Obey Jesus’ commands.    b. Christ gave His life for us.    1. Proof of Christ’s friendship
a. Obey Jesus’ commands.    b. Christ gave His life for us.    2. Requirement for our friendship

Our Lord longs to hear us cry out, “Yes, Lord, whatever You want, I will do—without fail, without hesitation!” (am).

Unfortunately, doing all Christ commands us doesn’t have the central position in our Christian teaching and living that our Lord intended. We have given a far higher place to privilege than to duty. Sadly, we haven’t considered entire obedience as a condition of true discipleship. These faulty ideas have often robbed God’s promises of their power: the secret thought that it is impossible to do what He commands us, so it cannot be expected of us, and a subtle, unconscious feeling that sinning is a necessity. The whole relation to Christ has become clouded and lowered. The waiting on His teaching, the power to hear and obey His voice, and through obedience to enjoy His love and friendship have been weakened by these terrible mistakes. For His sake return to His true position. Accept Christ’s words at face value and make nothing less the law of your life: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” Our Lord longs to hear us cry out, “Yes, Lord, whatever You want, I will do—without fail, without hesitation!”

Christ’s command for obedience is a promise. Check below any faulty ideas through which you have allowed God’s promise to be robbed of its power. Check all that apply.

a. Entire obedience is not a condition of true discipleship.
b. It is impossible to do what He commands, so it cannot be expected of me.
c. Sinning is a necessity. I cannot avoid it.

O my Lord, let Your holy friendship lead me into the love of all Your commands, and let the doing of Your commands lead me deeper and deeper into Your friendship.

Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most. Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

Responding to My Lord

Day 2: Christ’s Friendship: Its Intimacy

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

Today’s Key Idea: Through obedience I enter the inner circle of friendship with Christ, where He reveals secrets He has heard from the Father (brs).

Pray: Lord, I want to live near You as a friend. Enable my living in obedience and open my ears to hear all You have to say.

“[The Spirit of Truth] will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”—John 16:14-15

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

The highest proof of true friendship and one great source of its blessedness is its intimacy, which admits the friend to share in our inmost secrets. It is a sacred honour to count as one of Christ’s servants. As His redeemed ones, we delight in calling ourselves His servants, his bond slaves. Christ had often spoke of His disciples as servants. Now, in His overflowing love, He says, “No longer do I call you servants.” With the coming of the Holy Spirit, a new era would be inaugurated. “A servant does not know what his master is doing”; he had to obey without being consulted or admitted into the secret of all his master’s plans. “But I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Christ’s friends share with Him in all the secrets the Father has entrusted to Him.

Mark the following statements as T (true) or F (false).

T F a. Jesus never calls His disciples anything but servants.
T F b. True friends hold nothing back and share their inmost secrets.
T F c. Jesus wants us to obey Him without knowing His plans.
T F d. Jesus shares with His friends the secrets of His Father’s plans.

When Christ spoke of keeping His Father’s commandments, He didn’t merely indicate what was written in the Scriptures but those special commandments that were communicated to Him day by day and from hour to hour. Of these He said, “The Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these” (John 5:20). All that Christ did was God’s working. God revealed it to Christ. He carried out the Father’s will and purpose, not, as man often does, blindly and unintelligently but with full understanding and approval. As one who stood in God’s counsel, He was aware of God’s plan.

Check the choice that best describes what Christ meant when He spoke of keeping His Father’s commandments.

a. Obeying just the commandments found in Scripture
b. Doing what He thought best without talking with His Father
c. Obeying each moment as the Father communicated His will to Him

By His Spirit’s dwelling in us, Christ conveys the Father’s will and purpose to us (brs).

This is the double sweetness of being Christ’s friends. We do not, like servants, do His will without much spiritual insight into its meaning and aim. Rather, we are admitted, as an inner circle, into certain knowledge of God’s more secret thoughts. From the Day of Pentecost forward, by the Holy Spirit, Christ would lead His disciples into spiritual understanding of kingdom mysteries. Previously, He had spoken about them only in parables.

Read John 16:14-15 above, and ask the Lord to help you understand what is on His mind and heart.

Friendship delights in fellowship. Friends want to meet. Friends want to stay in touch (am).

Friendship delights in fellowship. Friends want to meet. Friends want to stay in touch. Real friends dare to trust to each other things they wouldn’t dare share with anyone else. What gives a Christian access to this holy intimacy with Jesus? What gives him the spiritual capacity for receiving the communications Christ will relay from the Father? “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Loving obedience purifies the soul. That refers not only to the commandments of the Word but to diligent application of the Word to our daily lives. And only the Lord Himself can give that. As our spirits wait for these in dependence and humility, we become fitted for closer and closer fellowship, and the daily life with Him may become a continual experience: “I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

“I have called you friends.” What an indescribable honour! What a heavenly privilege! O Saviour, speak the word with power into my heart: “I have called you My friend, whom I love, whom I trust, to whom I make known all that passes between My Father and Me.”

If you are not experiencing a deep, intimate friendship with Jesus, what is holding you back? Where is your struggle with obedience? Write notes below.

Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most. Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

Responding to My Lord

Day 3: Election

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16).

Today’s Key Idea: Christ chose me to become like Him, and He provides the power for me to be fruitful for Him (brs).

Pray: Chosen by Christ! Thank You, Lord. Chosen to share Your likeness and fulfil Your purpose by bearing lasting fruit—Lord, do that work in me.

“Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”—Romans 8:29

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

The natural branch does not choose on which vine it will grow. The vine brings forth the branch where it will. Even so Christ declares, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” Some will argue, “This is just the difference between the branch in the natural and in the spiritual world. Man has a will and a power of choosing, and it is because he has decided to accept Christ that he is now a branch.” This is undoubtedly true. Yet it is only half a truth.

Our choosing Him was the result of His choosing us and taking hold of us (am).

The lesson of the vine and the teaching of our Lord point to the other half of the truth: if He had not chosen us, we would have never chosen Him. Our choosing Him was the result of His choosing us and taking hold of us. In the nature of heavenly matters, it is His prerogative as Vine to choose and create His own branch. We owe all we are to “the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). If we want to experience Christ as the true Vine and ourselves as branches in our absolute and secure dependence on Him, let’s absorb this glorious truth: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.”

Mark the following statements as T (true) or F (false).

T F a. God gave us free will to choose Christ as our Lord.
T F b. Our choosing Him was a result of His first choosing us.
T F c. We do not need Christ to choose us in order for us to choose Him.

Christ wants us to know why He chose us. He wants us to find the assurance of fulfilling our destiny. Throughout Scripture this is the overriding purpose of the teaching of election. We are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). We are chosen to be branches in the image and likeness of the Vine. “He chose us … that we should be holy and without blame” (Ephesians 1:4). God “chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). We are “elect … in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience” (1 Peter 1:2). Yes, some have perverted the doctrine of election. For fear of its abuse, others have rejected it. They have occupied themselves with its hidden origin in eternity and the mysteries of the counsels of God instead of accepting the revelation of its purpose in time and the blessings it brings into our Christian lives.

As you read the next paragraph, underline Christ’s twofold purpose in choosing you as His branch.

This gives us tremendous confidence:

  • He will not fail to fit us for carrying out His purpose.
  • We can bear fruit that will abide (last).
  • We can pray so as to obtain! (am).

Ponder what these blessings are. In our parable Christ reveals His twofold purpose in choosing us to be His branches: so that we can bear fruit on earth and have power in prayer in heaven. This gives us tremendous confidence—that He will not fail to fit us for carrying out His purpose, that we can bear fruit that will abide (last), and that we can pray so as to obtain! This continually calls us to the deepest humility and praise, to entire dependence and expectancy! He wouldn’t choose us for something we are not fit for or what He couldn’t fit us for. He has chosen us; this is the pledge that He will do all in us.

What kind of assurance can you have in knowing that Christ has chosen you for His purpose? Check all that apply.

a. He will fit me for His purposes.
b. I can bear fruit that will last.
c. I can pray in power.
d. He will do all in me.

In Him, the true Vine, your life as a branch has its divine origin, its eternal security, and the power to fulfil His purpose. From Him to whose will of love you owe all, you may expect all. Live in Him—His purpose, His power, His faithfulness, and His love.

“I chose you.” Lord, teach me what this means—that You have set Your heart on me and have chosen me to bear fruit that will abide and to pray prayers that will prevail. In this Your eternal purpose my soul would rest itself and say, “What He chose me for I will be, I can be, I shall be.”

Ask the Lord to help you understand what it means that Jesus chose you. Take time to thank Him for choosing you.

Write two words of your choosing to describe what the knowledge that Jesus chose you to be His branch means to you.

  1. _________________
  2. _________________

Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most. Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

Responding to My Lord

Day 4: Abiding Fruit

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should [abide]” (John 15:16).

Today’s Key Idea: Christ has chosen me to bring forth fruit that will last for all eternity as the living Christ works through me (brs).

Pray: Lord, I am not interested in a life without purpose. You’ve put the desire in my heart to bear fruit that lasts for eternity. Reveal to me the specific nature of Your purpose so that I can fulfil it for Your glory.

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

There is work that leaves its imprint for generations or for eternity. In it the power of God makes itself lastingly felt (am).

Some fruits will not keep. One sort of pears or apples must be used right away. Another kind can be saved until next year. In Christian work some fruit doesn’t last. There may be plenty that seems to please and edify but leaves no permanent impact on the world or the condition of the church. On the other hand, there is work that leaves its imprint for generations or for eternity. In it the power of God makes itself lastingly felt. That is the fruit Paul spoke about when he described two styles of ministry: “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). The more of man with his wisdom and power, the less of stability; the more of God’s Spirit, the more of faith standing in God’s power.

Ask the Lord to shape your life to bear the fruit that will make an imprint for generations and will have an eternal impact.

Fruit reveals the nature of the tree from which it comes. What, then, is the secret of bearing fruit that abides? The answer is simple. As our life abides in Christ and as we abide in Him, the fruit we bear will last. The more we allow all that is of human will and effort to be pruned away by the hand of the divine Vinedresser and the more intensely we withdraw from worldly cares so that God can work in us by His Spirit, the more concertedly we abide in Christ, and the more our fruit will abide.

Mark the following statements as T (true) or F (false).

T F a. The secret to bearing fruit that abides is to abide in Christ.
T F b. The more self-effort I give, the more abiding fruit is produced.

 

This is a staggering thought! He chose you and appointed you to bear fruit and that your fruit should last. He never intended one of His branches to produce fruit that would not abide. The deeper I enter the purpose of His electing grace, the surer my confidence will become; yes, I produce fruit that will last for all eternity. When I enter this purpose of His electing love, what will occur? I will realize more and more what the link is between the purpose from eternity and the fruit to eternity. The link is the abiding in Him. Now the purpose is His; He will bring it to fruition. The fruit is His; He will bring it forth. The abiding is His; He will maintain it.

It is not your preaching or teaching, your strength of will or power to influence that will make a difference. All depends on having your life full of God and His power (am).

If you profess to be a Christian worker, stop for a moment. Ask yourself, Am I leaving a mark for eternity on those around me? My dear sister or brother, it is not your preaching or teaching, your strength of will or power to influence that will make a difference. All depends on having your life full of God and His power. And again, that depends on your living the truly branchlike life of abiding, a life of close and unbroken fellowship with Christ. It is the branch who abides in Him that brings forth much fruit, fruit that abides.

Blessed Lord, make clear to me that You have chosen me to bear much fruit. Let this be my confidence so that Your purpose can be realized: You did choose me. Let this be my power to forsake everything and give myself to You. You Yourself will perfect what You have begun. Draw me so to dwell in the love and the certainty of that eternal purpose so that the power of eternity can possess me and the fruit I bear can abide.

“That you should go and bear fruit.” O my heavenly Vine, it is beginning to dawn on me that fruit—more fruit—much fruit—abiding fruit is the one thing You have to give me. And it is the one thing as a branch that I have to give You! Here I am. Blessed Lord, work out Your purpose in me: let me bear much abiding fruit for Your glory.

How would you describe the eternal impact the Lord is making through your life on those He has placed around you? Check one or write your own.

a. He is changing people’s lives by His work through me.
b. The impact He is making through me is small.
c. I don’t see Him working through me to impact those around me.
d. Other:

Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most. Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

Responding to My Lord

Day 5: Prevailing Prayer

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16).

Today’s Key Idea: The highest expression of my union with Christ is power to prevail with God in prayer for the benefit of others (brs).

Pray: Lord, how I yearn to experience this power to be victorious in prayer for Your name and Your glory. Teach me to pray!

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

In the first verse of our parable, Christ revealed Himself as the true Vine; the Father is the Vinedresser. Here He sums up all His teaching about Himself and the Father in the twofold purpose for which He had chosen them. With reference to Himself, the Vine, the purpose was that they should bear fruit. With reference to the Father, the purpose was that whatever they should ask in His name should be done by the Father in heaven. Just as fruit is the great proof of a true relationship with Christ, so prayer is proof of our relationship with the Father. Fruitful abiding in the Son and prevailing prayer to the Father are the two prime factors in an authentic Christian life.

List the two prime factors in an authentic Christian life.

In relation to Christ: ____________________

In relation to the Father: ____________________

“Whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” These are the closing words of the parable of the Vine. The whole mystery of the vine and its branches leads to the other mystery—that whatever we ask in His name the Father gives! See here the reason for the lack of prayer and for the lack of power in prayer. Because so few live the true branch life, because we seldom lose ourselves in the Vine to abide in Him entirely, we feel little motivation to pray and little confidence that we will be heard. We do not know how to use His name as the key to God’s storehouse.

What is the reason we pray little and lack power in prayer?

a. God doesn’t want to hear us and answer our prayers.
b. We have not learned the right methods of prayer.
c. We do not live the true branch life, losing ourselves in the Vine and abiding entirely in Him.

We cannot grow deeper in our relationship with Christ without having, at the same time, more of an urgency to pray (brs).

“Whatever you ask.” The promise was given to disciples who were ready to give themselves for others. This promise was all their provision for their work. They believed it, used it, and found it true. As branches of the Vine and in His likeness, let’s dedicate ourselves to the work of reaching lost people, of bringing forth fruit to the glory of God, and we will discover a new urgency and power to pray and to claim the “whatever you ask.” We will wake up to our thrilling responsibility of having in such a promise the keys to the King’s storehouses. And we will have found avenues to rescue the perishing.

Beloved disciple, seek above everything to be a person of prayer (am).

Beloved disciple, seek above everything to be a person of prayer. Here is the highest exercise of your privilege as a branch of the Vine; here is the full proof of your being renewed in the image of God and His Son; here is your power to live not for yourself but for others; here you enter heaven to receive gifts for others; here your abiding in Christ has led to His abiding in you, to use you as the channel and instrument of His grace. The power to bear fruit for humankind has been crowned by power to prevail with God in prayer.

Pray that the Lord will give you an urgency to pray for the lost, and ask the Lord to make you a person of prevailing prayer.

The power of direct access to the Father for people, the liberty of intercession, claiming and receiving blessing for them in faith, is the highest exercise of our union with Christ (am).

Christ’s work in you is to bring you to the Father in such a way that His Word can be fulfilled in you: “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you” (John 16:26-27). The power of direct access to the Father for people, the liberty of intercession, claiming and receiving blessing for them in faith, is the highest exercise of our union with Christ. Let all who would truly be branches give themselves to the work of intercession. It is the one great work of Christ in heaven, the source of power for all His work. Make it your one great work as a branch, and it will be the power of all your work.

“In My name.” Yes, Lord, in Your name—the true Vine. As a branch, abiding in You in entire devotion, in full dependence, in perfect conformity, in abiding fruitfulness, I come to the Father, in You, and He will give what I ask. Oh, let my life be one of unceasing and prevailing intercession! Amen!

Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most.

Review “Possible Responses to This Week’s Study” (p. 71). Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

Responding to My Lord

Friday 31 July 2020

CORONA POP

God’s Word

“The Letter”

The Box Tops

Backbeat

Back in the sixties, the world of pop music had a term to describe the style of white artists who sounded black—”Blue-eyed soul.” The Box Tops were one of three prominent acts in this style, along with the Righteous Brothers and the Rascals. The Box Tops were a Memphis quintet, originally known as the DeVilles.

Lead singer Alex Chilton was born in Memphis in 1950. By the mid sixties, he was already a powerful R&B singer. Not one to record the typical teen pop, he had a style and polish that belied his youth. The Box Tops’ first release was the huge number 1 hit “The Letter,” which became Billboard magazine’s Song of the Year in 1967. Opening with jet plane sound effects over the opening lyric (“Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane”), the record highlighted Chilton’s vivid voice. Backing up the vocals was an adequately sparse horn section. Amazingly, Alex Chilton was only sixteen at the time.

They followed up with other best sellers such as “Neon Rainbow,” “Cry Like a Baby,” “Soul Deep,” and “I Met Her in Church.”

In the late sixties, their type of R&B/rock fusion fell out of fashion as hard rock became more popular. When Bell Records began using session musicians to back Alex Chilton in place of the regular group, a number of the original members left, leading to the group’s breakup in 1970. Chilton went out on his own, forming one of the best ever power-pop bands, Big Star.

“The Letter” expresses the singer’s joy after receiving a welcomed letter.

She said she couldn’t live without me no more…
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home,
My baby just-a wrote me a letter

Riff

In our era of e-mail, this sentiment may soon be passed. We now communicate on mobile phones, messenger and in text messages, but there’s nothing quite like a love letter. We wait for it beside the mailbox. We read it and reread it. We study every loop of the handwriting. When someone special loves us and takes the time to write about it, that’s a great moment.

That makes it especially interesting to note that most of the books of the New Testament are letters. At first that might make you feel that you’re reading other people’s mail, but it’s really our mail. Church leaders were writing to Christians like us, telling us who Jesus is and what he can mean in our lives.

In fact, we can see the entire Bible as God’s love letter to us. The book of Peter says, “You must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding…. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Paul reminds us, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Yes, we find history, poetry, parables, and even some census results, but it’s all part of God’s communication to us.

And what is he saying? You might sum up the message like this: “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). That’s a love letter that will change your life.

Harmonies
Psalm 119:105 Romans 15:4 2 Timothy 3:16*
John 3:16 1 Corinthians 10:11 2 Peter 1:20-21*
Romans 5:8* 2 Corinthians 3:2

 

Thursday 30 July 2020

 EZEKIEL 8

Idolatry in the TempleEzekiel 8:1-18

Open It

  1. The last time you had reason, or thought you had reason, to feel jealousy over a close relationship, how did it feel?
  2. What feelings would rise up in you if you were to see a pagan rite being observed in your church building? Remember that pagan rights are often seen as healthy pastimes such as yoga classes.

Explore It

  1. Where was Ezekiel when the vision from God came to him? (8:1)
  2. How did Ezekiel describe the figure who appeared before him? (8:2)
  3. Where was Ezekiel transported in his vision? (8:3)
  4. What was the first thing that the man called to Ezekiel’s attention? (8:5)
  5. What would soon be the effect of the detestable things that were being done in the temple? (8:6)
  6. What did Ezekiel observe in an inner room after digging through a wall? (8:7-10)
  7. What were the elders of Israel doing in the inner room with the pictures on the walls? (8:11)
  8. Why weren’t the elders afraid of introducing idol worship into the temple? (8:12)
  9. What was going on at the entrance to the north gate? (8:14)
  10. What did the man repeat after each situation he showed to Ezekiel? (8:15)
  11. What were twenty-five men doing in the inner court of the temple? (8:16)
  12. Besides the practices in the temple, what sin did God hold against Jerusalem? (8:17)
  13. What did God promise to do to Jerusalem because of its great sin? (8:18)

Get It

  1. Why would Ezekiel and the elders of Judah with him not have been aware of everything that was going on in the temple?
  2. Why do we associate brightness and fire with the holiness of God?
  3. Why would Ezekiel call the pagan gods “idols of jealousy”?
  4. What was the effect of showing Ezekiel one abomination at a time, each worse than the previous one?
  5. Why does God refuse to share His house with other gods?
  6. Why is it impossible for us to do anything that the Lord does not see?
  7. What important aspects of the character of God were either unknown to or ignored by the people of Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s time?
  8. Why is it unwise to presume upon the pity of the Lord for sinners?

Apply It

  1. In what area of your life can you ask God to show you how you may have divided loyalties?
  2. If you are in any kind of leadership as a Christian, how can you prevent yourself from leading others into unrighteousness?

 

Wednesday 29 July 2020

A Woman of Creativity

Wednesday  No 1

Cast of Characters

Setting the Stage

Each study’s introduction is part of a continuing story which introduces the theme of each study. Below are the characters who play a part in the introductions.

Jeannie Rinaldo—a young single woman, who has recently graduated from community college. She has taken her first full-time job as receptionist in a busy office and just moved into her first apartment.

Will—older coworker of Jeannie

Ann—Jeannie’s next-door neighbor

Gary—Ann’s boyfriend

Curt—evangelism committee chair at Jeannie’s church

Introducing A Woman of Creativity

Creativity. Does that word excite you? Or does it intimidate you?

Some of us insist we are not very creative. We deflate when confronted with Martha Stewart’s pizzazzy entertaining, Margaret Mitchell’s ability to write the great American novel, even our neighboUr’s flower arrangements. Asked to come up with a fresh idea for a church ministry or community event, we protest, “Don’t ask me! I couldn’t have an original idea if I tried.”

Others of us have the opposite problem. We know we’re creative and chafe at our lack of opportunity to express ourselves. We’d love to make stained-glass lamps and plan elaborate dinner parties, but we have no time. It’s all we can do to make peanut butter sandwiches for the kids’ lunch boxes and get ourselves off to work. We keep promising ourselves that “someday . . .”

Whether or not we think of ourselves as creative, the “someday” for our creativity is right now. God our Creator gives all of us the gift of originating something unique, something which no one else could make.

Some creations are tangible:

a sculpture
a garden
a business
a quilt
a church ministry

Other creations are equally dynamic but less tangible:

an influence for good in another person’s life
an unusually welcoming mood in our homes
an imaginative solution to a problem
a once-in-a-lifetime combining of people and resources to meet a particular need

Technically, we human beings do not create anything. To create as God created is to make something out of nothing, and we can’t do that. Even children are conceived from the union of cells, and ideas are born in grEy matter. But by God’s Spirit we humans can bring about things which are new, things which would not be here if we had not cooperated with God.

In these six Scripture passages we will meet biblical people who dealt with their life situations in creative ways. We will see the Lord’s creative hand at work in the details of life. And we will be encouraged to release the creative energy which God puts into our minds and our hearts. The more we release it, the more it will be renewed, because our God has no limit to his creativity.

Suggestions for Individual Study
  1. As you begin each study pray that God will speak to you through his Word.
  2. Read the introduction to the study, “Setting the Stage,” and respond to the questions that follow it. The story is designed to draw you into the topic at hand and help you begin to see how the Scripture relates to daily life. If there will be a week or more between your studies, then you may want to read all of the introductions in one sitting to get the flow of the ongoing story. This will help if you find that you are having trouble keeping track of all the characters.
  3. This is an inductive Bible study, designed to help you discover for yourself what Scripture is saying. Each study deals with a particular passage—so that you can really delve into the author’s meaning in that context. Read and reread the passage to be studied. The questions are written using the language of the New International Version, so you may wish to use that version of the Bible. The New Revised Standard Version is also recommended.
  4. “God’s Word for Us” includes three types of questions. Observation questions ask about the basic facts: who, what, when, where and how. Interpretation questions delve into the meaning of the passage. Application questions (also found in the “Now or Later” section) help you discover the implications of the text for growing in Christ. These three keys unlock the treasures of Scripture.

Write your answers to the study questions in the spaces provided or in a personal journal. Writing can bring clarity and deeper understanding of yourself and of God’s Word.

  1. Use the study notes at the back of the guide to gain additional insight and information after you have worked through the questions for yourself.
  2. Move to the “Now or Later” section. These are ideas for you to freely use in closing your study and responding to God. You may want to choose one of these to do right away and continue working through the other ideas on subsequent days to reinforce what you are learning.

CARE ENOUGH TO SHARE

Suggestions for Members of a Group Study

  1. Come to the study prepared. Follow the suggestions for individual study mentioned above. You will find that careful preparation will greatly enrich your time spent in group discussion.
  2. Be willing to participate in the discussion. The leader of your group will not be lecturing. Instead, she will be encouraging the members of the group to discuss what they have learned. The leader will be asking the questions that are found in this guide.
  3. Stick to the topic being discussed. Your answers should be based on the verses which are the focus of the discussion and not on outside authorities such as commentaries or speakers. These studies focus on a particular passage of Scripture. Only rarely should you refer to other portions of the Bible. This allows for everyone to participate on equal ground and for in-depth study.
  4. Be sensitive to the other members of the group. Listen attentively when they describe what they have learned. You may be surprised by their insights! Each question assumes a variety of answers. Many questions do not have “right” answers, particularly questions that aim at meaning or application. Instead the questions push us to explore the passage more thoroughly.

When possible, link what you say to the comments of others. Also, be affirming whenever you can. This will encourage some of the more hesitant members of the group to participate.

  1. Be careful not to dominate the discussion. We are sometimes so eager to express our thoughts that we leave too little opportunity for others to respond. By all means participate! But allow others to also.
  2. Expect God to teach you through the passage being discussed and through the other members of the group. Pray that you will have an enjoyable and profitable time together, but also that as a result of the study, you will find ways that you can take action individually and/or as a group.
  3. It will be helpful for groups to follow a few basic guidelines. These guidelines, which you may wish to adapt to your situation, should be read at the beginning of the first session.

Anything said in the group is considered confidential and will not be discussed outside the group unless specific permission is given to do so.
We will provide time for each person present to talk if he or she feels comfortable doing so.
We will talk about ourselves and our own situations, avoiding conversation about other people.
We will listen attentively to each other.
We will be very cautious about giving advice.
We will pray for each other.

8. If you are the group leader, you will find additional suggestions at the back of the guide.

HERE WE GO. LESSON 1

Creating Beauty:

God in Our Living Spaces
Psalm 104

Setting the Stage:

“Okay, if the settee goes there under the front window, where can I put the chair?”

All weekend Jeannie Rinaldo has been busy unpacking and arranging things in her new apartment. It’s actually one side of the downstairs of a rundown house converted into a triplex. Jeannie doesn’t have much stuff to arrange. Besides her own bed and some furniture that didn’t fit in her parents’ new place, she has picked up some dishes and other kitchen things.

During community college and her first year on the job, Jeannie lived at home in the comfortable house where she grew up. Then her parents began to talk wistfully about early retirement and getting a smaller place. Jeannie prayed for guidance and got her answer: it was time to get a place of her own. And here she is, all moved in. Sure, it’s different from where she grew up, but it’s home.

On Monday morning the apartment seems very different to Jeannie. It smells odd. Unfamiliar. Stale. The shower is cruddy. The entire place is cramped—small living room, smaller bedroom, tiny kitchen, miniature bath. It’s hard to say when the last painting and wallpapering were done, but it was years ago by someone with bad taste. The carpeting is worn thin and stained. The stove and refrigerator are old, and the previous tenant didn’t leave them clean. The more Jeannie looks around, the worse it looks.

“Lord, why did you put me in this dump?” becomes Jeannie’s first waking thought, sometimes expressed out loud. Each day, whether she glares resentfully at the apartment’s shoddy details or goes from room to room with tunnel vision, she’s just putting up with the place. She isn’t really living there.

One morning as she leaves for work, Jeannie notices some straggly roses trying to bloom by the front steps. She feels a fresh stab of resentment at the landlord and life in general. Why hasn’t somebody been taking care of those flowers?

Then she stops halfway down the steps. There’s something touching about the bravery of those roses, blooming in spite of neglect. Jeannie hurries back into the apartment for a pair of scissors, snips off a few buds and puts them in a glass of water on her kitchen table. That evening when she comes in, the buds have gently opened to greet her. The dim little kitchen is brighter.

Plants! That’s what this lifeless place needs. Jeannie knows nothing about plants, but now she wants to learn. She asks some friends at work, and they start giving her cuttings. She sticks the stems in water, sticks them into dirt when they start showing roots. Soon the place is full of greenery. Even the air is fresher when Jeannie walks in after a long workday.

She looks around and sees details differently. That stove could be clean enough if she just scrubbed at it. And that hole in the wall—why not hang a picture over it? Looking around for places to hang pictures, Jeannie notices the fine old woodwork that graced this home when it was one household and not three. Maybe it could be cleaned up. Maybe she could clean it up.

Who knows? Maybe this place could even be made beautiful!

  1. How is Jeannie Rinaldo affected by her surroundings?
  2. When you have lived in or stayed in a place that had little beauty, how did you handle it?

God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 104

  1. Look at Psalm 104:1-9. How is the Lord pictured as actively involved in his creation? (Search for and consider especially the verbs.)

 

  1. Water is an everyday part of our lives that we easily take for granted. How does the Lord provide for his creation through the seemingly ordinary gift of water (Psalm 104:10-16)?

 

  1. Humanity is introduced into this psalm in Psalm 104:14-15. What is the connection between human work and God’s blessings? (See also Psalm 104:23.)

 

  1. What do you learn about God from the homes he provides for his creatures (Psalm 104:12, 17-18, 25-26)?

 

  1. How is God showing his care for you in your physical surroundings?

 

  1. The night activities of animals are described in Psalm 104:19-22, in contrast to the “day labor” of humans (Psalm 104:23). Night has different connotations for different people: danger, peace, mystery. In your experience, what are some of the beauties and blessings of night?
  2. According to Psalm 104:27-30, nature knows that it depends on God for food. When have you been most sharply aware that you are completely dependent on God for your food?

 

  1. The psalmist expresses the hope—even a prayer—that the Lord will rejoice in his works (Psalm 104:31). You are one of God’s works. How can your life help fulfill the psalmist’s prayer?

 

  1. Taking this psalm as a whole, what difference does it make to think of the world as carefully made by God?

 

Now or Later

Ideas to close your group meeting or personal study or for continued daily reflection.

Look around your yard, a park, or another natural area for evidence of God’s creative hand. Focus on small details as well as the area as a whole. How do you see God’s creativity in small plant life?

trees?
insects?
birds?
soil?
the sky?
other aspects of nature?

How has human creativity teamed up with God’s creativity to make things which are pleasant to look at and use? (For example: a swing set, a bench, a flower bed.)

Look around your home. What evidence do you see there of God’s creativity and order? (Maybe all you see is disorder! For now don’t worry about the clutter. You may even look at it as a sign of a creative mind!)

Since most things in your home are probably made by people, where do you see the teamwork of divine and human creativity?

As you look around for evidence of God’s creativity, don’t overlook the people—yourself and others!

For further study read Genesis 1-2. Consider how each additional aspect of God’s creation added to the whole and graced what God had made before.

 

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Where does that come from?

All things to all men

To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22)

This expression is mistakenly understood by some Christians to mean that beliefs can be compromised in order to get along with others for the ultimate purpose of getting people saved.

A Christian shouldn’t lie in order to befriend a liar; he shouldn’t become worldly in order to win the world. Paul spoke of winning souls, not by any means necessary, but by becoming a servant to others.

The seasoned saint learns to become all things to all people by taking on the different roles of a Christian such as a teacher who explains the scriptures, a fisherman who fishes for souls, a farmer who tends his crops, and a soldier who practices warfare.

There are many other roles that allow the Christian to truly become “all things to all men.” The Christian’s life, therefore, is a mastery of numerous occupations, making the believer a jack-of-all-trades and a master of many. If you truly want a well-rounded education, try Christianity.

AND NOW A QUIZ

Prophets For Profit

The Hebrew word for prophet was nabi, meaning something like “mouthpiece” or “spokesman.” The true prophets preached because they felt compelled to speak out on God’s behalf. By contrast, the false prophets (and there were more of them than the true sort) spoke whatever they thought the people—or the king they served—wanted to hear. These “hired tongues” were notorious for leading people astray, and making money from their lies.

  1. What wilderness prophet of the Lord confronted 450 prophets of Baal in a famous showdown on Mount Carmel to pray for rain?
  2. Who warned that false prophets would appear as wolves in “sheep’s clothing”?
  3. What false prophet wore a yoke that Jeremiah broke?
  4. What false prophet put on some iron horns and told King Ahab he would be victorious in battle?
  5. What false prophet was a sorcerer and an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus?
  6. Which prophetess is mentioned as an intimidator of Nehemiah?
  7. What evil prophetess is referred to in Revelation by the name of an Old Testament queen?
  8. What false prophet of Moab had a confrontation with his talking donkey?
  9. Who claimed that in the end times, false prophets would appear and “perform great signs and miracles”?
  10. What book of the Bible speaks of the wonders of a false prophet who is in cahoots with the Beast?
  11. Which apostle wrote that believers must “test the spirits to see if they are from God” because of so many false prophets around?
  12. When wicked King Ahab assembled 400 false prophets to determine whether to go to war, who was one faithful prophet who insisted on telling the truth?
  13. Why did Jesus say, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you”?
  14. In Revelation, what is the ultimate fate of the false prophet?
  15. Which Epistle warns that the false prophets are “bringing swift destruction on themselves”?
  16. To what faithful prophet did God say, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name”?
  17. What sad book of the Old Testament says that “the visions of your prophets were vain and foolish”?
  18. In Deuteronomy, what punishment was prescribed for any Israelite who prophesied in the name of false gods?
  19. Which prophet said that God “foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners”?
  20. When Elijah faced the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, there were also 400 prophets of what other god?
Prophets For Profit (Answers)
  1. Elijah (1 Kings 18)
  2. Jesus (Matthew 7:15)
  3. Hananiah (Jeremiah 28)
  4. Zedekiah (1 Kings 22:1-12)
  5. Barjesus (Acts 13:6-11)
  6. Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14)
  7. Jezebel (Revelation 2:20)
  8. Balaam (Numbers 22-24)
  9. Jesus (Matthew 24:24)
  10. Revelation (19:20)
  11. John (1 John 4:1)
  12. Micaiah, whom Ahab then put in prison (1 Kings 22:6-27)
  13. Because that was how the false prophets were always treated (Luke 6:26)
  14. He burns forever in the lake of brimstone (Revelation 19:20).
  15. 2 Peter (2:1)
  16. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 14:14-16)
  17. Lamentations (2:14)
  18. Death (Deuteronomy 18:20)
  19. Isaiah (Isaiah 44:24-25)
  20. Asherah, who was—strictly speaking—a goddess, not a god (1 Kings 18:19)

Monday 27 July 2020

Growing disciples Living  in the Word

Week 5: Living the Word

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

James 1:22

Our lives seem to be an ocean of noise with an occasional island of quiet. We are so overrun with information, knowledge, and insight that we rarely have time to process any of it and actually put it into practice. We know how to exercise, but who has time? We understand how we should eat, but fast food is easier. We see that our kids need more time with us, but work drains our energy. Knowing what to do and actually doing it often seem very distant from each other.

God doesn’t reveal His character, will, and kingdom to us through His Word so that we will know more. Rather, God is calling us through His Word to live differently. By the grace we receive through faith in Christ, we can live in step with God’s glory and can see His image come to light within us.

This week I hope you will slow down enough to begin practicing what you are learning from the Word. We have learned that God’s Word has the power to change our lives, but we must take the steps that allow it to do so.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 5

Day 1: Listening, Then Doing
Day 2: Love That Shows
Day 3: Deep Devotion
Day 4: Praying the Word
Day 5: Solid Decision Making

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 4

“Prayers of the Bible” (p. 105)

“Prayer Exercise” (p. 106)

Day 1: Listening, Then Doing

God’s Word for Today

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”—James 1:22

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” (this week’s verse to memorize) above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson. Remove the Scripture-memory card for week 5 from the back of your book and begin committing this verse to memory.

I told you earlier that I’m a book junkie. I’m also a news-and-information junkie. Knowing new things and processing information get all of my brain synapses firing. But simply knowing new information does me no good unless it changes the way I live.

Solomon, the third king of Israel, had a similar problem. God granted him so much wisdom that he surpassed everyone else in history (see 1 Kings 3:12). Yet even with all that understanding, Solomon chased power, wealth, and pleasure trying to find happiness. His cynical journey is recorded in the Book of Ecclesiastes. But chapter 5 records an unusual respite from Solomon’s frantic search for meaning.

Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 below. Check the things Solomon emphasized.

“Guard your step when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they are ignorant and do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words.”—Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

Obedience
Speaking to God
Sacrifice
Silence

In the middle of the book, Solomon stopped long enough to realize that silence before God is necessary: it is “better to draw near in obedience than to offer that sacrifice as fools do” (v. 2). Solomon had a great deal of knowledge, but it did not always translate into obedience to God’s laws. He needed to walk quietly before God so as to hear and obey. He had likely heard priests read and teach all of God’s law. But was he obeying it?

Has your knowledge of God’s Word outpaced your obedience to it?

Yes
No

God’s Word is His message to be heeded. It is not for entertainment, casual enlightenment, or good advice. Solomon reminded us who is on earth and who is in heaven. When we see the Bible in light of our position to its Author, obedience begins to make a great deal of sense. God has given His revelation so that we can live it in order to become like Christ.

The New Testament Book of James was written to the early believers to encourage their maturity in the faith. “God’s Word for Today” defines what maturity looks like: “Be doers of the word” (James 1:22). Like Solomon, the believers had most likely heard God’s Word and were intimately acquainted with the gospel. But James reminded them of the key element for growing in their faith: obedience to what they had already learned.

Listed below are some lessons you have probably learned from God’s Word. Check the ones you are actively obeying. Leave the ones you need to begin obeying unchecked.

Worship in spirit and truth
Pray daily.
Care for the helpless.
Tell others about Jesus.
Love others, even your enemies (see Matthew 5:43-48
Show unity with the church.

When God gave the Old Testament law to the people of Israel, He did so with a certain result in mind. Read Deuteronomy 29:29 below and underline the reason God gave His Word to His people.

“The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.”—Deuteronomy 29:29

In Scripture God tells us not only about Himself but also how we are to live.

In Scripture God tells us not only about Himself but also how we are to live. If we learned only about God’s nature, we would be in miserable fear because we could never please Him. If all He told us was how to behave, we would be unhappy workers, not knowing why we have to act a certain way. Instead, we have the gift of knowing both God’s nature and His laws.

When we think about obeying God’s Word, there is no better place to start than with the Great Commission. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He commanded us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). We recognize our duty to spread the message of Christ, we celebrate when others do it, and we see opportunities to personally share the gospel. But do we obey by actually sharing the good news? Let’s make a commitment to be not just hearers of the Word but doers as well.

Name three persons with whom you would like to share Christ.

  1. ____________________
  2. ____________________
  3. ____________________

 

Day 2: Love That Shows

God’s Word for Today

“The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.”—John 14:21

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

How do you express love to your family? Check all that apply.

Verbal affirmations
Hugs
Rewards/gifts
Joking around
Time with one another
Oher: ____________________

Love is an odd thing. It is both a choice and an emotion. Love means caring and sacrifice. Love happens between spouses, children, and friends. But we also love things like our dogs, houses, and hamburgers. Scripture teaches us how love is expressed.

In John 15 Jesus was teaching the apostles about intimacy with God. He used the metaphor of vine, representing God, and branches, representing us, to show our total dependence on the Father. Then Jesus described His own love for us as being equal to the love the Father had shown Him. Due to their perfect relationship, Jesus had kept every commandment given by the Father. Jesus then called His followers to the same standard, offering them the same reward.

Read John 15:9-11 below. What is the reward for keeping Jesus’ commands?

“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”—John 15:9-11

Jesus didn’t give us any room to wiggle away from this teaching. We are to show our love for Him by obeying His commands. If we keep His commands, we remain in His love.

In “God’s Word for Today,” John 14:21, Jesus made the same point. Obedience to God’s commands and love are partners, not adversaries, in our relationship with the Lord.

Define love and obedience in your own words.

Love: ____________________

Obedience: ____________________

In a relationship with Christ, love serves as the motivation for obedience, and obedience serves as the expression of our love for Him.

Creating definitions of love and obedience may have taken a few minutes, but what if I asked you to define loving obedience or obedient love? We usually don’t pair the two words. Why? Because we are rebellious by nature and don’t like to obey. But in a relationship with Christ, love serves as the motivation for obedience, and obedience serves as the expression of our love for Him. Love is the heart, and obedience is the hand. Love is the energy, and obedience is the tool. One without the other is useless.

Check the statement that is true of you.

My pattern of obedience to God’s Word indicates great love for God.
My pattern of obedience to God’s Word reveals a rebellious heart.

Jesus said when we obey God’s Word, His joy will take up residence in our lives (see John 15:11). That promise alone should motivate us to study and obey God’s Word.

Check the statement that is true of you.

Joy is lacking in my life.
My study of God’s Word brings me great joy.

If you want to be more obedient to God’s Word, the Great Commandment is a good place to start. When a scribe asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He said loving God and loving our neighbors (see Mark 12:29-31 below). Jesus also included the Shema in His answer: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.” The Shema is the oldest of all theological declarations by the Hebrew people. In a time when the culture believed in a multitude of gods, Israel stood alone in declaring the existence of the one true God. Without this belief as the standard, the rest of Jesus’ command does not hold any weight. If multiple deities existed whom we had to satisfy, we would be lost. But because we know God is God and has no rivals, completely loving Him makes sense. And if He requires us to love our neighbor in a way that is equal to our own self-preserving love, then we must do so. We will find joy in obedience to His Word.

