Pastor’s Thoughts

Thursday 29 October 2020

Ezekiel 23

Two Adulterous Sisters – Ezekiel 23:1-49

Open It

  1. In what ways are you and your siblings alike or different?
  2. In your opinion how difficult is it to change patterns of behaviour that are developed during your youth?

Explore It

  1. Who was represented by the two sisters in Ezekiel’s parable? (23:1-4)
  2. Where were the two sisters first guilty of unfaithfulness and prostitution? (23:3)
  3. After what nation’s warriors did the first sister, representing Samaria, lust? (23:5-8)
  4. What other sin followed along with “prostitution”? (23:7)
  5. To what judgment did God hand over Oholah, the first sister? (23:9-10)
  6. How did the one woman behave when she saw what happened to her sister? (23:11-13)
  7. *In what way did Oholibah (Judah) go farther than Oholah in her sin? (23:14-21)
  8. What did God promise would happen to Oholibah? (23:22-24)
  9. Whose standards of punishment would be applied against Judah? (23:24-26)
  10. What words are used to describe what would be Judah’s condition after she was judged? (23:28-34)
  11. What attitude toward God compelled Him to allow Judah’s suffering? (23:35)
  12. What sins did the Lord list that He held against Israel and Judah? (23:36-41)
  13. To whom did even the children of prostitutes belong? (23:37)
  14. How would the two sisters be treated by evil men and righteous men, respectively? (23:42-45)
  15. How did God intend to put an end to the prostitution of His people? (23:46-48)

Get It

  1. How might the people of Judah have felt about being told they were worse than Israel, which had already suffered God’s judgment?
  2. When have you wanted something that, once attained, ultimately disappointed you?
  3. How can we expect to be treated by others if we treat ourselves with contempt?
  4. Why, once we have given into one sin, does it become easier to go on to something worse?
  5. How does God feel about little ones, regardless of the circumstances of their conception or birth?
  6. In what sense was the Babylonian invasion and exile an instance of God’s people bearing the consequences of their own actions?

Apply It

  1. What negative pattern from your childhood or youth do you need to “unlearn” with God’s help?
  2. When you feel the lure of power, wealth, or inordinate pleasure, how can you counteract it and remain faithful to God?

 

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Crisis worship 6
  1. Desiring the Dramatic

Hannah—Can we worship in bitterness of soul?

I Samuel 1:1-28

1Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
2And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there.
4And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
   5But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb.
6And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.
7And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
 8Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
9So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord.
10And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.
11And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
12And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth.
13Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
14And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.
15And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.
16Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
17Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.
18And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
19And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her.
20Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.
21And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.
22But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever.
23And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the Lord establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.
24And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young.
25And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.
26And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord.
27For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
28Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there.

The story before us is one that is vivid and has a plot that is touching. As we consider the life of Hannah, many of the readers can feel her pain. The story of Hannah has a human element that people can identify with even in these modern times. In reading this story many of us can humanize her dilemma. Most of us know someone in the same situation. The journey will conclude with Hannah maintaining her faith in her God though she was barren, broken, and had bitterness in her soul. Crisis worship gets past the hurt, the heartache, and the heaviness of the situation.

The Godly Family that is Mentioned

The story opens up telling us about the partner of Hannah, her husbands name was Elkanah. He was a good husband to Hannah, he loved her more than words could express. Elkanah was also a Godly man of faith; he loyally traveled to the house of his God to worship. In the opening passage we also read of the problem of Hannah. The bible reveals her inward pain; this pain was due to her barrenness. As she lived from day to day this barrenness haunted her, it cried out with a loud voice that could never be silenced. The voiced cried so loud in the silence of each night; that the perplexity of Hannah seemed to be an impossible case.

The Gloomy Future that is Manifested

How many of us face odds that seem to have no resolution, no remedy, and seemingly no recourse for a good outcome? We can identify with her sorrow, the sorrow that no doctor could cure. The problem was a barren womb, no hope of children. This would weigh so heavy on her mentally, emotionally, and could eventually affect her physically. The days turned into months, and then the years begin to pass by; no help ever came her way. This produced a broken woman, a woman of much weeping and mighty wants.

The Glaring Foe that is mobilized

It is bad enough to have problems that stand in our path, but it is even worse when the enemy tries to bully us around. We now see the woman that taunted Hannah; she was also the wife of Elkanah. The name of this woman was Peninnah; she was very mean and malicious woman. We need to hear the words that troubled Hannah; pointed words of that brought pain. The husband gave portions of his wealth to Peninnah and her children every year, but he gave a greater portion to Hannah. He loved her more than he could ever love his wife Peninnah. In spite of all of this we see the womb that tormented Hannah; no amount of love could ease the pain of her barren womb.

The Gallant Fortitude that is Maintained

In situation after situation I have found Christians that maintained their faith in spite of the circumstances. It is so refreshing to hear the stories of Gods little loved ones displaying faith and fortitude in the midst of crisis. Hannah goes to the house of God and the bitterness of her soul is revealed. In spite of having a bitter soul, her pain was inward; but her faith was upward.

In her prayer request she identifies the bigness of her situation. A big situation should require a big God; and a big request. As she prays, Hannah does the unthinkable, look at the boldness of her supplication. In praying she declares that if God would bless her with a man child, she would give him back to serve in the Lords house. This is such an awesome prayer of bright hope and bold faith.

The Great Fuss that is Mistaken

The priest is in the Lords house and watches Hannah. He finds her actions displeasing and makes mention of his displeasure; he has considered her to be drunk. I see the misguided accusation of Eli, in his haste he ignorantly accused of her of wrongdoing. I dare say that many of us jump the gun in equating the sorrows of our fellow man for some type of sin. We need to use caution before we accuse someone of something. How many times have we seen other people in crisis and let words of untruth flow from our lips?

This barren, broken and bitter woman declares to Eli that he is wrong. The woman is not drunk, but she was to the point of so much grief that her lips were moving but no audible words could be heard. This type of praying is probably the best type of praying. If we ever pray this type of prayer the Holy Spirit will make groaning and utterances on our behalf. We see the marvelous answer of Hannah, she was not drunk; but devoted. The woman had placed all of her trust in her God and in him only would she trust.

The Good Fortune that is Mandated

The priest was amazed at the faith of this feeble yet fantastic woman and the prayer of Hannah is heard. In hearing her prayer, we also find that the problem of Hannah is healed; she had to be so excited. I dare say that as she entered into the house of God that day it must have been so gloomy, but as she exits the house of God it must have been so bright. In leaving the pain of Hannah is halted, no more barrenness, no more brokenness, and no more bitterness. It had to be the brightest day of worship that she had ever experienced. The lord had heard her praying and would gloriously answer her feeble prayer.

The Glorious Faith that is Magnified

The days swiftly passed by and Hannah gives birth to a precious baby boy, his name is Samuel. Hannah has a special request concerning her boy. She wants to nurse him until he is weaned; then she will take him to the Lords house and there he will stay for the rest of his life. The request is granted by her husband and Hannah finds much to be thankful for as she raises this boy. Hannah had enough faith to desire the dramatic and God dramatically granted her desires.

The time came for Hannah to take Samuel to the Lords house, how would she respond? We should consider her somber resolve, she would honor her vow. This woman would be pleasing to God. The Lord expects us to follow through with every vow that we make. It is better to never make a vow; than to vow unto God and never honor it!

Hannah teaches us that it is possible to worship God in bitterness of soul. It can be accomplished; it is attainable for God’s children to reach this level of worship. In spite of our circumstances, no matter how difficult our dilemma; crisis worship is possible. The great thing about this story is that crisis worship is expected of each person that declares the name of God. We must desire the dramatic, our God can help us.

 

Tuesday 27 October 2020

WOMEN OF CHARACTER / WOMEN OF REST 6 FINAL

Resting in God’s Purpose

Luke 2:21-40

Setting the Stage:

Melissa, Bridesmaid

Who says a wedding has to be in church? If you ask me, I don’t think God cares. Anyway, this whole wedding thing has been so weird. I told them Doug would come home sooner or later. So why the big time stress? It’s not like he can help it or anything. The Air Force is his job.

Angie said she knew that. She knew she’d have to get used to it too, if she was going to marry him. But she cried all the time anyway, and I thought, “Geesh, maybe I’ll just stay single.”

With Mom sick, and Nana busy cancelling everything, I figured it was up to me to finish my dress. It was, like, no big deal. The machine was all set up, and I’d been sewing t-shirts and stuff since the seventh grade. I just said a prayer and followed the pattern.

Was I right? Doug called Angie on July first and I made her tell me word for word. “We just got in,” he said. “I’ll be home in two days. Do you still want to marry me?”

You’d think he’d been gone a year. Angie cried because he was coming home, Moms cried because she was still suppose to stay in bed, and Nana flew into cyberspace. “Melissa, you’ll just have to do the flowers. I’ve got two days and we are going to have this wedding!”

I said, “Cool!”

Angie helped. We picked some sprigs of lilac from the bush next to the porch, and Mom said to cut every rose that was anything close to a bud. We wrapped them in bunches with wet paper towels, then set them on newspaper in the back of Angie’s car.

When we got to Nana’s, the vases were scrubbed and ready. Nana sounded like a drill sergeant. “Angela, the bakery called. The cake is ready, and don’t forget the petit fours. Melissa, you can help in the kitchen.”

Boy, did the ladies from church come through with the goodies! Nuts and mints in silver dishes and little sandwiches shaped like hearts. I made cran-raspberry punch, and poured it in the good crystal punch bowl.

Some men set up the folding chairs. Then they rolled a bolt of white material down the stairs, across the carpet to the fireplace where Pastor and the rest of us would stand.

The living room smelled like a garden. Moms said, “I’ve rested enough,” and set bouquets of lilacs and roses everywhere.

I got dressed in Angie’s room and helped her fix her veil. Doug wasn’t supposed to see her, but I went down and snapped his picture with my Instamatic. He gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Whoa,” I thought, “I hope I find someone like him to marry.”

Everything was cool until the photographer called. His car broke down or something. Anyway he couldn’t make it till four and the ceremony was set for noon. I thought Nana would loose it for sure, but she just bowed her head a minute then smiled and said, “Didn’t I see Melissa with a camera?”

All the pictures turned out neat. Here’s one of Aunt Angie and me standing by the fountain in Nana’s back yard. Nana said, “Melissa, you look like a Sterling rosebud in that dress,” and Moms said, “It’s okay, Missy, she means well,” and I said, “What a cool wedding. Hey, you guys, think about it. In a few years we’ll be doing this for me!”

  1. How did God teach Melissa about his purposes through Angie’s wedding?
  2. When has God revealed his purposes to you through a seemingly strange set of circumstances?
God’s Word for Us

Read Luke 2:21-40.

  1. Describe the setting of this story.
  2. What do you learn about Simeon (Luke 2:22-25)?

about Anna (Luke 2:36-38)?

  1. What do you think is Simeon’s view of and/or relationship with God?

What is Anna’s?

  1. How did their perception of God and his purpose seem to affect their daily lives?
  2. To what degree do you think God has a purpose for you?
  3. What hope do Simeon and Anna offer the family?
  4. How do Simeon and Anna also offer the family a mixed blessing?
  5. How do you see a mixture of hope and barriers to hope in your own life?
  6. How do Mary and Joseph move forward in the purpose God has for them (Luke 2:39-40)?
  7. How have you been affected by others who have rested in God and his purpose for them?
  8. What have you learned from Simeon and Anna that will help you to rest in God and his purposes?
 Now or Later

Journal on the following: What is it like for me to have to wait for something important?

Reflect on the following passages:

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)

“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” (Habakkuk 2:1)

Wait before the Lord, quietly, to hear whatever he has to say to you. Write down what he says.

 

 

Monday 26 October 2020

Prayer week 6

Week 6: Intercession

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.”

James 5:16

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 6

Day 1: Asking for Others
Day 2: Examples of Intercession
Day 3: Following Your Master’s Leading
Day 4: Praying for Others
Day 5: Praying Together in God’s Work

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful” (James 5:16).

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 6

“Prayers of Intercession” (pp. 102-3)

PREVIEW OF WEEK 6

Intercession is asking for others that is led by your Master. This week you will—

  • understand your relationship as a servant to God, your Master;
  • learn how to join God’s work by seeking and praying for His desires;
  • understand why intercession is the greater kind of asking and why a call to intercession is one of God’s highest callings for a person’s life;
  • follow biblical models of intercession to pray more effectively for others;
  • understand how God works through united prayer to reveal His will and purposes to a church or a group;
  • discuss what your group will do after this study has ended.

Day 1: Asking for Others

Today’s Prayer Promise

“The Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mindset, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

Petition is asking for yourself, your family, your church, or your group. Petition is led by your Heavenly Father. A second kind of asking prayer is intercession. Intercession is asking for others that is led by your Master.

What is the second kind of asking prayer?

  1. Petition
  2. ________

God is your Master. You are His servant. God is working to reconcile a lost world to Himself through Christ. He is carrying out His kingdom purposes and has chosen you to be His servant to labor with Him in the kingdom. One way to work with God is through prayers of intercession—praying for others and praying for kingdom purposes to be completed in their lives. God, as your Master, will lead your prayers according to His purposes.

Who leads prayers of intercession? My _____________________

AN EXAMPLE OF JESUS’ INTERCESSION

Intercessory prayer reaches its highest potential when it is intended to further the kingdom of God and to accomplish His will.

Jesus prayed for His disciples. At the Last Supper Jesus told Simon Peter that Satan had asked permission to sift him like wheat. Jesus then told Simon, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, this prayer made possible Peter’s great courage before the Sanhedrin: “When they [the Sanhedrin] observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13; also see vv. 8-12). Intercessory prayer reaches its highest potential when it is intended to further the kingdom of God and to accomplish His will.

THE GREATER KIND OF ASKING

Years ago I (T. W.) began to study all of the prayers of the Bible, especially the asking prayers that were answered with a yes. Eighty of the answered asking prayers in the Bible were personal petition. One hundred thirty-one were intercession. Intercession is the more important kind of asking.

All of God’s servants are called to be intercessors.

All of God’s servants are called to be intercessors. Some seem to receive a more specific calling to intense intercession. We often call these persons prayer warriors —persons who wage spiritual battles in intercessory prayer. The calling to be an intercessor is a high calling.

Have you ever sensed God’s calling to a deeper-than-usual role of intercessory prayer?

Yes
No

If you answered yes, briefly describe your sense of calling and how you have responded.

Read today’s prayer promise, Romans 8:26-27, as well as Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25 below. Which two persons of the Trinity intercede for you?

“Christ Jesus … is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.”—Romans 8:34

“He [Jesus] is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.”—Hebrews 7:25

____________________________ and __________________________

Jesus and the Holy Spirit are intercessors for you. When God calls you to be an intercessor, you join Jesus and the Holy Spirit in their work. That is a high calling indeed!

How would you rate the importance of being an intercessor?

a. Not very important. Other work is far more important.
b. It may be important but only in a crisis.
c. Very important—it is also the job of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Intercession is God’s basic method for accomplishing His will among people.

The biblical pattern is that God often did His work through the prayers of great intercessors. When God wanted to deliver the children of Israel from bondage, He raised up Moses to pray for them. When He wanted to deliver them from the murderous plot of Haman, He raised up Esther to fast for them. To rebuild the Jerusalem wall and to renew the covenant, God used the prayers of Nehemiah and Ezra. He started the missionary movement through the prayers of the church in Antioch. The biblical pattern tells us that God does not usually work by Himself. He prefers to work through the prayers of His saints. Intercession is God’s basic method for accomplishing His will among people.

Ask God to train you to be an intercessor. Offer your life to Him for any job of intercession to which He may call you.

Day 2: Examples of Intercession

Today’s Prayer Promise

“[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Intercessory prayer is so important that it can make the difference between life and death. During the early days of the church, King Herod put James to death. Because this pleased the Jews, Herod arrested Peter with the plan to kill him also. “Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5). In the night an angel of the Lord delivered Peter from prison. Peter immediately went to the house of Mary and John Mark, “where many had assembled and were praying” (Acts 12:12). God worked through the prayers of the early church to spare Peter’s life for further service. Your prayers and the prayers of your group could have similar importance in God’s kingdom.

Turn to pages 1023 and read other examples of intercession.

  1. Who prayed all night? _____________________
  2. Who wrestled in prayer for God’s people? _____________________
  3. Who prayed for God to forgive those who were killing him? _____________________
  4. What are some of the things Paul prayed for churches? _____________________

Paul’s Prayers for Churches

  • Knowledge of God’s will, spiritual wisdom, and understanding
  • Worthy living that would please the Lord
  • Spiritual fruit bearing
  • Growth in the knowledge of God
  • Strength and power
  • Endurance, patience, and joy
  • Faith, love, and spiritual fullness

Jesus, Epaphras, and Stephen were intercessors. Paul was also a great intercessor who earnestly prayed for churches. Some of the things for which He prayed are listed above.

Stop and pray some of the following requests for your church or for another church with which you are familiar. Include some of Paul’s prayers for the churches. Which request is your greatest burden for God to grant? Circle it.

  • Knowledge of God’s will, spiritual wisdom, and understanding
  • Worthy living that would please the Lord
  • Spiritual fruit bearing
  • Growth in the knowledge of God
  • Strength and power
  • Endurance, patience, and joy
  • Faith, love, and spiritual fullness

The Bible has many examples of intercessory prayer. You can learn from these examples. Let’s examine Jesus’ great intercessory prayer in John 17. Concerned about His followers, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ spiritual needs. He prayed for them because these would be the leaders in promoting the kingdom of God. For His disciples Jesus requested unity, protection and deliverance, and sanctification or holiness.

Read the verses from John 17 below. On the lines write the verse numbers that relate to each prayer request.

11 “Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one. 12 While I was with them, I was protecting them by Your name that You have given Me. 15 I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth. 20 I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. 21 May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. 22 I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. 23 I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.”—John 17:11-12, 15-23

Unity: _____________________

Protection and deliverance: _____________________

Sanctification or holiness: _____________________

Jesus prayed that His disciples might be one. The great unity He wanted had been disturbed by a quarrel among the disciples about who would be the greatest (see Luke 22:24-27). Jesus asked for that unity four times from four perspectives. He and the disciples had the same power (v. 11), relationship to the Father (v. 21), witness to the world (v. 23), and name (vv. 11-12).Because unity was so significant to Jesus, it ought to be part of your prayers too. Pray for unity not just for one local congregation or one denomination but for all who belong to God through faith in His Son, Jesus.

Jesus also prayed for the disciples’ protection, deliverance (vv. 11, 15), and sanctification (v. 17). Sanctified means made holy, and holy means set apart. No impurity from the world should be allowed into the hearts of God’s people, who have been set apart for His work.

Pray these prayers for your church: for unity, protection, deliverance, and sanctification (being set apart, holy, pure).

Day 3: Following Your Master’s Leading

Scripture-Memory Verse

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful” (James 5:16).

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He preached this message: “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus is the King of this kingdom. The kingdom Jesus spoke of is His rule in the hearts of His people. He is the King, and we are His subjects. He is the Master, and we are His servants (see 1 Corinthians 7:22-23 below). When you trusted Christ as your Savior, He also became Lord (Master) of your life. As a servant of God, you have tasks to complete that represent His work.

“He who is called by the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called as a free man is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”—1 Corinthians 7:22-23

Beside each word indicate whether the role belongs to Christ or to you. Write either a C for Christ or an M for me.

servant
master
subject
king
lord

Jesus is King, Master, and Lord. You are a servant and a subject. A servant never tells the Master what to do. The Master decides what is important. As God’s servant, you join Him in the work He is doing. This was Jesus’ approach in knowing and doing His Father’s will (see John 5:17, 19-20 below). When you pray as a servant, the emphasis is on God’s work. Your objects in prayer are to know the mind and heart of your Master and to pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done.

“My Father is still working, and I am working also. I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He is doing.”—John 5:17, 19-20

Where should your prayer requests originate as you pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done?

a. I do my best thinking and decide what to ask God to do.
b. I seek God’s direction for my prayer requests.

Intercession begins and ends in God.

As your Master, God will lead your intercession. As you pray for others or for Kingdom purposes, seek God’s direction for your prayer requests. This may seem strange to you if you have not experienced God’s directing your prayers. God is able to give you direction if you are willing to seek it and to wait on Him for an answer.

Servanthood secures God’s interest in your prayers for His work. Through the power and authority of the prayers He leads you to pray, God accomplishes His work. Intercession begins and ends in God.

When you pray, you may call Jesus your Master. This will help you keep in mind that He is the One who directs the work of intercession. On the Lord’s behalf, pray for the spread of His kingdom and for right relationships with other servants. Pray that His blessings and works will demonstrate His lordship and righteousness.

Your Master will guide your praying according to His will. He has revealed in His Word some of the topics for which He wants you to pray.

Read the verses below. Below each Scripture write the name of someone for whom you can pray.

“Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

“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 6:18).

“I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful” (James 5:16).

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

The Bible also describes your Master’s concerns. As you read and study the Scriptures, you will learn subjects about which to pray. When you read, “The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), you can pray for God’s continued patience and for the salvation of the lost. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you men what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: Only to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Thus, you can pray for justice, faithfulness, and humility. In Isaiah 58:6-7 God reveals actions that please Him:

Isn’t the fast I choose:

To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and to not ignore your own flesh and blood?

Approach your Master in prayer. Ask Him to reveal His purposes and to guide your intercession for others. Pray for the persons and concerns you identified above. Work together with Him as you pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Day 4: Praying for Others

Today’s Prayer Promise

“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think—according to the power that works in you—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Instead of learning more about prayer today, you will spend time praying for others. As you learned in week 4, you can use prayer lists to help you remember to pray for specific persons and concerns.

Prepare lists of persons for whom you need to pray, using the following categories to stimulate your thinking. Ask God to bring to mind persons for whom He wants you to intercede.

Your family members:
Members of your church family:
Your pastor and other church leaders:
Your coworkers:
Relatives, friends, and acquaintances:
Other churches and denominations:
Missionaries (domestic and international):
Ministry leaders:
Civil authorities (local, regional, and national):
Your city, state, province, and nation:
Needy or poor persons:
Oppressed, abused, or victimized persons:
Hungry and homeless persons:
Widows, orphans, and prisoners:
Sick and homebound persons:
Your enemies—those who persecute you:

Take time to pray for some or all persons on your lists. Emphasize spiritual concerns in your prayers. You will find items you may want to request of the Lord. below Try to be specific in your prayers. Take as much time in prayer as possible.

Possible Requests

  • assurance
  • bold witnessing
  • calling of Christian workers
  • Christian fruit
  • Christian unity
  • conviction of sin
  • deliverance
  • endurance
  • faith
  • faithfulness
  • filling of the Holy Spirit
  • forgiveness
  • generosity
  • guidance, God’s will
  • healing—spiritual, emotional, physical
  • holiness
  • hope
  • humility
  • integrity
  • joy
  • judgment
  • justice
  • knowledge
  • love
  • loyalty
  • mercy
  • obedience
  • patience
  • peace
  • preservation
  • provision of needs
  • purity
  • reconciliation of broken relationships
  • repentance and revival among God’s people
  • right conduct
  • right motives
  • spirit of servanthood
  • spiritual awakening and conversion of the lost
  • spiritual cleansing
  • spiritual growth
  • stewardship
  • surrender and submission to Christ
  • understanding
  • wisdom

Day 5: Praying Together in God’s Work

Today’s Prayer Promise

“I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Your church is the body of Christ. Christ is its Head, and every believer is a member of the body. Each member has a function in the body. Think about your physical body for a moment. What would you miss if you had no sight, hearing, smell, touch, or taste? Missing any one of your senses would prevent your body from knowing all it can of the physical world.

In a similar way, all of the members of the body are needed to function where God put them in your church body. If some members are not functioning, your church body is limited in knowing all it can of the spiritual world. As you pray about God’s will and purposes, you cannot know God’s will for the body without the participation of the other members of your spiritual body. Every contribution adds to your understanding of God’s will and of how to pray accordingly.

Look back at diagram 6 on page 57. Study the circle in the center. When you pray together with others, you are seeking to understand God’s desires. Then you pray in agreement with His will.

Think of God’s will for your church as a puzzle. God gives each member one or more pieces. By themselves your pieces may not make sense. But as each piece is shared with the body and put into its place, a beautiful picture begins to become clear. This is why your church needs times to share together and pray together. This would apply as well to committees and the church staff as they seek the Lord’s directions for their work.

Think about your pieces of a puzzle which represent God’s work for your church. List things you sense God may want to do in or through your church below. Before you start writing, let us caution you: this is not a brainstorming session for you to list your ideas. Rather, you need to identify what God has been saying to you. If something comes to mind as you pray through this activity, write it down. As you share these ideas with others, God will either confirm them or not confirm them. Trust that He can and will. Thank Him either way and don’t feel offended if an item is not confirmed. All you want is to know your Master’s will. Now pray; then consider the following questions as you make your list.

My Understanding of God’s Will/Purposes

My Prayer Group’s Understanding of God’s Will/Purposes

My Church’s Understanding of God’s Will/Purposes

  • What burdens has God given you as you have prayed about His will and about your place in His will for your church?
  • What needs in your community have you felt a God-given burden to meet?
  • What activity in and around your church may indicate an invitation for you to join God’s work?
  • What scriptural command has God used to convict you about an area your church needs to address (for example, ministry to the poor, needy, oppressed, widows, and orphans or ministries of tithing, loving, witnessing, teaching, and disciple making)?
  • Might the kinds of members God has been adding to your body indicate God’s preparation for an assignment (for example, medical personnel for medical-missions work, ethnic persons for starting a new church, or construction personnel for building churches in missions areas)?

Have you listed things that you sense God may want to do through your church or prayer group? This may be your part of the message God wants to reveal to your church or group about His will. In your prayer session this week you will have an opportunity to share items on your list. Others will share their lists. Then together you will seek God’s perspective on areas He may want you to pray about more completely. This may be a very exciting time as you pray together about God’s work in and through your church or group. You may find that God will speak clearly during the prayer time about something special of which He is calling you to be a part.

The early church in the New Testament prayed together about many concerns related to God’s will and purposes. They prayed for boldness in witnessing, Christian fruit, the filling of the Spirit, conduct worthy of the Lord, spiritual enlightenment and understanding, deliverance from evil or preservation, the sick, church leaders, missionaries, and persons in authority.

Begin praying now for your group prayer time. Ask God to guide your praying according to His will and purposes. Ask Him to speak clearly to your prayer group and to your church about His will and purposes. Don’t forget to pray for the larger body of Christ—other churches, denominations, missionaries, and believers in other states, provinces, or countries—that God’s kingdom will come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The lines below are for taking notes during your prayer time with your group.

 

Saturday 24 October 2020

1ST STEPS
CHARACTER 6
  1. We Are Made for Goodness

What’s the Point?

Christians should grow in goodness.

‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’ (Gal. 5:22-23).

Jackie

What is goodness? Is it just someone who is being good?

We use the word good all the time.

The movie was good
carrots are good for your eyes
I feel good about myself
she’s good at football
he’s a good cook

We say it loads, but what does it mean? And haven’t we just talked about it in the last chapter? What’s the difference between kindness and goodness? Aren’t they just the same thing? If they are the same thing, then why does Paul list them as separate fruit in Galatians 5:22? There has to be some difference or he wouldn’t have bothered. Or, is kindness just the acting out of being good?

Is there a difference between kindness and goodness? This was my question of the day yesterday; by this point my head was hurting so I decided to enlist some help. I asked a few people but to no avail: ‘Oh, I’d have to think about that’ was pretty much the standard answer from everyone – even the smart ones. Then our associate minister helpfully said to try googling Tim Keller as he has a definition of each fruit. Genius!

Agathosune [the Greek word used in the New Testament; it was originally written in Greek] = goodness, integrity; being the same person in every situation, rather than a phony or a hypocrite. This is not the same as being always truthful but not always loving; getting things off your chest just to make yourself feel or look better.

Having ‘integrity’ means being an honest person with strong moral principles who isn’t two-faced or a fake. Now that’s an old-fashioned word we don’t hear used on a regular basis these days. Nowadays, it seems everyone squishes and smudges the truth to suit themselves. It’s become so normal to lie that we may not even realise we are doing it, and actual honesty seems a distant memory. In fact, it seems that being honest sometimes sets us at a disadvantage. It can appear that every sphere of life is built on a lie in some way:

the super exciting Facebook status,
the truth that is stretched on our résumé or C.V. to get the job we’re not quite qualified for,
ripping off the social by claiming benefits as a single parent when your man lives with you or claiming housing benefit for the flat you’re sub-letting,
claiming our phone was stolen when we sold it at cash convertors for £200,
even swearing on our granny’s grave when she is alive and kicking.

To be honest the list is endless and that’s the sad fact.

As I write this chapter one of the two top news stories talks about a human rights lawyer who brought false claims of torture and murder against British troops. He has admitted his misconduct to the tribunal, admitted to nine allegations of acting without integrity and recklessness – and yet he has denied dishonesty. How can that be possible? The other story is the Russian athlete doping scandal, suggesting a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the Russian government.

James 5:12 (esv) says ‘But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.’

Too often people pretend to have virtues, morals and principles that they don’t actually possess. We fake it, but our actions deny our profession of faith. Even as Christians we aren’t that honest. ‘My word is my bond’ is a motto that’s been in use for centuries but, for us Christians, many of us simply can’t be trusted to keep our word – our word is worthless, never mind our bond.

Stop

Are you living out your faith every day or faking it well? What does your life say about the goodness of the Lord?

Illustration

Jackie comes to see you one Monday morning after school drop-off. ‘I’m freaking out. I got a letter from the social this morning and they want to make me go back to work. I’m not fit! They know I’ve got depression and a bad back. How can they expect me to work when I can’t even get through the day? What if they sanction my money? What am I going to do?’ Jackie shows you a letter which states she has a back-to-work assessment next week. She’s a little more relaxed after you offer to come with her to the appointment.

The appointment date comes and as you pull up at Jackie’s she gives you a wave from the window. As she leaves the house you notice she is not only looking very smart but is sporting a hospital-style crutch round her left arm and limping. She looks like she is having some real trouble walking. As she plonks herself in the front seat she looks at you and rolls her eyes. ‘Look, before you even say anything to me, I’ve been talking to a few people and they told me I have to really emphasise my illness to get them to see it. It’s not like I’m outright lying, I’m just exaggerating it a little so they can see how bad it really gets for me. I’m actually helping them assess me better. I knew you were gonna be all judgmental and I should have just got a taxi. It’s easy for you – you’ve got a job. You don’t know how hard it is for me.’

Stop

As a Christian what should Jackie be doing? How would you respond if it were you in the car?

Jackie

Jackie actually listened to what you had to say in the car that day and decided to be honest. ‘I’m still a bit scared, though – trusting God is hard.’ The crutch stayed with you in the car park when she went in for her assessment.

God’s goodness shows us exactly who He is and what He is like; this should be displayed in our lives. His goodness is made up of righteousness, justice, mercy and forgiveness.

His works are good,
His commands are good,
His Word is good,
His gifts are good,
His ways are good,
He is upstanding and lacks nothing.
Everything He does is good.

‘“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments”’ (Matt. 19:17).

So, is it possible for us to display God’s goodness in our lives when it is so exceptional and extraordinary? No matter how much we try, how much effort we put in, we simply can’t be that good, can we? This time, surely, God is expecting the impossible of us.

‘But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’ (Titus 3:4-7, esv)

Stop

Why is it possible for us to practise doing good in our lives?

The gospel makes it possible for us to display God’s goodness in our lives as we express it through our faith in action. Thankfully, we don’t have to do that in our own strength – let’s face it, we’d be useless anyway. Most of us have the willpower of a gnat. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that God’s the one who does this work in our lives, so we can’t boast about our own strength of will or ability. Paul writes, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’

God’s the one who transforms us and makes this possible. That doesn’t mean we just sit back, feet up, and do nothing. Heart change really comes from God. He is the one who transforms us, but He expects us to put that change into practice.

‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you’ (Phil. 4:8-9).

In his book The Fruitful Life the author Jerry Bridges says,

Remember that most opportunities for doing good come across the ordinary path of our day. Don’t look for the spectacular; few people ever have the opportunity to pull a victim from the wreckage of a flaming automobile. All of us have opportunity to administer the kind or encouraging word – to do a little, perhaps unseen, deed that makes life more pleasant for someone else.

Jerry Bridges reminds us that it’s not just in the extraordinary or even special moments of life that we need to show God’s goodness, but in the everyday, humdrum, boring, ordinary moments. The truth is we probably find it easier to remember to engage our brain and think about practising goodness when we are at church, but at home it may be different. In those little everyday moments when we are just strolling through life with our family, our brains are often in neutral; we forget and all thoughts of goodness go out the window.

But the little things matter.

Stop

Who are you struggling to show goodness to and why?

It’s in these moments, when we are struggling for whatever reason to practise God’s goodness, that we need to pause and have a wee reality check. We forget far too easily who we are and what we have done. God knows our deepest darkest thoughts; He knows the real us, even the bits we can’t admit to ourselves, and yet, still He shows us His goodness through the gospel. That’s an amazing gift – that’s grace, and because of that we must make every effort to practise that goodness, even to those we are struggling to love.

Key Point

Everything God does is good.God’s goodness is made up of His righteousness, justice, mercy and forgiveness. His works are good, His commands are good, His Word is good, His gifts are good, His ways are good – He is upstanding and lacks nothing.

Memory Verse

‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’ (Ps. 23:6, esv)

Summary

Even though we use the word good all the time we struggle to really pin down what it means. As Christians we are called to grow in goodness which means live with integrity, being honest, not being two-faced or being a phoney. Everything God does is good. His goodness shows exactly who He is and what He is like – righteous, just, merciful and forgiving. This is the goodness

 

Friday 23 October 2020

Bible Mysteries 16

PART 16: AND SOME TASTY LEFTOVERS

CURSE YOU!

Today we think of cursing as referring to profanity. This wasn’t the case in Bible times, for people put a great deal of stock in curses: Words spoken against a person or thing had (so people believed) real power. A curse, like a blessing, would “stick.” In some cases, the curses really did have power, for it was God himself who pronounced the curse.

  1. Who cursed a fig tree for not bearing fruit?
  2. Who was sent by the king of Moab to put a curse on Israel?
  3. Which grandson of Noah was cursed for his father’s sins?
  4. What was the only animal to be cursed by God?
  5. Who put a curse on Cain and made him a wanderer?
  6. Which son of Josiah was cursed by God?
  7. In what story did Jesus place a curse on the unrighteous?
  8. According to Paul, what was put under a curse because of man’s sin?
  9. What nation did God say would have its towns and fields cursed because of disobedience?
  10. What happened to the ground as a result of God’s curse?
  11. Who received a promise from God that all persons who cursed him would be cursed themselves?
  12. According to Galatians, what people remain under a curse?
  13. Who said that people who taught a false gospel would be cursed?
  14. According to Paul, who was made a curse for our sins?
  15. According to the Law, what sort of handicapped people should we not curse?
  16. Who was told by his wife to curse God and die?
  17. Which prophet ended his book with God’s threat to come and strike the land with a curse?
  18. Which Epistle says that blessing and cursing should not come out of the same mouth?
  19. Who had enemies that bound themselves under a curse because they were so determined to kill him?
  20. Who told God that Job would curse him to his face?
  21. What book of the Bible says that kings should not be cursed, for little birds will tell on the cursing person?

 

CURSE YOU! (ANSWERS)

  1. Jesus (Mark 11:21)
  2. Balaam (Numbers 22:1-6)
  3. Canaan (Genesis 9:18-27)
  4. The serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:14-15)
  5. God (Genesis 4:11)
  6. Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:18; 36:30)
  7. The story of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-41)
  8. Nature (Romans 8:19-22)
  9. Israel (Deuteronomy 28:15-16)
  10. It brought forth thorns and weeds (Genesis 3:17-18)
  11. Abraham (Genesis 12:3)
  12. Those who attempt to remain under the Law (Galatians 3:10)
  13. Paul (Galatians 1:8)
  14. Christ (Galatians 3:13)
  15. The blind and the deaf (Leviticus 19:14)
  16. Job (2:9)
  17. Malachi (4:6)
  18. James (3:10)
  19. Paul (Acts 23:12)
  20. Satan (Job 1:11; 2:5)
  21. Ecclesiastes (10:20)

 

Thursday 22 October 2020

EZEKIEL 22

Jerusalem’s Sins – Ezekiel 22:1-31

Open It

  1. In your opinion what are the conditions that contribute to the moral decline of a nation?
  2. How would you describe the way you feel about the suffering of the innocent versus the suffering of the guilty?

Explore It

  1. What, according to Ezekiel, had made Jerusalem guilty and defiled? (22:1-4)
  2. What consequences had Jerusalem brought upon herself by her sin? (22:4-5)
  3. What accusation did Ezekiel bring against the princes of Israel? (22:6)
  4. What direct contradictions of God’s laws were taking place in Jerusalem? (22:7-12)
  5. What was the chief thing Israel had “forgotten”? (22:12)
  6. What did God predict about the courage and strength of Judah in the face of His judgments? (22:13-16)
  7. What image did God use to illustrate how He would purify Israel? (22:17-22)
  8. What particular sins did God hold against the civil and religious leaders of the people? (22:23-29)
  9. Before He decreed the destruction of Jerusalem, for whom did God look? (22:30)
  10. Whom did God hold responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem? (22:31)

Get It

  1. What are the potential benefits and potential dangers of the presence of believers in morally dark places?
  2. Why would someone claim that God had said something He didn’t say?
  3. If God had found a person to “stand in the gap,” what do you think that person would have done about the rampant sin of the people?
  4. How do Christians sometimes rationalize behavior contrary to God’s commands?
  5. Why is injustice to our fellow human beings contrary to proper worship of the living God?

Apply It

  1. How might you be a light in a morally dark place not far from you?
  2. How can you speak up for oppressed groups who might not be able to speak for themselves?

 

 

 

Wednesday 21 October 2020

CRISIS WORSHIP 6
  1. Desiring the Dramatic

Hannah—Can we worship in bitterness of soul?

I Samuel 1:1-28

1Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
2And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there.
4And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
5But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb.
6And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.
7And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
8Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
9So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord.
10And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.
11And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
12And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth.
13Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
14And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.
15And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.
16Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
17Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.
18And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
19And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her.
20Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.
21And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.
22But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever.
23And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the Lord establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.
24And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young.
25And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.
26And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord.
27For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
28Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there.

The story before us is one that is vivid and has a plot that is touching. As we consider the life of Hannah, many of the readers can feel her pain. The story of Hannah has a human element that people can identify with even in these modern times. In reading this story many of us can humanize her dilemma. Most of us know someone in the same situation. The journey will conclude with Hannah maintaining her faith in her God though she was barren, broken, and had bitterness in her soul. Crisis worship gets past the hurt, the heartache, and the heaviness of the situation.

The Godly Family that is Mentioned

The story opens up telling us about the partner of Hannah, her husbands name was Elkanah. He was a good husband to Hannah, he loved her more than words could express. Elkanah was also a Godly man of faith; he loyally traveled to the house of his God to worship. In the opening passage we also read of the problem of Hannah. The bible reveals her inward pain; this pain was due to her barrenness. As she lived from day to day this barrenness haunted her, it cried out with a loud voice that could never be silenced. The voiced cried so loud in the silence of each night; that the perplexity of Hannah seemed to be an impossible case.

The Gloomy Future that is Manifested

How many of us face odds that seem to have no resolution, no remedy, and seemingly no recourse for a good outcome? We can identify with her sorrow, the sorrow that no doctor could cure. The problem was a barren womb, no hope of children. This would weigh so heavy on her mentally, emotionally, and could eventually affect her physically. The days turned into months, and then the years begin to pass by; no help ever came her way. This produced a broken woman, a woman of much weeping and mighty wants.

The Glaring Foe that is mobilized

It is bad enough to have problems that stand in our path, but it is even worse when the enemy tries to bully us around. We now see the woman that taunted Hannah; she was also the wife of Elkanah. The name of this woman was Peninnah; she was very mean and malicious woman. We need to hear the words that troubled Hannah; pointed words of that brought pain. The husband gave portions of his wealth to Peninnah and her children every year, but he gave a greater portion to Hannah. He loved her more than he could ever love his wife Peninnah. In spite of all of this we see the womb that tormented Hannah; no amount of love could ease the pain of her barren womb.

The Gallant Fortitude that is Maintained

In situation after situation I have found Christians that maintained their faith in spite of the circumstances. It is so refreshing to hear the stories of Gods little loved ones displaying faith and fortitude in the midst of crisis. Hannah goes to the house of God and the bitterness of her soul is revealed. In spite of having a bitter soul, her pain was inward; but her faith was upward.

In her prayer request she identifies the bigness of her situation. A big situation should require a big God; and a big request. As she prays, Hannah does the unthinkable, look at the boldness of her supplication. In praying she declares that if God would bless her with a man child, she would give him back to serve in the Lords house. This is such an awesome prayer of bright hope and bold faith.

The Great Fuss that is Mistaken

The priest is in the Lords house and watches Hannah. He finds her actions displeasing and makes mention of his displeasure; he has considered her to be drunk. I see the misguided accusation of Eli, in his haste he ignorantly accused of her of wrongdoing. I dare say that many of us jump the gun in equating the sorrows of our fellow man for some type of sin. We need to use caution before we accuse someone of something. How many times have we seen other people in crisis and let words of untruth flow from our lips?

This barren, broken and bitter woman declares to Eli that he is wrong. The woman is not drunk, but she was to the point of so much grief that her lips were moving but no audible words could be heard. This type of praying is probably the best type of praying. If we ever pray this type of prayer the Holy Spirit will make groaning and utterances on our behalf. We see the marvelous answer of Hannah, she was not drunk; but devoted. The woman had placed all of her trust in her God and in him only would she trust.

The Good Fortune that is Mandated

The priest was amazed at the faith of this feeble yet fantastic woman and the prayer of Hannah is heard. In hearing her prayer, we also find that the problem of Hannah is healed; she had to be so excited. I dare say that as she entered into the house of God that day it must have been so gloomy, but as she exits the house of God it must have been so bright. In leaving the pain of Hannah is halted, no more barrenness, no more brokenness, and no more bitterness. It had to be the brightest day of worship that she had ever experienced. The lord had heard her praying and would gloriously answer her feeble prayer.

The Glorious Faith that is Magnified

The days swiftly passed by and Hannah gives birth to a precious baby boy, his name is Samuel. Hannah has a special request concerning her boy. She wants to nurse him until he is weaned; then she will take him to the Lords house and there he will stay for the rest of his life. The request is granted by her husband and Hannah finds much to be thankful for as she raises this boy. Hannah had enough faith to desire the dramatic and God dramatically granted her desires.

The time came for Hannah to take Samuel to the Lords house, how would she respond? We should consider her somber resolve, she would honor her vow. This woman would be pleasing to God. The Lord expects us to follow through with every vow that we make. It is better to never make a vow; than to vow unto God and never honor it!

Hannah teaches us that it is possible to worship God in bitterness of soul. It can be accomplished; it is attainable for God’s children to reach this level of worship. In spite of our circumstances, no matter how difficult our dilemma; crisis worship is possible. The great thing about this story is that crisis worship is expected of each person that declares the name of God. We must desire the dramatic, our God can help us.

Crisis Worship—Is It Possible?.

 

 

Tuesday 20 October 2020

WOMEN OF CHARACTER

WOMEN OF REST 5

Resting in Belief in God

Hebrews 3:1-4:11

 

Setting the Stage:

Barbara, Mother of the Bride

It amazes me how quickly we fall back into old habits. A few days later, I settled Hope between her own flowered sheets, stocked her freezer with casseroles and instructed Melissa how to heat them.

“Either Angela or I will check in every day,” I promised Hope. “I’ll sew Melissa’s dress while the girls tie birdseed into those squares of lavender netting. You can help with that. I found some tiny white satin ribbon, and I thought we could tuck a sprig of baby’s breath into each bow.”

The phone call came the next afternoon. Angela took it in her room, but came downstairs only a few minutes later, her eyes wild, her face bloodless with shock. She looked at me and whispered, “Mamma . . . ?”

She hadn’t called me Mamma since she was two.

I knew something was terribly wrong, but I didn’t have the breath to ask. I just took her in my arms and held her, both of us trembling, until she quit sobbing long enough to say, “Doug’s squad is leaving on a mission. He won’t be back in time for the wedding.”

His destination was secret, and most likely dangerous, or they would not have sent him off so fast. We had no way of knowing if or when he would come home. I knew Angela’s every thought was sharpened by fear.

Those first few hours, I felt like a robot encased in human skin. I cancelled the church and the flowers, wrapped candles in tissue paper and organized a telephone chain to inform 200 people, “The wedding has been postponed.” I refused to allow anyone to use the word cancelled.

I thawed a container of homemade soup and took half of it to Hope’s. We shed fresh tears, then Melissa assured me, “Moms and I will be, like, fine.”

I had to smile. Capable Melissa. I hadn’t realized she was so grown up.

Back home, the mingled scents of chicken broth and sun-warmed roses accompanied me up the stairs to Angela’s open bedroom door. My poor baby. She lay across her bed, wet lashes drooping over swollen, red-rimmed eyes. Her skin looked flushed, her cheeks felt warm against my cool palm. She didn’t stir and I tiptoed away. Sleep, like laughter, brings healing.

Midnight. The ticking of my glass-domed anniversary clock reminded me that life goes on, even when it feels as if the world has toppled down around your ears.

I sat in the darkness for a while, praying for Douglas and both of my girls. When my mind wandered back to the chaos of the last few months, I couldn’t help but moan, “All that wasted time!”

But was it wasted, really? Douglas would return eventually and the wedding could go on as planned. The church was out, of course. They’d been kind enough to say they’d hold that Monday night, but I knew in my bones it wouldn’t be that soon.

There had to be another way, but I was too exhausted to figure it out.

I lifted my Bible from the bedside table. A thin black ribbon marked the place where I’d left off. I couldn’t begin to remember how long ago.

The passage marked was John 14, with John 14:27 underlined in red.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Jesus was speaking, and I closed my tired eyes to listen.

  1. As Barbara’s story continues, at last we see her resting in Jesus’ presence. What did it take to get her there?

What do you think this was like for her?

 

God’s Word for Us

Read Hebrews 3:1-4:11.

  1. What kinds of rest are spoken of in this passage?
  2. What similarities between the Israelites entering the Promised Land and Christians entering God’s rest do you see throughout this passage?
  3. According to Hebrews 3:1-6, why were the Jewish Christians to fix their thoughts on Jesus?
  4. List all that is said about Jesus in Hebrews 3:1-6.

How do these facts encourage you to rest in him?

  1. What do you think the writer meant when he spoke of being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:12-15)?

Why do you think encouraging one another prevents this hardening?

  1. According to Hebrews 4:1-3, like the Israelites, we have the gospel preached to us with the invitation to enter God’s rest. What kind of rest is described in these verses?
  2. Why is it significant that “rest” is the name the writer gives to entering into a relationship with God?
  3. What strong warnings and admonitions are given in Hebrews 4:1-7 concerning this relationship?
  4. Hebrews 4:9 says that there remains, that there is still left or left to come, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. How does anticipation of that final day of rest affect you right now?
  5. What is the place of the Word of God in our lives as we seek to rest in belief?
  6. It says in Hebrews 4:10 “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work.” In looking back over this whole passage which type of rest from God do you find to be a challenge for you?

 

Now or Later

Read Mark 9:17-26. If you were this father what would you be feeling?

How does the father deal with his own unbelief?

How is this a model for you as you desire to rest in belief?

Journal on the following: How is my freedom to rest affected by my believing or not believing God?
How is my freedom to rest affected by obeying or not obeying God

“I long for the final comsummation of the Sabbath, when God’s kingdom will reign supreme and alone. When the final day of this world comes, all our attempts to be God will be ended in the Joy of his triumphant presence.” —Marva Dawn

Someone has said that “not believing God” is the basis of all sin. Reflect on the sin of disbelief. Ask God to reveal specific ways in which you sin against him by not believing him. Wait quietly before him and write down what the Holy Spirit brings to mind. Talk to God about each area. Confess your sin and receive his forgiveness.