“‘This is the most important,’ Jesus answered: ‘Listen Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.'”—Mark 12:29-31

Give an example of how you can love God in each area Jesus named.

Heart: ____________________

Soul: ____________________

Mind: ____________________

Strength: ____________________

Day 3: Deep Devotion

God’s Word for Today

“Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.”—Colossians 3:16

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, I learned early in life that one event was more important than all others during the year—the Iron Bowl. For the uninitiated to college football, this is the annual rivalry between the University of Alabama and Auburn University. It is a game that men, women, and children discuss 365 days a year. It causes fractures in friendships and families. The word obsessive does not even begin to describe the level of devotion some people show to their team during the football season.

List things to which people in your community show deep devotion.

“God’s Word for Today,” Colossians 3:16, teaches that Christians are to show deep devotion to God’s Word. We are to let the “message about the Messiah dwell richly” in our lives. Writing to the church in Colosse, Paul included this admonition in the context of teaching about love (v. 14), peace (v. 15), and giving thanks (v. 17). Devotion to God’s Word is a central element in living the Christian life.

Showing deep devotion to God’s Word takes time and effort. Check the practices you want to begin because of your devotion to Scripture.

Memorize Scripture
Read the entire Bible
Study more closely
Use God’s Word as my weapon when tempted to sin
Correct my behavior
Other: ____________________

If we turn to the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes again, we make an interesting discovery.

Read Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 below. What was Solomon’s conclusion after his lifelong search for meaning in life?

“When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.”—Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Solomon had shown a deep devotion to selfish pleasure of all sorts, such as power, riches, and lust. By the end of his search, he discovered that being in awe of God and obeying His Word were the only things worthy of his devotion. The same is true for us. At the end of our days, God will examine our lives to judge their worth. By the power of our Messiah’s message, we have the hope of His salvation. Without it we are doomed. Devotion to God’s Word produces a life that honors God and serves His kingdom.

Personal devotion to God’s Word is lived publicly.

Devotion to God’s Word also has a plural dimension. Solomon’s call to keep God’s commands is for “all humanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). In Colossians 3:16 the phrase “among you” is plural. Paul’s entire passage deals with the lives of Christians together in their relationship with God. Personal devotion to God’s Word is lived publicly.

Paul’s letter to the Galatian church presents a way we can live our devotion to God’s Word.

Read Galatians 6:1-2 below. How can we fulfill the law of Christ, that is, obey His commands?

“Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted also. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”—Galatians 6:1-2

After extensive teaching about freedom in Christ, Paul called on believers to carry one another’s burdens. We learn how to “fulfill the law of Christ” when we live our devotion to Scripture among other people.

In 2005 I planted a church in a community that is probably much like yours—lots of casual friendships but very few deep relationships. Our devotion to God’s Word should change the way we interact with one another. Your faith is personal, but God never intended for it to be private. People around you are hurting because of their sin and life circumstances. Allow your devotion to God’s Word to change forever the way you interact with the people around you.

Write down the names of friends—saved and unsaved—whose burdens you can help bear. Pray and ask God to show you how He wants you to help and how you can minister through His Word.

Write this week’s Scripture-memory verse below.

Day 4: Praying the Word

God’s Word for Today

“Pray constantly.”—1 Thessalonians 5:17

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

Having grown up in church, I have heard thousands of prayers prayed in public. And as a pastor, I continued a tradition known in many churches—asking a church member to pray before the offering was received. In these prayers I’ve heard and prayed the phrase “Lord, bless the gift and the giver” far too many times.

Write some phrases you frequently use in prayer or hear others use.

We will never be able to pray perfectly until God brings His redemptive work in us to completion, but we can learn to pray better and more often. Most people agree that we should pray more, but the Bible tells us to “pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I frequently run out of material for lunch conversations. How am I supposed to talk to God all day long?

How do you think a believer can pray constantly?

Prayer is not an interruption of our outward life and thoughts but a partner to them all.

Constant prayer seems impossible, but J. I. Packer described it this way: “The whole of a Christian’s thought life should be bathed, or perhaps we should say housed, in prayer.” Prayer is not an interruption of our outward life and thoughts but a partner to them all.

What do you usually pray about? Check all that apply.

Daily material needs
Spiritual guidance
Decisions
Worship, praise, thanksgiving
Healing
Others’ problems and needs
Other: ____________________

What areas of your life do you need to include in your prayers?

Praying God’s Word ensures that we speak clearly, ask rightly, and meditate properly.

One of the most effective ways to pray is through the ancient practice of praying Scripture. Praying God’s Word ensures that we speak clearly, ask rightly, and meditate properly. Packer put it this way: “With the Bible as our prayer book, we will never be short of broodings and beacons to shape our praying.”

Read “Prayers of the Bible” on page 105. Circle three of the prayers you would like to use in your prayer life.

Scripture meditation, memorization, and constant prayer all allow you to pray God’s Word to Him. By placing your prayer life under the authority of Scripture, you will be assured of praying thoughts and words that honor God and that help align your heart with His will.

Here are some examples of ways to use God’s Word in your prayer life.

Use Matthew 6:9-13 as a model. Commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, this passage is better understood as Jesus’ Model Prayer for us. The parallel passage in Luke 11 shows that Jesus provided this model in response to the disciples’ request “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). The Model Prayer gives us insight into the basic components of prayer.

Use Psalm 51 to confess sin. With sorrow and passion David confessed his sin and sought God’s forgiveness. We are often short of words to say when we feel guilty. Psalm 51 is a beautiful place to rest when we don’t know how to ask for God’s forgiveness.

Use Jude 24-25 to celebrate God’s greatness. We experience joyful frustration when we seek to praise God, because fully describing Him is impossible. Jude’s doxology helps you praise God when you run short of words.

Use Ephesians 3:14-21 for spiritual maturity. Maybe you want to mature in your faith but do not know what to do next. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church provides a great outline of how to pray for maturity.

Turn to “Prayer Exercise” on page 106 and follow the directions to use Psalm 23 in prayer today. Write your impressions of this experience.

Day 5: Solid Decision Making

God’s Word for Today

“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock.”—Matthew 7:24

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

I truly enjoy a great story. Over the past few years I have found myself returning to the classics for leisure reading. Authors like H. G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tell great stories that draw me into them. When I read their stories, I find myself involved, learning something new about life and how to live it well.

Jesus eclipses even the greatest writers as the master storyteller. He told His stories in the form of parables. As Jesus concluded the longest of His sermons recorded in the Bible, he told a parable of two men and their attempts at home construction.

Read Jesus’ parable below and answer the following questions.

“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”—Matthew 7:24-27

What two foundations were chosen?

What common trial did the men face?

What were the two different results of the storm?

Jesus presented this story as the conclusion to His sermon on fully living the principles of His kingdom. The two men in the story had the same objective: to build a home. The homes being built represent lives to be lived.

The two men had to make a crucial choice about the foundations for their homes. Until a foundation is chosen, nothing else can be constructed. The same is true of living life: we adopt a worldview or life philosophy; then we make decisions based on that foundation. The first man chose a foundation of rock, while the second man chose sand.

Living the Word takes more than merely hearing it. We must live by it.

Notice that Jesus’ emphasis was on doing. The difference between the two men was that one—the “sensible man” (v. 24)—not only heard Jesus’ words but also acted on them. The one who didn’t act on Jesus’ words is described as foolish (see v. 26). Both men heard Jesus’ words, but only one chose to build his life on them. Living the Word takes more than merely hearing it. We must live by it.

This week’s memory verse, James 1:22, stresses living the Word. Write the verse here.

In Jesus’ parable both men encountered a fierce storm, but the outcome was different for each man. Built on the rock, the reasonable man’s home withstood the wind and rain. However, the foolish man’s home succumbed to the storm and collapsed. Weathering the storm depended on choosing the right foundation.

When you face a difficult choice, how do you make a decision? Check all that apply.

Ask family/friends for advice
Decide without help
Observe others’ decisions
Pray
Ask someone to decide for you
Procrastinate
Flip a coin
Consult the Bible
Other: ____________________

Every day we make critical decisions. These decisions affect not only us personally but also our marriages, children, coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends. But too often our decision making is based on our own wit and best guesses. In contrast, Jesus offers us His Word as the foundation for solid decision making.

Read Proverbs 3:5-6 below. Living in God’s Word assures you of having God’s guidance in the large and small issues of life. Right now you are probably facing a decision in your life. Allow God’s Word to be your guide so that your decision will reflect His wisdom and bring Him glory.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”—Proverbs 3:5-6

Think about a decision are you currently facing. How will putting God’s Word into practice make a difference in the decision you make?

Session 5: Living the Word

WELCOME AND PRAYER

Welcome participants and pray for God’s guidance during the discussion.

OPENING ACTIVITY

  1. Invite a participant to recite this week’s memory verse.
  2. What if someone gave you the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to put together without showing you a picture of the completed puzzle? How difficult would it be to complete the puzzle?

REVIEW OF DAILY WORK

  1. God’s Word provides a picture of what our lives should look like in order to be like Christ. This week’s study shows that God’s Word affects every part of our lives. What is an area of your life in which you want to apply God’s Word more diligently? How can you do that?
  2. This week’s memory verse, James 1:22, emphasizes being a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. Share responses to activity 2 on page 68. What are possible results when we are not willing to obey what we know of God’s Word?

GROUP DISCUSSION

Discover

The concepts of love and obedience are not often linked. Yet Jesus did just that in John 14:21; 15:9-11. Read these passages. What is the relationship between love and obedience in the life of a follower of Christ?

Connect

  1. Read Deuteronomy 29:29. God reveals His Word to us with the intention that we will follow it. Choose one of the following examples from Scripture and discuss how the person(s) did or did not follow God’s Word well: King David, the 12 disciples, the apostle Paul.
  2. Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-3. When you approach God, what gets in the way of slowing the frantic pace of life and focusing on Him?

Relate

  1. Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-3. When you approach God, what gets in the way of slowing the frantic pace of life and focusing on Him?
  2. How could you better experience times of stillness and silence with God’s Word? How would this practice help you apply God’s Word to every facet of life?

Confront

We often think decisions must be made immediately. What decision would you go back and change that you made too quickly? Share responses to activity 3 on page 77. Read Proverbs 3:5-6. How can you place God’s Word at the center of your decision-making process?

Change

  1. Identify decisions looming in your life and discuss how God’s Word provides a foundation for decisions that will honor God.
  2. Discuss ways God’s Word can be used in prayer (p. 75). Share your experiences using “Prayer Exercise” on page 106.

MISSIONAL APPLICATION

The Great Commission and the Great Commandment are key Scriptures believers can immediately apply to their lives. Discuss responses to activity 5 on page 69 and activity 6 on page 71.

PREVIEW WEEK 6

Turn to page 81 and preview the study for the coming week.

PRAYING TOGETHER

Spend time in prayer for one another. Then close the session by praying one of the Scripture

Growing Disciples Series – Live in the Word.

Saturday 25 July 2020

The Bible can we trust it? No 6

How Do I Read the Bible?

Part 2 (New Testament)

What’s the Point?

The New Testament shows us Jesus is the saviour.

Stop

Do you remember what kind of promises we talked about in the Old Testament?

In the previous chapter we began by saying that the Old Testament is a book of promises. We highlighted a few of these promises and then looked at a few of the major themes present in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament we move from promise to fulfilment, as God makes good on His promises and brings His plans to fruition. We are going to pick the same four themes we looked at in the Old Testament chapter and have a brief look at how these themes find fulfilment in Jesus and His church and how the great problems of sin and death are overcome.

Illustration

Reenie always loved hearing stories from her nana about their family history. Her grandad had been in the Great War and got a few medals for bravery. When Reenie was a child she used to get all the pictures out and line them up along the kitchen table plotting the history of her family.

Last week she saw an advert that said, ‘Who do you think you really are?’ It was for a computer program that helped create family trees. It was only £7.99 a month. ‘Pete, I’d love to do that. Can you help me set up the account?’

Everyone has a family tree.

Even Jesus.

The New Testament begins with this sentence:

‘An account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham’ (Matt. 1:1).

Stop

Genealogy is a bit of a fancy word. What do you think it means?

From its first words onward, the goal of the New Testament is to show its readers that

Jesus is the Messiah. He is the ‘anointed/chosen one.’

That He had come to destroy the works of the enemy and to save His people.

One of the main ways that the authors of the New Testament achieve their goal is to show how Jesus consistently fulfils every prophecy found in the Old Testament Scriptures surrounding the coming Messiah.

Matthew begins his gospel by giving us a detailed account of Jesus’ family tree. A big list of names seems like a boring way to begin such an important book, but Matthew is desperate for his readers to understand that Jesus of Nazareth is the real deal. In the first chapter alone, he tells us that Jesus fulfils three important prophecies.

He was descended from David.
He was a descendant of Abraham.
He was born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit.

All of this was just as the prophet Isaiah had promised more than 700 years before even Matthew puts pen to paper!

Stop

How amazing is that? Just take a minute to think about it. 700 years before Matthew writes down Jesus’ family tree, a prophet shared the details of His birth and heritage. What does that tell us about Jesus?

There are 61 distinct Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament and Jesus of Nazareth fulfils every single one. Now you might think this is no big deal. But you’d be very wrong. This is a massive deal!

Illustration

Reenie’s man Pete likes an occasional trip to the bookies for a flutter on the horses. Sometimes, he will do the football as well. So, he knows how odds work.

Well, the odds of Jesus accidentally fulfilling just 8 of the 61 prophecies are 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 against.

Those are some steep odds, but they pale into insignificance when put next to the staggering odds for 61 out of 61.

‘One in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion.’

Over the years many Jews had claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah and yet each and every one fell down at the 61 hurdles of Messianic prophecy. Until the coming of Jesus of Nazareth who is the one in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion. The Old Testament gives us signs, so we can recognize the Messiah when He comes. Many people before and after the birth of Jesus claimed to be the Messiah but not one of them has fulfilled those Old Testament prophecies. Jesus fulfilled every single one of them.

Stop

What do we think of Jesus now we know that He fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies against massive odds?

The New Testament authors are desperate to hammer home the fact that Jesus fulfils every promise and prophecy of the Old Testament. They want us to hear loud and clear that,

The Messianic King has come and is coming again.

As we read through the gospels we should look out for all the times where we see something along the lines of: ‘This took place to fulfil what the prophet had spoken…’. In the previous chapter we noted that these promises build upon one another and create a huge weight of expectation and a deep sense of longing.

All of these expectations and longings are met fully and finally in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.

The gospel writers saw Him fulfil these Scriptures. In John 20:31, the apostle says he wrote his gospel, ‘so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’

His Kingdom

The theme of God’s Kingdom is expanded and fulfilled in the New Testament with the coming of the King Jesus Christ and the birth of His church. In the previous chapter we discussed the shape and the nature of Kingdom. It’s

God’s people in
God’s place
under God’s rule.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel thought of the land of Israel when they thought of God’s Kingdom. But, in the New Testament, we see that God’s Kingdom spans the face of the earth and is made up of people from every tongue and tribe and nation.

So, as the New Testament begins with the announcement of the arrival of their long-awaited King, we soon realise that His arrival doesn’t meet the expectations or desires of the religious rulers in Israel.

Stop

What were they expecting their Messiah to be like? Think back to what we discussed in the last chapter.

They were expecting their Messiah

To come in power.
To smash all their enemies.
To overthrow the Romans.
To reestablish the glory days of King David and Solomon.

But, it doesn’t quite go like that! In fact, Jesus arrives on the scene calling the people to repentance and faith.

‘Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near’ (Matt. 4:17).

Jesus announces that the Kingdom has come. But, instead of smashing the wicked Romans, He calls the people of Israel to repent and trust Him for salvation. He doesn’t pursue the rich,powerful and influential people.

Instead, He lovingly pursues the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, outcasts, conmen and sinners.

His best friends are a ragged collection of working-class men and women. They are thieves, loudmouths and even a terrorist! He talks the Kingdom of God but the Kingdom He talks about is totally foreign to the Jewish leaders! In Jesus’ Kingdom,

Those who are first in this life will be last.
Those who are last in this life will be first.
The proud in this life will be brought low.
The humble will be exalted.
The way to greatness is service.
The road to life is death to self.

King Jesus comes not to rule and reign in the way the Jews were expecting but to serve and die for His people. Jesus is,

The perfect servant rather than the mighty warrior.

A humble saviour not a conqueror.

‘For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10).

The salvation of His people is achieved through

His perfect life,
His sacrificial death,
His Triumphant resurrection.

(We’ll look at these in more detail in the final theme of the chapter.)

After His death and resurrection, Jesus sends His followers out into the world to preach the gospel, make disciples and declare His coming Kingdom to the nations.

They are to go safe and secure in the knowledge that King Jesus will return

To fully establish His Kingdom,
destroy His enemies and
live with His people forever
in the new heavens and the new earth.

Stop

Now that you’re a Christian and one of His followers what do you think that means for your life? How will it change how you live your life now?

‘When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”’ (Matt. 28:17-20).

The book of Acts tells the story of the apostles. These were men, empowered by the Holy Spirit, who took the good news of Jesus to the world. As a result, many churches were started. These local churches were seen as embassies of God’s Kingdom. In these churches, Christians – those who had repented of sin and trusted Jesus for salvation – live in community with one another.

All the letters of the New Testament are written to churches and pastors by the apostles,

to help them obey the teaching of Jesus and
live holy lives in this world.

Reenie

Reenie was at the shops on Wednesday night when she bumped into Audrey. Reenie and Audrey had been enemies for years. It went back to the time their children fought at school and, since then, every time they’d met there had been a slanging match. Once, it had ended in violence and the police had been called. Reenie hated the woman and that was all there was to it.

Yet, recently Reenie has been feeling convicted about her attitude towards the woman. She’s been wrestling with the thought of forgiving Audrey. Then she heard a sermon on being an ambassador on earth for King Jesus, which really played on her mind. She was supposed to be more like Jesus and less like her non-Christian friends. So, instead of shouting at Audrey in the shop, she just ignored her instead. She felt so proud of herself for being like Jesus and being a good ambassador!

Stop

Every Embassy in the world has ambassadors, that represent their country. Do you think Reenie is being a good ambassador for Jesus here? What do you think Reenie should do the next time she meets Audrey?

Every local church should function as a witness to the watching world. Churches exist to call all people everywhere

to repent of sin and
trust Jesus and
come under His rule.

Every local church also exists to warn the world that

the Kingdom of God is coming and
that the King is coming back.

Also, to declare that

there are some who belong to this Kingdom and please Him and
others who don’t and are under His wrath.

Stop

When people look at your life what does it say about who Jesus is?
When King Jesus returns, those who have not
turned to Him in repentance and faith
will be cast into hell forever
where they will receive the just punishment for their rebellion and sin.

However, those who have put their faith in Jesus will be made like Him and live with Him in His eternal Kingdom. The Bible ends with a glorious vision of this event.

‘Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away’ (Rev. 21:3-4).

What a promise for us! What great comfort and great hope we have here for the life to come!

The New Covenant and Substitution

In the previous chapter we said Leviticus 18:5 acts as summary of how the old covenant works. ‘Keep my statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am the Lord.’

Under the old covenant the rules were simple: obey and live, or rebel and face the justice of the King. However, the reality of sin means that people were constantly unable and unwilling to keep their side of the deal.

Therefore, another kind of covenant was needed. One that doesn’t rely on the obedience of sinners. This is exactly what we find in the New Testament. It’s here that we find King Jesus fulfilling all the demands of the old covenant, while establishing a new one for us.

Stop

How obedient are you in life? Do you always do what you’re told? Do you always follow the letter of the law?

God is clear. The Law must be fulfilled. It can’t simply be set aside.

We can never fully obey it.

Only Jesus can.

Jesus lives the perfect life of obedience God requires and earns the reward of life.

He takes upon Himself

the curse of the Law,
the punishment for sin and rebellion
as He goes to the Cross.

In fact,

Jesus takes upon Himself the sin of His people and
faces the just punishment that they deserve.

Jesus is crushed under the full fury of God’s wrath. On the cross He dies the death His people deserve.

Jesus met all the requirements of the old covenant for us, obey and live, rebel and face the justice of the King.

He took the place of rebels and so faced the justice of the King. All the time He was obedient to God and so now He lives.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the great proof that His life and death were acceptable to the Father and that He has fulfilled all of the Law.

Having fulfilled the Old Covenant, Jesus establishes the New. This new covenant requires faith in Jesus. The good news is that all who trust in Him receive not only His righteousness, but the reward of eternal life. The Holy Spirit now grants new life to those for whom Jesus died. We receive a new heart that now hates sin and loves and trusts Jesus. On top of this, we now happily live in obedience to God. We do so out of thankfulness for His grace to us in Christ. We are then baptised into a local church where we celebrate communion with other Christians. Churches meet together remembering Jesus’ work on their behalf, including His great sacrifice, until we meet Him in death or He comes again.

Summary

From its first words onward, the New Testament clearly shows that Jesus is the Messiah chosen to destroy the works of the enemy and to save His people from their sin. He consistently fulfils every prophecy found in the Old Testament Scriptures that talked of His coming. As promised, He is a blessing to the nations. He is freely offered to all for salvation. Jesus is 100% the real deal!

Memory Verse:

‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 6:23).

 

Friday 24 July 2020

Purpose

“I Was Made to Love Her”

Stevie Wonder

I was made to love her,
Worship and adore her,
Hey, hey, hey.
… I was made to live for her, yeah!
… Build my world all around her

Backbeat

Born prematurely in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1950, Steveland Hardaway Judkins became blind after complications from being in an incubator. He was considered a prodigy, learning drums, piano, and harmonica by the age of nine. When he began recording in 1962, he was eleven years old. His first album releases, on Motown’s Tamla subsidiary, A Tribute to Ray Charles and The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, sold poorly but highlighted his instrumental skills. Then a 1963 live album, Little Stevie Wonder—The 12 Year Old Genius was an electrifying live performance that hit number 1 on the pop and R&B charts. It became Motown’s first number 1 album and spawned a number 1 single, “Fingertips Part 2.”

As his voice changed, he dropped the “Little” from his name and studied classical piano at the Michigan School for the Blind. His other hits—”Uptight”(which he cowrote), “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby,” and Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”—showed his growing maturity as an artist.

Stevie Wonder was sixteen when he recorded “I Was Made to Love Her,” his biggest hit to that point, reaching number 2 on the pop and R&B charts in 1967. One story has Stevie’s producer taking him to a Detroit-area Baptist church before the recording session, hoping he would be inspired by the preacher’s animated shouting and screaming. In fact, he seemed to deliver the song with more emotion and some fever-pitch screams that fit the song perfectly.

Riff

When you meet that special someone, it just seems right. Married couples sometimes talk about how God led them to each other, as if it was planned out from the beginning. Some young people drift aimlessly through life—until they meet their mates. Then they suddenly get fuelled with a sense of purpose, driven not by personal ambition, but by love for their spouses.

King Solomon wrote, “The Lord has made everything for his own purposes” (Proverbs 16:4). That includes us, of course. Believers can rest in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is working in our lives according to his plan. If you’re married, that plan certainly involves your spouse as well. If you’re not married, that plan might involve finding the mate you were “made to love.”

But what else is involved in God’s purpose? One traditional church teaching states that we were all created to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” That nicely capsulizes several Scripture passages. Clearly God wants us to be in a loving relationship with him, one that involves worship, communication, and obedience. Loving others is part of the plan as well, and that involves welcoming them into a relationship with God.

In fact, you could easily use Stevie Wonder’s song as a model for your Christian purpose. We were made to love the Lord, to worship and adore him. We were made to live for him and build our world around him.

In Revelation, the elders sing to the Lord, “For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created” (4:11, nlt-1). When we live to please ourselves, things go awry. When we seek God’s pleasure, we’re living with purpose.

Harmonies
Proverbs 16:4* 1 Thessalonians 2:4 2 Timothy 2:21
Ephesians 2:10 1 Timothy 6:17 Revelation 4:11, nlt-1*
Philippians 2:13

 

Thursday 23 July 2020

The End Has Come – Ezekiel 7:1-27

Open It

  1. What is one of the most helpless feelings you’ve ever experienced?
  2. What is one thing you’d love to have that money can’t buy?

Explore It

  1. What was the first two-word message that God told Ezekiel to proclaim? (7:1-3)
  2. What did God resolve that He would not do this time, as He had so often in the past? (7:4)
  3. *What different words did God use to describe what was about to happen to Israel? (7:5-7)
  4. What was God poised to “repay”? (7:8-9)
  5. What would the people know about the origin of the disaster from the sheer magnitude of the disaster? (7:9)
  6. What human vices did God say would run rampant, causing much misery? (7:10-11)
  7. In what resource had the people come to trust, which would now fail them? (7:12-13)
  8. What other potential defense would be stopped by God’s wrath? (7:14)
  9. What did Ezekiel say about the possibility of escaping from the coming wrath of God? (7:15-16)
  10. *What were some of the dramatic evidences of helplessness in Ezekiel’s prophecy? (7:17-19)
  11. What was God going to allow to happen to the riches and edifices in which Israel took pride? (7:20-22)
  12. For what crimes against their fellow humans did God hold Israel accountable? (7:23)
  13. *What did Ezekiel predict that the people would do to try to avert God’s wrath? (7:24-27)
  14. What lesson did God realize Israel would learn from the disaster that was about to come upon them? (7:27)

Get It

  1. If you were going to dramatize this chapter in a contemporary setting, where would your “Ezekiel” be speaking and whom would he be addressing?
  2. *How hard or easy do you think it was for Ezekiel’s listeners to visualize a time when the temple would be desecrated and they would view their gold as “unclean”?
  3. What was the most important thing that God wanted to get across to His people through the coming disasters?
  4. What is your first reaction when you hear of someone predicting economic or social collapse, or even the “end of the world”?
  5. What evidences do you see that people today are trusting in affluence, military might, and cultural accomplishments?
  6. *Why do you think people will look to God in times of calamity but scoff at Him in times of prosperity?

Apply It

  1. When can you set aside an hour to ask God to help you take an honest inventory of the things and people in whom you put your trust?
  2. What friend or acquaintance should you encourage to fear God while there is still time to experience His mercy?

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Confidence in Who God Made Me to Be

Ephesians 2:1-10

Setting the Stage:

Debra’s Story

Wrinkled clothing, stringy uncombed hair, a ratty suitcase clutched in a white knuckled fist. Another refugee. I turned my attention back to the line. I’d been handing out water in plastic gallon jugs for two hours now and my back was beginning to ache.

She pushed in front of me. “I’m looking for my mother.”

“Is she a volunteer?” I passed a bottle to the grumbling man behind her and reached for another, but she grabbed my arm.

“Please. I’ve been looking for two days.”

The line behind her shifted and stirred. “Come on, lady, move it.” . . . “Yeah, wait your turn.”

I looked into the woman’s eyes. Exhausted, desperate, determined. Not violent. Why had she singled me out?

I beckoned a fellow Red Cross volunteer. “I could use a break. Would you please take over for awhile?”

I led the woman to a group of folding chairs and eased her down. Was she in shock? No blood or bruises. No apparent broken bones. Take it slowly, gently. “What’s your name?”

“Hana. My mother’s name is Sara. I grew up here.”

“Well, Hana, when did you last see your mother?”

Her brow wrinkled. “Uh, about three months ago, I guess.” She flicked a strand of hair out of her face, like swatting a fly.

“Why is that important? I need to find her now. She was in the quake. One mile up. Above the Clarkston Dam.”

The light dawned. “Where do you live now, Hana?”

“Portland. Oregon, not Maine.” Her eyes teared. “Why won’t someone help me?”

How in the world had she gotten here? Transportation routes were still closed to anything but emergency vehicles. We had come in with the National Guard.

“The lists are in the office next door.” Right next to the makeshift hospital and morgue. I shuddered. Lord, you have to help me. How could I tell this women her mother was probably dead, her body still buried under tons of debris?

I led her through the sea of bruised and broken flesh. So much suffering. The office door was locked. BACK IN FIFTEEN MINUTES. One of the nurses lay a sympathetic hand on my shoulder, “Put her over there.” She nodded at a vacant cot.

I didn’t bother to explain. Hana’s feet were swollen twice their size. She needed rest as much as anyone here.

“Hana? Hana Moyer?”

“Kathy? Oh, Kath, you made it.” The two women hugged and Hana came alive. “I thought . . . the dam and all. What about . . .?”

“They’re okay. Britney got away with twenty stitches and a goose egg. Mother has a broken collarbone. I’m surprised you didn’t see her, she’s right over there next to your mom.”

Alive then. Praise God. I turned to go, but another hand gripped my arm.

“Please, you have to help me. My son . . . ” The boy she carried was pale, bleeding from an already bandaged head wound. I led them to the vacant cot.

A nurse handed me a stack of gauze pads. “Hold this while I take a look.” I followed her instructions as she cleaned and rebandaged the wound.

“I’m not supposed to be here,” I said. “I belong next door.” But the nurse had moved on.

A doctor in paper-covered shoes and a blood-stained scrub jacket stopped and peered at my nametag. “Debra, is it? Let’s get those cots made up, we’ve got a new batch of wounded coming in.”

Serve where you’re planted. I bit off my protest and did as I was told.

  1. What work had God prepared for Debra to do?
 God’s Word for Us

Read Ephesians 2:1-10 as if it was written personally to you.

 

  1. What does the text tell you about who you are?

 

  1. What thoughts and feelings do you have about this description of yourself?

 

  1. Which part of this description do you relate to the most easily?

 

Which part is the most difficult for you to relate to?

 

  1. What does the text tell you about God’s relationship with you?

 

  1. What does the text tell you about what God wants to give you?

 

  1. What is our part in all of this, according to the text?

 

  1. What work are you aware of that God has prepared for you to do?

 

  1. How does this text help increase your confidence in who God made you to be?

 

 Now or Later
  • Write a character sketch of yourself, as if you were a character in a novel.
  • Write a prayer to God, thanking him for who he made you to be.
  • Read Psalm 8

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

How many times have you said “all things are possible” and believed what you said, or have heard it said that “all things are possible” and thought that isn’t true, as blatantly all things are not possible ; for instance, I would think that even the inspirational Captain Tom could not climb Mt Everest although I have no doubt that he has the spirit to give it a good try.  So where did that saying “all things are possible” come from, and why do we say it?

Well knowingly or in ignorance we often quote Jesus. For instance when we say of someone that they are are the salt of the earth etc; etc we are quoting Jesus, and so it is here when we say all things are possible. Look at Mark 10:27 with me. There it says:

And Jesus looking upon them said, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27)

People like to think that all things are possible concerning man’s abilities, but according to the Bible, the phrase “all things are possible” is true only with God. Jesus made this statement in response to a question from His disciples as to whom could be saved. The Lord had just told them that it was very difficult for a rich man to enter heaven, but with God this was not impossible. If nothing were impossible for man, we wouldn’t need God. We should be thankful for the things that are impossible for us, for these things force us to go to God.

You may think that you are in an impossible situation today. Well all I can say to you is You are not, as all things are possible with God so take your impossible problem to the one who is in the business of doing the impossible.

Pastor

Monday 20 July 2020

Growing disciples 4

LIVE IN THE WORD.

Week 4: How to Study the Word

“Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart.”Psalm 119:34

For me, becoming a good student was born out of necessity rather than desire. In high school I skated by, making decent grades without trying too hard; but then something happened to me­—college algebra. Suddenly, I learned the real meaning of the word study. To learn the necessary material, I had to listen carefully, read diligently, and review often. Attempting to master algebra was humbling.

My experience with algebra illustrates the way we face life’s challenges. Each day brings a new set of circumstances through which we can see God’s kingdom purposes for our lives and His glory. To our great advantage, we can apply God’s Word to our everyday circumstances. But to do so, we must know how to properly study and apply it.

We should approach God’s Word with humility. We are inquirers rather than informers. This week you will gain some practical skills for studying God’s Word. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the “algebra” of each day, we can face our circumstances with the confidence that comes from hearing from God through His Word.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 4

Day 1: Asking the Right Questions
Day 2: Reading for All Its Worth
Day 3: Meditating and Memorizing
Day 4: Understanding Genres
Day 5: Two Major Themes

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

“Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart” (Psalm 119:34).

Day 1: Asking the Right Questions

God’s Word for Today

“Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart.”Psalm 119:34

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” (this week’s verse to memorise) above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson. Remove the Scripture-memory card for week 4 from the back of your book and begin committing this verse to memory.

Remember the feeling you had in school when the teacher called on you to answer a question? You felt excitement if you were sure of the answer and dread if you had no clue. Knowing the right answer in class always made the difference between success and failure, pride and embarrassment.

How confident do you feel that you can give a correct answer when you are asked a question about the Bible? Mark the continuum.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Very confident Very afraid

Psalm 19:7 teaches that God’s Word can make the “inexperienced wise.” Whether you are a novice at Bible study or a long-time reader of Scripture, it can revive you and give you wisdom for daily living.

“The instruction of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise.”—Psalm 19:7

Name an area of your life in which you currently need God’s wisdom.

We must be able to understand the Bible’s teachings to benefit from its wisdom. When Israel was returning from exile in Babylon, God chose Nehemiah to lead the nation to rebuild Jerusalem. In the midst of their physical labour, the people asked the priests to publicly bring out the law of Moses and read it to them. During the long reading the Levites moved through the crowd, “giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read” (Nehemiah 8:8).

It’s OK to admit that God’s Word is sometimes difficult to understand. After all, it is the immortal God’s self-revelation to mortals with finite minds. In Israel’s history God gave the tribe of Levi the responsibility of temple duty, including the study and explanation of His law. To believers under the new covenant of Christ’s salvation, God has granted His Holy Spirit so that we no longer need a priest to understand His Word.

Read John 14:26 below. How does the Holy Spirit help believers who seek God’s truth?

“The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit-the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”—John 14:26

As we study God’s Word, the Holy Spirit teaches us God’s truth. After we have studied, He helps us recall what we have learned. Knowing that the Spirit will help us understand God’s Word, we can be confident in approaching it for study and application to our lives.

We can begin to understand the Word by asking the proper questions. Here are five we can use as a starting point.

  1. How does this verse or passage reveal God’s character? The whole Bible is primarily about God. When you approach Scripture, don’t simply look for moral instruction or personal direction. Always begin by allowing God to speak about Himself.
  2. How does the passage reveal God’s redemptive plan? God reveals Himself to us so that we can be reconciled to Him. After you identify what you can learn about Him, seek to know how you can properly relate to Him.
  3. What objections do I raise against the truth found in the passage? Pride is always ready to rear its ugly head. Identifying ways you resist God’s truth prepares you to apply it to your life.
  4. How did the passage apply to the original hearers? The Bible cannot mean now what it never meant then. Understanding the original context of a passage will help you interpret it correctly.
  5. How does this truth address my relationship with Christ? Scripture is full of eternal truth, but it is also God’s personal communication to each person. Always seek to understand how you need to personally apply a passage to your relationship with your King.

Study John 15:1-8.

Before going further in this study, take time to read “Bible-Study Tools” on pages 100101 and “Recommended Resources” on page 102. This information will help you gather resources that will aid your study of God’s Word.

Day 2: Reading for All Its Worth

God’s Word for Today

“Your words were found, and I ate them. Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart, for I am called by Your name, Lord God of Hosts.”—Jeremiah 15:16

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

What is your favourite book?

Some people love to read, while others feel it a terrible chore. Unfortunately, I have found that whenever I start to read the Bible, a million temptations seek to dissuade me. The prophet Jeremiah saw God’s words as an opportunity to feast. When God spoke, it was a delight and a joy for Jeremiah. It should be for us as well.

What is the greatest distraction or obstacle that tends to keep you from reading the Bible?

Today we will look at some ways you can feast on God’s Word.

Read the Bible as panorama. We typically read the Bible in an unusual way. Often we start at the midpoint of it entirely, in the middle of a book, and sometimes in the middle of an account. Our reasons are admirable: we want to understand a particular truth for a specific circumstance. But we also need to see the broad themes and messages of the Bible as a whole.

Have you read the Bible completely through?

Yes
No

If not, what has kept you from doing so? Check all that apply.

Time
Don’t like to read
Fear of not understanding
Not a priority
Distractions (describe): ____________________

The Bible is the sweeping epic of God’s glory, magnified in humanity as He pursues the redemption of creation.

The Bible is the sweeping epic of God’s glory, magnified in humanity as He pursues the redemption of creation. To read it in its entirety is to grasp the grand scope of God’s plan and our part in it. To read only portions of it reduces God’s Word to a reference book. Perhaps it is time to stop treating the Bible as if it were a recipe book for successful living and begin seeing it as the heroic account it truly is.

The Bible I am reading from today is 1,252 pages in length. To read it in a month would mean reading 40 or 41 pages a day. To read it in three months would mean reading 13 or 14 pages a day. To read it in one year would mean reading only 3 or 4 pages a day. Can we not give that much time to God?

Repeatedly reading particular parts of the Bible will enable you to fully understand their impact on your life.

Read the Bible in parts. Though it is important to read the Bible in its entirety to get the big picture, you still need to read it in parts to observe the details. As you read the Bible for the panoramic view, you will certainly want to pause time after time to dig into a particular narrative, teaching, chapter, or verse. When you come to a passage that piques your interest and addresses your current life situation, take time to read it again and again. Repeatedly reading particular parts of the Bible will enable you to fully understand their impact on your life.

Just as understanding the whole of Scripture will help you understand particular passages, the reverse is true as well. Developing a detailed knowledge of the Bible will help you know how God has woven the agenda for His kingdom through each part of history.

What is your favourite account in the Bible?

Why?

Listen to the Bible read aloud. When people in Nehemiah’s day called for God’s Word to be read to them, they stood for approximately six hours to listen to it (see Nehemiah 8:3 below). Today movies over two hours, business meetings lasting longer than an hour, or sermons of more than 30 minutes are often considered too long. Yet the Hebrew people had such a longing to hear from God that they stood in rapt attention for half the day to listen.

“While [Ezra] was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the book of the law.”—Nehemiah 8:3

Reading the Bible aloud or listening to an audio recording presents another avenue to discover the epic drama of God’s story and to internalize its message. Hearing God’s Word read can bring the action and truth to life in a fresh way.

Make a commitment today that you will begin reading the Bible in its entirety. Identify any other changes you would like to make in the way you read the Bible.

Day 3: Meditating and Memorizing

God’s Word for Today

“I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.”—Psalm 119:11

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

I have heard it said that reading the Bible without meditating on it is like trying to eat without swallowing. It is one thing to get a taste of your favourite food and another to physically benefit from it. When all we do is glance at the greatness of God’s Word, we do not allow its Author to change us. Meditation allows the power of the Word to repeatedly wash over our lives.

Meditation seems foreign to our modern understanding of Christianity. The concept is commonly associated with Chinese monks chanting mantras and New Age followers attempting to become one with nature. Yet we see the word used numerous times in the Bible.

What purpose of meditation is identified in “God’s Word for Today”?

It is important that we deliberately reflect on Scripture to avoid sin and for a number of other reasons identified in Psalm 119. While pagan meditation seeks to detach oneself from authority, Christian meditation leads us to submit our will to God’s Word.

Of the 11 times meditate is found in the Bible (HCSB), 10 are in Psalms, where the writer contemplates God’s work and words. We also find the concept in other places in Scripture. Joshua 1:8 says to meditate on or “recite” God’s instruction day and night. Meditating on God’s Word forces us to leave behind the busyness of our lives for the greater business of learning God’s Word.

“This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night, so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.”—Joshua 1:8

Meditation benefits our lives in several ways.

  1. Meditation stops our minds from churning on problems, temptations, and our own solutions so that we hear from God.
  2. Meditation elevates God’s Word to its rightful places as the standard for our lives. We spiritually evaluate our lives against the truth of God’s Word instead of comparing our “goodness” to the life of a neighbour.
  3. Meditation gives us time to apply God’s Word to our circumstances. Too often we study the Bible to appease our guilty consciences or to increase our knowledge. Meditation increases the likelihood that we will apply God’s truth to our lives.

How would meditation help you with a particular issue in your life?

If you continually place God, His kingdom, and His will at the center of your life, you will find that you can memorize His Word of truth.

Another method of repeated exposure to God’s Word is memorization. I can already hear your objections: my memory is bad; I haven’t memorized anything since I was in school; I’ve got too many other things to remember. Do you see the one constant factor in all of the objections—”I”? Don’t overlook God’s power to help you memorize Scripture. If you continually place God, His kingdom, and His will at the centre of your life, you will find that you can memorize His Word of truth.

How do you think Scripture memorization would strengthen your daily walk with God?

Here are a few practical suggestions for memorizing Scripture:

  1. Use memory cards like those provided at the back of this book.
  2. Repeat the verse(s) aloud three times a day for 30 days.
  3. Apply the verse to a current situation in your life.

④  Pray and agree with God’s Word that meditation and memorization would draw you closer to Him by keeping His truth in your heart and mind. Ask Him to help you make these practices a priority and to help you apply His Word to your life. Write this week’s memory verse and pray it as a commitment to God.

Day 4: Understanding Genres

God’s Word for Today

“Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.”—Ezra 7:10

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

In “God’s Word for Today” we find Ezra leaving Babylon and arriving in Jerusalem. Ezra was “skilled in the law” (Ezra 7:6) given by God. In fact, the Babylonian king Artaxerxes recognized God’s favour on Ezra and aided him in his journey back to Jerusalem, where God used him as an instrument for a great spiritual awakening (see Nehemiah 8-10). We should hope to emulate Ezra’s determination to understand God’s Word.

The Bible contains several different genres of writing. Understanding the characteristics of each biblical genre will help us discern the message God wanted to convey to us. The primary types of literature used in the Bible are history, poetry, prophecy, and letters.

Without doing research, match each Bible book with its genre.

1. Nehemiah              a. History
2. Ecclesiastes          b. Poetry
3. Psalms                  c. Prophecy
4. Jeremiah               d. Letter
5. Matthew
6. Colossians
7. Revelation

History. Some biblical literature is historical and is therefore intended to be interpreted literally. Studying historical narratives such as Exodus or the Gospel of Luke requires that we treat them as fact. God inspired the writers of the historical books to record the occurrences of events such as the history of Israel throughout the Old Testament, the life of Christ in the Gospels, and the beginning of the church in Acts. As you study the historical books, realize that you are reading an explanation of what happened to a particular group of people at a particular time and in particular circumstances. We can learn the principles of how God worked then and apply the lessons to our day. However, we must not expect that God will always repeat the same actions throughout all of history.

Poetry. As we study poetic books and portions of Scripture, we must remain aware that they use symbols and other figures of speech . The Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs are all poetic. Job, a very ancient poem, records the trials of a godly man. Psalms, a collection of songs used by the Hebrews in worship, uses many literary devices to describe the power of God and the plight of humanity. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are collections of teachings about the search for wisdom in the kingdom of God. The Song of Songs is a metaphorical poem about romantic love and the beginning of marriage.

Read Psalm 104:2 and Proverbs 4:6 below and underline the figures of speech used.

“[God] wraps Himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy.”—Psalm 104:2

“Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you.”—Proverbs 4:6

Prophecy. The prophetic books of the Bible are generally classified as Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, and New Testament prophecy. The delineation between major and minor prophecies in the Old Testament is determined only by the length of the book, not by the topics covered. The New Testament also includes a prophetic book. Revelation is an apocalyptic prophecy describing the fulfilment of God’s redemption in human history.

In studying prophecy, we must take care to understand the symbolism used. Remember that the writers were describing God-inspired revelations that had not been witnessed in real life. The prophetic books are difficult to understand; but by first recognizing the original context of the book, we can begin to properly grasp the message.

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14 and name the primary symbol used.

How did this symbol serve to dramatize the message God wanted to convey to Israel?

Letters. Most of the New Testament books fall into the categories of Pauline or General Epistles . The letters from Paul, Peter, and others to the early congregations taught doctrine and how to live as citizens of God’s kingdom. Because most of these letters are highly structured, they are easily outlined for understanding.

Review “Outline of the Bible” on page 94. Which genre of biblical literature do you feel that you best learn from? Why?

Day 5: Two Major Themes

God’s Word for Today

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”—2 Timothy 2:15

Read and mediate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

As Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy, he encouraged him to engage in “correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The compound word he used in the Greek language for “correctly teaching” literally means to cut straight. It is a term used in carpentry and construction for properly cutting lumber or stones so that items would be well built. We must apply similar diligence to the study and teaching of God’s Word.

When we pick up a book and read it, we eventually ask, “What is the major point the author is trying to make?” Apply that question to the Bible.

What do you think are two major themes of God’s Word?

A multitude of lessons are taught in the Bible, so choosing only a couple is difficult. However, understanding two general themes can give us a broad overview of God’s Word—God’s covenant and God’s kingdom.

God’s covenant. From the beginning of creation, God sought a covenant relationship with humankind. From Adam and Eve’s simple dependency on God’s provision to the complex law given to Israel, God made a path for people to relate to Him. The study of God’s Word leads to this great understanding: God has told us about Himself so that we can enter a relationship with Him.

The only true way for us to know God is by way of a covenant. In a covenant two parties make oaths of allegiance to each other. Each party must commit to be faithful to the other; otherwise, the covenant is useless. The word covenant is used hundreds of times throughout the Bible to depict God’s relationship with humanity, as well as relationships between people.

Identify the person with whom God made a covenant in each passage.

Genesis 6: __________________

Genesis 15: __________________

God first established a covenant with Noah by saving his family from the great flood in Genesis 6. In Genesis 15 God established a covenant with Abraham to create the nation of Israel, His people.

At the Last Supper Christ announced the new covenant He was beginning with people who would submit to His lordship.

Read Matthew 26:28 below. What sealed the covenant between God and people who wanted forgiveness for their sins?

“This is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.”—Matthew 26:28

As Jesus prepared for His death and resurrection, He informed the apostles of the new covenant God was establishing through the perfect sacrifice for sin. That covenant was sealed with the body and blood of Jesus. A covenant with God is lopsided. He does all the work, and we gain all the benefits. The new covenant established by the sacrifice of Jesus allows us to be reconciled with God forever.

God’s kingdom. A second general theme that runs throughout the Bible is God’s kingdom. Ultimately, everything is under God’s control. The Bible teaches us about His rule and His kingdom. Jesus taught about the kingdom of God and invited people to enter it. The Gospel of Mark uses the phrase “kingdom of God” 14 times, and it is the first subject Jesus spoke about in the book.

Read Mark 1:15 below. In the final phrase how did Jesus describe the arrival of God’s kingdom?

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!”—Mark 1:15

The coming of the kingdom is good news! In the Model Prayer Jesus instructed His disciples to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom (see Matthew 6:9-13). We should eagerly study God’s Word with a view toward participating in His kingdom work.

Spend time in prayer thanking God for His covenant with you through His Son and for including you in His kingdom. Ask Him to teach you about these themes as you study His Word.

Write this week’s Scripture-memory verse below.

Session 4: How to Study the Word

WELCOME AND PRAYER

Welcome participants and pray for God’s guidance during the discussion.

OPENING ACTIVITY

  1. Invite a participant to recite this week’s memory verse.
  2. Describe your first experience studying the Bible on your own. Was it easy or frustrating?
  3. Name the primary distractions and temptations that discourage us from studying God’s Word.

REVIEW OF DAILY WORK

  1. Review the five questions in day 1 that we should ask when studying a Scripture passage. Use the questions to examine Philippians 2:5-11.
    • How does this verse or passage reveal God’s character?
    • How did the passage apply to the original hearers?
    • What objections do you raise against the truth found in the passage?
    • How did the passage apply to the original hearers?
    • How does this truth address your relationship with Christ?
  2. Define genre (p. 60). Learning the different genres represented in Scripture can help us understand and apply God’s Word. Identify the genres used by biblical writers. Which genre of Scripture do you most enjoy reading? Why?

GROUP DISCUSSION

Discover

  1. What are two major themes of Scripture, as identified in day 5?
  2. Define covenant (p. 62). How do you understand your relationship with God as a covenant?
  3. How do you see the theme of God’s kingdom at work in the mission of the church?

Connect

Your memory verse for the week is Psalm 119:34. Describe the type of devotion it calls us to have toward God’s Word. How will this deep devotion affect the way we treat coworkers? Relate to God? Face temptation?

Relate

  1. Meditation sometimes seems to be a concept hijacked by other religions and cults. Define meditation from a biblical perspective (day 3).
  2. Read Joshua 1:8. Discuss how we can maintain our focus on God’s Word in the midst of daily activities.
  3. Have you ever taken time to meditate on a passage of Scripture? Describe your experience. What types of lessons did you learn?

Confront

How will memorizing Scripture change the way you function at your place of employment? Relate to your family? Maintain obedience to God’s mission in the world?

Change

  1. Are you ready to make a commitment to read the entire Bible? Refer to Bible-Reading Plans” on page 103 and discuss which idea would be best for you.
  2. Read Psalm 119:11. Name some practical ways to memorize Scripture. Review “Tips for Memorizing Scripture” on page 104.

MISSIONAL APPLICATION

What is the benefit of reading the Bible as panoramic story? Of studying particular passages closely? Of hearing or reading Scripture aloud? (See day 2.)

PREVIEW WEEK 5

Turn to page 67 and preview the study for the coming week.

PRAYING TOGETHER

Close the session in prayer for one another.

 

Saturday 18 July 2020

How Do We Read the Bible?

Part I (The Old Testament)

What’s the Point?

The Old Testament tells us a saviour is coming.

So far, we’ve learned what the Bible is, why it was written, how it was written, how it was put together and what that means in terms of its absolute truthfulness, trustworthiness and authority.

But, how should we actually read it?

Stop

Is the Bible like other books we read? How do we think the Bible should be read?

Often, the Bible uses weird language (to our ears) and talks about things in ways that appear strange to us at first glance. Once again we are going to approach this topic in two ways. Firstly, in this chapter, we are going to look at the Old Testament. Let’s jump in.

In the Beginning…

The first 3 chapters of the Bible set the scene for the whole Bible story.

Genesis chapter 1 gives us the big picture, wide-angle overview of creation. We discover that God creates everything by the power of His word in six days and that everything He creates is very good. The pinnacle of creation occurs on the sixth day as God creates human beings, male and female, in His own image and likeness. He then gives our first parents dominion/authority over creation along with a job to make more people and make the Earth suitable for them to live in.

Genesis chapter 2zooms in and gives us a closeup view of the creation of Adam and Eve. We also discover that the Lord provides a perfect home for them – ‘The Garden of Eden.’ We also read of,

the giving of a law for continued life and blessing
and the consequences of rebellion against God’s law.

‘The Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die”’ (Gen. 2:16-17).

Genesis chapter 2ends with the marriage of Adam and Eve as we see God’s plan for sexual relationships established.

One man
One woman
committed to a monogamous
life-long
God-designed
God-ordained union.

The final verse of the chapter almost acts as a cliffhanger.

‘Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame’ (Gen. 2:25).

Genesis chapter 3 is where it all goes wrong. The rest of the Bible deals with God undoing the damage of the catastrophic events that occur in this chapter.

In Genesis 3 we are introduced to the serpent. This cunning creature jumps out at us because, here in God’s very good world, we have a creature living in rebellion against God. His only intent is to tempt and incite others to join his rebellion. Details about this serpent unfold throughout the Scriptures as we come to know him by many names:

Satan
The devil
The dragon

We read that the serpent tempts Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Tragically, despite God’s goodness in giving them life, a perfect home, perfect companionship and a perfect relationship with Himself, our first parents believe the lies of the devil, eat the fruit, and rebel against God.

Disaster soon follows.

Sin and death enter the world as Adam and Eve fall into a state of depravity. Suddenly, the unashamed couple are hiding from God – afraid, ashamed and condemned.

Stop

Why do you think Adam & Eve are suddenly afraid of God?

We read that God comes to them in the Garden and calls to them. At this point we are introduced to a really important theme in the Scriptures:

God is not only the creator, sustainer and law-giving King

but

He is also the

holy and righteous judge of all that He has created.

God immediately dooms the serpent to destruction. The work of filling the Earth and making it fit for human life becomes painful and difficult, and where spiritual death has occurred physical death will follow.

‘You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust’ (Gen. 3:19).

Finally, Adam and Eve are thrown out of the Garden of Eden. They are put out of God’s place and presence and a Cherubim (scary angel name that means burning one) with a flaming sword blocks the way to the tree of life. So, what we find at the end of Genesis 3 is the holiness of God standing in the way of sinful man gaining life and entering into God’s presence.

The great problems that all human beings share, are laid out before us by the end of the first 3 chapters of Genesis. We see the reign and rule of sin and death and the inescapable reality of holiness and judgement. These themes and problems will continue to unfold and escalate as the story unfolds. Our helplessness is exposed to us over and over again.

However, there is a ray of hope in the midst of God’s holy judgement.

‘So the Lord God said to the serpent: Because you have done this, you are cursed more than any livestock and more than any wild animal. You will move on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel’ (Gen. 3:14-15).

As the Lord promises the destruction of the serpent, hope is found. God promises that one of the woman’s descendants will die to destroy the serpent. ‘He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’

Stop

Who do you think this woman’s descendent might be?

Bible teachers recognise that what God is telling is, ‘The first good news’.

Stop

Why do you think it is good news?

Here, in the middle of the disaster of the fall and the awful reality of sin and judgement, comes the gospel promise that one day the son of a woman will die to destroy the devil and his works. He would bear the curse of our sin and die, so that we can be freed from death.

Chapter 3 has one more important thing to teach us. Remember the cliffhanger verse at the end of Genesis 2:25? ‘Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.’ Man’s sin brought him into a state of guilt and shame. Recognising their nakedness, Adam and Eve attempt to hide from God.

‘The Lord God made clothing from skins for the man and his wife, and he clothed them’ (Gen. 3:21).

God is giving a sign, that a death is needed to cover the shame of man.

This idea of death for sin is a really important theme in the Bible.

Reading Thematically.

What is the purpose of our quick walk through of Genesis 1-3? The themes and issues we see here in these foundational passages of the Scriptures, teach us how to read the Old Testament.

The great problem of sin, death and judgement hangs over the whole of the Scriptures as an inescapable reality of human life. For every technological and cultural advancement made by humanity, we also witness the advancement of sin and misery, along with the constant reality of death and judgement. As we read the Old Testament, we will notice other themes, such as:

Messianic Prophecy
Kingdom
Covenant
Sacrificial Substitute

We are going to look briefly at each of these themes as we continue with this chapter. Understanding them, is one of the keys to really understanding the Old Testament.

Messianic Prophecy

The word Messiah means, anointed or chosen one and it refers to the promised deliverer/saviour. As the story of the Bible unfolds over time, we find a series of predictions concerning a coming saviour. Understanding messianic prophecy will enable us to identify the Messiah when we eventually encounter Him.

We have already mentioned the first of these predictions. The Promise of the Serpent Crusher in Genesis 3:15. ‘I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’

This verse gives us a moment of hope in the middle of a complete disaster, as God promises that the son of a woman will die to destroy the devil and his works.

Stop

Who do we think the serpent crusher could be?

We meet Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 and we think, is the serpent crusher one of these men? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Abel ends up dead and Cain turns out to be a murderer.

Then we meet Noah in Genesis chapters 6 through 9 and we wonder if he could be the promised serpent crusher. It looks good at the beginning – he is saved from the flood – but, unfortunately, his story ends with him in a garden naked and ashamed. So, it’s definitely not him.

In Genesis 12 we meet a massively important person in biblical history. We meet a man called Abraham. He is the father of faith and the father of the nation of Israel. God’s promise of a saviour is expanded upon in Genesis 12 as the Lord promises that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through this man Abraham. We begin to think that maybe he is our promised serpent crusher. Yet, again, our hopes are dashed as we discover how flawed Abraham was. He often feared for his life and even passed his wife off as his sister in order to save his own skin. Abraham was a giant of faith, but flawed; he was not the promised Messiah.

In Exodus through to Deuteronomy we read of the rescue of the people of Israel (the descendants of Abraham) from slavery in Egypt. We read that they were given the law and of their journey to the Promised Land. All this was happening under the leadership of Moses. Is he the serpent crusher? No. In fact, shortly before his death, Moses speaks in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 about God’s promise to rescue His people one day:

‘“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him….” The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name”’ (esv).

As the years go by, we learn that the saviour will be

a descendant of David.
He will be known as the Son of God.
He will be born of a virgin.
born in Bethlehem.
He will be called a Nazarene.
He will heal the sick.
heal the blind.
heal the deaf.

He will be

a Prophet.
a Priest.
a King.

He will be hated without cause.
He will be betrayed by a friend.
He will be killed beside criminals.
He will die as a sacrificial substitute.
He will be buried.
He will be resurrected.
He will ascend to heaven.
He will establish a new covenant.
He will rule and reign over an eternal kingdom.

These promises build upon one another and create an ever-growing weight of expectation as we read through the Old Testament.

Kingdom

The theme of the God’s kingdom begins in the Garden of Eden. Here we see the shape and structure of the kingdom established.

It includes:

God’s people in Adam and Eve.
God’s place in Eden.
Living under God’s Rule.

This theme, like the messianic prophecy, runs right throughout the Bible, from the call of Abraham, to the promise to build a great nation and the promise of the land of Canaan.

‘I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great’ (Gen. 12:2).

The first five books of the Bible chart the birth of the nation of Israel. We read of their rescue from slavery in Egypt and their journey to the Promised Land. We read that God’s presence with His people is displayed, firstly, in the Tabernacle (a movable tent where God agreed to meet with the people when they journeyed to the Promised Land) then, secondly, the Temple in Jerusalem.

As we read on, we meet Joshua. He firmly establishes the kingdom pattern of God’s people, in God’s place under God’s rule. But, yet again, we discover that he is not the serpent crusher.

We are then introduced to King David in 1 & 2 Samuel as he becomes God’s King. Could this be the one? Sadly, no. We just meet another deeply flawed man who chases women and kills to get his own way and hide his sins. However, we are told that this promised Messiah – who will crush the serpent – will come from King David’s family line.

‘The Lord declares to you: The Lord himself will make a house for you. When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever’ (2 Sam. 7:11-13).

The Kingdom soon falls apart after David’s reign comes to an end. His son Solomon is on the throne as the people rebel against the Lord. The Books of First and Second Kings and First and Second Chronicles, along with the writings of the prophets chart the disintegration of the kingdom. They lay out God’s judgement of His people as they are sent away from His presence and out of the land of Canaan, into exile.

Eventually, the people of Israel return to the Promised Land. This is recorded for us in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Joel, Haggai, Obadiah and Malachi. In these books we see the walls of Jerusalem being rebuilt and the temple being reconstructed. Yet, despite being back in the Land, there is no king and so the Old Testament ends with a grumbling people longing for a King and the former glory of the kingdom to be restored. The serpent crusher has still not come.

Covenant

Stop

Covenant is a weird word. What do you think it means?

Covenants are formal promises or contracts between God and His people.

Stop

Can you think of a formal promise or a ceremonial contract that we might use today?

There are two kinds of covenant. Historically, there would be an ancient contract between a king and his subjects. This was known as a sovereign treaty. This covenant would begin with a declaration of who the king is and what he has done.

‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess’ (Gen. 15:7).

‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery’ (Exod. 20:2).

The second type of covenant lays out what the King requires of his subjects. In this covenant there will be a list of blessings for obedience and a list of penalties for breaking the covenant.

‘The Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die”’ (Gen. 2:16-17).

Leviticus 18:5 acts as summary of how the covenant works.

‘Keep my statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am the Lord’ (Lev. 18:5).

The message is clear:

Obey and live,

Rebel and face the justice of the king.

The problem we read throughout the history of the world is that the human race is never able to keep to the rules of the covenant. We constantly fall into sin and disobedience. We are simply unwilling and unable to keep up our end of the deal.

Stop

What do you think the consequences are, for us, when we break God’s covenant?

Let me repeat. Sin means we are both unwilling and unable to obey. If we are going to live under the blessing of the Lord, then another kind of covenant is going to be needed. A covenant that doesn’t rely on the obedience of sinners.

Stop

Do we try to solve our sin problems by trying harder? What kind of ways have you tried to please God?

Reenie

Nearly every second word Reenie speaks is a swear word. She doesn’t even really notice how much she swears. It was just a part of her everyday conversation. But, when Reenie was around the people in the church, she was on her best behaviour. She worked hard to rein in her language and watch her Ps and Qs. But, as soon as she got home, the air turned blue.

There has been the odd occasion at church when a ‘bad word’ just popped out. One day, when she was working in the kitchen at church, she burned herself and let rip. Another believer heard her and immediately challenged her from Ephesians 4. ‘Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth.’ Reenie felt the anger rise up inside her. Who did this person think they were, throwing the Bible in her face? Reenie walked out, vowing never to return. But, try as she might, she couldn’t get that verse out of her mind for the rest of the day. Lying awake that night she suddenly realised how bad her language really was. Almost every other word that came out of her mouth was an expletive. How had she not noticed that before? She began to feel heavy-hearted about the issue and asked God to help her control her tongue and clean up her language.

Stop

Do you think that Reenie has truly recognised her sin is a heart problem? Why would you say that?

‘“Look, the days are coming” – this is the Lord’s declaration – “when I will make a new covenant…. I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will one teach his neighbour or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them” – this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin”’ (Jer. 31:31-34).

‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh’ (Ezek. 36:26).

Stop

Obviously, the Bible isn’t talking about a literal heart transplant. So, what do you think it means to have a new heart?

What differences do you see in your own life since God has given you a new heart?

Pete

Reenie and Pete have been getting social security for a couple of years, ever since he got laid off from his work as a bus driver. Pete has diabetes and has suffered a massive heart attack. Not able to work and with no hope of another job, he eventually signed on for welfare benefits.

The first Christmas after he lost his job was hard. Money was tight, and Reenie took on a couple of cleaning jobs to help her pay for the grandkids’ presents. Reenie and Pete didn’t think to declare her income. In fact, they never even gave it a second thought. Everyone does it. Everybody does a bit of cash in hand under the counter. It doesn’t hurt anyone.

It wasn’t until a few months after they became Christians that it really struck them that what they were doing was dishonest. Pete was feeling guilty. He’d been talking to Reenie about going to the welfare to tell them the truth and admit they had been fiddling the system. ‘But, why can’t I just stop working?’ Reenie pleaded. ‘We don’t actually have to tell them, do we? I’m worried sick. What if we get in serious trouble or even get the jail – we just can’t tell them!’

Stop

Who is showing signs of real heart change? Reenie or Pete?

Sacrificial Substitute

From the moment that sin and shame enter into the world, sacrificial substitution appears as a solution to the problem. As Adam and Eve stand naked, condemned and ashamed, soon to be thrown out of the Garden of Eden and God’s presence, God graciously covers their shame with the skins of an animal.

‘The Lord God made clothing from skins for the man and his wife, and he clothed them’ (Gen. 3:21).

We learn a simple and profound lesson from God’s gracious provision for Adam and Eve. For sin and shame to be covered, a substitute must die, and blood must be spilled. As the story of the Scriptures progress, this truth is brought into ever clearer focus. The story of the Passover and the rescue of Israel from Egypt followed by the establishment of the sacrificial system make it crystal clear that for sin to be covered a substitute must die. The Bible therefore directs us to Jesus who died to take away our sins on the cross.

Summary

The key to reading the Old Testament is following the major themes as they unfold over the years. Throughout its 39 books, different literature styles, and all its many characters, we can track the promises God makes along the way. In part one we have seen that the Old Testament is a book of promises to come.

In part 2 we will see that the New Testament is a book of the fulfilment of God’s promises.

Memory Verse

‘How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word. I have sought you with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. I have treasured your word in my hear so that I may not sin against you’ (Ps. 119:9-11).

 

Friday 17 July 2020

A FRIDAY IN JULY or is it AUGUST

Pride

“Big Man”

The Four Preps

I bragged too long that your love was strong
There’d never be another guy
But you said more when you whispered your goodbye
I was a big man yesterday but, boy, you oughta see me now

Backbeat

Four students at Hollywood High won a talent contest in 1956 and then became the Four Preps. Lead singer Bruce Belland, Marv Ingraham, Glen Larson, and Ed Cobb began performing at Los Angeles-area high schools and colleges. While they sang at a dance at UCLA, a friend recorded their performance, unbeknownst to them, and took the tape to a producer. Capitol Records soon contacted them and put them under contract.

In addition to their clean-cut image in the mould of Pat Boone and Rick Nelson, the Four Preps recorded wholesome and often humorous material with a smooth, rock-inflected pop sound. Their harmonies were early influences on the man who would later form the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson. They first hit the pop charts in 1957 with “Dreamy Eyes,” which cracked the Top 60. Their follow-up, “26 Miles,” became a million-selling smash, peaking at number 4 and remaining on the charts for five months. Of their dozen or so charted singles and two best-selling albums, they also scored with “Lazy Summer Night,” “The More Money for You and Me Medley,” “Down by the Station,” “The Big Draft,” and “A Letter to the Beatles.” They also appeared and sang in the film Gidget. (And lead singer Belland showed up as Rick Nelson’s fraternity brother in the long-running TV series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.)

“Big Man” broke into the Top 5 in 1958.

Riff

Romantic relationships can boost your confidence to lofty levels. They can also smash you flat. This song tells a story of both extremes. It’s an all-too-common tale. Bragging indicates a shift toward self-centeredness—it’s all about his being the “Big man.” Confident in the relationship, he becomes complacent about it. She feels underappreciated and goes looking for someone who will pay more attention to her. The big man gets cut down to size.

What happens in romance can happen in many areas of life. A manager rises quickly in a company but forgets the people who helped her up. A politician promises to work for the people but gets sweet-talked by special interests. A new Christian grows rapidly in the faith but begins to judge others.

“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). This warning echoes the well-known maxim from Proverbs: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (16:18). There’s a practical aspect to this warning but also a spiritual one.

We have loads of examples of prideful teams that failed to prepare for a game and lost; pompous CEOs who thought they were above the law and landed in jail; bragging teenagers who thought they could dabble in drugs and got hooked. Pride skews our perceptions and makes us vulnerable to basic mistakes.

But spiritually speaking, pride takes us away from the Lord. That was Jesus’ primary problem with the Pharisees, who thought they were secure in their own righteous law keeping and refused to accept God’s grace. They considered themselves “big men” in God’s eyes, but Jesus put them down when he said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

Harmonies

Psalm 18:27         Proverbs 16:18       1 Corinthians 10:12
Proverbs 3:34      Matthew 5:3            1 Peter 5:5-6
Proverbs 16:5      Matthew 23:12

 

Thursday 16 July 2020

A Prophecy against the Mountains of Israel – Ezekiel 6:1-14

Open It

  1. *What is it about calamity that can heighten our fear of God?
  2. What is your closest experience of war in your lifetime?

Explore It

  1. Against what geographical feature did Ezekiel prophesy (figuratively)? (6:1-3)
  2. What did God promise that Israel would see at all the sites of pagan worship? (6:4-6)
  3. What knowledge would come out of the devastation to be visited on Israel? (6:7)
  4. What would happen to those who escaped death by the sword? (6:8)
  5. What would become apparent to the exiles about God and about themselves? (6:9)
  6. By carrying through on His Word, what was God proving about His threats? (6:10)
  7. What attitude and emotion did God command Ezekiel to demonstrate? (6:11)
  8. How was God going to express His wrath against Israel? (6:12)
  9. Where would the greatest concentration of the dead be found when God judged Israel? (6:13)
  10. What was the primary purpose of God’s wrath and judgment? (6:14)

Get It

  1. Why did God feel such hatred for the “high places” to be found in Israel?
  2. What message would be communicated by a smashed altar?
  3. Why is it important for God’s people to “know that I am the Lord”?
  4. What are the modern-day idols (false gods) that divert us from worshiping of the one true and living God?
  5. How often do you find yourself grieving and mourning over personal or societal sin?

Apply It

  1. What would be an appropriate way for you to express to God your grief over sin in your life?
  2. What has God done lately that gives rise to praise and lets you know that He is Lord?

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Women of Confidence

Confidence in God’s Work in My Life

Psalm 25

Setting the Stage:

Susan’s Story

The hardest part was having to leave people behind. Stranded on hills and rooftops; anything solid, they stayed. The most we could do was throw them blankets and a little food. They’re the lucky ones, I reminded myself as we flew over another flattened farm house.

Six a.m. People had been sleeping, shaving, eating breakfast, doing morning chores. Now they were buried under the rubble of their own homes and barns. “How many,” I wondered aloud, “are still alive?”

Junior Rylie patted my hand. “That’s what we’re here to find out.”

I forced a smile, glad I’d drawn J.R. as a partner. He was fiftyish, but strong and smart. A Vietnam vet. He’d probably seen worse than this. Not me. Two years as a paramedic, I’d seen some nasty accidents, but nothing like this. Natural disaster. A disaster all right, but I couldn’t see anything natural about it.

“Over there!” The pilot circled lower, and I followed his pointing arm. A little dog bouncing and running in circles on what looked like a plywood dance floor. “Let’s drop in for a closer look.”

We hovered as close as we dared, but even the noise and wind from the chopper blades did not deter the dog.

I focused on the object of his attention. A hand. Movement. J.R. hollered. “We got a live one, Charlie. Set us down.”

The nearest open ground was a pasture about a quarter mile away. Me, J.R. and the radio, I thought, all the hope that person has. But even as we picked our way around cracks and fissures and over fallen trees, I knew that wasn’t true. It’s hard to see you in this God, I prayed, but I know you’re here.

A tremor sent us scrambling for hand holds above the crumbling dirt. I wrapped my arms around the trunk of a huge Douglas Fir, but it was already over.

“Just a jiggle.” J.R’s smile was reassuring. “Let’s hope it didn’t do more damage to our patient.”

I grabbed the medical bag and pushed ahead. Stay clear of fallen telephone wires. Farm fencing. Cut our way through. The little dog barked louder, getting more and more excited as we drew near.

We ran the last twenty yards. The dog backed away and lay down, drooling, panting, obviously exhausted.

“Pick-up sticks. This won’t be easy.”

I nodded, lay down on my belly and stretched my arm across the platform—a patio roof?—circled my fingers around a woman’s slender wrist, found a pulse.

“What’s that humming sound? Does she have a radio down there?”

I inched forward, praying that the board wouldn’t shift and shined my flashlight past the hand suspended from the hole. Her face turned toward me, eyes closed, a bloody scrape across her cheek, her throat emitting tuneless words; faint and thready as her pulse. My eyes flooded. Jesus Loves Me.

“What?”
“She’s singing, J.R.”
“Conscious then?”
“Barely. Shock, for sure.” My flashlight played across the rubble. “A beam across her upper back. Not crushing her though.”
“Not yet.” He lifted the radio and spoke to ground control.

I reached down and brushed the sticky hair back off her forehead. Shine the penlight in one eye. Pass on the stats. Start I.V. Check the bag for morphine. She’ll need it when we move that beam. Wait for more help to come. I held her hand and rested my cheek against the boards. Keep singing, lady, I wanted to tell her. You keep singing and we’ll be okay.

  1. In Psalm 25 the psalmist asks to be released from a snare. Sara was literally caught in a snare. How do you see God working in Sara’s life?

 

  1. What might it have meant to Susan to trust God in her situation—in practical terms?

What does this mean in practical terms to you?

 

God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 25.

  1. The psalmist asks God to work in his life. List the requests the psalmist makes of God in Psalm 25:1-7.

 

  1. What does the psalmist appeal to as he makes these requests?

 

  1. Psalm 25:8-14 offers several insights into God’s work in our lives. What kind of work does the psalmist say God will do in our lives?

 

  1. In Psalm 25:15-22 the psalmist describes the distress he is experiencing. What does he say about his distress?

 

  1. What work does he ask God to do on his behalf in this time of distress?

 

  1. Which of these requests might Susan or Sara have been making of God?

 

Which of these requests do you echo at this time in your life?

 

  1. What evidence is there in your life that God has been and is at work?

 

How does this evidence affect your level of confidence in God’s work in your life?

Now or Later

List all the attributes of God named in this psalm. Focus on one or two of these truths about God this week.

What work are you aware of needing God to do? Write to God about the work you are needing and willing for him to do in your life.

Read 1 Cor. 12

 

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Making God Really Mad

For the last 100 years people have concentrated on God’s love, to the exclusion of his anger, even though Christians are in agreement that Jonathan Edwards sermon in the Great Awakening Sinners in the hands of an angry God was one of the greatest sermons ever preached.

The fact is, the God of the Bible is loving and forgiving and merciful… but also angry at evil. The reason the Bible mentions God’s wrath so often is that humans need reminding that their sins are serious. One of the great mysteries of the Bible is not that God is often angry, but that he isn’t more angry at humanity.

  1. Who warned his followers to avoid the “outer darkness,” where there would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”?
  2. Why was the Lord angry with King Solomon?
  3. In what book of the Bible does God warn that “your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless”?
  4. In what book do people drink “the wine of the wrath of God”?
  5. Complete Psalm 103:8: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, _____ to anger.”
  6. Whom did God ask, “How long will this people provoke me”?
  7. What object had Uzzah touched that made the Lord very angry with him?
  8. In the Old Testament, the Lord was often angry because the Israelites are a _____ -necked people.
  9. According to 2 Kings, what one tribe of Israel remained after the Lord vented his anger on the nation?
  10. According to Psalm 110, what people will God strike down on the day of his wrath?
  11. In Jeremiah, the people are told to put on what type of cloth to turn away the Lord’s anger?
  12. What entire book of the Bible is a lament about the Lord’s anger being poured out on Jerusalem?
  13. Which Epistle says that the wrath of God is revealed against all man’s ungodliness?
  14. In which book of the Bible do people beg to be delivered from the wrath of the Lamb?
  15. In which book of the Bible does God say, “Take this wine cup of fury at my hand”?
  16. Who warned a “brood of vipers” against God’s wrath to come?
  17. Which apostle told people not to be vengeful, but to “leave room for God’s wrath”?
  18. According to John’s Gospel whoever rejects the _____ will face the wrath of God.

Making God Really Mad (Answers)

  1. Jesus (Matthew 22:13), who also had a lot to say about God’s love
  2. Solomon had let his pagan wives lead him away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:9).
  3. Exodus (22:24)
  4. Revelation (14:10))
  5. Slow
  6. Moses (Numbers 14:11). The Israelites were notorious ingrates.
  7. The Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:6-7)
  8. Stiff. To be “stiff-necked” means to be proud, not willing to bow down to God.
  9. Judah, the one tribe not conquered by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:18). Later, however, Judah was faithless enough that God allowed it to be conquered by the Babylonians.
  10. Kings (Psalm 110:5)
  11. Sackcloth, coarse cloth like burlap and a symbol of sorrow and repentance (Jeremiah 4:8). The meaning is that the repentance, not the cloth itself, will change the Lord’s mind.
  12. Lamentations
  13. Romans (1:18))
  14. Revelation (6:16-17). The Lamb is Christ, pouring out his anger on the wicked.
  15. Jeremiah (25:15)
  16. John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7). The “vipers” are the Pharisees and Sadducees.
  17. Paul (Romans 12:19)
  18. Son, that is, Christ (John 3:36)

 

Monday 13 July 2020

Week 3: Transformed by the Word

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

“Transformers,” was a cartoon about alien robots that could transform themselves into various vehicles and other mechanical objects. The good guys were the Autobots, and the villains were the Decepticons. Every week mundane objects like cars and planes became powerful robots that battled to save or enslave the earth.

Many a grown up indulge their childish fascination with “Transformers” only when sons are around. The thought that at any moment someone could change into something completely different is pretty cool.

For a Christian, transformation is not fiction. It is anchored in the reality of God and the redemptive work accomplished by Christ. This week we will focus on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to learn how God’s Word brings about transformation in our lives.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 3

Day 1: Teaching
Day 2: Rebuking
Day 3: Correcting
Day 4: Training
Day 5: Equipped for Every Good Work

VERSES TO MEMORIZE

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 3

“Key Doctrines of the Bible” (p. 97)

“Lead Subject of Each Bible Book” (p. 98)

Day 1: Teaching

God’s Word for Today

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:16-17

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” (this week’s verse to memorize) above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson. Remove the Scripture-memory card for week 3 from the back of your book and begin committing these verses to memory.

When we were in school, certain subjects often became our favourites because of great teachers who were able to inspire us with the their love for the subject matter. They brought life to what seemed to be a lifeless subject.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school as a child? What made it fascinating to you?

God’s Word serves as a teacher for this new life.

We are learning that God’s Word is not passive. It is active, and its activity changes our very nature. As we move from being an enemy of God’s kingdom to being a friend of the King, we must learn a new way of living. God’s Word serves as a teacher for this new life.

The New Testament was written using koine (or common) Greek. In 2 Timothy 3:16 the word used for teaching is didaskalia. Of the 21 times it is used in the New Testament, 15 are in Paul’s pastoral epistles. The apostle Paul used this word to specifically designate a type of teaching with divine authority behind it. So what does God want to teach us through the Scriptures?

God uses His Word to teach us about Himself. We have already learned that God’s Word is a self-revelation. Through divinely inspired writers God teaches us about His own character.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah was assigned the unenviable task of delivering God’s message of judgment to the people of Israel. God hoped to call the Hebrew nation back to a faithful relationship with Him. But they needed to understand the greatness of the One they had offended with their sin. In chapter 57 God once again decried the practices of false religion and offered a portrait of Himself to which His people could cling.

Read Isaiah 57:15 below. What quality does this verse reveal about God? ____________ Underline in the verse the two types of people with whom God will relate.

“The High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.'”—Isaiah 57:15

God taught that by His nature He is holy and high above all humanity. But He also taught us that He is willing to be friends with people who are humble and penitent. In His Word God teaches us about His character so that we can learn how to honour and relate to Him.

God uses His Word to teach us how to live. A common question I have been asked as a pastor is “What should I do next?” At the heart of that question is the desire to act properly. When we see Christ’s life illustrated in Scripture, we want to imitate it. And we should. God uses His Word to teach us how to become like His Son. Scripture presents us with no higher goal than to be like Jesus.

Several books in the Bible are structured to teach us about God first and then how we are to live. For example, the Book of Romans teaches about the nature of God and salvation in chapters 1-11. Then chapters 12-16 teach us how this knowledge should cause us to live.

First Peter 1:14-16 teaches us that our conduct depends on whom we know: “As the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in your conduct.” As we learn more of God, we will also learn how we are to live before Him.

What is the latest truth God has taught you through His Word?

God uses His Word to teach us how to relate to others. Even a superficial reading of the Bible reveals the importance God gives to relationships. For example, He placed a man and a woman in the garden of Eden. He created the nation of Israel to be the people of God. Jesus called 12 men to be His disciples. The original Greek word for church refers to a collection of people.

 

Read the verses below and write the phrase that is repeated.

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.”—John 13:34

“Be in agreement with one another.”—Romans 12:16

“Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”—Galatians 6:2

“… submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.”—Ephesians 5:21

“Be hospitable to one another without complaining.”—1 Peter 4:9

God intends for us to live in relationships with one another. His Word shows us how to live properly in all of our relationships.

Day 2: Rebuking

God’s Word for Today

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.”—John 17:17

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you being today’s lesson.

The sound of today’s title does not sound pleasant at all—rebuking. Just pronouncing it carries an ominous tone.

What image comes to mind when you hear the word rebuke?

The word rebuke might evoke images of disapproval and harshness. However, our Scripture-memory verses for this week, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, identify rebuke as an important function of Scripture. As Paul gave instructions to the pastor Timothy, he taught him that God’s Word has the power to rebuke believers. The young pastor must have been relieved to know that the job of rebuking didn’t fall on him but on God’s Word.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:16-17

Today we can also be relieved that God redirects our lives through His Word. The word rebuke means to be shown our sin and hear the call to change our behavior. It carries connotations that are important for us to discern as we interact with God’s Word.

In essence, Scripture tells us to stop what we are doing wrong.

Rebuke convicts us of sin. Only God’s Word can teach us the difference between right and wrong. Once we know that, Scripture also motivates us to do what is right. As we spend time in the Word, it brings rebuke when we sin. In essence, Scripture tells us to stop what we are doing wrong.

Below the stop sign write an action God has recently convicted you to stop. You may want to use abbreviations to maintain privacy.

Before God we are like children. When children see an electrical socket, they might not see danger but a hole that needs to be filled with something metal. One job of a parent is to show children their errors so that they can learn safe and responsible behaviour. Similarly, when we sin, only God is able to recognize the danger inherent in our actions outside His truth. That truth is revealed in His Word.

Rebuke exposes the truth. As God’s Word rebukes us, it also exposes the truth of how we are living. Last week we learned from Hebrews 4:12 the power of God’s Word to uncover the hidden parts of our lives. His Word shows us the thoughts and actions that are just and right in His sight. The Bible uncovers the deepest secrets we seek to hide from God. We can’t hide anything from the One who knows all things.

“The word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12

What are the ways you seek to avoid the truth about your sin?

Avoid Bible passages about it
Tune out sermons about it
Quit praying about it
Rationalize it
Other: ____________________

How do you respond when God’s Word convicts you about sin?

Repent and change the behaviour
Continue the behaviour

Occasionally, unbelievers say they think God is portrayed as cruel in the Bible, a fierce Deity raining down fire and judgment on people. Certainly, God punishes sin without hesitation or reservation. But His intent is to reveal our sin so that we can repent and ask God to restore our relationship with Him. When we learn the truth in His Word, our responsibility is to align our hearts and minds with that truth and to adjust our behaviour accordingly. That is the goal of biblical rebuke.

Through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, God delivered devastating messages to Israel because of its sin. He allowed calamity to fall on the nation because of its idolatry. But He also offered hope of a renewed relationship. Isaiah 44:22 says God wants to sweep away our sin as the sun burns away the morning mist. God’s Word can bring strong rebuke, but its goal is always redemptive. In the Bible the repentant always find new hope.

“I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like a mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”—Isaiah 44:22

We all hold on to certain sins as if they will not truly harm us, but all sin damages our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Conclude your devotional time today with prayer. Ask God to bring Scriptures to your memory that will rebuke you for sin and lead you back to Him.

Day 3: Correcting

God’s Word for Today

“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”—Hebrews 12:11

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you being today’s lesson.

Yesterday I was in a huge hurry as I drove home. Quickly changing lanes, I darted in and out of traffic. As I started to zip into another lane on the interstate, the corrective honk of a car horn filled my ears. I was about to make a terrible mistake by crashing into someone’s car. The blast of that car horn changed my driving and saved me from a potential tragedy.