 

Monday 19 October 2020

Growing disciples

Prayer 5
Week 5: Petition

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you”—Matthew 7:7

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 5

Day 1: Asking for Yourself
Day 2: A Model for Petition
Day 3: Following Your Father’s Leading
Day 4: Praying for Yourself
Day 5: Asking Others to Pray for You

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 5

“Prayers of Petition” (pp. 100-101)

PREVIEW OF WEEK 5

Petition is asking for yourself, your family, your group, or your church. Your Heavenly Father leads your personal petition to mold you into the person He wants you to be. This week you will—

  • learn that God invites personal petition;
  • use biblical examples to identify the kinds of petition that God invites, hears, and answers;
  • understand God’s purpose in helping you become the kind of person He desires;
  • realize the importance of asking others to pray for you;
  • learn ways to be specific in praying for others.

Day 1: Asking for Yourself

Today’s Prayer Promise

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

During these final two weeks you will study the asking prayers in more detail. This week’s lessons will focus on petition; next week’s, on intercession. Before we begin a detailed look at petition, review last week’s lessons.

On page 47 read again the Scriptures under “God Invites Asking.”

On pages 4849 read the eight reasons God answers prayer. Which two are most encouraging, meaningful, or helpful in your own praying? Write them below.

Name four reasons God doesn’t answer prayer. Review pages 5051 if you need help.

On pages 5253 read the 10 principles for asking. In which principle do you most need improvement for the sake of your prayer life?

Of the following areas, on which one do you most need to work to improve your praying in agreement with God? Check one.

a. Getting into agreement with God
b. Getting into agreement with others
c. Understanding God’s desires for a particular request
d. Praying with others long enough to agree together

Petition is asking for yourself, your family, your church, or your group. You might think that the great prayer warriors of the Bible did not emphasize personal petition. Yet many of them made personal petitions. In Genesis 15:2 Abram (later Abraham) asked God for a son. In 1 Samuel 1:10-11 Hannah prayed for a son. King Hezekiah was dying and prayed to live (see 2 Kings 20:1-3). Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed for a child (see Luke 1:13). God heard and answered all of these personal petitions.

Abram

“Abram said, ‘Lord God, what can You give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?'” (Genesis 15:2).

Hannah

“Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, ‘Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life'” (1 Samuel 1:10-11).

Hezekiah

“In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Put your affairs in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.”‘ Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, ‘Please Lord, remember how I have walked before You faithfully and wholeheartedly and have done what is good in Your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (2 Kings 20:1-3).

Zechariah

“The angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John” (Luke 1:13).

Based on these biblical examples, which of the following is true?

a. Personal petition is selfish. God doesn’t want us to pray for personal concerns.
b. Personal petition is acceptable to the Lord since He answers and even encourages these personal requests.

The examples in the Bible indicate that God is pleased to hear your personal requests. God’s purpose in encouraging petition is to mold you into a certain kind of person. In each example above, the person praying was in the process of becoming a more godly person. Abraham didn’t just receive a son; God gave him a nation. Hannah was becoming a certain kind of person when she prayed for a son, for motherhood changes the character of a woman of God. Hezekiah became one of Israel’s greatest kings.

What is a primary purpose in God’s encouraging personal petition?

In each case of personal petition above, not only the person but also God’s work and kingdom benefited. Abraham’s prayer resulted in the chosen race that would prepare the way for Christ. Hannah’s prayer gave to Israel Samuel, a great judge and the first prophet. Because he did not die as soon as predicted, Hezekiah lived to father Manasseh. In so doing, he preserved the messianic line of David that led to the birth of Jesus. God shapes your character and uses you to join His kingdom work.

Close today’s study by thanking your Father for specific ways He has helped you become the person He wants you to be. Ask Him to continue showing you direction for your life. Begin to fix your thoughts on Jesus—your perfect example of godly living.

Day 2: A Model for Petition

Today’s Prayer Promise

“When he calls out to Me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble.
I will rescue him and give him honor” (Psalm 91:15).

Petition God for your personal needs. Jesus taught this practice to His disciples. In the Model Prayer, after the prayer for God’s honor and kingdom, Jesus authorized a series of personal requests.

Read the Model Prayer below. Underline the three personal requests in verses 11-13.

9 Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:9-13).

Jesus taught us to pray for daily food, forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from temptation and the evil one. These represent three general areas in which God is interested:

  • Your physical needs
  • Restored fellowship with Him if you have broken it
  • Protection from forces beyond your control

Jesus wants you to pray for physical needs. But you are not encouraged to pray for every want or fleshly desire. In fact, too much material wealth can lead you away from God (see Proverbs 30:7-9 below) if you are not very careful. God knows your needs and considers your motives (see James 4:3 below). He makes no promises for selfish or greedy requests.

“Two things I ask of You; don’t deny them to me before I die: Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me. Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny You, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God.”—Proverbs 30:7-9

“You ask and don’t receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure.”—James 4:3

God wants to have intimate fellowship with you. When you sin, the fellowship is broken. Confession of the sin begins the process of restoring this fellowship. You must also seek His forgiveness and turn away from your sin.

Temptation (see Matthew 6:13) can refer to an enticement to sin or to a trial or testing. God promises that He will not allow you to be tested beyond what you can endure (see 1 Corinthians 10:13 below). He will offer you a way out. You can and should ask God for that deliverance.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.”—1 Corinthians 10:13

Pause and pray these three requests for yourself: physical needs, restored fellowship with God, and protection from evil and temptation.

Read the sample prayers of petition below. Underline the petitions that would be meaningful for you to pray for yourself or for your group. Write one of your own petitions below.

Sample Prayers of Petition

    • Heavenly Father, I am Your child.
    • Father, I want to be like You. I want to be like Jesus. Teach me to be [name desired characteristics].
    • Fill me with Your Holy Spirit.
    • Bring glory to Yourself in my body and in my spirit.
    • Guide me to know the way I am to go.
    • Lord, give me a spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and reverence for You.

Ask for guidance. Jesus Himself practiced the principle of praying for personal needs. Jesus often prayed for guidance. The night before He chose the twelve disciples, Jesus spent the entire night in prayer (see Luke 6:12-13). When the time came to expand His ministry, Jesus arose early in the morning and prayed in “a deserted place” (Mark 1:35). Jesus’ prayers demonstrate that divine guidance is available through prayer.

Do you have a specific need for God’s guidance in an area of your life or work? Describe your need. Then pray for God’s guidance.

Ask for wisdom. Another personal petition often found in Scripture is for wisdom. Asking for wisdom is appropriate: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Ask that His will be done. Personal requests should grow from a personal relationship with the Lord. Consider the way God views your personal requests. Think of two personal requests you have made recently or could make today. Prayerfully trace what would happen in the Kingdom or for God’s honor if those requests were granted. Learn to say, “Thy Kingdom come in the granting of [specific personal request].” Be alert to ways your Father wants you to become a more godly person.

Close today’s lesson with a time of personal petition.

My Petition

Day 3: Following Your Father’s Leading

Scripture-Memory Verse

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

You may not respond to a stranger who delivers a telephone sales pitch. But if you are a parent and the voice in the receiver calls out, “Dad” or “Mom,” you will probably make time, even if your schedule is tight. Similarly, God answers prayer because of who you are in relation to Him.

After His resurrection Jesus told Mary Magdalene, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father—to My God and your God” (John 20:17). Can you imagine Mary’s feelings when Jesus included her in His family relationship with the Father? In the Model Prayer Jesus also commanded you to pray to God as Father (see Matthew 6:9). You are included too! This relationship between you as a child and your Heavenly Father ought to influence the way you pray. You make your requests of a giving Father.

Read James 1:17 and Matthew 7:7-11 below. What kind of gifts come down from the Father of heaven?

“Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”—James 1:17

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”—Matthew 7:7-11

Which of the following describes the kind of gifts God gives?

a. God gives things that I don’t ask for and that will harm me or fail to meet my needs.
b. God gives good gifts that will meet my needs. He gives what I ask according to His will.

God is your Heavenly Father, who wants you to develop according to the plans He has for you. He cares what you become. He encourages personal petition to help you become the person He wants you to be. One day you will reign with Christ (see Revelation 5:10 below). God does not want you to be petty or immature. You are royalty and nobility! Your personal petitions should be directed by the Holy Spirit as He reveals the kind of person you are to become—a witness, a Kingdom worker, a giver, a godly parent or spouse, or one who offers praise to Him in prayer.

“You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.”—Revelation 5:10

When you pray as a child to the Heavenly Father, you should emphasize growing spiritually. You may call Him Father as you talk to Him. Pray to become like Him and like Jesus. Pray for a life that represents the Father well. For His sake pray about maintaining your Father’s reputation. Pray for ways to maintain the honor of the family name—Christian—and for characteristics God will develop in you.

Read James 3:17 below and underline the character traits (virtues) of godly wisdom. Read Galatians 5:22-23 below and underline the fruit of the Spirit. Read Matthew 5:3-11 below and underline attitudes the Lord blesses.

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy.”—James 3:17

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”—Galatians 5:22-23

“Blessed are the poor in spirit. …
Blessed are those who mourn. …
Blessed are the gentle. …
Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst for righteousness. …
Blessed are the merciful. …
Blessed are the pure in heart. …
Blessed are the peacemakers. …
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness.”—Matthew 5:3-11

Here are some virtues God wants to develop in your life and attitudes He blesses. Regularly pray for these traits.

Christlike Virtues (James 3:17)

pure
peace-loving
considerate
submissive
merciful
fruitful
impartial
sincere

Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

love
joy
peace
patience
kindness
goodness
faithfulness
gentleness
self-control

Blessed Attitudes (Matthew 5:3-11)

poor in spirit—dependent on God
merciful—forgiving, caring
mourn—need the Comforter
pure in heart—holy, clean
meek—humble
peacemaker—reconciler
hunger for righteousness
persecuted because of righteousness

Trust, a vital component of a family relationship, is a basis for prayer. On one occasion when some of the Israelites were facing an enemy in battle, “They received help against these enemies, … because they cried out to God in battle. He granted their request because they trusted in Him” (1 Chronicles 5:20, emphasis added). You can trust your Father’s leading. What He leads you to become will always be best.

Pause and pray through the lists of virtues and attitudes you studied today. Ask God to work in you to develop these characteristics. Allow Him to do whatever is necessary to make you the person He wants you to be. The result will always be worth the cost!

Day 4: Praying for Yourself

Today’s Prayer Promise

“All the things you pray and ask for—believe that you have received them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24).

As you learned last week, you can use prayer lists to help you remember to pray for specific concerns. Today you will prepare lists for personal petition.

Ask your Heavenly Father to guide your requests according to His will and purposes.

Prepare lists of personal needs or concerns for which you wish to pray. Use the following categories to stimulate your thinking. Ask your Heavenly Father to guide your requests according to His will and purposes for His kingdom and your life.

Virtues or attitudes God wants to develop in me:

Spiritual needs to be restored to fellowship with my Heavenly Father:

Spiritual needs to be reconciled with fellow Christians:

Spiritual growth and maturity:

Being a godly family member:

Being a faithful church member:

Guidance for family, work, church, and ministry:

Strength to overcome temptations:

Deliverance or protection from

Enabling for spiritual ministry:

Power and boldness for witness to

Emotional needs or concerns:

Material or financial needs:

Health-and-fitness needs:

Work concerns:

Others:

List other personal needs or concerns for which you wish to pray here.

Now take time to pray for some of these requests. Emphasize spiritual concerns in your prayers. If you first seek God’s kingdom, many of your needs will also be met. Don’t hesitate, however, to pray for your human needs. Your Heavenly Father also cares about them.

Day 5: Asking Others to Pray for You

Today’s Prayer Promise

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

You might ask, Why should I ask someone else to pray for me? Doesn’t God hear my prayers? God wants you to ask others to pray for you, and we have biblical reasons to do so. Paul, for example, was convinced that the prayers of other Christians would strengthen his own prayers. Paul asked the churches of his time to pray with him and for him.

Read the Scriptures below. Underline subjects for which Paul wanted others to pray on his behalf.

“I implore you, brothers, through the Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to agonize together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.”—Romans 15:30

“Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.”—Ephesians 6:19

“Pray for us.”—1 Thessalonians 5:25

“Pray for us, brothers, that the Lord’s message may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.”—2 Thessalonians 3:1

Read the following reasons to ask others to pray for you. Draw stars beside the ones that seem most meaningful to you. Ask God to show you why you need the prayers of others.

ASKING OTHERS TO PRAY FOR YOU

      1. Shows your dependence on God. God will do some things only in answer to prayer. This way you know that God is the One who provided or acted, and He receives the glory for His actions.
      2. Demonstrates lowliness before God and humility before others. Pride keeps you from asking others to pray for you. (See 1 Peter 5:5-7 below.)

“Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.”—1 Peter 5:5-7

      1. Brings greater authority to prayer. God grants greater authority to united prayers of agreement: “If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19).
      2. Increases the amount of praying in your behalf. The more persons who pray, the more intercession is made in your behalf.
      3. Broadens the understanding of how to pray for your need. Others may know exactly how to pray for you even when you don’t. They may have been through the same experience. Their specific prayers may secure God’s answer for your need.
      4. Blesses those who have the privilege of praying for you. When people pray for you, they receive a blessing. It is multiplied when they learn that God has answered their prayers. Be sure to give reports of answered prayer to those who are enlisted to pray.
      5. Strengthens the bond of love between you and those who pray for you. When a person begins to pray intently for another, a bond of love is created or strengthened.
      6. Secures strength for an area of personal weakness or failure.

 

WHEN YOU PRAY FOR OTHERS

Put yourself in the place of the one for whom you are praying.

One need in praying together is praying specific and meaningful prayers. To help focus your prayers, put yourself in the place of the one for whom you are praying so that you can “feel” what she feels. What feelings is she dealing with? Think of problems, conflicts, or pressures the person may face.

If you pray for a person who is grieving over the loss of a spouse, for example, think about the issues the person must deal with. You might pray for the funeral arrangements, the family’s travel arrangements, financial needs, loneliness, anger, resentment, bitterness, or a broken heart. You might continue praying about changes the grieving person might confront, reentry into life’s routine, or facing holidays. As you mentally place yourself in the circumstances a person faces, you can pray much more specifically, especially if you have faced similar circumstances.

Think about the members of your prayer group and personal concerns they have shared in past weeks. Does one person stand out as someone for whom God wants you to pray? Choose one and write his or her name here: ________________________

Try to put yourself in this person’s place. List concerns for which you can pray on this person’s behalf below.

You may want to pay attention to specific ways you can be part of the answer to your prayers. As you pray, God may give you a burden to help meet a need. Listen for directions God may give you for meeting the person’s needs. These impressions often come only during prayer.

Close your study today by praying for the person you have chosen. Pray specifically for the needs or concerns you have listed. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your praying in areas you may not have considered.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYING TOGETHER THIS WEEK

As you pray together, carefully listen for opportunities to respond to others’ prayers. If a person makes a personal petition, you might intercede for that need or concern. If a person prays for forgiveness, you might ask the Lord for forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration. If a person asks the Lord a question, be sensitive to the fact that God may speak the answer through you.

 

Saturday 17 October 2020

1st  Steps
Character 5

 

We Catch More Flies with Honey

What’s the Point?

Christians should grow in kindness.

‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’ (Gal. 5:22-23).

By now you will probably realise that I love movies. I feel like I’ve started what could easily become a habit of always having at least one movie quote in a chapter, but I know that will too easily distract me and divert my focus as I search my memory banks for any useful scene. When I think of kindness, though, there is one movie that just pops into my brain – etched there as a classic. Pay it Forward. I challenge anyone to watch that movie without weeping. A young boy called Trevor attempts to make the world a better place after his teacher gives his class an assignment. The assignment is to think of something that can change the world and then put it into action. Trevor comes up with the idea of paying a favour forward – to think up three ‘significant’ good deeds to do for people (strangers) and then actually put them into practice. Then the person receiving the deed needs to ‘pay it forward’ and do three significant deeds for others. Trevor’s efforts to make good on his idea trigger a revolution not only in his own life but also for his alcoholic grandmother, the emotionally scarred teacher, and eventually a whole nation as ‘Pay it Forward’ becomes big news and he ends up being interviewed by the media. People just love a good story!

But it’s not just in the movies we see random acts of kindness. Google ‘random acts of kindness’ and there are over 1,580,000 results; in fact, there is even a ‘random acts of kindness day’ to celebrate on the 17th February. There is everything from dogs being rescued by strangers to people having their restaurant bill paid for them, pages and pages of teary-eyed stories of real-life acts of kindness from strangers. I loved the one about an old woman who left her waiter a huge tip, alongside a handwritten note. It read, ‘Luke, the tip for you was given because you reminded me of my son, Devon, who died fifteen years ago. Maybe you look a little like him, but it is your kind, gentle, conscientious mannerly spirit that makes the connection. Thanks for the bittersweet memory. God bless you, dear!’

Jackie

Wee Doris is eighty-two and has lived in the flat under Jackie for years. Every time Jackie makes a pot of soup she sends one of the kids down with a tub full for Doris. Even now Frank still gets her bread on a Saturday morning when he’s getting his papers and leaves them hanging on her door handle. Wee Doris is a doll and everyone knows her.

One thing that struck me about all the stories and quotes is simply that most, if not all, acts of kindness, provoke gratitude. The waiter was so happy not only with the sweet note but with the massive tip; the dog owner was thrilled and hugged the man who dived into the ocean to save her dog; and the homeless lady who got her meal paid for showed her gratitude by buying a meal for someone else when she got her life sorted.

But imagine how the guy would have felt after he stripped to his waist and jumped in the freezing water to rescue the dog if, after this act of heroism, the owner gave him nothing but cheek and anger or didn’t even acknowledge him. He’d be a bit irritated, right? I mean, we get annoyed when we give way to another car and the driver doesn’t acknowledge our kindness. No wave, no flashing hazard lights – nothing. We are irritated, right? We expect there to be gratitude after a kindness shown and we are thrilled if they gush!

Stop

How do you feel if you do something kind for someone and they don’t say thanks?

However, God’s kindness is different. His kindness is unaffected by the gratitude or ingratitude of those to whom it’s shown. God’s kindness isn’t influenced by the outcome or the response of the recipient. We see that in Luke 6:35.

‘But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil’ (Luke 6:35 esv).

This is a freaky thought, right?! We have heard over and over that we are to be Christ-like and display His characteristics in our lives. Yet here we see God showing mercy and kindness to His enemies, to the ungrateful and evil! Thinking about being kind to people we like is easy for us to get our heads around. Being kind to the ungrateful is annoying, but even though we might struggle with that, I don’t think many of us would actually stop being kind because of it. But being kind to our enemies and to the evil?! No way, surely that’s a step too far.

Illustration

The Christian Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were arrested for concealing Jews in their home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. They were sent to a concentration camp. Corrie wrote her story in her autobiography, The Hiding Place.

She describes the day she meets her former guard, the enemy, after the war. It happened after she had finished giving a talk at a church in Munich about God’s forgiveness. She writes,

And that’s when I saw him …. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin … this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course – how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

‘You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,’ he was saying. ‘I was a guard in there.’ No, he did not remember me.

‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein’– again the hand came out – ‘will you forgive me?’

Stop

What would you do in that moment?

Illustration

Corrie continues …

And I stood there – I whose sins had every day to be forgiven – and could not. Betsie had died in that place – could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it – I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

God was asking Corrie to act out her faith and forgive, something easier said than done. She had seen with her own eyes people crippled with bitterness unable to rebuild their lives. She had also seen those who had forgiven their enemy rebuilding their lives despite the physical scars. In that moment as she wrestled with what to do, all the memories and familiar feelings must have come rushing back.

‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

I realise that Corrie’s story mostly shows the forgiveness of her enemy, now a brother in Christ, but kindness, compassion and forgiveness are so closely interwoven that it’s hard to separate one from the other. Her forgiveness, her shaking his hand, was a real act of kindness. She had to ask God to help her to do it, she struggled, but she did nonetheless show kindness to what was her enemy. It’s fairly painless to be kind to someone we love, a friend or just a nice wee old granny needing her shopping carried up the stairs, but showing kindness to our enemies seems like an impossible task. And yet, what we see in Corrie is an example of the Lord doing the impossible by changing the hearts of His people. It may seem completely unrealistic, but with God all things are possible and thankfully, as we see in Corrie’s story, we don’t have to do it alone; God is with us, helping us.

Kindness is defined in God’s character, displayed in person by Jesus through His life and work on earth and produced in the life of the believer by the Holy Spirit. Kindness must be displayed in the life of the believer.

Stop

How are you displaying kindness to those around you?

Alas, as with all things, we can take something that is beautiful, a characteristic of God, and warp and twist it. We can twist even kindness.

‘Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you’ (Matt. 6:1-4).

We see in Matthew a warning not to practise our righteousness for the wrong reasons, for selfish glory: being kind so that we can look good in front of other people, to get that pat on the back, be praised and noticed by them. That’s not real kindness. That’s about us and what we are getting out of it. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (esv) says ‘Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’. So, whatever you do, when you are being kind, do it for God’s glory and not your own glory.

Stop

How much of your kindness is done for personal glory? What are you getting out of it? What are you going to do about that?

Jackie

If I’m being totally honest I like it when all the church folk think I’m being all helpful – it makes me feel good about myself. But I know I’m changing because now I would do it even if no one was looking.

There will be times when kindness is easy and we do it without even thinking, but God calls us to more than that. He calls us to the costly, difficult and seemingly impossible acts of kindness. Thankfully, He sends the Holy Spirit to produce this in our lives. So He not only asks us to display this, He also gives us all that we need to actually achieve it. If there is an act of kindness God is asking us to do that we simply find impossible, it’s just too hard, then ask God for help. As we learned from Corrie’s story, you can ask God to help us, change us, soften our hearts and give us the strength to do the impossible. He will help.

Key Point

We experience God’s kindness through our salvation in Christ as He died a cruel death for us. This kindness should, by faith, be displayed in our lives as we look for ways to help people in need, no matter who they are and how much gratitude they show us.

Memory Verse

‘But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior’ (Titus 3:4-6, nasb).

Summary

Kindness is something we all understand but don’t always show. When we do show kindness we expect people to be grateful. God’s kindness to us is different; it isn’t affected by how grateful we are. His kindness is defined by His character. This is something we see in the life of Jesus and experience for ourselves through salvation in Him. God even shows kindness to His enemies – something we wouldn’t even consider. This is the type of kindness that must be displayed in our lives.

 

Friday 16 October 2020

Bible mysteries

Walking in faith 15 part 2

 

BORN AGAIN, START ANEW

Thanks to advertising, we are all too familiar with the phrase “new and improved.” Actually, the idea is very old, rooted in the Bible, where people are constantly advised to improve themselves spiritually. But improvement isn’t enough, frankly, so we need something more radical: to be “born again,” as Jesus himself phrased it. The first time he used that phrase, it puzzled the man who heard it, and it still puzzles people today. If you’ve ever seen how someone’s life has been miraculously changed by God, it seems even more mysterious and amazing.

      1. To whom did Jesus say the words “You must be born again”?
      2. Which prophet quoted the Lord as saying, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow”?
      3. Complete this verse from Paul: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new ________.”
      4. In which book of the Bible does Christ say, “Behold, I make all things new”?
      5. According to 1 John, how do we know we have “passed from death to life”?
      6. Who prophesied a future when God would write his law on humans’ hearts?
      7. Who told people to “bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance”?
      8. Complete this verse: “Be not conformed to this world, but be ____________ by the renewing of your mind.”
      9. According to Jesus, we have to become like what in order to enter heaven?
      10. Who prophesied a time when God would give a “new heart” and “new spirit” to people?
      11. Which Epistle says that believers have born “not of perishable seed, but imperishable”?
      12. What former persecutor of believers said that “I have been crucified with Christ”?
      13. What tax collector of Jericho was one of the most dramatic “born again” stories in the Bible?
      14. Which apostle urged people to be converted “so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”?
      15. Complete this verse: “As in Adam all die, even so in _____ shall all be made alive.”
      16. In which book of the Bible would you find these words: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent”?
      17. According to James, if we humble ourselves before God, he will do what?
      18. Who claimed that he came to call not the righteous, but sinners?
      19. Which prophet promised that God would “abundantly pardon” sinners?
      20. What is the only book of the Bible to use the actual term “new birth”?

 

BORN AGAIN, START ANEW (ANSWERS)

 

Thursday 15 October 2020

Ezekiel 20

Babylon, God’s Sword of Judgment – Ezekiel 20:45-21:32

Open It

      1. Do you consider yourself a pessimist or an optimist? Why?
      2. From what calamities that confront other people do you consider yourself basically immune?

Explore It

      1. Where did God tell Ezekiel to direct his prophecy? (20:45-46)
      2. What image of natural disaster did God use to illustrate what was about to happen to Judah? (20:46-48)
      3. What did Ezekiel tell God that the people were likely to say about his prophecy? (20:49)
      4. What new image did God use to describe the destruction to come? (21:3)
      5. Which of the people were to be “cut off” from the land of Judah and Jerusalem? (21:3-4)
      6. What did God intend for the people to understand through the immensity of disaster? (21:5)
      7. What sign was Ezekiel to give through his behavior? (21:6-7)
      8. How would the scepter of Judah (symbol of nationhood) stand up to the sharpened sword of God’s judgment? (21:8-10)
      9. What emotion was Ezekiel portraying by wailing and beating his breast? (21:11-12)
      10. According to the prophecy, what was going to become of the scepter of Judah? (21:13-17)
      11. What did God reveal in advance that the king of Babylon would decide to do, guided by pagan divination? (21:18-22)
      12. Since the people felt they were safe, how would they respond to the approach of the army of Babylon? (21:23)
      13. Why were the people of Jerusalem going to be taken captive? (21:24)
      14. What did Ezekiel say it would take to restore the throne of Judah? (21:27)
      15. How would the Ammonites be judged for their insulting delight in the destruction of Judah? (21:28-32)

Get It

      1. Why did the prophecies contain images of total destruction?
      2. With what reasoning did the people who heard Ezekiel tend to minimize or explain away his words?
      3. What nation was represented in the prophecy as the sharpened sword?
      4. Why did God conquer Israel’s enemies, even when Israel was in need of discipline?
      5. What gloomy predictions do you tend to minimize? Why?
      6. What can you deduce about Ezekiel’s popularity among the exiles from the messages that he delivered?
      7. How would you describe God’s wrath, once kindled?

Apply It

      1. In what relationships do you need to ask God to strengthen you to be unpopular (if necessary) for His sake?
      2. How can you reduce the security you feel in your circumstances and increase your dependence upon God?

 

Wednesday 14 October 2020

CRISIS WORSHIP 5

IS IT POSSIBLE?

      1. Defending the Denial

David—Can we worship when God denies our prayers?

II Samuel 12:1-23

1And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.
2The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:
3But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
4And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.
5And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:
6And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;
8And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.
9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.
11Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.
12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.
13And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
15And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.
16David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.
17And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them.
18And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?
19But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.
20Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.
21Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.
22And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?
23But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

The story before us depicts one of the bibles greatest characters in a very dark setting. We will find that King David will create his own crisis as many of us have often done. It may help us survive the crisis that we have inflicted upon ourselves. In committing this gross and horrible sin, we find that David is seven days from a broken heart.

The man that is depicted as a person after the very heart of God, lapses into sexual misconduct. This misconduct will bring grief and heartache upon his family for many years to come. I could not tell you how many people I have known over the years that have abandoned God due to personal misconduct.

The Tainted Consequences of This Story

The shepherd boy had now become the King of Israel. We will start at the beginning of this story so we can full understand why God chose to take David’s son before his very eyes. We see the disobedience of a man that should have been leading his army in battle. The king chose to remain at home and apparently he had too much time on his hands. Idleness is the snare of Satan and he will use this weapon to destroy those that allow him to use it.

The King is upon the rooftop looking over his kingdom, we see the disgrace of a moment as David looks across the rooftops and notices a woman bathing. This look turned into a lust and would eventually turn into a lurid lasting affair, which would bring much grief upon the King. It only takes a moment for someone to destroy their testimony. This little look birthed a large loss that would haunt the royal family for years.

We also see the delay of a message as we watch the unfolding of this story. The last verse of II Samuel 11 tells us that what David had done displeased the Lord. God chose to allow some time to pass before calling David on the carpet. The paycheck for sin is not always cashed on Friday afternoon; sometimes it comes swiftly, sometimes slowly; but always surely. I wonder how many times we have willfully sinned and hoped that God would ignore this sin. The King had gone for one whole year and had not experienced any repercussions for his vile sin. David had not only committed this sexual sin, but Bathsheba was also married; now adultery was involved. The great cover up came into play as David eventually killed Uriah the husband of Bathsheba. In all of this the voice of God had remained silent.

One day the King looked and he saw the prophet of God coming his way as he often had done. This day was different; we see the disgust of a minister. The aged old prophet shares a parable with the King that would lead to his demise and death was coming to the King’s house. Nathan pointedly and precisely declares chastisement upon David for his hideous sin.

The Terrible Consequences of This Sin

As the verdict is pronounced David admits his sin and realizes that there is no such thing as hidden sin. The price of low living has a high price and the King was about to find this out. The prophet tells David that God was going to spare his life, but the life of his new born son would be taken. In hearing this declaration I can only imagine the harsh pain that sprang up in his heart. It had to be a sad day around the palace on this horrible day. We find that David has inflicted a crisis upon himself like nothing he had ever experienced. How could he justify the hurt people because of his sin?

The Truthful Confession of This Sin

As the crisis comes his way David could have became angry at God, but he realized that God was not the problem. We see his guilty admission and statement; he would take full responsibility for his damaging decision. God can only forgive those that admit their sin. I can almost feel his gloomy anguish and sorrow. It had to be a sad day as David heard of the impending death of his newborn son. In reading this story we find his Godly atonement and support. God had not abandoned his servant, but lovingly forgave him.

The Towering Crisis of This Saga

Those that read the bible fully know that God does not lie and he always does what he says in every situation. I see the supernatural illness of a son, not just any son; but the King’s son. The prophet went on his way and David may have tearfully shared his words with his new wife. As the tears burned upon his cheeks, the baby became deathly sick. How would David react to this sickness? The crisis was here and it was painful, in seven day’s his heart would be ripped out. He was seven day’s from a broken heart.

As this unfolds, we read of the strategic intercession of a dad; a dad that longed for his son to live. David would not go down without asking God to heal his boy. He had heard the words with his own ears, but prayer could change the outcome. We also see the sought involvement of a God, the God of David. The King would beg his God to heal his boy. He would spend all of his time in prayer and fasting. It is never too late for God’s children to pray.

The Tragic Catastrophe of This Scene

David had been praying and fasting for seven days, but the time of opportunity had presided. The end had come, the boy would die, and God would not confirm his prayer. Can we handle this type of crisis? A type of crisis that has a bad ending, can we handle this? The seven day’s had now passed, the tears of oppression had prevailed; it was over. I dare say that David cried until he ran out of tears. The thought of opposition had passed; David would accept the plan of God. In every crisis we have a choice to accept it or we can get mad at God. David chose to go with God; he dared not make false and fraudulent accusations.

The Transforming Courage of This Saint

As the saga unfolds, David realizes that something is going on within the palace. He has been spending all of his time in prayer and fasting. The noticed something, the loud silence was recognized within the palace. The King notices that nobody is talking, why? The people were afraid to let David know the boy was dead. All were afraid of how he would respond, how would he react? He inquired about the boy and the lost son was revealed unto the King. It was now over, the boy was gone. David accepts their answer, the long struggle was relinquished, now what? The King does a strange thing; the lowly saint was reenergized, wow!

The Timeless Concepts of This Situation

The entire palace is watching the King and his coming response to the boy’s death. We watch the beautiful actions of David as he hears of the boy’s death. Those standing in the background get to see a wonderful sight. The sight of someone experiencing a self inflicted crisis, but meekly maintain their faith.

The King does eight things: 1) I see him rising—he gets up, sometimes you just have to get up and move on. 2) I see him washing—he wanted a clean start. 3) I see him anointing—he wanted a fresh start. 4) I see him changing—he would get over it and go with God. 5) I see him traveling—he would go down to the house of his God, wow. 6) I see him worshipping—he would maintain his faith and he would willingly worship.

7) I see him eating—His life would continue, he could not change what had happened. 8) I see him defending—He would not allow any criticism concerning how God had chastised his actions.

If we follow David down to the sanctuary we see that he goes down there to worship. In this we see the breath taking adoration of a man that loved his God. Those that worship God do it willingly. The King’s worship equals acceptance, one that accepts the hand of God in his life. It also engulfs assurance; we understand that God knows what is best for our life. This type of worship embraces assistance; David could only make it through the mighty hand of his God. His worship exalts accordance with the will of God.

The servants could not understand how the King could respond in this fashion. David helped them to discern the denial of his prayer. This crisis was self inflicted and God was not to be faulted. As long as the boy was alive there was a chance of God healing the boy. The moment he died, the King accepted the actions of his God and would go on with his life. Did David forget about his son, not a chance? The boy would forever be on his mind and in his heart. The boy could not come back to the King, but one day the King could go to be with the boy. He had discerned the denial!

 

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Women of character

Women of Rest 4

Resting in God’s Presence

Exodus 33:1-17

Setting the Stage:

Angela, the Bride

I like quiet times and simple things. I like strolling on the beach at sunrise, feeding pigeons in the square and exactly what I’m doing now—sipping iced coffee at a sidewalk cafe while I wait for Doug to come and walk me back to our hotel. At least this time I’m not afraid.

I spent too many nights waiting when the fear was real. I’d pray awhile, then watch the moon cast tree-branch shadows across Mother’s manicured lawn. I’d close my eyes and dream that Doug was waiting too, in the darkness underneath my window, to sweep me up and carry me away.

Fairytale stuff. But we’d talked about it so often. When he was at the base, he called every night before he went on duty. “Why can’t we just elope?” I’d moan, especially after a day when Mother had been difficult, or there’d been another change in her wedding plans.

“I guess we should have,” Doug would agree, “but it’s too late now. Both of our mothers would have our heads.” Then his voice would grow soft and soothing. “Just a little longer, Angie. Wait for me? I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

We’d murmur goodnight, blow kisses into the phone, and I’d ask the Lord to help me make it through another lonely night.

I don’t have Hope’s patience, or Mother’s tenacity. I wanted a simple wedding, something that could be accomplished without a lot of fuss. As usual, Mother had other ideas. I resented her interfering, but I knew from experience it was easier to just give in. I told Doug, “At least with Mom in charge, every detail will be perfect.”

It’s not that she didn’t try. If things hadn’t happened the way they did, my wedding would have been the social event of the century.

I remember Gran saying, “Sometimes our striving is like screaming against the wind; when it gets too rough, it’s best to just be quiet and listen.” Some of us should have taken her advice!

I guess I’ll never understand why God allows some things to happen. When Hope passed out, I felt awful. She’d been working too hard, doing extra things for Mom and me. It did make me realize how much my big sister loved me.

The Sunday we brought her home from the hospital, Doug called at the usual time, so when I heard his voice again at one o’clock on Monday afternoon, I knew something was wrong. “My squadron leaves tonight,” he whispered. “They won’t say for how long, and I can’t tell you where we’re going. I’m so sorry, Angie. I love you.”

It sounded so final. Just remembering makes me cry.

“Why, God?” I must have asked a thousand times. “Why does he have to go now?” I tried not to think about where he was, or why, but I knew he was in danger and the waiting hurt worse than any other kind of pain.

I take a sip of frothy mocha, lift my face and let the warm wind dry my cheeks. Doug will be here soon and I don’t want him to see me cry. So I relax and call up happy memories instead: Candles flickering on the mantle. Lavender rose buds on the cake. The baby’s breath grandma tucked in my bouquet.

I think about the way I feel when he holds me: like being wrapped in an eiderdown quilt, or waking up to birdsong after a bad dream. Like leaping from the shadows into light.

      1. How is Angela’s life during her engagement different from what she expected?
      2. When have you felt a strong need for God’s presence with you?

 

 God’s Word for Us

Read Exodus 33:1-11.

      1. In study two we looked at the Israelites at the beginning of their journey in the wildnerness. This passage looks at the other end of that journey. They are about to enter the Promised Land. Describe in your own words all that is happening between God and Moses and the Israelites (Exodus 33:1-6).
      2. What happened at the tent of meeting (Exodus 33:7-11)?
      3. What is significant about the fact that God provided a tent of meeting for his people?
      4. Think about your relationship with God. In what ways do you identify with the Israelites?

Read Exodus 33:12-17.

      1. Moses carries on a direct and honest conversation with God. What are Moses’ concerns (Exodus 33:12-17)?
      2. How do your concerns in life compare and contrast with those of Moses?
      3. How are you affected by the fact that God knows you by name (Exodus 33:12, 17)?
      4. God promised Moses that his presence would go with him and that he would give him rest as a result of this. What do you think this rest means?
      5. In what ways does God’s presence with you distinguish you and your Christian community (Exodus 33:16)?
      6. As you reflect on this passage, what does it mean to you to rest in God’s presence?
Now or Later

Read Psalm 91. Reflect on this passage. What are the benefits of being so close to the Lord that you are under his shadow?

Journal on the following: Describe what it is like to be in the presence of one you dearly love and with whom you feel totally safe. How does this compare and/or contrast with how you feel about being in God’s presence?

Jesus kept a demanding schedule but regularly took time to be with his Father. He recognized his dependence on his Father and his need for renewal. How would you compare and contrast your dependence on the Father and your need for renewal?

Write a prayer to the Father. Tell him of your need for him or your desire to know your need for him. Talk about difficulty that you have in getting time with him and what you need to do about it. Confess to him your lack of desire to rest in his presence. Ask him to renew your hunger for him and to help you to seek your rest in him.

 

 

Monday 12 October 2020

THE MEANING OF PRAYER
      1. Prayer and the Goodness of God

Daily Readings

First Day, Fourth Week

And there came near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him. Teacher, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee. And he said unto them. What would ye that I should do for you? And they said unto him. Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand and one on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? —Mark 10:35-38.

Of all misconceptions of prayer, none is more common than the idea that it is a way of getting God to do our will. Note the request which James and John made of our Lord: they wanted him to put himself at their disposal; they wished their will for themselves to be in absolute control, with the Master as aider and abettor of it. Prayer to God, so conceived, is simply self-will, expecting the Almighty to back it up and give it right-of-way. Consider how often our praying is thus our demand on God that he shall do exactly what we want; and then in contrast, note this real prayer of D. L. Moody:

Use me then, my Savior, for whatever purpose, and in whatever way, Thou mayest require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with Thy grace. Here is my sinful and troubled soul; quicken it and refresh it with Thy love. Take my heart for Thine abode; my mouth to spread abroad the glory of Thy name; my love and all my powers, for the advancement of Thy believing people; and never suffer the steadfastness and confidence of my faith to abate that so at all times I may be enabled from the heart to say, “Jesus needs me, and I Him.”—D. L. Moody.

Second Day, Fourth Week

The trouble with many folk is that they believe in only a part of God. They believe in his love, and thinking of that alone they are led into entreating him as though he might be coaxed and wheedled into giving them what they want. They argue that because he is benign and kindly he will give in to a child’s entreaty and do what the child happens to desire. They do not really believe in God’s wisdom his knowledge of what is best for all of us, and in his will his plan for the character and the career of each of us. When anyone believes in the whole of God, is sure that he has a wise and a good purpose for every child of his, and for all the world, prayer inevitably becomes not the endeavor to get God to do our will, but the endeavor to open our lives to God so that God can do in us what he wants to do. Consider, in the light of this truth, the prayer of the Master in Gethsemane:

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto his disciples, Sit ye here, while I go yonder and pray. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and sore troubled. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: abide ye here, and watch with me. And he went forward a little, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Again a second time he went away, and prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And he left them again, and went away, and prayed a third time, saying again the same words.—Matthew 26:36-44.

O Lord, Thou knowest what is best for us, let this or that be done, as Thou shalt please. Give what Thou wilt, and how much Thou wilt, and when Thou wilt. Deal with me as Thou thinkest good, and as best pleaseth Thee. Set me where Thou wilt, and deal with me in all things just as Thou wilt. Behold, I am Thy servant, prepared for all things; for I desire not to live unto myself, but unto Thee; and Oh, that I could do it worthily and perfectly! Amen.—Thomas a Kempis (1379-1471).

Third Day, Fourth Week

Let us this week consider particularly the ways in which the practice of prayer opens our lives to God so that his will can be done in and through us. For one thing, prayer, as we now are thinking of it, involves solitude, where the voice of God has a chance to be heard.

And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.—Matthew 6:5-6.

Consider the testimony of different sorts of men to the value of occasional solitude in the midst of a busy life. Says Walter Savage Landor, the poet, “Solitude is the ante-chamber of God; only one step more, and you can be in his immediate presence.” Goethe says, “No one can produce anything important unless he isolates himself.” “Chinese” Gordon writes to his sister, “Getting quiet does one good—it is impossible to hear God’s voice in a whirl of visits—you must be more or less in the ‘desert’ to use the scales of the sanctuary, to see and weigh the true value of things and sayings.” And an anonymous epigram hits off the important truth, “He is a wonderful man who can thread a needle while at cudgels in a crowd.” How much time, away from the distraction of business, and the strife of tongues, are we giving to the enriching use of solitude?

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly; grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what Thou wouldest have us to do; that the spirit of Wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in Thy light we may see light, and in Thy straight path may not stumble, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.—William Bright.

Fourth Day, Fourth Week

Prayer opens our lives to the guidance of God because by its very nature it encourages the receptive mood. The dominant mood today is active; but some things never come into life until a man is receptive. That a boy should run many errands for his father and should be faithful and energetic in doing it is of great importance; but the most far-reaching con-sequences in that boy’s life are likely to come from some quiet hour, when he sits with his father, and has his eyes opened to a new idea of life, which the father never could give him in his more active moods. God’s trouble to get people to listen is set forth in the eighty-first Psalm:

Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee:
But my people hearkened not to my voice;
And Israel would none of me.
So I let them go after the stubbornness of their heart.
That they might walk in their own counsels.

Oh that my people would hearken unto me.—Psalm 81:8, 11-13.

Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee; Thou only knowest what I need; Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself. O Father! give to Thy child that which he himself knows not how to ask, I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations: I simply present myself before Thee, I open my heart to Thee, Behold my needs which I know not myself; see and do according to Thy tender mercy. Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up: I adore all Thy purposes without knowing them; I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice: I yield myself to Thee; I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will. Teach me to pray. Pray Thyself in me. Amen.—Francois de la Mothe Fenelon (1651-1715).

Fifth Day, Fourth Week

Jesus therefore answered them, and said. My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself. He that speaketh from himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent me, the same is true and no unrighteousness is in him.—John 7:16-18.

Prayer opens our lives to God so that his will can be done in and through us, because in true prayer we habitually put ourselves into the attitude of willingness to do whatever God wills. If a young man says, “I am willing to be a lawyer, but not a business man; I am willing to be a physician, but not a medical missionary,” he will never discover what God really wants him to be. He must hand God a carte blanche to be filled in as God wills, and there must be no provisos and reservations to limit the guidance of God. If a man of whose wisdom and motives we are suspicious asks us to do what he is about to demand, we may well say, “Tell me what you expect and I will tell you whether or not I will do it.” But we may not take that attitude toward God; we may not distrust his wisdom, or his love, or his power to see us through what he demands. We must be willing to do whatever he wills. True prayer is deliberately putting ourselves at God’s disposal.

O Lord, let me not henceforth desire health, or life, except to spend them for Thee, with Thee, and in Thee, Thou alone knowest what is good for me; do, therefore, what seemeth Thee best. Give to me, or take from me; conform my will to Thine; and grant that, with humble and perfect submission, and in holy confidence, I may receive the orders of Thine eternal Providence; and may equally adore all that comes to me from Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.—Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).

Sixth Day, Fourth Week

And Jehovah spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.—Exodus 33:11.

And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.—James 2:23.

The most transforming influences in life are personal friendships. Everyone who meets us influences us, but friendship opens the heart to the ideas, ideals, and spiritual quality of another life, until we are susceptible to everything that the friend is and sensitive to everything that he thinks. Desdemona describes the natural effect of close friendship:

“My heart’s subdued
Even to the very quality of my lord.”

Consider then what persistent fellowship with God will mean in changing life’s quality and tone. Henry Drummond said, “Ten minutes spent in Christ’s society every day; aye, two minutes, if it be face to face and heart to heart,—will make the whole life different.” In how many people is the fine quality which all feel and none can describe, the result of this inner fellowship! Some things cannot be bought or earned or achieved; they must be caught, they are transmitted by contact as fragrance is. Perhaps the greatest consequence of prayer is just this atmosphere which the life carries away with it, as Moses came with shining face from the communion of his heart with God. True prayer is habitually putting oneself under God’s influence.

We rejoice that in all time men have found a refuge in Thee, and that prayer is the voice of love, the voice of pleading, and the voice of thanksgiving. Our souls overflow toward Thee like a cup when full; nor can we forbear; nor shall we search to see if our prayers have been registered, or whether of the things asked we have received much, or more, or anything. That we have had permission to feel ourselves in Thy presence, to take upon ourselves something of the light of Thy countenance, to have a consciousness that Thy thoughts are upon us, to experience the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in any measure—this is an answer to prayer transcending all things that we can think of. We are glad that we can glorify Thee, that we can rejoice Thee, that it does make a difference to Thee what we do, and that Thou dost enfold us in a consciousness of Thy sympathy with us, of how much Thou art to us, and of what we are to Thee.—Henry Ward Beecher.

Seventh Day, Fourth Week

Yet thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.—Isaiah 43:22.

And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee; for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us by means of our iniquities.—Isaiah 64:7.

Consider the reasonableness of the prophet’s vehement condemnation of prayerlessness, in view of this week’s truth. Take out of life solitude where God’s voice can be heard, the receptive mood that welcomes guidance, the willingness to do whatever God wills that puts itself habitually at God’s disposal, and the fellowship that gives God’s secret influence its opportunity; and what can God do with any life? Two very young girls were discussing prayer. Said one: “I am not going to pray again for two weeks.” After an interval of shocked silence, the other exclaimed: “Poor God!” Does not this exclamation reveal a true philosophy of prayer? Think of the things God wants to give to and do through our lives, and consider how the prayerless, unreceptive heart blockades his will.

Almighty God, and most merciful Father, give us, we beseech Thee, that grace that we may duly examine the inmost of our hearts, and our most secret thoughts, how we stand before Thee; and that we may henceforward never be drawn to do anything that may dishonor Thy name: but may persevere in all good purposes, and in Thy Holy service, unto our life’s end; and grant that we may now this present day, seeing it is as good as nothing that we have done hitherto, perfectly begin to walk before Thee, as becometh those that are called to an inheritance of light in Christ. Amen.—George Hickes (1642-1715).

Comment for the Week

I.

Strangely enough, when we have convinced ourselves of the individual love and care of God, we do not so much evade difficulty as encounter it; for we find ourselves running straight into the arms of one of the commonest perplexities concerning prayer. God is all wise and all good; why should we urge on him our erring and ignorant desires? He knows what we need; why tell him? His love purposes the best for us; why beseech him? Why should we, weak and fallible mortals, urge the good God to work good in the world? Is not Rousseau speaking sound sense when he says: “I bless God, but I pray not. Why should I ask of him that he would change for me the course of things?—I who ought to love, above all, the order established by his wisdom and maintained by his Providence, shall I wish that order to be dissolved on my account?