How do you respond when someone tries to correct your behavior?

Tell them to mind their own business
Submit to correction if it aligns with God’s Word
Other: ____________________

God wants our lives to align with His will and His purposes.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul wrote that God’s inspired Word has the power to correct us. The Greek word used by Paul literally means “a restoration to an upright or right state.” The intent of Scripture is not for us to reach a morally neutral position. Rather, God seeks to change the way we live. God wants our lives to align with His will and His purposes. One way He does that is to bring correction as we read and apply Scripture.

Refer to “God’s Word for Today,” Hebrews 12:11, as you answer these questions.

How is discipline described?

What does discipline yield?

Discipline is not pleasant. In fact, it seems painful at the time. It brings about sorrow, whether for a child who has misbehaved, a teen who has to be grounded, or an adult who has broken the law. God’s correction of our lives is no different. When we are corrected by His Word, our emotions range from embarrassment to frustration to remorse. But if we endure the discipline and correct our ways, our lives can exhibit the righteousness we possess through the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ.

Once we have gone through the discipline, then we reap its benefits. It is much harder to see the benefit while being disciplined. Our ego cries out to justify our actions, and our heart cries out for mercy to ignore them. But if we are to live like Jesus, as God desires, He must bring correction to our lives through His Word.

Identify a Bible verse God has used to correct your behavior.

God’s Word corrects our actions. God’s Word reveals many areas in which we need correction. It also shows us the correct path to live for His glory. The Book of Proverbs is a treasury of guidance for staying on the right path. The author of Proverbs wrote as a father to a son who needed wisdom.

Read Proverbs 3:5-7 below. How can we find the right path?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. Don’t consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”—Proverbs 3:5-7

When we learn the wisdom of God, the right actions will follow. As a pastor, I have often been asked, “What is God’s will for my life?” The first answer I give is to follow God’s revealed will in His Word. We should discover what He has already said to us and obey it first. If we trust God’s ways, we will shun the path of evil.

God’s Word restores right thinking. In Romans 12:1 Paul encouraged believers to become “living sacrifices” for God. In verse 2 he followed up that radical call with a directive to renew our thinking in order to understand God’s ways. Placing ourselves under the corrective work of God’s Word will often mean that we must change our minds about a subject, an action, or a person. Most often, God’s correction will aid us in understanding His character more fully, bringing us to a greater commitment to aligning our hearts with His.

“By the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”—Romans 12:1-2

Pray and commit yourself to God’s correction of your actions and thinking through His Word. Ask Him to transform you so that you will know how to fulfil His perfect will.

Write this week’s memory verses.

Day 4: Training

God’s Word for Today

“The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.”—Deuteronomy 29:29

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

Perhaps you have heard or read the following poem.

Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.

What are some godly thoughts you are sowing in your life? How?

God’s Word trains us to join His work. “God’s Word for Today,” Deuteronomy 29:29, describes parents’ teaching God’s Word to their children. Being a parent myself, I am trying to learn what God wants to accomplish through me. My two sons are very different. One is loud and the other quiet; one is bold and the other shy; one loves slapstick and the other sarcasm. But I teach both to obey the same set of rules in our home. Regardless of their differences, they must be taught to obey the same set of regulations.

God trains us to participate in His redemptive work.

This goal brings to light one of the greatest differences between me as an earthly father and God, our Heavenly Father—the rules. The training I offer is earthly and pedestrian in nature. Truth be told, our house rules are often derived from the hope of simply maintaining order. On the other end of the spectrum is God, who is revealing the “hidden things” of His nature, character, and kingdom (Deuteronomy 29:29). He is training us not to merely keep humanity in a state of moral neutrality but to seek a greater purpose. God trains us to participate in His redemptive work.

What is the primary reason you think people most often obey rules?

To gain rewards
To avoid punishment
Because they love rules
To please the rule giver
How is a believer’s motivation to obey God’s Word different?

Deuteronomy 29:29 shows that God reveals what we need to know to follow Him in obedience. In fact, Deuteronomy literally means second law. The Hebrews’ needed to understand God’s law, so He revealed it to them twice. Training requires repetition. Remember going over your multiplication tables, repeating the state capitals, and poring over grammar rules in school? Yet most of us haven’t spent comparable amounts of time in God’s Word. Why? It is worth our time. We need the training. Our lives are better when we hear and obey it. And the ultimate goal of our training in the Word is of great importance—joining God in kingdom work.

God’s Word trains us in eternal truth. Deuteronomy 29:29 assures us that the revelations of God’s Word belong to us forever. The training I endure at a gym, in human-resources orientation, or at school is generally temporary in nature. The workouts have to be continued, and the education has to be enhanced. But the training we receive through God’s Word is different.

Read 1 Timothy 4:8 below. How does training in godliness differ from training of the body?

“The training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”—1 Timothy 4:8

God’s Word reveals eternal truth that needs no enhancement. His Word is completely sufficient to train us for living this life and the one to come.

Turn to page 97 and read “Key Doctrines of the Bible.” Circle one of the doctrines you would like to learn more about.

God’s Word trains us in righteousness. Second Timothy 3:16 ends with the phrase “for training in righteousness.” Our training has a point—righteous living. The purpose behind God’s self-revelation in His Word is our redemption so that we can have a relationship with Him. Our righteousness, made possible only through Jesus, brings glory to God, draws people to Him, and allows us to be useful in His kingdom.

Rank your spiritual training by marking phrases that describe you.

Read and obey the Word
Live a righteous life
Grow in Christ
Participate in kingdom work

What is one thing you will do to enhance your spiritual training?

Day 5: Equipped for Every Good Work

God’s Word for Today

“If anyone purifies himself from these things, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”—2 Timothy 2:21

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you being today’s lesson.

Henry Ward Beecher, a 19th-century minister, reportedly said, “Sink the Bible to the bottom of the ocean, and still man’s obligations to God would be unchanged. He would have the same path to tread, only his lamp and guide would be gone; the same voyage to make, but his chart and compass would be overboard!” Beecher knew how desperately we need God’s Word to be obedient to God’s will and purpose for our lives.

Record this week’s memory verses and then underline an important reason God gave us His Word.

God’s intention is for His Word to equip us “for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). God has not assigned us tasks in His kingdom without providing the means to accomplish this work. Knowing our inability to do any kingdom task without His help, God provided the Scriptures to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us for each task so that we can advance His kingdom and bring glory to Him.

What do you most need from God’s Word now?

Teaching
Rebuking
Correcting
Training

When you submit yourself to the work of God’s Word, it will equip you for whatever God calls you to do.

When you submit yourself to the work of God’s Word, it will equip you for whatever God calls you to do. “God’s Word for Today” falls in the middle of Paul’s instruction for Timothy to be faithful in his task. Many of us are thankful for encouragement, but what we truly need is assurance. Second Timothy 2:21 was Paul’s reminder to Timothy—and us—that we are a “special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” These words assure us of God’s intention for our lives. We are not afterthoughts, extras, or maybes in God’s kingdom. By His salvation and through the power of His Word, we are prepared for “every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).

Rank the degree to which you feel equipped to participate in the following ministries. Let 1 mean poor and 5 mean great.

Pray for a friend 1 2 3 4 5
Share the good news of Jesus 1 2 3 4 5
Explain a Bible verse 1 2 3 4 5
Serve the needy 1 2 3 4 5
Care for someone who is grieving 1 2 3 4 5
Counsel someone with a problem 1 2 3 4 5

God has prepared His Word to equip you to carry out the work He has for you to do in His kingdom.

If you feel poorly equipped, it’s time to dig deeper into the Word. The Devil will tempt us to feel shame and guilt so that we avoid God’s Word. God desires the exact opposite: for us to engage His Word so that we are fully prepared for worship, witnessing, and work in and through His church. God cares for you, and He has prepared His Word to equip you to carry out the work He has for you to do in His kingdom.

What are some tasks or ministries you know God asked you to accomplish, but you didn’t obey because you were afraid you might fail?

Take time to pray for the following needs related to those tasks.

  • Forgiveness for disobeying God
  • Understanding of His Word in preparation for obedience
  • A time in the near future to complete the work He gave you to do
  • A sensitive heart that welcomes God’s assignments

The more thoroughly you know the Bible, the better equipped you will be to do good works. The Bible covers a multitude of subjects. Knowing the general theme of each Bible book will help you search for instruction in God’s Word and guide others to God’s truth for their lives. Turn to page 98 and read “Lead Subject of Each Bible Book.” Take note of books you have not read and of those that would help with your current spiritual questions.

Session 3: Transformed by the Word

WELCOME AND PRAYER

Pray for God’s guidance during today’s discussion.

OPENING ACTIVITY

  1. Invite a participant to recite this week’s memory verses.
  2. Talk about your teenage years. What transformations did you go through? Was there an “ugly duckling” in your school who was transformed into a “swan”?

REVIEW OF DAILY WORK

  1. Read Romans 12:1-2. God’s Word reveals the character of Jesus and helps us change to be like Him. Do today’s Christians need to be transformed more in their attitudes, beliefs, or actions? Why?
  2. Second Timothy 3:16 states that God’s Word is “profitable.” What do we gain from studying the Bible?

GROUP DISCUSSION

Discover

In day 1 you learned that God’s Word teaches us about three things. What are they? On which one do you currently focus most of your Bible study?

Connect

  1. What is your reaction when you find something you never knew existed but you know will be very helpful? Read Deuteronomy 29:29. Describe some discoveries you have made in the Scriptures.
  2. How are the truths God has revealed through Scripture enabling you to better follow His way of living?

Relate

  1. Read Proverbs 3:1-7. In day 3 you read verses 5-7 and learned how God’s Word corrects us. Now that you have read the rest of the passage, discuss the benefits of following God’s Word, as described in verses 1-4.
  2. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to trust God with our whole hearts. What are the possible results when we trust God halfheartedly? Wholeheartedly?

Confront

  1. Second Timothy 3:16 uses the words rebuking and correcting to describe part of God’s work through Scripture. Why is it necessary for God’s Word to take these measures in our lives?
  2. In what ways does God’s Word rebuke us (day 2)? In what ways does God’s Word correct us (day 3)?
  3. What is the goal of biblical rebuke? When the teaching of Scripture rebukes you, what is your normal reaction? What does God expect you to do in response to rebuke?
  4. Ask a volunteer to share a way God’s Word has brought rebuke and correction in his or her life.

Change

  1. Second Timothy 3:17 teaches that we are equipped for “every good work.” How does God’s Word prepare you for good works?
  2. Share responses to activity 4 on page 49. Discuss from day 4 the ways God’s Word trains us for good works. Identify opportunities for good works that are available in your church and community.
  3. How has this week’s study of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 challenged you to study God’s Word differently?

MISSIONAL APPLICATION

  1. Some people think years of studying the Bible are needed before going out and doing good things on behalf of God. What is required for a person to get ready to serve God?
  2. How has this week’s study of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 challenged you to participate in God’s kingdom work or to train for that work?

PREVIEW WEEK 4

Turn to page 53 and preview the study for the coming week.

PRAYING TOGETHER

Close the session in prayer for one another.

 

Saturday 11 July 2020

FIRST STEPS

THE BIBLE – CAN WE TRUST IT?  No 4

How Do We Know We Can Trust the Bible?

PART 2 (Inerrancy)

 

What’s the Point?
The Bible is absolutely trustworthy.

Stop

If I asked, ‘Can you really trust the Bible 100%?’ then what would you say and why?

In this chapter we are going to answer the big question: can I really trust the Bible? In the previous chapter we looked at what it means for the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. In this chapter we are going to learn how God’s authorship of the Scriptures means they are absolutely true and absolutely trustworthy. We call this inerrancy. This simply means God’s Word is without error.

Illustration

Hey Pete!Reenie shouted. ‘Have you read this on Facebook about the guy in the white van trying to kidnap children up at the park? Apparently, he’s a big, scruffy guy. He’s got to be a paedophile. There’s a comment on here that says the same white van is at the end of our road right now. Should we go and see?’ Pete looked up at her and said, ‘Honest to goodness Reenie, you’re so gullible. Why do you believe everything you read? He’s probably some random bloke nipping into the shops. That description could be practically anyone.’ Reenie points to her phone and says, ‘No, Pete, it’s true. It says so here and loads of people have liked and commented.’ Pete rolls his eyes and responds, ‘Just because it’s posted on Facebook, love, doesn’t make it true. Worry about it if we see it on the 6 o’clock news. Then at least it will be legit and verified.’

The Original Autographs

When we say the Bible is without error it is important that we recognise that we are talking about the original manuscripts or autographs, as written by the hands of the prophets and apostles. These documents were written on papyrus scrolls which were very delicate and because of this they had to be reproduced over and over and over again throughout the centuries.

Stop

How do you think we can be sure the copies they made of the original manuscripts were totally accurate?

Let’s think about how we can be sure they made accurate copies. The scribes and monks who did this were seriously meticulous and they checked, checked and rechecked their work using many safeguards in order to ensure that the copies they were making were 100% accurate. We have about 5,800 Greek manuscripts to study and compare. That might not sound a lot, but when compared with other ancient books it is utterly staggering.

For example, we have about 10 manuscripts of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars written between 60 & 50BC. The oldest manuscript is from 900 years after the event. Despite this gap, no historian is doubting Julius Caesar.

John Piper writes, ‘No other ancient book comes close to the wealth of diverse preservation that we have for the New Testament. Not only is the number of manuscripts remarkable, but also the antiquity. The oldest fragment we have, for example, is a papyrus that comes from about AD 130…. One of the oldest manuscripts of the entire New Testament comes from AD 350.’

Between 1946 and 1956 the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves in Qumran, Israel. They had been preserved in clay pots and these Old Testament manuscripts are by far the oldest manuscripts we have. Incredibly, when they were compared with more recent manuscripts, no real differences were found.

Stop

Just think about that for a while. The oldest manuscripts ever found contained no real differences from the words we have in the Bible today. What does that tell us about how accurate the Bible is?

The meticulous work of these monks and scribes throughout the centuries means we can be utterly confident in the accuracy of our Bibles. What we have in our Bibles is an accurate translation of the very Word of God, preserved and protected by His sovereign rule throughout history.

Illustration

What an absolute nightmare of a day. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong. When Reenie woke up that morning the water boiler wasn’t working, so she didn’t have any hot water for a shower. Then, on the way back from the shops, the handles snapped on her shopping bag and she smashed all the eggs. Then she waited so long at the bank, she ended up being late picking up the grandkids from school. Just when she thought the day couldn’t get any worse, Reenie missed the bus home. It was going to be 20 minutes until the next one. She was worn out when she walked into the hospital ward to see her friend, Kate. Her friend looked at her and said, ‘Reenie, it’s good to see you but you didn’t need to come. It’s pouring with rain outside. You’re soaked to the skin.’ Reenie smiled at her friend. ‘Sweetie, I told you I’d come visit you today and you know that I’m like always as good as my word.’

The Bible reminds us that God is always true to His Word too. So, we know for sure that our Bibles are accurate translations of the original autographs. Now, let’s move on to the question of trustworthiness.

Stop

How do you judge trust? Think of the people in your life who you trust most. What is it about them that makes them trustworthy?

It’s likely the people we are thinking of are, consistent, straightforward, honest and reliable. When Reenie thinks about someone trustworthy she thinks of her dad. If he says he’ll do something, he does it. If he says he’ll be somewhere she can bank on it. If she needs help she can bank on him.

The trustworthiness of someone’s word is a reflection of their character. Reenie trusts her dad’s word because he has demonstrated and proven his honesty again and again throughout her life.

Stop

If asked, what would people say about your character? Do you live up to your word?

‘God is not a man, that he might lie, or a son of man, that he might change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfil?’ (Num. 23:19).

Scripture as the Word of God, reflects the character of God. God is truthful, faithful, righteous, reliable, all-knowing and all-powerful. This is why we can trust every word of the Bible. This verse from the book of Numbers ties together the word and the character of God. It draws an absolute contrast between God and man to drive home the point that God is 100% trustworthy.

Stop

Imagine you promised to pick a friend up at the train station at 10am tomorrow morning. Can you absolutely guarantee you’ll be there?

The answer is no. We may give our word, 100% intending to be there to pick them up. But, we could get stuck in traffic, get a puncture, or trip as we leave the house and break a leg. There is an endless list of things that could leave our pal standing disappointed outside the station. There are an infinite number of things beyond our control that could stop us from carrying out a promise. That never happens to God.

God is not a human
He’s not like us
He is always honest
He can never be frustrated or hindered

‘So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary’ (Heb. 6:18-19, nlt).

When the writer of the book of Hebrews wants to comfort his readers that their salvation is sure, safe and secure, he reminds them that God has given an unchangeable oath and a promise. It is impossible for God to lie. Solomon says the same thing about Him in the book of Proverbs.

‘Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him’ (Prov. 30:5, esv).

This verse ties God’s truthfulness and faithfulness to the security of our salvation. It does so by explaining that it is God’s unchanging faithfulness that makes Him suitable to be a shield and a refuge for His people.

Imagine you are fleeing from a massive storm. The wind is howling and gusting and up ahead you see two buildings. One is made of twigs and the other is a concrete bunker. Which one are you going to take refuge in? A refuge is supposed to be a place of stability, strength and security. If it’s weak, unstable or insecure it can’t be trusted to protect you.

We come back to this important passage again:

‘If he called them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be broken, do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming”, because I said, “I am the Son of God”?’ (John 10:35-36, esv).

When engaging His unbelieving opponents, who want to attack His claim to be the Son of God, Jesus reminds them that Scripture cannot be broken. Because God is God, His Word comes to pass. His Word is utterly trustworthy because God always speaks the truth. His promises can be trusted because God cannot be frustrated, stopped or impeded. The Scriptures are inerrant because God doesn’t make errors. Kevin DeYoung gives us the simplest argument for the inerrancy of Scripture. ‘Scripture did not come from the will of man; it came from God. And if it is God’s word then it must all be true, for in Him there can be no error or deceit.’

‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth’ (John 17:17).

As Jesus prays for His people before He goes to the cross, He asks the Father to sanctify (make holy) His people by the truth before going on to explain how this will be done through the word of truth. Jesus teaches us here that the truthfulness of the word is what makes it useful for sanctifying His people. The Bible is able to shape and renew our minds to correct, rebuke, mould, confront, conform, comfort, strengthen and shape us because it is inerrant truth. In Romans 12 Paul challenges the church:

‘Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God’ (Rom. 12:2).

Every Christian needs the truth of the Word of God to set us straight and reshape us when we sin and believe false things about God.

Authority

The Word of God doesn’t just reflect the character of God, but it also declares the absolute sovereignty, power and authority of God.

‘Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not considered the foundations of the earth? God is enthroned above the circle of the earth; its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like thin cloth and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He reduces princes to nothing and makes judges of the earth like a wasteland. They are barely planted, barely sown, their stem hardly takes root in the ground when he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind carries them away like stubble. “To whom will you compare me, or who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. Look up and see! Who created these? He brings out the stars by number; he calls all of them by name. Because of his great power and strength, not one of them is missing’ (Isa. 40:21-26).

The Bible is not just a book of helpful hints and suggestions that we can take or leave as we please. It’s the self-revelation of the creator, sustainer, redeemer, judge and king of the universe. The Bible reveals the will and commands of the king. Question 3 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks:

Q: What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A: The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

The Bible teaches us what we must believe about God and what God requires of us in response. It is the first, final and absolute authority for the believer and for the church. What the Scriptures teach is truth and the standards it sets are Holy law. The Scriptures are the full and final authority for the church in all matters of faith and practice.

Stop

The big question really isn’t, can we trust the Bible? The big question is, will we obey it?

Summary

The Bible is absolutely trustworthy and without error. It is the absolute, unbreakable, final authority about everything. The Bible is God’s Word given to us in order to reveal to us everything we need to know about God and salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ. Will we come to it humble and ready to learn from God or will we proudly raise ourselves above it and ignore its teachings, commands and warnings?

Memory Verse:

‘Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God’ (Rom. 12:2).

First Steps – Bible – Can We Trust It?.

Friday 10 July 2020

Trials

“Rescue Me”

Fontella Bass

Rescue me
Come on and take my heart
Take your love and conquer every part

Backbeat

Born in St. Louis in 1940, Fontella Bass sang in numerous church choirs and became an accomplished pianist and organist. Her mother was a member of the Clara Ward Singers gospel group. Fontella’s first public appearance came in the late fifties when she performed with the St. Louis Gospel/Blues Show and the Oliver Sain Review.

Moving from gospel to R&B, she joined bluesman Little Milton’s revue in the early sixties, remaining in that troupe until 1964 when she was signed to the Checker label. Late in 1965 her smash hit “Rescue Me” became the fourth best-selling record in the United States, on its way to becoming one of the sixties’ best soul recordings. Though it preceded Aretha Franklin’s breakthrough by a couple of years, this powerful soul number was characterized by similar authoritative vocals and dynamic musical backing. At the time, her musical director was trombonist Joseph Bowie, brother of trumpet player Lester Bowie. She later married Lester and performed with his group, the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Her duets with Bobby McClure, “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing” and “You’ll Miss Me,” both made the pop and R&B charts in 1965. Her follow-ups, though never matching the success of “Rescue Me,” continued with the security and safety theme. “Recovery,” “I Surrender,” and “Safe and Sound” all hit the charts, but they proved to be her last appearances there.

Riff

In tales of old, gallant knights rescue damsels from fiery dragons. That sort of thing still goes on today, except the dragons are different, and often it’s the damsels who rescue the guys. Still, good relationships can save people, in a way, delivering them from loneliness.

God is in the rescuing business: “Please, Lord, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me” (Psalm 40:13). David wrote many of the Psalms, and we know he was often running from his enemies. So, for him, rescue wasn’t just some spiritual idea; it was a physical necessity. “Save me from my persecutors—rescue me!” he cries. “If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion, tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me” (7:1-2). More than thirty times, David and the other psalmists beg God for rescue.

When we get into trouble, we can call on the Lord, and he can help us. Let’s be careful not to overstate that point. He doesn’t fulfil our wishes like some genie in a bottle, but he does make things better for us. Sometimes we need to face the consequences of our own misdeeds, but he is there with us, giving us the strength, comfort, and wisdom we need. And sometimes he works miracles to get us out of difficulties.

But we all need a deeper kind of rescue too. Our souls are in trouble, soiled with sin, and we need to be rescued from death. Jesus came to do just that. The early Christians saw his death and resurrection as a rescue effort that would put SWAT teams to shame—as Jesus stormed the gates of hell to save humanity.

Harmonies

Genesis 32:11    Psalm 40:13         Corinthians 1:8-11
Psalm 7:1-2        Isaiah 44:13-17    1 Peter 3:19
Psalm 31:5

Thursday 9 July 2020

Siege of Jerusalem Symbolized – Ezekiel 4:1-5:17

Open It
  1. What sorts of predictions do we count on in our everyday decisions and actions?
  2. Why do you think illustrations or dramatizations are useful in getting a verbal message across to an audience?
Explore It
  1. What model did God instruct Ezekiel to build in order to illustrate his first message? (4:1-3)
  2. What was the duration of God’s punishment of Israel as predicted by Ezekiel’s symbolic action? (4:4-5)
  3. How long did Ezekiel lie on his right side to illustrate the punishment of Judah? (4:6-8)
  4. What were Ezekiel’s cooking and eating habits supposed to illustrate about what would happen in Jerusalem? (4:9-13)
  5. How did God respond when Ezekiel didn’t want to defile himself in order to illustrate the extent of the famine? (4:15)
  6. According to God, why would Israel and Judah suffer so much? (4:17)
  7. What was Ezekiel to do with each third of the hair he shaved from his own head? (5:1-4)
  8. How had Jerusalem repaid the favor that God had shown? (5:5-7)
  9. How did Jerusalem compare to the pagan nations around her? (5:7)
  10. How was God’s coming punishment to compare with those of the past and the future? (5:9)
  11. To what depths did God predict that people would descend when He punished them? (5:10)
  12. What sin prompted God to destroy each third of the people of Jerusalem in the manner predicted by Ezekiel? (5:11-12)
  13. What did God say the people would know after He vented His wrath? (5:13)
  14. How would other nations respond to the people once favoured by God? (5:14-15)
  15. What various forms of suffering and destruction did God predict for His people? (5:16-17)
Get It
  1. How do you think Ezekiel might have been viewed in his own time
  2. In what different ways might people have responded to Ezekiel’s dramatized prophecies?
  3. What are some of the worst aspects of a prolonged siege?
  4. What qualities does a person need in order to do unpopular things in the name of God?
  5. Why might people assume that God’s favor toward a person or a nation is irrevocable?
Apply It
  1. What step of obedience might you ask God to give you the courage to carry through?
  2. What spiritual word of warning do you need to take seriously this coming week?

 

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Confidence in God’s Care for Me

Psalm 16

Setting the Stage:

Beth’s Story

That dining room set was made from solid oak. By my Henry’s own hands, God bless him. If it hadn’t been for that table . . .

I’ll never forget the noise; like an Air Force jet was landing on the roof. Then I looked up at the chandelier.

Britney must have seen it too. “Earthquake, Grandma,” she hollered, then ducked under the table like they taught her in school.

I landed next to her and tried to shield her body with mine. The floor bucked and rolled, jerking us around like old rag dolls. When it settled, the silence was worse than the roar.

Britney wiggled out from underneath me. She was bleeding some and plenty scared. When I tried to move, pain stabbed like white lightning through my arm. I sucked in air and closed my eyes.

“Grandma?”

Don’t panic, you’ve got to get her out of here. “Grandma’s here, baby. It’s okay.” Please, God.

What a mess. All around us, heaps of plaster, wood and broken glass. Which way was out?

Britney still had on one shoe. Where the other went, I couldn’t guess. “Try pushing with your foot.” My slippers were no good, but she pushed and dug, and I helped her with my one good arm. Finally I saw a speck of light and heard Kathy’s voice.

His sheep know his voice . . . He leads them out.

Later, from the top of the hill I could see how the roof had fallen at an angle creating a tunnel for us to crawl through.

The barn was gone and water covered the fields. Houses, cars, rooted up trees—the river wasn’t partial to what it took. A dead cow swept by. I turned away and focused on Britney, keeping pressure on the cut above her eye, while her mother huddled close to keep her warm.

My shoulder was broken for sure, but no need to tell them yet. Wouldn’t do a speck of good for Kath to worry more.

We heard the helicopter long before we saw it. It circled us once, then flew on up over the dam.

“What’s wrong with them, can’t they see us?” Kathy jumped up and down waving her arms.

“They saw us, honey. They’re searching for survivors. I’m sure they can’t set down in this flood. They’ll have a better chance above the dam.”

We watched the chopper disappear behind some trees. The engine tone changed and I knew it must have landed in a pasture. “That would be Sara Moyer’s house. I hope she’s okay.”

The chopper took off again, circling the farms up along London Road. I calculated just about half an hour before they headed back our way. This time they hovered long enough to drop a parcel practically right into our laps. Kathy scrambled to retrieve it: Blankets, apples, trail mix, a first aid kit and six small pouches of juice.

“Looks like we might be here awhile.” I hadn’t meant to say it out loud. My shoulder throbbed. The cut on Britney’s head had stopped bleeding, but Kathy’s eyes had taken on a glassy look.

Britney grabbed the trail mix and opened the juice. “How long, Grandma? What should we do while we wait?” She looked at me and grinned. “Besides pray, I mean.”

I smiled back at her. “Let’s sing. You choose first.”

Her little voice rang pure and sweet, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow . . . ” I added my contralto, then Kathy straightened her shoulders and joined in like it was the most natural thing in all the world.

  1. After the shock wears off, and these three women reflect on this day, what evidence of God’s care are they likely to see? 
  1. Psalm 16 begins by asking God for protection, for refuge: “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” After this day, what images might come to Beth’s mind when she thinks about a refuge?

When you think of God as a refuge, what picture comes to mind?

God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 16.

  1. The statements in Psalm 16:2-3 stand in contrast to the statements in Psalm 16:4. What contrast is being made?
  1. What gifts of care does the psalmist say God has provided in Psalm 16:5-11?
  1. How does the psalmist respond to God’s care?
  1. Make a list of some of the gifts of care God has provided for you.
  1. What thoughts and feelings do you have in response to these gifts of care from God?
  1. What fears and doubts might hamper Kathy’s, Britney’s and Beth’s confidence in God’s care after this day?

What fears and doubts hamper your confidence in God’s care for you?

  1. Psalm 16:9 states “my body also will rest secure.” The psalmist is expressing a deep confidence in God’s care. What might help Kathy, Britney and Beth experience confidence in God’s care, so their traumatized bodies can rest secure?

What helps you experience confidence in God’s care for you?

 Now or Later
  • Picture your body resting secure. Take some time to relax and let your body rest. See yourself resting in God’s arms, or in a place of beauty God has provided for you. Picture yourself at peace because you are sure of God’s ongoing care for you.
  • Keeping a log or journal of God’s gifts to you might help you build your confidence in God’s ongoing care for you. Try doing this for a week. Share your entries with a friend.
  • Read Psalm 142

 

Monday 6 July 2020

GROWING DISCIPLES 2 

Remember that this is a Week’s study, and as I am offering different studies during the week, I would say that if you can complete one full study then you are a 1 * student. If you complete two studies every week then you are a 2** student and if you can complete three studies a week then the church should give you a call to replace the pastor.

Week 2: The Authority of God’s Word

“My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do.”Isaiah 55:11

Power has a multitude of uses. Some parents use it to generously reward their children for good grades. Some bosses use it to belittle their employees when a project has failed. Spouses use it for good or evil in marriage. Nations hold the power of their armies over one another to gain land and money.

God is different. He knows His great power can grant life or quench it. Fortunately for us, God has chosen to provide life, knowing that we cannot find it on our own. In His Word we find God’s intentions perfectly and personally communicated to us.

This week’s devotionals and discussions will center on the display and work of God’s authority through His Word. I hope you will not just learn about His authority this week but also renew your desire to embrace the life-giving power of His Word.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 2

Day 1: God’s Power Displayed
Day 2: The Call to Salvation
Day 3: Uncovering What Is Hidden
Day 4: Our Weapon in Battle
Day 5: God’s Word: Our Authority

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

“My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do” (Isaiah 55:11).

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 2

Day 1: God’s Power Displayed

God’s Word for Today

“My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do.”—Isaiah 55:11

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” (this week’s verse to memorize) above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

How empowered do you feel in the following circumstances? Circle the number that is appropriate for each area, with 5 being the greatest.

Marriage 1 2 3 4 5
Parenting 1 2 3 4 5
Staff meetings at work 1 2 3 4 5
Social gatherings 1 2 3 4 5
Current project at work 1 2 3 4 5
Personal walk with Christ 1 2 3 4 5
As a leader at church 1 2 3 4 5
Witnessing to friends 1 2 3 4 5
Spiritual warfare 1 2 3 4 5

God’s Word has a great deal to teach us about every aspect of our lives. According to 2 Timothy 3:17, the Bible can prepare us for every circumstance and relationship.

“… so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:17

As we learned last week, God communicates His power through His Word. The Bible describes God’s power and calls us to live under it. But sometimes we are slow to respond. This slowness could be due to many reasons, ranging from simply not knowing God’s Word to sinful pride. Whatever the reason, this week’s study is an opportunity for you to place your life fully under the power of God and His Word.

What would you say is the primary reason you do not consistently live in God’s power?

Lack of knowledge of God’s Word
Disobedience
Not being filled with the Spirit
Pride
Other: ____________________

God’s Word is not mere philosophy that only works in a few specific life circumstances. It is at work pervasively throughout the world and our lives.

God’s Word is not mere philosophy that works only in a few specific circumstances. It is at work pervasively throughout the world and our lives. The Book of Isaiah gives a beautiful depiction of God’s power at work in the world through His Word. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah was to tell the Israelites that God would deliver them but only after He had purified them. At the end of the second section of the book, God declared through Isaiah the power of His Word.

Read Isaiah 55:8-11 below and fill in the blanks.

“‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.’ This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven, and do not return there without saturating the earth, and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do.'”Isaiah 55:8-11

God’s thoughts are _________________ than our thoughts.

God’s ways are _______________ than our ways.

God’s Word always __________________________ its purpose.

God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Humanity makes new discoveries each day about our world, but we are unable to understand God’s thoughts unless He reveals them to us. Scripture tells us that God reveals great thoughts to us through His Word (see Amos 4:13 below). By knowing His thoughts, we gain a powerful understanding of God’s purpose for our lives.

“He is here: the One who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, the One who makes the dawn out of darkness and strides on the heights of the earth. Yahweh, the God of Hosts, is His name.”—Amos 4:13

God’s ways are greater than our ways. The way God works is nobler than our pedestrian living. It is critical for followers of Christ to know how to participate in the work of God’s kingdom. As God reveals His ways to us through His Word, we can join His current work in the world.

God’s Word always accomplishes its purpose. Major-league baseball players practice batting hundreds of times a week. Yet a batter who hits the ball only 40 percent of the time is considered one of the greats of the game. In contrast, God never makes a vain attempt at what He sets out to do. He is perfect in all of His work, and His Word accomplishes His will.

List three important areas of your life in which you need to apply God’s Word in order to experience His power.

  1. ________________
  2. ________________
  3. ________________

Paul concluded his prayer for the Ephesian church, “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think …” (Ephesians 3:20). Take time today to search the Scriptures for the answers to the problems you have listed. Pray and ask for God’s power to work in your life according to the promises in His Word. Place your faith in His ability to work beyond your imagination.

Day 2: The Call to Salvation

God’s Word for Today

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.”—Romans 1:16

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

History is divided into b.c. and a.d., with b.c. denoting the time before Christ. a.d., or anno domini, means in the year of our Lord. Every believer also has a b.c. and an a.d. Your b.c. is your life before following Christ, and your a.d. is the time since you began following Christ.

Check words that describe your b.c. period of life or add your own.

Self-destructive
Self-fulfilled
Sinful
Good
Careless
Thoughtful
Hopeless
Hope-filled
Unaware
Searching________________________________________

It was the gospel that moved you from your b.c. to your a.d. In “God’s Word for Today” Paul proclaimed his bold confidence in the power of God’s message to humanity.

God often uses people to show us the truth of Scripture. Who were some of the people who communicated to you God’s call to salvation?

Each day we are exposed to a multitude of influential people and events. Some of these influences deal with the mundane and some with the sublime. But only Scripture has the authority and ability to give us a clear picture of our relationship with God.

In Romans 1:17 Paul explained why the gospel must be told. Read the verse below and check what is revealed in the gospel.

“In [the gospel] God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”Romans 1:17

A lack of faith
God’s righteousness
God’s power

Paul said the gospel must be told because only in it is God’s righteousness revealed. We see God’s creative power on display in the created order and His image mirrored in human beings. But God has chosen the Word as the medium to reveal His righteousness. God’s Word contains something found nowhere else—the gospel. In fact, God’s plan to redeem you into a relationship with Him is the core message of the Bible.

In a journey through the Bible, we come to understand that God is righteous and we are not. We see our sin in comparison to God’s perfection. When comparing our lives to others, we usually decide that we are OK. But when our lives are measured against the righteousness of God as revealed in the Bible, we discover an expansive gap we cannot cross.

Write the references of some Bible verses and biblical stories that helped you understand your need to become a follower of Christ.

God’s mission includes your salvation, but it doesn’t end with it. Once we become Christians, we have the task to tell others of God’s Word as well. Peter, an early leader in the church, wrote about the ancient prophets who “searched and carefully investigated” the grace of God that would come through the Messiah (1 Peter 1:10). I find it fascinating that Peter taught that the prophets were not serving their own ministries but rather us!

Read 1 Peter 1:10-12 below and circle the word you each time it occurs.

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that would come to you searched and carefully investigated. They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you concerning things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Angels desire to look into these things.”1 Peter 1:10-12

The message of God’s Word doesn’t exist merely for prophets, preachers, and professors to debate. God has sent His Word to all of us. And we are all to carry it with the authority of His Word to those around us.

Paul, like the influential friends you named in activity 2, was not ashamed of the gospel. In fact, Paul faced constant pressure to be quiet about the message of Christ. We should follow his example to share the truth with confidence in the power of God’s Word.

Write the names of at least three friends with whom you want to share the message of God’s salvation.

  1. ________________
  2. ________________
  3. ________________

God’s Word finds its power not in the end user but in its Author.

We are tempted to be ashamed of God’s Word because of ridicule by the world and hypocrisy in the church. Remember that God’s Word finds its power not in the end user but in its Author. You can take comfort and gain confidence that the message you communicate is God’s Word of salvation.

Pray for God’s power to share the gospel with the friends you listed.

Day 3: Uncovering What Is Hidden

God’s Word for Today

“The word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

Books come in a multitude of categories—fiction, self-help, biography, cooking, reference—and the list goes on. Some books inspire, others inform, while many simply entertain. In contrast, the Bible has power unlike any other literary work. Because the Word is inspired by God, it has the ability to draw back the veil and reveal His truth about our lives.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that God’s Word is “living” (4:12). The message of Scripture is not a cookbook-like recipe for successful living. The Bible has life within its truth. It is the message and power of God, communicated in words that comfort and challenge. Scripture is not static or passive but “living and effective” (Hebrews 4:12).

Hebrews 4:12 describes God’s Word as “living and effective.” Read 1 Peter 1:23 below and underline Peter’s description of God’s Word.

First Peter 1:23 calls God’s Word “living and enduring.” The activity of God’s Word is not simply to make life tolerable or even better. It brings about new life through God’s words.

“You have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God.”—1 Peter 1:23

Whether physical or spiritual, nothing is beyond the sight and rule of God.

As God has brought about our new lives as believers, He has authority over them as well. Often this authority is exercised through His Word. “God’s Word for Today,” Hebrews 4:12, states that His “two-edged sword” penetrates and divides the internal parts of our being. This image speaks of the division between soul and spirit, joints and marrow. Whether physical or spiritual, nothing is beyond the sight and rule of God.

Facing our sinfulness is difficult because it involves the admission of wrongdoing. Are you hiding something from other people? Is there a habit or sin that you have tried to hide from God’s gaze? If so, take time in prayer to confess this sin to God and to acknowledge that He has authority over this area of your life.

Recognizing God’s authority can be difficult for us. By nature we are rebels and rogues. But in His grace God gives us His Word so that we can change, not only in our eternal destiny but also in our everyday living.

For what reasons do you avoid placing yourself under the gaze of Scripture?

Embarrassed by your behaviour
Afraid of the consequences
Ashamed of an ongoing habit
Do not want to change
Disagree with the Bible’s assessment of your activity

Ultimately, our attempts to hide from God and His Word are futile, for “it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The next verse says, “No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13). God’s Word sees our lives as they truly stand. It cuts through our wasted efforts to hide and delivers truthful commentary on life.

Read Jeremiah 23:29 below. In what way is God’s Word like fire?

‘Is not My word like fire’—the Lord’s declaration—’and like a sledgehammer that pulverizes rock?'”—Jeremiah 23:29

In what way is God’s Word like a sledgehammer?

God’s Word works like a fire and a sledgehammer in our lives; nothing can stand in its way. It burns through any defence and breaks down any fortress. We can’t hide the details of our lives—and sins—from God.

We must also allow God’s Word to be the source of conviction in other people’s lives. God has not asked us to measure their lives against ours. We are to hold up God’s revelation through His Word as the measuring rod for all of us. As we have spiritual conversations with friends who don’t have a relationship with God, we can be confident in the power of Scripture to convict them of their need. If we truly believe it is “living and effective” (Hebrews 4:12), we don’t need to be concerned that they will not understand it. By His Spirit, God will use the fire and sledgehammer of His Word to uncover their hidden need for His transforming power.

Try writing this week’s memory verse below. Claim this verse as you present the message of salvation to people who need Christ.

Day 4: Our Weapon in Battle

God’s Word for Today

“Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.”Ephesians 6:17

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

I remember my first real fight as a boy. Another kid on the playground kept pushing me around. He thought it was funny, but I was just plain mad. And then it happened—I threw my first punch. The only problem was that I missed his chin by a mile. But by virtue of the fact that I threw a punch, he never bothered me again!

I wish our spiritual battles were as easy. Instead, our enemy comes after us day after day after day. He constantly attacks us with fiery darts of temptation and whispers thoughts of hopelessness into our lives.

Check any recent temptations in your life or add your own.

Anger
Bitterness
Envy
Hopelessness
Lying
Gluttony
Worry
Drunkenness
Apathy
Idolatry
Lust
____________________

Many temptations deal with physical battles, like gluttony. But all of them deal in some way with our mind and spirit. The battle we face does not occur on the earth. We are facing spiritual powers bent on our destruction.

Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 below. How do we wage spiritual warfare?

“Although we are walking in the flesh, we do not wage war in a fleshly way, since the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:3-5

These verses state that we fight with weapons that are not made on earth. Because we face spiritual battles, we must fight with spiritual weapons.

③Read Ephesians 6:11-18 below. Write O beside the armour that is offensive and D beside the armour that is defensive.