This objection to prayer is the stronger because reverence and humility before God seem to be involved in it. “We will take whatever God sends,” says the objector, “we will pray for nothing. We trust him perfectly. Can we in our ignorance suggest to him any excellent thing of which has not thought or which he has forgotten, or can we in our weakness cajole him to do something which he has purposed otherwise? Rather ‘Let him do what seemeth him good!’” This sort of speech has the ring of sincere faith. It comes from a strong and glad belief in the providence of God. The man shrinks from prayer because it seems silly and pre-sumptuous for ignorance to instruct perfect wisdom, for human evil to attempt the persuasion of perfect love to do good.

It is interesting, then, to discover that the Master’s life of urgent prayer was founded on these very ideas which now are used as arguments against prayer. No one, before or since, has believed quite so strongly as he did in the wisdom and love of God. Did they seem to him, then, reasons for abandoning prayer? On the contrary, the love and wisdom of God were the foundations of his prayer. In God’s goodness he saw a solid reason for praying: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father… give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). In God’s wisdom he found assuring confidence, when he prayed. “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Just because of God’s perfect knowledge and love, the Master seems to say, pray with confidence. Do not think that you can add to God’s information about your need or can inspire in him an increased good-will by your petition.

You cannot. He knows your need in advance and is more willing to give than you are to take. But one thing you can do. You can open the way for God to do what he wants to do. Prayer cannot change God’s purpose, but prayer can release it. God cannot do for the man with the closed heart what he can do for the man with the open heart. You can give God a chance to work his will in and for and through you. Prayer is simply giving the wise and good God an opportunity to do what his wisdom and love want done.

II.

This point of view is the distinguishing element in the Christian conception of prayer, and to understand it, is of the utmost importance.

The argument that because God is infinitely good and wise, prayer is a superfluity, rests on two fallacies. The first is the idea that praying is an attempt to secure from God by begging, something which God had not at all intended, or had intended otherwise. But Christian prayer is never that. The African savage beats his fetish when a petition is unanswered. He endeavors to make his god his slave. His one idea is to get what he wants. Christian prayer is giving God an opportunity to do what he wants, what he has been trying in vain, perhaps for years, to do in our lives, hindered by our unreadiness, our lack of receptivity, our closed hearts and unresponsive minds. God stands over many lives, like the Master over Jerusalem, saying, “How oft would I and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37). True prayer changes that. It opens the door to the will of God. It does not change God’s plan, but it does give God’s plan gang-way. It is not begging from God; it is cooperation with God. In the luminous words of Archbishop Trench: “We must not conceive of prayer as an overcoming of God’s reluctance, but as a laying hold of his highest willingness.”

The other fallacy underlying the thought that the wisdom and love of God make praying superfluous is the idea that God can do all he wills without any help from us. But he cannot. The experience of the race is clear that some things God never can do until he finds a man who prays. Indeed, Meister Eckhart, the mystic, puts the truth with extreme boldness: “God can as little do without us, as we without him.” If at first this seems a wild statement, we may well consider in how many ways God’s will depends on man’s cooperation. God himself cannot do some things unless men think. He never blazons his truth on the sky that men may find it without seeking. Only when men gird the loins of their minds and undiscourageably give themselves to intellectual toil, will God reveal to them the truth, even about the physical world. And God himself cannot do some things unless men work. Will a man say that when God wants bridges and tunnels, wants the lightnings harnessed and cathedrals built, he will do the work himself? That is an absurd and idle fatalism. God stores the hills with marble, but he never built a Parthenon; he fills the mountains with ore, but he never made a needle or a locomotive. Only when men work can some things be done. Recall the words of Stradivarius, maker of violins, as George Eliot interprets him:

“When any master holds
‘Twixt chin and hand a violin of mine,
He will be glad that Stradivari lived,
Made violins, and made them of the best.
For while God gives them skill
I give them instruments to play upon,
God choosing me to help Him…
If my hand slacked
I should rob God—since He is fullest good
Leaving a blank instead of violins.
He could not take Antonio Stradivari’s violins Without Antonio.”

Now if God has left some things contingent on man’s thinking and working why may he not have left some things contingent on man’s praying? The testimony of the great souls is a clear affirmative to this: some things never without thinking; some things never without working; some things never without praying! Prayer is one of the three forms of man’s co-operation with God.

The fact, therefore, that God is all-wise and all-good, is no more reason for abandoning prayer than for abandoning thought and work. At their best, none of them is an endeavor to get anything against the will of God, and all of them alike are necessary to make the will of God dominant in human life. Who would dream of saying, God is all wise, he knows best; he is all good and will give the best; why, therefore, should I either think or work? But that is just as sensible as to say, If God is good, why should I pray? We pray for the same reason that we work and think, because only so can the wise and good God get some things done which he wants done.

Indeed, there is a deal of nonsense talked about resignation to God’s will as the only attitude in prayer. Not resignation to God’s will, but cooperation with God’s will is the truer expression of a Christian attitude. We are not resigned anywhere else. We find an arid desert and, so far from being resigned, we irrigate it until it blossoms like a garden. We find a thorny cactus, and commission Luther Burbank as speedily as possible to make of it a thornless plant for food. We find social evils like slavery, and from Moses to Lincoln all that are best among us are willing to surrender life rather than rest content with wrong. Resignation in the presence of things evil or imperfect is sin; and all the heroes of the race have been so far discontented and unresigned that Blake’s challenge has been kindred to their resolution,

“I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.”

This unresigned attitude, inseparable from nobility of character, is not rebellion against God but cooperation with God. Men act on the assumption that the present situation may be temporarily God’s will, but that he has put them in it so that they may fight their way out to a situation that is ultimately his will. To this end they think and work and pray. Resignation is in all three only in the sense that by all three men are endeavoring to open doors for the free passage of God’s hindered will. They do not submit to God’s purpose; they assert it.

Prayer, like the other two, when it is at its best, never says, Thy will be changed, but it says tremendously, Thy will be done!

III.

That we may dearly perceive God’s inability to accomplish his will until men cooperate in prayer, we may note, for one thing, that unless men pray there are some things which God cannot say to them. One of our strongest misconceptions concerning prayer is that it consists chiefly in our talking to God, whereas the best part of prayer is our listening to God. Sometimes in the Scripture a prayer of urgent and definite petition rises, “Oh that I might have my request; And that God would grant me the thing that I long for!” (Job 6:8); but another sort of prayer is very frequently indicated: “Speak; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10); “My soul, wait thou in silence for God only; For my expectation is from him” (Psalm 62:5); “I will hear what God Jehovah will speak” (Psalm 85:8); or in Luther’s version of Psalm 37:7, “Be silent to God and let him mold thee.” Without such openheartedness to God, some things which he wills never can be done.

Madame de Stael, after a two hours’ visit in which she had talked continuously, is said to have remarked at parting, “What a delightful conversation we have had!” Too many prayers are conducted on that plan. The ironical remark of Savonarola that the saints of his day were “so busy talking to God that they could not hearken to him,” is applicable to us at least to this extent: we seldom listen. We hammer so busily that the architect cannot discuss the plans with us. We are so preoccupied with the activities of sailing, that we do not take our bearings from the sky. When the Spirit stands at the door and knocks, the bustle of the household tasks drowns the sound of his knocking. God has a hard time even to get in a word edgewise; and in lives so conducted, there are some things which God himself, with all his wisdom and good-will, cannot do. Even a casual study of the effective servants of the world reveals how much of their vision and stimulus came in quiet and receptive hours. Prayer gave God his opportunity to speak, for prayer is the listening ear.

IV.

The dependence of God’s will upon the cooperation of man’s prayer may be further seen in the fact that until men pray there are some things which God cannot give to them. One of the most disconcerting verses in Scripture tells us that God is more willing to give to us than fathers are to give to their children (Matthew 7:11). To some this seems mere sentiment, an exaggerated statement, made in a poetic hour. To others, who have cried in vain for things that appeared certainly good, it seems mockery. If God is willing to give, why doesn’t he? What hinders him? How can he be willing to give, when, being omnipotent, he still withholds? Even a superficial observation of human life, however, could supply the answer. Giving is not a simple matter. It is always a dual transaction in which the recipient is as important a factor as the giver.

No suffering on earth is more tragic than great love hindered in its desire to bestow. If a father wishes to give his son an education, why doesn’t he? If he sees the need, has the means, is willing, even anxious to bestow, what hinders him? In how many cases is the answer clear: the boy has no genuine desire, no earnest prayer for the blessing which the father would give. The father is helpless. He must wait, his love pent, his willingness checkmated, until a prayer, however faint, rises in the boy’s heart. The finest gifts cannot be dropped into another’s life like stones in a basket. They must be taken or else they cannot be given, Jesus was thinking of the two factors involved when he said to the Samaritan woman, “If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldest have asked” (John 4:10). The receptive heart is the absolute pre-requisite of all great gifts, and God himself cannot bestow his best on men unless they pray.

Whenever, therefore, we pray intent chiefly on what we want, we are likely to be disappointed. But when we pray, intent chiefly on what God wants to give us—perhaps fortitude to bear the trouble which we wish to evade, or patience to wait for the blessing which we demand now, or leadership down a road of service from which we are asking release—we need never be disappointed. Men who come to God not to dictate but to receive have approached prayer from the right angle. They have seen that prayer is giving God an opportunity to bestow what he is more willing to give than we are to welcome. Prayer is the taking hand. As a sixteenth century mystic said, “Prayer is not to ask what we wish of God, but what God wishes of us.”

V.

The dependence of God on the cooperation of men’s prayer may be further seen in the fact that until men pray there are some things which God cannot do through them. Many today, in spite of the busyness, wealth, and efficient organization of our Christian work, bemoan the lack of real power. “What is the matter?” says the practical man. “Have we not taken our time, money, talents and given them in many consecrated and unselfish ways to the service of God? Why, with so many working for God, is not more done?” The answer is written plainly in history. The souls who have ushered in new eras of spiritual life have never been content with working for God. They have made it their ideal to let God work through them. A scientist has figured that the farmer’s toil is five per cent of the energy expended in producing a crop of wheat. The other ninety-five per cent is the universe taking advantage of the chance which the farmer gave it. So these greater servants of God have not thought chiefly of what they could do for God, but of what God could do through them if they gave him opportunity. To be pliable in the hands of God was their first aim. Never to be unresponsive to his will for them was their supreme concern. They said, therefore, with Thomas Hooker, “Prayer is my chief work, and it is by means of it that I carry on the rest.”

No one can walk through the pages of Scripture, or of Christian biography, with these greater servants of the Kingdom without feeling their power. They are God-possessed. Their characteristic quality is found in Jesus: not my words, my Father’s; not my deeds, his; he that believeth on me, believeth not on me but on him that sent me (John 14:24; 9:4; 5:24). The secret of their lives is like the secret of the Nile: they are the channel of unseen resources. The ideal of such living is deeper than working for God. To release the Eternal Purpose through their lives into the world; to be made a vehicle for power which they do not create but can transmit this is their ideal. They pray because theirs is the sublime ambition of the German mystic, “I would fain be to the Eternal Goodness what his own hand is to a man.” Only through men who take this attitude can God do his choicest work. A life that utterly lacks this attitude, wants the elements of power. When, therefore, a man prays, intent, chiefly on what he wishes done, his prayer is a failure; but when he prays in order that he may release through his life what God wishes done, he has discovered the great secret. Through him, habitually praying, God can do what else would be impossible. He is one of God’s open doors into the world.

VI.

We have, then, two fundamentally opposed ideas of prayer: one, that by begging we may change the will of God and curry favor or win gifts by coaxing; the other, that prayer is offering God the opportunity to say to us, give to us, and do through us what he wills. Only the second is Christian. At once we see that the second, no less than the first, and in a way far truer, makes prayer not a form but a force. Prayer really does things. It cannot change God’s intention, but it does change God’s action. God had long intended Isaiah to be his prophet. When Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me,” he did not alter in the least the divine purpose, but he did release it. God could do then what before he could not. God had long intended that Africa should be evangelized. When Livingstone cried, “O God, help me to paint this dark continent white,” he did not alter God’s intention, but he did alter God’s action. Power broke loose that before had been pent; the cooperation of a man’s prayer, backed by his life, opened a way for the divine purpose. There was an invasion by the world by God through Livingstone. No one can set clear limits to this release of divine power which the effectual prayer of a righteous man can accomplish. Pentecost is typical: “When they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they were gathered together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

Suggestions for Thought and Discussion

      • If God is all-wise and all-good, what is the use of praying?
      • Can prayer change God’s plans? If not, what is the use of praying?
      • How far are God’s plans dependent upon individuals?
      • Can God’s purpose be stopped by the failure of an individual to cooperate?
      • If God is in any way dependent upon the cooperation of individuals, is this inconsistent with his sovereign power and wisdom?
      • What light do the experiences recorded in the Bible throw upon the problem of prayer and the goodness of God?
      • In what respect did the request of James and John differ from true prayer?
      • Why did his belief in the goodness of God give Jesus confidence to pray?
      • What is the difference in emphasis between the prayer recorded in the eighty-first Psalm and Jesus’ comment on the prayer of the hypocrites on the street corners?
      • In his Gethsemane prayer, what was Jesus’ attitude to the will of God?
      • What place has prayer in the life of every PERSON in finding and doing God’s will?

 

Sunday 11 October 2020

John 3:1-8

Some people are born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth. The Apostle Paul was one. A Pharisee of the Pharisees and a Roman citizen to boot! That was like being up half the rungs of the greasy ladder of success even when he was still a first year student under Gamaliel.

Nicodemus was another . Like Paul he was born into Gods chosen race, and like Paul, he was a a Pharisee and although he wasn’t a Roman citizen,  he was a member of the Sanhedrin, one of  71 judges  of the Jewish High court.

He was a religious man, an academic; a thoughtful man and we would say a good man in every way, although Jesus within the messianic secret of his deity told a man who called him good that only God is good, therefore Nicodemus needed to be born again.

Yet you know many of us in Duckpool road Baptist Church have also been born with a silver spoon in our mouth if we were raised in a Christian home by at least one parent who was a Christian, and who were nurtured in the Christian environment of Sunday school by godly teachers and adults who proved to be good role models to us growing up and yet, like Paul and Nicodemus it isn’t enough, we too like the whole of humanity need to be born again.

You see, being born with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth does not carry any weight with God but it does carry great responsibility as we have no excuse before the judgment seat of God and that applies for princes and paupers alike as Jesus reminds us :“That which is born of the flesh is flesh…”

In other words, our DNA was corrupted as much by The Fall as anyone else.

100’s of years before Nicodemus, King David as per usual, eloquently puts it like this: I was shaped in iniquity, in sin my mother conceived me.”

Sin has consequences and the Apostle Paul  bluntly states the consequences of sin, in calling un regenerated mankind as the children of wrath.”

My friends, I am sure that you like myself have experienced how in at least the depth of our mind that we conveniently equate our sin with someone else’s, and inevitable we gain a false sense of security in generally seeing our sin as being smaller and even insignificant compared to others.

Yet I remind you that it is not the amount of sin that condemns us, it is sin itself that condemns. Look at it like this, more people drown in three feet of water than drown in the Mariana trench which is over 36,000 feet deep.

If Nicodemus had realised that it wasn’t the amount of sin but sin itself  that was a barrier between him and God he would not have asked how can a man be born again. However, he like Elisha’ the prophet’s servant at Dothan who was also a religious man, was also spiritually blind and that applies to many religious people today  as well as the worldly people alike. They can live by the highest moral and ethical standards, They can be so law abiding that they could serve as a judge but it isn’t enough.

As has been said: A sculptor may take a piece of rough marble and work from it the figure of a Madonna; but it is still nothing but marble, and lifeless. A carver may take a piece of wood and work out of it a scene of feasting; but it is still wood, and insensible. A watch-cleaner may take a watch, the main-spring of which is broken; he may clean every wheel, cog, pin, hand, face and the cases; but, the main-spring not rectified, it will be as useless for going and time-telling as before. A poor man may clothe himself in the garb of a monarch; but he is still a poor man. A leper may cover all his spots with his garment; but he is still a leper. So the sinner may reform in all the externals of his life so that he shall attain the moral finery of Saul of Tarsus, or Nicodemus, a master in Israel, but, except he be BORN AGAIN, he can not see the kingdom of God.

They need their eyes opened to their fallen state and they need to flee towards Jesus at the mercy seat of God . In  other words they need to be born again.

Education is not going to get them into heaven. The key to door is transformation.

In visiting Jesus at night we have a sad but vivid picture of man fallen state as it is always night for those who are not born again in Christ.

Paul reminds us in his  2nd letter to the church at Corinth 4:3, 4: says:  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

To be saved; to be born again, God needs to open their blinded eyes to the Saving power of Jesus Christ. He needs to draw them by irresistible grace; sufficient to say NO ONE enters heaven through their  natural birth.

In contrast I want you to see the relevance of the virgin birth.

My pastor who conducted our wedding service did not believe in the virgin birth. Having said that he dismissed all the miracles as well. So much for his MA BD degrees

My friends, we dismiss the virgin birth at our eternal peril. Listen again to  John 3: 6, as it is crucial to salvation: For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son,

monogenēs, his only begotten Son…”

Here the plan that was spawned in the heart of God was fulfilled, for in the Virgin birth God identifies with our humanity and we see the doctrine of penal substitution  that Jesus came as the Son Man to suffer the penalty for mankind’s sins.

The unblemished Lamb of God had to be born to humanity  and begotten in glory to pay for the penalty of man’s sin.

Yes! As sin entered the world through the First Adam, the Second Adan Jesus Christ became the substitute and paid the price of all our sins.

Yet, the devil has blinded the minds of mankind. Like Nicodemus they are blind. That isn’t my thinking, that is the Word of God as

Verses 19-20 says: This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed

My friends, as many children hate the dark,  many a grown up today, many a celebrity today, many a politician today, many a prince today and many a wolf in many a church today would love legislation to be passed that their foul deeds may be kept in the dark.

Like Jeffry Epstein, they hate their sins being revealed in the light of the day, but Jesus came with a ministry of revelation that the blind might see and seek redemption through being washed by his blood.

So thank God for the virgin birth, for in the virgin birth the divine choose to become our substitution on the Cross,

He didn’t die to save good people as there are none in gods sight. He died to save sinners like you and me, and without the virgin birth there is no salvation.

Indeed, when we accept that we find that there is sufficiency in  the new birth.

Jesus said in John 3:5: “… Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

In the Bible water is a symbol of the Word of God and Paul in his letter to the church in Ephesus chapter 5, speaks of the “… washing of water by the word.”  It is the Word of God that captures the mind, heart and soul so that a birth takes place.

Yet most people only think of salvation in the context of going to heaven but being saved is not just getting man into heaven; it is allowing the only begotten Son of God who left heaven to enter man.

Jesus put it this way in John 10:10, “I’ve come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” You can’t have that unless you allow him into your heart. In a vision he said to John: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Letting him in is a transforming experience. Before being born again we were all the genetic offspring of Adam and Eve. Mitochondrial Eve in the most base sense, but when  we are born again, Peter tells us that we are partakers of the divine nature . In other words, through sanctification by the person of the Holy Spirit we begin to mirror the characteristics of God as children of God.

Verse 6 puts it this way: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (verse 6).”

The Holy Spirit makes bears witness to us that we belong to Christ. We are the children of God.”

What is the witness of the Spirit? It is much more than emotions. It is this awareness that you are no longer under condemnation. It is this desire for holiness. That desire wasn’t there before, but after salvation you’re going to want to be holy because the nature of God is holy.

That doesn’t mean that you’ll never sin, but it does mean that when you do sin you will grieve over that sin like you never did before because you know in your spirit that you have hurt God and you will have a desire not to do that sin again.

Before salvation it was so very easy to run towards sin, but now your desire is to flee from sin. Before, the Bible was nothing more than a boring old book but now in being born again it is alive because you love the Lord Jesus and want to know him more. Indeed, Scripture says”… we love Him because He first loved us.”

And what is the culmination of all this? You have a growing desire to see others being saved . Not every Christian is called to be a preacher but as one minister said: every Christian is called to be a reacher.

No one is born twice physically; and no one is born twice spiritually. Once  saved always saved.

My friends, I cannot imagine that many people if any have plummeted the 36,000 feet to the bottom of the Mariana trench but for sure, at the bottom of that trench; countless peoples sins have been metaphorically buried by God. That’s a powerful message to the unsaved!

We are new creatures, and that is why Paul tells us:  . And who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? If we stumble and fall, we can be cleansed and forgiven, but that sin will never be placed in our name.

People sometimes speak of a second blessing, but in reality the second blessing is discovering what you got in the first blessing.

That’s a part of the process of sanctification. The blessings of the new birth go on and on, as you grow in Him, and He in you.

Physically I am getting shorter with age, but by grace I thank God that there is a momentum to grow spiritually even if on occasions the old nature rises his sinful head to make me stumble and stop. However, I stand by Pauls words to the church at Philippi of : being confident of this, that he who began a good work in me and YOU will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Yes I thank God for being born again. I thank God that though I sought to flee from God, the rope by which he held me was only so long before this old religionist was pulled in and my eyes opened to see Jesus and embrace him as Lord and Saviour in my life. In a moment of time I was born again. It was all of grace.

Some of you may have had an epiphany moment and others may have come to embrace Jesus ever so gradually that you cannot even recollect when you were saved.

What matters is illustrated  beautifully by Charles Spurgeon when he recounted the story of a Welsh minister, a man of God. Beginning his sermon, he leaned over the pulpit and said with a solemn air: “Friends, I have a question to ask. I cannot answer it. You cannot answer it. If an angel from heaven were here, he could not answer it. If a devil from hell were here, he could not answer it.” Death-like silence reigned. Every eye was fixed on the speaker. He proceeded: “The question is this, How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?

Praise God for everyone who has not neglected this so great salvation and pray for those who as yet haven’t. Amen

Saturday 10 October 2020

CHARACTER 4

Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse: PATIENCE

What’s the Point?

Christians should grow in patience.

‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’ (Gal. 5:22-23).

When I was a kid we had a prime minister called Maggie Thatcher. Anyone in the UK who’s older than eighteen will know who she is. She was beloved by the suburbanites and loathed by the working class. Thatcher was like Marmite, you either loved her or hated her; there was no middle ground. So this is a first for me, and I know for sure it’s going to be the last, but I want to quote the Iron Lady herself. ‘I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.’

Stop

What do you think she was actually saying?

The trouble is, Thatcher hit the nail on the head. Many of us define patience as just waiting until we get what we want – but that’s not really being patient, is it? That’s just being stubborn, immovable or showing an iron will. Sadly, we can take this kind of thinking into our relationship with God. We ask God for something and then just wait for Him to deliver the goods like He’s Amazon. In fact, we want Him to deliver like Amazon Prime (now or next day)! Then when we don’t get what we want, the way that we want it, we have a crisis in our faith, a meltdown, a tantrum! We might even question if God really loves us. After all, if He really loved us He would have given us what we wanted in the first place, right?! We grumble and moan about the situation and ultimately we start grumbling and moaning about the Lord.

Patience is not just about waiting for something or even waiting ‘well’ for the coveted thing; it’s so much more. To understand the depth of the word patience, we need to first think about the patience that God shows us. We need to think about patience as a characteristic of God, how He models patience to us, and what that means for us as Christians.

Biblical patience is God exercising restraint because of His love and mercy for sinful man. As sinners we are fully deserving of His wrath, but He holds it back, for a time. He shows restraint. He exercises patience with us so that we may repent and be restored to Him. That’s a bit different to what we’ve been thinking, isn’t it? More than just us waiting until we get our Amazon wish list, isn’t it?

We see examples of God’s patience all over the Bible, but here are a couple of examples:

‘For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighbouring peoples’ (Neh. 9:30).

‘What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?’ (Rom. 9:22-24).

God’s patience is long but it’s not infinite; it will come to an end.

He has already appointed a day in which He will judge the world. That day will mark the end of God striving in patience with us. So basically, He’s patient now, but it’s not going to last forever. It’s going to end and we need to be ready for what’s to come.

God holding back judgment day so we can all hear the gospel isn’t the only way He shows us His patience. God shows His patience with us as we change and grow.

I feel like a broken record because I keep saying the same thing over and over again. Having Christ in our life should impact our lives, and we should start to display His characteristics – characteristics like patience. I am not naturally the most patient person in the world, and I’ve struggled writing this because the truth has been hard to escape. But patience isn’t optional for the Christian. We’d like to think it is because it’s difficult, but it isn’t. God is patient and we are commanded to be patient also.

Jackie

When I watch the church women on Sunday it’s like they are Mary Poppins. Their kids never seem to kick off like my kids. It’s easier for them to be patient with their kids than me with mine. No matter what I do, they just won’t do what I say, but I’m really trying. It’s not easy.

Stop

How do you react when someone has annoyed you or upset you? Do you hold back when you’re angry or upset, or do you let it rip?

‘Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another …’ (Col. 3:12-13, esv).

Stop

How do you display the same patience that God shows you? What does that look like for you?

We actually have to apply this to our day-to-day lives and be patient with one another. Knowing that we need patience and actually displaying it are two different things.

I know that’s when we become unstuck.

When we are under pressure, what comes to the surface is the real us. You know what I mean: the ‘real you’, that side of you that you’ve been reining in or hiding in case anyone sees. The you that appears in those moments when you’re tired and stressed at the kids as they get on your last nerve. Our patience wears thin and our irritation levels go through the roof. When the pressure comes fast and furious, the first thing that goes out the window is our patience. In fact, many of us don’t even need that much to set us off because we’ve all got those little things, our pet hates, the things that rile us up and send us over the edge quicker than usual. For those things we don’t even need the excuse of pressure to see the irritation levels rise and our patience dissipate.

For me it’s checkout queues. I’m seriously impatient at the checkout and it’s worse when the assistant is being a complete idiot, taking ages to do the simplest of tasks, and has to ring the bell for help every three minutes. BUT, no matter how big the queue, how late I’m running, how clueless the assistant is, there is no excuse for me losing my rag and being impatient. Now, I don’t actually lose my rag these days, but I know I can be fairly formidable when I’m annoyed, and if I leave that unchecked I can be intimidating.

Stop

What makes you mad and sends you over the edge?

Illustration

Hanging out with Jackie one day, we nipped into the supermarket for a few quick things when I saw a sign saying ‘Keys cut in two minutes’. We needed keys cut and thought ‘Perfect, two birds with one stone.’ I stood in the queue and told the assistant I wanted three copies of the same key cut. What proceeded was twenty minutes of the assistant making constant mistakes, rebooting the machine, and staring at the screen saying ‘Ermmm, I don’t know what to do.’ She asked two people and started the key-cutting process five times. With every ounce of my being I stood there trying to remain calm, struggling to find the patience to stand and wait. So much time had passed that I actually started to assess whether I should stay or just go. But by then I knew I was invested: I had to hang it out, and Jackie was watching.

Eventually another assistant came and took over and I got my three keys five minutes later. ‘I’m sorry,’ the new assistant said, at which point Jackie chipped in: ‘I hope you’re better than that blooming idiot. I’m growing old waiting for her to stop messing about!’ The assistant looked a bit red and said, ‘I’m so sorry, I don’t know what she did to the machine.’ Me neither! I might have pulled off looking patient, I may have looked all serene and muttered something trite like ‘no worries’, but I wasn’t. I was feeling exactly like Jackie; inside I was seriously raging.

Stop

Is there really any difference between my behaviour and Jackie’s?

We all like to think we are masters at concealing our feelings, but no matter how hard we try, impatience and frustration will have tell-tale signs. We will in some way give ourselves away – every nerve will be itching to say ‘I’m getting seriously angry.’ Here’s the problem: we are impatient. Far too often grace can go quickly out the window in those everyday moments. Like when our son’s lost his school shoe for the second time that week and it’s always just the one, when that crazy dude cuts us up on the bypass and just waves as he passes, when we go to the fridge and someone has used the last of the milk and put the empty bottle back in the fridge … we say in frustration, ‘really?!’ In these moments we too easily forget the grace that we have been shown and get frustrated, irritated and impatient.

We are frustrated with people instead of gracious.

Impatient instead of patient.

In these moments we overlook the fact that they are our Christian family and rarely think about our witness to those who don’t know Christ – we turn people into targets for our frustration. No matter how hard we try, our impatience is hard to hide.

‘But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life’ (1 Tim. 1:16 esv).

I remember saying to my son when he was little, ‘How many times do I have to tell you?’ and he, taking my question literally, said without any sass intended, ‘I don’t know, seven?’ That made me laugh for ages and reminds me that God says the same thing to me regularly: ‘Sharon, how many times do I have to tell you?’ We can become all self-righteous and forget how many times we’ve messed up. How many times have we got things wrong? How many times has God had to teach us something again and again? And yet God shows us His immeasurable patience and kindness. This is more than we deserve and definitely more than we show others.

People aren’t all we can get impatient with. There are times when we can be impatient with God and His timing. As Christians we use the term ‘to wait well’. What we mean by this is that we are sure of God’s will and we are waiting well on His perfect timing. But we are the McDonald’s generation – not only do we not like waiting, we also don’t like to hear ‘no’ – we want it and we want it now.

There is a perfect example of what we are like in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original of course). The character Veruca Salt sings the song ‘I want it now! … I don’t care how, I want it now!’ This pretty much sums it up for many of us. ‘I don’t care how, I want it now.’ When we don’t get what we want when we want it, we somehow make it happen. We force the issue and we get ourselves in a right mess. We’re too impatient to wait on God’s perfect timing.

I’ve seen this with single men and women who are desperate for a relationship. Don’t get me wrong, the desire to be married is good, a gift from God. But I have spoken to many women who simply aren’t ready to wait or are tired of waiting. They don’t trust God or His timing. They can easily get depressed and upset because it feels like everyone is in a couple except for them. They feel incomplete, discontent, left on the shelf and anxious. Having a relationship has become an idol (it’s more important to them than God is). Their loneliness and desperation for a husband fuels their decisions and they start to make bad choices. People can easily rush into a relationship and even allow themselves to get sexual very quickly, crossing lines they never would have contemplated before. Perhaps they even choose someone who really isn’t a mature Christian, or make that choice to go out with a non-Christian (date to save!). They tell themselves the lie that obviously dating a Christian will force their boyfriend to see their desperate need for salvation (Aye, right!). All of this can lead to children out of wedlock, women considering abortions, painful breakups, struggling marriages or even Christians walking away from the Lord.

We forget that God is wise. We forget that God is faithful. We forget that God actually knows what He is doing. We forget to wait and trust. We forget to be patient.

Stop

What are you constantly asking God for or always talking to Him about? How would you feel if God said no?

I remember once as a young Christian praying for something and being reminded by someone that God uses the waiting to change us. I never really appreciated that at the time; I just thought it was too hard and unrealistic to patiently wait. When we are struggling to be patient we need to remember the grace that Jesus has shown us and patiently wait upon His promises. We need to look to Him, rely on Him and ask Him to help us as we struggle to show patience. Thankfully Christ is infinitely patient with us.

Key Point

God has patience but it’s not infinite. His patience will come to an end. He’s appointed a day when He will judge the world, marking the endpoint of God striving in patience with us. We are called to be patient – it isn’t optional for us – but it’s hard! Thankfully we have a Saviour who gives us all that we need, even patience.

Memory Verse

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you …’ (1 Pet. 1:3-4 esv).

Summary

Many of us are impatient, we want something and we want it now. Patience isn’t just about us waiting for something or showing restraint. Patience is an alien concept for us but, not for God. God patiently holds back His judgment so that we can repent and return to Him, restored. But we must remember His patience isn’t infinite; at some point it will come to an end. For the Christian patience isn’t an optional extra. We are to bear with one another, growing in and showing patience, following the example set before us by God.

 

Friday 9 October 2020

PART 15: WALKING IN FAITH

WE AREN’T THE WORLD

In Genesis 1, God uses the word good several times to describe his newly created world. Alas, the world didn’t stay good, thanks to Adam and Eve’s disobedience (not to mention all the mischief done by Satan and his demons). So, as you browse through the Bible, you get the distinct impression that “the world”—marred by human sin and the work of Satan—is a not-so-nice place. In fact, the saints are very unworldly people, taking their marching orders from God, not from sinful human beings. You can’t read far in the New Testament without realizing that “the world” is very much opposed to God and his people. The theme song of believers might be “We Aren’t the World.”

      1. Who stated that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it”?
      2. The devil tempted Jesus by taking him to a high mountain and showing him all the _____ of the world.
      3. Complete this saying of Jesus: “If the world ______ you, keep in mind that it _____ me first.”
      4. John the Baptist announced that Jesus was “the ___________ of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
      5. According to Revelation, who is it that leads the whole world astray?
      6. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to people of faith as the ___________ of the world.
      7. Which apostle wrote that believers are “strangers and aliens” in this world?
      8. Which of the Gospels says that “the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world”?
      9. According to 1 John, what sort of person “overcomes the world”?
      10. Paul stated that believers “have not received the __________ of the world but the _____ who is from God.”
      11. John stated that though “the world and its desires pass away,” a certain type of person lives forever. What type?
      12. Who stated that “friendship with the world is hatred toward God”?
      13. What people is the Letter to the Hebrews referring to when it says “the world was not worthy of them”?
      14. According to Galatians, unsaved people are enslaved to the basic _____ of the world.
      15. Which Epistle states that “greater is he that is in you than he who is in the world”?

WE AREN’T THE WORLD (ANSWERS)

 

Thursday 8 October 2020

EZEKIEL 19

Judgment and Restoration for Israel – Ezekiel 19:1-20:44

Open It

      1. What do you think determines whether a person will learn from his or her mistakes?
      2. When would a fresh start have been very timely for you? Why?

Explore It

      1. What picture did Ezekiel use to portray Judah’s princes in his lament? (19:1-9)
      2. How did Ezekiel use the image of a vine to sketch a “before and after” picture of Judah? (19:10-14)
      3. What was God’s reaction to the elders’ request? (20:2-3)
      4. What was the first instance of His love and favor with which God confronted the elders of Israel? (20:4-7)
      5. How did Israel respond when God delivered them out of Egypt? (20:8)
      6. How did God bless Israel in spite of their unfaithfulness? (20:9-12)
      7. Even after they had been delivered from Egypt, how did Israel treat God and His law? (20:13)
      8. What was God’s concern for His name? (20:14)
      9. What punishment did the generation of the Exodus suffer for their sin? (20:15-16)
      10. How did God show His pity to the elder generation and offer a new start to the younger generation? (20:17-20)
      11. What was to be the punishment for the second generation’s rebellion? (20:23)
      12. To what pagan practice did God “give them over”? (20:25-26)
      13. Once they had taken possession of the Promised Land, how did Israel continue to rebel against God? (20:27-29)
      14. What practices of the current generation led God to swear that He would not allow their elders to inquire of Him? (20:30-31)
      15. Why did God say that they would never worship “wood and stone” as they seemed to desire? (20:32-38)
      16. What would be different about the Israel that God would gather from their exile in the future? (20:39-42)
      17. What would Israel realize about God and about themselves when He accomplished His final deliverance? (20:43-44)

Get It

      1. What events in the recent history of Judah were portrayed in Ezekiel’s lament of the lioness?
      2. According to the lament of the vine, what was left of Israel following God’s judgment?
      3. Why did the elders who came to Ezekiel need a history lesson?
      4. How often did Israel get everything she deserved in terms of punishment?
      5. Why did God not allow Israel to go her own way in the long run, serving gods of wood and stone?
      6. Like Israel, what do we need in order to assess rightly our condition before God and to obey Him?

Apply It

      1. When in the next week or two can you take an hour for a historical overview of your life and God’s working in it?
      2. What spiritual issues should you always take care of before you come to God asking for favours or insight?

 

Wednesday 7 October 2020

CRISIS WORSHIP 4

4. Diagnosing the Damage

Job—Can we worship empty handed?

Job 1:1-22

1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
2And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
3His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
4And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
5And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
6Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.
7And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
8And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
9Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
10Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and

about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
12And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.
13And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:
14And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
15And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
16While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
17While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
18While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:
19And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
20Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
21And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
22In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

We have looked at one of the most inspiring stories in the history of mankind. The conclusion of the matter was simple but supreme, Abraham assured us that crisis worship is possible; and he was able to defeat the darkness in his life. Now we will peek into the life of Job and see how he responds to the devastating damage that has wrecked havoc upon his very being.

It would be fair to assume that most everyone that has been placed in a state of crisis has considered the story of Job. If ever there was a man that flourished in the fiery flames of destruction, it would be God’s servant Job. As we consider the life of this great man, we will also consider the loss of this great man. As we peek into his life we will find out if it is possible for a man to worship God empty handed.

The question may be proposed to every reader, can you worship God empty handed. Satan refused to believe that Job could worship God empty handed. I would say he even has less confidence in many of us living today. It is one thing to serve and stand for God when all is well, when the cupboard is full; but what if in a matter of minutes we were to lose it all? The reality of life is many of us will be faced with this very dilemma, and we will find out if empty handed worship is possible.

Consider the Godly Fear of Job

The scriptures portray this man as someone to be admired for his faith and his fear in God. This meek yet mighty servant was one that could be mimicked in his walk for God. It is not everyday that we find Godly men that have become wealthy by the proper means. It could be said of Job that he was a wise man, a wealthy man, a wonderful man that never hedged on his service of God.

Consider the Great Family of Job

Job was blessed with a wonderful family, a family of ten children. Now this would be quiet a sight to behold, all of the love, all of the life, all of the loyalty that exuberated from their interaction. If one were to visit with this family in the land of Uz, it would have been a wonderful experience. The atmosphere had to be bustling as the entire family situated itself around the dinner table. Job watched over his family with great concern and caution. In this story we find a father that prayed for his family, he pulled for them, he wanted to see that they were continually under the hedge of protection. The greatest need in this world is for fathers that will seek the spiritual well being for his family.

Consider the Great Fortune of Job

This man Job was exceedingly rich and wealthy during his time. If one were to tour his estate, it would have been a grand tour. The pastures filled with sheep, donkeys, camels, goats and other various means of income. Job would have stood beside the owners of today’s fortune 500 companies. The validity and the value of his wealth were there for the entire world to view.

Consider the Grand Fame of Job

The fame of Job had spread to the four corners of his known region. The fame was one that a man should be proud to behold concerning his testimony. This fame involved his wonderful faith, his fortune, and his family. It is the testimony of a Godly man that puts forth the reputation that everything is on the up and up. All that this mighty man had was at the expense of his God.

Consider the Godless Foe of Job

As Job was living his everyday normal life, some strange occurrences were happening behind the scenes. The old serpent himself was standing before God with hasty accusations concerning the evils of the world. In hearing the slander that flowed from the lips of Satan, God himself challenged the serpent’s lies.

The Lord asked Satan to consider his servant Job, in that this man should be considered just and true. We find that Satan did not agree with this statement. He emphasized that Job had good reason to follow God, due to the hedge that was placed about him. The Lord had prospered his servant; he had protected his servant, and now he had promoted his servant. This would be more than Satan could have handled, the slander and the slurs rolled off of his tongue in dripping poisonous venom towards this man Job.

The challenge was now out in the open; Satan disputed the entire holy character of God. The accusation was that no man was willing to serve God empty handed. Satan challenged God to remove the hedge from about his servant and Job would curse God in his face. If this proved to be true, then only those that God abundantly blessed were willing to serve him.

Consider the Guarded Flesh of Job

The creator of this universe looked into the heart of his servant and valiantly accepted this hideous challenge. The battle for respect and reverence would be fought down in the land of Uz, unbeknownst to the champion. God told Satan to give it his best shot, but he could not touch Job. The gauntlet was now laid down; the bell was about to ring and the fight of the ages was about to commence. Satan had the full authority and the flaming audacity to destroy God’s servant. Job was laid out in the open like a helpless lamb seeking safety among vibrant venomous starving wolves. The enemy was about to embark an assault upon Job, withstanding his flesh. The flesh of Job was off limits.

Consider the Grievous Fall of Job

The supreme battle of the ages was implemented without the approval or the knowledge of one of its prime participants. The famous Job was about to fall and in falling let us observe the picture of it. The children had all gathered together for a day of feasting, this would be a good day. As we all know life never goes as planned, this day of feasting would turn into a day of falling, and this would be a gloomy day.

The surviving servants of Job were about to pronounce words of misery and heartache concerning all that Job owned and loved. We must observe the pain of it suddenly tearing away all that Job cherished. The first servant comes and tells Job that his asses and his oxen have been taken away by bandits. As this servant lies on the ground panting in agony, Job looks up and here comes the second servant. This man tells Job that a fire had fallen from heaven and killed all of Job’s sheep. He had now lost over half of his estate, could it get any worse.

The second servant has now fallen on the ground seemingly near death himself. Job hears a faint cry in the distance and here is the third servant with weary words of woe and despair. This servant tells Job that bandits have hit him from another side; he now has lost all of his camels. The mighty Job had just been reduced from a prince to a pauper in a matter of moments.

I can almost hear the muttering and the mumbling coming from the lips of Job, can it get any worse? If we were close enough to hear his feeble reply to his own question, this might be the answer. At least Job still had his family. Satan may have robbed Job of every monetary substance; at least he still had his family.

The unthinkable is about to happen, Job looks in the distance and sees a feeble figure coming his way. The fourth servant is about to proclaim the harshest words that a father could ever hear uttered. This fourth servant tells Job that a mighty wilderness wind had blown in and it had destroyed the house where his children were feasting. The only living survivor of this tragedy was the servant himself. The answer to the question is yes it can always get worse. We now need to consider the potential of it, how would this affect Job?

As we consider the potential of this great trial in the life of Job. We will find out what type of man he really is now that Satan has stripped him of all of his props and all of his pomp. It was now just plain Job, the common man consumed with doom and despair. We need to propose three questions concerning this crisis. How sturdy is his foundation, will it hold up? How solid is his faith, can it hold up? How sincere was his focus, could it hold up?

The consequences of this epic crisis had heavenly implications; all of heaven was standing looking over the banisters of glory to see the outcome. In one corner we see Satan himself beckoning Job to angrily shake his fist in the face of God and curse his very existence. In the other corner, we find the Creator of this universe, standing patiently for the response of his fallen servant.

The outcome of this crisis would be documented for the entire world to consider. The potential was great and forthcoming; Job was thrust onto center stage. Job, can a man worship God empty handed, stripped of everything that he had loved and lived for; is this type of loyalty possible? Job will have to step back and diagnose the damage from this horrible day. He would have to gather himself mentally and emotionally, in doing this he would rationalize his response. Satan may have taken all that he cherished, but he could not dictate Job’s response.

Consider the Glorious Faith of Job

As Job diagnosed the damage from this day, his response was one to be watched tenderly and with utter reverence. The day had just delivered him one of the greatest economic downfalls that a man could face. When all was said and the dust had settled, he would head down to the graveyard and bury not just a child, but all ten of his children.

A holy hush was about to overtake all of those within watching distance of this broken man. Job stands up, rips his mantle, shaves his head and we see his willful worship. Is this possible, can a man worship God empty handed? This great servant of God may have lost everything that could be seen, the things that are without. He could display empty handed worship because he had eternal minded worship. Eternal minded worship comes from within and he still possessed many unseen things.

We not only see his willful worship, we see his wise words. Job diagnosed the damage and realized that he had come into this world with nothing and he would leave this world with nothing. He refused to make harsh, hateful, and horrific accusations against God. The challenge had been met with great honor and nobility. The slander of Satan had been proven to be a mere lie, man could willingly worship God empty handed.

Consider the Gallant Find of Job

In concluding this wonderful story of a man that had just faced the most trying times, what have we learned? I suppose that we get past the hero aspect of this story and realize that what happened to Job is still happening today. We rub elbows with people that are in crisis each and everyday, people full of hurt and pain. The truth of this statement may provoke us to ask, how do they survive? How can a person, a family survive these times of tragedy? How does one maintain their faith in the face of doubt, doom, and despair?

The Lord has provided each of his precious children a comforter, one to walk along with them. This comforter will provide a supernatural strength that will rise up during the darkest hour. As Job stood on the verge of defeat, an inner flame begins to burn within his soul. The norm would have been for Job to withdraw from God, but the supernatural allowed him too meekly; but mightily worship.

The silence must have been loud on this most notable day. We truly have learned that one can worship God when the world around him seems to have crumbled. At that very moment when the flood gates of hell seem to be about to drown us in sorrow and suffering, we can find that inner strength and source to

 

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Women of Character  / WOMEN OF REST 3

Resting in God’s Power

Psalm 127Setting the Stage:

Barbara, Mother of the Bride

I study my own face in the gilt frame mirror hanging on the dining room wall. A gift from the Augsbergs, “For hosting the wedding, my dear. No one else could have pulled it off.”

The lines around my own eyes, carved by something deeper than age, have yet to disappear. I would have thought a few full nights of sleep would have at least caused them to fade.

It’s not like I’ve never planned a wedding. A thousand little details, yes, but they should have all fallen into place, each step following the other, like pages on a calandar. Organization—that’s what gets the job done.

How could I have missed the most important part?

“You mean this June?” the secretary at Westside Baptist sounded as incredulous as I’d felt when Angela insisted on that date.

“I’m sorry, dear, there’s graduation, you know, a fiftieth anniversary and three other weddings. I’m afraid there’s not a weekend to be had.”

Hope told me once, “Mother, if persistence was a virtue, you’d be a candidate for sainthood!” She was being facetious, of course, but I’m afraid she was right.

“We’re founding members of that church,” I reminded the woman. “Surely you can do something.”

“Oh, well then,” she finally gave in, “what about a Monday night?”

Not ideal, but it would have to do.

Then there were the little disappointments. I pictured candles at the end of every pew. But the fire marshall would not allow it. Angela asked for a popular music piece and you’d have thought we wanted to hire a hard rock band.

Ms. Augsburg must have changed her guest list fifty times and then insisted on champagne and dancing at the reception, which meant we couldn’t hold it at the church.

Angela grew more distant with every change of plans, and none of us was sleeping well. I’d creep up the stairs at two a.m. and find light seeping from the crack beneath her bedroom door.

She and Hope assured me they were almost finished with her dress. “I’ll give a nice luncheon,” I told them, “just the women in the family. We’ll discuss the final details, then Angela and Melissa will put on a fashion show.”

All those carefully laid plans.

The day Hope fainted, I rushed to the hospital, my heart racing like a caged wild bird. She lay so white and still, fragile as an eggshell, stretched out on hospital sheets. A fire-red gash closed with ugly black stitches tracked across her brow. I stepped aside as a nurse wrapped half a roll of gauze around the wound.

Hope had cut her foot on broken glass when she was six, and sprained her wrist playing volleyball in junior high, but she had never been unconscious before. Thirty-one hours. It seemed like a lifetime.

The doctors were optimistic. The diagnosis—hypertension caused by stress. “She has a concussion,” they said. “And we have to get her blood pressure down. When she wakes up, she’ll need medication and several weeks of bed rest.”

Two weeks from Monday was Angela’s wedding day.

We took turns at Hope’s bedside, holding her hand and praying. Wedding plans were pushed aside until her eyes finally fluttered open and she said, “Mother, I’m not feeling well, you’ll have to finish Melissa’s dress.”

I laughed until I cried.

      1. In what ways do you identify with Barbara’s growing feelings of pressure and anxiety?

 

God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 127.

      1. What warning is given about labor?
      2. In your own words describe the anxiety spoken of in Psalm 127:2.
      3. How is this kind of anxiety a description of your work and life?
      4. Do you think that this psalm is suggesting that God is doing everything so we should sit back and do nothing? Explain.
      5. How does taking God seriously help us to reach the balance between frantic activity and passivity?
      6. The psalmist seems to abruptly move from the topic of labor to the topic of children. What does he say about children?
      7. How is building a house (Psalm 127:1) like building a family (Psalm 127:3-5)?
      8. What have you learned from this study which will help you to rest in God’s work?
      9. According to Psalm 127:2, it is the Lord who gives those he loves sleep. What do you need in order to receive this gift of deep rest from him?

 

Now or Later

Read John 17:1-5. This is Jesus’ prayer at the end of his earthly life as he faces the cross. What seems to be the condition of his spirit?
What are Jesus’ requests in this first paragraph?

What is life?

How has Jesus brought glory to the Father?

How do you respond to the confident statement of Jesus, “I have finished the work that you gave me to do”?