“Put on the full armour of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armour of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armour on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and stay alert in this, with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.”—Ephesians 6:11-18

Belt of truth
Armor of righteousness
Shoes of peace
Shield of faith
Helmet of salvation
Sword of the Spirit

The sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—is the only offensive weapon in the spiritual armour. In the same passage Paul also gave several commands we need to follow while on the battlefield:

  • “Stand against the tactics of the Devil” (v. 11).
  • “Resist in the evil day” (v. 13).
  • “Take your stand” (v. 13).

God doesn’t wants us to run away from battle when we are tempted. Rather, He has provided us with the one weapon that can deliver victory—His Word. When we wield the Word of God on the battlefield, we don’t use our own strength or intelligence. The sword of the Spirit comes with its own power, and it never needs sharpening. We use it by simply speaking what God has already said and by trusting in what God has already declared as true.

Conventional warfare provides some lessons for using the sword of the Spirit in warfare. Soldiers are taught how to care for and use their weapons in every possible scenario. In some cases they learn how to disassemble and reassemble a rifle while blindfolded. What is the purpose of such an exercise? To know every facet of the weapon so intimately that by merely touching a part, they recognize its place and use.

How well do you know the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God? Check the skills you have acquired.

I have memorized the names and order of the books of the Bible.
I understand the basic storyline of the Old Testament.
I understand the basic storyline of the New Testament.
I can explain the gospel to a lost person.
I have memorized Scripture passages to overcome temptation.
I understand how to interpret a passage of Scripture.

Knowing how to use the Word of God is vital to our ability to stand against our spiritual enemy. As you move through this study, I hope you will commit to become a better student of the Bible and therefore a better soldier in using the sword of the Spirit.

Discover ways you can use God’s Word in everyday events and temptations.

Day 5: God’s Word: Our Authority

God’s Word for Today

“I delight to do Your will, my God; Your instruction resides within me.”—Psalm 40:8

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

God has not asked you to establish a treaty with Him. Rather, He requires absolute surrender. A treaty means that two separate countries retain their own boundaries, sovereignty, and trade favours with each other. A surrender means that one country comes under the authority of another. God is not One with whom we bargain. He authoritatively speaks about His character and will. We are called to surrender, not barter for favours.

Beside each action write T for a treaty or S for surrender.

Keep authority over my life
Serve another king
Trade favours with another power
Follow another’s directives

We should commit to a regular time with God and then remain in study and prayer until we have learned what God desires to teach us.

Henry Blackaby uses the phrase “unhurried time with God” to describe the way we should regard our time with God’s Word. The phrase describes a perspective of heart that enjoys time spent with God in Scripture and prayer. In many cases we have allowed our daily schedules to dictate how much time we give to God’s Word. Instead, we should commit to a regular time with God and then remain in study and prayer until we have learned what God desires to teach us.

To hold such an attitude requires a shift of power in our lives. We must give up the throne and allow Christ to sit in His rightful place. This is not an ethereal notion. Either Jesus is Lord, or He is not. When Christ rules our lives, He must reign over every aspect—including our daily schedules, the devotion of our hearts, and the attention of our minds.

Do you keep a regular quiet time in prayer and Bible study?

Yes
No

If not, what seems to be the major barrier to a regular time with God?

Hurry
Other priorities
Never thought about a quiet time
Other: ____________________

Unfortunately, most of us see hurry and rush as the norms for our lives. A life dedicated to the close study of God’s Word requires stillness, quiet, and submission. To make God’s Word the authority in our spiritual journeys, we must remove the barriers of hurry and worry (see Psalm 46:10 below).

“Stop your fighting—and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”—Psalm 46:10

Bringing our lives under the authority of God’s Word lifts the burden of needing to be in control of the next thing.

Related to these barriers is our need to know what is next. Often we feel either self-assured that we know what is going to happen next or utterly hopeless that we don’t have a clue what’s next. Bringing our lives under the authority of God’s Word lifts the burden of needing to be in control of the next thing. God’s Word teaches that worry has no place in a believer’s life; instead, we are to trust in God.

In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus taught us to take a lesson from the flowers of the field and the birds of the air instead of worrying about what is next. Just as nature simply lives in God’s grace, believers have access to the revelation of God’s grace through His Word. When we read God’s Word each day, we can choose simply to trust in how God is equipping us for the day ahead through the transforming power of His Word.

An African-American pastor once began his sermon by saying, “Yes, Lord.” He repeated these words over and over until the congregation began to say them with him, “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes. Lord.” After several minutes the pastor stopped, and so did the congregation. Once it was quiet, the pastor simply said, “Lord, You’ve heard our answer. Now what’s Your request?”

We should develop the habit of saying yes to all of God’s Word, rejoicing in the opportunity to follow our King. God’s Word has power, it is living, and it is our weapon in battle. Say yes to every request God makes of you and rejoice in every revelation of His Word.

Make notes at the bottom of having regular time alone with God.

Spend time in prayer saying yes to God’s authority in your life through His Word. Make any commitment He is leading you to make about a regular quiet time and about trusting in the authority of His Word.

Write this week’s memory verse below.

 

Session 2: The Authority of God’s Word

WELCOME AND PRAYER

OPENING ACTIVITY

  1. Invite a participant to recite this week’s memory verse.
  2. Identify the person who you think has the most authority or power in the world today.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Discover

  1. How did your study of the power of God’s Word affect your view of the Bible?
  2. Read aloud Isaiah 55:8-11. Describe a time when read a verse and then saw its truth come to pass in your life.
  3. How have you seen God’s Word at work in your life or in the life of your family?

Connect

  1. Name words the Bible uses to describe our lives prior to salvation.
  2. What biblical stories or passages were key to your understanding the need to have a relationship with Christ?
  3. What are some of your favourite Bible verses or passages today?

Relate

  1. Ephesians 6:11-18 describes the spiritual armor. What are some circumstances in which you need to use the sword of the Spirit?
  2. Discuss what these statements teach about wielding the sword of the Spirit: “The sword of the Spirit comes with its own power, and it never needs sharpening. We use it by simply speaking what God has already said and by trusting in what God has already declared as true” (p. 33).
  3. Which of the following words would you use to describe your experience of studying the power of God’s Word this week?

Convicting
Joyful
Challenging
Liberating
Time-consuming
Hard
Frustrating
Embarrassing
Enlightening
Easy
Other: ____________________

Explain why you chose that word.

Confront

  1. Jeremiah 23:29 says, “‘Is not My word like fire’—the Lord’s declaration—’and like a sledgehammer that pulverizes rock?'” What can God’s Word do to strongholds of sin in our lives?
  2. Discuss responses to exercise 3 on page 32.

Change

  1. How is your view of God’s Word changing through this study?
  2. What commitment did you make this week to study God’s Word regularly and to trust the authority of God’s Word (prayer activity, p. 35)?

MISSIONAL APPLICATION

  1. God’s Word leads us to understand our lives from God’s perspective. How are your ideas and thoughts about the following areas changing as you grow in your commitment to live God’s Word?
    • Work
    • Marriage and parenting
    • Social relationships
    • Worship
    • Service to others
    • Walk with Christ
  2. In activity 6 on page 29 you were asked to write the names of friends with whom you hope to share the message of Christ. Share first names and pray for them.

 

PRAYING TOGETHER

Close the session by praying for one another.

NEXT WEEK : TREASURING THE WORD

Saturday 4 July 2020

The Bible- Can we trust it 3.

 How Do We Know We Can Trust the Bible?

PART I (Inspiration)
What’s the Point?
Every word of the Bible is GOD’s.

So far, we have examined where the Bible came from along with how and why we recognise the 66 books that make up the canon of Scripture. We’ve said that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, made up of these books, written by over 40 men over 1,500 years in order to reveal to us everything we need to know about God and salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ.

But what exactly do we mean when we say the Scriptures are inspired and why does it matter?

Stop

What do you think it means when we say that Scripture is inspired?

‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

I’m going to ask you to do something silly, but it will help us to get our head around what the Apostle Paul means when he says: ‘All Scripture is inspired by God.’

Put your hand about an inch in front of your mouth and speak normally. It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s the fact you are feeling your breath on your hand as you speak that matters. It doesn’t matter what volume you speak at. Regardless of whether we whisper or yell it’s all carried out of the mouth by the power of our breath. Now, try to speak without breathing out. It’s impossible!

When Paul says the Bible is inspired he uses a Greek word:

Theopneustos

This word means, God breathed. Some versions of the English Bible translate this verse: ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God.’ Paul wants us to understand that the Holy Spirit empowered every word that the biblical authors wrote, in the same way our own outward breath empowers our speech.

Stop

Why do you think it matters that Scripture is breathed out by God?

This is important to understand because when we hear the word ‘inspired’ used today its exact meaning is usually pretty vague.

Illustration

Reenie is a massive fan of the ‘Great British Bake Off’ and watches it every week. This week involved baking cakes for special events and one of the contestants made an amazing fairy princess cake. This creation stood three tiers high, each covered in a different coloured butter cream, sprinkled with gold leaf and glitter, with a stunning fairy made out of icing gracing the top tier. ‘Oooh doesn’t that look gorgeous, Daisy (her granddaughter) would love a cake like that for her birthday next week.’

Reenie hasn’t made anything so adventurous before but, inspired by what she had seen on the TV, she started on her creation. Five hours later, as she looked around the kitchen, her creation looked less like a cake and more like a squashed glitter mountain with a winged gargoyle slapped on the top! She’d been inspired by the TV show but what she ended up with was a bit of a mess.

We use the word, ‘inspired’ so loosely in our world today. We talk of a piece of music being inspiring. We talk of an inspiring half-time talk by a football coach. We talk of a sick child inspiring someone to run the London Marathon. In all of these examples we could swap the word inspired with the word motivate and lose none of the meaning. That isn’t the case with 2 Timothy 3:16. The Holy Spirit didn’t motivate the authors of Scripture to write. He breathed out the very word of God through them.

‘No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

Stop

We have thought about this before, but what do we think carried along by the Holy Spirit means?

In 2 Peter 1 the Apostle Peter explains the inspiration of Scripture by saying that no true Scripture is written by the author’s will, instead men spoke for God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Imagine a yacht sailing across a lake and you get an idea of what Peter is getting at. The Holy Spirit carried the biblical authors along as a breeze carries a yacht across a lake.

When Peter says Scripture doesn’t come from the authors’ own interpretation, he is saying they didn’t get a vague message from God and guess at what it meant. The Bible isn’t made up of the apostles’ and prophets’ best guesses at what God was giving them. No, the Holy Spirit moved in and through them in order to ensure that His Word ended up on the page.

Stop

Why do you think it’s so important that we get that the Bible is God’s actual Word and not made up by men?

Thus Says the Lord

Thus says the Lord’ is seen clearly and constantly throughout the Old Testament. Also, the phrase, ‘This is what the Lord says’ is repeated again and again, throughout the writings of the prophets.

‘Moses and Aaron went in and said to Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival for me in the wilderness”’ (Exod. 5:1).

Stop

The Old Testament writers constantly repeat the phrase ‘Thus says the Lord’ in the Bible. Do you think they were trying to make a point? If so, what point were they trying to make?

Illustration

Reenie grabbed hold of her granddaughter’s hand and said, ‘NO! Don’t touch – how many times do I have to tell you?’ Even before Pete looked over he knew what his granddaughter had done. She had a fascination for turning the cooker knobs and watching the flames shoot out. Reenie was terrified she’d burn her fingers. ‘You never listen. I must have told you at least a hundred times not to play with this! Go and sit on the step right now, young lady, before I smack your backside.’

Sometimes we can be told something so often that we stop hearing what is being said to us. The Old Testament writers repeat the phrase, ‘thus says the Lord’ over 400 times. The fact that the writers of the Old Testament repeat this phrase tells us that is something really important for us to listen to. They used it so often for a really simple reason. They wanted their readers and listeners to understand that they were delivering the very Word of God to them. This is what God says and this is what God requires of us. This is an urgent and persistent claim found throughout the Bible.

The authors are desperate for us to grasp this fact. GOD IS SPEAKING and WHEN GOD SPEAKS WE MUST LISTEN! The Scriptures tell us that:

God is
the all-powerful
all-knowing
creator
sustainer and
righteous judge.

He is the King of the universe. When I say King, I don’t mean a figurehead monarch like we have in modern Europe. I mean an absolute monarch whose word is law, power is unfathomable, and whose rule is unchallengeable. In the book of Daniel chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, one of the most powerful kings in the history of the world, says this about God:

‘His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing, and he does what he wants with the army of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. There is no one who can block his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”’ (Dan. 4:34-35).

If the most powerful king on the planet recognised his powerlessness before the King of the universe, then it would be wise for us to recognise the same fact and be humble enough to pay close attention to God’s word.

Stop

Read the following three parts of Scripture. What do you think Jesus believes about the Bible?

‘Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished’ (Matt. 5:17-18).

‘If he called them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be broken, do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming”, because I said, “I am the Son of God”?’ (John 10:35-36, esv).

‘He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem”’ (Luke 24:44-47).

These passages from the gospels of Matthew, John and Luke, give us a crystal-clear answer to what Jesus believed about the Scriptures. He believed that they were:

authoritative
powerful
truthful

He believed that every single word matters. He believed that the Scriptures are unbreakable and could never be laid aside and He believed that they are all about Him and that they declare the way of Salvation. Jesus used the Scriptures to teach His followers and expose His opponents. When Satan attacked and attempted to tempt Him to sin, Jesus responded using the word of God as a weapon.

One of my heroes of the faith; John Piper writes this.

‘He (Jesus) taught that everything in it (the Scriptures) must be fulfilled; that the Psalm writers spoke by the Holy Spirit; that Moses’s words in Scripture were the very words of God; that not one part of the Scriptures can be broken; that faithfulness to the Scriptures will keep us from error; that it can defeat the most powerful adversaries; that it is a litmus test to show if our hearts are open to know Jesus; and that it is a virtual script being acted out in the triumph of Jesus through His sufferings, death and resurrection.’

To put it plainly, Jesus was and is a massive fan of the Bible.

Verbal Plenary Inspiration – vPI

So, let’s answer the first of our two questions in this chapter; what exactly do we mean when we say the Scriptures are inspired? We believe in what Bible teachers call Verbal Plenary Inspiration, which is a fancy way of saying, every single word of the Scriptures comes from God. As we’ve already discovered, the biblical authors wrote exactly and precisely what God desired and intended to be written without flaw or mistake. This was achieved by the power and work of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord spoke
He carried the authors along
He breathed out His Word.

Now you might be thinking; how does this ‘God breathed’, ‘carried along by the Spirit’, ‘Thus says the Lord’, ‘VPI’ stuff, leave any room for the personality and style of the human authors? We’ve said the Bible is written by God and human beings but it’s not really a human book if God used the human authors as typewriters, is it?

That’s a fair objection, but if that were the case you’d be right that the Bible isn’t really a human book. Thankfully, that’s not how it happened. All of the 40-plus biblical authors wrote in their own styles, displaying their own quirks and personalities.

Some are precise and particular
Others are poetic
Some are technical
Others simple

The Apostle Paul’s grammar gets messy when he gets excited, whereas Dr. Luke from Athens has excellent grammar. More importantly, the biblical authors were sharing their own stories as eyewitnesses or they were recording the stories of other eyewitnesses of God’s works. Their poetry and prayers found in the Psalms are reflections upon the author’s experiences of God and His Word. King Solomon shares the great wisdom God gave him in the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. Paul writes his letters to churches he planted and pastors he trained. Daniel and John shared the amazing visions God gave them. The biblical authors didn’t just write the Scriptures, they lived them.

The Prophet Jeremiah points us to the answer, ‘Look, I am the Lord, the God over every creature. Is anything too difficult for me?’ (Jer. 32:27).

There is nothing too difficult for God. He doesn’t have to work the biblical authors like puppets in order to get His word on to the page. His sovereignty means He is able to order and shape the lives of the authors so that their education, experiences, lifestyle, family, friends and culture, combined with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, led them to write His words exactly as He wanted them written.

‘I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will’ (Isa. 46:9-10).

God rules and reigns over all things and, therefore, all His plans take place and His will is always accomplished. Men whose lives were shaped and ordered by His hand penned the Scriptures He inspired.

Stop

Why does it matter that Scripture is God’s exact Word?

In John chapter 6, after some seriously tough teaching from Jesus, many of the people who had followed Jesus from the beginning of His public ministry turn their backs and walk away from Him. In response, Jesus asks the twelve disciples a question and Peter’s answer strikes at the heart of why the doctrine of inspiration matters.

‘Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God”’ (John 6:67-69).

Stop

Honestly, how would you have answered Jesus’ question? Are you prepared to follow Jesus even when things get tough and He says things we struggle to accept?

Life is full of big questions that need answers.

Where do I come from?
Why am I here?
Why is the world the way it is?
Why do people suffer?
What is death?
Am I good or evil?

If we turn our phones off and step away from the distractions of our lives these questions will crash over us like waves hitting the shore. They can’t be avoided but, even more importantly, they can’t be answered by us. When the crowds walked away from Jesus, Peter and the disciples stayed because by God’s grace they had come to know that only Jesus has the words of eternal life. That’s why Peter says, ‘Where else are we going to go? You are the one who has all the answers.’

In chapter one we looked at what the Bible is and where it comes from. We said that the Bible comes from God’s gracious desire to reveal Himself in order to save ruined sinners. This means that we have to take it seriously and we must surround ourselves with brothers and sisters who also take it seriously. We need to be close to other Christians who help us learn and apply the Bible to our own lives.

We must be members of churches that

believe the Bible
love the Bible
obey the Bible
sing the Bible
pray the Bible
preach the Bible

If that’s not a description of your church then leave and find a church that it does describe.

Summary

Every single word of the Scriptures comes from God. The biblical authors wrote exactly and precisely what God desired and intended to be written without flaw or mistake. This was achieved by the power and work of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is where we meet Jesus. It’s where we find the answers to the big questions because it is ultimately written by the One who has all the answers. It’s able to make us wise for salvation and that is why it matters.

Stop

How will this change the way we treat and read the Bible?

Memory Verse

[Jesus] replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it”’ (Luke 11:28, niv).

Friday 3 July 2020

Marriage

“Hold on to What You’ve Got”

Joe Tex

Listen fellows, you know it’s not all the time
That a man can have a good woman
That he can call his very own…
Listen girls, this goes for you too…
You’d better hold on to what you’ve got

Backbeat

Born Joseph Arrington Jr. in Rogers, Texas, in 1933, Joe Tex started out singing gospel music. When he moved to New York, he won a talent contest at the famed Apollo Theatre and landed a recording contract with King Records. His style was a bit of backcountry soul.

But Joe Tex’s career was unremarkable until he teamed up with Nashville music publisher/producer Buddy Killen, who was also associated with top country performers such as Charlie Rich, Marty Robbins, George Jones, and Roger Miller. Killen saw the potential of Joe’s unique style and recorded him in the renowned studio at Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

His first effort, “Hold On to What You’ve Got,” featured his trademark part-spoken, part-sung sound over a soulful, brassy rhythm track. It reached number 5 on the charts in 1965 and established him as a solid performer with hits on both the pop and R&B charts. This unique style was a forerunner of later rap music. He scored a hefty two dozen chart hits in the sixties, including “Skinny Legs and All,” “A Sweet Woman like You,” and “Papa Was Too.” By the seventies, his string of hits had run out, but he reinvented himself and had two pre-disco-funk hits, including “I Gotcha,” which got to the second spot on the charts.

Riff

In an age of easy divorce, many married folks ought to heed Joe Tex’s advice. The grass might look greener on the other side of the fence, but it’s not really. Sure, marriage can be a struggle, but there’s great value in a lasting commitment. Hold on to the mate you’ve got.

That’s the message God set forth at the beginning: “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (Genesis 2:24). A sacred transformation occurs when two people marry. God fuses the two into one. Of course, they have their distinct personalities, with strengths and weaknesses, but they also function as a unit. They are “one flesh,” as the King James Version puts it.

In Jesus’ day, there was some controversy over divorce. It was allowed by the law of Moses, but the rabbis debated what the proper grounds for divorce might be. When he was asked about it, Jesus cited the “two become one” text from Genesis and added, “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together” (Matthew 19:6). Marriage is not just a social institution, Jesus was saying; it’s a spiritual reality. Divorce can never be a casual slip of the pen, a form to fill out, or an accountant’s trick. It is the ripping apart of “one flesh.” That leaves two severely wounded people.

There’s no debating God’s ideal position on marriage. He hates divorce (see Malachi 2:14-16). He wants couples to stay together and grow together. People may be tempted to explore other options, but God’s Word is clear: Hold on to what you’ve got!

Harmonies

Genesis 2:24                        Ecclesiastes 9:9                  Matthew 19:6
Deuteronomy 24:1             Malachi 2:14-16                   Hebrews 13:4
Proverbs 5:15-20

 

Wednesday 1 July 2020

A Woman of Confidence 3

Confidence in God’s Provision for Me

Psalm 107

Setting the Stage:

Kathy’s Story

The geese didn’t show. I scattered their breakfast in the chicken yard, but not one hen would leave the roost. I heard our Guernseys milling around the barn, lowing piteously and felt the first pinprick of fear.

You don’t live in quake country long without learning to read the signs. The animals know what’s coming long before we do. I scanned the horizon. Not a cloud in sight. The tops of the trees stood petrified; still. They talk about the calm before the storm, but I knew in my bones this storm would have nothing to do with the weather.

Britney and Mom! When I’d come outside they’d been at the kitchen table, Mom cradling her second cup of coffee, Brit scarfing down a bowl of cereal and cramming for a test on fractions. I dropped the feed bucket and ran.

I almost made it. The first roll threw me off balance. The second, like a giant hand, scooped me up and flung me backwards. I couldn’t breathe. The hand had no mercy, jolting, jerking, banging my head against the ground.

When it finally stopped, I stared up into the branches of our huge red maple and felt water soaking through my jeans. I wrapped my arms around the trunk; solid, unbending, then stood and clung to it waiting for the roaring in my ears to cease.

The dam! The thought was like a slap to my sluggish mind. I jerked my eyes toward the small concrete structure less than a mile away. Muddy water spewed over the spillway into the already swollen river.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? As a child I could have quoted the entire psalm. Now, I was grateful for the scrap of memory. Mom and Britney. We had to get to higher ground.

I nearly lost it when I saw the house, a pile of glass and rubble where the kitchen should have been. They cannot be alive. My mother and ten-year-old daughter could not possibly have survived in there.

The water had risen half way to my knees. “Mom! Britney!” Lord God help me find them! I dug at a pile of shakes that used to be our roof. It wouldn’t budge. I moved on around the house, calling, then listening, searching for a way in—or out. Please God, help me get them out.

Finally, around the corner from the kitchen, where the mudroom should have been, I discovered a small opening guarded by a copper pipe. Water was already seeping in. I put my mouth close to the hole and hollered like a branded steer. “Mother!”

“Mammy?”

My daughter’s cry was punch-in-the-stomach relief. When I caught my breath, I tore at the plasterboard and yelled some more. “This way, Britney. Can you move? Come this way.”

I bent down and peered around the pipe. They were crawling on their bellies, sliding forward inch by inch, Mom’s voice, steady, calming, urging Britney on. “Almost there, baby. Keep on moving. You’re doing fine.”

I tore upward at the plaster. Britney could get through, but what about Mom? Kneeling in water to my waist, I wrapped both hands around the pipe and gave a final heave. It bent. Not much, but enough.

Britney was choking. Help us, God. Don’t let me lose them now!

I reached in blind, grabbed the shoulders of my daughter’s denim jumper and hauled her out. “Stand up! Stay above the water line.” Then my mother. Up and out, Britney’s small hands guiding, tugging just above my own.

The water was rising fast. There was no time to find out where the blood on Britney’s face was coming from. We had to get to higher ground. “Hold on.” I shouted even though they were right next to me. As their hands gripped mine, I turned toward the hills.

  1. How might Kathy’s actions offer us a picture of the help God provides for us in times of need?

 

God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 107.

  1. This psalm describes a variety of situations in which people are in need of help. List the situations which are described (leave the second column blank).

Situations of Need God’s Response

  1. Which of these situations do you think Kathy, her daughter and her mother might most identify with? Explain.

Which of these situations do you most identify with? Explain.

  1. Now go back to your list of situations and describe the ways God responds to the people experiencing these various needs.
  2. What do God’s responses tell us about God?
  3. A theme in these situations is that when the people call out to God for help, God responds. Why is it important to ask for God’s help?
  4. How does the psalmist suggest we respond to God when we receive his help?
  5. The last verse of the psalm says “whoever is wise, let him heed these things.” What wisdom does this psalm offer?
  6. The last verse also says “whoever is wise, let him . . . consider the great love of the LORD.” What impact does it have on your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviors when you consider the great love of the Lord for you?

Now or Later

Spend some time thanking God for the help he has provided you throughout your life.

Spend some time asking God for the help you need at this time in your life.

Read Matthew 6:25-34

 

Tuesday 30 June 2020

IFAN- FULL- PELT

The name of this quiz is Ifan full pelt and when we meet up again; do ask me why it is called that.

In dealing with asylum seekers I have found that a minority and I stress that it is a minority of them think that you can have everything for nothing. It’s not their fault that they think this, as the welfare state of helping the vulnerable in society has been abused by a minority who are just work shy. Their motto is: ‘why work for it when you can have it for nothing’ .

Yet there were lazy folks in Bible times, often referred to by the old word sluggards, and the Bible condemns them.

  1. What busy creature does the book of Proverbs tell the sluggard to stop and consider?
  2. What New Testament author told Christians, “If any would not work, neither should he eat”?
  3. According to Ecclesiastes, “By much slothfulness the _____ decays, and through idleness of hands the _____ falls through.”
  4. Proverbs tells us that the “soul of the sluggard desires, and has _____.”
  5. Which New Testament Epistle tells Christians to “be not slothful”?
  6. Which of Jesus’ parables is concerned with several diligent servants and one very lazy servant?
  7. According to Proverbs, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who _____.”
  8. In what Greek city did Paul find that people had nothing better to do than gossip and exchange news?
  9. What famous wicked city did Ezekiel say had “abundance of idleness” as one of its chief sins?
  10. Which prophet accused Israel’s leaders of being lazy dogs, “dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber”?
  11. Proverbs says that “in all labour there is profit, but mere talk leads to _____.”
  12. Which of Paul’s epistles says that “he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly”?
  13. According to Ecclesiastes, “The sleep of a labouring man is _____.”
  14. What Christian boasted that he had supported himself by the work of his own hands?

Down by The Lazy River (Answers)

  1. The ant, of course (Proverbs 6:6)
  2. Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
  3. Building, house (Ecclesiastes 10:18)
  4. Nothing (Proverbs 13:4)
  5. Hebrews (6:12)
  6. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
  7. Destroys (Proverbs 18:9)
  8. Athens (Acts 17:21)
  9. Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49)
  10. Isaiah (Isaiah 56:10)
  11. Poverty (Proverbs 14:23)
  12. 2 Corinthians (9:6)
  13. Sweet (Ecclesiastes 5:12)
  14. Paul (Acts 20:34)

 

Monday 29 June 2020

Today I am offering the third major series of learning in our Corona virus ministry and hopefully the first series of Can we trust the Bible will be of help with this study. We also still have the additional Bible study of Women of character and of the quizzes. So let’s start this NEW series for disciples by introducing you to the author

Philip Nation

Philip Nation began following Christ at 7 years of age. After many conversations with his parents, he knelt beside the family sofa one Sunday morning to receive Christ as his Saviour. Philip responded to God’s call to full-time ministry at the age of 16 and preached his first sermon soon after. During his college and seminary days, he served in several part-time positions leading youth ministries in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. He earned a bachelor of arts from Samford University and a master of divinity from Beeson Divinity School. During his formative years of ministry, Philip was blessed to be personally discipled by a great friend who taught him how to study God’s Word and pass along its truth to others.

Philip has participated in a variety of ministries. He served as the pastor of churches in rural and suburban settings in three states. He also served as the minister of education at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia. In 2005 Philip led an effort to plant a new missional church in north metro Atlanta. Currently, he serves as Director of Ministry Development at LifeWay Christian Resources.

Philip is the co-author of Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living with Ed Stetzer (New Hope Publishers, 2008). He is also the author of the LifeWay small-group study Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living. Additionally, he has contributed to numerous articles and other books written by friends.

Week 1: Treasuring the Word

“How I love Your teaching! It is my meditation all day long.”—Psalm 119:97

Bibliophile: a person who collects or has a great love of books.

I admit it—I am one. My home office is lined with books that are old, new, serious, fun, theological, historical, biographical, and fictional. I love great books and sometimes not-so-great ones. But none can dare compete with the beauty of God’s Word.

Through this study I hope you will learn to treasure God’s Word. This gift from our Heavenly Father serves as—

  • a personal message about God’s character and kingdom;
  • a public declaration of God’s goodness and desire to redeem fallen humanity and creation;
  • a transformative instrument that reveals how God changes our lives and how people are to relate to one another.

God’s Word is no ordinary book on a shelf or decoration for a coffee table. It is eternal, inspired, and worth every moment of time we dedicate to it.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 1

Day 1: Loving God’s Word
Day 2: Inspired by God
Day 3: Eternally True
Day 4: Trustworthy in Every Way
Day 5: Loving the Author

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

“How I love Your teaching! It is my meditation all day long” (Psalm 119:97).

DISCIPLESHIP HELP FOR WEEK 1

“Outline of the Bible” (p. 94)

Day 1: Loving God’s Word

God’s Word for Today

“How I love Your teaching! It is my meditation all day long.”—Psalm 119:97

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” (this week’s verse to memorize) above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson. Remove the Scripture-memory card for week 1 from the back of your book and begin committing this verse to memory.

Humans are wired to love. We naturally want to find someone or something for which we feel affection. Sometimes we focus on eternal things and sometimes on the temporary. But we always look for an object for our affection.

The primary focus of our love should be God. He is the Author of life and the only One who saves us from our sin. We should also love Him because He has chosen to speak to us. It is an awe-inspiring thought: the everlasting God has spoken truth to those He created in a temporary place so that they can receive eternal life. For that reason we should love God and all of His gifts to us, especially His Word.

We love the Bible because God uses it to reveal Himself to us. God has chosen to use the Scriptures as our primary source of understanding about His character and His will. Through God’s perfect words we gain insight into everyday living and eternal life. Because of what Scripture does in our lives and the One who has given it to us, we should deeply love this great gift from our Heavenly Father.

Read the following verses below and record the aspects of God’s character that are named.

“I will thank the Lord for His righteousness.”—Psalm 7:17

“The Lord is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations.”—Psalm 100:5

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might.”—Colossians 1:11

“God is love.”—1 John 4:8

Psalm 7:17: _______________

Psalm 100:5: _______________

Colossians 1:11: ___________

1 John 4:8: _________________

We love the Bible because God uses it to change us. As we study and obey God’s Word every day, it changes us. The Bible is a trustworthy guide for every decision we make about the greatest challenges, the most intense temptations, and the smallest details of life. In some measure the Word of God addresses every circumstance we face in life. The Father has graciously and clearly spoken so that we can find direction for our lives.

Read Psalm 119:97-104 below. Place a check mark beside the effects God’s Word has on us when we truly love it and spend time with it.

“How I love Your teaching! It is my meditation all day long. Your command makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me. I have more insight than all my teachers because Your decrees are my meditation. I understand more than the elders because I obey Your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow Your word. I have not turned from Your judgments, for You Yourself have instructed me. How sweet Your word is to my taste—sweeter than honey to my mouth. I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.”—Psalm 119:97-104

A lack of direction
Wisdom
Understanding
The right path
Gullibility
A love for truth

Our love for God’s Word should always increase as it makes a consistently larger impact on our lives. As we read, study, and obey, we are changed. The more we are changed, the more we love the Word. The more we love the Word, the more time we spend in the Word. The more time we spend in the Word, the more we are changed.

Read the following verses in Psalm 119 and circle each word describing an action or a reaction we are to have to the Scriptures.

“Never take the word of truth from my mouth, for I hope in Your judgments. I will always keep Your law, forever and ever. I will walk freely in an open place because I seek Your precepts. I will speak of Your decrees before kings and not be ashamed. I delight in Your commands, which I love. I will lift up my hands to Your commands, which I love, and will meditate on Your statutes” (Psalm 119:43-48).

Read Psalm 19:7-11. List some characteristics of God’s Word.

In The Call to Follow Christ Claude King reflected on Psalm 19:7-11 by stating, “God’s words are trustworthy, perfect, right, radiant, pure, enduring, reliable, righteous, desirable, and sweeter than honey! They can revive you, make you wise and glad, and enlighten you. They can warn you for your own protection. When you obey them, ‘there is great reward.’ … I want to help you live in God’s Word AND live by God’s Word.”

As citizens of God’s kingdom, we are blessed to have a King who has spoken to us. As members of God’s family, we are children who have heard from our Heavenly Father. As ambassadors for Christ, we are encouraged to know that the One who offers redemption has sent us out with His words of life.

Spend time in prayer thanking God for His Word. Ask Him to increase your appreciation and understanding through this study.

Day 2: Inspired by God

God’s Word for Today

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.”—2 Timothy 3:16

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

In our world God has provided general revelation of Himself. When we look at the order of creation, the heavens above, and the earth beneath our feet, the imprint of God’s hand is apparent. Even the conscience, which is common to all people, speaks of a created order and therefore a Creator.

God has also given us special revelation —the Scriptures. The Bible is the written revelation of God’s character and activity. It is not an ordinary book. Though penned by human hands, it is different from all other books because its source is God instead of human beings. People can offer lofty ideas and soaring goals for life. But only God can reveal Himself and objective truth. We are limited in our knowledge and can only comment subjectively on our circumstances by offering our opinions. In contrast, our eternal God speaks as the fountainhead of all truth.

Read Proverbs 4:7-9 below. Why should we strive to gain the wisdom of the Scriptures?

“Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you. She will place a garland of grace on your head; she will give you a crown of beauty.”—Proverbs 4:7-9

Many people wonder how we received the Bible. It was written in numerous places by numerous authors and in numerous genres ; yet it tells one story—the story of God’s love and redemption through His Son, Jesus. Only by divine inspiration could this be accomplished.

“God’s Word for Today,” 2 Timothy 3:16, states that “all Scripture is inspired by God.” The literal translation of that phrase in the Greek language is “breathed out by God.” The Scriptures naturally come from God the same way breath comes from us. Though physically written down by human hands, the words of Scripture were perfectly inspired by God.

For example, when Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, he did so under God’s inspiration. God used Matthew’s personality and perspective to communicate the life of Jesus Christ. But at all times God’s message was perfectly preserved, even though it was told through an imperfect human. God used Matthew’s perspective as a Jewish man to write a Gospel that would clearly communicate the life of Christ to Jewish people.

Solomon’s writing of Ecclesiastes is an example from the Old Testament. Throughout the book God authoritatively speaks through Solomon’s cynical view of life, wealth, pleasure, and accomplishment. In the midst of Solomon’s search for meaning, God teaches us that life’s meaning is found only in relation to His kingdom purposes.

Read Romans 15:4 below. What is the ultimate purpose for which God has given us the Scriptures?

“Whatever was written before was written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope.”—Romans 15:4

Describe a current crisis your are facing (for example, job, finances, marriage, or temptation). How will knowing that the Bible is divinely inspired give you hope as you apply the Word to your crisis?

As a whole, the Bible is the truth, not merely a book that contains some truth.

Human history is littered with books that claim to be filled with spiritual truth. Each major religious system has a text that its followers use as a guide. Only the Bible has endured the test of time and the test of prophecy. When God promised that a nation would fall, a plague would come, or the Messiah would arrive, He was always correct. Because God divinely inspired and preserved Scripture to our day, we can trust all it says. As a whole, the Bible is the truth, not merely a book that contains some truth.

General revelation gives us an idea of God’s existence and His impact on our existence. The specific revelation found in the Bible, however, is God’s message to us that reveals exactly who He is and what He is doing. It is the full revelation that God desires for us to have.

How is the Bible different from books of religion and philosophy?

How have you found the Bible to be a trustworthy guide for your life?

Day 3: Eternally True

God’s Word for Today

“By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. For All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower drops off, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word that was preached as the gospel to you.”—1 Peter 1:22-25

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

We live in a hurry-up-and-get-it-done world. Deadlines loom around us. Work calendars scream for our attention. There is always someplace to go and something to do. We exist in a never-ending world of work that can be summed up with one word—temporary.

God’s Word is different. It is eternal in its scope. In fact, 1 Peter 1:22-25 God has declared that His Word will endure forever.

First Peter 1:22-25 points out that creation is fading, but God’s Word is enduring. Describe a time when you thought something you heard or read would change your life, but it ultimately fell short.

Scripture is eternal because its author is eternal. Human messages are temporary because people are temporary. Because God exists in eternity, His message is true at all times and in all places. God’s Word is never vulnerable to relativism. It is simply not within God’s nature to declare something that is true today and untrue tomorrow.

Read the following verses from Psalm 119 and identify the ways they describe the eternal nature of God’s Word.

“Lord, Your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven.”—Psalm 119:89

“Long ago I learned from Your decrees that You have established them forever.”—Psalm 119:152

“The entirety of Your word is truth, and all Your righteous judgments endure forever.”—Psalm 119:160

Verse 89:

Verse 152:

Verse 160:

Scripture is eternal because it gives insight into eternal issues—God’s character and kingdom. We are accustomed to temporary information. The news of today, whether good or bad, is generally forgotten in less than a week. Records are broken, and this year’s accomplishments are replaced by new ones next year. Trophies awarded today are quickly shelved to begin earning the next ones.

In contrast, God’s Word addresses matters of ultimate importance—God’s purposes, ways, and will for our lives. The Bible has spoken about every good deed we should do and every bad deed we should avoid. We can trust God’s Word to give us direction about all of the things that really matter for this life and the next.

Read Psalm 139:17 below. God’s thoughts are vast. He has given us the Bible so that we can discover His eternal truth for any issue in life.

“God, how difficult Your thoughts are for me to comprehend; how vast their sum is!”—Psalm 139:17

Check some areas of your life in which you need to discover and apply the eternal truth of Scripture.

Knowing God’s will
Dealing with temptation
Relating to others
Handling family problems
Growing in Christlikeness
Discovering a channel for ministry
Making a decision
Overcoming a stronghold
Other:

Jesus knew He could rely on messages from His Father. When Jesus was being questioned by the Pharisees about the validity of His testimony, He relied on His Father’s truthfulness, saying, “I have many things to say and to judge about you, but the One who sent Me is true, and what I have heard from Him—these things I tell the world” (John 8:26).

In activity 1 you described a time when a human message fell short of changing your life. Now describe a time when the truth of God’s Word made a radical difference in your life.

In Psalm 119:144 the singer says,

Your decrees are righteous forever.

Give me understanding, and I will live.

Pray and thank God for His enduring Word that has so richly blessed your life.

Try writing this week’s memory verse below.

 

Day 4: Trustworthy in Every Way

God’s Word for Today

“God—His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is pure. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”—2 Samuel 22:31

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

Have you ever done a trust fall? In this exercise you stand with your back at the edge of a short platform. Meanwhile, your coworkers stand below in two lines with their arms outstretched. Then you simply fall back with the hope that they will catch you. Sounds simple—until you’re on the platform.

Whom do you trust completely?

Why?

We should feel the freedom to fall into the care of the Bible without any worry. Why? Because the Author is perfect and will not fail to tell the truth. “God’s Word for Today” comes from a song of praise by King David in 2 Samuel 22 (repeated in Psalm 18). David sang it near the end of his life in response to God’s delivery of Israel from its enemies.

We can have the same response as King David because we have also received God’s Word and have also found it trustworthy. Although David had only part of God’s Word, we can rejoice that we have both the Old and New Testaments—God’s complete written revelation.

The Bible is inerrant. Inerrancy is the theological term used to describe the Bible’s truthfulness. To state it simply, the Bible contains no errors in anything it says or affirms. We can fully trust in the Bible because of God’s reliability. Titus 1:2 and Hebrews 6:18 teach that God cannot lie. Therefore, what He has revealed in the Bible is utterly trustworthy.

“… God, who cannot lie …”—Titus 1:2

“It is impossible for God to lie.”—Hebrews 6:18

What circumstance are you currently facing for which you need God’s perfect guidance?

The Bible is reliable. Yesterday you read about Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees. This religious group had felt it necessary to create the Mishnah in order to help people obey the Scriptures. The Mishnah was a collection of rabbinic interpretations of the Old Testament law. However, the Pharisees came to give the Mishnah the same authority as the law. Thus, people began to follow the words of the rabbis rather than the words of God.

Check any substitutes used today for the inerrant truth of the Bible.

Books
Magazines
Personal opinion
Experiences
Media
Politicians
Pop-culture personalities
Pastors and Bible teachers
Other: ____________________

We can rely on God’s Word because it speaks to both the course-altering and the minor issues of life. When God speaks, He is both true and trustworthy. The Bible provides the instruction we need to follow God faithfully.

We don’t need any instructions for living that the world has to offer; all we need is God’s revelation in Scripture.

The Bible is sufficient. God’s Word contains everything we need to know in order to relate to God and live abundant, godly lives. The Bible provides guidance for every decision, temptation, and victory we will face in life. We don’t need any instructions for living that the world has to offer; all we need is God’s revelation in Scripture.

This truth brings us great freedom. We don’t have to fear that God has withheld important information we need for relating to Him. We can also live with courage that nothing new will arise that will require God to supplement His Word. Instead, the Bible is sufficient to fully equip believers to live rightly related to the Lord and to experience the full joy of His salvation (see Deuteronomy 29:29 below).