Reflect on the following statements and journal on your impressions.
Hilary of Tours diagnosed our desperate busyness as, “a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.”

“We are going about trying desperately for our presence to make a difference.”—Henri Nouwen

“Our work should be just as enjoyable as having children.”—Eugene Peterson

“The first great fact which emerges from our civilization is that today everything has become ‘means.’ There is no longer an ‘end’; we do not know whither we are going. We have forgotten our collective ends, and we possess great means: we get huge machines in motion in order to arrive nowhere.”—Jacques Ellul

Write a prayer to Jesus acknowledging your need for him to build the house and guard the city. Talk about your tendency to attempt to work alone, apart from him. Thank him for the sleep that he gives—pure and deep sleep.

Women of Character Bible Studies.

 

Monday 5 October 2020

GROWING DISCIPLES

PRAYER WEEK 3
Week 3: Responding Prayers

“Through Him [Jesus] let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.”—Hebrews 13:15

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 3

Day 1: Confession: Responding to God’s Holiness
Day 2: Praise: Responding to God’s Attributes
Day 3: Worship: Responding to God’s Glory
Day 4: Thanksgiving: Responding to God’s Riches
Day 5: Responding Together

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

“Through Him [Jesus] let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name” (Hebrews 13:15)

PREVIEW OF WEEK 3

This week you will—

      • identify aspects God has revealed about Himself: His holiness, His attributes, His glory, and His riches;
      • learn how to respond in prayer to God’s aspects;
      • understand that the purpose of responding prayers is to help you become the person God has planned for you to be;
      • become more like God as you begin to respond to Him in confession, praise, worship, and thanksgiving;
      • study in detail the four types of responding prayers.
        • Confession: responding to God’s holiness
        • Praise: responding to God’s attributes
        • Worship: responding to God’s glory
        • Thanksgiving: responding to God’s riches

Day 1: Confession: Responding to God’s Holiness

Scripture-Memory Verse

“Through Him [Jesus] let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name” (Hebrews 13:15).

God is holy. He is separate, pure, and righteous. God reveals His holiness because He wants you to be holy as He is holy: “It is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:16). Yet we cannot be holy apart from God’s work in us. When God revealed Himself to persons in biblical accounts, one of the first qualities they recognized was His holiness.

Turn in your Bible and read Isaiah 6:1-7. Which of the following describes Isaiah’s response to God’s holiness?

a. He realized his sin in the presence of God’s holiness and cried out.
b. He was proud to be in God’s presence and boasted of his own goodness and righteousness.

How did God (through the seraphs) respond to Isaiah’s cry?

a. God killed Isaiah in His anger.
b. God cleansed and forgave Isaiah in His love and mercy.

Confronted with God’s holiness, Isaiah cried out because of his sin (1-a). He agreed with what God already knew to be true. Isaiah had no reason to feel pride. God responded in love and mercy by taking away Isaiah’s sin. Isaiah was cleansed and forgiven (2-b). Then he could be useful to God (see Isaiah 6:8-13).

Confession

The Greek word for confess means speak the same thing or agree with. In one way all prayer is agreeing with God. Confession is agreeing with the truth. When you sin, God feels sadness or grief. You tend to feel guilty because of your sin. Satan, as “the accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10), reminds you of your sin so that you will feel guilty. Your guilt may cause you to run away or hide from God, as Adam and Eve did in the garden of Eden.

God is more interested in your agreeing with Him and returning to a love relationship with Him. He prefers that you feel the grief that He feels. When you have a broken heart over your sin, you will want to do something about it: “Godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Confession is agreeing with God about the real you and responding to God’s holiness. Prayers of confession include seeking God’s cleansing and forgiveness.

What emotion does God want you to feel about your sin?

In Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:9 below, underline God’s promises if we confess our sins.

“The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.”—Proverbs 28:13

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—1 John 1:9

Read Hebrews 4:16 below. How should we approach God to receive His mercy and grace?

“Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.”—Hebrews 4:16

The New Testament uses the word forgiveness in two ways. One is the legal sense of forgiveness. Jesus’ death on the cross takes care of every sin a believer ever commits: past, present, and future. His sacrifice was all-sufficient. When you sin, you know it is already forgiven from a legal standpoint.

Sin in your life, however, stops the process of becoming like God. Sin breaks your fellowship and intimacy with God. First John 1:9 speaks of the relational sense of forgiveness. When you respond to God’s holiness by agreeing with Him about your sin, He promises to give mercy, forgiveness, and cleansing. He restores the relationship of intimacy. Hebrews 4:16 encourages you to seek this mercy with boldness and confidence. Hebrews 10:19-22 describes the way you can enter God’s presence:

Since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh); and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

Because of Jesus you can enter God’s presence with boldness and assurance. Develop the habit of agreeing with God so that when you sin, you are grieved and you immediately agree with Him about your sin and seek His forgiveness and restoration of fellowship.

Pray, asking God to reveal sin in your life that hinders your relationship with Him. Use the sample prayer of confession below to agree with God about your sin. Be specific. Seek God’s cleansing and restoration. Ask Him to make you holy, as He is holy. Also see biblical examples of confession on pages 9293.

Sample Prayer of Confession

Lord, I don’t feel what You feel, but I would like to. Help me feel the divine grief that You feel about my sin. Father, what I have done is not like You. And it is not like the real me that I am becoming in You. I want to agree with You about my sin and to become more like the real me, the eternal me that You want me to become. Cleanse me and restore me. Continue Your work in me. Make me holy, as You are holy. Amen.

Day 2: Praise: Responding to God’s Attributes

Today’s Prayer Promise

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

According to yesterday’s lesson, what is one kind of responding prayer that helps prepare you to enter God’s presence?

One way to prepare to enter the throne room of heaven in prayer is confession. Through confession you receive cleansing and are restored to a right relationship with God. Confession is agreeing with God about the real you. You may object, “You don’t know the real me. I don’t want to be like the real me.” Just one minute! The world tells you that you are a product of your past. If you agree with the world, that is the limit of the kind of person you will be—and that may not be very good. Christianity, however, teaches that you are a product of your future—what you are becoming. God is molding you into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. As a Christian, you are becoming like Him. You are growing toward what you will be in eternity. Think of yourself in terms of eternity. This is the self about whom you want to agree with God in prayer.

Pause to pray. Fix in your mind an image of what Jesus is like—pure, loving, kind, holy, wise, patient, humble, and gentle. Spend time in confession. Agree with God that the person you are becoming is more like Jesus in these ways.

A second kind of responding prayer is praise. In many different ways God reveals to you what He is like. His character traits are called His attributes. Praise is lifting up the attributes of God. You tend to become like what you value or praise. By lifting up God’s attributes in praise, you respond to God by becoming more like Him.

Read below the examples of praise. Pray them as you read. Circle or underline God’s attributes.

Examples of Praise

“I will thank the Lord for His righteousness” (Psalm 7:17).

“Be exalted, Lord, in Your strength; we will sing and praise Your might” (Psalm 21:13).

“I trust in God’s faithful love forever and ever. I will praise You forever for what You have done. In the presence of Your faithful people, I will put my hope in Your name, for it is good” (Psalm 52:8-9).

“My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life. So I will praise You as long as I live” (Psalm 63:3-4).

“Lord, the heavens praise Your wonders—Your faithfulness also” (Psalm 89:5).

Do you see that praise focuses on who God is or what He is like? He is righteous, most high, strong and mighty, merciful, good, loving, wonderful, and faithful. These are just a few of God’s attributes.

Read the list of God’s attributes below. Circle the ones that are particularly meaningful to you.

Attributes of God

      • able
      • almighty
      • attentive
      • awesome
      • beautiful
      • blameless
      • blessed
      • enthroned
      • eternal
      • exalted
      • faithful
      • first
      • flawless
      • forgiving
      • gentle
      • glorious
      • good
      • gracious
      • healing
      • holy
      • invisible
      • jealous
      • just
      • kind
      • last
      • light
      • living
      • majestic
      • merciful
      • mighty
      • patient
      • peaceful
      • perfect
      • protective
      • pure
      • radiant
      • righteous
      • spirit
      • strong
      • supreme
      • sure
      • tender
      • true
      • unique
      • wise
      • wonderful
      • abounding in love
      • all-knowing
      • all-powerful
      • compassionate
      • ever present
      • has authority
      • has integrity
      • indescribable
      • slow to anger
      • understanding
      • unfailing love
      • worthy of praise

Fill in the blanks to describe a second kind of responding prayer.

P ____________ is responding to God’s a _______________________.

Which is the purpose of responding prayers like praise?

a. I identify with God by working with Him in His kingdom.
b. I identify with God by becoming like Him.

When you pray, take time to offer praise to God. Respond to God’s attributes by lifting them up. God wants you to become like Him. As you praise Him, ask Him to help you become more like Him. Allow God to remove every characteristic that is not like Him.

Praise is not just for the good times in your life. The writer of Hebrews said, “Through Him [Jesus] let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15). Praising God for who He is and for what He is like should be an attitude of your heart. You can praise Him continually.

Praise is insisting on the truth.

Paul and Silas, for example, were beaten and thrown into jail for taking a stand for Jesus Christ. Would you praise God at a time like that? Read what they did: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Praise is insisting on the truth of God’s nature regardless of the circumstances. God never changes. He is always worthy of our praise.

You will find that prayers of praise and worship are closely related. Praise focuses on His attributes. Worship focuses on the evidence of His attributes—His glory. Praise and worship prayers blend together as you pray.

Using the attributes listed in this lesson and the biblical examples on pages 9495, spend a few minutes praising God. You may want to use some of the biblical words for praise and worship below.

Biblical Words for Praise and Worship

praise
hallelujah
alleluia
hosanna
magnify
exalt
rejoice
exult
ascribe
bless
laud
worship
adore
honor
glorify

Day 3: Worship: Responding to God’s Glory

Today’s Prayer Promise

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).

A third kind of responding prayer is worship. In the New Testament the Greek word for worship derives from root words meaning to kiss toward. It is an act of obeisance, homage, reverence, or love.

List the first three kinds of responding prayers.

      1. C ______________________________________________________
      2. P ______________________________________________________
      3. W _____________________________________________________
      4. Thanksgiving

God is not like any other. He reveals to us His beauty, brightness, and splendor—His glory—as He shows His attributes. God’s actions reveal His glory. The Bible indicates that the heavens and the earth declare God’s glory. Creation is the evidence of God’s great creative power, His beauty, His wisdom, and much more.

You respond to God’s glory through prayers of worship.

When God reveals His glory, you recognize His worth—His surpassing value. You want to fall down and worship Him, love Him, and adore Him. You long to be with Him. You respond to God’s glory through prayers of worship. You worship by expressing your reverence, honor, love, and adoration for God.

Read on pages 9697 some prayers of worship from the Bible. Pray them as you read them. Think of God’s beauty and majesty as you pray.

Write your own one-sentence prayer of worship.

Prayers of worship and praise go together. As you pray, you will find yourself focusing on God’s attributes and praising Him. When you reflect on who God is and how He has revealed Himself, you will worship and adore Him. Worship begins with reverence for God.

Expressing Prayers of Worship

      1. Describe your reverence for God.
      2. Magnify the Lord.
      3. Exalt the Lord.
      4. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due Him.
      5. Bless the Lord.
      6. Glorify the Lord.

Here are some ways you can express prayers of worship.

      1. Describe your holy reverence for God. Acknowledge and honor His presence. Do not treat God’s presence casually or lightly.
      2. Magnify the Lord. Make Him bigger. The word magnify indicates perspective. You cannot make God bigger than He is. However, when you decrease yourself and magnify Him, He increases. That is what Mary did when she prayed: “My soul doth magnify the Lord. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden” (Luke 1:46, 48, KJV). Focus on God’s greatness in comparison to who you are.
      3. Exalt the Lord. Make Him higher. John said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
      4. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due Him. Give God proper credit for what He has done. Do not accept His glory as your own.
      5. Bless the Lord. Speak well of Him.
      6. Glorify the Lord. Give Him honor and glory in what you say.

Read below the sample prayers of worship. Underline those that express your feelings of worship. Now pray them to the Lord.

Sample Prayers of Worship

      • I bless You, Lord.
      • Honor and majesty belong to You.
      • I stand in awe of Your greatness and power.
      • I love You because You first loved me.
      • I long to be with You, Lord. I hunger and thirst for You.
      • I would rather be a doorkeeper in Your house than live as a rich person with the wicked.
      • I glorify Your name because You have done great things.
      • The heavens declare Your glory, Lord. I worship You in the splendor of Your holiness.
      • The earth is full of Your glory, Lord. Your wisdom, knowledge, and power are beyond my understanding.
      • Lord, Your splendor and majesty are glorious. I worship You.
      • I long to be with You in eternity. I yearn for my redemption to be complete in Christ.
      • I desire intimate fellowship with You.

Prayers of worship are responses to God’s glory. Because God is spirit, you must worship God in spirit. The opposite of spirit is flesh, which can taint worship when you focus on self. Pride and arrogance before God prevent true worship. The real test in worship is this: Who is first? Who is foremost? To worship in spirit, think of God first. Seek to meet God, to see Him, to think about Him, to please Him, to fix your mind on Him. Flesh will lead you astray. Spirit will always lead you to God’s supremacy. God’s glory is very sacred. You dare not give His glory to another or take it for yourself, for God said:

I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).

God’s glory, demonstrated in your life, is the greatest good that can come to you. His glory is best demonstrated when your life reflects His character. The way you live your life can demonstrate worship to God by glorifying Him. God wants you to attain maturity, to reach the measure of the stature of Christ, and to become complete in Christ. When you worship the Lord, God works in you to make you more like Him.

Close today’s study by worshiping the Lord. Focus on Him as you express your reverence, awe, love, and adoration. Use the words at the end of day 2 if you wish.

Day 4: Thanksgiving: Responding to God’s Riches

Today’s Prayer Promise

“Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17).

Squeezing toothpaste onto my toothbrush one morning, I (T. W.) realized that I had never thanked God for toothpaste. Come to think of it, I had never thanked Him for my teeth. I wondered, What if my blessings tomorrow depended on my thanksgiving today? It would mean that if I did not thank God for air and lungs today, there would be no air tomorrow, and my lungs would collapse!

Few of us realize our total dependence on God. We fail to acknowledge God as the source of everything we have. He is our source for abundant living, bestowing on us material and spiritual blessings according to His grace.

Read today’s prayer promise, James 1:17. Where does every generous act and perfect gift come from?

Read Ephesians 1:3-9, 11 below and underline some spiritual blessings God has given you. We’ve underlined one for you.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ; He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will.”—Ephesians 1:3-9, 11

Every good gift comes from God. He has blessed you with all spiritual blessings. God has chosen and adopted you as a child, has forgiven your sins, has given you wisdom and understanding, has revealed His will, and has given you an inheritance.

When God reveals Himself by giving blessings to you, thanksgiving to Him is a natural response. Thanksgiving is not just an act or a statement. It is an attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving indicates a relationship between God as source and you as receiver. Prayers of thanksgiving indicate one of the most important characteristics of your relationship with God. Your relationship can grow only when you properly acknowledge that you are the receiver and God is the Giver.

Read Ephesians 5:20 and Philippians 4:6 below. What does Paul say about gratitude?

“… giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Ephesians 5:20

“In everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”—Philippians 4:6

a. Thank God for only the good things in life.
b. Thank God for every situation—both good and difficult.
c. Thanksgiving is not important unless you want something.

Paul tells us always to be thankful in every situation (b). This is difficult for most of us. We think of gratitude merely as a reaction to a favor, not to unpleasant events. Properly expressing gratitude means that you thank God in all circumstances—large and small, good and bad. Response to God in gratitude should be a continuous attitude of your heart: “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Learning to be content in whatever state in which you find yourself helps you submit to God’s sovereignty. He wants you to develop gratitude for all you have rather than to focus on what you do not have. Thanksgiving is responding to God for the blessings He has bestowed on you.

Gratitude is a response not only to what God does but also to who God is.

Gratitude is a continuous attitude about your relationship with the One who continuously gives to you, supplies your needs, and brings you joy. Gratitude is a response not only to what God does but also to who God is. Gratitude is the heart’s response to God’s goodness—not merely to the gifts of His goodness but also to His quality of goodness.

What quality of God encourages our gratitude?

Turn to pages 9899 and read the examples of thanksgiving. In the space provided on those pages, list from Scripture some things for which you can thank God.

God’s nature is good. His will and work are always good. You can thank God for even the difficult or trying experiences in life, knowing that He can work through those for your good (see Romans 8:28 below). Here are some other things for which you can thank God: spiritual riches, honor, strength, His nearness, His wonderful works, joy and gladness, freedom, daily provision, a call to be involved in His work, and wisdom.

“All things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”—Romans 8:28

Read the list of subjects for thanks below. List on page 99 other things, persons, or experiences for which you can give thanks.

Subjects for Thanks

      • Redemption, mercy, grace, forgiveness
      • Meaningful spiritual experiences
      • Family, relatives, friends, and church
      • Provision for your needs
      • Persons and events that have had spiritual impacts on your life

Pray through your lists and use the Scriptures on pages 9899 to express your gratitude to God for His goodness and for all He is and does for you. Be alert to ways to express your gratitude to God today.

Day 5: Responding Together

Today’s Prayer Promise

“Come, let us discuss this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

You will spend most of this week’s prayer session in responding prayers. Today you will prepare for your small-group prayer session.

Preparing to Confess

In Isaiah 1:18, today’s prayer promise, God invites you to reason together with Him about your sin. No matter how bad the sin appears, He can cleanse and forgive! Confession is a way to respond to God’s holiness by agreeing with Him and turning away from your sin. As you do, God makes you holy—set apart for His work.

Sometimes sin needs to be confessed publicly (see Nehemiah 9:1-3 below). This is especially true when a group has sinned. We call this corporate sin.

“The Israelites assembled; they were fasting, wearing sackcloth, and had put dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the guilt of their fathers. While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day and spent another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the Lord their God.”—Nehemiah 9:1-3

Check sins that could be church sins or group sins rather than individual sins. Some could be both.

pride
murder
robbery
sexual immorality
envy
adultery
bribery
tolerating evil
greed
unbelief
unforgiveness
shifting priority from God
lying
gossip
bitterness
neglecting the needy

Nearly all of these could be sins of a church or a group. Some, however, like murder, robbery, sexual immorality, adultery, bribery, lying, and gossip, are more likely to be individual sins. James 5:16, below, commands us to confess our sins to one another. Healing and deliverance can come when others pray for you about an area of sin, weakness, need, or fault. Take care, however, when you confess sin publicly. Below are some guidelines to follow when confessing sin to others.

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.”—James 5:16

Guidelines for Confession

      1. Confession should be directed by the Holy Spirit.
      2. Limit group confession to what is corporately (as a group) agreed on as sin.
      3. Corporate confession is not accusation of others but agreement with God and with one another that the action confessed is sin.
      4. Confession includes sins of omission and commission.
      5. The purpose of confessing personal sin is to secure forgiveness or to enlist prayer support.
      6. Any sin that has caused damage to a group should be publicly confessed.
      7. The circle of confession should be as wide as the circle of damage done by the sin.
      8. Confession should not be public when it would hurt other persons or lead to anger or lust.

Confession also includes agreeing with God about truth. Turn to page 93 and read two examples of the confession of truth. Now read the list of sample prayers of the confession of truth below. On page 93, list other truths you can confess about God or about who you are in relation to God.

Sample Prayers of the Confession of Truth

      • Sin no longer has dominion over me.
      • You have dressed me in robes of Your righteousness.
      • You are Lord and Master; I am Your servant.
      • You are my Father; I am Your child.
      • You are Sovereign; my answer is yes.
      • You are Truth; You are my Way and Life.
      • I walk in victory with Christ.
      • Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.

Preparing to Praise

During your group prayer time this week, you will respond to God’s attributes in praise. You might use statements like these: “I praise You, Lord, for You are. … ” “I magnify Your name because You are. …”

List four or more attributes of God for which you can praise Him. If you need to, skim Psalms to find some of His attributes.

Preparing to Worship

Turn to pages 9697 and select an example of worship that is meaningful to you. Underline what the Scripture describes of God’s glory.

Preparing to Give Thanks

Review the lists on pages 41 and 99 of things for which you can express thanks to God. Draw a star beside those for which you are particularly thankful.

Spend a few minutes in prayer, responding to God’s holiness, attributes, glory, and riches

Growing Disciples Series – Pray In Faith.

 

Friday 2 October 2020

Pardon Me: Forgiveness And Unforgiveness

“To err is human, to forgive divine”—so said the poet Alexander Pope, though many people think those words come from the Bible. Pope’s words do nicely sum up the Bible’s teaching about forgiveness. People are expected to forgive, just as God does. Why not, since our own sins and failings ought to make us willing to overlook the sins of others? Unfortunately, in the Bible (as in our own lives) there are many examples of not forgiving.

      1. What wild young man confessed his riotous living to his forgiving father? (Hint: It’s a parable.)
      2. According to Jesus, how many times are we supposed to forgive someone?
      3. What is the one sin that cannot be forgiven?
      4. Who asked the prophet Elisha’s forgiveness for worshipping in the temple of the god Rimmon?
      5. Who was the first man recorded as forgiving those who had wronged him?
      6. To whom did Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven”?
      7. Who was Jesus’ immediate predecessor in preaching the forgiveness of sins?
      8. In which Gospel does Jesus say from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?
      9. According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, what is required if sins are to be forgiven?
      10. According to Deuteronomy, what sin cannot be forgiven?
      11. Who begged David’s forgiveness for her husband’s boorish behaviour?
      12. What abused prophet prayed that God would not forgive his enemies’ many plots against him?
      13. What happens to people who will not forgive their enemies?
      14. According to Jesus, what was poured out for the forgiveness of men’s sins?
      15. According to Mark’s Gospel, what activity should we cease from until we have forgiven our brothers?
      16. What woman loved much because she had been forgiven much?

Pardon Me: Forgiveness And Unforgiveness (Answers)

 

Thursday 1 October 2020

The Soul Who Sins Will Die – Ezekiel 18:1-32

Open It

      1. Why do we like to have a ready excuse for our failings should they come to light?
      2. What examples do you know of parents of poor character who have had children of excellent character?

Explore It

      1. What parable was current in Israel that God wanted to correct? (18:1-3)
      2. Whose sin did God say has the power to condemn a person to death? (18:4)
      3. From what sinful activities does God’s “righteous man” abstain? (18:5-8)
      4. What positive activities are part of the righteous person’s life? (18:5-9)
      5. What will happen to the “violent son” of a righteous person who commits the sins his or her father avoided? (18:10-13)
      6. In Ezekiel’s story, how does the violent son’s son respond to what he sees in his father? (18:14-17)
      7. How would God judge the son who did not follow the evil practices of his father? (18:17)
      8. Whose actions are the final determiner of every soul’s fate? (18:19-20)
      9. How does God feel about a wicked person who repents? (18:21-23)
      10. What happens to a righteous person’s good deeds if he or she later turns to sin? (18:24)
      11. By what logic does God explain His justice through Ezekiel? (18:25-29)
      12. What does God call each person to do in light of His coming judgment? (18:30)
      13. What new things does a repentant person possess? (18:31)
      14. What does God desire for each soul He has created? (18:32)

Get It

      1. What can we infer about why the Jews of Ezekiel’s day felt they were suffering?
      2. How would it affect our motivation to live a righteous life if we could indeed be punished for our parents’ misdeeds?
      3. What excuse is eliminated if we know that God does not punish us for our parents’ sins?
      4. What is the difference between suffering because of the mistakes of our forebears and paying for them?
      5. Why is God more concerned with the way we live today than with our previous mistakes or accomplishments?
      6. Based on God’s attitudes, how should we feel about the misfortunes of nonbelievers?

Apply It

      1. What fruits of righteousness can you cultivate this coming week?
      2. How can you help young people to take responsibility for their own soul, regardless of where their parents stand with God?

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Wednesday 30 September 2020

CRISIS WORSHIP 3

Resting in God’s Power

Psalm 127

Setting the Stage:

Barbara, Mother of the Bride

I study my own face in the gilt frame mirror hanging on the dining room wall. A gift from the Augsbergs, “For hosting the wedding, my dear. No one else could have pulled it off.”

The lines around my own eyes, carved by something deeper than age, have yet to disappear. I would have thought a few full nights of sleep would have at least caused them to fade.

It’s not like I’ve never planned a wedding. A thousand little details, yes, but they should have all fallen into place, each step following the other, like pages on a calandar. Organization—that’s what gets the job done.

How could I have missed the most important part?

“You mean this June?” the secretary at Westside Baptist sounded as incredulous as I’d felt when Angela insisted on that date.

“I’m sorry, dear, there’s graduation, you know, a fiftieth anniversary and three other weddings. I’m afraid there’s not a weekend to be had.”

Hope told me once, “Mother, if persistence was a virtue, you’d be a candidate for sainthood!” She was being facetious, of course, but I’m afraid she was right.

“We’re founding members of that church,” I reminded the woman. “Surely you can do something.”

“Oh, well then,” she finally gave in, “what about a Monday night?”

Not ideal, but it would have to do.

Then there were the little disappointments. I pictured candles at the end of every pew. But the fire marshall would not allow it. Angela asked for a popular music piece and you’d have thought we wanted to hire a hard rock band.

Ms. Augsburg must have changed her guest list fifty times and then insisted on champagne and dancing at the reception, which meant we couldn’t hold it at the church.

Angela grew more distant with every change of plans, and none of us was sleeping well. I’d creep up the stairs at two a.m. and find light seeping from the crack beneath her bedroom door.

She and Hope assured me they were almost finished with her dress. “I’ll give a nice luncheon,” I told them, “just the women in the family. We’ll discuss the final details, then Angela and Melissa will put on a fashion show.”

All those carefully laid plans.

The day Hope fainted, I rushed to the hospital, my heart racing like a caged wild bird. She lay so white and still, fragile as an eggshell, stretched out on hospital sheets. A fire-red gash closed with ugly black stitches tracked across her brow. I stepped aside as a nurse wrapped half a roll of gauze around the wound.

Hope had cut her foot on broken glass when she was six, and sprained her wrist playing volleyball in junior high, but she had never been unconscious before. Thirty-one hours. It seemed like a lifetime.

The doctors were optimistic. The diagnosis—hypertension caused by stress. “She has a concussion,” they said. “And we have to get her blood pressure down. When she wakes up, she’ll need medication and several weeks of bed rest.”

Two weeks from Monday was Angela’s wedding day.

We took turns at Hope’s bedside, holding her hand and praying. Wedding plans were pushed aside until her eyes finally fluttered open and she said, “Mother, I’m not feeling well, you’ll have to finish Melissa’s dress.”

I laughed until I cried.

      1. In what ways do you identify with Barbara’s growing feelings of pressure and anxiety?

 

  God’s Word for Us

Read Psalm 127.

      1. What warning is given about labor?
      2. In your own words describe the anxiety spoken of in Psalm 127:2.
      3. How is this kind of anxiety a description of your work and life?
      4. Do you think that this psalm is suggesting that God is doing everything so we should sit back and do nothing? Explain.
      5. How does taking God seriously help us to reach the balance between frantic activity and passivity?
      6. The psalmist seems to abruptly move from the topic of labor to the topic of children. What does he say about children?
      7. How is building a house (Psalm 127:1) like building a family (Psalm 127:3-5)?
      8. What have you learned from this study which will help you to rest in God’s work?
      9. According to Psalm 127:2, it is the Lord who gives those he loves sleep. What do you need in order to receive this gift of deep rest from him?

  Now or Later

Read John 17:1-5. This is Jesus’ prayer at the end of his earthly life as he faces the cross. What seems to be the condition of his spirit?

What are Jesus’ requests in this first paragraph?

What is life?

How has Jesus brought glory to the Father?

How do you respond to the confident statement of Jesus, “I have finished the work that you gave me to do”?

Reflect on the following statements and journal on your impressions.

Hilary of Tours diagnosed our desperate busyness as, “a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.”

“We are going about trying desperately for our presence to make a difference.”—Henri Nouwen

“Our work should be just as enjoyable as having children.”—Eugene Peterson

“The first great fact which emerges from our civilization is that today everything has become ‘means.’ There is no longer an ‘end’; we do not know whither we are going. We have forgotten our collective ends, and we possess great means: we get huge machines in motion in order to arrive nowhere.”—Jacques Ellul

Write a prayer to Jesus acknowledging your need for him to build the house and guard the city. Talk about your tendency to attempt to work alone, apart from him. Thank him for the sleep that he gives—pure and deep sleep.

 

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Women of character

WOMEN OF REST 2

God’s Gift of Food and Rest

Exodus 16:1-30

Setting the Stage:

 Hope, Sister of the Bride

I carefully smooth the wafer-thin silk and tuck filmy plastic around folds of antique ivory lace. Hanging the fragile bundle in the entry hall, I make a mental note to drop it off at the cleaners tomorrow. Having my sister’s gown preserved is my final contribution to her wedding.

I remember when Mother called to tell me Angie was getting married. “Will you do the cake?” she asked. “Oh, and those little petit fours. The one’s with the colored icing?”

Of course, I said, “Yes.” Then on impulse I added, “Tell Angie I’ll help with the dresses too.”

Mother hesitated; a whisper of relief shading her concern. “Are you sure, Hope? You work full time as it is.”

I thought about my job at the bakery where I worked forty hours a week. How else could we afford to pay for this house? Not to mention braces, piano lessons and summer camp.

“There’s always evenings and weekends,” I said brightly. “Who needs to eat or sleep?”

That was supposed to be a joke.

I push the memory aside and slip more flimsy plastic over my daughter’s bridesmaid’s dress; a figure-hugging, lavender brocade.

When we went to pick out material, I almost overrode their decision on the pattern. High necked. Bare shouldered. Ankle length with a slit from hem to knee. Much too sophisticated for a thirteen-year-old, but Melissa was so excited, and this was Angie’s choice; I couldn’t turn them down.

Hooking the hanger over the rod in Melissa’s closet, I’m reminded it took six hours of overtime to pay for the material. Sophisticated or not, I’ll have to let her wear it again.

Mother had always planned for Angie to have Grandma’s wedding gown, but the material had yellowed with age, and no cleaner in town would touch it. “It can’t be restored.” Mother was in tears, but Angie looked relieved.

“We’ve got four months,” I reminded them and took Angie back to the fabric store.

I decorated cakes at the bakery all day, and we worked on Angie’s gown at night. For weeks, I handstitched lace covered buttons in my sleep. Melissa got her own meals, but it was easier for me to grab a cup of coffee and a pastry at work. I skipped church on Sundays and told myself that serving my family was the same as serving the Lord.

Looking back, I’m not sure when the dizzy spells started. “Just tired,” I thought as my knees went suddenly weak, or a tube of icing fell out of my shaking hands.

“You’ve probably got the flu,” Mother sympathized. “You had better take some time off work, Hope. We can’t have you sick for your sister’s wedding. Remember, we’re counting on you.”

“You and a million other people.” I muttered and headed for the bakery to ice and freeze another batch of petit fours.

Melissa’s dress was all cut out; paper pinned fabric draped over the back of a dining room chair.

“Why can’t I, like, help?” she must have asked a hundred times.

“Because,” I’d snap, “I don’t have time to show you.” Then I’d apologize for my tone of voice and promise her we’d get to it soon. And we would have, but two weeks before the wedding everything came to a screeching halt.

Mother blames herself, but of course it wasn’t her fault. None of us can control the circumstances life hands out.

      1. In what ways do you identify with Hope’s desire to serve her family?

What are the potential dangers of telling yourself that serving your family is the same as serving the Lord?

God’s Word for Us

Read Exodus 16:1-30.

      1. This took place three days after the Lord miraculously led the Israelites out of Egypt. The Israelites had safely walked through the Red Sea onto dry land. Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen were destroyed by this same Red Sea because the Lord brought its waters back over them. Exodus 15:1-21 is a description of this incident and is filled with songs of praise to God for his great faithfulness to them. What is the attitude of the Israelites in Exodus 16:1-30?
      2. How does God respond to the Israelites each time they ask for or look for food (Exodus 16:4, 11-12, 28-29)?
      3. How are you like the Israelites and how are you different from them in the way that they grumbled against the Lord?
      4. When have you thought you were grumbling against others, but it was really the Lord who was the target of your complaints?
      5. What were the Lord’s instructions concerning gathering meat and bread (Exodus 16:4-5)? (What were his specific instructions about the Sabbath?)
      6. What happened when these instructions were followed and when they were not followed (Exodus 16:15-30)?
      7. Read Exodus 20:8-11. What must we believe about God in order to follow his instructions about regular rest?
      8. Often in our lives God’s instructions about work and resting from work are not followed. What causes you to be driven in your work and life?
      9. Time and again, the Lord said, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” How is your relationship with God affected when you are consumed by your work and acquiring things and do not follow God’s instructions concerning rest from work?
      10. How is a life of dependence on and trust in God to meet all our needs a prerequisite to experiencing Sabbath rest?
      11. What are barriers you need to overcome and changes you need to make in order to have periods of rest in your life?

Now or Later

Read Genesis 1:1-2:3. Reflect on God’s work. How did God do his work? How does he feel about his work? Write down your impressions.

Notice the repeated phrase “and the evening and the morning were the first day.” God is already working as we sleep. How does that thought contrast to our usual thinking that everything starts in the morning when we first get up?

What do you feel as you read the description of the seventh day? Write down your thoughts about what it is or could be like for you to rest regularly.

Write a prayer to God the Creator. Praise him for his wonderful works, for the joy he has in his creation and the great value that he places on it. Thank him for his invitation to and provision for rest. Ask him to reveal attitudes of pride and grumbling in you. Confess your sins of refusing to rest and to take time away from your work as he has instructed us to do.

 

 

Monday 28 September 2020

GROWING DISCIPLES

Week 1: of FIVE DAYS OF STUDY

Six Kinds of Prayer

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”—Matthew 21:22

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 1

Day 1: Prayer Is a Relationship
Day 2: Responding and Asking Prayers
Day 3: Four Kinds of Responding Prayers
Day 4: Two Kinds of Asking Prayers
Day 5: Praying with Others

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 1

“Six Kinds of Prayer” (p. 91)
“Prayers of Confession” (pp. 92-93)
“Suggestions for Praying Together” (p. 110)

PREVIEW OF WEEK 1

This week you will—

      • overview this six-week study;
      • understand that the nature of prayer is an intimate love relationship with God;
      • understand that God wants you to identify with Him by becoming like Him and by participating with Him in His work;
      • understand and begin using the following six kinds of prayer in your daily prayer life.
        • —Confession: responding to God’s holiness
        • —Praise: responding to God’s attributes
        • —Worship: responding to God’s glory
        • —Thanksgiving: responding to God’s riches
        • —Petition: asking that is led by your Heavenly Father
        • —Intercession: asking that is led by your Master

Day 1: Prayer Is a Relationship

Scripture-Memory Verse

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).

As you begin each day’s lesson, read the prayer promise at the top of the chapter and begin your study with prayer. Today’s prayer promise is also your Scripture-memory verse for this week. Ask the Lord to teach you how to pray with this kind of faith that secures His answer.

Prayer is not one-sided communication with a distant God. Prayer is a conversation between you and God, a relationship between you and your Creator. God desires your fellowship. More than anything else, He wants you to love Him with all your being (see Deuteronomy 6:5 below). He also wants you to know and experience His love and presence. God is seeking that kind of relationship with you!

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”—Deuteronomy 6:5

Read Revelation 3:20 and John 14:23 below. Underline the words that describe the relationship God wants to have with you.

“Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.”—Revelation 3:20

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”—John 14:23

This love relationship with God is the point at which effective prayer begins.

God seeks a love relationship with you. He is knocking. Will you invite Him in? Will you enjoy fellowship with Him? Will you love Him? Will you permit Him to live with you? You may have already entered a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. For the remainder of this study, we will assume that you have done so. If you have not, find a pastor or a Christian friend to help you surrender your life to Christ as your Savior and Lord. This love relationship is the point at which effective prayer begins.

Pause and thank God for inviting you into a love relationship with Him. Ask Him to deepen your experience of His presence in prayer.

In John 15:7 Jesus makes a special promise to those who abide in Him: “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.” If you have a love relationship with Him and His words (teachings and commands) have become a part of your life, Jesus promises to respond to your prayers. The need for His words to remain in you is an important reason you are encouraged to memorize a Scripture passage each week. Hide God’s words in your mind and heart.

Cut out the Scripture-memory cards at the back of your book and begin memorizing Matthew 21:22. Read it several times. Meditate on its meaning for you. Repeat it aloud phrase by phrase until you can say it without looking. Review it each week during our study.

Jesus also makes a special prayer promise to those who pray together in His name: “If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:19-20). In this passage Jesus makes two promises for united prayer in which two or more pray together in agreement:

      1. God gives greater authority to united prayer.
      2. God is present where two or more gather in His name.

This course is designed to help you experience these two promises. We want you to learn the great authority God has granted to believers when they pray together in agreement. Many people are not seeing answers to prayer. This says more about their praying than it does about God. He has not changed. He still answers prayer. We will help you learn to pray more effectively as you follow biblical patterns for prayer.

Those who gather to pray in His name experience a greater dimension of His presence. We reflect the unity within the Trinity.

This course is also designed to help you pray with other believers. God promises that those who gather to pray in His name experience a greater dimension of His presence. We reflect the unity within the Trinity when we pray together in agreement with the Lord.

Have you made plans to pray with other believers as you study Pray in Faith?

Yes
No

If yes, with whom will you pray?
If you have not made plans to pray with others, begin to do so now. See page 110 for suggestions.

Each day you will close your study time with a prayer time. Feel free to expand your prayer time as long as you please. Learning to pray comes with experience and practice. Today talk to the Lord about your love relationship with Him. Share with Him your desires for this study. Ask Him to teach you to be a person of prayer. Ask Him to make your prayer group people of prayer.

Day 2: Responding and Asking Prayers

Today’s Prayer Promise

“Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and wondrous things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

Prayer does not begin with you. God takes the initiative; He begins the relationship. God comes to you and gives you the desire to spend time with Him in prayer: “It is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

Where does prayer begin?

a. Prayer begins with me. I am the one who chooses to pray.
b. Prayer begins with God. He causes me to want to pray.

Prayer always begins with God. Even though you may think you decide to pray, God is the One who gives you the desire. Whenever you have the desire to pray, God is extending a personal invitation for you to spend time with Him. In prayer God wants you to identify with Him in two ways:

      1. God wants you to identify with Him by becoming like His perfect Son, Jesus Christ.
      2. God also wants you to identify with His purposes. He wants you to cooperate in accomplishing His purposes by asking for things that will advance His kingdom (His rule). You identify with Him by working with Him in prayer.

Two Purposes in Prayer

      1. To identify with God by becoming like Him
      2. To identify with God by working with Him in prayer

God gave you different kinds of prayer to accomplish these two patterns of identification with Him. During our study we will learn about six kinds of prayer, which fall into two groups. Some prayer is responding to God. In responding prayers you respond to God as a Person. You are learning to be a certain kind of person—a person like God Himself. Being is the important emphasis. As you talk to Him, God leads you to know Him and His ways so that you can become like Him.

What is one group of prayers?

R_________________________________________________ prayers

Responding prayers include confession, praise, worship, and thanksgiving. These are listed for you in the chart on page 91. The other group of prayers is asking prayers. In asking prayers you are concerned with God’s work. Doing is the important emphasis. As God leads your asking, you become involved with Him in His work.

Responding Prayers

      1. Confession
      2. Praise
      3. Worship
      4. Thanksgiving

Besides responding prayers, what is another group of prayers?

A _________________________________________________ prayers

Asking prayers include prayers of petition, in which you pray for yourself and God’s work in your life. Asking prayers also include intercession, in which you pray for God’s work in and through others.

Asking Prayers

      1. Petition
      2. Intercession

Drawing lines across the columns, match the group of prayers on the left with the purpose of identification with God on the right.

Responding prayers Participating in God’s work
Asking prayers Becoming like God

In responding prayers you identify with God by becoming like Him.

In responding prayers you identify with God by becoming like Him. For instance, God reveals His holiness to you by revealing His purity. Then you may see impurities in your life. You respond to God’s holiness by confessing and turning away from your impurities. Through this responding prayer you become more like God.

Write below the four kinds of responding prayers. If you need help, review the chart in the Discipleship Helps on page 91.

C______________________________ is responding to God’s holiness.

P_____________________________ is responding to God’s attributes.

W________________________________ is responding to God’s glory.

T________________________________ is responding to God’s riches.

In asking prayers you identify with God by participating with Him in His work.

In asking prayers you identify with God by participating with Him in His work. For instance, God as your Master may lead you to ask Him for adults to work with youth in your church. God answers your prayer by giving a young couple a desire to work with youth. When they respond, you know God accomplished His purposes in answer to prayer. Through this asking prayer you worked together with God.

Using the chart on page 91, write the two kinds of asking prayers.

P____________________ is asking that is led by your Heavenly Father.

I____________________________ is asking that is led by your Master.

Pray, asking God to help you become more like Him. Agree to allow God to involve you in His work through prayer.

Day 3: Four Kinds of Responding Prayers

Today’s Prayer Promise

“Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in a day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me” (Psalm 50:14-15).

God wants you, as His child, to identify with Him by becoming like Him. God reveals Himself and His ways to you so that you can become like Him. In a love relationship with you, God reveals what He is like. As you respond to Him in that relationship, you can become more like Him.

Which of the following is the purpose of responding prayers?

a. I identify with God by working with Him in His kingdom.
b. I identify with God by becoming like Him.

Confession: Responding to God’s Holiness

By responding to God in prayer, you become more like Him (b). One trait God reveals about Himself is His holiness . He is separate, pure, and righteous. God reveals that He is holy and that He wants you to be holy like Him. He wants you to be pure and set apart for His purposes. But sometimes you are not holy. You sin. When you sin, you do not lose your holiness, but you interrupt the process of growing in holiness, or sanctification. Confession restores the process of gradual sanctification. Because sin is offensive to God, it hinders your intimate fellowship with Him. The Holy Spirit convicts you of the sin, and you can use a prayer of confession to restore the fellowship. Confession is saying the same thing God says, or agreeing with God. You agree with God about the nature of your sin. Because you love Him, you want to return to Him (repent) and become more like Him. Confession is responding to God’s holiness.

Fill in the blanks below with the first kind of responding prayer and the aspect of God to which you are responding. Then read an example below.

C __________________ is responding to God’s h __________________.

Confession

“Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. Wash away my guilt, and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:1-4, 10, 12).

Praise: Responding to God’s Attributes

God reveals His attributes or character traits because He wants you to become like Him. As you grow in your knowledge of God, especially through Bible study, you will know His attributes. When you know what God is like, you want to praise Him. Praise lifts up or focuses on God’s attributes. Praise exalts God in His divinity—because of what He is like. Praise is responding to God’s attributes.

What is a second kind of responding prayer, and to which aspects of God are you responding? Fill in the blanks and read an example below.

P __________________ is responding to God’s a __________________.

Praise

“Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable. One generation will declare Your works to the next and will proclaim Your mighty acts. I will speak of Your glorious splendor and Your wonderful works. They will proclaim the power of Your awe-inspiring works, and I will declare Your greatness. They will give a testimony of Your great goodness and will joyfully sing of Your righteousness” (Psalm 145:3-7).

Worship: Responding to God’s Glory

When God acts to reveal Himself, He displays His glory. Glory is the evidence of God’s attributes (what He is like). God reveals His glory through His mighty acts. All creation reveals God’s glory. When you see God’s glory, you love Him. Worship is responding to God’s glory. Worship is adoring, loving, and honoring God. Worship is much more personal and intimate than praise. Worship is the expression of your love, adoration, reverence, and honor for God.

In addition to confession and praise, what is a third kind of responding prayer, and to which aspect of God are you responding? Fill in the blanks and read an example below

W __________________ is responding to God’s g __________________.

Worship

“As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2).

Thanksgiving: Responding to God’s riches

God reveals His riches—both physical and spiritual. God is the Giver of every perfect gift. He wants you to experience the abundant life He has to give you. Thanksgiving is responding to and participating in God’s riches. Ephesians 5:20 tells you to thank God in everything. Thanksgiving is not just an event or a statement. It is an attitude. God wants you to have an attitude of gratitude.

In addition to confession, praise, and worship, what is a forth kind of responding prayer, and to which aspects of God are you responding? Fill in the blanks and read an example below.

T __________________ is responding to God’s r __________________.

Thanksgiving

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love is eternal. He spread the land on the waters. His love is eternal. He remembered us in our humiliation His love is eternal. and rescued us from our foes. His love is eternal. Give thanks to the God of heaven! His love is eternal” (Psalm 136:1, 6, 23-24, 26).

Review the four kinds of responding prayers. Then spend a few minutes praying and responding to evidences of God’s holiness, attributes, glory, and riches with prayers of confession, praise, worship, and thanksgiving.

Day 4: Two Kinds of Asking Prayers

Today’s Prayer Promise

“This is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for” (1 John 5:14-15).

To review yesterday’s lesson, list the four kinds of responding prayers. Check your answers on page 91.

_____________________________ is responding to God’s holiness.

_____________________________ is responding to God’s attributes.

_____________________________ is responding to God’s glory.

_____________________________ is responding to God’s riches.

In responding prayers you respond to the Person of God or to the aspects of who He is (holiness, attributes, glory, riches). The other group of prayers is asking prayers, emphasized in Jesus’ greatest teaching sessions:

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14).

“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).

“Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be complete” (John 16:24).

The Bible teaches two kinds of asking prayers: petition and intercession. Asking prayers are not direct responses to the Person of God. As God takes the lead in the asking prayers, you follow His lead and participate with Him in His work. The great purpose in asking prayers is for you to identify with His purposes. God is interested in your asking prayers. God wants you to cooperate in accomplishing His purposes by asking for things that will advance His kingdom (His rule).

Which of the following is the purpose of asking prayers?

a. I identify with God by working with Him in His kingdom.
b. I identify with God by becoming like Him.

Through asking prayers God brings about His purposes in your life and in the lives of others for whom you pray by involving you in His work (a). Let’s overview the two kinds of asking prayers.

Petition: Asking Led by Your Heavenly Father

Petition is asking for yourself, your family, your church, or your group. God reveals Himself as a Father. When you are redeemed, you are adopted into His family. As His child, you address your requests to your Heavenly Father.

God’s purpose in encouraging your petition is to mold you into a certain kind of person—someone who reflects the life and character of His Son Jesus. Because your personal petition should be directed by your Heavenly Father, through this kind of prayer you become more like the person God wants you to be as He accomplishes His purposes in your life.

What is one kind of asking prayer? P __________________

Who leads your petitions? My __________________

Read below for examples of individual and group petition. Underline the requests made of God. One is underlined for you.

Individual Petition

(David’s prayer for himself) “Lord, I turn my hope to You. My God, I trust in You. Do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. Make Your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; I wait for You all day long” (Psalm 25:1-2, 4-5).

Group Petition

(The early church’s prayer for itself) “Master, You are the One who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness, while You stretch out Your hand for healing, signs, and wonders to be performed through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (Acts 4:24, 29-30).

Intercession

(Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians) “I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and width, height and depth, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).

Intercession: Asking Led by Your Master

God reveals Himself as Master and Ruler. God is at work in His world, and He has chosen to do His work through people. When God gets ready to do something, He calls a person to intercession, which is asking for someone else. Your Master leads your intercession for others. Through intercession you work with God as His servant. Intercession is an important method God uses to accomplish His will among people.

What is the second kind of asking prayer? I __________________

Who leads your intercession? My __________________

Read the example of intercession above. Underline the requests made of God on behalf of others. One is underlined for you.

Pause to pray, using Paul’s requests in Ephesians 3:16-19 above. First pray these requests for yourself. Then pray these requests for your church or prayer group.

Day 5: Praying with Others

Today’s Prayer Promise

“Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones'” (Isaiah 57:15, KJV).