“The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.”—Deuteronomy 29:29

Read Proverbs 30:5-6 below and note God’s strict command that we should not alter His Word. In Revelation God says if anyone removes any words of His prophecies, He will “take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city” (22:19). God is clear: His Word is reliable and sufficient because it is inerrant. It is inerrant because its Author is perfect.

“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Don’t add to His words, or He will rebuke you, and you will be proved a liar.”—Proverbs 30:5-6

Think about the circumstance you listed in activity 2. Note ways the following characteristics of God’s Word will change the way you approach this problem.

Inerrant: ______________________

Reliable: ______________________

Sufficient: ______________________

Day 5: Loving the Author

God’s Word for Today

“How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.”—Psalm 1:1-2

Read and meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above. Spend a moment in prayer as you begin today’s lesson.

My favorite book as a child was The Call of the Wild by Jack London. The story of Buck’s unbreakable spirit in the Alaskan Klondike captivated me for hours. Though I adored the book then, I remember little of it now. It was fun to read as a child, but it had very little lasting impact on my life.

However, another piece of literature did. It was a note my mother sent to me when I was 17 years old. During the summer I served as the leader of a group of boys who went camping for a week away from their parents. The hidden note in my pack was about my mom’s love and pride that her little boy was growing into a young man. Mom’s letter will never be considered a classic on the level of The Call of the Wild, but in my life it far surpasses London’s soaring literature. Why? Because I didn’t know London, and I knew Mom. I’m sure London would have been a decent friend, but I loved my mother!

Name an important book or correspondence you have received and indicate why it meant so much to you.

Because God’s Word is the revelation of God’s heart and character, we love its message. However, we must not worship the Bible as if it were God. The Bible is not God, just as the words you speak are not you.

God authoritatively shows us through Scripture why we are to love Him.

Read Psalm 119:130-131. Underline two reasons we are to love God.

“The revelation of Your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced. I pant with open mouth because I long for Your commands.”—Psalm 119:130-131

We love God for using His Word to change us. Psalm 119 is a song of praise to God for blessing us with Holy Scripture. Verses 130-131 give us one of the many reasons we are to love the Author above the Word: God’s declarations bring about blessed change in our lives. We would be foolish to trust in the announcement of a blessing rather than the One who blesses us.

“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

Patrick Henry, a central figure in the American Revolution, is traditionally attributed with the words “The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

What is your favorite Bible verse or account?

What does it reveal about God’s character or activity?

Examine “Outline of the Bible” on page 94 to discover the vast amount of direction God has generously provided in His Word to teach us and to transform our lives.

We love God for using His Word to teach us about ourselves. As a church planter in a metropolitan city, I interacted with scores of people whose religious beliefs were summed up in two statements: “I’m OK with God. God is OK with me.” However, God’s Word reveals an utterly different reality. In the Bible we learn that we are not OK with God, and He is not OK with us. Romans 5:10 teaches that we are God’s enemies prior to being spiritually transformed by Christ. If we didn’t have God’s Word to show us the truth of our spiritual condition, we would blissfully skip through life ignorant of the horrible fate awaiting us after death. In addition, His Word clearly reveals how we can be reconciled with Him. When we realize God’s kindness in disclosing the truth to us, we love Him even more.

“If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!”—Romans 5:10

The Bible is God’s Word, not a word about God. Our love must be firmly planted in the conviction that God speaks through His Word and that we can love Him in response to what He says. “God’s Word for Today,” Psalm 1:1-2, says we can receive the instruction of the Word with delight.

Our level of appreciation for God’s Word reveals something significant about our level of commitment to God Himself. Conclude your time today with prayer, asking the Lord to increase your love for Him as you spend time in His Word.

Write this week’s memory verse.

Session 1: Treasuring the Word

WELCOME AND PRAYER

Welcome participants and pray for God’s guidance during the discussion.

OPENING ACTIVITY

  1. Invite a volunteer to recite this week’s memory verse.
  2. Books often play an important role in shaping our lives. What was your favorite book as a child? What is your favorite book now? Why do you enjoy it so much?

REVIEW OF DAILY WORK

  1. Although the Bible is the best-selling book in history, opinions about it vary. How does the world view the Bible? Do unbelievers see it as a collection of fairy tales, an imperfect collection of religious teachings, a perfect reflection of God’s will, or God’s revelation of Himself to humanity?
  2. Before you became a Christian, how did you view the Bible? Now that you are a follower of Christ, how have your thoughts about the Bible changed?
  3. Think about this week’s memory verse. How does a love for God’s Word affect the way we live?
  4. Read Psalm 19:7-11. Discuss the benefits offered to someone who diligently follows the Scriptures.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Discover

  1. Define inerrancy (p. 18). Why does it matter that the Bible does not have any errors? How does that knowledge change the way you respond to the Scriptures?
  2. Our belief in the Bible’s claim of inerrancy is based on the character of its Author. How is God’s character communicated through His Word?
  3. What characteristics of the Bible make it worth following? What does it claim to be that sets it apart from other religious and philosophical books?

Connect

  1. Read 2 Timothy 3:16. Discuss what you learned about the phrase “inspired by God” as you studied this passage.
  2. How would the human race be different if we did not have the Bible? How would your life be different if you did not have the Bible?

Relate

Read Psalm 1:1-2 and discuss the two different paths that are available to us.

Confront

  1. In day 4 you learned that the Bible is reliable and sufficient. Describe a situation in your life when you need the Scriptures’ help to make a decision.
  2. As you continue in this study, what changes would you like to see in your life? In your study habits? In your understanding of the Bible?

Change

  1. People spend time on the things they love. What people and things usually consume your time?
  2. Discuss ways you will increase your time with God’s Word.

MISSIONAL APPLICATION

What are specific ideas or stories in God’s Word that you hope to gain a better grasp of because of this study?

PREVIEW WEEK 2

Turn to page 25 and preview the study for the coming week.

PRAYING TOGETHER

Close the session in prayer for one another.

 

Saturday 27 June 2020

The Bible Can we Trust it 2

Where Did the Bible Come From?

Part 2 (Canon)

What’s the Point?

The Bible is GOD’s completed Word

Pete

Reenie was making the dinner as Pete sat at the kitchen table reading his paper,

I need to give you your dinner early tonight darling. I’m going to go to the Bible study at the chapel.’

Pete looked up from his paper. ‘You don’t want to be paying too much attention to what that lot says. I was watching a documentary this week, a historical thing, about how the Bible was just made up of a bunch of myths and legends. Bits they pinched from different religions and the people from them days. They said it’s like they took all the best bits and mushed it together to make up their own thing. I’m telling you, Reenie, it’s all a bunch of baloney.’

Stop

What do you think? Where do you think the Bible comes from?

It’s little wonder Pete is confused. He watched a documentary where the host claimed that the 66 books of the Bible were put together by a secret council with a hidden agenda in the 4th century. In fact, according to this TV show, there are other books out there that tell a different story and that are being suppressed by the church.

The 66 books of the Bible are also known as the ‘canon of Scripture’. That’s canon, with one ‘n’ not two. This is a Greek word that means ‘measuring stick.’ A measuring stick was used to test if an object was up to standard. When we say something is canon now, it’s merely a way of saying ‘it’s legit’.

Stop

You getting that? It’s a weird word right but canon = legit. What makes something legit? What makes it trustworthy? Can you think of some reasons why the 66 books of the Bible are recognised as legit?

There are two common mistakes and misunderstandings when it comes to canon. The first one is to assume that somewhere around AD96, when the Apostle John writes the Book of Revelation on the Island of Patmos, the entire 66 books of the Bible fell out of the sky and were handed out to the church the following Sunday, in the same way as we stick Bibles on the seats in our churches.

The second mistake is to assume that up until the 4th century, some old dudes with beards simply decided to cut lots of books out of the canon just to suit their own agenda.

Stop

Why do you think it matters that we know how the Bible was put together?

Illustration

Reenie has a thing for jigsaws. She likes the 2500-piece ones and has a bit of a thing for kitten pictures. She buys loads of them and is always searching the charity shops to find cheap second-hand ones. To be honest, Pete’s had enough and banned her from framing and hanging anymore of them in the house. ‘There is only so much fluffy kittens one man can take!’

Once, Reenie was feeling adventurous, and had three jigsaws on the go at once, a nice country scene, the London Eye, and a dolphin. She was working on all three at the dining room table when the boys got into one of their fights, banging into the table and sending everything flying. All the pieces were completely mixed up. Realising what they’d done, the boys helpfully scoop up all the bits into one massive pile in the centre of the table. Where does she start? How was she going to sort the pieces back into their own boxes? Pete, always ready with an opinion, said, ‘I would try two things: Test if the edges fit together and check if the picture it makes is complete and makes sense. You’ve got to ask yourself: “Does it fit together?” and “Does it make one coherent picture?”’

Stop

Think about the Bible, the canon. How can the jigsaw illustration help us think about how it should piece together?

As we think about recognising the true canon of Scripture it is helpful to remember that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures is present and at work through the ages, granting the wisdom and discernment needed to separate truth from falsehood. We should also remember that God is the Lord of history and the sovereign ruler of all things.

‘I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will’ (Isa. 46:9-10).

The task of recognising the canon was not accomplished by men alone. Instead, it was accomplished by God through His people.

So how exactly was this accomplished? We are going to look at this in two parts. Firstly, the Old Testament and, secondly, the New Testament.

Old Testament Canon

Stop

Do you know what the first five books of the Bible are?

The first five books of the Bible are:

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy

They were written by a dude called Moses. Moses is the most significant and important human being in the Old Testament. His writings are the foundation of the Scriptures. These 5 Books of Moses, when grouped together, are known as the Torah, a Hebrew word which means Law. The Torah, or Law, was given to Moses directly by God on a mountain called Horeb in the Sinai wilderness after God had rescued His people, Israel, from slavery in the land of Egypt.

Stop

How wild is that! God Himself gave Moses the Law. What do you think was going through Moses’ head at that moment?

These 5 books chart,

the history of the world from creation
through the fall
the beginnings of the story of redemption
the call of Abraham
the birth of the nation of Israel
their coming to Egypt
deliverance from slavery
the giving of the Law at Horeb
the construction of the tabernacle
the formation of the Levitical priesthood
and the journey to the Promised Land.

The Torah is made up of 613 commands given by God for His people. They are concerned with the promise of life and blessing for obedience and covenant faithfulness on the one hand. On the other, they talk of judgement, curse and death for disobedience and covenant unfaithfulness.

‘Keep my statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am the Lord’ (Lev. 18:5).

The Torah is really important because so many of the people who wrote the Bible, refer back to it time and again in their writings.

Stop

Let’s stop and think it through because there is a lot going on here. Why do you think the Bible authors refer to the Torah so much?

This idea of reflecting back and referencing is known as self-reflection and this is one of the ways we recognise true Scripture.

Think back to Reenie’s jigsaw illustration. Does it fit together, and does it produce one coherent picture? Likewise, the Scriptures connect to each other to make a complete picture.

‘Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do’ (Josh. 1:7-9).

This pattern continues as the Old Testament unfolds. It builds upon the foundation of the Torah, reflecting back upon it and shows us the promises unfolding from it. As the prophets arrive on the scene we find them preaching the Law, calling the disobedient nation to repent and return to the Lord, by obeying His commands.

The consequences for rejecting the Law were clear:

‘As the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel’ (Isa. 5:24, esv).

The poetic and wisdom books, like the Psalms and Proverbs, also reflect and build upon the Torah as the authors consider what it looks like to live in obedience to God’s Word or ponder the consequences of sin.

Here are two examples:

‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple’ (Ps. 19:7, esv).

‘Those who reject the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law pit themselves against them’ (Prov. 28:4).

New Testament Canon

As we move into the New Testament, we find the Old Testament again being referred to and reflected upon. In fact, the New Testament begins with the family tree of Jesus and charts it back through the centuries and story of the Old Testament. So, for example, we read in Matthew 12:17, ‘This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah’ (niv).

‘Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled’ (Luke 4:21).

After His death and resurrection, Jesus meets with His disciples, and as He leads what was likely the best Bible study in history, He refers to the completed Old Testament.

‘He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’ (Luke 24:44-45).

This phrase, ‘Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms’ refers to the 3 parts that make up the Hebrew Bible of our Old Testament. Again, this pattern of reflecting upon and referencing the Old Testament is continued throughout the whole of the New Testament as the apostles explain how Jesus is the Messiah and seek to instruct the church in wise living.

So, what about the New Testament? How did that come about? Who or what decided which books should be in the New Testament and which books shouldn’t? Again, as with the Old Testament, self-reflection is key to understanding the process.

In the letter of 1 Corinthians (AD 53-54) we see Paul referencing the events of the Lord’s Supper as recorded in the Gospels. At the end of 2 Peter 3, the Apostle Peter discusses the writings of Paul, stating that even though his letters can be difficult to get our heads around, the church must not ignore them because they are Scripture.

The church developed 4 criteria for deciding whether a book was to be accepted as part of the canon of Scripture. Think of them as the four ‘A’s:

  • Ancient
  • Apostolic
  • Agreement
  • Acceptance

Ancient

Does the book come from the right time?

Apostolic

Was it written by one of the apostles or a companion of the apostles?

Agreement

Does the book teach doctrine that agrees with the rest of the Scriptures?

Acceptance

Is the book accepted as Scripture across the universal church?

Let’s take a look at an example of some writing that wasn’t accepted into the New Testament canon. In a book called The Gospel of Thomas we read, ‘Jesus said: When you bring forth that in yourselves, that which you have will save you. If you do not have that in yourselves, that which you do not have in you will kill you.’

Now compare that with teaching from two books that were accepted into the canon:

‘But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a person. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander’ (Matt. 15:18-19).

‘The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God’ (Rom. 8:7-8).

The so-called Gospel of Thomas teaches that we can save ourselves by looking inside, whereas the true Scriptures explain that we are utterly unable to save ourselves, as all that comes from within us is evil. Clearly, we can see why the Gospel of Thomas was not included in the canon. Oil and water don’t mix. The pieces of the jigsaw don’t fit together and so the picture doesn’t make sense. The same is true with the so-called Gospel of Mary, or the Gospel of Judas and all the other spiritual writings that sprang up between the 2nd and the 4th century.

By AD 367 we find the first completed list of all 27 New Testament books. Then, in AD 397, at the Synod of Carthage, a meeting of important figures from across the church formally recognised all 66 books of our Bible, which is now considered closed and complete.

Summary

Don’t believe what you read online. There is no great conspiracy and hidden agenda behind the canon of Scripture. The books that make up the Bible were recognised because they are legit. The ones that were rejected didn’t make the cut because they either lied about their authors, the dates didn’t match and, most importantly, they lied about Jesus. We can have 100% confidence that what we have in our hands today is God’s revealed Word to the human race.

Memory Verse

‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Friday 26 June 2020

SUPERSTITION

“Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”

The Fifth Dimension

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,
Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding…
Mystic crystal revelations and the mind’s true liberations

Backbeat

The Fifth Dimension was one of the smoothest and most harmonious of the sixties’ vocal groups. They formed after Lamonte McLemore photographed Marilyn McCoo, who was 1963 Miss Bronze America. Discovering a mutual love of gospel music, the two created a group with Billy Davis Jr. (McLemore’s cousin), Ron Townson, and Florence LaRue. Calling themselves the Versatiles, they auditioned for producer Johnny Rivers and his Soul City label. Rivers liked the group but not their name, so Townson and his wife suggested the Fifth Dimension.

Their initial 1967 releases, “Go Where You Wanna Go” and “Another Day Another Heartache,” were styled after the Mamas and the Papas. These paved the way for “Up Up and Away,” their first Top 10 success, later that year.

After losing his wallet during a 1968 New York concert tour, Billy Davis received a call from a man who said he had found it in a taxi and wanted to return it. Considering this unusual in a huge city like New York, Davis was grateful and offered the man a reward. Instead, the man invited the group to a play he was coproducing, the musical Hair. They were impressed with the opening number, “Aquarius,” and took it to their producer, who combined it with the play’s closing song, “Let the Sunshine In.” The result was their biggest hit, reaching number 1 in 1969. A dubious choice of material, the tune put the Fifth Dimension on the musical map.

Riff

The sixties saw the dawning of an age of astrology. What’s your sign? became a common greeting. This song picked up that trend and furthered it. Using astrological “Evidence,” it offers a Utopian vision of a new world order marked by peace, freedom, and mind-blowing understanding. The planets were lining up to create this cosmic effect.

If you’re aiming for a goal, you can’t do better than “harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust.” Christians can wholeheartedly embrace those virtues. That’s the kind of life we want too. The songwriters were obviously dissatisfied with a world of violence, greed, and self-interest. We can join in that dissatisfaction.

But the question is, how can this change? What force is strong enough to overcome the world’s present system and bring in an age of harmony? To find such a force, this song looks beyond the earth. No earthly force can conquer the deeply entrenched power of hate and selfishness, so it must be… the stars.

This approach is nothing new. Astrology goes back to biblical times. The tower of Babel in Genesis 11 was probably an observatory being built for astrological calculations. God repeatedly warned his people against running their lives according to the placement of heavenly bodies. “Do not act like the other nations, who try to read their future in the stars” (Jeremiah 10:2). Why? Because it’s idolatry. People were looking to the stars for guidance rather than to the Creator of the stars. Why try to determine the effect of cosmic forces when you can have a vital relationship with an all-powerful God?

Harmonies

Genesis 1:16-17     Isaiah 40:26         Jeremiah 10:2
Genesis 11:1-9       Isaiah 47:13-14    Daniel 4:7
Deuteronomy 5:7

Thursday 25 June 2020

EZEKIEL

The Living Creatures and the Glory of the Lord – Ezekiel 1:1-28

Open It

  1. What experience can you say has left you awestruck?
  2. What is your favourite mythical creature? Why?

Explore It

  1. How old was Ezekiel and where was he living when he saw visions of God? (1:1)
  2. How long had the people of Judah been in exile in Babylonia when Ezekiel had his vision? (1:2-3)
  3. To what natural occurrence did Ezekiel liken what he saw coming toward him? (1:4)
  4. What were the human and nonhuman features of the living beings Ezekiel described? (1:5-11)
  5. How were the creatures positioned in relation to one another? (1:9-11)
  6. What was remarkable about the way the creatures moved? (1:12)
  7. To what did Ezekiel compare the light, or brightness, coming from the creatures? (1:13-14)
  8. What unique characteristics did Ezekiel notice in the wheels that accompanied the creatures? (1:15-18)
  9. Why would it not be accurate to say that the “wheels” were vehicles used by the creatures? (1:19-21)
  10. How did Ezekiel describe the sound of the wings of the four creatures? (1:24)
  11. How did Ezekiel describe the person who spoke from the “expanse” above the creatures? (1:25-28)
  12. What did Ezekiel realize he was seeing? (1:28)
  13. *How did Ezekiel respond when he saw the “likeness of the glory of the Lord”? (1:28)

Get It

  1. What is notable about the fact that God was still speaking to His people through prophets although they were in a foreign land?
  2. Why do you suppose Ezekiel thought it important to record his visions in such detail?
  3. How would you respond to an opportunity to peer into the throne room of God from this side of the grave?
  4. What spiritual benefit can we glean from other people’s visions of the glory of God?
  5. What sorts of emotions would move a person to lie prostrate on the ground?
  6. Why are you glad that you worship a God who is not the product of human hands?

Apply It

  1. What hymn or song based on Ezekiel’s vision could you commit to memory this week as a tool of worship?
  2. In what secular association in your life (school, work, or community) can you be available and listening for what God might want to say to or through you?

 

 

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Women of Blessing

A woman of confidence 2:

Confidence in God’s Power and Presence with Me

Setting the Stage:

Hana’s Story

After I finished cutting up Mikey’s french toast, I grabbed the phone on the sixth ring.

“Hana, I’m sorry to call so early, but I just heard the news. Is your mom okay?”

“Why?” My heart raced at the panic in her voice. “I just talked to her last night, she’s fine.”

My friend’s silence scared me worse than her words. “Nancy? What’s going on?”

“Oh, Hana, I’m so sorry. There’s been a quake. A seven pointer. And the epicentre was in Clarkston. You’d better turn on the news.”

The small TV was on the counter. I grabbed the remote and switched from cartoons to CNN.

“. . . a breach in the Clarkston Dam has poured millions of gallons of water onto the already devastated countryside. Searchers continue to comb the rural area for survivors, but are hindered by the flooding and mountainous terrain.”

I stared at the choppy footage: Fractured trees scattered like toothpicks, flattened houses, a sea of muddy water where the fields should be. . . . Somewhere in that unrecognizable mess was my childhood home.

“Hana? . . . Hana!” Nancy’s shout shook me from my stupor.

Mom. My face and hands felt clammy and my stomach churned. “What am I going to do, Nancy? I . . . I don’t . . . What should I do?”

She drew a sharp breath and let it out again. “Okay. First, where are the kids?”

I shuddered and looked down into two puzzled faces staring up at me. “Wrong, Mama?” Rena’s syrup-sticky mouth was puckered and Mikey’s eyes were huge with fear.

I sat, tucked the phone under my chin, and pulled them both into my lap. “They’re right here.” Safe.

“Good. I’ll get a prayer chain going and be there in twenty minutes.”

She made the drive in half that time and her hug was like a life-line.

We called the Red Cross. After six tries, I finally got a message machine telling me all lines were busy. Then we called Steven at his hotel in Tokyo, but it would be hours before he got the message and at least two days before he could get home to take care of our kids.

“I can’t just sit here; I have to do something.”

“Wait.” Nancy pointed the remote at the TV and turned up the volume. “Listen.”

“. . . rescue efforts continue. All phone lines are down and airports as far away as San Francisco are closed. Red Cross volunteers are being flown in to Los Angeles and bused to the area. People seeking information about loved ones are being asked to call one of the following numbers . . .”

No Sara Moyer on any of the lists. “They’re just beginning to bring in survivors from the outlying areas.” The voice sounded tired, but sympathetic. “Try again in a couple of hours.”

Nancy wrapped her arms around me and, for the fifth time that morning, we prayed. Or rather, she did. Please, God, was the only prayer my rattled thoughts would form.

At noon Nancy opened a can of soup. “You have to eat something.” But my stomach cringed at the thought of food.

I put the kids down for a nap. A little hand escaped the covers and Mikey, his blue eyes dark with worry, patted my cheek. “It okay, Mama?” I wrapped him in a hug and then rescued his teddy bear from the old suitcase we had given him to play with.

Go. The thought echoed as though it were spoken out loud.

Fly to LA, then the bus, then walk if I have to, but go.

I looked into my son’s beseeching eyes and handed him the bear. “Yes, baby, God loves you, it’s going to be okay.”

I felt calm and strong. And very, very right.

  1. As Hana moved through this frightening day, how did God demonstrate his presence with her?

 

What thoughts and feelings do you have as you reflect on the ways Hana and Nancy relied on God’s power and presence?

 

Recall a time when you especially needed to rely on God’s power and presence. What happened?

God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 99.

  1. What pictures come to mind as you read Psalm 99:1-2?

 

  1. Why is it significant that God, who is ” loves justice and equity (Psalm 99:3-4)?

 

  1. What do you learn about his relationship with Moses and Aaron and with Israel (Psalm 99:6-8)?

What do you learn from this about God’s involvement with us?

 

  1. This psalm declares three different times (Psalm 99:3, 5 and 9) that the Lord “is holy.” Before making this declaration, these verses describe God in striking language that tell us something of what it means that God is holy. List what is said about God in these verses.

What does this tell you about what it means that God is holy?

 

  1. According to this psalm, how are we to respond to God’s holiness, power and presence in our lives?

 

  1. What do you experience as you reflect on God’s power?

What do you experience as you reflect on God’s presence in your life?

 

  1. What difference would it make to you if you were able to experience greater confidence in God’s power?

What difference would it make to you if you were able to experience greater confidence in God’s presence in your life?

Now or Later

  • Make a list of some of the things you do not have power over in your life, but which concern you. Allow yourself to release these things and your anxieties over them to God.
  • Write a brief prayer, thanking God for some of the ways his power and presence are evident in your life.
  • Read Psalm 18

 

Monday 22 June 2020

The Bible Can we trust it 2:

Where Did the Bible Come From?

Part 2: (Canon)

What’s the Point?

The Bible is GOD’s completed Word.

Pete

Reenie was making the dinner as Pete sat at the kitchen table reading his paper,

I need to give you your dinner early tonight darling. I’m going to go to the Bible study at the chapel.’

Pete looked up from his paper. ‘You don’t want to be paying too much attention to what that lot says. I was watching a documentary this week, a historical thing, about how the Bible was just made up of a bunch of myths and legends. Bits they pinched from different religions and the people from them days. They said it’s like they took all the best bits and mushed it together to make up their own thing. I’m telling you, Reenie, it’s all a bunch of baloney.’

Stop

What do you think? Where do you think the Bible comes from?

It’s little wonder Pete is confused. He watched a documentary where the host claimed that the 66 books of the Bible were put together by a secret council with a hidden agenda in the 4th century. In fact, according to this TV show, there are other books out there that tell a different story and that are being suppressed by the church.

The 66 books of the Bible are also known as the ‘canon of Scripture’. That’s canon, with one ‘n’ not two. This is a Greek word that means ‘measuring stick.’ A measuring stick was used to test if an object was up to standard. When we say something is canon now, it’s merely a way of saying ‘it’s legit’.

Stop

You getting that? It’s a weird word right but canon = legit. What makes something legit? What makes it trustworthy? Can you think of some reasons why the 66 books of the Bible are recognised as legit?

There are two common mistakes and misunderstandings when it comes to canon. The first one is to assume that somewhere around AD96, when the Apostle John writes the Book of Revelation on the Island of Patmos, the entire 66 books of the Bible fell out of the sky and were handed out to the church the following Sunday, in the same way as we stick Bibles on the seats in our churches.

The second mistake is to assume that up until the 4th century, some old dudes with beards simply decided to cut lots of books out of the canon just to suit their own agenda.

Stop

Why do you think it matters that we know how the Bible was put together?

Illustration

Reenie has a thing for jigsaws. She likes the 2500-piece ones and has a bit of a thing for kitten pictures. She buys loads of them and is always searching the charity shops to find cheap second-hand ones. To be honest, Pete’s had enough and banned her from framing and hanging anymore of them in the house. ‘There is only so much fluffy kittens one man can take!’

Once, Reenie was feeling adventurous, and had three jigsaws on the go at once, a nice country scene, the London Eye, and a dolphin. She was working on all three at the dining room table when the boys got into one of their fights, banging into the table and sending everything flying. All the pieces were completely mixed up. Realising what they’d done, the boys helpfully scoop up all the bits into one massive pile in the centre of the table. Where does she start? How was she going to sort the pieces back into their own boxes? Pete, always ready with an opinion, said, ‘I would try two things: Test if the edges fit together and check if the picture it makes is complete and makes sense. You’ve got to ask yourself: “Does it fit together?” and “Does it make one coherent picture?”’

Stop

Think about the Bible, the canon. How can the jigsaw illustration help us think about how it should piece together?

As we think about recognising the true canon of Scripture it is helpful to remember that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures is present and at work through the ages, granting the wisdom and discernment needed to separate truth from falsehood. We should also remember that God is the Lord of history and the sovereign ruler of all things.

‘I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will’ (Isa. 46:9-10).

The task of recognising the canon was not accomplished by men alone. Instead, it was accomplished by God through His people.

So how exactly was this accomplished? We are going to look at this in two parts. Firstly, the Old Testament and, secondly, the New Testament.

Old Testament Canon

Stop

Do you know what the first five books of the Bible are?

The first five books of the Bible are:

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy

They were written by a Moses. Moses is the most significant and important human being in the Old Testament. His writings are the foundation of the Scriptures. These 5 Books of Moses, when grouped together, are known as the Torah, a Hebrew word which means Law. The Torah, or Law, was given to Moses directly by God on a mountain called Horeb in the Sinai wilderness after God had rescued His people, Israel, from slavery in the land of Egypt.

Stop

How wild is that! God Himself gave Moses the Law. What do you think was going through Moses’ head at that moment?

These 5 books chart,

the history of the world from creation
through the fall
the beginnings of the story of redemption
the call of Abraham
the birth of the nation of Israel
their coming to Egypt
deliverance from slavery
the giving of the Law at Horeb
the construction of the tabernacle
the formation of the Levitical priesthood
and the journey to the Promised Land.

The Torah is made up of 613 commands given by God for His people. They are concerned with the promise of life and blessing for obedience and covenant faithfulness on the one hand. On the other, they talk of judgement, curse and death for disobedience and covenant unfaithfulness.

‘Keep my statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am the Lord’ (Lev. 18:5).

The Torah is really important because so many of the people who wrote the Bible, refer back to it time and again in their writings.

Stop

Let’s stop and think it through because there is a lot going on here. Why do you think the Bible authors refer to the Torah so much?

This idea of reflecting back and referencing is known as self-reflection and this is one of the ways we recognise true Scripture.

Think back to Reenie’s jigsaw illustration. Does it fit together, and does it produce one coherent picture? Likewise, the Scriptures connect to each other to make a complete picture.

‘Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do’ (Josh. 1:7-9).

This pattern continues as the Old Testament unfolds. It builds upon the foundation of the Torah, reflecting back upon it and shows us the promises unfolding from it. As the prophets arrive on the scene we find them preaching the Law, calling the disobedient nation to repent and return to the Lord, by obeying His commands.

The consequences for rejecting the Law were clear:

‘As the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel’ (Isa. 5:24, esv).

The poetic and wisdom books, like the Psalms and Proverbs, also reflect and build upon the Torah as the authors consider what it looks like to live in obedience to God’s Word or ponder the consequences of sin.

Here are two examples:

‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple’ (Ps. 19:7, esv).

‘Those who reject the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law pit themselves against them’ (Prov. 28:4).

New Testament Canon

As we move into the New Testament, we find the Old Testament again being referred to and reflected upon. In fact, the New Testament begins with the family tree of Jesus and charts it back through the centuries and story of the Old Testament. So, for example, we read in Matthew 12:17, ‘This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah’ (niv).

‘Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled’ (Luke 4:21).

After His death and resurrection, Jesus meets with His disciples, and as He leads what was likely the best Bible study in history, He refers to the completed Old Testament.

‘He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’ (Luke 24:44-45).

This phrase, ‘Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms’ refers to the 3 parts that make up the Hebrew Bible of our Old Testament. Again, this pattern of reflecting upon and referencing the Old Testament is continued throughout the whole of the New Testament as the apostles explain how Jesus is the Messiah and seek to instruct the church in wise living.

So, what about the New Testament? How did that come about? Who or what decided which books should be in the New Testament and which books shouldn’t? Again, as with the Old Testament, self-reflection is key to understanding the process.

In the letter of 1 Corinthians (AD 53-54) we see Paul referencing the events of the Lord’s Supper as recorded in the Gospels. At the end of 2 Peter 3, the Apostle Peter discusses the writings of Paul, stating that even though his letters can be difficult to get our heads around, the church must not ignore them because they are Scripture.

The church developed 4 criteria for deciding whether a book was to be accepted as part of the canon of Scripture. Think of them as the four ‘A’s:

  • Ancient
  • Apostolic
  • Agreement
  • Acceptance

Ancient

Does the book come from the right time?

Apostolic

Was it written by one of the apostles or a companion of the apostles?

Agreement

Does the book teach doctrine that agrees with the rest of the Scriptures?

Acceptance

Is the book accepted as Scripture across the universal church?

Let’s take a look at an example of some writing that wasn’t accepted into the New Testament canon. In a book called The Gospel of Thomas we read, ‘Jesus said: When you bring forth that in yourselves, that which you have will save you. If you do not have that in yourselves, that which you do not have in you will kill you.’

Now compare that with teaching from two books that were accepted into the canon:

‘But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a person. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander’ (Matt. 15:18-19).

‘The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God’ (Rom. 8:7-8).

The so-called Gospel of Thomas teaches that we can save ourselves by looking inside, whereas the true Scriptures explain that we are utterly unable to save ourselves, as all that comes from within us is evil. Clearly, we can see why the Gospel of Thomas was not included in the canon. Oil and water don’t mix. The pieces of the jigsaw don’t fit together and so the picture doesn’t make sense. The same is true with the so-called Gospel of Mary, or the Gospel of Judas and all the other spiritual writings that sprang up between the 2nd and the 4th century.

By AD 367 we find the first completed list of all 27 New Testament books. Then, in AD 397, at the Synod of Carthage, a meeting of important figures from across the church formally recognised all 66 books of our Bible, which is now considered closed and complete.

Summary

Don’t believe what you read online. There is no great conspiracy and hidden agenda behind the canon of Scripture. The books that make up the Bible were recognised because they are legit. The ones that were rejected didn’t make the cut because they either lied about their authors, the dates didn’t match and, most importantly, they lied about Jesus. We can have 100% confidence that what we have in our hands today is God’s revealed Word to the human race.

Memory Verse

‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

 

Saturday 20 June 2020

THE BIBLE: CAN WE TRUST IT 1

 

BACKGROUND STORY

Let’s meet Meet Reenie and Pete

We met Reenie a few years ago when she came to our Christmas Service. ‘It’s what you do at Christmas after all.’ Reenie is a wee gem, salt of the earth. She genuinely would do anything for anyone. She’s been married to Pete for years. They have four kids who are all grown up and they have seven grandkids. We see her grandkids a lot at our church youth clubs and Reenie looks after them most days after school and all through the school holidays. The last few months she has really struggled with the older boys now that they have reached their teenage years. The boys have always been cheeky but recently one of them crossed the line, swearing and pushing his nan. It was so bad Pete had to step in and sort it out. ‘Pete was so mad,’ Reenie tells us, ‘I thought he was going to beat them there and then.’

One morning Reenie suffered a health scare and ended up in the Accident & Emergency room. She suffered a mini heart attack and it’s caused her to re-evaluate her life. She has begun to think about dying for the first time in her life. She has even been to the funeral directors to get a payment plan sorted to pay for her funeral.

Reenie would consider herself a spiritual person. In fact, she comes from a Catholic family. She went through her first communion as a young girl and married Pete in the local Catholic church. She describes herself as, ‘A holiday Christian,’ meaning she only really attends at Christmas and Easter.

We don’t really see too much of Pete at the church. In fact, at times he appears to be a bit hostile towards Christians. He definitely isn’t shy in sharing his opinion! After much prayer and perseverance, Pete eventually began attending services with Reenie, and eventually both came to faith in Jesus.

Let’s move on:

‘Fairytales!’; ‘Made up stories for weirdos’; ‘a bigoted rulebook’; ‘irrelevant and out of date’; ‘inaccurate and incomprehensible’; ‘a self-help manual’; ‘a mad history book’; ‘dead interesting’; ‘God’s Word’.

These are a few of the responses I’ve heard and received when talking to lads and lassies in Lochee about the Bible. Their opinions are really interesting because none of them have ever actually read one.

Why would they?

It is far easier to believe the world around us and what they think about the Christian faith and the Bible. Add the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and the liberal national church into the mix and we have a recipe for confusion. How can people have confidence in the Bible when:

They’re taught that the Roman Catholic church places itself above the Bible as the ultimate authority.

The local Priest or Minister doesn’t have confidence and trust in the Bible.

National church leaders seem to make the Bible mean whatever they want it to mean in order to try and fit in with modern culture.

All this confusion means that people in the schemes have a few questions when it comes to the Word of God.

Can we really trust it?

Where does it come from?

How was it put together?

Who decided what to put in and what to leave out?

What do we mean when we say it’s inspired?

Is it really 100% true?

What’s this Old and New Testament jargon?

Hasn’t science basically disproved the Bible?

What do you mean it’s all about Jesus? That just doesn’t make sense,’ Reenie would say. Even though she would say that she’s a Christian she still struggles with the point of the Bible. ‘I know some of it. There’s the Ten Commandments. I suppose we need to try and obey them. But what good is the rest of it to my life?’

Reenie’s not the only one that struggles with questions like these. This book exists to answer her questions so that people in schemes, estates, projects, townships and trailer-parks can be completely confident in the Bible.

They can trust 100% in the gospel it reveals to us.

Through the Bible they can come to know, love and serve King Jesus.

The book of 2 Timothy was written, from a prison cell, by the Apostle Paul. He would soon be put to death for his faith and so he writes to one of his young apprentices, Timothy, in order to help him pastor a church in a town called Ephesus. This place was messed up. People were spiritually confused. There were new Christians, like Reenie & Pete, who knew next to nothing about the Bible. So, Paul reminds this young pastor about what the Bible is, what it does and how it does it.

‘But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:14-17).

The Bible is God’s Word.

Paul tells us in these verses that the Bible is able to make us wise for salvation,through faith in Jesus Christ.

All of the Bible has been inspired by God.

Paul tells us that all of it is profitable for us because:

It teaches us.

It rebukes us.

It corrects us.

It trains us in righteousness.

That means the Bible is very important in the life of a Christian. So much so that Paul tells us:

‘Through it we may become complete,

Equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:17).

 

Friday 19 June 2020

As always, the message in these stories is supported by Scripture, therefore please read the Scriptures at the end of the message.

Loneliness

“Eleanor Rigby”

The Beatles

All the lonely people,
where do they all come from?
All the lonely people,
where do they all belong?

Backbeat

Late 1966 saw the release of a new single from the Beatles that showed their song writing had come of age. From the landmark Revolver album, “Eleanor Rigby” was sophisticated in music and lyrics. A string octet contributed to the song’s baroque feel.

Paul McCartney changed the original title from “Miss Daisy Hawkins” to “Eleanor Bygraves” and then to “Eleanor Rigby” (picking the name from a sign for wine exporter Rigby & Evans).

Coincidentally, in the eighties someone discovered an old gravestone bearing the name “Eleanor Rigby” in the graveyard of St. Peter’s Parish Church in Woolton, Liverpool, just yards from the spot where Paul first met John Lennon in 1957.

Once describing himself as a “flabby Catholic,” Paul had somewhat cynical views on faith, which came through in this song. Eleanor Rigby was based on his church’s spinster cleaning lady. He thought it would be ironic that her job was to pick up rice after church weddings. As a further irony, the lonely Father McKenzie would be the only one at her funeral.

Riff

Like many pop, folk, and protest songs, “Eleanor Rigby” posed questions but gave no answers. This song could serve as a commentary on the modern church and a stern challenge as well.

As we look around us, there are lonely people everywhere. Sometimes they mask their loneliness with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes they hide it behind money and the things they buy. What do they need from Christians? To put it simply, they need love.

Too often we walk right past human need without even seeing it. We need to let the love of Christ spill out of our hearts to “all the lonely people” in our communities.

On numerous occasions, Jesus looked out at the crowds around him and had compassion on them. “He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd,” says one passage (Mark 6:34), and there are others like it. That’s no surprise, coming from the Lord of love. But as his followers, the job of reaching out to these people falls on us. We need the heart of Christ. As Scripture says, “We love each other because he loved us first”      (1 John 4:19).

It’s especially troublesome that part of Eleanor Rigby’s story involves the church. It’s troublesome because it’s often true. There are lonely people worshipping beside us at church, but we seldom take the time to connect with them. “We are many parts of one body,” the Bible tells us, “and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:5). Let’s take that as a challenge and make it a reality.

Harmonies

Psalm 68:6              Matthew 15:32    1 Timothy 5:3-16
Lamentations 1:1    Mark 6:34            1 John 4:19
Matthew 14:14        Romans 12:5

Thursday 18 June 2020

See if you can work through it all by Week Thursday!!

Abiding in Christ 4

Bringing Glory to the Father

THIS WEEK’S PARABLE FOCUS

John 15:7-9—”If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.”

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 4

Day 1: Whatsoever You Will
Day 2: If You Abide
Day 3: The Father Glorified
Day 4: True Disciples
Day 5: The Wonderful Love

VERSES TO MEMORISE

Level 1: John 15:10
Level 2: John 15:9-11

POSSIBLE RESPONSES TO THIS WEEK’S STUDY

I will grow in my abiding relationship with Christ and demonstrate my love for Him by doing things like the following.

  • I will pray for the Spirit and power necessary to carry out the mission Christ has for me.
  • I will pray that God will give me a burden for lost souls.
  • I will develop a holy obsession for Christ.
  • I will become an intercessor for men and women to experience the blessings of heaven.
  • I will make sure others know God is the Source of my abilities and fruit.
  • I will yearn for and pray for much fruit for the glory of my Heavenly Father. I will be content with nothing less.
  • When God shows me what He wants me to do, I will move forward in the faith that He will accomplish it through me.
  • I will receive the love of Christ so that I can show His love by meeting others’ needs with Christ’s power and resources.

 

Day 1: Whatsoever You Will

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).

Today’s Key Idea: The healthy life of a believer is one of continual dependence on God, shown through much unselfish praying for the blessings of heaven. So I will ask! (brs).

Pray: What a promise, Lord! Teach me to pray unselfishly for Your kingdom to come. Allow me to know the joy and power of answered prayer.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

The whole place of the branch in the earthly vine is one of unceasing “prayer.” Without a break it is always asking, “Please, vine, send the sap I need to bear your fruit.” It asks what it needs, what it will, and it is done! The healthy life of a believer in Christ is equally one of unceasing prayer (see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Consciously or unconsciously, he lives in continual dependence. The Word of his Lord, “You can do nothing,” has taught him that his asking and receiving must be an unbroken exchange from the branch to the Vine and the Vine to the branch. The promise of this text gives us tremendous boldness: “Ask … and it shall be done.”

① Which best describes the prayer life of a healthy believer?

  • Prays only in the midst of crisis
  • Prays once a day
  • Prays once a week
  • Prays constantly

This promise was given in direct connection with fruit bearing. Narrow it down to yourself and your own needs, and you rob it of its impact. You rob yourself of the power of using it. Christ was sending these disciples out, and they were ready to give their lives for the world. He gave them access to the treasures of heaven. Their prayers would call down the Spirit and the power necessary for their mission.

Unceasing prayer describes constantly looking to Christ for all our needs (brs).

The promise was given in direct connection with the coming of the Spirit. The Spirit is not referred to in the parable, but neither is the sap of the vine. Both, however, are implied throughout. In the chapter preceding the parable, our Lord had spoken of the Holy Spirit in connection with their inner life (see John 14:15-23). In the next chapter He speaks of the Holy Spirit in connection with their work, coming to them, convincing the world, and glorifying Him (see John 16:7-14). To avail ourselves of these unlimited prayer promises, we must be people who are filled with the Spirit and surrendered and dedicated to the work and glory of Jesus. The Spirit will lead us to understand this promise’s meaning and give us the assurance of its fulfilment.

② As you read the following paragraph, underline a focus for your prayers that goes beyond selfish, self-centred prayers.

We can’t claim this promise without a life that is dedicated to the souls of humanity (am).

We can fulfil our calling to bear much fruit only by praying much. In Christ are deposited all of the resources people around us need. In Him all of God’s children are blessed with all spiritual blessings. He is full of grace and truth. But He calls on us for much prayer, believing prayer, to usher in these blessings. And we can’t claim this promise without a life that is dedicated to the souls of humanity. Many attempt to claim the promise and then vainly search for what they can request. That’s not the right approach but the very opposite. Ask for God to burden your heart for lost souls and the command to reach them, and the power will fall on you to claim the promise.

③ Check each phrase that describes your prayer life. Then circle one or two phrases that you want to be a greater reality in your prayer life.

  • Powerless
  • Focused on souls
  • Throughout the day
  • Vibrant
  • Focused on self
  • Inconsistent
  • For emergency use
  • Mere duty
  • Joyful

Souls are perishing because there is too little prayer. God’s children are feeble because there is too little prayer. We bear virtually no fruit because there is so little prayer (am).

Jesus promises us that if we ask in His name, because of our union with Him, it will be done to us. Souls are perishing because there is too little prayer. God’s children are feeble because there is too little prayer. We bear virtually no fruit because there is so little prayer. The faith of this promise should make us strong to pray. We must not rest until this concern strikes our hearts and draws us in the power of Christ to labor and strive in prayer until the blessing comes in power. To be a branch means not only bearing fruit on earth but also bringing down blessing from heaven through prayer. Abiding fully means praying much.

“Ask what you desire.” Dear Lord, why is my heart so unable to accept these words in their heavenly simplicity? Oh, please help me see that I need this promise to overcome the powers of the world and Satan! Teach me to pray in the faith of this promise You’ve made.

④ Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most. Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

Responding to My Lord

 

Day 2: If You Abide

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).

Today’s Key Idea: One condition for power in prayer is for me to be fully and passionately occupied with Christ and an obedience to His words (brs).

Pray: Lord, teach me to meet the conditions of abiding in such a way that I have this kind of power in answered prayer.

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

The vine and its branches are a true parable of the Christian life. Why? The plant world was created to be to humankind an object lesson teaching humans their entire dependence on God and their security in that dependence. He who clothes the lilies will much more clothe us (see Matthew 6:28-30). He who gives the trees and the vines their beauty and their fruits, making each what He meant it to be, will much more certainly make us what He wants us to be. The only difference is that what God works in the trees is by a power of which they are not conscious. He wants to work in us with our consent. This is the nobility of humans, that they have a will that can cooperate with God in understanding, approving, and accepting what He offers to do.

① Mark the following statements as T (true) or F (false).

a. God is looking for us to give Him our consent to work in us.
b. God forces us to cooperate with Him.
c. The lesson we learn from nature is entire dependence on God.

“If you abide.” Here is the difference between the branch of the natural vine and the branch of the spiritual Vine. The former lives and abides by force of nature; the latter lives and abides, not by force of will but by a divine power given to the consent of the will. Such is the wonderful provision God has made that, what the power of nature does in the one case, the power of grace will do in the other. The branch can abide in the Vine.

② Which best describes your current approach to God’s working in you?

a. I am giving Him my full consent to do all He wants to do.
b. I expect that God will work in me whether I give my consent or not.

The Lord will never force you to accept His working in your life. He will work in you only as you yield to Him and give Him your consent (brs).

Do not be occupied with the abiding; be occupied with Christ! (am).

“If you abide in Me … ask what you desire.” If we are to live an authentic prayer life, with the love and the power and the experience of prayer marking it, there must be no question about the abiding. And if we abide, there doesn’t need to be a question about the ability of asking whatever we will and the certainty of its being done. There is only one condition: “If you abide in Me.” We must not hesitate about the possibility of abiding and the certainty of receiving. We must look at that tiny branch and its God-given power of bearing such beautiful fruit until we learn to abide.

And what is its secret? Have a holy obsession with Jesus. Be caught up in Him. Sink the roots of your being in faith, love, and obedience deep down into Him. In your spirit leave every other place to rest in Him. Give up all else for the inconceivable privilege of being a branch on earth for the Vine, the glorified Son of God in heaven. Give Christ first place. Let Christ be all. Do not be occupied with the abiding; be occupied with Christ! He will hold you. He will keep you abiding in Him. He will abide in you.

Ask the Lord to help you know how you can be wholly occupied with Him throughout your day.

When we abide in Christ and His words abide in us, our prayers will be in line with His heart (brs).

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you.” His words are in you not only in meditation, in memory, in love, in faith—all these words enter your will, your being; they make up your life. If the words of Christ transform your character into their own likeness and you become and are what they speak and mean, then ask what you will; it shall be done to you. Your words to God in prayer will be the fruit of Christ and His words living in you.

③ Which of the following is a better example of His words abiding in you?

a. I’ve memorized His words, and I can accurately repeat them
b. Because of His words my character and values have been transformed to be like Christ

Set yourself to be an intercessor for men—a fruit-bearing intercessor, always calling down more blessing (am).

“You will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” Believe in the truth of this promise. Set yourself to be an intercessor for others—a fruit-bearing intercessor, always calling down more blessing. Such faith and prayer will help you wonderfully abide wholly and unceasingly.

“If you abide.” Yes, Lord, the power to pray and prevail must depend on this abiding in You. You are the divine Intercessor, who breathes Your Spirit into me. Oh, for grace to abide simply and completely in You and ask astounding things!

④ Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most. Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

Responding to My Lord

 

Day 3: The Father Glorified

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8).

Today’s Key Idea: God’s glory, grace, and power shine through me when I yield myself to Him and He gives me much fruit for the souls of men and women (brs).

Pray: Father, bring glory to Yourself through me. Teach me how I can be most fruitful.

To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”—Ephesians 3:20-21

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

How can we glorify God? We can’t add to His glory. Neither can we bring Him any new glory that He doesn’t already have. How then? By simply allowing His glory to shine through us, by yielding ourselves to Him; then His glory shows itself in and through us to the world. When a vineyard or a vine bears much fruit, the owner is glorified because it demonstrates his skill and care. When the disciple bears much fruit, the Father is glorified. Before people and angels, proof is given of God’s glory, grace, and power. God’s glory shines out through us—His disciples, His fruit bearers.

Peter meant that when he wrote, “If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). As a person works and serves in a power coming from God alone, God receives all the glory. When we confess that the ability came from God alone, he who does the work and they who see it equally glorify God. It was God who did it. People judge by the fruit of a garden what the gardener is. Men judge God by the fruit that the branches of the Vine of His planting bear. Little fruit brings little glory to God. It delivers no honour to either the Vine or the Vinedresser. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.”

① How does the Father receive glory through me? Check all that apply.

a. When I show others how gifted, skilful, and faithful I am
b. When I accomplish much and claim I did it all for God
c. When I publicly credit God for the ability and the results
d. When people see God shine through me by the quality and quantity of the results (they know it couldn’t be my doing)

Let’s think of the sin and shame of little fruit as robbing God of the glory He ought to receive from us (am).

Let the very height of the demand encourage you. It is so entirely beyond your power that it casts you entirely on Christ, your true Vine (am).

We have sometimes mourned our lack of fruit as a loss to ourselves and others. We complain of our feebleness as the cause. Instead, let’s think of the sin and shame of little fruit as robbing God of the glory He ought to receive from us. Let’s learn the secret of delivering glory to God by serving with the ability He gives us. The life that brings glory to God is in this: the full acceptance of Christ’s Word—”You can do nothing”; the simple faith in God, who works all in all; the abiding in Christ through whom the Vinedresser does His work and garners much fruit.

“Much fruit.” God asks it; see that you give it. Is that an unreasonable request? God is content with nothing less. Should you be content with less? Let Christ’s words rivet you, sink into you, captivate you—fruit, more fruit, much fruit—until you think as He does. Then be prepared to accept from Him, the heavenly Vine, what He has for you. Much fruit: “by this My Father is glorified.” Let the very height of the demand urge you on and encourage you. It is so entirely beyond your power that it casts you entirely on Christ, your true Vine. He can, He will, make it true in you.

② With which level of fruitfulness are you content? Check one.

a. Much fruit—so that my Heavenly Father is glorified
b. Some fruit—just as long as I bear some fruit rather than no fruit
c. No fruit—being a withered branch and cut off is OK with me

Read Ephesians 3:20-21 above and pray that the Lord, who is able, will make you content with nothing less than bearing the “much fruit” He desires for the Father’s glory.

“Much fruit.” God asks because He needs. He does not ask fruit from the branches of His Vine for show, to prove what He can do. No, He needs it for the salvation of men and women. This is how He is glorified. Through much prayer throw yourself on your Vine and your Vinedresser. Cry to God and your Father to give you fruit for the souls of humankind. Assume the burden of the lost and dying as Jesus did when He was moved with compassion. Your power in prayer, your abiding, and your bearing much fruit to the glory of the Father will have a reality and a certainty you never knew before.

The Father glorified. What a hope—You glorifying Yourself in me, showing forth the glory of Your goodness and power in what You work in me and through me. What a motive to bear much fruit, just as much as You work in me! Father, glorify Yourself in me.

③ Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most. Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

Responding to My Lord

 

Day 4: True Disciples

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).

Today’s Key Idea: True disciples who are worthy of the name are those who bear much fruit and glorify God the Father (brs).

Pray: Not a fake, Lord. I want to be the genuine article. I want to be a true disciple of Yours. Teach me how.

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

What about those who don’t bear much fruit? Are they disciples? They may be, but in a backward and immature stage. Christ spoke about those who bear much fruit: “These are My disciples, such as I would have them be; these are true disciples.” Even so, the Lord identifies fruit-bearing disciples as those after His heart and worthy of His name. There is more than one use of the word disciple in the gospel. Sometimes it is applied to all who accepted Christ’s teaching. At other times it includes only the inner circle of those who followed Christ devotedly, giving themselves to His personal training for service. That difference has existed ever since. A smaller number of God’s people have sought to serve Him with their whole hearts. The majority is content with a very small measure of the knowledge of His grace and will.

① Which circle of disciples would most likely include you?

a. Circle 1: I’ve accepted Christ’s teaching, and I’m content to know His grace, will, and power in very small measure. I identify with the majority of Christ-followers.

b. Circle 2: I’m sold out for Christ: fully devoted, wholehearted, seeking to be like Him, learning from Him, following Him, and walking by faith.

Believers who have heard the call to live all-out for their Lord … Their great yearning is to bear as much fruit as they possibly can, as much as their Lord can desire or give in them (am).

There is a staggering difference between this smaller inner circle (b) and the multitudes who do not seek admission to it. We discover it in the words much fruit. Many Christians first come to Christ with the legitimate aim of personal safety. Unfortunately, that remains the chief aim of their faith to the end. For them the idea of service and fruit is always secondary and subordinate. The honest yearning for much fruit does not trouble them. Believers who have heard the call to live all-out for their Lord, to give their lives for Him as He gave His for them, can never be satisfied with substandard service. Their great yearning is to bear as much fruit as they possibly can, as much as their Lord can desire or give in them.

② Mark the following characteristics as C1 for the majority of disciples in circle 1 or C2 for the much smaller group of disciples in circle 2.

C1  C2  1. Their chief aim of faith is personal safety from hell.
C1  C2  2. They have chosen to live all-out for their Lord.
C1  C2  3. They are not satisfied with substandard service.
C1  C2  4. The idea of serving Christ and bearing fruit is secondary and unimportant or nearly non-existent.
C1  C2  5. They yearn to bear as much fruit for Christ as they can.

Let’s desire nothing less than—

  • absolute cleansing
  • unbroken abiding
  • closest communion
  • abundant fruitfulness as sincere branches of the true Vine (am).

“Bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” I urge every reader to weigh these words seriously. Don’t be satisfied with the thought of gradually doing a little more or better work. That way it may never come true. Accept the words much fruit as the revelation from your heavenly Vine of what you must be, of what you can be. Fully face the impossibility, the insane foolishness, of attempting it in your strength. I call on you to think afresh on the Vine and vow to live out His heaven-sent fullness in you. Allow our Lord’s words to recharge in you the faith and the confession “I am a branch of the true Vine; I can bear much fruit to His glory and to the glory of the Father.”

The eternal cost of not living wholeheartedly for Christ is beyond measure (brs).

We certainly must not judge others, only ourselves. Yet in God’s Word everywhere there are two classes of disciples. Where are you among them? Let’s ask Him, “Lord, show me where I stand as one of Your disciples.” He asks for and would claim your life surrendered unreservedly to Him, a life filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. Let’s desire nothing less than absolute cleansing, unbroken abiding, closest communion, and abundant fruitfulness as sincere branches of the true Vine.

The world is perishing; the church is failing; Christ’s cause is suffering. Christ is grieving because of the lack of wholehearted Christians who bear much fruit. Though you scarce see what it implies or how it is to come, say to Him that you are His branch to bear much fruit, that you are ready to be His disciple in His meaning of the word.

“My disciples.” Blessed Lord, much fruit is the proof that You have in me a true branch, a disciple wholeheartedly available to You. Give me the childlike faith that my fruit is pleasing to You and that You will count much fruit.

③ Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most. Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

Responding to My Lord

 

Day 5: The Wonderful Love

Abiding in the Vine Today

Parable Focus: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you” (John 15:9).

Today’s Key Idea: The infinite love of Christ comes from the Father and flows into me, making me a true branch and a partaker of His divine nature (brs).

Pray: Lord, You love me, and I have tasted Your wonderful love. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

“The love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Read and meditate on the Parable Focus and Today’s Key Idea above. Begin today’s study with prayer.

At this point Christ leaves the language about a vine. Even as much as the parable could teach, it couldn’t teach the lesson of love. All the vine does for the branch, it does under the compulsion of a law of nature; there is no personal, living love to the branch. Unless we are cautious, we are in danger of looking to Christ as a Savior and a supplier of every need, appointed by God, accepted and trusted by us, without any sense of the intensity of personal affection with which He embraces us. Only in Him can we find our true happiness. With all of His great love, He would point this out to us.

What the Father’s love was to Him, His love will be to us. If that love made Him the true Vine, His love can make us true branches (am).

How does He do that? He carries us once again to Himself to show us how identical His own life is with ours. Even as the Father loved Him, He loves us. His life as Vine dependent on the Father was a life in the Father’s love. That love was His strength and His joy. In the power of that divine love resting on Him, He lived and died. If we are to live like Him, as branches to be truly like our Vine, we must share in this too. Our lives must have their breath and being in a heavenly love as much as His. What the Father’s love was to Him, His love will be to us. If that love made Him the true Vine, His love can make us true branches. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.”

① Which of these relationships does Jesus say parallels our relationship with Him?

a. The relationship between two coworkers
b. The relationship between a husband and a wife
c. His relationship with His Heavenly Father

You need never question God’s love for you. He settled that once and for all on the cross (brs).

“As the Father loved Me.” How did the Father love Him? This was the love of God to Christ: to communicate to the Son all He had Himself, to take the Son into the most complete equality with Himself, to live in the Son and have the Son live in Him. It is a mystery. We can’t understand it. We can only bow and worship as we grapple with the thought of it. And with such an amazing love, with this awesome love, Christ longs to share with us all He is and has. He desires to make us partakers of His divine nature and blessedness, to live in us and to have us live in Him.

If Christ loves us with such an intense, infinite love, what keeps us from triumphing over every obstacle and letting Him claim full possession of us? The answer is simple. Like the love of the Father to Christ, His love to us is a heavenly mystery, too lofty for us to comprehend or attain to by any effort of our own. Only the Holy Spirit can shed abroad and reveal in His all-conquering power without intermission this magnificent love of God in Christ. The vine itself must give the branch its growth and fruit by sending up its sap. Christ Himself must by His Holy Spirit dwell in the heart; then we will know and have in us the love that passes knowledge.

② Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 above and underline the words describing the One for whom you should live.

Ask the Spirit to do what He needs to do in your life so that you can experience the fullness of Christ’s love. Then ask Him to teach you how to live fully for Christ and not yourself.

③ As you read the following paragraph, circle the words or phrases that indicate how you should respond to Christ’s love.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” We must come close to the personal, living Christ. We must trust Him and yield all to Him so that He may love His love into us. Even as He knew and rejoiced every hour that the Father loved Him, you too can live in the unceasing awareness that as the Father loved Him, so He loves you.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” Dear Lord, I am only beginning to grasp how exactly the life of the Vine is to be that of the branch too. You are the Vine because the Father loved You and poured His love through You. You love me, and my life is to be like Yours, a receiving and a giving from heavenly love.

④ Review today’s lesson and draw a star beside the statement or Scripture that God seemed to emphasize to you the most.

Review “Possible Responses to This Week’s Study” Ask the Lord how He would have you respond to Him in light of what He has said to you. Write a prayer of response to the Lord below.

 

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Ah, Sweet Revenge!

We have all heard people say that the God of the New Testament cannot be the God of the Old Testament as they say that the God of the Old Testament was cruel. Therefore, they dismiss the Old Testament without really understanding what the stories concerning Gods wrath really say about God’s righteousness, and of course, the righteousness of God is the reason Jesus came into the world. He came to die for the sins of the world.

Yet Jesus turned the world upside down in showing us the enormity of Gods love, and in telling people to “turn the other cheek” when someone struck them, he was turning the world’s standards of daily living upside down.

Jesus was telling people that their “natural” response to injury is all wrong. Instead of getting mad—and worse, getting even—Jesus holds up a higher standard. Of course, no one said this was easy, and as we know the Bible itself has ample examples of vengeful people, but anger that leads to sin has eternal consequences.

Vengeance is mine says the Lord, and we need to seek the deeper meaning that is being taught in some of these stories.

  1. How did Samson get vengeance on the Philistines for binding and blinding him?
  2. What handsome young son of David brutally avenged the rape of his sister Tamar?
  3. Which prophet did Queen Jezebel promise to kill as revenge for his slaying of her Baal prophets?
  4. For what slight did the Persian official Haman plot the extermination of all the Jews living in Persia?
  5. What book of the Bible says, “He who digs a pit shall fall into it, and he who rolls a stone, it will roll back on him?”
  6. How did King Ahab get even with the prophet Micaiah for prophesying his defeat in battle?
  7. Which nation did the prophet Ezekiel condemn because it had acted vengefully toward the Jews?
  8. What act led Simeon and Levi to slaughter the men of Shechem while the men were recovering from circumcision?
  9. Which apostle wrote, “Recompense no man evil for evil”?
  10. Which two disciples of Jesus wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village?
  11. Which prophet lost his head because he had spoken out against Herodias marrying her husband’s brother?
  12. In which book of the Bible do the souls of martyred saints call out, “How long, O Lord, before you avenge our blood”?
  13. In which book of the Bible does God say the famous words, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”?
  14. What book of the Bible says that when you give food to a hungry enemy, you are “heaping burning coals on his head”?
  15. Who prophesied that Jesus would return to earth “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God”?
  16. Which parable did Jesus tell to show that God will in due time avenge the suffering of his people?
  17. In which little-read Old Testament book would you find these words: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself.”
  18. What man would David not harm, even though he hoped that the Lord would avenge him for the wrongs that man had done?
  19. What man was ordered to destroy the dynasty of Ahab in revenge for Ahab’s killing of the Lord’s prophets?
  20. Which apostle did a group of Jews plot to ambush, swearing not to eat or drink until he was dead?
  21. Which son of the judge Gideon was killed in revenge for the slaughter of his 70 brothers?
  22. Which captain of David killed Abner in revenge for the killing of his brother Asahel?

Ah, Sweet Revenge! (Answers)

  1. Killed thousands of them by tearing down their temple (Judges 16:28-31)
  2. Absalom, who murdered his half brother Amnon for his dirty deed (2 Samuel 13:23-33)
  3. Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-2)
  4. The Jew Mordecai had failed to bow down to him (Esther 3).
  5. Proverbs (26:27)
  6. Ahab put him in prison, with bread and water rations (1 Kings 22:26-28).
  7. Edom (Ezekiel 25:12)
  8. The rape of their sister Dinah (Genesis 34:25-27)
  9. Paul (Romans 12:17)
  10. James and John, who were angry that the town had rejected Jesus (Luke 9:52-55). Needless to say, Jesus did not destroy the town.
  11. John the Baptist (Mark 6:19-24)
  12. Revelation (6:9-11)
  13. Deuteronomy (32:35)
  14. Proverbs (25:21-22), a verse also quoted in Romans 12:20
  15. Paul (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8)
  16. The parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8)
  17. Leviticus (19:18)
  18. Saul (1 Samuel 24:9-12)
  19. Jehu (2 Kings 9:5-7)
  20. Paul (Acts 23:12-16)
  21. Abimelech (Judges 9:24)
  22. Joab (2 Samuel 3:27)

Monday 15 June 2020

A new week, a new start and promised a new Bible study. This time:

WOMAN OF CONFIDENCE.

Lets get going. Meet the cast

Cast of Characters

Setting the Stage

Each study’s introduction takes the perspective of a different character in a continuing story to introduce the theme of each study. Below are the voices behind each introduction and yes I know that they are designed for women’s meetings but, it is good for the boys to get involved as it may lead to understanding ladies better and thus grow spiritually more ourselves. They can also be used with your wider family. So start a group; family neighbours and friends.

Sara Moyer—trapped in an earthquake in California

Hana—Sara’s daughter in Portland, Oregon

Kathy—Sara’s neighbour, also caught in the quake

Beth—Kathy’s mother

Susan—A rescue worker

Debra—A Red Cross volunteer

Other characters

Ewock—Sara’s dog

Steven—Hana’s husband

Mikey—Hana and Steven’s son

Rena—Hana and Steven’s daughter

Nancy—Hana’s friend

Britney—Kathy’s daughter

Junior Rylie (J.R.)—a rescue worker, Susan’s partner

Introducing A Woman of Confidence

My family and I live in earthquake country, so I know what it is to have the ground under my feet suddenly become liquid. It’s a strange feeling to lose all confidence that the earth will remain solid and steady, to know that at any minute it might give way. It can leave a person tense and on guard.

Sometimes this is how we feel about trusting God. We are told we can trust him, that his love and power are solid and unshakable. But we may sometimes find ourselves reluctant to place our full confidence in him, fearing that he may fail to respond to us or care for us. As a result, we may live in relationship to God in a tense posture, unable to enjoy the peace that comes from knowing that he is truly rock-solid ground under our feet.

The story which runs through these studies on confidence concerns women who are impacted by a major earthquake. As with any trauma or threat, it is not only their confidence in the earth’s solidness that is shaken. Deeper confidences are challenged as well. As we identify with the characters in this story, we can hear them wondering, “Is God here? Does God care?” They call out to God for help. They reach out to each other in love and concern. And they look, in the midst of the trauma, for signs of God’s presence and help.

Because we all have times of wondering if God is with us, if he loves us, if he will help us, we all need the gentle reminders and joyful reassurances that the studies in this guide provide. These passages tell us of God’s absolute faithfulness to us. The studies offer to strengthen our confidence that God is an “ever-present help in trouble” whom we can be sure of “though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2). These studies take us to rich pastures and still waters where our quiet certainty in God’s loving faithfulness can be renewed. May God strengthen your confidence in his unfailing presence and provision in your life as you study his Word of love for you.

Suggestions for Individual Study

  1. As you begin each study pray that God will speak to you through his Word.
  2. Read the introduction to the study, “Setting the Stage,” and respond to the questions that follow it. The story is designed to draw you into the topic at hand and help you begin to see how the Scripture relates to daily life. If there will be a week or more between your studies, then you may want to read all of the introductions in one sitting to get the flow of the ongoing story. This will help if you find that you are having trouble keeping track of all the characters.
  3. This is an inductive Bible study, designed to help you discover for yourself what Scripture is saying. Each study deals with a particular passage—so that you can really delve into the author’s meaning in that context. Read and reread the passage to be studied. The questions are written using the language of the New International Version, so you may wish to use that version of the Bible. The New Revised Standard Version is also recommended.
  4. “God’s Word for Us” includes three types of questions. Observation questions ask about the basic facts: who, what, when, where and how. Interpretation questions delve into the meaning of the passage. Application questions (also found in the “Now or Later” section) help you discover the implications of the text for growing in Christ. These three keys unlock the treasures of Scripture.

Write your answers to the study questions in the spaces provided or in a personal journal. Writing can bring clarity and deeper understanding of yourself and of God’s Word.

  1. Use the study notes at the back of the guide to gain additional insight and information after you have worked through the questions for yourself.
  2. Move to the “Now or Later” section. These are ideas for you to freely use in closing your study and responding to God. You may want to choose one of these to do right away and continue working through the other ideas on subsequent days to reinforce what you are learning

Suggestions for Members of a Group Study

  1. Come to the study prepared. Follow the suggestions for individual study mentioned above. You will find that careful preparation will greatly enrich your time spent in group discussion.
  2. Be willing to participate in the discussion. The leader of your group will not be lecturing. Instead, she will be encouraging the members of the group to discuss what they have learned. The leader will be asking the questions that are found in this guide.
  3. Stick to the topic being discussed. Your answers should be based on the verses which are the focus of the discussion and not on outside authorities such as commentaries or speakers. These studies focus on a particular passage of Scripture. Only rarely should you refer to other portions of the Bible. This allows for everyone to participate on equal ground and for in-depth study.
  4. Be sensitive to the other members of the group. Listen attentively when they describe what they have learned. You may be surprised by their insights! Each question assumes a variety of answers. Many questions do not have “right” answers, particularly questions that aim at meaning or application. Instead the questions push us to explore the passage more thoroughly.

When possible, link what you say to the comments of others. Also, be affirming whenever you can. This will encourage some of the more hesitant members of the group to participate.

    1. Be careful not to dominate the discussion. We are sometimes so eager to express our thoughts that we leave too little opportunity for others to respond. By all means participate! But allow others to also.
    2. Expect God to teach you through the passage being discussed and through the other members of the group. Pray that you will have an enjoyable and profitable time together, but also that as a result of the study, you will find ways that you can take action individually and/or as a group.
    3. It will be helpful for groups to follow a few basic guidelines. These guidelines, which you may wish to adapt to your situation, should be read at the beginning of the first session.

Anything said in the group is considered confidential and will not be discussed outside the group unless specific permission is given to do

We will provide time for each person present to talk if he or she feels comfortable doing so.

We will talk about ourselves and our own situations, avoiding conversation about other people.

We will listen attentively to each other.

We will be very cautious about giving advice.

We will pray for each other.

SO LETS GET GOING AS CORONA POP VIRUS ISNT GOING FO LAST FOREVER. By the way if you want to know anything about Corona Pop then please ask as it is interesting.

1

Confidence in God’s Unfailing Love For Me

Setting the Stage:

Sara’s Story

I did think it strange that I hadn’t heard the geese. They cross the fields every morning, dark wings drumming, oboe-voices heralding breakfast at my neighbor’s pond. Reliable as sunrise.

I stood on our plyboard-covered deck and scanned the eastern sky. A taupe-colored sun had just begun to peek around the crest of Sutter Hill. Nothing. Not even a fly buzzing in the tepid morning air.

Ewock hugged my calf, pointed ears quivering, tail tucked between hind legs. He usually took the three foot leap from the deck to the grass, then raced at warp speed around the yard sounding forth in doggie joy. But not today.

“Go on, Ewock, do your business, I’ve got to get to work.”

He answered with a low growl, then crept, whimpering, back toward the front door.

“Ewock, what’s wrong with you?”

A faint thread of music echoed from the windchimes Hana had given me for Mother’s Day. Their jingle turned to a clatter as the ground rolled, then jerked me off my feet and threw me face down onto the wooden deck.

Quake! The thought had barely registered when the boards beneath me gave way. I heard a crack, like someone splitting wood, then dawn went crashing into night.

Silence. Darkness—absolute. First thought: I must be dead. Face down. Lying flat. Pressure on my chest and back. Breathe. Choking on dirt. Spit. Then move my head to the side and try again. Better; warm and stagnant, but it’s air.

Alive. Lie still and listen for the pain. Nothing. Just an unrelenting pressure on my upper body. I work both arms, both legs. They will move every way but up. Dig in elbows, try to slither forward. Pain! Sharp and strong and black.

Awake again. Somehow I know it’s cooler out there. How long have I been trapped? an hour? a day? I won’t try to move—once burned twice shy. I chuckle, but it comes out sounding like a moan. Shh. Nails skittering on wood. “Ewock?” Don’t whisper—shout!

Pain sears my lungs as I try to draw a deeper breath. “Ewock. Here boy, come.”

I’ve no idea what I think he can do, but the relief I feel when I hear his panting breath is total. His slobbery tongue across my cheek is ecstasy. He curls up by my head, chin nestled on my hair.

“No, boy. Go. Get some help.” I dig my fingers under his ribs until he moves, scrambling forward. I tip my head back, following his progress. Light. Above and in front of me. He must have dug a hole in the rubble.

It’s tempting to try once more. Slide easy toward the light.

This time I see red instead of black. Please, God.

Lie still and fight. Open your eyes. Yell.

Not enough breath. My mouth is dry as chalk. I close my eyes again and hear a whirling chopping sound. Damp wind swirls through the hole that Ewock made. I turn my face into my armpit trying to avoid the dust. Dear Lord . . .

The clamour rises, swirls to a raging din. Hovering, I’m convinced, just inches above my head. Oh, Lord, my God . . .

The wood above me vibrates as the chopper pulls away. I tense, waiting for the crushing blow. Instead, the pressure lifts, minutely, but I can move a little easier. I stretch toward the light. Ignore the pain. My fingers grip the edge of the hole. Ewock barking, running in circles, saliva dripping on my skin.

Jesus loves me, this I know . . .

  1. There can be an interactive effect between our level of confidence in God’s love and how we perceive and respond to life’s events. As you reflect on Sara’s experience, how might her confidence in God’s love for her affect her in this time of distress

How might the earthquake and her injury impact her confidence in God’s love for her?

God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 33.

  1. The psalmist begins by telling us to “praise the LORD.” What does he suggest we do to praise God (Psalm 33:1-3)?

What other activities might you add to this list?

  1. Restate in your own words the reason the psalmist gives for this praise (Psalm 33:4-5)
  2. What response do you have to God’s powerful acts which are described in Psalm 33:6-11?
  3. What do these opening verses (Psalm 33:4-11) tell us about God?

How might this build a person’s confidence in God’s love?

  1. Psalm 33:12-19 presents a contrast—or a choice—of placing our confidence in our strength or putting our confidence in God’s love. What does the Scripture say about these two choices?
  2. What personal qualities do you see as “strengths” that you might be inclined to trust in place of trusting God’s love for you?
  3. Psalm 33:20-21 describes the people’s response to God’s unfailing love. List the three responses.

How might having a solid confidence in God’s unfailing love for you help you to respond in these ways?

  1. What makes it difficult for you to experience confidence in God’s unfailing love for you?

What increases your confidence in God’s unfailing love for you?

Now or Later
The final verse is a prayer that God’s unfailing love will “rest upon us . . . as we put our hope [confidence] in you.” What pictures come to mind as you read these words? Spend time journaling your response. Reflect on your thoughts and feelings in response to this prayer.

Make the prayer of the last verse your own, expanding it to the specific needs you have right now.

How might the responses of Psalm 33:20-21 (waiting for God with hope, joy and trust) become practical, everyday realities for you? Think of one or two simple activities you might do to increase your hope, joy and trust. Practice these activities all week. Take note of the results in you.

Romans 8:31-39.

 

Saturday 13 June 2020

MAKING GOD REALLY ANGRY

It is popular these days to refrain from teaching and preaching about the ‘wrath of God’ ie ‘His Anger’ at all, and for certain the missionary Henry Richards mission to people in the Congo never got going until he turned from preaching about the wrath of God to the love of God. In preaching about the love of God regeneration came to the people, and as they grew in Christ he then was able to preach about the wrath of God. I think the lesson is : ‘Don’t put the cart before the horse’.

Yet the fact is, the God of the Bible is loving and forgiving and merciful… but also angry at evil. The reason the Bible mentions God’s wrath so often is that humans need reminding that their sins are serious. One of the great mysteries of the Bible is not that God is often angry, but that he isn’t more angry at humanity.

  1. Who warned his followers to avoid the “outer darkness,” where there would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”?
  2. Why was the Lord angry with King Solomon?
  3. In what book of the Bible does God warn that “your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless”?
  4. In what book do people drink “the wine of the wrath of God”?
  5. Complete Psalm 103:8: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, _____ to anger.”
  6. Whom did God ask, “How long will this people provoke me”?
  7. What object had Uzzah touched that made the Lord very angry with him?
  8. In the Old Testament, the Lord was often angry because the Israelites are a _____ -necked people.
  9. According to 2 Kings, what one tribe of Israel remained after the Lord vented his anger on the nation?
  10. According to Psalm 110, what people will God strike down on the day of his wrath?
  11. In Jeremiah, the people are told to put on what type of cloth to turn away the Lord’s anger?
  12. What entire book of the Bible is a lament about the Lord’s anger being poured out on Jerusalem?
  13. Which Epistle says that the wrath of God is revealed against all man’s ungodliness?
  14. In which book of the Bible do people beg to be delivered from the wrath of the Lamb?
  15. In which book of the Bible does God say, “Take this wine cup of fury at my hand”?
  16. Who warned a “brood of vipers” against God’s wrath to come?
  17. Which apostle told people not to be vengeful, but to “leave room for God’s wrath”?
  18. According to John’s Gospel whoever rejects the _____ will face the wrath of God.

Making God Really Mad (Answers)

  1. Jesus (Matthew 22:13), who also had a lot to say about God’s love
  2. Solomon had let his pagan wives lead him away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:9).
  3. Exodus (22:24)
  4. Revelation (14:10))
  5. Slow
  6. Moses (Numbers 14:11). The Israelites were notorious ingrates.
  7. The Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:6-7)
  8. Stiff. To be “stiff-necked” means to be proud, not willing to bow down to God.
  9. Judah, the one tribe not conquered by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:18). Later, however, Judah was faithless enough that God allowed it to be conquered by the Babylonians.
  10. Kings (Psalm 110:5)
  11. Sackcloth, coarse cloth like burlap and a symbol of sorrow and repentance (Jeremiah 4:8). The meaning is that the repentance, not the cloth itself, will change the Lord’s mind.
  12. Lamentations
  13. Romans (1:18))
  14. Revelation (6:16-17). The Lamb is Christ, pouring out his anger on the wicked.
  15. Jeremiah (25:15)
  16. John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7). The “vipers” are the Pharisees and Sadducees.
  17. Paul (Romans 12:19)
  18. Son, that is, Christ (John 3:36)

P.S. The missionary Henry Richards went to the Congo from my former church at Tredegarville to establish the ‘David Livingstone mission station’ shortly after David Livingstone died. That mission was ultimately taken over by the Southern Baptists in America and Henry Richards who was an Englishman by birth and Christian by the grace of God became recognised as one of their greatest missionaries as well as one of our own.

Friday 12 June 2020

Just Desserts

“H-E-Double-Toothpicks”

Hell isn’t a popular idea these days. Many people wonder how a loving, compassionate God could allow people to suffer eternally. The Bible looks at hell from a different angle: The mystery is that God would choose to save anyone at all, given the rotten way human beings treat one another. Though the idea of hell is unfashionable right now, there’s no doubt that the first Christians had very solid beliefs in both eternal bliss (heaven) and eternal agony (hell).

  1. Who said that the way that leads to destruction is “broad”?
  2. Which Old Testament prophet proclaimed that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but desires that all people would turn from their evil ways?
  3. According to Jesus, who would gather up all the wicked and toss them into a furnace of fire?
  4. What sin, which can never be forgiven, leads to eternal damnation?
  5. What does a person in hell do with his teeth?
  6. If your hand causes you to sin, what should you do with it?
  7. In a famous parable, which patriarch of Israel had a conversation with a rich man in hell?
  8. Which Gospel says that some men are condemned because they loved darkness rather than light?
  9. Which apostle stated that God cast sinning angels into hell?
  10. What book of the Bible speaks of eternal torment in a “lake of fire”?
  11. What is the “brimstone” that is part of hell?
  12. What people did Jesus refer to as a “generation of vipers” that was in serious danger of hell?
  13. Which Old Testament book expresses a definite belief in hell and heaven?
  14. Which Epistle cites the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of sin being destroyed by fire?
  15. Which Old Testament book ends with a passage describing a fire that will never be quenched?
  16. According to Jesus, what becomes of trees that do not bear good fruit?
  17. Who warned that Jesus is coming to “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”?
  18. In which Gospel does Jesus say that “whoever rejects the Son will not see life”?
  19. Who was Jesus speaking about when he said, “Fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”?
  20. What, according to Jesus, is easier than a rich man entering the Kingdom of God?
  21. Who stated that the “wages of sin is death”?
  22. According to James, what bodily organ is “set on fire by hell”?
  23. According to Jude, what sort of people will end up in “blackest darkness” forever?
  24. What book of the Bible speaks of the “great winepress of God’s wrath”?
  25. What is the “second death” spoken of in Revelation?
  26. What is annihilationism?

“H-E-Double-Toothpicks” (Answers)

  1. Jesus (Matthew 7:13)
  2. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:11)
  3. The angels (Matthew 13:41-43)
  4. Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29). This is a mystery in itself, because Christians have never been quite sure just what blaspheming against the Spirit involves.
  5. Gnashes, or grinds them, an image used several times by Jesus in the Gospels. The idea is that a person in agony and regret would grind his teeth.
  6. Cut it off. It’s better to be maimed than to go to hell, according to Mark 9:43. The Bible isn’t literally suggesting cutting one’s hand off, but it’s making the point that whatever causes us to sin is a serious problem.
  7. Abraham, who was in heaven with the poor beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19-26)
  8. John (3:18-19)
  9. Peter (2 Peter 2:4)
  10. Revelation (20:10)
  11. Probably burning sulfur, mentioned in Revelation 21:8. “Fire and brimstone” are what destroyed the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24).
  12. The Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 23:2, 33)
  13. Daniel, which predicts a time when some will be raised for everlasting life, others for everlasting contempt (12:2)
  14. Jude (1:7))
  15. Isaiah (66:24)
  16. They are cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:19). The trees are human beings, of course.
  17. John the Baptist (Luke 3:15-17)
  18. John (3:36)
  19. God (Matthew 10:28). Some people think it refers to Satan, but it is pretty clear in the context that this isn’t so.
  20. A camel passing through the eye of the needle (Mark 10:25)
  21. Paul (Romans 6:23)
  22. The tongue, which can do all kinds of evil things (James 3:6)
  23. False teachers (Jude 1:8-13)
  24. Revelation (14:19)). That passage is, by the way, the source of the phrase “grapes of wrath” in the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
  25. The eternal lake of fire (Revelation 2:11; 20:6; 21:8). The “first death” is to the normal physical death of a person.
  26. The belief that the wicked are simply snuffed out, not punished eternally. It is difficult to square annihilationism with the Bible’s rather blunt words about eternal punishment.

Thursday 11 June 2020

ANGER

Ephesians 4:26 English Standard Version (ESV)

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger

One of the big concerns of ‘lockdown’ through corona virus has been a likely rise in domestic violence perpetrated by those who have already have major anger issues. Sadly, that concern has been borne out, but I am sure that these unprecedented times have rattled the patience of many of us, and the division between an anger which in Ephesians 4:26 is seen as a ‘righteous wrath’ in the sight of God has descended into an anger which is sinful. If that applies at times to you, then I offer the following advice. Underline the advice that speaks most clearly to you as this is a great exercise for us all.