We hope you have been paying attention to the prayer promise at the beginning of each day. You may want to write the most meaningful promises on index cards and memorize them.

Read today’s prayer promise and complete the following activities.

      1. Circle some of the ways God is described in this verse.
      2. What are two places in which God chooses to dwell? Number them.
      3. What are two reasons God chooses to dwell with those who are humble and contrite? Underline them.

Which set of the following characteristics best describes you?

a. Humble and contrite
b. Proud, arrogant, remorseless

Seek to develop the character of one with whom God dwells. He brings the humble and contrite into His presence.

If you are interested in experiencing God’s presence, seek to develop the character of one with whom God dwells. He brings the humble and contrite into His presence. He does not dwell with the proud and arrogant.

Day 5 of each week in this study focuses on praying together. Often we are so familiar with praying alone that we pray with others the same way we do by ourselves. Does the following describe prayer meetings you have attended?

      1. Intercessor 1 prays through his mental list while other group members check off these subjects on their mental lists.
      2. Intercessor 2 prays through the remaining items on her mental list while other group members check off items on their mental lists.
      3. Intercessor 3 has little left on his list about which to pray.
      4. Intercessor 4, feeling that almost everything has been covered, closes the prayer time.

Not every group prayer time is like that. However, we miss some exciting dimensions of praying together if we only pray through long mental lists. We suggest that you and your prayer group consider some guidelines for praying together more effectively

Read “Suggestions for Praying Together” on page 110. In each suggestion underline a word or a phrase to help you remember it.

Now review the words or phrases. Circle the numbers beside the three suggestions you believe will be most helpful for your prayer group to practice.

At least once each week we will discuss ways your prayer group can pray together more effectively. Today we will examine two suggestions.

Acknowledge God’s presence and participation

God promised His presence where two or more are gathered in His name (see Matthew 18:20 below). He is also actively involved when you pray together. Both the Holy Spirit and Jesus intercede for and with you (see Romans 8:26-27, 34; Hebrews 7:25 below). When you meet with a group to pray, remember that God is present. Think of your prayer time as a conversation among your group members and God. Speak to Him. Listen to what God may say to you as He guides your group to Scriptures and as He guides your prayers. You may speak to one another as well as share prayer concerns during your prayer.

“Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”—Matthew 18:20

“The Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mindset, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.”—Romans 8:26-27, 34

“He [Christ] is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.”—Hebrews 7:25

When your group gathers to pray, who should be the focus of attention?

a. I should be the focus of attention. I am important.
b. Our group leader should be the focus. We need her guidance.
c. God must be the focus. He is the most important One present.

Because prayer is a conversation among your group members and God, He should be the focus of your time together (c).

Prepare yourselves through confession

If you were entering the court of a king or a queen, you would want to be prepared. You would want to dress and act correctly. In a similar way, your group will want to prepare for entering the throne room of heaven. Jesus has made a way for your cleansing as you confess and turn from your sin (see 1 John 1:9 below). In your prayer-group meeting take time for individuals to prepare themselves in silent prayer. You may also want to take time to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (James 5:16).

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—1 John 1:9

Spend time in prayers of confession. Ask God to cleanse you thoroughly. Pray for your prayer-group members as they also prepare for your time together in prayer this week.

 

Saturday 26 September 2020

I st STEPS

Character: How do I change

      1. We’re Little Bundles of Joy, Right?

What’s the Point?
Christians should grow in joy.

‘Joy is the serious business of heaven.’ – C. S. Lewis

‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’ (Gal. 5:22-23).

The other week I was listening to a programme on the radio talking about mental health issues in young people. It suggested that a quarter of all mental health issues start in childhood. I have to say that freaked me out a little, so I did what everyone does when they don’t believe something: I googled it. After a quick search I found an article that said that children of depressed parents have a 50 per cent risk of developing depression before age twenty. This wasn’t getting any better the further I looked.

But then I realised that I wasn’t really that surprised. I see the reality of this every day and it’s sad. Life is hard. People are depressed, anxious, hopeless and stressed. Their dreams are squashed and they are seriously struggling. For some these feelings seem to be so overwhelming that they are consumed by it and feel that there is just no escape. Others battle on and try to deal with it. But how do they do that, and what is it they really want?

If you ask most people what they want, deep down, it would be ‘to be happy’. In fact, if most of us with kids were asked the same question, we would say, without blinking, the same thing: ‘We want our kids to be happy’. We just have to flick through magazines and watch TV for five minutes to see how advertisers take advantage of that – everything they sell will make you happy and is the answer you are looking for. They tell us that the next holiday, a new sofa for Christmas, losing 20 kilos, the latest trainers, whiter teeth, laser eye treatment, a bigger TV, the new breakfast cereal that will have you skipping down the road singing, or that must-have, new-fangled gadget is just what we need to satisfy and make us happy.

Jackie

Jackie spent too much time worrying about what everyone thought of her and the kids. There just never seemed to be two pennies to rub together, but she always managed to make sure the kids got what they wanted and had the best of clothes and gadgets. Every time she bought something new Frank was happy because she was a genius at bargain-hunting – she always seemed to be in the right place every time. ‘I love my kids to be happy – they have to have what they want.’

We all know these temporary things make us happy for a moment, but we also know it’s fleeting and won’t last. Sadly, many lives are filled with deep sadness and nothing that truly resembles happiness. There is an emptiness and no joy at all. The world and this stuff can provide temporary relief, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Only when we start thinking through what the Bible has to say about what joy is will we start to understand. The Bible shows us that in chasing temporary happy fixes, we are chasing the wind and pursuing the wrong things.

‘Yet when I survey all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun’ (Eccles. 2:11).

As we have been learning, having God in our lives should change who we are and what people see. The evidence is the fruit in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that we should have joy.

The Bible makes it clear that, as Christians, joy should be seen in our lives – it should be normal for us.

It’s supposed to be a reality of our faith in Christ. But how does that work when everything around us is kicking off? I know it’s hard to wrap our brains around, but even when life is kicking us in the teeth we should be able to feel joy. That might sound warped and twisted, but maybe as with ‘love’, we don’t really understand what the Bible means when it talks about joy.

Stop

Do you think joy is different from happiness?

We confuse happiness with joy all the time because they seem similar. But, as I’ve said, happiness is based on our temporary circumstances. Like when our team scores a goal, we get a pay rise at work, we find money in the street, we get asked out on a date, we get news that our friend has had a baby, or when we’ve gone a bit wild and had our hair dyed pink and it looks sharp. Our happiness is based on the things around us. It can all change with the next goal the other side score, a notice of redundancy, a break-up, or a bad haircut …. Suddenly we’re gutted and happiness seems a thing of the past.

But joy isn’t like that.
It’s different.

Joy, true biblical joy, isn’t fleeting; it doesn’t budge or change no matter what life throws at us. Joy lasts.

Jackie

I don’t get how that’s possible. What is joy then?

Joy is delighting in God no matter what.

Biblical joy is steadfast and lasts because it isn’t based on what’s going on around us or how we feel that day. Instead it’s found in God and He never changes. When we define what biblical joy is we have to look beyond the temporary things and get to the heart of the matter – to our hearts. Our hearts, our souls, our very being have been changed by the gospel. As we have said before, the fruit of joy should be in our lives as evidence of our transformation in Christ and our salvation.

‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’ (1 Pet. 1:8).

Peter describes it as an inexpressible and glorious joy. If I’m being honest, when we look at some Christians today, they don’t look like they are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. They look gloomy, like they’ve just lost a million pounds or have been slapped across the face with a wet fish. Sometimes I think there are people who seem to actually get joy out of being a crabby moaning-faced complainer. They have this austere, dour, stony-faced look about them that would chill a cup of tea. It’s not the best witness. Why would that attract anyone to Christ?

If biblical joy is missing from a Christian’s life, then that’s like a spiritual siren going off, wailing ‘there’s something wrong’. Hear me right, I’m not saying we should fake it either – pasting a big cheesy smile on our face and telling everyone ‘I’m fine’ when our world is crashing about our ears isn’t helpful either. No matter the circumstances in a Christian’s life there should be joy in the gospel of Christ.

If joy is missing, there’s a reason.

I’d be asking ‘How’s your quiet time?’ ‘Are you neglecting God?’ ‘Are you reading and thinking about His Word?’ ‘Are you praying?’’ ‘Or is there disobedience or unrepentant sin?’ ‘What’s God asking you to do, or convicting you of, that you’re ignoring?’

Stop

Do you feel like giving up? Is that ‘No Joy Siren’ wailing in your ears? Ask yourself – why? Why is my joy missing?

Believe me, no matter what’s going on and how much life is kicking us about, there is one thing that is still the same, unchanging – the gospel. If we are true followers of Christ then we are forgiven and our salvation is solid and that should put joy in our hearts.

Illustration

There once was a man called Horatio Spafford. He lived many years ago. If we were writing a script for a disaster movie we could use his life as our storyline. So much happened to him. His son died at two years old, he lost all his money and was bankrupted by the great Chicago fire. Soon after the fire he decided he and his family would visit friends in England. He booked them all passage on a ship called Ville Du Havre but, at the last minute, business delayed him and he sent his family on without him. During the voyage there was a devastating collision between two boats and both sank quickly. It was carnage. His wife was the only one who survived.

All this sounds like something we would find in the Old Testament book of Job. Who could even imagine how Horatio felt? How would we cope with something like that? Yet as he sailed to meet his wife, crossing the ocean that had claimed his children, he wrote the song ‘It is Well with My Soul’. He found his joy in the gospel of Christ and delighted in God, no matter what.

Jackie

I get whingy and think the world has come to an end if we’ve run out of milk and I can’t have a cup of tea, never mind facing something like this bloke. I would be devastated if something happened to my kids. I remember when little Frankie fell down the stairs and broke his leg I was completely useless; Frank had to take him to hospital without me. I don’t understand how this bloke can find joy when his family is dead. That’s gotta be wrong – it’s impossible!

‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us’ (Rom. 5:1-5).

In the book of Romans, we see Paul’s reaction as everything life could muster was thrown at him. He was beaten and slung into jail, he was shipwrecked, there were days he didn’t have enough food to eat, he was rejected by his own people, and he struggled with long-term ill health. Basically, in the scale of life sucking, Paul was ranking higher than most! Yet when he wrote Romans 5, we see Paul rejoicing, having joy in God no matter what is happening to him. Paul was constantly thankful for the gospel. He knew that no one could take away his salvation, that he was 100 per cent forgiven, and that fueled his joy. He knew God was in control and that was enough for him – he totally trusted Him. His hope was in Jesus.

Stop

Can we say the same? What do you think that means for us as we live day to day?

Becoming a Christian isn’t like some sort of magic genie version of religion. We can’t say something three times, rub our hands together and make it all go away. What we can do, though, when the dark days come, is remember the promises we have in Christ and preach the gospel to ourselves. We can remind ourselves that God’s promises are true and trust Him.

Cling to Him and don’t lose hope!

Whatever is going on, whatever life throws at us.

However overwhelming, however heartbreaking, you can still find rest in Christ. It may even feel like the weight of it is crushing you, but you can still find true joy in Him. He will hold us fast. We can trust Him.

‘So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ (2 Cor. 4:16-18, esv).

We must not forget what is to come: eternity with the God who saved us. We may have put our hope in temporary things that make us happy for five minutes, but we know deep down that they are fleeting. 2 Corinthians reminds us that the temporary things don’t remotely compare to the glory that is to come in eternity. We may be broken, battered and bruised by life, but this life is the temporary thing.

Stop

Why do you struggle to find joy in your life? How can you cling to Christ more?

No matter what, we can find our joy in the gospel of Christ and delight in Him. When we do, we too can sing, and mean it, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’

Key Point

We find our joy when we delight in God, no matter what. Remember the hope we have in Christ and cling to Him. Don’t lose hope.

Memory Verse

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you …’ (1 Pet. 1:3-4, esv).

or

‘I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”’ (Rev. 21:2-4).

Summary

All too often we confuse happiness and joy because they are so similar. Happiness is based on temporary things, like the circumstances of life. So, when good things happen we are happy but when disaster falls upon us we are crushed by it. Unlike happiness, joy is something that doesn’t change depending on the circumstances. Biblical joy lasts when we delight in God no matter what’s going on around us.

 

Friday 25 September 2020

What pop songs say about God

“Easier Said Than Done”

The Essex

Just do anything for him
And tell him, he’s the one…
’cause it’s easier said than done

Backbeat

In 1961, two marines stationed in Okinawa, Japan, formed a group called the Essex. Once back in the United States, Rodney Taylor and Walter Vickers added fellow marines Billie Hill and Rudolph Johnson from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. When they heard Anita Humes singing at a non commissioned officers’ club, they asked her to join the group, making it a quintet. On the strength of a demo recording they created, they received a recording contract on the Roulette label. The tune was “Easier Said Than Done,” and it became the top-selling record in the nation in the summer of 1963. Anita Humes’s unique “clear as a bell” voice gave the song a strong hook.

Since serving Uncle Sam was a higher priority, it became difficult for the group to tour and promote their recordings, especially when Johnson was shipped to Japan. They finally disbanded in 1964 after placing just three songs on the charts. Anita Humes later pursued a solo singing career without much success.

Riff

Sometimes it’s hard to confess your love for someone. You know you should tell him or her how you feel, but you’re shy about it. What if you’re rejected? All your friends urge you to just be honest, be bold, and say it. But as the song says, it’s “Easier said than done.”

That phrase can apply to all sorts of things in life. We sometimes get brilliant ideas of how things ought to work. Government ought to do this. Business ought to do that. Somebody ought to write a computer program that would figure out how to achieve world peace. But it’s easier said than done.

Let’s look at the religious application of this saying. We know that we are separated from God by our sins. He’s perfect; we’re not. So how do we bridge this gap?

Throughout history, people have tried to solve this problem by doing things. Jesus encountered groups of religious leaders who had decided they could reach God by following the rules. They took the God-given laws of Moses and padded them with their own rules, so they’d be even more perfect. It was a nice try, but it didn’t work. These perfectionists were guilty of the sins of pride and hypocrisy.

Even today, people think that good deeds will get them into heaven. Surely God will see all their charity work and wink at their sin. But no, that won’t work either. The Bible tells us, “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:9).

Salvation is easier said than done. Good deeds cannot bring you into God’s favour, but what can? Only an honest cry for help and a belief that Jesus died for you.

Harmonies
Matthew 7:7 Acts 16:31 Galatians 2:16
Matthew 15:9 Romans 10:9-13 Ephesians 2:9*

 

Thursday 24 September 2020

Ezekiel 15 (and we jump to chapter 18 next Thursday)

Unfaithful Jerusalem – Ezekiel 15:1-17:24

Open It

      1. What is one of your favourite love stories? Why?
      2. In what ways are you most like one or both of your parents?

Explore It

      1. Why did God vow to treat the remnant of His people in Jerusalem like a vine thrown into the fire? (15:6-8)
      2. What reception did the allegorical Jerusalem get at the time of her birth? (16:3-5)
      3. Into what relationship did God enter with the woman when she was grown? (16:8)
      4. How are God’s blessings to His people described in the allegory Ezekiel told? (16:9-14)
      5. How did Jerusalem respond to God’s love and her good fortune? (16:15-19)
      6. With what nations did Jerusalem prostitute herself? (16:23-29)
      7. What punishment does God detail for Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness? (16:35-43)
      8. How would God reverse the fortunes of the Jews and the Canaanites in order to humble them? (16:53-58)
      9. What did God promise to do for Israel in the final analysis? (16:59-63)
      10. What is described in the parable told by Ezekiel? (17:1-6)
      11. How did the vine respond to the appearance of another eagle? (17:7-8)
      12. What fate did God predict for the “unfaithful” vine? (17:9-10)
      13. How did God explain the allegory of the two eagles and the vine? (17:11-15)
      14. What did God say would happen to the king who turned to Egypt for help? (17:16-21)
      15. After all of this destruction, what did God intend to do with a “shoot”? (17:22-24)

Get It

      1. How can some woods be useful even after they are burned?
      2. According to the parable of the baby turned woman, what chance did Jerusalem have to thrive apart from God’s grace and favor?
      3. What were the allegorical equivalents of some of the blessings enjoyed by Jerusalem as God’s people?
      4. In what ways is idolatry portrayed in the parable of the woman?
      5. What do you think is the greatest condemnation in the parable of the woman?
      6. How do you imagine it felt to Jews to be compared unfavorably to Sodom?
      7. What will likely happen if we seek earthly recourse for the bad circumstances God has allowed to happen to us?
      8. How can we be certain that God will carry through on His words?

Apply It

      1. How many ways can you list that God has blessed you as He blessed Israel?
      2. How can you guard against the temptation to seek earthly allies rather than turning to God?

Wednesday 23 September 2020

CRISIS WORSHIP 2

IS- IT -POSSIBLE?
      1. Discovering the Definition

As we take our journey into understanding crisis worship, we must thoughtfully and tactfully define the meaning of these two terms. I would dare say that we have coined an oxymoron, for it would seem to be a stark contrast to hear these two words coined together. The reality of life is that we will encounter times of crisis, but in these times of crisis it would seem to be abnormal for one to achieve a level of worship during this crisis.

Crisis Defined

A crisis can be determined as the turning point of a situation, an outcome that could be better or worse. It is a time of instability and uncertainty, with an impending outcome that is unfavourable and undesirable. The bad situation has reached a critical phase and the unknown is staring at us trying to rip every ounce of hope away from us. I believe that all of us can fully understand the term crisis, if viewed from this aspect.

Crisis Refined

It has often been said that the difference between a major and a minor crisis is this, if it is my crisis it is a major crisis, if it is your crisis it is a minor crisis. A crisis is not considered a crisis if you have the ability and the means to fix it yourself. A crisis should never be defined as a crisis unless it takes you to the point where you fill hopeless and utterly helpless.

Worship Examined

If we are to worship, we willingly attribute a sense of worthiness, respect, and reverence to the object of this worship. If we were to research the term worship in the bible, we would find that the word is used in eleven various terms. The greatest use of the word is found in the Old Testament, this word is “shachah”. The primary meaning is to sink down, to fall prostrate. This term is used 172 times and is distinctly used as worship 99 times.

Worship Exampled

We will take some space and display some of the biblical passages that should help us to better understand the term worship.

Gen 22:5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

1Sa 1:19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her.

2Sa 12:20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed [himself], and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.

2Sa 15:32 And it came to pass, that [when] David was come to the top [of the mount], where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head:

Dan 3:18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Worship Explained

In researching all of the various “Biblical Examples” of worship, I am amused at the current state of our education concerning the term worship. We have bred a society that thrives on feeling, freedom, and fascination. I dare say that most of what we call worship today is nothing more than vain religious fleshly gratification. The normality of most worship that is portrayed in our society has an earthly aspect. It seems to be for man to see, for man to sense, for man to seize.

The reality of “Biblical Worship” is prompted and motivated by an inner yearning to reverence and adore an unseen being that we owe all of our allegiance to. The honest truth about worship is that it is not for the earthly eye, but for the heavenly eye. In every biblical occasion, when God’s children are found worshipping him, it is a very sacred, silent affair.

The pomp is never found, the fleshly ecstasy that promotes the applause of men is all but forsaken. In every case of true worship, we find the following:

An Atmosphere of Holy Hush
An Assurance of Human Humility
An Attitude of Supreme Silence
An Acceptance of Pointed Praise
An Abundance of Godly Glory

Worship and Crisis Intertwined

Now that we have established the definition of what a true crisis is all about, can we in turn enjoin crisis and worship together? Is it possible, is it even feasible, could one dare to think that worship can be attained in the midst of crisis. Inside of every Christian there is an insatiable desire to worship God. In the midst of tragedy and despair something on the inside of us wants to seek safety and security to soothe the storm.

The Unthinkable

As we delve into the lives of many that have experienced crisis, we will stand astonished to see them falling before their creator, seeking to worship him. In all reality, this seems to be absurd. Humanly speaking this could never happen, but my dear friend spiritually speaking this is the peace that passes all understanding.

The Unbelievable

As we investigate the life of Abraham, David, Job, and Hannah, we will find each of these people entering into worship during the most crucial and critical times of their lives. We must stand back in awe as the scriptures pull back the curtains and let us see into the very innermost souls of some of his choicest servants.

Worship and Crisis Investigated

I have had the privilege of pastoring some wonderful people during my ministry. I often sense that we become calloused in reading the scriptures. As we read the biblical stories and interact with the heroes of our faith, we become immune to reality. We place a wall of division between their lives and the reality of our lives. It has often been stated that familiarity breeds complacency. In seeing these men and women that lived thousands of years ago, we diminish the modern day value of their voyage.

The Purely Personal

We need to associate everyday common people with the supreme heroes of our faith. In dealing with people and observing their problems, we see that the faces change from day to day, but the sorrows and the stories are often the same. The people that sit in our pews on a weekly basis will never have their names written in the great annals of history, but their stories are just as personal and powerful.

The Painfully Powerful

If we can remove the familiar face, we possibly could see that their stories are also painful, but highly powerful. In many of these situations we find modern day saints that allow their faith to flourish in the fiery flames. I am thinking of some of these people and realize that in the midst of their fire, they fanned the flame of worship. I do not suppose that society could understand how crisis and worship can be intertwined, but in observing normal everyday people we can boldly state that this is true.

The Deep Mystery of It

One of the greatest satisfactions that a parent can ever have is to observe their children successfully trudging through a difficult crisis. I dare say that God stands back and smiles broadly when his dear children come to him in a spirit of worship during times of crisis and harm.

The Delightful Majesty of It

How wonderful and how holy it may be for us to find safety and security for our souls. The bible tells us to come boldly unto the throne during times of difficulty.

Heb 4:16: Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

 

Tuesday 22 September 2020

WOMEN OF REST 1

We finished lesson 6 of WOMEN OF GRACE last Tuesday and today we start a new course. WOMEN OF REST. Enjoy and be fed in the Word and find rest. Again the first part of lesson 1 is and introduction before the lesson itself. Pastor

Introducing A Woman of Rest

We are cursed with a frenetic compulsion. When we get in the car, we fill the silence by turning on the radio. When we get home, we fill the room with company by turning on the TV. If the weekend is unscheduled, we cook up some activity to keep us occupied—an odd job, an errand or a night at the theater. Even our vacations are so filled with driving, sightseeing, sports activities and visiting relatives that we return home exhausted, in need of a break.

We are afraid to stop because we might discover that we are rushing as fast as we can without a destination. Without some activity to give ourselves identity or our lives meaning, we might have to face ourselves and despair at the emptiness we see. So it is do, do, do in a joyless rush to block out our fears.

Our busyness is sin. In our rushing we reject God. His fourth commandment to us was one of rest.

We are to bring our lives periodically to a halt for two reasons. First, it is good for us. Our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical condition are in better health and balance when we rest. Our joys are deeper and our troubles can be handled with more ease. Rest itself is a pleasure to be savored and enjoyed on its own. Second, rest is a statement of our faith and trust in God that he will watch over and care for us even when we do nothing to help ourselves. Not to rest is to commit the sin of unbelief.

Both men and women in society face this problem, though sometimes in different ways. Men are often driven to busyness in their jobs or other tasks as a prime source of self-identity. Women often busy themselves in caring, nurturing roles (whether on the job, at church, in the home or in the community) to fill their needs for self-esteem.

The introductions in this guide are parts of a continuing story. In this story we meet women who struggle to maintain God’s perspective in the midst of wedding preparations. They succeed in some areas and fail in others. However, their love and caring for each other even in the hard times and misunderstandings comes through.

This study guide will examine these issues of busyness and rest for women in the light of key passages of Scripture which direct our hearts and minds back to God and his priorities for our lives.

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.

 

LESSON 1

Jesus’ Invitation to Rest

Matthew 11:28-30

Setting the Stage:

Barbara, Mother of the Bride

You can stare at Angie’s wedding portrait until you’re blue in the face and still not see the strain. Nonetheless it’s there; in the weary-grey shadows beneath her eyes, and the minuscule wrinkles on her forehead—hair-thin cracks on the face of a porcelain doll.

Just before I snapped the picture, a breeze ruffled her veil and she raised one hand to smooth it back. Her cheeks look flushed; her smile bright enough to light up midnight.

I place the picture in its pewter frame back on the mantle and turn away. I can almost feel her eyes follow me across the room.

“Meddler!” If she could shout it, I wouldn’t dispute her.

I swing around, but her face remains in profile, chin tilted upward, intent on the look of adoration in her bride-groom’s eyes.

I should have kept quiet. When she came home that night, waggling her ring finger and babbling with excitement, I should have laughed with her, or maybe even cried, and said, “That’s wonderful, darling, when’s the happy day?”

I was delighted of course. She and Douglas Augsburg were the perfect match.

Then she informed me, “The wedding is in June.”

I distinctly remember the feeling of irritation that caused me to raise my voice. “June! Do you realize that’s only four months away?”

How would I ever manage? I still had a thousand phone calls to make for the Charity Bazaar, and I was the main speaker for the Woman’s Guild banquet at the end of May.

I should have backed off then, hugged her and inquired about her plans. Instead I bristled like a startled cat. “That won’t do, Angela. I can’t possibly pull anything together until at least September.”

She was the one who stayed calm. “Doug leaves for Europe in July, remember? I’m going with him. It’s all arranged.” She closed her eyes and smiled, caught up in her dreams. “Don’t worry, Mother, we’ve decided on a small wedding. Just family and a few close friends.”

I pulled myself together. “Now, we’ll have no nonsense about a small wedding. The Augsburgs never do anything on a small scale. There will be at least a hundred guests from their side alone.”

I saw the panic in her eyes. Then her face went blank, hands frozen into fists at her sides. I realize now she took that stance whenever we had a disagreement and she knew she couldn’t win. I had never let it stop me before, and I didn’t let it stop me then.

“We’ll have Chantel’s arrange the flowers,” I said, measuring her waistline with my eyes. “Your grandmother’s gown is still in the cedar chest . . .” Then it hit me. “Oh, good grief, what about the church? It will be impossible to book a June wedding at this late date.”

I rushed straight to the telephone. Angela yelled something about it being her wedding, and shouldn’t she have a say? But before we could decide a thing, I had to talk to the church secretary.

By the time we had the date and time worked out, Angela had run upstairs. What I really wanted was a long hot bath, but there was so much to think about. The flowers, candles, music. The bridesmaid’s dress.

It did cross my mind that maybe I should wait and pray. If I had, perhaps things would not have happened as they did. As it was, I ignored the impulse to stop and bow my head. After all, we had to get the invitations out.

“This is impossible,” I remember saying to myself as I searched the desktop for my address book. But in my mind I was convinced I could manage it.

      1. How does Barbara’s attitude in the last couple paragraphs characterize how most Christians look at their lives?
      2. Your need for rest may not come from a major event like a wedding, but from the daily routine. What factors in your life are currently wearing you down?

God’s Word for Us

Read Matthew 11:28-30.

      1. In your own words describe Jesus’ invitation.
      2. What conditions are necessary for receiving Jesus’ rest?
      3. What causes you to feel wearied and burdened?
      4. What do you think it means “to find rest” in the fullest sense?
      5. What keeps you from coming to Jesus with your burdens
      6. What about Jesus is attractive to you as you think about learning about rest from him?
      7. What is the result of working in the yoke with Jesus?

Why do you think this happens?

      1. What do you think you have to learn from Jesus that would produce a restful lifestyle for you?
      2. How would being yoked to Jesus help you produce rest for others?

Now or Later

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

Read Psalm 23. Spend time reflecting on it.See: Sunny, green pastures where wild flowers are abundant.

Feel: A gentle breeze and the warmth of the sun.

Hear: A babbling brook, gently overflowing the pond.

Imagine: You are a sheep grazing with other sheep. Jesus, the shepherd, stands watchful, holding his staff. Nothing threatens you because you are near him. The shepherd has provided this safe place for you. Relax. Enjoy being with him. Rest in the grass.

Journal on the following questions:

How would you respond if a friend offered to take all of your burdens and carry them for you?

What do you need to more fully experience the rest that Jesus offers you today?

How would you explain to a person seeking to know God how to experience Jesus’ rest?

Write a prayer to Jesus about what you need to respond to his invitation to rest.

Monday 21 September 2020

NEW MONDAY DEVOTION

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to your new beginning. Welcome to playing your part in the greatest story ever. Welcome to the family of faith!

Brand New is a forty-day devotional that will help you establish a foundation for your faith. This short book will answer many of your questions and teach you the basic beliefs of Christianity. You’ll learn the story of the Bible: the adventurous love story of God pursuing you. You’ll learn who God is and what he is like. You’ll learn how to live out your faith.

Our lives aren’t meant to be lived alone—and Brand New isn’t meant to be read alone! As Christians, we all need others to encourage, challenge, and teach us. Although you could read this devotional on your own, you’ll get even more out of this book if you read it along with someone who is mature in faith—a mentor, small group leader, pastor, parent, or friend.

Each day of Brand New focuses on one aspect of Scripture, God’s character, and the Christian life. Each daily devotion includes a key passage from the Bible, an explanation of the topic, a suggested Scripture reading, and reflection questions to help you respond to what God might be showing you. Discuss the questions and reading with other Christians. Don’t be afraid to ask your mentor for help! Grab a blank notebook and journal your thoughts, reflections, and feelings as you read. Memorise or write down the verses that comfort and challenge you.

Each day’s devotion closes with prayer. Many of the prayers are paraphrased from the Bible so you can learn how to use God’s word in your prayers. Your prayers don’t have to sound polished or fancy! The Bible says that the Holy Spirit will help you as you pray. “The Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). God wants to hear from you! You can pray the written prayers, or you can use your own words to talk with God. Jesus says, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). So although it’s not required to end your prayers with this phrase, each prayer in this devotional ends with “in Jesus’ name, amen.” (Amen means “so be it.”)

Keep Brand New on your shelf so you can revisit these daily readings over and over. All Christians continually need to be reminded of the basics of our faith. Something new will stick out to you each time you read through it! Underline, highlight, write notes, and record your thoughts in a notebook or journal. As your faith grows, you’ll be encouraged how God has brought you closer to him.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–26).

Shilo Taylor
Lynden, WA
October 2016

DAY ONE

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

EZEKIEL 36:26–27

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9–10)

During a wedding ceremony, two people make a commitment to be together for life. They vow to choose each other every day from that day forward. They leave behind an old life of living for themselves and move forward in a new life together as they are pronounced husband and wife.

It would be ridiculous for the bride and groom to walk back down the aisle, look at each other, and say, “Thanks for the great wedding day, but I’m going to do my own thing now.” Or, “That was a great one-day experience, but it does not change me or my life.” No! The newlyweds celebrate with a honeymoon to grow closer. They share a home and a life together. Their wedding vows are the starting point of their life together, not the end. They commit to continue to grow in unity.

If you believe Jesus died and rose again to forgive you and to give you true life, if you have asked him to forgive you, if you have asked him to come into your life, then hooray! You have begun an incredible journey with the Lord of the universe. No longer do you have to worry about whether you’re good enough for God, because in Christ you are God’s own child! Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. When you feel alone or when you experience guilt and shame, you can turn to God instead of running away from him. You are forgiven!

A relationship with God is better than any other relationship or anything you can buy. It’s permanent and will change you more than anything else in your life. Welcome to the beginning of a lifelong journey. (Spoiler alert: this one ends in happily ever after.)

READ

Answer these questions after reading John 3:16–21.

        1. What are you excited about in your journey with God?
        2. What scares you about your journey with God?
        3. According to John 3:17, why did Jesus come to earth?
        4. How do Jesus’ words in this passage comfort you?

PRAY

Today’s prayer comes from John 3:16–21.

Dear Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, who came into the world to save those who believe in you. Thank you for coming into my life, forgiving my sins, and having a relationship with me. By your word and Spirit, teach me to grow close to you. Change me as I spend these next forty days learning about you. In your name, amen.

Saturday 19 September 2020

CHARACTER- HOW DO I CHANGE

No 2

We’re Little Bundles of Joy, Right?

What’s the Point?

Christians should grow in joy.

‘Joy is the serious business of heaven.’ – C. S. Lewis

‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’ (Gal. 5:22-23).

The other week I was listening to a programme on the radio talking about mental health issues in young people. It suggested that a quarter of all mental health issues start in childhood. I have to say that freaked me out a little, so I did what everyone does when they don’t believe something: I googled it. After a quick search I found an article that said that children of depressed parents have a 50 per cent risk of developing depression before age twenty. This wasn’t getting any better the further I looked.

But then I realised that I wasn’t really that surprised. I see the reality of this every day and it’s sad. Life is hard. People are depressed, anxious, hopeless and stressed. Their dreams are squashed and they are seriously struggling. For some these feelings seem to be so overwhelming that they are consumed by it and feel that there is just no escape. Others battle on and try to deal with it. But how do they do that, and what is it they really want?

If you ask most people what they want, deep down, it would be ‘to be happy’. In fact, if most of us with kids were asked the same question, we would say, without blinking, the same thing: ‘We want our kids to be happy’. We just have to flick through magazines and watch TV for five minutes to see how advertisers take advantage of that – everything they sell will make you happy and is the answer you are looking for. They tell us that the next holiday, a new sofa for Christmas, losing 20 kilos, the latest trainers, whiter teeth, laser eye treatment, a bigger TV, the new breakfast cereal that will have you skipping down the road singing, or that must-have, new-fangled gadget is just what we need to satisfy and make us happy.

Jackie

Jackie spent too much time worrying about what everyone thought of her and the kids. There just never seemed to be two pennies to rub together, but she always managed to make sure the kids got what they wanted and had the best of clothes and gadgets. Every time she bought something new Frank was happy because she was a genius at bargain-hunting – she always seemed to be in the right place every time. ‘I love my kids to be happy – they have to have what they want.’

We all know these temporary things make us happy for a moment, but we also know it’s fleeting and won’t last. Sadly, many lives are filled with deep sadness and nothing that truly resembles happiness. There is an emptiness and no joy at all. The world and this stuff can provide temporary relief, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Only when we start thinking through what the Bible has to say about what joy is will we start to understand. The Bible shows us that in chasing temporary happy fixes, we are chasing the wind and pursuing the wrong things.

‘Yet when I survey all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun’ (Eccles. 2:11).

As we have been learning, having God in our lives should change who we are and what people see. The evidence is the fruit in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that we should have joy.

The Bible makes it clear that, as Christians, joy should be seen in our lives – it should be normal for us.

It’s supposed to be a reality of our faith in Christ. But how does that work when everything around us is kicking off? I know it’s hard to wrap our brains around, but even when life is kicking us in the teeth we should be able to feel joy. That might sound warped and twisted, but maybe as with ‘love’, we don’t really understand what the Bible means when it talks about joy.

Stop

Do you think joy is different from happiness?

We confuse happiness with joy all the time because they seem similar. But, as I’ve said, happiness is based on our temporary circumstances. Like when our team scores a goal, we get a pay rise at work, we find money in the street, we get asked out on a date, we get news that our friend has had a baby, or when we’ve gone a bit wild and had our hair dyed pink and it looks sharp. Our happiness is based on the things around us. It can all change with the next goal the other side score, a notice of redundancy, a break-up, or a bad haircut …. Suddenly we’re gutted and happiness seems a thing of the past.

But joy isn’t like that.

It’s different.

Joy, true biblical joy, isn’t fleeting; it doesn’t budge or change no matter what life throws at us. Joy lasts.

Jackie

I don’t get how that’s possible. What is joy then?

Joy is delighting in God no matter what.

Biblical joy is steadfast and lasts because it isn’t based on what’s going on around us or how we feel that day. Instead it’s found in God and He never changes. When we define what biblical joy is we have to look beyond the temporary things and get to the heart of the matter – to our hearts. Our hearts, our souls, our very being have been changed by the gospel. As we have said before, the fruit of joy should be in our lives as evidence of our transformation in Christ and our salvation.

‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’ (1 Pet. 1:8).

Peter describes it as an inexpressible and glorious joy. If I’m being honest, when we look at some Christians today, they don’t look like they are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. They look gloomy, like they’ve just lost a million pounds or have been slapped across the face with a wet fish. Sometimes I think there are people who seem to actually get joy out of being a crabby moaning-faced complainer. They have this austere, dour, stony-faced look about them that would chill a cup of tea. It’s not the best witness. Why would that attract anyone to Christ?

If biblical joy is missing from a Christian’s life, then that’s like a spiritual siren going off, wailing ‘there’s something wrong’. Hear me right, I’m not saying we should fake it either – pasting a big cheesy smile on our face and telling everyone ‘I’m fine’ when our world is crashing about our ears isn’t helpful either. No matter the circumstances in a Christian’s life there should be joy in the gospel of Christ.

If joy is missing, there’s a reason.

I’d be asking ‘How’s your quiet time?’ ‘Are you neglecting God?’ ‘Are you reading and thinking about His Word?’ ‘Are you praying?’’ ‘Or is there disobedience or unrepentant sin?’ ‘What’s God asking you to do, or convicting you of, that you’re ignoring?’

Stop

Do you feel like giving up? Is that ‘No Joy Siren’ wailing in your ears? Ask yourself – why? Why is my joy missing?

Believe me, no matter what’s going on and how much life is kicking us about, there is one thing that is still the same, unchanging – the gospel. If we are true followers of Christ then we are forgiven and our salvation is solid and that should put joy in our hearts.

Illustration

There once was a man called Horatio Spafford. He lived many years ago. If we were writing a script for a disaster movie we could use his life as our storyline. So much happened to him. His son died at two years old, he lost all his money and was bankrupted by the great Chicago fire. Soon after the fire he decided he and his family would visit friends in England. He booked them all passage on a ship called Ville Du Havre but, at the last minute, business delayed him and he sent his family on without him. During the voyage there was a devastating collision between two boats and both sank quickly. It was carnage. His wife was the only one who survived.

All this sounds like something we would find in the Old Testament book of Job. Who could even imagine how Horatio felt? How would we cope with something like that? Yet as he sailed to meet his wife, crossing the ocean that had claimed his children, he wrote the song ‘It is Well with My Soul’. He found his joy in the gospel of Christ and delighted in God, no matter what.

Jackie

I get whingy and think the world has come to an end if we’ve run out of milk and I can’t have a cup of tea, never mind facing something like this bloke. I would be devastated if something happened to my kids. I remember when little Frankie fell down the stairs and broke his leg I was completely useless; Frank had to take him to hospital without me. I don’t understand how this bloke can find joy when his family is dead. That’s gotta be wrong – it’s impossible!

‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us’ (Rom. 5:1-5).

In the book of Romans, we see Paul’s reaction as everything life could muster was thrown at him. He was beaten and slung into jail, he was shipwrecked, there were days he didn’t have enough food to eat, he was rejected by his own people, and he struggled with long-term ill health. Basically, in the scale of life sucking, Paul was ranking higher than most! Yet when he wrote Romans 5, we see Paul rejoicing, having joy in God no matter what is happening to him. Paul was constantly thankful for the gospel. He knew that no one could take away his salvation, that he was 100 per cent forgiven, and that fuelled his joy. He knew God was in control and that was enough for him – he totally trusted Him. His hope was in Jesus.

Stop

Can we say the same? What do you think that means for us as we live day to day?

Becoming a Christian isn’t like some sort of magic genie version of religion. We can’t say something three times, rub our hands together and make it all go away. What we can do, though, when the dark days come, is remember the promises we have in Christ and preach the gospel to ourselves. We can remind ourselves that God’s promises are true and trust Him.

Cling to Him and don’t lose hope!

Whatever is going on, whatever life throws at us.

However overwhelming, however heart breaking, you can still find rest in Christ. It may even feel like the weight of it is crushing you, but you can still find true joy in Him. He will hold us fast. We can trust Him.

‘So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ (2 Cor. 4:16-18, esv).

We must not forget what is to come: eternity with the God who saved us. We may have put our hope in temporary things that make us happy for five minutes, but we know deep down that they are fleeting. 2 Corinthians reminds us that the temporary things don’t remotely compare to the glory that is to come in eternity. We may be broken, battered and bruised by life, but this life is the temporary thing.

Stop

Why do you struggle to find joy in your life? How can you cling to Christ more?

No matter what, we can find our joy in the gospel of Christ and delight in Him. When we do, we too can sing, and mean it, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’

Key Point

We find our joy when we delight in God, no matter what. Remember the hope we have in Christ and cling to Him. Don’t lose hope.

Memory Verse

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you …’ (1 Pet. 1:3-4, esv).

or

‘I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”’ (Rev. 21:2-4).

Summary

All too often we confuse happiness and joy because they are so similar. Happiness is based on temporary things, like the circumstances of life. So, when good things happen we are happy but when disaster falls upon us we are crushed by it. Unlike happiness, joy is something that doesn’t change depending on the circumstances. Biblical joy lasts when we delight in God no matter what’s going on around us.

First Steps – Character – How Do I Change?.

Friday 18 September 2020

WHAT POP SONGS SAY ABOUT GOD

“Mother Nature, Father Time”

Brook Benton

Backbeat

The son of a minister, Brook Benton began singing in church when he was young and gained valuable experience singing in a number of gospel groups, including the Camden Jubilee Singers, the Bill Langford Singers, the Golden Gate Quartet, and the Jerusalem Stars. He enjoyed writing songs, so at seventeen he headed to New York to sell them. Each day, he auditioned for singing jobs and sold clothes in the evening. In the early fifties, Benton had a few unsuccessful secular recordings for OKeh and Epic, but then his career began to click.

From the late fifties through the late eighties, he recorded a number of memorable records, including a Christmas classic “This Time of the Year,” which has become a staple of Christmas radio playlists well into the twenty-first century. One of his 1962 hits, “Shadrack,” made the Top 20, telling a Bible story. Originally recorded in 1931 as “Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego,” it was based on the Old Testament story of how God saved three Hebrew men from death by fire. In 1970, Benton gave two country songs his unique treatment, hitting the charts with “Rainy Night in Georgia” and “Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home.” In the last years of his career, he returned to his first love, gospel music.

In 1965, he recorded “Mother Nature, Father Time,” a number 53 entry that spoke to a woman living a fast life.

Listen, you’re heading
In the wrong direction
You’re running from true love and affection
If Mother Nature don’t stop you
Father Time sure will

Riff

It’s a good line. You may run yourself ragged with your frenetic lifestyle, and your physical nature may just wear down. Or, if you’re lucky enough to keep your health, eventually you’ll run out of time. No one lives on this earth forever. Life as you know it will come to an end. Mother Nature and Father Time pack a deadly one-two punch.

The psalmist had a similar outlook as he asked God to keep his priorities straight. “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is” (39:4). What kind of attitude is that? One that puts things in their proper place. Why should we rush to get rich in this world when we can plan for eternity in the next? “We are merely moving shadows,” the psalmist continues, “and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it” (39:6).

This could be a real downer—life is hard, and then you die—except that eternity is full of promise for us. We don’t need to dread the end of our fleeting lives because we trust that a better life awaits us. “Lord, where do I put my hope?” the same psalm asks. “My only hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7).

A relationship with him gives meaning to our earthly existence and security for the future.

Harmonies
Psalm 39:4* Psalm 89:47-48 Luke 12:33
Psalm 39:6* Ecclesiastes 2:17-19 Luke 16:1-9
Psalm 39:7* Isaiah 40:6-8

 

Thursday 17 September 2020

EZEKIEL No 14

Idolaters Condemned – Ezekiel 14:1-11

Open It

      1. In what areas of life do you tend to consider all your options before making a commitment?
      2. What feelings would go along with finding out that a friend or spouse had been unfaithful?

Explore It

      1. Who had come to visit and inquire of Ezekiel the prophet? (14:1)
      2. What did God reveal to Ezekiel about the elders who came to him? (14:3)
      3. What message was Ezekiel instructed to give the elders about their duplicity? (14:4)
      4. What did God hope to accomplish by answering the elders Himself? (14:5)
      5. What did God call the people to do immediately? (14:6)
      6. What promise did God reiterate about people who tried to seek Him without giving up their idols? (14:7-8)
      7. How would God treat any prophet who would presume to answer a double-minded seeker? (14:9-10)
      8. What did God desire from His people? (14:11)

Get It

      1. When can we inquire of God and receive an answer?
      2. What did the elders fail to take into account when they consulted God in the presence of Ezekiel?
      3. Where does all idolatry actually take place?
      4. What would it mean for an Israelite to be cut off from God’s people?
      5. What are some examples of “wicked stumbling blocks” you see in society?
      6. What sort of things can become idols of the heart?

Apply It

      1. What are some practical ways to discover whether you have set up any idols in your heart?
      2. What common object can you imagine to remind you that God sees into every corner of your heart and mind?

.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Donald Cantrell

Crisis worship 1

      1. Dealing with the Difficulties

The very thought of dealing with the difficulties of life is unappealing to our human nature. It seems that life would be so much more interesting if everything was easy. Unfortunately this is not the case; life is full of highs and lows. The moment we seem to have life by the horns, it gets away from us and takes us for the ride of our life.

As we face the difficulties of life, we have several options to consider:

Will this difficulty make me or break me?

If we allow the difficulty to break us, it could affect us for the rest of our life. If we allow the difficulty to make us, by the grace of God we will come out for the greater good. The response to this proposal is personal, pivotal, and it could be very profitable to the reader.

In the past I worked for a company that made parts for Tufted Carpet machinery. One of the parts that were so crucial to the machine was a cam. The wear and tear upon this cam was of great importance to the running of this piece of equipment. I would take this cam to a vendor that would place this cam into a fiery furnace. The cam would stay in the fire until the watchman decided that it had reached its strongest point.

If the cam stayed in the fire any longer, it would have been overheated and could not hold up under the coming wear and tear. If the cam was taken out of the fire to early, it would not be able to withstand the wear and tear. The cam had to stay in the fire for the perfect amount of time. The right amount of fire would take a normal piece of steel and change it into a product that could stand the test of time.

I dare say that God’s precious children have a watchman that knows the exact amount of time we need to stay in the fire. In dealing with the difficulties of life we must allow the Lord to make us. In making us, the Lord will choose the crisis, he will set the temperature, and he will decide the length of our stay. We must determine that in each crisis, the difficulty will be dealt with through the mighty grace of God.

The Foresight Aspect That We Need

As we learn to deal with the difficulties of life, we need to have some foresight. If we foresee the impending storm, surely we could be better prepared. We may not know the exact identity of the crisis or the extreme intensity of the crisis, but we should all know that crisis is on the horizon.

The Hindsight Aspect That We Need

In looking back we will see that the Lord has been good to us and always lives up to his end of the deal. We have an age old promise from the Lord, “He will never leave us or forsake us”. I have found this promise to be true in every situation and saga that life throws my way. The very thoughts that raged within my mind concerning being forsaken and abandoned by God, proved to be meaningless and void. In looking back, after the crisis is over and past, I found divine assistance and delightful assurance.

The Insight Aspect That We Need

The insight aspect that we need to help us deal with the difficulties is sound and stable. We have scriptural insight and spiritual insight to help us face the impending storms and incoming sorrows.

As we conclude this chapter in dealing with the difficulties of life, we should be better prepared to face our oncoming crisis. We will never arrive in our Christian experience to request that God would send a crisis our way. Hopefully we can reach the place where we can foresee that a crisis is on the horizon. The crisis may have recently passed; it may be raging at this very moment; if not expect it to come shortly.

The only problem with getting experience is that you only get it after the fact. It is a wise man that watches the early morning weather report and carries his umbrella to work even though the sun is shining so brightly up in the sky. The umbrella is not for the shining sun, but for the impending storm that is just beyond the horizon.

I want to challenge every reader to allow the hand of God to make us in the difficulties of life. We must refuse to allow the enemy to crush our will. The enemy is sitting across the table waiting for us to play our hand. I want to propose this question, will you fold your hand or can we soundly and confidently stand up and proclaim, “All In”? If we decide to go all in; this means no turning back. We have decided to maintain our faith and nothing will deter us from allowing our faith to flourish in the midst of crisis.

Crisis Worship—Is It Possible?.