  1. I will not permit any man/woman to narrow or degrade my soul by making me hate him/her.
  2. An angry man/woman is seldom reasonable; a reasonable man/woman is seldom angry.
  3. Don’t be angry with the people who are smarter than you—it isn’t their fault.
  4. Speak when you are angry and it will be the best speech you will ever forget.
  5. A man/woman is about as big as the things that make him/her angry.
  6. The greatest remedy for anger is delay.
  7. Every moment you are angry, you lose a minute of happiness.
  8. Anger is only one letter from danger.
  9. When a person strikes in anger, he/she usually misses the mark.
  10. A man/woman is never in worse company than when he/she flies into a rage and is beside him/herself.
  11. Some people are like buttons—they pop off at the wrong time.
  12. An angry man/woman opens his mouth and closes his eyes.
  13. Anger is the wind that blows out the light of reason.
  14. One load that is too heavy for anyone to carry—a grudge.
  15. He who loses his/her head is usually the last one to miss it.
  16. A fellow with the smallest mind is the one who is usually most willing to give someone a piece of it.
  17. Hating people is like burning the house down to kill the cockroaches.
  18. A chip on the shoulder indicates there is wood a little higher up.
  19. When we give others a “piece of our mind,” we have no “peace of mind” left.
  20. Some people think they have dynamic personalities because they are always exploding.
  21. Hatred is self-punishment.
  22. The more you grow up, the less you blow up.
  23. Rudeness is a weak man/woman’s imitation of strength.
  24. Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.
  25. Bitterness is self-cannibalism.
  26. Never answer an angry word; it is the second one that starts a quarrel.
  27. Those who look for opportunities to hate, miss many opportunities to love.
  28. A grouch is a fellow who has sized him/herself up and then is sore about it.
  29. When you give a person a piece of your mind, you lose part of yours.
  30. Some Christians are like balloons—full of wind and ready to blow up.
  31. The wind of anger blows out the lamp of intelligence.
  32. When we discuss we show our intelligence; when we argue we display our ignorance.
  33. Swallowing angry words is always easier than eating them.
  34. Anger is a feeling that makes your mouth work faster than your mind.
  35. An argument is the longest distance between two points of view.
  36. The test of a man’s or woman’s breeding is how they behave in a quarrel.
  37. Though vengeance may seem sweet, there still may be bitterness in the heart.
  38. Unspoken anger is never regretted.
  39. When anger rises, think of the consequences.
  40. Despair could be defined as anger with no place to go.
  41. Anger is often more harmful than the injury it has caused.
  42. Anger manages everything badly.
  43. No one is able to stand up indefinitely under the weight of carrying a grudge.
  44. Steel loses its strength when it loses its temper.
  45. People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.
  46. A believer at war with his brother cannot be at peace with his Father.
  47. No matter how long you nurse a grudge it won’t get better.

 

Wednesday 10 June 2020

This is the last on the series on “Women of Character” who are a blessing to us all, and soon we will start a new series “Women of Confidence”, but let us first hear Irene’s story and see what God is wanting to teach us.

 Blessing Others Through Prayer

Setting the Stage:

 Irene’s Story

Every time I see fresh washed sheets snapping in the wind, I picture Tommy peeking from behind the folds, small teeth flashing white and straight behind his grin. “Betcha can’t find me, Grandma Irene.”

“Oh, dear, where has Tommy gone? Now where can that boy be?”

He never tired of the game.

Jenny’s latest letter says, “We picked blackberries today. Danny couldn’t tell the red from black and got a stomach ache.”

I check the cover on the sandbox, damp from last night’s shower, remembering the baby’s chubby fists digging, grasping, dropping more sand on the patio than in the pail. The upturned bucket on his head. His wails of pain—”Poor Danny Boy. Let Grandma wipe your eyes.”

Protect him, Lord. He’s so curious and vulnerable. Protect him from himself.

The letter continues, “Tommy loves his new two-wheeler, but he can’t seem to get the hang of the brakes. He nearly knocked over our elderly neighbour, then finally stopped by running into a tree.”

Thank you, Father, that he wasn’t hurt. Tommy’s so independent. Please give him a hefty dose of common sense.

“We went on an overnight camping trip with the people from Jack’s office. They’re nice, but most of them drink a lot. I did meet two woman about my age, Alicia and Carol. I think Alicia’s a Christian. You know how sometimes you can just tell? I’d like to get to know her better.”

I know Jenny’s lonely. She doesn’t fool me with her everything’s-perfect letters. Joyce shares some of hers because she knows I’ll pray. For friends, Lord. A church family.

And a home of their own, I add when I read the rest.

“Our neighbour’s name is Ardice. I’m afraid the boys really bother her, but they need to play outside. It stays light until 10:00, and they don’t want to go to sleep.”

I find out from Joyce that the neighbour keeps their ball. Give Jenny wisdom, Lord. These things can get sticky.

The boys and Jack have been wanting a dog, but a Labrador in a yard that size? I can’t blame the neighbour, but she could have been nicer about it. I have to laugh when Jenny says she took chocolate chip cookies as a peace offering. That recipe has soothed more than one prickled spirit over the years.

“She’s having headaches, too,” Joyce tells me. “The doctor thinks they’re migraines.”

If I were closer, I could rub her head and take the boys for the afternoon so she could rest.

Oh, Lord, how I long for the sight of them. I know we’ll see them at Christmas, but that’s such a long way off.

God is so good . . . . We sing that chorus in church and I can’t get it out of my head. “It’s true, you know.” I tell Joyce. “God is good. Can you believe they finally found that nice piece of land?”

“And their friends are going to buy half. You’d think they would have asked us first.”

I knew she was teasing. Joyce would perish living that far from a shopping mall.

“Jenny’s dad and I could never manage that much property. But Jenny says there are smaller places on the outskirts of town.”

Joyce grins. “We’ve been talking about moving for years, maybe when the housing market improves.”

I smile and picture Tommy running through the knee high grass. “Betcha can’t catch me, Grandma Irene.”

Oh, yes, Tommy. I bet I can.

  1. Jenny’s mother, Irene, prays for specific blessings for her daughter and grandchildren. What are some of the potential benefits to Jenny, and to Irene, as a result of these prayers?

Think of a time when you prayed for specific blessing for someone, what were the results in that person’s life?

in your life?

  1. What thoughts and feelings do you have when someone who cares for you prays for you?

 

God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 20.

  1. What thoughts and feelings would you have if someone prayed the words of this psalm for you?
  2. Psalm 20:1-5 is an intercessory prayer. List everything the psalmist requests.

Next to each of these requests, write the name of a person you would like to ask God to bless in this way.

  1. Included in Psalm 20:5 is a statement of anticipation of celebrating God’s response of blessing. What is it like for you to have others celebrate with you in this way?
  2. What is it like for you to do this with others
  3. The psalmist expresses confidence in God’s ability to bless (Psalm 20:6). What is the psalmist confident that God will do?
  4. It is as if the writer is picturing God responding to his prayer of blessing as he prays. What is helpful about this approach to prayer?
  5. What is the basis for your confidence in God’s ability and willingness to answer your prayers for others?

Now or Later
Write a psalm of your own, asking for blessing for those you love.

Picture the people you pray for being blessed by God. What images come to mind?

Read and reflect on John 17.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Blessing God Through Thanksgiving

Psalm 98

Setting the Stage

Karen’s Story

A pair of swallows re-line last year’s nest. Three doe nibble on the rich spring grass. The boys come charging down the hill, dogs at their heels, and the deer bound away to breakfast in a safer spot.

Our house is spacious, old, welcoming. New cabinets, fixtures, three coats of paint and earthtone throw-rugs scattered across re-furbished hardwood floors. Home.

“Karen, our rental house is old,” Jenny had said in her first letter. “The yard’s even smaller than the one back home. We have fields behind us though, with blackberries, wild apple trees, pheasant and quail . . .”

I’d always wanted to live in the country. A piece of land big enough for the kids and dogs to run, a small garden, an old house in a woodsy setting. Paradise.

At first I had dreaded Jenny’s letters. Now I realize it was more self-pity than compassion that made me cry.

She was lonely, having trouble with a neighbour, looking for a friendly church. “If only you could come now instead of September,” she said more than once. “We miss you guys.”

I missed her too. Their move had carved a hole out of a lifetime friendship and the wound throbbed. “Joe can’t get vacation until September. We’ll see you then.”

We pulled into their driveway on a Sunday afternoon. Joe and Jack left two hours later for a football game. While the kids chased a huge beachball around the tiny yard, Jenny and I sank into lawn chairs cradling mugs of scalding tea to soothe our already raspy vocal chords.

When she touched my hand and smiled, the light in her eyes could have powered a hundred-watt bulb. “I know you’re tired of driving, but Jack took tomorrow off and there’s something we’d like you to see.”

* * * * * * *

Trees. Hundreds of them swaying gently in a clean crisp breeze; spikes of green against an impossibly wide blue sky. Tall dry grass and thistle weeds going to seed. I felt giddy, drawing in huge draughts of pine-scented air. An apple orchard crouched at one end of an open field. Beyond it, I could just make out the porch and chimney of a huge grey house.

“Ten acres,” Jack’s arm swept east to west in a long, slow arch. “The house needs a lot of work, but it’s liveable.”

“And it’s for sale.” Jenny tucked her hand in mine and squeezed.

Jack looked square into Joe’s eyes. “How’d you like to own some of this?”

My heart pounded with the rhythm of a flock of geese flying overhead. Their raucous voices blended with my husband’s laugh.

“So that’s why you wanted to bring us here. Looking for someone to help run the ranch?”

Our friends grinned at each other then turned their smiles on us. “Of course if you’re not interested we could contact the Petersons. They’ve been wanting to get out of the smog for years.”

Joe’s chuckle bounced off the hills and echoed back to tease my ears. He looked thoughtful then. “Would take some time.”

Jack nodded. “We’ve got until spring.”

* * * * * * *

Jack and Jenny built new. Higher up and with a better view. They have a garden and more trees. We have a small patch of woods, a meadow brimming with wildflowers, the apple orchard . . .

At night, when the sun dips into the lake a symphony begins. Crickets sing, bullfrogs drum, moths beat their wings against the screens. By midnight you can throw a stone and hit the stars.

My heart soars. Sometimes God says yes to a dream

  1. We will read in this psalm about nature blessing God—about rivers clapping their hands and mountains singing together for joy. Looking through Karen’s eyes, what are some of the specific ways she experiences nature blessing God

The story ends with Karen’s heart soaring. How do gratitude and thanksgiving to God cause our hearts to soar

God’s Word for Us

Sometimes blessing can mean showing our gratitude to God for his good gifts, and for who he is

Read Psalm 98

  1. What feelings characterize this psalm?
  2. What does this psalm reveal about God?
  3. List the specific reasons the psalmist gives for his gratitude to God.
  4. What does the psalmist suggest we do to bless God (Psalm 98:4-6)?
  5. Have you ever been so full of gratitude to God that you felt like the psalmist did? Describe what you were grateful for.

What did you do to express your gratitude?

  1. What do you think it would be like to be as demonstrative in our gratitude and blessing as the psalmist was?

How does it benefit us when we express our gratitude to God?

  1. The psalm closes with powerful imagery. What pictures come to mind as you reflect on these verses (Psalm 98:7-9)?

 

  1. Make a list of several specific reasons you have for blessing God at this time.

 

NOW OR LATER

Reread what the psalmist suggest we do to bless God. What could you do to demonstrate your gratitude and joy to God? Let yourself do this.

Write a prayer, blessing God for who he is to you.

Read and reflect on Psalm 100.

 

Monday 8 June 2020

Samuel 9

Jesus’ Return

What’s the point?

When Jesus returns, everything is going to change forever.

Recap

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far: God’s character, the creation of the world, mankind’s fall into sin, redemption through Jesus Christ, and the reality of heaven and hell. We’re left with just one more topic to cover: Christ’s return.

Samuel

If Samuel is being totally honest, sometimes he finds it a bit difficult to believe all of the things the Bible teaches. After all, he doesn’t talk to Jesus or walk around with Him. It requires a lot of faith to put your hope in someone you can’t see, and for 2,000 years Christians have lived ‘by faith’ and not ‘by sight.’

But one day all of that will change.

Jesus Is Coming Back

After Jesus rose from the dead, He spent forty days with His disciples before going up into heaven to take His place of honour. Once He’d ascended into heaven, the disciples received a promise that one day He would return:

‘And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven”’ (Acts 1:10–11).

This shouldn’t have surprised them, for Jesus had often taught about this. We find one instance in Matthew 24, where Jesus speaks of Himself as ‘The Son of Man’ and says:

‘Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other’ (Matt. 24:30–31).

In fact, all throughout the letters of the New Testament, the authors assume it’s important for us to know that Jesus will return. For example, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: ‘For the Lord himself will descend with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead will rise in Christ first’ (1 Thess. 4:16).

Let’s take a look at a few important things we should know about Jesus’ return.

Jesus’ Second Coming Will Be Different From His First Coming

When Jesus came to earth the first time, He was a picture of humility and lowliness. He was born into humble circumstances and lived in poverty. There was nothing unusual about His appearance that would have made you think He was anything special. When He came the first time, most people had absolutely no idea that anything significant had happened.

But His second coming won’t be like that at all. As we’ve already seen it will be with ‘great power and glory’ (Matt. 24:30). When Jesus returns, it will be a spectacle that the whole world will see. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told His disciples not to believe anyone who claims to have seen Jesus return to earth because everyone will know without a doubt when He actually does come back. It’s not something that can be missed:

‘So, if they say to you, “Look, he is in the wilderness,” do not go out. If they say, “Look, he is in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man’ (Matt. 24:26–27).

Jesus came to earth the first time in order to suffer and save sinful people, but at His second coming He will bring judgment to the world. In Matthew 16:27, we read: ‘For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.’ And in Revelation 22:12, Jesus says, ‘Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.’

When we appear before Jesus in judgment, a great separation will take place. All people will be raised from the dead, but there will be two very different fates awaiting them. Followers of Christ won’t be condemned for their sins (Rom. 8:1) because Jesus has already taken their judgment and condemnation at the cross. Instead, they’ll receive gracious rewards from God for their acts of love and obedience (2 Cor. 5:10). Unbelievers, however, will be held accountable for their rebellion against God and will receive the just punishment for their actions (see the previous chapter’s discussion of hell).

There Will Be Signs…

The main questions people today ask when they think about Jesus’ return are ‘when is it going to happen?’ and ‘how can I know when it’s coming?’ Interestingly, people asked these same questions while Jesus was still on earth. In fact, Jesus told His disciples about some of the signs that would lead up to His return. Some of those things were fulfilled while the disciples were still alive (like the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem by the Romans back in 70 AD, see Mark 13:1–18), but others wouldn’t occur until immediately before Jesus’ return (like the sun being darkened and the stars falling from heaven, see Mark 13:24–26).

… but We Don’t Know When

It seems that every so often a crazy Bible teacher decides he has cracked the Bible’s code and he found out when Jesus is coming back. But they’re always wrong because Jesus Himself said only God the Father knows the day and hour of His return. Even Jesus Himself says He doesn’t know when He’s going to come back!

It’s sad how many Christians waste so much time and energy by trying to figure out whether certain current events—a war, an earthquake, the rise of a threatening political leader—will precede Jesus’ imminent return. The New Testament never encourages this kind of speculation. Instead, it offers a sobering truth about the future that should impact the way we live in the present.

In Mark 13, Jesus warned His followers about how they ought to live in light of His return. Speaking of the timing, Jesus said:

‘But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake’ (Mark 13:32–37).

It’s not too hard to understand what Jesus is saying here. No one knows when He will return; therefore, we ought to live each day with expectation (because we know that He will return) and uncertainty (because we do not know when He will return).

Illustration

Imagine your friend went away for a while and allowed you to stay at his house. You made yourself comfortable and had a nice time. But now, your friend is coming home and the house isn’t ready. You have food containers all over the place, your dirty clothes are everywhere, and the whole house smells like sweat. You’d rush around like crazy trying to clean up, or else your friend would be offended by your lack of care.

Well, Jesus has left us on earth with expectations for how we’ll live in His absence. Since He could return at any moment, there won’t be time to prepare for His arrival. That’s a good reason to make sure you’re living every day in such a way as to be ready for His return.

Stop

What do you think it means to be ready for Jesus’ return? What things do you think He wants us to be doing while He is ‘away’? What things should we not be doing?

‘For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation’ (1 Thess. 5:2–8).

What Happens After Judgment?

Jesus’ return will bring the history of the world to a sudden and dramatic end. Every deed by every person in every age will be brought to light and judged.

But this end will actually just be the beginning of a magnificent new world. Here’s what the Bible says happens next:

  1. The old world will be put away. In 2 Peter 3, we read: ‘But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed’ (2 Pet. 3:10).
  2. God will bring a new heaven and a new earth. All the way back in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 65, God promised that He would make new heavens and a new earth. At the end of the Bible, in Revelation 21, the Apostle John saw the fulfilment of that promise:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”’ (Rev. 21: 1-4).

As people who live in a world marred by sin and suffering, it’s hard to even imagine what this kind of place would be like. But it offers a marvellous hope that one day we’ll no longer experience pain, regret, and sin. One day, all those sad and sinful things will merely be ‘former things.’

  1. We will live with God forever. When believers die, their souls go immediately to be in God’s presence in heaven (Phil. 1:23, Luke 23:43). When Jesus returns, we’ll receive ‘glorified’ bodies that are not subject to sin, death, and disease. We’ll live in these perfect, sinless bodies with God for all eternity, just as we were created to do. God will dwell in our midst, and we will be in His presence.

Samuel

Samuel’s life is difficult. But when he reflects on the fact that his problems will not last forever, he is encouraged to persevere. One day, all his troubles and struggles will be gone, and he will be with God forever. Until that day, he can keep walking with Jesus and looking forward to His return.

Memory Verse

‘He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Rev. 22:20).

Summary

The Bible began with mankind in paradise amidst the presence of God. There was no sin and no death. When Adam and Even sinned, this perfection was lost. But at the end of the Bible, we see that God had planned all along to restore us to that kind of life in that kind of world. As if that were not enough, there’s more great news! Not only will we spend eternity with God in paradise, but (unlike the Garden of Eden) we can never lose out on this paradise, for there will be no sin, no temptation, and no tears.

Saturday 6 June 2020

If you are feeling a bit low then this is for you:

“You’ve Got a Friend”

James Taylor

You just call out my name,
And you know wherever I am,
I’ll come running to see you again
 

Backbeat

James Vernon Taylor was born in 1948 in Boston, one of five children of Dr. Isaac and Gertrude Taylor. Two of his brothers also pursued musical careers: Livingston was a solo artist, while older brother Alex joined James to form the Fabulous Corsairs in 1964. Later, James formed the Flying Machine with two others. Along the way he battled depression and drug addiction.

When he moved to England in the late sixties, Taylor was signed by the Beatles’ Apple label. His Apple releases did not do well, so he returned to America, where his 1970 Warner Brothers album release, Sweet Baby James, reached the number 3 spot and remained on the charts for over a year. That album produced his first hit single, the autobiographical “Fire and Rain.” His soft, understated vocals were folk inflected and accompanied by a simple, acoustic-guitar arrangement.

A year later, he had his biggest hit, the number 1 “You’ve Got a Friend.” He sang this introspective, laid-back song that had wide appeal, perhaps as a welcome respite from the tumultuous sixties.

Riff

Penned by prolific songstress (and Taylor’s friend) Carole King, these words have become a classic paean to friendship. True friends are there for you in any season. When you’re in trouble, a friend will help you. In your good times, a 16 friend will join in the celebration. Just make the call, and your friend comes running.

The Bible also contains some gems about friendship, especially in the book of Proverbs: “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need” (17:17). Sure, sometimes we throw around the word friend too casually, so in the book of Proverbs, Solomon warns us, “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (18:24). And don’t expect mere flattery; a true friend tells you the tough stuff. “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon acknowledges the basic value of companionship: “If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble” (4:10). Isn’t that what James Taylor is singing about?

It’s amazing to realise that as Christians, we can count Jesus as our friend! “I no longer call you slaves,” he told his disciples at the Last Supper. “Now you are my friends” (John 15:15). And he defined friendship in terms that would challenge even Carole King and James Taylor: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Of course, that is precisely what Jesus has done for us.

Human friendship is a wonderful gift. We all need those who will drop everything and “come running” to help us. But even when those friends fail us, we’ve still got a friend… in Jesus.

Harmonies

1 Samuel 18:1          Proverbs 27:6*                     John 15:14
Job 42:10                 Proverbs 27:9-10, 17           John 15:15*
Proverbs 17:17*       Ecclesiastes 4:10*               1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Proverbs 18:24*       John 15:13*

Friday 5 June 2020

Being a Blessing to Others

 Philippians 4:1-9
Setting the Stage:
Ardice’s Story

I never had been one to take casseroles or cookies and I saw no reason to start. Let Maggie do it, I said to myself, her antenna’s been twirling ever since the “For Rent” sign went down.

“Don’t you want to meet them, Ardice? Aren’t you just the least bit curious?”

Never could abide a gossip.

All I wanted was a little peace and quiet. What did I get? Boys, that’s what. Hooligans for sure, or I missed my guess.

Sure enough, the minute we got a scrap of sun they were at it; whoopin’ and hollerin’ and tearing up the yard. Didn’t their mother know children should be napping that time of day?

I thought I’d seen the worst of it when they kicked that football over the fence and it landed in the garden. Broke the heads off my broccoli. Two minutes later, there goes the doorbell.

“Hi, lady. Can we please have our ball?”

One chance, I thought. “You keep it to yourself, now. Next time it’s mine.”

Two weeks later I’d kept the ball three times, ignoring the front bell and tossing it over the fence after they’d gone to bed at night. I’m not a thief, but someone had to teach those kids some manners.

Then they got the dog. An insatiable beast—half lion, half gopher. When he wasn’t barking loud enough to wake the neighborhood, he was digging holes under the fence. He obviously preferred my yard to theirs. Not that I blamed him, but dogs and I didn’t mix. Never could abide the horrid creatures. The day he dug up three tomato plants and my Dainty Bess rose, was the day I’d had enough.

Jenny answered the phone. “I want you to know,” I said with as much civility as I could muster, “that I have called the pound to come pick up that animal of yours. And another thing, if your children throw that ball over my fence one more time, I cannot be responsible for its return.”

She mumbled an apology, but that wouldn’t restore my garden. The dog took off—over the gate this time and down the street. Good riddance, I said to myself.

I could hear the children crying. Maggie called to say she’d seen animal control pick up the Campbell’s dog and Jack Campbell’s Chevy drive by. Did I know what was going on?

I told her to mind her own business.

The neighbourhood was quiet for the first time in weeks. I decided to take a nap, but for some reason, I couldn’t sleep. I kept hearing those children cry, and picturing Jenny’s tired eyes.

When the doorbell rang at nine o’clock the next morning, I was in no mood for company.

Jenny Campbell stood on my porch, a plate of cookies in one hand, a Dainty Bess rose bush in the other. The boys each held a tomato plant in grubby little fists.

I couldn’t say a word, but Jenny did. “Ardice, the boys and I want you to know how sorry we are about your plants. And we found another home for Bear. Our yard is just too small for a dog his size.”

“He’s on a farm,” the oldest boy piped up, “and we get to visit him any time we want.”

Then the little one pushed forward. “Mamma says if you let us we can help you fix your garden. I can dig real good.”

Jenny and I canned a dozen jars of salsa in September. I took some along when Maggie invited me for tea. She said she could hear me singing all the way up the street and could I tell her what was going on? I smiled and handed her a slip from my Dainty Bess.

“Danny’s a good digger,” I said, “He can plant it for you in the spring.”

  • What did Jenny communicate in her sensitivity to Ardice?
  • What makes this kind of response to anger difficult?

God’s Word for Us

Read Philippians 4:1-9.

  • What do you discover about Paul’s relationship with the Philippians from these verses?
  • What is your reaction to the way Paul addresses the believers at Phillipi in Phil. 4:1?
  • In your own words, list the behaviours that Paul encourages in the believers in Phil. 4:2-5.
  • If you were to follow these instructions, how might each of these behaviours result in others experiencing you as a blessing (as one who cares for them)?
  • Which of these behaviours is especially difficult for you?
  • What might help you to grow in your ability to behave in this way?
  • In Phil. 4:6-9 Paul instructs the readers on “the way of peace.” What behaviours lead to being at peace, according to this text?
  • How might being at peace increase the likelihood of being a blessing to others?
  • What person or situation do you know of that needs someone to offer the peace of Christ?

Now or Later

Reread Phil. 4:6-8. Take some time to follow Paul’s instructions.

Notice the things that are making you anxious. Talk to God about them. Tell God what you need.

Thank God for the ways he has and continues to care and provide for you.

Allow God’s peace to flow into your heart and mind.

Reflect on the adjectives: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable. What comes to mind? Let yourself spend some time thinking about things that fit this description.

Spend some time listening to God. Ask God to bring people to mind that you might be a blessing to. Ask him what it is you might do for them. Ask him for the courage and strength to follow his will.

Read and reflect on Hebrews 13:1-3.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

WOMEN OF CHARACTER

Lesson 3

Receiving Blessing from God’s Family

Ephesians 4:1-16

Setting the Stage:

Alicia’s Story

Cracked crab and beer around a campfire at Agate Beach; a company tradition held sacred by employer and employees alike. Most of them, anyway. A few of us go only because it’s expected—like working overtime or chipping in for a bottle on the boss’s birthday. I always offer to buy the card instead.

It was pitch black away from the fire. A mini-gale threw fist-fulls of sand into our faces as Carol and I picked our way across the shell-littered beach toward the Seaward Gift Shop and Restaurant in search of diet soda.

“I wouldn’t mind a hotdog either,” I yelled in Carol’s ear.

She grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the lighted window. “Or a sit-down dinner . . .”

I followed her pointing finger. So that’s where they went. The new guy Jack Campbell, his wife, Jenny, and their two little boys were seated in a corner booth eating hamburgers and potato salad. Jack looked glum and Jenny stared down at her plate.

“Too good for us, Alicia,” Carol whispered as we searched the freezer for our choice of drink.

I shook my head. “Maybe they don’t like crab.”

“So? I don’t either, but at least I sit with the others.”

I let the remark pass. But Monday at work she was at it again. “Jack’s friendly enough. In fact he’s kind of cute. But she didn’t say boo the entire night. I say she’s stuck on herself.

I remembered Jenny’s warm hello when we were introduced, her tentative smile when someone looked her way, and instantly felt ashamed. “You know, none of us exactly went out of our way to make her welcome. I think she’s just shy. And lonely too, I’ll bet. They’ve only been here two weeks.”

Carol laughed. “Okay, Ms. Welcome Wagon. Why don’t you invite her to one of those Bible wingdings of yours? The one you’re always trying to con me into.”

“What a great idea! I’ll call her tonight.”

Carol rolled her eyes. “Oh brother. Bet you a hot fudge sundae she doesn’t go.”

I grinned. “You’re on. But make it two. Jenny joins us if I win.”

The phone call was harder to make than I’d thought. My first-grader had the flu. The washing machine broke down and I had to rinse out underwear by hand. By Sunday it was all I could do to drag myself to church. It wasn’t until they announced the topic of Monday evening’s study that I remembered Jenny. I’ll call as soon as I get home.

I tried three times before I got through. “We call our folks on Sunday afternoons.” I could tell she’d been crying.

“Uh, maybe this isn’t a good time?”

“Oh, no. It’s fine. Jack’s watching the ballgame and the kids are taking naps. It’s nice to have someone to talk to.”

An hour later I’d discovered we shared a love for gardening, mystery novels and family camping trips. “But I don’t think we’ll try the beach again,” she confided. “The wind makes Danny’s asthma act up and I’m allergic to crab.”

“We’ll have to take you to the high lakes in August. In the meantime would you settle for a Bible study on Monday night?”

“Oh, Alicia, I would love that. I . . . I’ve been praying for Christian friends.”

All right! I stifled a triumphant laugh. “I’ll pick you up at 6:30. And if it’s all right with you, we’ll be going out for ice cream afterwards. Carol’s treat.

  1. What blessing was Jenny needing from God’s family

What specific blessings did Alicia give to Jenny by reaching out to her?

God’s Word for Us

Read Ephesians 4:1-16.

  1. Sometimes God’s blessing (care and provision) comes to us through other members of God’s family. List the characteristics Paul encourages in believers in Ephes. 4:2.

How might these qualities lead to a person being a blessing to others?

  1. The passage goes on to talk about the importance of unity and a sense of connection with others in the community of faith (Ephes. 4:3-6). In what ways is a sense of connection with other Christians helpful to you?
  2. How are you hurt when that sense of connection is lacking
  3. Paul explains (Ephes. 4:7-13) that the reason we have been gifted to minister to each other is in order to use our gifts to bless each other with increased faith, knowledge and spiritual growth. How has the ministry of other Christians (preaching, teaching, writing, praying, counselling) impacted your life? Give one or two specific examples
  4. In Ephes. 4:14-16 Paul uses metaphors to describe our need for each other as Christians and the outcome of the blessing we can have in each other’s lives. How does Paul describe our need
  5. How does he describe the benefits, or blessing, we can have in each other’s lives
  6. The passage tells us that our growth, spiritually, is a direct result of being loved. How are these two realities related in your experience
  7. What blessing (care and provision) do you need from God’s family at this time?

 

Now or Later

  • Make a list of thank-you notes you might write, to express your gratitude to those who have blessed your life.
  • What might help you to receive greater blessing from God’s family?
  • Make a plan to do what you can to put yourself in a place of receiving blessing from others in God’s family.
  • Read and reflect on James 5:13-16.

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Second lesson in this series of Women of Blessing

Receiving Blessing from God

SETTING THE STAGE:

Joyce’s Story

“Oh, Joyce, I told myself I wasn’t going to cry.”

I squeezed Irene’s shoulder and handed her the box of Kleenex. “You might as well tell a mosquito not to bite. It’ll ignore you every time.”

She tried a laugh. It sounded like someone had stepped on a frog. “You’re so funny. I know I shouldn’t carry on like this, but it’s hard. I can’t believe they’re gone.”

“Well, they are.” I reached for the last tissue in the box, picked up my cup of lukewarm Sanka then pushed it away. “What’s worse; they took our grandsons with them . . . how do you drink this stuff?”

I could have kicked myself.

“Oh, dear, has the jar gone bad? I keep it for company. I can only have hot water and herb tea—one dunk.”

Jenny’s mother is the closest thing to a saint I’ll ever meet. We have nothing in common except for our children’s marriage and our God. It makes for a wonderful friendship.

I remember little else about that day. Just our conversation and the sight of my son’s powder blue Camero disappearing around the corner. I tried convincing myself it wouldn’t be so bad. “We can take turns visiting at Christmas,” I told Irene, “And think of the summer vacations we’ll have.” It wasn’t working for either of us.

Jenny wrote faithfully every week. Her letters to her mother were full of news: The boys and I picked blackberries today. Tommy loves his new two wheeler. It stays light here until almost ten o’clock! But most of the ones addressed to me had an I’m-so-lonely-I-can’t-handle-this theme.

At first it hurt my feelings. Then I realized I should be grateful that Jenny trusted me enough to be honest. She obviously didn’t want to worry her mother. My shoulders were broader—in every sense of the word.

One thing for sure, her letters drove me to my knees. I knew God had a plan for them, I just didn’t know the what’s, when’s and why’s. Why did they have to move so far away? Are we a part of the plan?

You are.

The message, wherever it came from was loud and clear. So was the idea that jolted me from sleep at 3:00 a.m.

I pawed through the junk drawer and came up with an unopened package of 3 × 5’s and several coloured pens, three of which actually produced ink. By the time Howard’s Drugstore opened at 9:00, I had a stack of neatly printed cards.

The only tin boxes I could find were covered with butterflies or frilly flowers. Ugh. But I was too excited to try another store. I chose the flowers and a package of stickers to match—overkill, but if it worked . . .

The final product didn’t turn out half bad. I printed the label in neon orange—FIVE MINUTE BLESSINGS—placed the cards inside, then wrote a short note. JENNY, CHOOSE ONE EACH DAY—SATISFACTION GUARANTEED.

Scan the room; thank God for everything you see. Take a picture of the sunset. Climb a hill. Close your eyes and feel the wind. Eat an ice cream cone. Count the stars. See how high you can go in Danny’s swing. Ride Tommy’s bike. Pick dandelions, and put them in a jar. Stand in the rain. Bake cookies for a neighbour. Sing “Amazing Grace.”

I included lots of hymns—there were a lot of cards to fill. Three-hundred-sixty-five exercises in happiness. I wasn’t sure if they’d help Jenny, but I hadn’t felt so good in years.

  • As we will see in this psalm, an important aspect of receiving blessing from God is to heighten our awareness of his presence in our lives. How might Joyce’s gift to Jenny help Jenny receive God’s blessings?
  God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 84.

  • According to Psalm 84:1-4, the psalmist experiences God’s presence in an especially powerful way in the temple, the place of worship. How does he describe it?

Where do you experience God’s presence?

  • According to Psalm 84:1-2, what does the writer experience of being away from God’s presence?
  • Psalm 84:4-7 promises a blessing for those whose “strength is in [God]” and for those “who set their hearts on a pilgrimage.” What do you see as the meaning of each of these metaphors?
  • What blessings are promised (Psalm 84:6-7)?

How would you restate these promises in your own words?

  • The writer then asks for God’s attention and blessing (Psalm 84:8-9). Rewrite this as a prayer for God’s attention and blessing in your own life, making it as specific as you like.
  • How does the writer describe God in Psalm 84:10-12?
  • The final phrase makes a direct link between trusting God and receiving God’s blessing. How would you describe the relationship between trusting God and receiving God’s blessing from your own experience?
Now or Later
  • Make a list of the blessings you receive when you are in God’s presence.
  • What might you do this week to experience God’s presence and to receive his blessing?
  • What activities help you to grow in your trust of God? Make a plan to participate in one such activity this week.
  • Read and reflect on Psalm 103

 

Monday 1 June 2020

The continuing spiritual development of a young man called Samuel

Heaven and Hell

What’s the Point?

What happens in the end matters now.

Recap

In our last chapter we discussed the need for holiness and endurance in our walk with Jesus. Both of those things require us to work, even as we depend on God’s help to help us grow and persevere. Now let’s turn our attention to what awaits all of humanity at the end of their lives: either heaven or hell.

Samuel

After he became involved in crime, Samuel would often worry that he was going to wind up going to hell. One of his friends in the gang used to say, ‘We’re going to hell, but we’ll have the best stories to tell.’ Samuel never laughed, because to him hell seemed terrifying. Now that he was a Christian, he no longer worried about being damned. But if he was honest, he wasn’t really looking forward to heaven. He didn’t really understand what made heaven so great or what it would be like to be there.

Judgment

Back in our first chapter, we briefly discussed the fact that God is our holy judge. The Bible teaches that after we die—or after Jesus returns, whichever comes first—we’ll face God’s judgment. Here are a few places where we see this taught:

  • The Apostle Paul spoke to the people of Athens and told them: ‘The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead’ (Acts 17:30–31).
  • The author of Hebrews writes: ‘It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment’ ( 9:27).
  • And in 2 Corinthians, Paul tells the church: ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil’ (2 Cor. 5:10).

God’s judgment is completely fair and just because God alone has access to every thought, deed, and attitude. Unlike human judges, God is unbiased and never makes a mistake. He sees everything with perfect clarity, and so His judgment is always just (Rev. 19:2).

  • For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil’ ( 12:14).
  • And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account’ ( 4:13).
  • For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps’ (Job 34:21).
  • The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good’ ( 15:3).

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”…. Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”…. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’ (Matt. 25:31–34, 41, 46).

It’s hard to miss the point Jesus is making here: on the Day of Judgment, there will be a final separation of all humanity. Some people will be called those ‘who are blessed by my Father.’ They will be welcomed into eternal life in heaven. Others are ‘cursed’ and will go into eternal punishment in hell. There are no other options. Unbelievers are judged for their rebellion against God, while God’s people are rewarded for their faithful service because their sins have been paid for at the cross of Christ.

Let’s ask some questions in order to understand this important subject:

What Is Heaven?

Heaven is the place where God is particularly present in His love and holiness. Of course God is present in all places everywhere, but heaven is His special dwelling place (1 Kings 8:43, Isa. 66:1). This is why Jesus teaches us to pray to our Father ‘in heaven’ (Matt. 6:9). After His resurrection, Jesus went up into heaven (Heb. 9:24) and He is there even now, waiting for the day when He returns to the earth.

Heaven is a place where God is worshipped and delighted in (Rev. 4, Heb. 12:22–24). When a Christian dies, his or her spirit goes to be with Jesus in heaven (Phil. 1:21–23), where God has prepared a place for them to live in eternal happiness (Heb. 11:13–16). Heaven is a place of joy and blessing, where every temptation, tear, and trial is wiped away by God Himself (Rev. 21:4). No wonder Jesus calls it ‘paradise’ (Luke 23:43)! Living with God in heaven is the greatest thing we have to look forward to.

What Is Hell?

Hell is a place of eternal punishment for those who refused to put their faith in Jesus and have therefore died in their sins (Eph. 5:3–6). In Revelation, John gives a terrifying vision of what happens to those who oppose the Lord:

‘He also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night’ (Rev. 14:10–11).

In short, hell is the worst fate we could ever imagine.

What Does Hell Teach Us?

Hell is a terrible reality, which is why some Christians have tried to water down the Bible’s teaching to make it seem less awful.

  • Some have taught that hell is not a real place, but a metaphor for the ways we ruin our lives through sin
  • Others have taught that hell is not eternal, but a place where God puts sinners out of their misery by destroying them.
  • Some church traditions have invented other options for humans after death—like ‘purgatory,’ where our sins are cleansed and we’re slowly prepared for heaven.
  • Still others say hell is where God is absent and sinners are left to their own ways. They’re in hell because of their own free choice.

The main problem with these views is that they don’t reflect what the Bible teaches. There may be elements of truth (for example, the consequences of our sin now are a taste of what hell will be like), but the Bible is clear that those who live in rebellion against God will experience unending suffering. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus called hell ‘the unquenchable fire’ and the place where ‘the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ (Mark 9:44 and 9:48). It’s hard to understand what this means if not that the sufferings of hell go on forever.

This makes sense, too, for how could sin against an eternal God not be punished in an eternal way? If sin is treason committed by people with eternal souls against a perfectly holy God who exists in every place for all eternity, at what point in the future would we imagine that God’s holy anger against sin will be finished?

We shouldn’t act as if God’s reputation and character need to be saved from the reality of hell. In fact, hell teaches us some important things—namely, that God is very holy and sin against Him is very terrible. If the things that the Bible teaches about hell seem unfair or unjust, it’s probably because we don’t take God’s glory and holiness seriously enough. If we did, we wouldn’t even think to suggest that God is somehow unjust to punish sin the way He does. In fact, it would be wrong for God not to punish sins the way He does.

Stop

Many people don’t believe in a final judgment or in hell. What reasons might people have not to believe in these things?

What Difference Do Heaven and Hell Make in My Life Now?

Jesus spoke often about hell, not because He enjoyed scaring people but because He knew we ought to live in light of this terrible reality. We should be more concerned to avoid hell than to avoid suffering here on earth.

  • If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell’ ( 5:29–30).
  • And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’ ( 10:28).

Thankfully, the opposite is also true. If the reality of hell should keep us from sin, then the promise of heaven should encourage us toward holiness and obedience.

  • Pursuing purity might be tiresome and difficult, but there’s an amazing reward waiting for us in heaven: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ ( 5:8).
  • The author of Hebrews tells us that Moses said ‘no’ to the sinful pleasures of Egypt in order to obtain a reward in heaven: ‘By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward’ ( 11:24–26).
Illustration

Knowing the consequences of certain behaviours helps us make good decisions. People used to smoke cigarettes like crazy. Now that we know they cause lung cancer, far fewer people are willing to smoke. The cost is simply too high. People choose not to break laws simply because they don’t want to go to jail. Knowing that hell awaits for those who live in rebellion against God should motivate us to say ‘no’ to sin and to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus.

Similarly, most people are willing to experience some kind of short-term difficulty in order to gain something better in the future. People go to work, lift weights, eat healthy foods, stay in school, and save money not because those are the most enjoyable things in the moment, but because they bring long-term rewards that are worth the short-term sacrifices. Heaven is like that; it’s our long-term reward. We bypass sinful pleasures because we know it’s far better to have heaven than to have the fleeting enjoyment of sin.

The Bible is very realistic; it never says that sin brings no pleasure. After all, there are reasons people do sinful things!

Getting high feels good in the moment.

Stealing money enables you to buy things you’ll enjoy.

Sexual sin brings physical pleasure.

We don’t need to deny this truth in order to avoid sin.

But here’s the problem with sin: its pleasures are too small and too temporary. Whatever moment of happiness we get can never make hell worth it; they can’t compare to the eternal joys of being in God’s presence forever.

Samuel

At first, the idea of eternal punishment made Samuel uncomfortable. But as he thought about it, the world he knew was filled with injustice. The strong always took advantage of the weak, men preyed on women, adults used children, and the wicked took advantage of the good. In this light, it became easier to see the goodness in God’s just judgment.

Memory Verse

‘These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city’ (Heb. 11:13–16).

Summary

Because we were made by God in His image, every human being is ultimately accountable to Him. God has promised to punish sins for all eternity in hell, but has also promised to give eternal life in paradise to everyone who turns to Him through faith in Christ. Those truths should motivate us to say ‘no’ to sin and to look forward to being with God in heaven.