 

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Woman of character

Woman of GRACE 6

The Grace to See God’s Faithfulness

Esther 7:1-8:2

Setting the Stage:

Two weeks later Katherine arrived at work in the best mood ever. She said hello to Shannon, who even smiled at her a little. She said hello to Phil, who grumbled something back. It didn’t matter now. Katherine’s remaining days here were few, and she was ecstatic. College, here I come.

The first chance she got, Katherine talked to her supervisor. “Ms. Clyde, I’m giving my notice. My husband has a new job. We won’t be moving, because it’s right here in town. We’re really happy about it. It’s—”

“Okay,” the supervisor said abruptly. Just what Katherine expected from her. Well, it didn’t matter. Only two more weeks and . . . what was that? “Excuse me, Ms. Clyde?”

“I said I’ll miss you around here. You’re a good worker.”

“Oh—well—thank you. I have to say it’s been . . . interesting to work here.”

“You sure you can’t stay on at least part-time? We could work something out.”

Stay on at this place? Are you kidding?

Ms. Clyde continued, “Maybe three days a week or something like that. We’re flexible around here. You know, I think you bring a little life to this place.”

Life? Katherine mentally stepped outside herself and saw the stick-in-the-mud who never laughed at the jokes. Did she really bring something fresh and wholesome into this atmosphere?

“Something on the bright side, I mean,” Ms. Clyde went on. “Working at this place can be a drag, you know that?”

“Uh . . . yes, I suppose it could be, if you let it.”

“You’re different from the others. You’re not a griper. Think about it and we’ll talk about it later, all right?” She looked directly at Katherine, and a protective veil seemed to have fallen away from her eyes. “I’d appreciate it.”

“Thank you, Ms. Clyde. I can think about it, I guess,” Katherine said. She stumbled out, much as she’d stumbled out the day she applied for work here. I’m not a griper? Lord, what if I had been? What if I’d been like all the others?

Maybe God had sent her here precisely for these people right now. Certainly for Shannon and Gillian. Maybe for Ms. Clyde. Maybe for Phil and who knows who else? And certainly for her own family and the stronger person she was becoming for them.

Thanks, Lord, for pushing me through that filthy metal door. If I hadn’t gone through it, I’d never have found out what you had here for all of us.

      1. Think of everything you have read about Katherine Fraley’s story. What good results have come because Katherine trusted the Lord and relied on his grace
      2. What good results have come because you have trusted the Lord in difficult situations

  God’s Word for Us

Read Esther 7:1-8:2.

Background: In a wonderfully-told story in Esther 5:9-6:14, Haman plans to get rid of Mordecai even before the appointed time. In fact he plans to have Mordecai executed the next day. Instead he winds up having to publicly honor Mordecai! Meanwhile the king’s order and Esther’s second invitation are still pending.

      1. During the second banquet, Esther judged that it was time to make her appeal. The moment the king signed the edict (Esther 3:8), he thought it was to his advantage to annihilate the Jews. How did Esther build her case, step by step, that it was not to the king’s advantage (Esther 7:3-4)?
      2. What would have shocked the king about Esther’s words, “grant me my life” and “spare my people” (Esther 7:3)?
      3. What would have happened to Esther and Mordecai if the king had still sided with Haman?
      4. When have you been glad that you identified yourself with God’s people?
      5. Haman had thought he was on top of the world—except for the bothersome detail of Mordecai, and the king’s order would soon take care of that. Now everything was changed. Haman must have known his number was up when the king left in a rage. What did Haman do as a last resort, and with what results (Esther 7:7-10)?
      6. What rewards came to Esther and Mordecai (Esther 8:1-2)?

Summary of the rest of the book of Esther: Xerxes granted Esther’s request. Since a Persian king’s edict could not be altered, the only way for the king to stop the slaughter of the Jews was with a counteracting edict. Xerxes issued another order giving the Jews “in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves” (Esther 8:11). The Jews received the order with joy, and because of the Jews’ new status in Persia, people of other nationalities even converted to Judaism (Esther 8:16-17). The Jews got the upper hand over their enemies. Their victory is celebrated in the feast of Purim (Esther 9:26) from the word pur, or “lot,” because Haman cast the lot to determine the day they should be destroyed

      1. In what situation(s) are you especially eager to see God’s faithfulness?
      2. Where might you be overlooking signs of God’s faithfulness?

  Now or Later

Faced with the need to state her case, Esther bided her time; but she didn’t wait forever. In what ways is the Lord asking you to state your case, which is actually his case?

Prayerfully consider your strategy for saying the right words in the right place at the right time. It’s not unspiritual to have a game plan; Esther certainly had one when she went to the king and then put him off through two banquets. Like Esther, we cannot predict how our hearers will receive our words. Our job is to restrain ourselves when the time is not yet, then speak and act at the right time, trusting God. As you consider your options, write the specifics as a prayer here

“Lord, I have to appeal to _________________

for _________________________________ or on

behalf of _________________________________

I’m afraid that _______________________. Please

help me know ____________________________,

and give me the right words to ________________.

Thank you for standing with me in this.”

In your own way, whether verbally, in symbols, out loud, silently, alone or with others, offer your praise and thanks to the Lord for his faithfulness. Let the evidence of his faithfulness which you have seen lead you to trust him for the evidence you have not yet seen.

For further study of a wise appeal, read Philemon. In his brief letter to a master on behalf of a runaway slave, Paul showed himself a master at making a diplomatic appeal.

For further study of seeing God’s faithfulness, read Acts 16. When Paul and his companions were frustrated in their attempts to enter certain areas, the Holy Spirit moved them to go to Philippi, where a strong church was started—the church to whom Paul later wrote Philippians.

 

Monday 14 September 2020

GROWING DISCIPLES

MINISTERING TO OTHERS WEEK 5 DAY 5

Week 5: Drawing Near to Christ

“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.”—Matthew 28:19-20

Zoom is great but The Great Commission cannot be done at a distance; it requires you to go near the persons who need ministry. You have to be willing to serve them by entering their world and expending your resources to meet their needs. Doing less will limit your ministry. So far in this study you have observed people ministering to others, you have identified opportunities for ministry around you, and you have joined others in ministry. This week you will go near those who need your ministry. To go near others effectively, you must also draw near to God.

LEARNING GOALS

This week you will—

      • explain why abiding in Christ is essential to ministry;
      • recognize the importance of listening to Jesus before ministering;
      • define what it means to be a neighbour to someone in need;
      • learn principles for announcing the coming of God’s kingdom;
      • identify ways to stay connected to God when ministering to others.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 5

Day 1: Abide in the Vine
Day 2: Listen Before You Minister
Day 3: Become the Neighbour They Need
Day 4: The Kingdom on Your Doorstep
Day 5: The God You Can’t Ignore

VERSES TO MEMORIZE

Matthew 28:19-20

Day 1: Abide in the Vine

God’s Word for Today

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”—John 15:1-2, 5, 8

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

I (Richard) grew up in a home that made church a priority. I was baptized at age 11 but did not come to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior until I was a young married adult. The Lord had placed my wife and me in a church that focused on qualities that should characterize the Christian life. After several years of being around other people who demonstrated these qualities, I began to sense that something was missing in my life. I saw Christians who were developing a lifestyle of abiding in Christ, while my life failed to produce fruit.

God started by reaching my wife, and I met Jesus several weeks after that. Attention to God’s Word dominated my new life. I had an insatiable desire to read and study God’s Word. My wife says that many nights I would be sitting at my desk when she went to sleep, and she would awake to find me in the same position, reading and studying God’s Word.

Jesus’ relationship with His Father models the abiding relationship we are to have with Him.

Abiding in Christ is absolutely essential for those who minister to others. Staying connected with Jesus keeps us attuned to His heart and will for our ministry. Jesus even said if we do not abide in Him, our ministry will not produce fruit.

Reread “God’s Word for Today” and answer these questions.

Who is the vine? ____________________________

Who are the branches? ____________________________

Why is it essential to remain in Jesus? ____________________________

How does abiding in Christ bring glory to God? ____________________________

Jesus’ relationship with His Father models the abiding relationship we are to have with Him.

Read John 5:19 below. What did Jesus do on His own?

“I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.”—John 5:19

How did Jesus know when to act?

Just as Jesus abode in an obedient relationship with the Father, we are to remain in an obedient relationship with Him. Spending time in the Word is just one way we maintain an abiding relationship with Jesus (see John 8:31 below). Jesus modeled other expressions of abiding with His Father:

“If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.”—John 8:31

      • Jesus demolished problems through bold prayer (see Mark 8:6-9).
      • Jesus listened to the Father before making decisions (see Luke 6:12-16).
      • Jesus prevailed over difficulty by trusting the Father (see Matthew 4:1-11).
      • Jesus constantly obeyed the Father (see Hebrews 4:14-15).
      • Jesus always pointed the way to the Father (John 14:6).

Based on Jesus’ model, we can identify at least six signs of abiding:

      1. Reading God’s Word
      2. Praying that totally depends on God
      3. Seeking God’s plan for serving
      4. Obeying God rather than people
      5. Listening to God, supported by listening to wise counsel
      6. Trusting God when things around you might say otherwise

Go back and circle the numbers beside the signs of abiding that characterize your life.

When you abide in Christ, you move in His provision and at His command. Your life will then produce fruit that brings glory to the Father.

Express to God your desire to abide in Christ. Review the six signs of abiding and confess the areas in which you are weak. Ask God to enable you to abide in Him and to move out in ministry as He directs. Thank Him for His provision to minister in His name.

Write below any commitments you want to make about things you will do to abide in Christ. One idea is suggested.

My Commitments

      • Learn more about abiding in Christ by studying Growing Disciples: Abide in Christ (see p. 112).
      • ______________________________________________
      • ______________________________________________
      • ______________________________________________

Start memorizing your memory verses for this week, Matthew 28:19-20. If you would like, tear out and use the card at the back of the book.

Day 2: Listen Before You Minister

God’s Word for Today

“While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, ‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.’ The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.'”—Luke 10:38-42

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

Our (Richard’s) family takes a family vacation every summer. One year we opted for a houseboat on Lake Lanier near our home rather than a condo at the beach. Everyone thought, Wow! A 54-foot-long houseboat! I thought, A 54-foot-long houseboat? Wow! When the dock steward said not to worry, that he’d tell me everything I needed to know, I had a sneaky suspicion about what the week might hold.

The houseboat had no anchor. The steward instructed me to run the boat onto the beach and tie, at a 45-degree angle, to a tree or a stump. I would have to beach the houseboat perpendicular to the beach and make sure there was a 10-foot depth or more at the back. The rest of the steward’s instructions were a blur.

After several attempts to land in several locations, I finally got it right. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday there were no problems; but Thursday afternoon brought a wind from a different direction, placing a tremendous strain on the two ropes that kept the boat in place. I had remembered to tie the ropes securely to trees and had neatly wrapped them around aluminum “horns” on the front of the boat. However, I had not heard the steward’s instructions to tie off the rope on the iron cleats on the rim of the boat. I was on top of the boat lounging when I heard what sounded like the crack of a 22-caliber rifle. One of the aluminum horns had broken, and now only one rope was holding our boat on the beach.

Fortunately, nothing bad happened, and we soon got things under control; but this incident reminds me of the importance of listening before launching. Luke 10:38-42 also provides a lesson in listening.

Review Luke 10:38-42 above and answer these questions.

What was Martha doing during Jesus’ visit?

What was Mary doing?

How did Jesus describe Martha?

How did Jesus evaluate Mary’s decision?

What do you think Mary gained by listening to Jesus?

What do you think Martha missed by doing other things?

When Mary chose listening over working, Jesus called her decision “necessary” and “the right choice” (v. 42). In effect He said to Mary, “That is a good thing. A time is coming when you’ll need this information, and no one will be able to take it away from you.”

Always sit at Jesus’ feet before you go out to minister.

Always sit at Jesus’ feet before you go out to minister. You can’t know how to minister until you have heard from Him. You need His compassion. You need His instruction. You need His wisdom. You need His power.

What does it mean to sit at Jesus’ feet?

If you make a practice of sitting at Jesus’ feet, what does it imply about your relationship with Him? What impact will it have on your relationship?

Have you already established the practice of listening to Jesus?

Yes
No

What obstacles keep you from sitting at Jesus’ feet?

Check the conditions that help you listen.

To have no interruptions
To make notes on what I am hearing
To connect visual images with what I am hearing
Other: ____________________

Sit at Jesus’ feet for 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t say a thing. Listen to what He says to you about people you have encountered over the past four weeks. Use “My Observation Journal” below to record what God says to you, what you are going to do about it, and what you need to ask God to do.

My Observation Journal

Day 3: Become the Neighbor They Need

God’s Word for Today

29Wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30Jesus took up the question and said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.” 36Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37‘The one who showed mercy to him,’ he said. Then Jesus told him, ‘Go and do the same.'”—Luke 10:29-37

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

There weren’t many neighbors in Lynch, Kentucky, when God led Lonnie and Belinda Riley to return to their roots. Thirty years earlier the Rileys had left rural central Appalachia in search of a better life as the coal-mining industry went bust in this once affluent region. The region has made progress; but Harlan County, where the Rileys now live, is the most economically depressed area in Kentucky. The unemployment rate stands at about 35 percent, while the high-school dropout rate is 40 percent. “There are not a lot of jobs here,” says Lonnie, a former engineer and retired pastor. “When we came back here, there was no hope. Our message has been: where there is Jesus, there is hope.”

Upon their return to Lynch, the Rileys soon realized that actions really do speak louder than words. After six months of praying and trying to reacquaint themselves with the neighbors, Lonnie purchased a pair of hedge-cutting shears and worked lot by lot sprucing up the overgrown community by offering free landscaping services. A few months later, the couple distributed about six thousand homemade sugar cookies, again going door to door, to wish their neighbors a Merry Christmas. “When you eat those cookies, remember that Jesus loves you, and this is a great season to celebrate that,” the Rileys encouraged their new neighbors.

The Rileys say they are living proof that you don’t have to be wealthy to care for those who have great physical and spiritual needs. Summers have become a great opportunity for volunteers to come near the individuals who live in the area, but the ministries are now year-round. As the Rileys and the volunteers serve, many people hear and see the gospel, and they are making professions of faith in Jesus Christ.

The Rileys demonstrate the gospel in word and deed. They returned to Lynch because they were listening to God and were obedient when He told them to act. Now that you have begun to listen to God and to watch what He is doing around you, it is time for you to act as well. To whom does God want you to be a neighbor?

From Luke 10:29-37 we learn that a neighbor is someone—

      • whom others have taken advantage of (see v. 30);
      • whom others are ignoring (see vv. 31-32);
      • who is in your path (see v. 33);
      • for whom you have compassion (see v. 33);
      • who needs resources you have (see vv. 34-35).

Refer to “God’s Word for Today” as you answer these questions.

How had the man been taken advantage of?

Who ignored the man?

Who felt compassion and responded to the man?

What resources did he provide to care for the man?

Over the past several months I (Richard) have visited a jail in our community. As I have met inmates’ family and friends, I have felt compassion and prayed for them. I have continued to visit one inmate the Lord put on my heart. At the end of my latest visit, the individual prayed, “God, thank You for my friend Richard.” I have become his neighbor.

Your neighbor could be someone whose arms are full and needs assistance to open a door. It could be your child who needs assistance with homework. It could be a neighbor who needs help around the house. It could be a person you pass on the street who needs a smile or a thank-you.

As you read at the top of this page the criteria of a neighbor, whom does God bring to mind for you to be a neighbor to? Record their names on “My Ministry List,” page 92. What do you need to do to meet their need?

Read “Relational-Evangelism Skills” below. Pray about becoming the neighbor someone needs.

Relational-Evangelism Skills

      1. The awareness of opportunity (attentiveness to opportunities to witness while you are in the situation)
      2. A Christlike attitude
      3. Attentive body language
      4. Tone of voice
      5. The ability to start a conversation and keep it going
      6. Directive questioning (the ability to ask questions that steer the conversation toward spiritual matters)
      7. Active listening

Review the five ministry actions you learned in week 1 below. Use “My Observation Journal” below to record what God is saying to you about becoming a neighbor in these ways.

Five Ministry Actions

      1. Bridge building
      2. Offering relief
      3. Interceding
      4. Offering hospitality
      5. Promoting spiritual growth

My Observation Journal

Day 4: The Kingdom on Your Doorstep

God’s Word for Today

“After this the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. He told them: ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. Now go; I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves. Don’t carry a money-bag, traveling bad, or sandals; don’t greet anyone along the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this household.” If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t be moving from house to house. When you enter any town, and they welcome you, eat the things set before you. Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near you.” But whatever town you enter, and they don’t welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “We are wiping off as a witness against you even the dust of your town that clings to our feet. Know this for certain: the kingdom of God has come near.'”—Luke 10:1-11

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

Pam’s life was a wreck. She had been picked up by a truck driver headed cross-country. When he grew tired of her, he dropped her off at a truck stop in Missouri. Hungry, cold, and wasted, she landed in a caring Christian family that loved her, served her, and sacrificed for her. She periodically went to church with them and seemed to be getting her life together.

The next summer a group of youth and adults from the family’s church attended Super Summer Missouri at Southwest Baptist University. When I (Richard) met Pam and asked why she had come, she told me the group had something she wanted. I asked Pam, “What if it is a person you need and not just a good life? Do you think you are ready for Him?” I sensed that God was standing on her doorstep and she didn’t know it.

Life that week has hard for Pam. She didn’t like the rules, she didn’t like the adult class she was in, and she wanted to go home. However, when we talked about her need for Jesus and the things He had done for her, she warmed up to the idea of giving her life to Christ. But she struggled with surrendering herself to God and putting herself under His control.

Pam fumed all week, and people prayed. On Friday morning before the final chapel service, I was headed to the auditorium when I saw Pam running toward me saying, “I did it! I did it! I did it!” When the kingdom of God was on her doorstep, hell’s forces did their best to block God’s effort; but darkness could not overcome the light.

Just as a family reached out to Pam and met a need, the 70 in Luke 10:1-11 would reach out and change the lives of those they came in contact with.

Review “God’s Word for Today.” Why did Jesus send out the 70?

Jesus told the 70 to find a home, respond to the hospitality, heal the sick, and tell their hosts that the kingdom of God was on their doorstep. As the 70 obeyed, they would fulfill several functions in announcing the coming of Christ’s kingdom.

      1. Preparing. They would prepare for Jesus’ coming to the same place (see v. 1).
      2. Participating. They would have the opportunity to be part of His harvest (see v. 2).
      3. Praying. They would pray for others to be sent to God’s harvest (see v. 2).
      4. Trusting. Their obedience would test their faith in Jesus’ plan (see vv. 3-5).
      5. Networking. They would recognize and identify “a son of peace,” someone who was to be part of the harvest (see v. 6).
      6. Releasing. They would provide someone an opportunity to participate in God’s harvest by releasing their resources (see vv. 7-8).
      7. Leading. They would become a neighbor by meeting needs that others were not meeting (see v. 9).
      8. Inviting. They would verbally declare the nearness of the kingdom of God and invite individuals to enter it (see vv. 10-12).

Go back and place a check mark beside any of these roles you have played in ministry.

Turn to “Kingdom-Coming Principles” on page 106 to more fully apply these principles to your ministry.

In this passage Jesus was describing a divine encounter —something supernatural that takes place because of God’s action, not because of our doing. Just as Saul met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1-31), God meets people in divine encounters today. When we abide in Christ, every person we meet can result in a divine encounter.

How does the previous sentence change your perspective on your daily activities?

No matter what your role is in ministering to someone—whether building a bridge, praying, meeting a need, relieving a burden, encouraging, or sharing the gospel—God is inviting the person into His kingdom through you.

Under “My Observation Journal” below, list the persons you encountered today and what you did or will do to tell them God’s kingdom is near.

Day 5: The God You Can’t Ignore

God’s Word for Today

“The kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take oil with them. But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps. Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’ When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’ But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’ Therefore be alert, because you don’t know the day or the hour.”—Matthew 25:1-13

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

So far you have seen how ministry and service can show others the love of Christ and build a bridge to their spiritual need. You have learned how to connect with God’s activity around you through five ministry actions. You have identified and worked to overcome barriers to servanthood. You have learned to assess needs and create a ministry plan to meet those needs. You have recognized the importance of drawing near to God in order to draw near to people. By now ministry to others should feel like a normal way of life for you. We hope energy and excitement about ministry are bursting like fireworks all around you!

This week concludes with a lesson about how to keep going in ministry. God provides an endless supply of power for a servant lifestyle. Your job as a minister is to stay connected to that power supply. As you become more involved in meeting others’ needs, be careful not to ignore God.

I (Richard) mentioned earlier that I entered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ after I was married. About three weeks before God awoke me to the fact that I was sinner and separated from Him, my wife awakened me from a deep sleep around 2:30 a.m. one morning and said to me, “Richard, I need to be saved!” After she explained what she had been going through, we knelt beside our bed, and she said yes to the One she had been ignoring. She later told me she felt that early-morning encounter with Jesus would have been her last opportunity.

Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:1-13 illustrates the importance of being prepared when God opens a door.

Review “God’s Word for Today” above. What did the master say to the unprepared virgins after the door was shut?

What was Jesus’ warning to His listeners?

Don’t miss out on God’s best by not being ready when He shows you needs around you and calls you to meet them.

People can ignore God’s plan for their lives for just so long. This is true of service opportunities for believers. Don’t miss out on God’s best by not being ready when He shows you needs around you and calls you to meet them.

Based on what you’ve studied in this course, suggest things believers can do to be prepared when God calls them to minister.

Circle two actions you would like to focus on in your life.

Did you mention things like abiding in Christ and practicing the Kingdom-coming principles you studied in day 4?

Read James 1:22-25 below. What is required of someone who has looked into “the perfect law of freedom” (v. 25)?

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror; for he looks at himself, goes away, and right away forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who acts—this person will be blessed in what he does.”—James 1:22-25

What is promised for that person?

By receiving the gospel, you have looked into “the perfect law of freedom.” Your obligation now is to keep the gospel foremost in your consciousness and continually be filled with the Spirit (see Ephesians 5:18) so that you are always ready to minister in Jesus’ name and to point others to the freedom Christ offers. God promises that you will be blessed.

What do you do if you realize that you have ignored opportunities for ministry or have done things for others without having a servant spirit?

      • Name what you have neglected.
      • Agree with God about it: confess it as sin.
      • Commit to change.
      • Act on your commitment.

Use the process suggested to confess to God any ministry opportunities you have ignored. Ask Him to help you stay prepared for a lifestyle of ministry to others.

Write this week’s memory verses, Matthew 28:19-20, below.

Session 5: Drawing Near to Christ

Opening Prayer

Learning Goals

You will—

      • explain why abiding in Christ is essential to ministry;
      • recognize the importance of listening to Jesus before ministering;
      • define what it means to be a neighbor to someone in need;
      • learn principles for announcing the coming of God’s kingdom;
      • identify ways to stay connected to God when ministering to others.

Reviewing Week 5

      1. In pairs or triads take turns reciting your Scripture-memory verses, Matthew 28:19-20. State why you agree or disagree with this statement: “The Great Commission cannot be done at a distance; it requires you to go near the person who needs ministry” (p. 65). How did Jesus illustrate that ministry cannot be done from a distance?
      2. Read John 15:1-2, 5, 8. Respond to activity 1 on page 66. Why is abiding in Christ essential for believers who minister to others?
      3. Give examples of ways Jesus abided in a relationship with the Father.
      4. Review the signs of abiding on page 67. What are areas of weakness for you? Share any commitments you made to abide in Christ (activity 4, p. 67).
      5. Read Luke 10:38-42. Why did Jesus commend Mary’s choice? What does sitting at Jesus’ feet mean to you? What hinders you from sitting at His feet? What encourages you to sit at His feet? Why is it important to listen to Jesus as you go out to minister?
      6. Share any observations from listening to Jesus (prayer activity, p. 69).
      7. Discuss the examples from the Rileys’ ministry on page 70. What does it mean to be a neighbor? Share ways you and your church are being neighbors to people who need to know Christ.
      8. Name persons who meet the criteria of a neighbor at the top of page 71. Share any ways you ministered to these persons through the ministry actions you learned in week 1 (activity 3, p. 71).
      9. Read Luke 10:1-11. Review on page 73 the roles the 70 played in announcing the coming of the Kingdom. How can you fulfill these roles as you minister?
      10. Define divine encounter (p. 73). Describe any divine encounters you have had as you have ministered to others.
      11. What ministry opportunities have you lost because you were not prepared or attentive? Identify actions you can take to make sure you are prepared when ministry opportunities arise.

Ministering to Others

      1. Debrief opportunities you had this week to minister to others.
        • Did you abide in Christ and listen to Him this week?
        • How were you a neighbor to someone this week? Did you serve as a bridge builder, offer relief, intercede, show hospitality, or promote spiritual growth?
        • What happened, and what were the results?
        • How did serving the person help you connect with him or her?
        • Did you announce that God’s kingdom was near?
        • Was this a divine encounter?
        • How can you pray for follow-up with these individuals?
      2. Turn to “My Ministry List” on page 92 and share updates and concerns.
      3. Select an individual whose salvation you are praying for and commit to minister to that person this week. Follow this process.
        • Identify one ministry activity that will meet a need, answer a question, or fulfill an interest.
        • Enlist someone to join you in ministry—a family member, a member of your Bible study or discipleship group, or someone you want to influence for Christ.
        • After ministering, debrief with the individual who joined you.
        • Record the results and plan to report at the next session.

Praying Together

Pray in pairs that God will give you a desire to draw near to Him and abide in Christ, that He will give you a willingness to draw near others to meet their needs in ministry and to point them to Him, and for the needs of persons on your ministry lists (p. 92).

Previewing Week 6

Turn to page 79 and preview the study for the coming week.

Growing Disciples Series – Minister to Others.

Sunday 13 September 2020

How to Maintain the Life of Victory

Joshua 24:14-22

I have often said that Jesus didn’t come to offer us an easy life but eternal life; nevertheless it is God’s plan that we should have a full life in this world as Jesus said in the Gospel of  John 10:10 (ANIV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

My friends, in our reading, Joshua is an old man and he was soon to be gathered to his fathers in the faith in glory, but before then; he still had work to do, and nothing was more important than seeking to ensure that the people of faith, chosen by God himself would not be evicted from the Promised land; for then as today, the Promised land  stands for the victorious life.

My friends! Remember this well. That victorious Life is intended for everyone who has bent the knee at the throne of grace in receiving Jesus as LORD and Saviour in their life, and Jesus reminds you today as he reminds me how  we can keep our victory in continuing to walk with Christ.

Listen to what the Apostle John says in his second letterWatch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.

Why?

Because the devil wants us to lose the victory that is represented by the land of Israel.

My  friends this isn’t a hypothetical possibility. It is definite REALITY, and I see the signs of it in this pandemic as it has shaken many of the people of FAITH to the core, as well as shaken those of NO FAITH at all, and the words of Jesus in Luke 18:8 seem very relevant for the days in which we live when Jesus said: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” .

Therefore  in order to keep the victory that is ours; we need to maintain a REVERENCE FOR GOD; in these days of trial in which we live

Listen to what God says in Joshua 24:13-14

13  So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’
14  “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. “

My friends! The Bible speaks of TWO types of FEAR

There is the Fear that the world understands as being fear and the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about that when he said to him: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 

The conquest of that type of fear is part of our victory in Christ.

Yet the Bible has far more to say about the second type of fear. The fear of Lord which rightly is described as Reverence for the LORD.

Time and time again, the psalmist writes about this fear which is reverence for the LORD. For instance in psalm 115 he says:

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;

My friends reverence isn’t a Superstitious fear  like we see on the faces of gargoyles high up on cathedral walls, and it isn’t Slavish fear that causes us to think of God as an all powerful tyrant.

Reverential fear is a Sanctified fear and its foundation is LOVE.  As someone said: The fear of God is love on its knees.

Out of love we don’t want to do those things which displease him and in part it is illustrated in a the awe and reverence that a child has for a loving but firm parent.

Yet in its whole,  it is to live life being consumed by His holiness and an illustration of this kind of fear is when Jesus stilled the storm.

You remember that the disciples were in fear of their life during the storm but when the storm was stilled at the word of Christ, they were consumed by reverence, and asked what sort of man is this that even the wind listen to his voice.

The answer is of course the Son of Man who is the Son of God.

So there we find two kinds of fears that day – the first fear was condemned. It was faithless and cowardly and the second fear was reverential awe..

The evangelist Gypsy Smith started to preach at 17 and at died in harness at 87. He said, I didn’t know any more about theology than a jackrabbit knew about ping pong.

When he was advised to learn to sing from his diaphragm, Gypsy replied that he didn’t want to sing from his diaphragm but from his heart.

When he was asked about his freshness and vigour in his old age, he said, “I have never lost the wonder.”

My friends Both Love and WONDER is at the heart of Reverence for God.

Indeed, the wonder is that sense of awe that however great you think God is in your heart, you know that he is immeasurably more.

2. Secondly,  in order to keep  the victory that is ours in Christ we need Godly RESOLVE

Joshua reminds the people:

14  “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.
15  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

My friends, the essence of what Joshua is saying is that need to serve God reverentially and sincerely.

For me, 1 Cor. 6:19-20 gives us an insight into reverential sincerity whereby we can have no excuse as to what it means. There the Apostle Paul  said:

19  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
20  you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.

In other words, our service for the LORD should not be out of any selfish motive. It shouldn’t be an outer façade whereby we go through the motions of serving God without having a true relationship of  love with God. That became the sin of the church at Ephesus. They did so much well, but they lost their first love. It shouldn’t be on the basis of being a saint on Sunday and being worldly for the rest of the week. That is no more than hypocrisy.

Our service unto the LORD should be is to serve the LORD as one whose life is no longer your own . It is a life surrendered to His lordship. It is a life consumed by his presence. It is to have a life whereby self becomes less and Jesus continuously becomes more.

My friends, let us be careful that during this pandemic we fail the test  of Jesus continuing to become more in our life.

If  Jesus becomes more in our life then we will not settle for anything less than worshipping him in the spirit and in truth.

To worship the LORD and serve Him in spirit and truth will make you a fundamentalist; in many peoples eyes. They will say that it makes you a legalist, a bigot and unloving but contrary to what society says, being a fundamentalist isn’t going to make you a legalist, a bigot and unloving. Rather,   it will make you a beautiful Christian, who loves more; become less censorious in making valued judgments; and honouring Gods Law as you will take God at His Word.

My friends! In taking God at His Word you will desire to serve the LORD steadfastly, and as with Joshua, You will on be prepared to stand alone.

In fact it is summed up in a gift that was given to a preacher I know. The gift was inscribed by his church:

His ministry was established on a reverence for the righteousness of God and not on a fear of men.

Our service is to stand against the growing tide of the age whereby more and more people hold that truth is relative, and that all faiths leads to God.

It is to hold that Jesus alone is the Truth. Jesus alone is the way. Jesus alone is the Life and that every other way and truth is nothing more than a lie.

This is what the people of God have always been called to do.

Noah stood alone – he was called a bigot and a fool, no doubt.

Elijah stood alone on Mt. Carmel before 450 prophets of Baal.

Amos stood alone in the courtroom at Bethel.

My friends! What churches need today is preachers of conviction. We don’t need new innovations. We need sincerity, we need conviction. We need the Old Gospel.

That is what .William Booth was the founder of The Salvation Army did. He was hauled like a criminal before the religionists of the church of England and denounced for his ministry and told in no uncertain terms that they would rescind his right to preach if he didn’t change.

Catherine his wife  cried out “William, say no! Say no!” He did and consequently he continued to live a life of victory and in the process the world has been blessed.

Finally in order to live the victorious life we need CONTINUOUS REPENTANCE

My friends, there are always the weeds of that old life that want to sprout again. Old gods want to come back into our life. The people of Israel had been taken out of Egypt but Joshua knew that Egypt was still in the people.

When I fought God about my calling to ministry, I went through all the sins before God , and I felt they were sufficient to bar me from becoming a preacher, and the quiet voice of God came back: Yes you did all of these sin and others sins that you have forgotten, but I want you anyway.

All these years later, though my sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ, the remembrance of my sins are for me ever before me and I cringe. Yet, grace prevails and I continue to minister within his will because I love him who first loved me.

Yet just like you; just like Joshua I have to make a daily choice. Who will I serve. My friends, I trust that you and I will say as for me I will serve the LORD.  

But as with Joshua we need to remember that if our service is to be more than words, our service needs to be done in his power.

This is why Joshua said to the people, Joshua 24:19-22 “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20  If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” 21  But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.” 22  Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

      1. God is holy.
      2. God is jealous.
      3. God is righteous.

You had better learn to submit your helplessness to God’s omnipotence.

In reality living in victory and maintaining victory is not your responsibility. It is your response to his availability

And He is available to us. He says: Search for me and you will find me.

The righteousness of the law is not fulfilled by us, but fulfilled in us.

SO HOLD ON TO THE VICTORIOUS LIFE  THAT IS OURS IN CHRIST. It is more valuable than Gold. So

CONTINUE TO BE  what you and I are called to be:THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD

Amen

 

Saturday 12 September 2020

NEW SERIES!

CHARACTER- HOW DO I CHANGE

Meet Jackie

Jackie is a single mum to three young children. She is in her mid-thirties and has lived in a Glasgow housing scheme all of her life. She was with her partner Frank for over ten years but six months ago he left her. Jackie has three kids: Jake (11), who has a different dad from Billee-Jean (8) and wee Frankie (3). Her oldest boy, Jake, doesn’t see his real dad at all as he did a bunk the minute he found out Jackie was pregnant. In fact, Jake sees Frank as his dad. Frank never treated him any differently from his own two kids. Frank has tried to see the kids, but when they do see him the meeting usually turns into a screaming match between him and Jackie over money and visitation rights. Jackie has been struggling to bring up the kids and coping with life since Frank left her. She’s tired all the time, sick of constantly trying to make ends meet and feels the pressure of always having to make the decisions. She wants her life to change but she just doesn’t know how that is going to happen.

Life Now

Jackie was first introduced to the Christian message at Sunday School when she was a child, but her life took a different turn in her early teens. She appeared at a church Christmas carol service after receiving an invitation through the door. After that she started coming to practically every Sunday service, and loved singing hymns and listening to the Bible being taught. Her kids also started coming to the clubs and Sunday School. It wasn’t long before she accepted the good news of Jesus, put her faith in his finished work, and asked Him to come and change her messed-up life.

But there’s a problem: since then, her life doesn’t seem to have changed that much from Monday to Saturday. She fights with neighbours (too noisy at night), she is forever getting into trouble on Facebook (her family is annoying and often ‘two-faced’), and the Social Services are always checking up on her and the children. When asked, she would say she is a Christian, but would recognise that her life does not match up to her profession of faith. She wants to change but she’s not really sure that she can ever truly change or where to start. She feels hopeless, especially when she looks at some of the women at church – they all seem so perfect to her.

This is Jackie’s story …

HERE WE GO

      1. All We Need Is Love, Right?

What’s the Point?

Christians should grow in love.

Sitting in a café one day people-watching, I spied a couple having lunch. It was hard to miss that they were together – the matching jumpers creepily screamed ‘we’re an item’ – but it wasn’t the only resemblance. When I looked closer they actually looked similar. It’s odd, right, but have you noticed that the longer you spend with someone you like, the more you seem to take on some of their characteristics and mannerisms? It starts with the odd word here and there and before you know it you’re finishing their sentences and coordinating outfits. We are influenced and changed by our time with those we love. It should be the same for us as Christians.

As we spend time with God and grow in maturity, we should be influenced by Him and become more and more like Jesus.

It’s a bit of a weird thought to get your brain around, but as Christians we actually have the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, living in us. Now common sense tells us that if He’s living in us, there should be some evidence of that in our lives. He is bound to influence us. I’m not talking surface influence like suddenly having a deep desire to wear a checked shirt, carry a large Bible and have a WWJD friendship bracelet (What Would Jesus Do) on your left wrist … Jesus bling. I mean our character! Having the Spirit dwell in us has got to have an impact on our character, and we should see evidence of that in our lives.

Stop

So, as a professing Christian what should Jackie’s life look like?

‘I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honour, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me and making their treasuries full’ (Prov. 8:17-21).

Sometimes people describe the evidence of God’s presence in our lives as ‘fruit’. Just like my wee mum sees the evidence of the healthy apple tree in the crop of juicy apples she collects from her garden, we would expect any Christian to grow and produce ‘fruit’ in their lives.

In this book we are going to look at the ‘fruit’ that should be evident in our lives as Christians: the fruit of the Spirit.

Stop

Do you think that all the fruit we see in our life is good fruit?

‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’ (Gal. 5:22-23).

Have you ever seen the cartoon strip of a man and woman wearing fig leaves with the caption ‘Love is …’? Love is never having to say you’re sorry, love is always having someone to hold hands with, love is saying I love you at random moments, love is soothing away all his worries … really?! When we think of love, lots of us think of romance, all hearts and flowers. It’s that way you feel, the butterflies inside, when they look at you from across a room (and I’m not talking about indigestion!). We think love is all passion and sex. Our idea of love comes from movies, TV, fairy-tales …. At the movies we hear the sweeping music when he goes in for the first perfect kiss that lasts just long enough not to be weird. They don’t awkwardly bump noses or stand on their toes as they move in and I’m sure their breath is minty fresh. It is after all, perfect; it’s love. Is that what love is?

But we all know real life is not like the movies. The first kiss wasn’t surrounded by music, and six months after you say ‘I do’ you realise the things you thought were cute little habits are just plain annoying. Just like Cinderella realised after she married Prince Charming, ‘happily ever after’ meant picking his underwear up off the bathroom floor just like everyone else. The person you married doesn’t seem the same – when you were dating they couldn’t do enough to please you, but now that you’re married it’s a different story. It’s not how you planned it, and so you ask yourself, is this love?

Do we really understand what love is?

Jackie

Jackie met Frank when she was round her pal Aggie’s one night for a cuppa tea. She wasn’t exactly looking that fabulous sitting in her pyjamas with her hair pulled back in a pony-tail, but she and Frank hit it straight off. He was funny. They never exactly went on a date or anything, but after he popped in for a cuppa tea the next night he just never seemed to go home. It was weeks before he said ‘Love you, babe!’

Stop

What do you think ‘love’ is?

If we really want to understand what love is we need to look at the love of God. By understanding the love of God we will understand how to really love each other. If we look at 1 John 4:7-12 we will see what God’s love looks like.

‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us’ (1 John 4:7-12).

The first bit we need to focus on is that love is sacrificial. Now the truth is, we aren’t going to like that because, at the heart of all of us, is a selfish ‘me’ monster. If we are honest that’s not how we see love playing out, is it? For many of us love is about getting something we want, not us sacrificing anything. Yet we can see clearly in verse 9 that God shows His love for us by sending His only Son so that we might love each other and Him the way we are supposed to, through Him. When we think about that a bit more we see that at the centre of God’s love is sacrifice. He is giving up His Son; it is absolutely costly. Love is costly – it always involves us giving of ourselves to another person. That grinds against the little selfish ‘me’ monster who loves to get its own way. We need to be less self-serving and more self-giving. So, what does this look like?

Illustration

Jackie stepped off the bus and trudged along the road. It was raining heavily. ‘PERFECT!’ she thought to herself. She’s exhausted, some woman before her in the queue had a complete meltdown at the store assistant, and in the end they had to call the police. It took ages – if she hadn’t desperately needed gas and electric she’d have left. It’s been a totally horrendous day, she’d had another fight with Frank, she was soaking, the shopping bag handle had snapped, that stupid woman had made her late picking up the kids, and the whole walk home the kids were snapping at each other. She had a banging headache and the day wasn’t even over yet. She was seething about Frank: ‘All he does is play his stupid mind games.’ Her brain was spinning as she went over and over yesterday’s texts, re-reading them several times. ‘One minute he’s texting me saying I’m the only woman he ever really loved and how he’s made a massive mistake, then I see him all over Mary outside the shop! I’m gonna smash her when I see her,’ Jackie’s thoughts raged on. ‘Like I dunno what I saw – I can’t believe the cheek of him telling me he was just chatting with her, like it was all in my head! I’ll “all in my head” him, let’s see how cocky he is when he doesn’t get the kids this week – that’ll wipe the smile off his face. He’s an idiot and I’m done with him completely.’ She seethed all the way up the road. She walked in the door, put the TV on, gave Jake some money for take-out and went straight to her bed.

Maybe every woman reading this illustration is completely hating Frank right now, and every bloke is saying what a psycho Jackie is and how Frank’s well rid of her, but, nothing’s ever that clear cut. Life and the truth are usually far more complicated than the snippet we see here. Jackie is claiming to be a Christian, however, and this should have an impact on how she deals with things.

Stop

Jackie is professing Christ but does that mean she just rolls over and takes Frank’s nonsense? How do you think Jackie should have responded? How well is she loving Frank and the kids?

‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others’ (Phil. 2:3-4).

Stop

Think of the people in your life. Now how often is your love self-serving and selfish? Share an example.

We morph what we think about love with a little bit of truth, a lot of selfishness and bad habits that we have picked up along the way. We convince ourselves this is ‘love’.

We twist it our own way. Our wrong thinking affects how we love those around us.

We see it in the mum who never says ‘no’ to her kid because she thinks that’s how to show love or the husband who’s controlling his missus because he thinks that protecting her.

There are actually thousands of examples of how we have twisted what love looks like. No matter how much we lie to ourselves, if we really think about it, our version of love isn’t that helpful in the long-term to those we care about.

To understand what real love looks like, we need to look at what the Bible says and think through God’s love. Love is part of His being and His character. As we think about God’s love, what love really is, this will show us how to love others well.

Let’s look more closely at these verses from 1 John 4.

‘This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:9-10).

I hinted at it earlier, but straightaway we can’t miss what verse 9 says. God shows His love for us by sending His Son into the world so that we could be saved through Him. At the very centre of God’s love we see that it is sacrificial, self-giving and costly.

That’s mind-blowing when we think about it.

We don’t even like giving up our place in the queue at a super-market for the wee old woman behind us with only three items in her basket, never mind making an actual costly sacrifice.

Wrap your brain around this. For eternity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been together in perfect love. Think of the loss they must have felt when God sent His only Son into the world for us. I know that Christmas cards look all lovely and our Easter cards are a PG-rated version of what really happened, but the truth we see in the Bible is very different. Jesus came to save a people who:

didn’t particularly want Him,
weren’t that thankful,
despised Him,
rejected Him,
humiliated Him
and eventually, after a brutal beating, crucified Him.

Yet God sent Him and Jesus obeyed. That’s love, that’s GREAT SACRIFICIAL LOVE! What we see Jesus do on the cross is die for the sins of His enemies. Romans 5:8 esv says ‘… but God showed his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ That’s a smack in the face to those of us who struggle to love those we actually care about, never mind our enemies. Now that’s a step too far, I hear you say – you ask too much to love like that. But this is how God has loved us. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice by paying the price we owed for our sin. He appeased God’s wrath and turned it away from us. Why? Why would anyone, never mind God, do this for us? Because He loves us. His love shows us truly what love is. It is sacrificial and costly.

Stop

What do you think about the price that God paid for you? Do you think that it was too high a cost?

This should have an impact on our lives. We started this chapter thinking about God’s love so we could understand it more and love better. 1 John 4:11 says, ‘Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.’ When we understand God’s love, we need to pause and think about how we are showing that kind of love to others. Love is not just a fluffy word, it’s a real and active thing. We might even have to love people we find totally annoying and difficult (including that numpty who gets on your nerves – you know the one I’m talking about!).

Stop

How are you supposed to love those that drive you nuts?

If we’re being honest, when it comes to those who drive us nuts, the character flaw that gnaws at us is usually something all too often evident in our own lives. In our heads we might be judging them for being an arrogant so-and-so but, if we look at our own hearts, chances are we are fairly arrogant ourselves. The problem is usually us. The mighty SELF monster has risen and is on the loose again. We need to deal with our own sinful attitudes first.

We need to recognise that love is often a choice.

I know that sounds odd but we need to choose to love others in the light of what Christ did for us. His love was costly and we too need to love at cost to ourselves. Not being self-serving, like Frank was in the illustration earlier, but self-giving. If Frank was really self-giving he’d be helping his wife clean and tidy up every day and not just when he wanted something. Just think about the impact that would have on his wife, his marriage and his family.

I think if we’re being honest this is the hardest bit because it takes effort. We might have to do something we don’t like. We might even have to give up something like our beloved coffee or a take-away on a Saturday night so we can support a church intern.

Stop

What’s your worst-case scenario – what’s the one thing you wouldn’t do?

We need to get over ourselves and our comfort-loving, self-serving, selfish hearts and look to what Jesus did on the cross for us. When we learn to love like Jesus, 1 John 4 tells us that God’s love is shown in the world through us. People see that it’s different, and it says something to them. It’s part of how we witness that God is real in our lives; we share a bit of who God is through the way we love others.

In this book we are thinking about how God is evident in our lives. Jesus says that the world will know that we are His disciples by the way we love one another. Would they see real love if they looked at our lives? What do we need to change to make that more evident to those around us?

Key Point

Love is … to give ourselves sacrificially for the benefit of others just as Christ has done for us.

Memory Verse

‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another’ (1 John 4:10-11).

Summary

We have the wrong idea about love. Most of the time we think it’s about our feelings or even romance. But real love isn’t exactly what we think. Jesus modelled real love for us when He sacrificially died for us. We need to look at Jesus as our example and like Him, sacrificially love people instead of just worrying about

 

Friday 11 September 2020

WHAT POP SONGS SAY ABOUT GOD

“Lonely Days”

The Bee Gees

Lonely days, lonely nights,
Where would I be without my woman?

Backbeat

The Brothers Gibb was a trio consisting of twins Robin and Maurice and their brother Barry. From Manchester, England, they were all under ten when they first performed by singing between features in movie theatres. In 1958 they moved to Brisbane, Australia, and began performing locally under names such as the Blue Cats, the Rattlesnakes, the Gibbs, and finally the Bee Gees in 1963. They experienced little recording success until they moved back to England in 1967 and had their first U.S. chart hit, “The New York Mining Disaster 1941,” which made the Top 15.

Compared to the Beatles at first, especially on their ballads, the Bee Gees had hits on both sides of the Atlantic with their extraordinary voices and trademark harmonies. Their hit string included “Massachusetts,” “I Started a Joke,” “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Jive Talkin’,” and “Lonely Days.”

They reinvented themselves as a disco-funk act in the seventies by composing and singing the sound tracks for the films Saturday Night Fever and Stayin’ Alive. The Saturday Night Fever album broke multiple records for sound track sales, selling more than thirty million copies on its way to being the largest-selling album ever. It contained four number 1 songs, helping to launch the disco-music era in the mid-seventies.

“Lonely Days” is a ballad with soaring vocal harmonies and a powerful orchestral and keyboard backing.

Riff

In some relationships, the partners get so close that they can’t imagine being apart. Their lives have merged, not only socially, but mentally and spiritually. To be without each other is inconceivable. Couples like this prove what God said in creation: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). It’s a lonely life when you’re apart from the one you were meant to be with.

But let’s take that thought out of the romantic realm and into the spiritual. God made us to be in a loving relationship with him. It is not good when people deny this relationship, neglect it, or rebel against it. Without God’s love at the core of our being, it’s a lonely life indeed. But loneliness isn’t the only problem. Without God in our lives, we lack purpose, joy, and hope. A life without God is drab and desperate. There’s no future in it. As the apostle Paul wrote, if there is no eternal life for us to look forward to, then “we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

In another epistle, Paul reminded his readers what life was like before they met the true God. “In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel…. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13).

And that’s the amazing good news. Through faith, we belong to Christ.

Harmonies
Genesis 2:18* Romans 6:21 Ephesians 2:12-13*
2 Chronicles 15:3-4 1 Corinthians 3:9 Ephesians 4:25
Isaiah 65:2, kjv 1 Corinthians 15:19*

 

 

Thursday 10 September 2020

EZEKIEL

False Prophets Condemned – Ezekiel 13:1-23

Open It

      1. For what different reasons do people listen to fortune-tellers and psychics?
      2. When have you refused to face reality in a specific situation?

Explore It

      1. To whom did God tell Ezekiel to prophesy? (13:1-2)
      2. Where did the false prophets get the message they were preaching? (13:2)
      3. What had the prophets of Israel actually seen? (13:3)
      4. To what animal did Ezekiel compare the false prophets? (13:4)
      5. What had the false prophets not done that God expected of His prophets? (13:5)
      6. What verbal “signature” did the prophets use to give their words more weight? (13:6-7)
      7. What attitude did God take toward the false prophets? (13:8)
      8. In what way did the Lord promise to silence the false prophets? (13:9)
      9. With what pleasing message were Israel’s prophets leading the people astray? (13:10)
      10. What did God predict about the flimsy wall covered with whitewash? (13:11-12)
      11. What imagery did God use to portray the fate of the false prophets and their lies? (13:13-16)
      12. What practices did God condemn in the prophetesses of Israel? (13:17-19)
      13. What did God promise to do for the people who had been ensnared by the prophetesses? (13:20-21)
      14. How did the false prophets have justice completely reversed? (13:22)
      15. What would God prove by delivering His people from the false prophets? (13:23)

Get It

      1. Why is it a temptation for human beings to pass off their own ideas as God’s?
      2. What do you suppose the false prophets were telling the people of Jerusalem about their relationship with Babylon and their hope for the future?
      3. Why should we be wary of any Christian teacher who makes us feel complacent and self-satisfied?
      4. What forms of “flimsy, whitewashed walls” do you see being offered today for material or spiritual security?
      5. If the prophets were at fault for leading the people astray, for what weakness of character did God hold the people responsible?
      6. Why do we prefer to deliver good and flattering news rather than painful and difficult news?

Apply It

      1. What false security offered to you by the world should you renounce before God in order to remain faithful to Him?
      2. How can you be sure that, when you speak the Word of the Lord, you are accurate to His intent?

 

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Ha-Ha And Cha-Cha: Laughing And Dancing

Laughing and dancing aren’t bad things… are they? Considering what passes for “comedy” today in TV and movies and the type of dancing seen in pop-music videos, you might wonder. Well, the Bible doesn’t condemn laughing or dancing. In fact, the Bible is very much “pro-joy.” Some verses in the Bible provide the assurance that victims of oppressors will someday weep instead of laugh. On the other hand, much of the laughter spoken of in the Bible isn’t the ha-ha laughter of relief or merriment, but the cruel laughter of mockery. And though dancing is usually associated with innocent merrymaking, in a few memorable instances, dancing was connected to some really horrible events.

      1. Who was snickered at for claiming that a dead girl was only asleep?
      2. What woman’s entrancing dance proved fatal for John the Baptist?
      3. Who danced with all his might when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem, then was cut down to size by his catty wife?
      4. Who laughed when she heard she would bear a son in her old age?
      5. Whose ill-fated daughter came out dancing after his victory over the Ammonites?
      6. Who had his decree for a Passover celebration laughed at by the men of Israel?
      7. What is the only book in the Bible to mention God laughing?
      8. Which Epistle tells Christians to turn their laughter to mourning?
      9. According to Psalm 126, what caused laughter among the Jews?
      10. What old man laughed at God’s promise that he would father a child in his old age?
      11. What group of enemies were busy dancing and partying when David caught up with them?
      12. What famous idol did the Israelites dance in front of while Moses was away?
      13. What book of the Bible says there is a time to weep and a time to laugh?
      14. To whom in the Beatitudes does Jesus promise laughter?
      15. What book of the Bible says that even in laughter the heart can be sorrowful?
      16. In a famous event in Elijah’s life, who danced wildly around the altar of their false god?
      17. What book of the Bible says, “Our dance is turned into mourning”?
      18. According to Job, whose children dance about and make music?
      19. What Old Testament character’s name means “laughter”?
      20. Complete this verse from Psalms: “Thou hast turned my _____ into dancing.”
      21. What book of the Bible says that laughter is foolishness?
      22. Which prophet told King Hezekiah that Jerusalem would laugh at the mighty conqueror Sennacherib?
      23. What book of the Bible says that “the just upright man is laughed to scorn”?
      24. Complete this verse from Ecclesiastes: “As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the____.”
      25. Who laughed at Nehemiah’s plans to rebuild Jerusalem?

Ha-Ha And Cha-Cha: Laughing And Dancing (Answers)

 

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Women of Grace No 5

The Grace to Have Courage

Esther 4:15-5:8

Setting the Stage:

The Ms. Clyde Caper and Phil’s Revenge had diminished in Katherine’s mind by the time she went to work on Monday. She was thinking only of what she would say to Shannon, who had taken on a new identity as Gillian’s mother.

Shannon’s attitude toward Katherine was sullen but no different from last week. Apparently, she didn’t keep track of Gillian’s friends.

All morning Katherine wondered how to approach her coworker. She rehearsed her reasons for not wanting Sarah to watch those movies and why she preferred that the girls come to Sarah’s house. But how would Shannon respond? Finally toward noon she swallowed her fear and said, “Shannon, could I talk to you about something?”

“Not about your religion,” Shannon snapped.

The comment, like the slamming of a door, said volumes that Katherine hadn’t heard before. With a quick prayer for wisdom, Katherine shifted her approach. “What are you doing after work?” she asked. “How about going for coffee or a sandwich or something? My family can take care of themselves for one evening!”

Katherine refrained from laughing at the expression on Shannon’s face. My face must have looked like that when Sarah told me you’re Gillian’s mother, she thought.

After work Katherine dashed in the door. “Pray for me, will you?” she asked Brad. “I’m just going to change clothes and go meet Shannon.”

“Okay. Pray for me,” Brad replied. “I got a call from Sims Company. Remember I applied there and hadn’t heard anything? Well, there’s an opening now. I’m interviewing on Thursday!”

Katherine nearly danced out the door. For a moment her fear of Shannon was forgotten.

Over soup and a sandwich, Katherine launched her appeal. “Did you know that your daughter and my daughter are friends? My daughter is Sarah. She was over at your house Saturday.”

“Oh, yeah, Gillie said she had somebody over. I was asleep. You know I work another job weekend nights.”

“You do? I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah. I’d like to quit it, but I can’t since her dad’s one of those deadbeats who doesn’t pay me what he’s supposed to.”

Katherine took a spoonful of soup and then a bite of sandwich to give herself time to think. She had never considered that Shannon’s life might be tough. No wonder she constantly complained—she had real hurts. Was it time yet to bring up the subject of movies? No, not yet.

“How long has it been since you were divorced?” she asked.

“Huh? Oh, we’re not divorced. We were never married. I wanted to get married but he didn’t. It’s a long story.”

Yes, a very long story. Too long for this conversation. “Shannon, Brad and I really want to know the families of our kids’ friends. Why don’t you and Gillie come over some time? The adults can visit, and the girls can—watch movies. We’ve got some really good movies that . . .” Katherine was stumbling. It was okay. She’d explain more about their values when Shannon was in their home.

Shannon looked at Katherine a moment as if trying to figure her out. Then she shrugged. “Sure. I never go anywhere—just work all the time.” Her eyes narrowed. “Old Clyde won’t be there, will she?”

      1. What do you think of the wisdom of Katherine’s approach to Shannon?
      2. What strategies has God led you to use to approach people in touchy situations?
God’s Word for Us

Read Esther 4:15-5:8.

      1. How did Esther plan to prepare herself for the challenge of going in to see the king unannounced (Esther 4:15-16)?
      2. What does the fact that she enlisted help from others tell you about Esther?
      3. How would you paraphrase Esther’s statement “And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16)?
      4. Does Esther’s statement strike you as faith or fatalism? Why?
      5. Compare Esther’s response to crisis with your own response:

___ Like Esther, I hesitate to do anything until I have other people’s prayer support.

___ I don’t take action until I have clear guidance from God.

___ I act impulsively, sometimes forgetting to pray first.

___ I often hang back in fear; I wish I had more faith.

___ I avoid dealing with crises; I just hope they’ll go away.

___ Other:

      1. What was the outcome of Esther’s unannounced appearance before the king (Esther 5:1-3)?
      2. When the king offered to grant Esther any request she made, we would expect her to immediately beg him to cancel his order against the Jews. Instead, she invited him to two banquets. What reasons might she have had for putting the king off (Esther 5:4, 8)?
      3. In her approach to the king, Esther displayed a balance of caution and courage. What unfortunate results can come from caution without courage?

courage without caution?

      1. When the Lord calls you to a special task, are you more prone to react with courage (minus caution) or caution (minus courage)?
      2. For what situation right now do you need the right mixture of courage and caution?
 Now or Later

In some area of your life the Lord is calling you to obey him in faith. Obedience may not mean risking your physical life as Esther did, but it is bound to cost you something in time, convenience, status, finances and/or energy.

Identify the challenge which God is placing before you. Spell out the risks, just as Esther did to Mordecai. Naming your fears can take some of the dread out of them.

If you don’t think you are ready yet to meet the challenge, honestly lay your attitude before the Lord. Consider the strategy and approach you would use if you were ready. Tell God you are willing to have your mind and heart changed. Thank him for his mercy and patience.

If you feel ready and willing to meet the challenge, tell the Lord so and ask for his grace to carry out what you need to do. Enlist the prayer support of others in your group, or make plans to enlist others’ prayer support.

Write out and prayerfully consider the first step toward meeting this challenge

Make a list of possible results.

Plan for a possible next step, depending on which of those results happens.

For further study read 2 Tim. 1:3-12. Paul apparently sensed that his young protégé Timothy was struggling with fear. His words to Timothy can be God’s words to us now and in any frightening situation.

 

Monday 7 September 2020

GROWING DISCIPLES / MINISTERING TO OTHERS 4

Week 4: Networking at Church to Extend Your Reach

“Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.”Ecclesiastes 4:9

Phil Butler was leading a workshop on partnering in ministry. After the session he saw a man weeping. Expecting that the man had experienced a great tragedy, Butler offered a handkerchief. “Are you alright?” he asked. Butler was surprised when the man explained that these were tears of joy. “I’ve finally seen how my life fits into the whole picture of God’s work here. For the first time in my life, I see that I have a real role along with others in God’s plan.” When you minister to others, you don’t have to work alone. You can join hands with others to have a greater impact for the Kingdom.

LEARNING GOALS

This week you will—

      • describe the Kingdom impact believers can have by ministering together;
      • identify the strategic role of the church in meeting ministry needs;
      • recognize the importance of connecting acts of ministry with the good news;
      • learn how God has wired you to minister with other believers;
      • discover ways to network with others to extend your ministry reach.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 4

Day 1: The Impact of Working Together
Day 2: It All Begins at Church
Day 3: Connecting Good Works and Good News
Day 4: Uniquely You
Day 5: Get on Board!

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

Ecclesiastes 4:9

Day 1: The Impact of Working Together

God’s Word for Today

“What is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Now the one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to God’s grace that was given to me, as a skilled master builder I have laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it.”—1 Corinthians 3:5-10

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

In the weeks after the flood waters receded in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, I (Richard) met with association, church, and civic leaders to address the fact that 606 churches of all denominations were not functioning and that most of the 903 functioning churches were operating in other locations with only part of their membership. The Lord gave us a plan to divide the area south of Lake Pontchartrain into 27 areas. Southern Baptist Convention partners would become area managers and would work with the churches in a specific area to rebuild church buildings, homes, and lives.

Eight Southern Baptist state conventions and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary took responsibility for the seven most heavily damaged areas. Operation Noah Rebuild, the Baptist CrossRoads Project, and other ministries brought volunteers to the other areas. Through this partnership, volunteer organizations did what God had designed each to do and did together what they could not do independently. As a result, thousands of volunteers were deployed in a strategic manner to make a real difference.

Identify a time when you or your church ministered with others.

Reread 1 Corinthians 3:5-10 above. Write T for true or F for false beside the following statements.

T F a. You are responsible for the salvation of lost individuals.
T F b. Evangelism is better viewed as a process, not an event.
T F c. No individual role in bringing people to faith in Christ is of greater value than another.
T F d. All of your efforts have no effect if God doesn’t act.
T F e. Your contribution to the salvation process is not of your own doing; it is a gift from God.
T F f. God will reward those who share the gospel.
T F g. You must be careful to minister effectively.
T F h. What you contribute to the evangelism process through ministry to others impacts the effectiveness of others.

 

Paul’s vision for ministry involves many people in serving others with the gifts God has given them. Although each person plays a different role in the process, all work for the common goal of bringing others to a knowledge of Christ. Nevertheless, all results come from God. We are coworkers with Him, but only He “gives the growth” (v. 7).

Read Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 below. Check the things you can expect when you work with others.

7I saw futility under the sun: 8There is a person without a companion, without even a son or brother, and though there is no end to all his struggles, his eyes are still not content with riches. ‘So who am I struggling for,’ he asks, ‘and depriving myself from good?’ This too is futile and a miserable task. 9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. 11Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? 12And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”—Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

Support
Freedom to do things your way
Distraction
Strength
Mutual benefit
A good reward
Futility
Other: _____________________

This week’s memory verse comes from this passage. Write verse 9 here.

Working with others in ministry provides greater strength, focus, and support. Consider the greater impact you can make by ministering with others in the body of Christ.

Last week you began to assess needs around you and to respond to ministry opportunities God had given to you. This week you will look for opportunities to network with someone who is serving others.

Today join a family member who routinely provides a service to your family and talk with him or her about the way God designed us to serve others.

If you live alone, look for an opportunity at work to help someone complete a project. Talk to him or her about the value of doing things together.

Use “My Observation Journal” below to record the person’s response, what God said to you through this experience, and what you are going to do in response.

Pray about your current ministry involvement. Do you need to bring others into your ministry or join someone else in ministry?

My Observation Journal

 

Day 2: It All Begins at Church

God’s Word for Today

“In the local church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.’ Then, after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.”—Acts 13:1-3

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

Before God called me (Richard) to preach, our family was part of a great church in Louisiana. I was the director of a Young Adult Sunday School department that presented many opportunities to minister to others. We had an expanding list of families to connect with who were not part of our church, as well as opportunities to meet needs and share Christ with the family members of persons in our department.

I recall one member whose husband was not a church member. Mike had cancer, so I regularly visited him in the hospital and read to him from the Bible. He was often in great pain, and the words of Scripture seemed to bring him comfort. If not for my church and my Sunday School department, I would not have had the opportunity to serve Mike in Jesus’ name.

Review Acts 13:1-3 above and answer these questions.

What types of leaders had God placed in the church at Antioch?

What were these leaders doing when the Holy Spirit spoke?

Whom did the Holy Spirit select for a particular ministry?

Acts 13:1-3 teaches us at least four things about the impact of the local church in ministering to others.

      1. God places leaders in the body of Christ (see v. 1).
      2. In the local church we connect to other believers for ministry (see v. 2a).
      3. The Holy Spirit looks in the church to identify individuals to carry out new ministry (see v. 2b).
      4. The church is the agent for advancing new ministry to others (see v. 3).

Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us that God places leaders in the body to equip the members for the work of service that leads to the building up of the body.

“He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.”—Ephesians 4:11-12

Because you are part of the body, you can marshal the church’s resources to meet specific needs.

God is a God of presence. When Jesus was on earth, He was present as God in the flesh. Because Jesus now lives in His people, the church is God’s expression of Himself on earth. Not all ministry settings have a direct church connection, but wherever you see a need—at work, in the community, or among your family and friends—you are God’s means of putting these persons in contact with the body of Christ. Because you are part of the body, you can marshal the church’s resources to meet specific needs.

What ministry resources does the body of Christ provide that you cannot provide alone?

Your church can provide people—people to pray, to join you in ministry, to hold you accountable, to provide material resources you don’t have, and to connect with individuals as they respond to Jesus Christ. You don’t have to minister alone, nor did God intend for you to.

Identify ministry actions sponsored by your church that allow members to serve one another.

Identify ministry actions sponsored by your church that allow members to serve people in the community.

How much does your church do to equip the body to minister?

Very little
Occasional training
Consistent equipping

How often does your church involve members in ministry?

Rarely
Occasionally
Frequently

With whom in your church can you network to minister to someone this week? What will you do to minister together this week? To whom will you minister?

Update “My Ministry List” on page 92 after you have ministered. Use “My Observation Journal” below to record the response to your ministry.

My Observation Journal

Day 3: Connecting Good Works and Good News

God’s Word for Today

“In Lystra a man without strength in his feet, lame from birth, and who had never walked, sat and heard Paul speaking. After observing him closely and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul said in a loud voice, ‘Stand up straight on your feet!’ And he jumped up and started to walk around. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in the form of men!’ The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their robes when they heard this and rushed into the crowd, shouting: ‘Men! Why are you doing these things? We are men also, with the same nature as you, and we are proclaiming good news to you, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them.'”—Acts 14:8-11, 14-16

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

In July 2006 Jim Shankula, the border-ministry coordinator for Shadow Mountain Community Church, led a group of 12 volunteers to participate in Feeding Those Who Feed Us, a ministry to migrant workers sponsored by the California Baptist Convention. The staff at Shadow Mountain had been praying about how the church’s participation would fit into its strategic plan to reach people with the gospel through missions around the world.

After receiving assurance that evangelism would be connected to the acts of kindness and that a Hispanic church close to the migrant camp would follow up with those who were reached, the church joined the state’s effort. When Shadow Mountain worked with other churches to connect good works and good news, the people in the migrant camp were moved by the unconditional love shown by the team and by God’s Word. Seventy-one invited Jesus to come into their lives.

Ministry is incomplete if it doesn’t lead to a communication of the gospel. When you meet someone’s physical needs, always be ready to introduce them to Jesus, the only One who can meet their spiritual needs.

Refer to “God’s Word for Today” above and check the things Paul did to meet the man’s need.

Assessed his need
Shared the gospel
Healed him

Paul did all of these things and more! Paul’s example provides a pattern for connecting good works and good news.

      • Paul came near (see v. 9).
      • Paul observed the man and assessed his need (see v. 9).
      • Paul invited the man to take a step of faith and met a need (see v. 10).
      • Paul connected the gospel to the ministry (see vv. 14-16).

A story is told about retired professional baseball player Hank Aaron. During a crucial game the catcher of the opposing team attempted to distract Hank’s attention by carrying on an unusual amount of conversation. Not having much luck, the catcher said, “Hank, you have the bat turned wrong. You can’t read the label.” He kept up the chatter about the label for several pitches until Hank hit the ball out of the park. After rounding the bases and crossing home plate, Hank said to the catcher, “I didn’t come here to read.”

Always keep in mind the reason you are ministering. Are you using the opportunity to invite someone to consider the good news? When ministering to others, always ask these three questions.

      1. How do you connect the gospel to your intentional acts of kindness? Believing in Christ is the ultimate goal.
      2. How do you connect new believers to the body of Christ? Becoming a member of the local body means new believers have to make a commitment and the local body of Christ has to accept them into the family.
      3. How do you engage new believers in ministry to others in their community? This may be the most difficult of the three because it requires participation in the fellowship and involves the new believer in the life of the church outside the four walls.

Assess the way you and your church make these connections. Place a number in each blank, with 1 being ineffective and 5 being effective.

You Your Church
Connecting ministry to the gospel
Connecting new believers to the body
Engaging new believers in ministry

 

James 1:22 reminds us that communicating the gospel involves both word and deed. Acting and speaking complement each other. Serving is to acting as a complete gospel presentation is to speaking. Acting without serving is incomplete, and speaking without getting to the truth about Jesus Christ is incomplete.

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

During the past three weeks you have made service your vehicle for ministry. Now make sure you connect individuals to Jesus. Start practicing the three-step outline on this page. Use “My Observation Journal” below to record what you discover this week. Update “My Ministry List” on page 92 when you minister or share the gospel.

Practice saying this week’s memory verse, Ecclesiastes 4:9, out loud.

My Observation Journal

Watch and Pray

As you become more intentional about sharing Christ when you minister, also be more intentional about praying as you approach ministry opportunities. Pray that God will open the person’s eyes to see Jesus in your actions and will open their heart to receive the good news.

Day 4: Uniquely You

God’s Word for Today

“The body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. So the body is not one part but many. But now God has placed the parts, each one of them, in the body just as He wanted. So the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, all the more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.—1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18, 21-22

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

In the movie The Rookie the main character, Jim Morris, wrestles with the disappointment of an unsatisfied life. The movie is the true-life account of Texas high-school chemistry teacher and baseball coach Jim Morris, whose lifetime ambition to play professional ball returns in the form of his dormant fastball. He is torn between his love for his family and his desire to fulfill his dreams. The drama that weaves itself through the movie is captured emotionally in the disconnect that exists between Morris and the people who mean the most to him as he pursues his ambition.

As Morris works through his decision about returning to the major league, he seeks affirmation from his estranged father. It comes in a very tense scene when his father releases him by saying, “It’s OK to do what you want to do, but there comes a time to do what you were meant to do.”

Review “God’s Word for Today” above and fill in the blanks.

      1. There is _______ body but ___________ parts.
      2. We were baptized by one ______________ into one body.
      3. ______ has placed the parts in the body just as He wanted.
      4. All of the parts of the body are _________________________.

Although the body of Christ is one, it is composed of many parts, just like the human body. God places the parts in the body of Christ according to His purposes. This means in fulfilling the mission of the church, God has prepared a place for you and you for a place. He has a purpose He wants you to fulfill through the body in which He has placed you. Do you know what you were meant to do as part of the body of Christ?

Completing the following inventory will give you insight into the way God has wired you for ministry through His body.

When you have unrestricted time, how do you normally choose to spend it?

When given a choice, which would you rather do?

Interact with people
Do something on your own
Direct others to do things

What one thing can you do that someone else might ask you to teach them to do?

Is there a particular group of individuals with whom it seems natural for you to interact? If so, who are they?

What skills come naturally to you?

Do you have resources you are willing to use for the benefit of others?

When you meet people for the first time, do you wonder about their relationship with Jesus Christ?

Yes
No

Do you regularly set aside time to pray for people?

Yes
No

Do you find it easy to tell someone about changes God is leading you to make in your life?

Yes
No

Read “Equipped to SERVE” and “My SERVE Profile” on pages 1014. Plan to use the recommended tools to learn more about your gifts, skills, and passion.

Identify opportunities you have to minister with others below. These may be ministries promoted by your church, needs you identified earlier in this study, or ideas in “Community Organizations and Agencies” on page 105. For each ministry you list below, check the feature that attracts you to it—an ability you have; your passion; the leader; or its strategic nature, that is, something that needs to be done. Select the ministry you would most like to meet by networking with one or more believers. Enlist these individuals and carry out the ministry. Record the results in “My Observation Journal” below. Remember to update “My Ministry List” when you minister.

Potential Ministry Opportunities

Ministry: ________________

Ability
Passion
Individual leading
Strategic

Ministry: ________________

Ability
Passion
Individual leading
Strategic

Ministry: ________________

Ability
Passion
Individual leading
Strategic

My Observation Journal

Watch and Pray

Spend time in prayer with the ministry partner(s) you have enlisted.

“The apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles had welcomed God’s message also. When Peter went up to Jerusalem, those who stressed circumcision argued with him, saying, ‘You visited uncircumcised men and ate with them!’ Peter began to explain to them in an orderly sequence. When they heard this they became silent. Then they glorified God, saying, ‘So God has granted repentance resulting in life to even the Gentiles!’ Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one except the Jews. But there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. Then he [Barnabas] went to Tarsus to search for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers, and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”—Acts 11:1-4, 18-21, 25-26

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

Experience in the mission of the church draws others to work in the mission. Avery Willis once said to me (Richard), “When I first began to write discipleship material, the model for involvement followed this pattern: read about it, have feelings about it, and then experience it. The model has changed to: experience it, have feelings about it, and possibly want to read about it.”

Whether you are actively ministering to others by serving them or you are still thinking about it, the objective for this week is to join someone who is currently serving others. If this is a first for you, a partner will make it easier for you to adopt someone else’s problem as your problem. If you are currently engaged in ministry, you need to experience what it is like joining someone who is doing it. In both instances God wants to teach you something and bring some changes in your life.

Change is what Acts 11 is all about. Reread “God’s Word for Today” and underline the occasions when someone faced a change.

Remember two things about the changes you identified in Acts 11:

      1. A group of people received the gospel who previously had no access.
      2. Two men worked together to take the gospel to them.

Write the name of the group who received the gospel.

Write the names of the men.

Identify some changes God has brought in your life since you started ministering to others.

Not everyone wants to make immediate changes. There are always early adopters, middle adopters, late adopters, and never adopters. So where are you in the matter of ministry to others?

Check your predominant reaction to the idea of networking with other believers to minister. Does the prospect of joining someone in order to serve others—

excite you?
make you anxious?
convict you?
fulfill you?
Other:

The fact that you are reading and applying this material indicates that you are ready to act.

In week 1 you observed persons who are serving others. Write the names of believers God might want you to join with to minister to someone.

Read Psalm 5:1-3 below. David laid his requests before God on a daily basis and then waited for God to answer. Spend time in prayer asking God to—

“Listen to my words, Lord; consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to You. At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly.”—Psalm 5:1-3

      • show you where He wants you to join someone in ministry;
      • give you boldness to talk to the individual today;
      • show you what you need to do to get started.

As we said earlier, experience in the mission of the church draws others to work in the mission. As you work with others in the body of Christ, you will be able to do far more for the Kingdom than you could alone.

Record your memory verse for this week, Ecclesiastes 4:9.

What differences have you observed when ministering with others that you haven’t experienced when ministering alone? Record your response in “My Observation Journal” below.

My Observation Journal

Session 4: Networking at Church to Extend Your Reach

Opening Prayer

Learning Goals

You will—

      • describe the Kingdom impact believers can have by ministering together;
      • identify the strategic role of the church in meeting ministry needs;
      • recognize the importance of connecting acts of ministry with the good news;
      • learn how God has wired you to minister with other believers;
      • discover ways to network with others to extend your ministry reach.

Reviewing Week 4

      1. In pairs or triads take turns reciting your Scripture-memory verse, Ecclesiastes 4:9. What implications does this verse have for ministry to others? What are the rewards for your effort?
      2. Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-10. Share and discuss answers to the true/false activity (activity 2) on page 52. Identify various roles that might contribute to someone’s decision to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. Is any role in the body of Christ more important than any other? Who actually brings someone to a knowledge of Christ?
      3. How can the body of Christ provide more effective ministry than an individual can? Give examples of ways your church ministers together.
      4. Read Acts 13:1-3 and review the numbered statements at the bottom of page 54. In what ways does the church embody God’s presence in the world? How faithfully does your church do that?
      5. Discuss how much of your church’s ministry is directed to church members and how much is directed to the lost community.
      6. Why is it so important to connect acts of ministry with a clear communication of the gospel? How did Paul do that in Acts 14:8-16?
      7. Review the three questions on page 57. Share your answers to activity 2 on that page to evaluate how you and your church connect ministry to the gospel, connect new believers to the body, and engage new believers in ministry. Give examples of any ways you have done these things.
      8. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-22 and share your answers to activity 1 on page 58. How does your church demonstrate that every member of the body is important?
      9. Share the results of the inventory you completed on pages 5859 (activity 2). What are the implications for the way you network with other believers to minister?
      10. What did you learn about your gifts and skills for ministry from “Equipped to SERVE” (pp. 101-3) and “My SERVE Profile” (p. 104)?
      11. What ministries did you identify on page 59 that you would like to participate in? Why were you drawn to these? How are you uniquely designed for these? Is there a particular ministry you feel God is calling you to? If you had to identify a ministry God meant for you to do, what would it be?
      12. Discuss this statement: “Experience in the mission of the church draws others to work in the mission” (p. 60). Are you ready to join other believers to minister? If so, what do you need to do as a first step? If you are not ready, what changes are needed to position you for ministry?

Ministering to Others

      1. Share the results of the ministry action you committed to in the previous group session (p. 49). Were you able to share the gospel?
      2. Share any ministry partners you have joined with this week in ministry. What were the results? How did people respond to your ministry? What was different about being involved with another believer in ministry?
      3. Review “Community Organizations and Agencies” on page 105. Which might be suitable for you or your church to partner with in ministry?

Praying Together

      1. Pray for individuals on your ministry list who have been mentioned.
      2. Pray for participants in these ways.
        • God’s direction as participants seek the ministries He has equipped them to fulfill
        • Ministry partners and particular avenues of ministry
        • Any uncertainties participants have expressed about ministering with other believers
        • The filling of the Spirit as participants move out in ministry

Sunday 6 September 2020

How to Maintain the Life of Victory

Joshua 24:14-22

I have often said that Jesus didn’t come to offer us an easy life but eternal life; nevertheless it is God’s plan that we should have a full life in this world as Jesus said in the Gospel of  John 10:10 (ANIV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

My friends, in our reading, Joshua is an old man and he was soon to be gathered to his fathers in the faith in glory, but before then; he still had work to do, and nothing was more important than seeking to ensure that the people of faith, chosen by God himself would not be evicted from the Promised land; for then as today, the Promised land  stands for the victorious life.

My friends! Remember this well. That victorious Life is intended for everyone who has bent the knee at the throne of grace in receiving Jesus as LORD and Saviour in their life, and Jesus reminds you today as he reminds me how  we can keep our victory in continuing to walk with Christ.

Listen to what the Apostle John says in his second letterWatch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.

Why?

Because the devil wants us to lose the victory that is represented by the land of Israel.

My  friends this isn’t a hypothetical possibility. It is definite REALITY, and I see the signs of it in this pandemic as it has shaken many of the people of FAITH to the core, as well as shaken those of NO FAITH at all, and the words of Jesus in Luke 18:8 seem very relevant for the days in which we live when Jesus said: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”.

Therefore  in order to keep the victory that is ours; we need to maintain a REVERENCE FOR GOD; in these days of trial in which we live

Listen to what God says in Joshua 24:13-14

13  So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’
14  “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. “

My friends! The Bible speaks of TWO types of FEAR

There is the Fear that the world understands as being fear and the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about that when he said to him: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

The conquest of that type of fear is part of our victory in Christ.

Yet the Bible has far more to say about the second type of fear. The fear of Lord which rightly is described as Reverence for the LORD.  

Time and time again, the psalmist writes about this fear which is reverence for the LORD. For instance in psalm 115 he says:

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;

My friends reverence isn’t a Superstitious fear  like we see on the faces of gargoyles high up on cathedral walls, and it isn’t Slavish fear that causes us to think of God as an all powerful tyrant.

Reverential fear is a Sanctified fear and its foundation is LOVE.  As someone said: The fear of God is love on its knees.

Out of love we don’t want to do those things which displease him and in part it is illustrated in a the awe and reverence that a child has for a loving but firm parent.

Yet in its whole,  it is to live life being consumed by His holiness and an illustration of this kind of fear is when Jesus stilled the storm.

You remember that the disciples were in fear of their life during the storm but when the storm was stilled at the word of Christ, they were consumed by reverence, and asked what sort of man is this that even the wind listen to his voice.

The answer is of course the Son of Man who is the Son of God.

So there we find two kinds of fears that day – the first fear was condemned. It was faithless and cowardly and the second fear was reverential awe..

The evangelist Gypsy Smith started to preach at 17 and at died in harness at 87. He said, I didn’t know any more about theology than a jackrabbit knew about ping pong.

When he was advised to learn to sing from his diaphragm, Gypsy replied that he didn’t want to sing from his diaphragm but from his heart.

When he was asked about his freshness and vigour in his old age, he said, “I have never lost the wonder.”

My friends Both Love and WONDER is at the heart of Reverence for God.

Indeed, the wonder is that sense of awe that however great you think God is in your heart, you know that he is immeasurably more.

2. Secondly,  in order to keep  the victory that is ours in Christ we need Godly RESOLVE

Joshua reminds the people:

14  “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.
15  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

My friends, the essence of what Joshua is saying is that need to serve God reverentially and sincerely.

For me, 1 Cor. 6:19-20 gives us an insight into reverential sincerity whereby we can have no excuse as to what it means. There the Apostle Paul  said:

19  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
20  you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.

In other words, our service for the LORD should not be out of any selfish motive. It shouldn’t be an outer façade whereby we go through the motions of serving God without having a true relationship of  love with God. That became the sin of the church at Ephesus. They did so much well, but they lost their first love. It shouldn’t be on the basis of being a saint on Sunday and being worldly for the rest of the week. That is no more than hypocrisy.

Our service unto the LORD should be is to serve the LORD as one whose life is no longer your own . It is a life surrendered to His lordship. It is a life consumed by his presence. It is to have a life whereby self becomes less and Jesus continuously becomes more.

My friends, let us be careful that during this pandemic we fail the test  of Jesus continuing to become more in our life.

If  Jesus becomes more in our life then we will not settle for anything less than worshipping him in the spirit and in truth.

To worship the LORD and serve Him in spirit and truth will make you a fundamentalist; in many peoples eyes. They will say that it makes you a legalist, a bigot and unloving but contrary to what society says, being a fundamentalist isn’t going to make you a legalist, a bigot and unloving. Rather,   it will make you a beautiful Christian, who loves more; become less censorious in making valued judgments; and honouring Gods Law as you will take God at His Word.

My friends! In taking God at His Word you will desire to serve the LORD steadfastly, and as with Joshua, You will on be prepared to stand alone.

In fact it is summed up in a gift that was given to a preacher I know. The gift was inscribed by his church:

His ministry was established on a reverence for the righteousness of God and not on a fear of men.

Our service is to stand against the growing tide of the age whereby more and more people hold that truth is relative, and that all faiths leads to God.

It is to hold that Jesus alone is the Truth. Jesus alone is the way. Jesus alone is the Life and that every other way and truth is nothing more than a lie.

This is what the people of God have always been called to do.

Noah stood alone – he was called a bigot and a fool, no doubt.

Elijah stood alone on Mt. Carmel before 450 prophets of Baal.

Amos stood alone in the courtroom at Bethel.

My friends! What churches need today is preachers of conviction. We don’t need new innovations. We need sincerity, we need conviction. We need the Old Gospel.

That is what .William Booth was the founder of The Salvation Army did. He was hauled like a criminal before the religionists of the church of England and denounced for his ministry and told in no uncertain terms that they would rescind his right to preach if he didn’t change.

Catherine his wife  cried out “William, say no! Say no!” He did and consequently he continued to live a life of victory and in the process the world has been blessed.

Finally in order to live the victorious life we need CONTINUOUS REPENTANCE

My friends, there are always the weeds of that old life that want to sprout again. Old gods want to come back into our life. The people of Israel had been taken out of Egypt but Joshua knew that Egypt was still in the people.

When I fought God about my calling to ministry, I went through all the sins before God , and I felt they were sufficient to bar me from becoming a preacher, and the quiet voice of God came back: Yes you did all of these sin and others sins that you have forgotten, but I want you anyway.

All these years later, though my sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ, the remembrance of my sins are for me ever before me and I cringe. Yet, grace prevails and I continue to minister within his will because I love him who first loved me.

Yet just like you; just like Joshua I have to make a daily choice. Who will I serve. My friends, I trust that you and I will say as for me I will serve the LORD. 

But as with Joshua we need to remember that if our service is to be more than words, our service needs to be done in his power.

This is why Joshua said to the people, Joshua 24:19-22 “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20  If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” 21  But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.” 22  Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

      1. God is holy.
      2. God is jealous.
      3. God is righteous.

You had better learn to submit your helplessness to God’s omnipotence.

In reality living in victory and maintaining victory is not your responsibility. It is your response to his availability

And He is available to us. He says: Search for me and you will find me.

The righteousness of the law is not fulfilled by us, but fulfilled in us.

SO HOLD ON TO THE VICTORIOUS LIFE  THAT IS OURS IN CHRIST. It is more valuable than Gold.

SO CONTINUE TO BE  what you and I are called to be:THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD

Amen

 

Saturday 5 September 2020

      1. How Does the Bible Point to Jesus?

What’s the Point?

Jesus is rightly exalted and we must trust in Him for Salvation.

The entire Bible is about Jesus.

Stop

Reenie asks, ‘How does that work? Jesus doesn’t appear until the New Testament.’

What do you think? Do you agree with Reenie?

Let’s take a look at Hebrews 1:1-3.

‘Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high’ (Heb. 1:1-3).

These verses from Hebrews begin by splitting history into two parts: long ago and these last days. An easy way to track the two time periods is by the two parts of the Bible, these are the,

Old and New Testaments

The writer of Hebrews begins by reminding his readers that God has been graciously communicating and revealing Himself to His people for thousands of years. The phrase, ‘at many times in many ways’ is talking about the different books and authors of the Old Testament.

The phrase, ‘the last days’ are marked by the coming of God’s Son Jesus. These verses from chapter one in the book of Hebrews tell us that Jesus is the great theme of the whole Bible and that He is the heir of all things. Let’s spend the rest of the chapter thinking about this.

Jesus is the Heir of all things.

Stop

What do you think the word ‘heir’ means?
The phrase, ‘heir of all things’ means that
Jesus is the one who owns everything in the end.
He’s the one who will inherit everything at the end of time.
That includes each of us.

Reenie

Reenie says, ‘Wait just a wee second now. Jesus owns me? No one owns me, not even Pete!’ What would you say to Reenie about this?

We must understand that Jesus is the owner and heir of everything and

everyone that exists,
will exist or
has existed.

But, there’s more.

Jesus is the Full and Final Revelation of God

‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature’ (Heb. 1:3).

This is a verse that can seem a bit strange at first. But, the author is telling us that Jesus, the Son of God, is the perfect, full and final revelation of God. Jesus is the mirror image of God the Father. That’s what the author means by, ‘the exact expression of his nature’.

From the start of this book we have been saying that the Bible exists because God desires to reveal Himself to us. He desires us to know what He is like and what He has done. We noticed at the beginning of the book that He is a speaking God. He has spoken most clearly through His Son.

Jesus the Son of God is
the Second person of the Godhead (Trinity)
He became a man

in order

to show us God and
save us from our sin.

In John 1, the apostle John explains it like this:

‘No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side – he has revealed him’ (John 1:18).

If we want to know what God is like, we need to look at Jesus of Nazareth.

Stop

Revelation may be a strange word to us. What do you think it means that Jesus is the full revelation of God?

The Scriptures are absolutely certain on this fact: Jesus is the one and only saviour of sinners. We can’t reject God and think He is going to give us another way to be saved from His anger. We are either on Jesus’ team or we are under His wrath. There is no third way. If we reject the Lord Jesus while we live here on earth, then He will reject us when we meet Him in death.

Stop

Where do you stand with regard to the gospel of Jesus? If you aren’t trusting Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, then what is your trust in?

The apostle Paul writes:

‘There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time’ (1 Tim. 2:5-6).

Stop

This is deadly serious. There is nothing more important in the world right now. If we do not stand with Jesus, then we are destined for hell. If you are a Christian, then take some time right now to pray for the souls of your family and friends.

In the Book of Revelation Jesus tells John this in Revelation 1:8, ‘“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”’

But, there’s more we need to know about Jesus.

Jesus Is the Creator

‘God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him’ (Heb. 1:2).

Jesus is the creator of the universe. Everything that exists came into existence by His power. The Apostle John begins his account of the earthly ministry of Jesus with these words:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created’ (John 1:1-3).

Jesus is

our designer
creator and
owner.

Illustration

Pete was the kind of man that would pick junk from all sorts of places and fix it up. Bits and pieces of old engines and motorbike parts were always lying around the house. It made Reenie really angry at times. One night, Pete turned up dragging a broken-down old motor scooter with him. It was covered in rust and looked like it had been left outside for years. ‘There’s no way you’re bringing that in the house, Pete!’ Reenie shouted at him from the front door. ‘Come on now, Reenie,’ Pete said. ‘It looks awful now but just you wait until I’ve fixed her all up!’ Reenie wasn’t convinced. ‘Well, it stays outside. Another waste of money if you ask me.’

Pete worked on the scooter for a month and, slowly but surely, it began to look better and better. He put nearly every waking hour into making it roadworthy. It was his pride and joy.

One day one of Pete’s grandsons came running round to the garden to see him. ‘Grandad, grandad! Old Jack says that you didn’t pay him enough money for the scooter and he says he’s going to send some lads round to take it off you!’ Pete was full of rage. The scooter was his. He’d rebuilt it from scrap. He’d patiently and lovingly restored every detail. He’d put his own blood, sweat and tears into the project. No way would he let anybody take it from him. He owned it fair and square.

We like to think of ourselves as the masters of our own lives and destinies. However, the truth is

We are not our own.
We belong to the one who made us.

The creator gets to set the rules for how their creation is used. If we ever wondered what all those commands in the Bible are, they are God’s terms and conditions of use for the universe that He has created through His Son.

The Apostle Paul writes this: ‘For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through him and for him’ (Col. 1:16).

This passage from Colossians tells us that the universe and everything in it wasn’t just created by Jesus, it was created for Jesus. It is His possession, created to display His glory.

But, there is even more!

Jesus is the Sustainer.

‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word’ (Heb. 1:3).

Not only is Jesus the Son of God creator and owner of all things, He also sustains all things by His powerful word.

Stop

Think about this carefully. We are breathing in and out and reading this book because Jesus is sustaining our existence. Our hearts beat because Jesus is telling them to. The sun is going down and coming up. The tide is going in and out. The earth is spinning and circling the sun. All of this is on the say so of Jesus.

Jerry Bridges brings this point home beautifully:

‘Scripture teaches us that just as the Son of God was the agent of creation and is its present sustainer, so too is He also the agent of God’s providence. Jesus is in sovereign control, not only of the physical laws of the universe, but of all the events and circumstances in the universe, including those that happen to each of us. If you have food today in your cupboard and refrigerator, that is as much the result of Jesus’ care for you as was the feeding of the five thousand.’

This isn’t a complicated truth, but sometimes it’s hard to get our heads around it. Jesus literally governs all things that happen, He is the sovereign King of the universe. The simple fact is that we can do absolutely nothing without Him. He upholds the universe ruling all things for the glory of God and the good of His people.

Reenie

Reenie says ‘I don’t know that I can take any more. It’s been so hard since Pete lost his job. We were just starting to get back up on our feet. I’m just so scared the social security decide that we have committed serious fraud and we end up getting taken to court. I know you keep reminding me that God is in control of everything, but it really doesn’t feel like it. What if we end up going to jail?’

Stop

How would you remind Reenie that God is in control of all the details of her life? What will you say to her if she does end up going to court?

There’s one more thing we need to know about Jesus.

Jesus Is Our Redeemer

‘After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high’ (Heb. 1:3).

As we have so far learned, we are like Adam and Eve when it comes to obeying God. We choose sin, self and rebellion over obedience to God and the claims of ownership He makes in our lives. The result of our sin is that we are under the righteous curse of a holy and just God.

The wages of sin is death.

Because sin is a crime committed against a God of infinite worth and beauty, it is therefore deserving of an eternal punishment in hell.

But, there is good news.

God, in His infinite grace and goodness, has made a way for wicked sinners to avoid the just punishment we deserve.

He sent His one and only Son into the world,
He was born of a virgin fully human and
yet uninfected by our sin and fallenness.

Jesus did for us that which none of us could ever achieve.
He met the perfect standards that God required.
Jesus lived the life we have not lived,
for every second of every day.

He obeyed every command of the law perfectly.

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

Jesus did this and then He does something else that is utterly staggering.

In the greatest expression of grace and love, Jesus goes to the cross. On that tree Jesus dies the death that all who believe on Him deserve. He was crushed under the fierce, holy anger of God. The prophet Isaiah wrote these words about the work that Jesus would perform:

‘We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all’ (Isa. 53:6).

But, death could not hold Him.

On the third day,

Jesus rose from the grave
glorified and
victorious over
Satan, sin and death.

God kept His word that the righteous would live. Jesus was faithful to Him and therefore He lives! In addition, His resurrection is the proof that He is everything He said He was and that His work of redeeming His people was accepted by God the Father. He was raised to life so that we might live. All who trust in Him for salvation will one day be with Him and be like Him.

Hebrews 1:3 tells us that, ‘After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.’ Right now, Jesus is sitting on the throne of heaven. He is reigning over all things and one day:

He will return to gather His people into His perfect kingdom.
He will judge those who continue in rebellion against Him.

Until that day comes the King of the universe commands all people everywhere to repent of sin and to put their faith in Him for eternal life and victory over sin and death.

But, there’s more. Not only did Jesus redeem His people from sin and death, He also redeemed the whole of creation. This is how the Apostle Paul describes it:

‘For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children’ (Rom. 8:19-21).

Jesus allows for the universe to come under futility so that we would look to Him for salvation.

When Jesus returns the universe shall be made perfect, free from the bondage of decay.

Summary

The whole Bible is about Jesus. Not only that, He wrote the story. He is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity and He created all things, sustains all things, redeemed all things and He is the heir of all things. Jesus is the Forever King of the Forever Kingdom. One day Jesus will split the sky open and every eye will see Him, and every knee will bow to Him. If we have trusted Him in our earthly lives, then we will be safe and secure in a future heavenly glory.

However, if we have chosen to ignore Him, deny Him and live in rebellion against Him, then we will be in deep, deep trouble. Revelation 14:10-11 tells us that all unbelievers, ‘will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever.’

Today is the day, to trust in the only Word of God, King Jesus. Our eternal souls depend upon it.

Reenie

Sitting in the doctor’s surgery waiting for the doctor to call Reenie’s name she was anxious. It wasn’t overwhelming her like it usually would. She asked herself, ‘Abnormal blood test, what does that actually mean?’

Before she was a Christian something like this would have consumed her. She would have been thinking and imagining the worst. To be honest, before she was a Christian she would have been afraid to come back to the doctor’s at all. She had thought about telling Pete then about the test but, for some reason, she didn’t. ‘No point the two of us worrying’, she had said to herself, but she had wondered if he would use this against God as yet another excuse to reject God.

It all seemed too overwhelming. She needed strength from somewhere. She reached for her Bible and turned to the daily devotion for the day. As she read it to herself she had the sense that the words were speaking just to her. Reminding her who God was, that He was in control, that God knows what He is doing – even in the hard times. She remembered pausing as she thought to herself, ‘God’s word is true and I can trust Him’. She didn’t seem to have the right words to pray. She simply told God what was going on in her head. As her tears tumbled down her face she knew God was real, His word was absolutely true and whatever the Doctor said God would be there through it all.

She sat mulling over her memory verse ‘…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (Rom. 8:37).

Reenie looked up at the voice who called her name from the open door. She knew she wasn’t in this alone…

Friday 4 September 2020

HOPEFULLY YOU WILL FIND THIS INFORMATIVE AND INTERESTING

INTO ALL THE WORLD

The Establishment of the Early Church

Before returning to heaven, Jesus told his disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere” (Mark 16:15).

Nothing has brought more persecution to Christians than their efforts to obey this command. In fact, except for the Reformation, all major waves of persecution of Christians throughout the centuries correspond to the church’s evangelistic surges or a counter attack to earlier evangelism.

Jesus wisely warned his followers that this would be the case:

Beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and beaten…. And you must stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me—yes, to witness to the world. When you are arrested, don’t worry about what to say in your defence, because you will be given the right words at the right time. For it won’t be you doing the talking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Brother will betray brother to death, fathers will betray their own children, and children will rise against their parents and cause them to be killed. And everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me. But those who endure to the end will be saved.(Matthew 10:17-22)

Jesus said, “When you are arrested” (emphasis added), with no question in his mind that this would be the fate of his followers. But he also identified the reason: “Everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me” (v. 22).

In the book of Acts, we read that the church grew from 120 to 3,000, then 5,000 men (not including women and children). Then “crowds of both men and women” joined. At several points thereafter, we read, “the number of believers greatly increased.” Some estimates suggest there may have been as many as 20,000 believers in Jerusalem at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom and the subsequent persecution from which “all the believers except the apostles fled…. But the believers who had fled Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the Good News about Jesus” (Acts 8:1, 4).

Persecution followed them just as Jesus had predicted it would, first in the form of Saul of Tarsus and his posse tracking down and arresting Christians to bring them back to Jerusalem for imprisonment, and then as both Jews and pagans resisted the gospel in the towns and cities around the Mediterranean to which the Christians had fled.

After Herod executed James (Acts 12:2), the apostles and other leaders also dispersed from Jerusalem. Tradition (and in some cases Scripture) identify these destinations:

• Andrew Achaia
• Antipas Turkey
• Barnabas Cyprus
• Bartholomew Caspian Sea
• James the Greater Spain
• John Ephesus
• Jude Thaddeus Persia
• Luke Greece
• Mark Egypt
• Matthew Ethiopia
• Matthias Ethiopia
• Paul and Peter Rome
• Philip Hierapolis
• Simon the Zealot Syria
• Thomas India
• Timothy Ephesus

Rome was remarkably tolerant of foreign religions but not of any perceived threat to its authority. Though law-abiding by precept, Christians faced two problems. First, Rome tested the loyalty of its subjects by requiring emperor worship, and faithful Christians refused to worship any false gods. Second, Christians went even further. They declared Jesus their King (Acts 17:7), which was seen as a direct challenge to Rome.

Nevertheless, intense persecution was not constant during the reign of the fifty-four Roman emperors from a.d. 30 to a.d. 311. Instead, it came in waves or at the whim of regional governors. In fact, it wasn’t until a.d. 249-251 that Emperor Decius made an empire wide attempt to wipe out Christianity. The emperors most responsible for persecuting Christians were…

      • Claudius (a.d. 41-54). Expelled the Jews from Rome in 52. Christians were seen at that time as a Jewish sect and therefore caught up in the purge.
      • Nero (a.d. 54-68). This madman tried to blame the Christians for the fire that resulted from his own neglect and swept Rome in 64. A large number of believers were executed, possibly including Paul, Peter, Aristarchus, Epaphras, Priscilla and Aquila, Andronicus and Juina, Silas, Onesiphorus, and Porphyrius.
      • Domitian (a.d. 81-96). John may have been describing Rome under this emperor as the “Mother of Harlots … drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:5-6, NKJV).
      • Trajan (a.d. 98-117). Wrote that Christians were “not to be hunted out. [Although] any who are accused and convicted should be punished, with the proviso that if a man says he is not a Christian and makes it obvious by his actual conduct—namely, by worshipping our gods—then, however suspect he may have been with regard to the past, he should gain pardon from his repentance.”
      • Marcus Aurelius (a.d. 161-180). Was responsible for the forty-eight “Martyrs of Lyons” in 177.
      • Septimius Severus (a.d. 193-211). In 203, Perpetua and Felicitas were among the many believers martyred in the arena under this emperor.
      • Decius (a.d. 249-251). In an attempt to shore up a faltering empire, he attempted to purge it of “disloyal” subjects by requiring pagan religious observances. That broad net, of course, challenged all Christians, including Fabian, the bishop of Rome, who was martyred in 250.
      • Valerian (a.d. 253-260). Attempted to divert attention from Rome’s decline by blaming the empire’s troubles on the Christians. Following Decius’ example, he required everyone to sacrifice to the gods. Origen, Cyprian, and Deacon Lawrence lost their lives during this persecution.
      • Diocletian (a.d. 284-305). Mounted possibly the most organized attempt to wipe out Christianity in his attempt to restore the empire. The massacre of the Theban Legion and the martyrdom of Agape, Irene, and Chionia; Andronicus, Probus, and Tarachus; Alban; and Agnes were among scores of others that occurred during this period.
      • Maximinus (a.d. 308-313). Was defeated by Emperor Licinius, with whom he had ruled the eastern half of the Roman Empire, and died soon after. By this time more than 700,000 Coptic Christians had been killed.

Approximately a hundred years earlier, Tertullian in his Apology had written, “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed,” and certainly that was proving true throughout the Roman Empire. By 311, many executioners had literally grown tired from all their work. Galerius, successor to Diocletian, finally admitted defeat in trying to stamp out Christianity.

The dousing of the flames was greatly aided by Constantine, who in an attempt to gain control of the empire, tried to eliminate his rivals. One night he had a vision of a glowing cross in the sky bearing the words, “Conquer by this.” He interpreted it as a good omen and had the conjoined letters P and X (used by the early church to represent Christ) emblazoned on his imperial banner. On October 28, 312, he defeated Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge, a dozen miles up the Tiber from Rome, and thereby became sole master of the Western Empire. His victory favourably inclined him toward Christianity (though he resisted baptism until a few days before his death in 337), and he issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which mandated toleration of Christians.

Though Licinius, then emperor in the East, subscribed to the edict, he continued vigorous persecution of Christians in the East for a season. However, by a.d. 324, Constantine was sole emperor and the flames of persecution were almost out.

Coping with the Aftermath of Persecution

Believing that Christianity would die out if its leaders were killed, imprisoned, or banished, the Roman government initially targeted the bishops, pastors, and other leaders, leaving pagan mobs to attack the common church members. One report describes the fate of Quinta, a female convert: “Next [the mob took her] to the idol’s temple and tried to make her worship. When she turned her back in disgust, they tied her feet and dragged her right through the city over the rough paved road, bumping her on the great stones and beating her as they went, till they arrived at the same place, where they stoned her to death. Then they ran in a body to the houses of the Christians, charged in by groups on those they knew as neighbours, raided, plundered, and looted.”

As has been true throughout the history of the church, some believers in the early church could not stand such pressure and compromised their faith. However, once the persecution subsided, many desired reinstatement in the church. What was the church to do with those who had lapsed in their faith?

During the first centuries, the church did not quickly grant forgiveness to those who had apostatized or committed such grievous sins as murder and adultery. Penance was public and lasted a long time, and those who were welcomed back into the fellowship were received “as though they had risen from the dead,” said Origen. No clergy who sinned grossly were admitted again to their office.

However, during the “great persecutions” of the middle and end of the third century, thousands—possibly the majority of Christians—sacrificed to false gods and received a libellus, a receipt certifying their compliance with government edicts. Others bribed officials for a libellus even though they hadn’t sacrificed. Consequently, the churches had to agonize over what policy to practice with those desiring reinstatement, especially after others had endured torture or death for refusing to apostatize.

In Spain, where persecution had been severe and feelings ran high, the Council of Elvira excommunicated those who had actually sacrificed to pagan gods while they reinstated after penance some novitiates who had only purchased a libellus.

In Asia Minor the church was more tolerant, saying the laity could be readmitted after a period of three to five years of penance. Some lapsed clergy were allowed to keep their office but not to celebrate the sacrament.

In Rome a bitter struggle persisted between followers of Novatian—who had no mercy for those who had denied Christ under persecution—and Bishop Miltiades (and other bishops) who were more forgiving.

In Egypt, Bishop Peter of Alexandria recommended leniency so the church wouldn’t completely lose those who had lapsed, while Bishop Meletius wanted severe punishment so the church wouldn’t lose its integrity. This disagreement ultimately led to a split in the Egyptian church.

The North African church also split over the issue, though it was more sharply focused on those who had surrendered the Scriptures.

Seeds of Bloody Conflict

The seeds of bloody conflict were sprouting within the church as well.

The acquisition and preservation of wealth. By the end of the fourth century, the church was sufficiently accepted within the empire to become politically powerful and wealthy. Benefiting from imperial buildings donated to the church for religious use, this period began an extensive building program with impressive churches springing up throughout the empire.

The centralization of authority. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” asserts, “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.” However, in the New Testament church, it appears that though the apostles encouraged, debated, and even admonished one another (cf. Paul to Peter, Galatians 2:11), they did not presume to rule over one another.

While Bishop Clement of Rome wrote a letter correcting the church in Corinth in a.d. 96, it does not prove he had any more churchwide authority than did the apostle John or than Paul had some thirty years before, who exercised apostolic oversight far more actively than did Peter.

About a hundred years later, when Bishop Victor of Rome declared that Easter should be celebrated on Sunday rather than Nisan 14, whichever day of the week it fell, most other bishops went along, but not the churches in Asia Minor. They said no.

In fact, it wasn’t until the issue of repentant apostates arose that the bishop of Rome really attempted to assert authority over the other bishops. However, their lack of responsiveness to Rome’s authority is evident in the variety of regional policies previously outlined. Still, the authority of the bishop of Rome was consolidating and growing.

The reliance on force. The church also enjoyed the protection of the state and then began collaborating with the state in wielding the sword against “heretics.”

All three of these seeds become bloody points of contention a thousand years later.

 

Thursday 3 September 2020

EZEKIEL 12

The Exile Symbolized – Ezekiel 12:1-28

Open It

      1. When have you discovered—too late—that you were wrong to assume that you or your belongings were safe?
      2. *What is your favourite (stage, television, movie) drama, and why do you find it compelling?

Explore It

      1. What was God’s description of the rebelliousness of Israel? (12:1-2)
      2. What did God command Ezekiel to do in order to “act out” the prophecy he was giving? (12:3-6)
      3. How did Ezekiel report that he responded to God’s command? (12:7)
      4. How did God tell Ezekiel to interpret his actions to make them clear to the people? (12:8-11)
      5. According to the prophecy, what would happen to the prince of Jerusalem? (12:12-14)
      6. *What point did God wish to make by scattering the inhabitants of Jerusalem? (12:15)
      7. *For what purpose did God intend to spare a few people from “sword, famine and plague”? (12:16)
      8. What was the symbolic meaning of the way God told Ezekiel to eat his food? (12:17-20)
      9. What proverb was heard frequently in the city of Jerusalem at the time? (12:22)
      10. *How did God promise to respond to the false proverb that was common in Jerusalem? (12:22-25)
      11. How did God tell Ezekiel to respond to the common wisdom that Ezekiel’s prophecies were about a time in the distant future? (12:26-28)

Get It

      1. Why do you think God wanted Ezekiel to “act out” his prophecies?
      2. What was revealed about the Israelites in exile when they didn’t understand Ezekiel’s actions?
      3. *Why does God bother to speak to human beings when He knows we are rebellious?
      4. *Why is it dangerous to fail to take God’s Word seriously, even when we don’t see the immediate fulfilment or importance of it?
      5. About which commands of God do you tend to think, “That doesn’t mean me,” or “That doesn’t mean now”?
      6. What is God’s part in enabling us to know His will, and what does He leave up to us?

Apply It

      1. *How can you be sure that you have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” whenever you read or hear God’s Word?
      2. In what concrete way can you “act out” God’s message through your relationships this week?

 

Wednesday 2 September 2020

PART 8: Sins of The Spirit

The Preening Of The Proud:  No 1

Flying the pennants of one’s accomplishments did not go over well with the writers of the Bible; pride was considered a serious sin. In fact, the original sin of humanity was pride, when Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation to “be like gods.” Self-worship and narcissism were condemned constantly by the prophets and men of wisdom, but just as now, people refused to listen.

      1. Complete this familiar verse from Proverbs: “Pride goeth before destruction and a _____ spirit before a fall.”
      2. In the Old Testament, the proud are often referred to as being _____ -necked.
      3. Which prophet condemned people for being proud of their jewels?
      4. According to James, what type of Christian should rejoice in his high position?
      5. What did Jesus say would happen to proud people?
      6. Which organ of the body is pride associated with?
      7. According to Proverbs, what does pride breed?
      8. In the book of Revelation, who uttered proud words and blasphemies?
      9. According to Jeremiah, what is the one thing a person should boast about?
      10. Which king of Judah met his downfall after he became proud?
      11. According to Moses, what great event would be forgotten because the Hebrews had become proud?
      12. The Christians of Corinth were proud of what sinful deed?
      13. What (formerly) proud king of Babylon praised God for being humbled?
      14. What book of the Bible repeatedly uses the phrase “all is vanity”?
      15. According to 1 Corinthians 13, what wonderful thing is not proud?
      16. Complete this verse from Psalms: “Though the Lord be high, he has respect unto the _____, but the proud he knoweth afar off.”
      17. According to Ecclesiastes, what is better than pride?
      18. Who tears down the proud man’s house, according to Proverbs?
      19. What book of the Bible says that the Lord will “pay the proud back in full”?
      20. In Jewish and Christian tradition, which angel was thrown out of heaven because of his pride?

The Preening Of The Proud (Answers)

      1. Haughty (Proverbs 16:18)
      2. Stiff. The idea is that the person is too proud to bow or kneel to God (2 Chronicles 30:8).
      3. Ezekiel, who claimed that they made their jewelry into idols (Ezekiel 7:20)
      4. The poor one (James 1:9)
      5. He said nothing—or at least the Gospels do not record any words he uttered about pride. He did have plenty to say, however, about self-centeredness and vanity—all of it bad.
      6. The heart
      7. Quarrels (Proverbs 13:10)
      8. The Beast (Revelation 13:5)
      9. That he knows the Lord (Jeremiah 9:24)
      10. King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16)
      11. Their deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 8:14)
      12. One of them was living in sin with his stepmother, which Paul chastised them for condoning (1 Corinthians 5:1-2).
      13. Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:37)
      14. Ecclesiastes. Some modern translations have “meaningless” or “useless” instead of “vanity.” However, in our modern world, the phrase “all is vanity” does seem to apply, doesn’t it?
      15. Love (1 Corinthians 13:4)
      16. Lowly (Psalm 138:6)
      17. Patience (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
      18. The Lord (Proverbs 15:25)
      19. Psalms (Psalm 31:23)
      20. Lucifer, which (tradition says) was the name of Satan before he was expelled from heaven. Isaiah 14:12 speaks of a proud Lucifer, fallen from heaven; this has been interpreted to refer to Satan, the angel-turned-devil.

 

 

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Women of character

Women of grace 4

The Grace to Take Risks

Esther 4:1-14

 Setting the Stage:

It was Saturday morning, and the sun’s warmth was soaking the air and the earth. A great day to be outdoors, especially after spending all week in an ink-saturated stuffing room. Katherine was on her knees in the yard, digging in the warm dirt, pulling weeds. Even while she worked, the faces of the people at the shopper moved through her mind. Many of them had turned against her, but she found herself wondering what was going on inside them.

On the front lawn Brad played catch with Joel. The layoff had certainly given him more time to spend with the kids. Theresa, their fifteen-year-old, came out of the house with two of her church friends. They were all munching fresh-baked cookies. Since Katherine started working, Theresa had taken over some kitchen duties and no longer expected Mom to do it all. It was good preparation for when Katherine went back to school—which she still believed was in her future, though not as soon as she’d hoped.

Katherine got to her feet and asked, “Where’s Sarah?” Their thirteen-year-old had talked about going shopping with some other girls. Katherine and Brad were concerned that lately Sarah had been gravitating toward the wrong friends.

Brad fired the ball to Joel, who caught it handily and then dropped a bombshell. “Her friend Gillian called and they went to Gillian’s house to watch movies. I heard them talking.” He obviously envied the coup his big sister had pulled off.

If Sarah had a friend named Gillian, this was the first Katherine had heard of it. Sarah is off at some stranger’s house, and we didn’t even notice when she left! How could this happen? It’s the job. It’s not being there when the kids come home from school. It’s . . . Calm down.

An hour or so later Sarah tooled up on her bike, well-prepared for the fallout. Her face and demeanor were carefully nonchalant and her guard was up as she sat in the kitchen peeling an orange.

“I told Theresa where I was going,” she claimed. Theresa denied it, but maybe she hadn’t heard her little sister. Joel piped up that Sarah and Gillian planned to watch about fifty movies. He started naming their titles. Brad told him to go outside, then explained, “Sarah, those movies aren’t ones we want you watching. You know that.”

“Gillian’s mother lets her watch those movies all the time.”

Katherine asked, “Was Gillian’s mother there?”

“Yeah. She was sleeping.”

“How about her dad?” Brad asked. “Was he there?”

“Yeah,” Sarah answered, “only he’s not really her dad. He’s moving out soon. Look, you always tell me to be friendly to kids who don’t go to church. I’m not supposed to only have Christian friends. Right?”

Determined to stick to the point, Katherine responded, “But your dad and I want to know where you are and who you’re with. We don’t know these people yet.”

Sarah looked very surprised. “Sure you do, Mom. Gillian’s mother works at the same place you do. Her name’s Shannon.”

That night when they were alone, Brad told Katherine, “You’re the one to talk to Shannon about this. You know her and I don’t.”

“But what do I tell her? She already thinks I’m a prude and a goody-goody. Now do I tell her we don’t want her daughter to be friends with our daughter?”

“Well . . . do we want Sarah to be friends with this Gillian?”

“I don’t know. I know I don’t want the two of them watching movies unsupervised. Or even supervised by Shannon.”

“Maybe this is your chance to really explain our values,” Brad suggested. “I know, I know, that’s easy for me to say. You’re the one who has to walk in there and face her. But maybe this is why the Lord has you working right next to this Shannon.”

      1. What are some pros and cons of Katherine talking to Shannon about the movies and the girls’ friendship?
      2. When have you felt you were “the one” to take on a particularly difficult assignment?

 

God’s Word for Us

Read Esther 4:1-14.

Background: The king agreed to Haman’s scheme against the Jews, not knowing that it would put Queen Esther’s life in danger. Xerxes issued the terrible order of genocide throughout Persia. All the Jews would be annihilated on a particular day (Esther 3:12-15).

      1. How did Mordecai and the other Jews react to news of the king’s order (Esther 4:1-3)?
      2. Esther was mystified and upset by Mordecai’s strange behavior. What do you think about what she did first (Esther 4:4)?
      3. When Mordecai refused Esther’s offer of clean clothes, she pursued an answer about his actions (Esther 4:5-8). How did Mordecai urge Esther to get involved in the Jews’ dilemma?
      4. Why did Esther hesitate to comply with Mordecai’s urging (Esther 4:9-11)?
      5. How did Mordecai make his case that Esther had to get involved (Esther 4:12-14)?
      6. How do you react when someone tells you that you ought to do something (especially that you’re the person to do something)?

___ I feel it’s a message from God, and I try to obey.
___ I feel inadequate to do what I’m being asked to do.
___ I don’t mind, because I need a push to do the right thing.
___ I give in easily, usually out of guilt.
___ I resent the other person trying to control my life.
___ I believe God chooses specific people for specific jobs; I just don’t always know if I’m really the one.
___ Another reason:

      1. Where are you in conflict about whether (or how much) to get involved with something that could be highly inconvenient for you?
      2. God put Esther in a particular situation in order to carry out his purposes there through her. How has God used you in the place where you live, work or go to school? Think of things that have happened because you were in a particular place at a particular time.

 

Now or Later

Like Esther, we are where we are not by accident but by design. For each of us, “such a time as this” is right now. But where we are—position, role, sphere of influence—is different for each person. Reflect on possible reasons why God has put you where you are.

Place:
Time of life:
Family status:
Responsibilities:
Abilities:
Important relationships:

Praise God for his purposes in your life. Acknowledge his plans for you and renew your commitment to following him.

If you are not sure—or have no idea—why you are where you are, put the details of your life before God. Ask him for enlightenment about your mission. God’s answer will probably not come in a flash but in a gradual unfolding of events.

For further study read Genesis 50:15-21, concentrating on Genesis 50:20. Joseph’s brothers begged him to forgive them for selling him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph had the longer view and saw God working out his purposes even in his brothers’ cruelty and rejection.

 

Monday 31 August 2020

GROWING DISCIPLES 3

MINISTERING TO OTHERS

Week 3: Assessing Ministry Needs, Impacting Hurting People

“Don’t you say, ‘There are still four months, then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest.”—John 4:35

When we act without looking, we reveal the depth of our selfishness. When we look without seeing, we limit our impact to the extent of our understanding. But when we take the time to ask questions, we create relationships that ultimately change lives. To become servants, Christians must first learn to assess the needs of those who are hurting. All too often, the church appears to turn a deaf ear to those needing assistance. Is it because the church doesn’t care, or have Christians simply forgotten how to acknowledge the needs of others? Is the church blind or just complacent? In either case, assessing needs is imperative to the ultimate goal of meeting needs, thus awakening the church to its call to minister to a desperately hurting world.

LEARNING GOAL

This week you will—

      • identify places where needs exist;
      • identify simple ways to meet needs;
      • discover ways Jesus responded to people in need;
      • identify simple ways to meet needs;
      • adopt a lifestyle of meeting needs on a daily basis.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 3

Day 1: Going Where the Needs Are
Day 2: Assessing Needs
Day 3: Developing a Ministry Plan
Day 4: Putting the Plan to Work
Day 5: Completing the Task

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

John 4:35

Day 1: Going Where the Needs Are

God’s Word for Today

“He [Jesus] came to a town of Samaria called Sychar. … A woman of Samaria came to draw water. ‘Give Me a drink,’ Jesus said to her, for His disciples had gone into town to buy food. ‘How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?’ she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”—John 4:5-9

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

There is an old saying, “I don’t drink, smoke, or chew or go with girls who do!” Some may find the statement humorous, and it was the first 20 times I (David) heard it. However, it’s a different story when we apply the spirit of this statement to our ministry to needy people.

Of course, I’m not referring to dating or girls, especially since I’ve been married for 25 years! The point is, when we are unwilling to associate with certain types of people because we consider them desperate sinners or because our hearts are filled with prejudice, we are disobeying God’s call to show the love of Jesus to them.

Jesus demonstrated the right attitude in John 4. It was unheard of for a Jewish male to knowingly associate with a Samaritan, especially a Samaritan woman in public. After all, Jews hated Samaritans with a passion. This woman, an adulterer, would have been despised most of all. The vast majority of Jews would have never risked going through Samaria in the first place, but John 4:4 says that Jesus “had to travel through Samaria.” To the average Jew, this woman had no hope of spiritual redemption. However, Jesus was not the average Jew.

Who initiated the conversation in John 4:5-9?

The Samaritan woman
Jesus

This woman had a spiritual need. Jesus was willing to go where He knew the need existed and to take the initiative to meet the need, even though it meant breaking out of social norms and associating with an outcast.

Read Matthew 9:10-13 below and answer the questions.

“While He [Jesus] was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when He heard this, He said, ‘Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”—Matthew 9:10-13

When Jesus said He came for those who are sick, what need was He addressing?

Mental illness
Sin
Social ills
Physical sickness

Jesus made it clear that He came to meet the needs of those the Pharisees rejected.

What do you think Jesus meant when He told the Pharisees, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”?

Jesus made it clear that He came to meet the needs of those the Pharisees rejected. He offered mercy for their sins, not ritual, as the way they could be right with God.

How do Jesus’ words apply to the way you and your church should approach people in need?

Jesus demonstrated the same willingness to reach out to sinners when He initiated a relationship with Zacchaeus.

Read the account of Jesus and Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10 from your Bible. Why do you think Jesus wanted to go to the home of a hated tax collector?

In Luke 19:10 Jesus summed up His ministry this way: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus was willing to seek and associate with lost people in order to bring them into a relationship with the Father.

Check the statement you most closely agree with.

Christians should avoid places where unsaved people hang out and sin is rampant to avoid compromising their witness.
Christians must go where lost people are and associate with sinners in order to show them God’s love and mercy.

List below five key spots in your community where you can find unsaved persons. Pray for these places and persons. Then visit one or more places in the next week to meet lost persons’ needs. Clean restrooms, randomly purchase a meal for someone, or ask the manager how you can serve. Update “My Ministry List” (p. 92) as you minister.

Key Places for Ministry

      1. _________________________
      2. _________________________
      3. _________________________
      4. _________________________
      5. _________________________

Start memorizing your memory verse for this week, John 4:35. If you would like, tear out and use the card at the back of the book.

Watch and Pray

Pray for God to give you a heart of love and mercy to look beyond what others may think and go serve hurting and unsaved people.

Day 2: Assessing Needs

God’s Word for Today

“Jesus answered, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ said the woman, ‘You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do you get this “living water”?’ … Jesus said, ‘Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said to Him, ‘give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and come here to draw water.'”—John 4:10-15

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

Many Christians live in a safe, if not imaginary, world that is detached from the real needs of hurting people. For example:

      • Do we really know our neighbours?
      • Do we really know our co-workers?
      • Do we really know our families?

By using the word know, I (David) am not referring to awareness of people in these relational spheres. It is not enough to simply recognize people’s names or faces. Think about it. People might be struggling with critical issues of health, finances, marriage, persistent sin, or spiritual matters. Wouldn’t you want to know so that you could help?

Jesus was a master of assessing people’s real needs. For instance, notice how He responded to the woman at the well in John 4.

Reread John 4:10-15 above. Check the methods Jesus used to assess the woman’s need.

Listened
Connected physical need to spiritual need
Argued
Pointed to the way of salvation

Note the tone of Jesus’ responses. He began with the woman’s physical need—water—and probed her heart to assess her greatest need—salvation. By first listening to the woman and wisely, sensitively probing, He was able to get her to open up about her life. In contrast, when the disciples returned to the scene, they demonstrated a complete lack of spiritual awareness of the woman’s need.

Read John 4:27-35 in your Bible. Contrast the disciples’ response to the woman at the well with that of Jesus. Beside each characteristic write D to indicate the disciples’ response and J to indicate Jesus’.

Uncaring
Willing to assist
Servant
Loving
Compassionate
Willing to connect
Cold
Blind
Disconnected
Distracted
Relational

The disciples in John 4 obviously wanted to get Jesus fed and out of Samaria as soon as possible. In John 4:35 Jesus challenged them to open their eyes to the spiritual needs around them.

John 4:35 is this week’s memory verse. Write it here.

To assess the needs of others, you first have to be willing to see the needs. This will require time. Slow down and notice the needs around you every day. It takes time to see needs, especially if they are outside your circle of relationships.

Briefly describe the last time you responded to the need of a hurting person who was outside your normal sphere of acquaintances. Did you make the connection to their spiritual need? If so, how?

Jesus was the epitome of empathy.

Seeing needs also requires empathy. You have to deeply care for people and to feel their pain, like Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” Even though Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He still wept. Why? Because He cared for Lazarus and hurt for Mary and Martha in their grief. Jesus was the epitome of empathy.

How would you characterize your sensitivity to the needs of others?

Compassionate
Distracted
Blind
Sensitive to the Spirit

Take 30 minutes to seriously assess your home, workplace, and neighbourhood for ministry opportunities. Make a list below or on a separate sheet of paper to pray over.

Ministry Opportunities

Meet the need of one stranger today. It can be as small as washing the windshield for someone at a gas station or purchasing a cup of coffee for someone. Prayerfully assess the situation and be open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Remember to record your ministry on “My Ministry List,” page 92.

Watch and Pray

Pray that God will open your eyes to see and your heart to empathize with hurting and needy people around you.

Day 3: Developing a Ministry Plan

God’s Word for Today

“One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, ‘There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish—but what are they for so many?’ Then Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, so they sat down. The men numbered about 5,000. Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks He distributed them to those who were seated—so also with the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were full, He told His disciples, ‘Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.’ So they collected them and filled 12 baskets with the pieces from the barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten.”—John 6:8-13

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

Several years ago I (David) had a neighbor who was approaching retirement, lived alone, and obviously had several health problems. Her actions and attitude made it plain that she didn’t want assistance from or fellowship with her neighbors. It was as if she had a large, flashing neon sign with the message “Leave me alone!” Nevertheless, my wife and I could not get her off our hearts. We knew God was at work, no matter how difficult the situation appeared. So we began to develop a ministry plan. The first step was to begin praying for the neighbor and her needs. We specifically prayed for the person, for wisdom, and for opportunities to serve in the name of Christ.

The next step was to look for ministry opportunities by assessing the situation. Because of her obvious health issues, we noticed that yard work and small upkeep jobs on the house were difficult for her to complete.

We then developed a ministry plan. After going out of our way to smile and acknowledge the neighbor for several weeks, I began to mow and trim her yard. My children pulled weeds from her garden, and my wife baked treats. We showered the person with love by smiling, being genuine, and meeting practical needs. In the end this reclusive neighbor responded by asking how she could have the same faith and peace we had.

Do you have a neighbor, friend, coworker, or family member who seems closed to Jesus’ love? Does the situation seem impossible, like the situation described in John 6? Write the person’s name on “My Ministry List,” page 92.

Stop and pray for the person in that “impossible” situation.

John 6:8-13 (“God’s Word for Today”) illustrates the way Christians can learn to see needs, follow God’s direction to create a ministry plan, and then trust God to meet the needs through us. John 2:1-12 describes another occasion when Jesus saw a need and executed a plan to meet it.

Reread John 2:1-12 and answer the following questions.

      1. What was the need?
      2. How did Jesus respond to the need?
      3. How did the disciples respond (v. 11)?

 

Jesus quickly devised a plan and responded to meet the immediate need in a way that brought glory to God.

Notice that Jesus was willing to be in a place where He could help others when a need arose. He was out among people who desperately needed to experience His grace and mercy. Also notice the masterful way Jesus quickly devised a plan and responded to meet the immediate need in a way that brought glory to God. Verse 11 says, “He displayed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”

Here are some practical steps you can take to formulate a ministry plan. You can remember them by the acrostic SERVE.

S Search your heart and check your motives through intimate prayer. Nothing significant ever occurs for God without prayer. Ask God to give you sensitivity to the needs of others.

E Evaluate the needs around you by opening your heart and your eyes. Slow down and allow yourself to see and experience the needs. Ask God to give you wisdom and a plan to meet the needs.

R Resource the need by considering funds, food, equipment, and so on. Be generous and open to ways God may lead you to meet the needs of others. It doesn’t require wealth but faithfulness.

V Vacate your comfort zone and put your plan into action. Don’t just talk about the need. Go meet it!

E Evaluate the response to improve future ministry. If something works, how can you improve it? If it fails, ask why; then don’t repeat it.

What are one or two immediate needs you could meet for the person you identified on the previous page? Record these needs on “My Ministry List,” page 92.

Use the SERVE approach to create a ministry plan, using “Ministry Action Plan” on page 99. Then follow your plan to meet a need this week. Record the person’s response in “My Observation Journal” below.

My Observation Journal

 

Watch and Pray

Pray that God will give you the best approach to reach the hurts and needs of persons in your sphere of relationships.

Day 4: Putting the Plan to Work

God’s Word for Today

“‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.'”—Acts 1:8-11

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

Several years ago I (David) spoke at a church about its need to immediately sow its community with intentional acts of kindness in order to create gospel conversations. The pastor, though evangelistic, didn’t think his people would respond positively to such an approach. He was surprised when over three-fourths of his congregation responded to the simple invitation to serve others in the name of Christ. Unfortunately, he did not feel the same excitement.

I talked with the pastor several months later. When I asked him how the servant activities were going, his response surprised me. He said, “We haven’t done anything yet because we are waiting for our matching vests to arrive.” It seems that he thought the church should approach the community with similar attire, so he had ordered matching church vests. By the time the vests came in several months later, the congregation had lost its initial zeal for lack of immediate follow-up.

The essential steps are to—

      • pray;
      • see the need;
      • establish a plan;
      • go meet the need.

Too often we are more concerned about “vests” than about our communities. We don’t need vests. The essential steps are to pray, see the need, establish a plan, and go meet the need. Everything else is irrelevant.

According to Acts 1:8, ministry needs to begin in Jerusalem (our immediate neighborhood, home, work, school); progress to Judea (the larger community, workplace, shopping areas); proceed to Samaria (cross-cultural ministry); and then go to the ends of the earth (international missions).

Identify at least one immediate ministry need that corresponds to each of the four areas mentioned in Acts 1:8.

Jerusalem: _____________________

Judea: _____________________

Samaria: _____________________

Ends of the earth: _____________________

Take a moment to commit each ministry need to Christ in prayer.

Acts 1:10 tells us that after Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples stood gazing into heaven rather than going about their ministry. Unfortunately, it is no different today. Often Christians would rather stay in the church singing and fellowshipping than go out and serve others.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if the “two men in white clothes” (v. 10) visited our congregations today. They might say something like “Listen up, church. Why are you just standing there? Jesus will return someday, but in the meantime your job is to go … now!” The gospel was not given to the church to hide from the unsaved world. On the contrary, since we know Christ is coming back someday, we must urgently serve and share while we can.

Read John 4:36-38 below. Circle words designating jobs people carry out in the harvest.

“The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.”—John 4:36-38

This week’s memory verse, John 4:35, also relates to the harvest. Try writing it here from memory.

Understanding the principles of the harvest is imperative to fulfilling your ministry plan.

      1. Plow the ground through prayer. Saturate the ministry field by praying for unsaved friends, neighbors, family, and acquaintances.
      2. Plant the gospel seed. This is why servanthood is so important. Every encounter that shows the love and message of Christ will plant a seed. The more seeds you plant, the greater the potential harvest.
      3. Pray and be patient. The Holy Spirit will bring the harvest.

Plow, plant, pray, and be patient. If you work the fields, the Holy Spirit will bring about the harvest in due time.

Read “Community Prayerwalking” on page 100. This week walk through your Jerusalem—your immediate home, neighborhood, work, or school—and pray for needs in the area. Ask at least two persons for prayer needs. Be faithful to pray for the requests; then follow up the next day about the needs. Be sensitive to other opportunities to serve and share. Record responses below.

My Observation Journal

 

Watch and Pray

Pray for strength and boldness to go and serve in Christ’s name.

Day 5: Completing the Task

God’s Word for Today

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said when she testified, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ Therefore, when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of what He said. And they told the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.'”—John 4:39-42

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

I (David) was in New Orleans in the summer of 2007 working with a rebuilding project. Numerous families took their vacation time to team with Project Noah and help rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina.

The devastation and pain were unbelievable. I will never forget the encounter with a young mother who was obviously guarded and a bit skeptical of our motives. She later shared that her husband used their floating refrigerator to drift his family to safety on the rising water.

Moved by her story and the fact that she had to purchase ice every morning to keep food from spoiling, several families sacrificed their own resources and purchased a new refrigerator for the woman. They also repaired and painted her home.

In further conversations the woman, though grateful, made several convicting observations. She first noted that numerous teams had worked in her neighborhood over the past year and had been aware of her predicament. Why had it taken so long for someone to respond? She also implied that some people had treated her family as if they were unclean. Unfortunately, she felt like a toy that people had played with and then set aside.

The difference finally came when Christians stopped long enough to empathize with her needs. In the end she and her family came to Christ!

This is exactly what happened with Jesus and the woman in John 4. It wasn’t until Jesus cared enough to stop, listen, empathize, and respond to her needs that she was transformed by Christ’s message.

Read John 4:7-42 in your Bible. Note the progression of stopping, listening, empathizing, and responding.

How long did Jesus stay with the Samaritans at their request?

What was the result of Jesus’ stay?

Because Jesus stayed with the Samaritans for two days, many more believed. They testified to the Samaritan woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world” (v. 42). For our ministry to make an eternal difference, we have to be willing to stay, follow through, and ultimately complete the task of bringing the person into a personal relationship with God through Christ.

Check the statement or statements that best describe you.

I have treated others carelessly by not following through and completing my ministry with them.
I am willing to be involved in the lives of hurting people and to stay as long as ministry is needed.

Read John 10:14-15 below. Circle the word know every time it is used.

“I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.”—John 10:14-15

Unlike other world religions, Christianity is about living a personal relationship with God. How does it make you feel to know that Christ wants to know you, even as He knows His Father?

Because Christ is our example, we as His disciples should seek to genuinely know hurting people in our spheres of influence as we lead them to know the Good Shepherd as well.

Read John 21:15-17 in your Bible. This passage records Jesus’ first instructions to Peter after he had denied Christ. Note the healing words and Jesus’ call for Peter to serve others in His name.

Jesus asked Peter whether he was willing to fully commit his life to the task of serving Christ by serving others. Are you ready to do the same? Begin today by seeing, serving, and staying until the task is complete.

Pray about your willingness to make ministry a daily lifestyle through which you meet needs and introduce others to Jesus. Record any commitment you are willing to make below.

My Commitment

 

Watch and Pray

Pray for strength and commitment to complete the ministry tasks God has for you.

Session 3: Assessing Ministry Needs, Impacting Hurting People

Opening Prayer

Learning Goal

You will—

      • identify places where needs exist;
      • learn what the Bible says about assessing and meeting needs;
      • discover ways Jesus responded to people in need;
      • identify simple ways to meet needs;
      • adopt a lifestyle of meeting needs on a daily basis.

Reviewing Week 3

      1. In pairs or triads take turns reciting your Scripture-memory verse, John 4:35. Discuss what it means to open your eyes and see the harvest.
      2. Identify the five steps in assessing ministry needs that were presented this week (going, assessing, developing a plan, implementing, and completing). Define each step and give personal examples when you have ministered in these ways. What step is most difficult for you?
      3. How does Jesus’ example in John 4:5-9 illustrate His willingness to go where the needs are in spite of social taboos? Are there “Samaritan” areas of prejudice in your life? Who are the objects of this prejudice?
      4. Read Matthew 9:12 and Luke 19:10. Share and discuss responses to activities 2-5 on pages 3839.
      5. Share experiences meeting lost persons’ needs (p. 39). Stop and pray for God to open the doors for ministry in each of these opportunities.
      6. Examine the way Jesus assessed the Samaritan woman’s spiritual need in John 4:10-15. Contrast the disciples’ response in verses 27-35.
      7. How well do you know lost persons in your circles of influence? Name one significant personal fact about an unsaved neighbor, coworker, or family member. What can you do to be more alert to their needs?
      8. Name examples of occasions when Jesus empathized with the needs of others. How can you empathize with others as you minister?
      9. Identify the ministry needs you identified in your home, workplace, or neighborhood (prayer activity, p. 41). Share your experience in meeting a need for a stranger.
      10. Review the SERVE acrostic for developing a ministry plan (p. 43). Share any plans you developed and implemented this week.
      11. Read Acts 1:8 and share responses to activity 1 on page 44. Do you have difficulty putting ministry plans to work? Why?
      12. Read John 4:36-38. Discuss the principles of the harvest on page 45. Who plows? Who plants? Who brings the harvest? Share your experiences in prayerwalking and engaging persons in your Jerusalem.
      13. Beyond going, assessing needs, developing a ministry plan, and implementing the plan, what does it mean to complete the task? Share any commitments you made to develop a lifestyle of ministry (p. 47).

Ministering to Others

      1. Share ideas for discovering ministry needs and carrying out ministry plans. Start with these.
        • Prayerwalk through your neighborhood, praying for each household, with the goal of meeting physical and spiritual needs. Review the suggestions in “Community Prayerwalking,” page 100.
        • Map out your neighborhood or workplace. Fill in the names of family members as you get acquainted. Pray over the map daily.
        • After praying over your spheres of influence, follow up by surprising neighbors and friends with a treat, mow their grass, rake leaves, or offer to babysit.
      2. Examine “My Ministry List” on page 92. How have you assessed needs and implemented ministry plans this week? Who needs to be added?
      3. Commit to one act of service for a neighbor during the next week.

Praying Together

In small groups pray for the following.

      • Pray by name for neighbors to whom you have committed to minister and for persons on your ministry lists.
      • Pray that God will give you a willingness to reach out and meet needs, empathetic eyes to see needs, and a ministry plan for persons in your circles of relationship.

 

Sunday 30 August 2020

Heaven

Text: John 14:1-3

In a recent message on the Lord’s prayer I shared with the church that there are three heavens.

The atmosphere that sustains life is the first heaven, and the sun, moon and stars is the second heaven while the third heaven is Paradise where God resides and yet God is found in all three.

Yet as much as we know about the first heaven and increasingly about the second, but we know so little about the Third where God resides, and I am of a mind that if we knew more  than we do then our mind would not be able to comprehend it, and we would be struck with silence in wonder and awe.

Indeed, the apostle Paul in speaking of himself said:, I don’t know whether I was in my body or out of my body, but I went up, I was caught up into paradise, into the third heaven, and I saw there things, unutterable things not lawful to declare.

In other words, he saw things which God told him which were both sacred and secret, sufficient to say he was not free to speak about it, but we can be assured that heaven is awe inspiring ; jaw dropping, mouth watering and soul fulfilling joy for those who will find themselves in its gates.

Various Gallop polls have found that most people believe in heaven. Infinitely more than those who believe that there is a place called hell, and that in itself is interesting as Jesus spoke more about hell than he did heaven, but in one poll only 4% of the people believed that they were going to hell!

My friends, on the criteria of entering heaven set out in the Bible, I am afraid that there’s an awful lot of people who will be disappointed. BELIEVING in Heaven doesn’t meet the criteria for going to heaven.

Yet the first fact about heaven that I want to make is that, it is a real place.

Some people flippantly say: I feel in heaven but not a feeling. It is an actual place.

In speaking of “a Man” in  2 Corinthians 12:2-4 Paul was speaking of the criteria for him entering heaven. He said “I knew a man “IN CHRIST.”

In other words, we must be BORN AGAIN TO ENTER HEAVEN, but secondly he said, whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know.

In other words Paul is confirming that you can go to heaven in your body, but he did not know if his experience was in the body or out of it. All he knew was that it was a real experience. It wasn’t a dream! It wasn’t an illusion, and there in paradise he heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

We also know that heaven is UP THERE, and that applies even if you are down under in Australia!

My friends, The North Star, also known as Polaris, and is known to stay in a relatively fixed position in our sky as it only makes its own little circle around the exact point of the north celestial pole every day.

So when the apostle Paul said, I was caught UP into heaven, heaven is UP even when you are DOWN UNDER. It is NORTH even if you are down!

Indeed, Satan understands where heaven is . for God told him in

13  You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.

Again the position of heaven as being North is confirmed in Leviticus 1:11, where the giving of a sacrifice and he says this, “And he shall kill it on the side of the altar, “northward toward the Lord.”

So heaven is a real place, and it is upward, and the proof that you can enter it in the body is Jesus himself as in his ascension he went there in his body.

Yet as one person said: the first heaven we see by day, the second we see by night, but the third heaven we see by FAITH, and one day we too as ones who are born again will be reclothed in an incorruptible body and will reside there with him for ever.

But what about those who die now. The unionist army marched to battle in the American civil war singing John Browns body lies a moldering in the grave, and what was true for John Brown, is true for us all who are not cremated on death, so what happens to us?

The saved go to heaven immediately upon death.

Some of you may not be confident about where you are going, but if you have truly made your peace with God through the blood of Christ, you should be confident.

Listen to this scripture, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. Paul says, ” 6  Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7  We live by faith, not by sight. 8  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Paul said you can be absent from your body and go to heaven, but you will also be reclothed one day in a resurrected body.

So our soul, our spirit  goes immediately to heaven upon death, and this is confirmed top us by Jesus who told the dying thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” As Jesus bowed his head and died, he said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Again when Steven, was stoned to death he looked up, he said, I see heaven, I see Jesus on the right hand of the Father. And then he prayed, Father, receive my spirit.

Many people ask Will we know our loved ones in heaven?

Yes we will.

When the Bible speaks about people dying it speaks of them going to their people. Therefore the implication is that they will go to people that they know.

Listen to what the Bible says about Isaac, Genesis 35:29: “And Isaac gave up the ghost and died and was gathered to his people, ……

Listen to what the Bible says about Jacob and his family reunion in heaven. Genesis 49:33, “And when Jacob made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed and yielded up the ghost and was gathered to his people.”

Listen to what God said to Moses. “Go up into the mountain and die in the mountain and be gathered to your people.”

Knowing each other in each case is implied and it is confirmed in a statement made by Jesus in Matthew 8:11: where he says:  11  I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Those patriarchs of whom we read in the Bible will be feasting with us in glory. We will know each other and we will  be under no doubt as to who the host will be.  It will Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the LORD of LORD’s.

Again on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus was transfigured, we just had a preview of heaven when he’s up there on the Mount of Transfiguration. The disciples had never met Elijah, they’d never met Moses, they were separated by time and space and yet they recognised them another in heaven so be in no doubt we will know one another and it will not require an introduction from someone else.

There will also be joyful activity in heaven.

Most people work to live, but in heaven we will have rest from the sweat of the brow and all its anxieties which have been mans since the Fall. There in heaven we will return to how living was before Adam and Eve fell into sin.

Before sin entered into the world, Adam and Eve didn’t have to grow crops to survive in the Garden of Eden but they most certainly tended and cared for the gift of the Garden that God gave them.

They were given gifts as we have been given gifts and we will will use them in heaven. Look at the parable of the nobleman in Luke 19 beginning in verse 12. ”

The  nobleman is a picture of Jesus himself and he went into a far country.” “to receive for himself a kingdom and returned.”

You know the parable. Sufficient to say that our Lord has gone to heaven, he has given us certain abilities and certain things that we are to be stewards of until he returns. Christianity isn’t for lazy people. Christianity is a busy persons faith. He says, Occupy till I come. An occupation is what you do. He says, Get busy!

In the here and now there is work to do for the Lord, and in the hereafter in Revelation 7:15 the apostle John in his vision of heaven says he saw the servants of God and“…, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple.”

My friends. They serve him day and night. But labour for the LORD isn’t sweat, it’s joy.  My friends, I love working with my hands in my workshop but my greatest joy is serving the Lord.

Yes I wish I could serve him better, but I don’t wish that I could serve him longer because that is my an your joy forever.

In heaven my and your service for the LORD WILL BE PERFECT, even my singing, and we will labour together in His service but never knowing tiredness or seeing it other than pure joy.

No more tears, no more sighing, no more crying, no more dying, no more pain, for the former things are will have passed away. Little wonder then that the Apostle Paul said to the Philippians “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Serving God in this world is a blessing we do not deserve, but there is a cross within that labour as it is on occasions very difficult and even dangerous, but in heaven it is eternal joy. That why To die is gain.

Paul says, “the Eye has not seen nor the ear heard nor has there entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them which love him.”

There in heaven we will see the consummate work of God’s creative genius. Indeed, I feel that I will stand in awe for the first Ten 1000 years, and yet time will be no more but best of all Jesus will be there and by grace all the saints I have known and loved who have gone before me will be there. Oh what immeasurable joy is going to be ours.

We will see unimaginable things to wonderful to describe. We will be like the like the little blind girl who was given her sight. When she was blind, she knew of trees, she knew of grass, she knew of flowers a thousand and one things that we with sight take for granted, but when she saw them for herself she ran to her mother and said: it’s beautiful. Why didn’t you tell me it was so beautiful? That mother, through tears of joy, said, Sweetheart, I tried to tell you, but you had to see it for yourself.

That’s a glimpse of how we will see heaven. To fully appreciate the streets of gold, walls of jasper, gates of gold—which are just symbols of greater glory, greater things, things that eye cannot see nor ear hear nor heart conceive of what heaven is going to be like and to fully appreciate we need to go there and see for ourselves.

But Jesus is the crowning glory of heaven. Heaven to me is not primarily a place, heaven is a person. Jesus said, “I go and prepare a place for you,” now listen to this—what’s the purpose of a place, so we can live there? No, “that where I am there you may be also.” I’m looking forward to being with Jesus, are you?

I will not enter its gates through being better but by grace in being born again. Yes, you have to be heaven-born to be heaven-bound. We need to be born from above. Praise God for each and every soul that this day will who will be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. Amen

 

Friday 28 August 2020

“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 fueled 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 27 August 2020

EZEKIEL No 11

Judgment on Israel’s Leaders

Ezekiel 11:1-25

Open It

      1. Why is there such a strong temptation for leaders to consider themselves “above the law”?
      2. What would be difficult about being exiled from your homeland?

Explore It

      1. What did God show Ezekiel at the east gate of the temple? (11:1)
      2. What did God tell Ezekiel about the leaders of Jerusalem? (11:2)
      3. What was the attitude of the twenty-five leaders of Jerusalem toward their plight and their future? (11:3)
      4. What did the Spirit command Ezekiel to do in relation to the twenty-five leaders? (11:4)
      5. What was God’s accusation against the leaders of Jerusalem? (11:5-6)
      6. What did God predict would happen to the leaders of Jerusalem who felt they were safe? (11:7-10)
      7. In what sense did the leaders of Israel fail to understand the nature of God? (11:11-12)
      8. What happened to one of the leaders even as Ezekiel was prophesying? (11:13)
      9. What attitude did the people of Jerusalem hold toward Ezekiel and the other exiles? (11:15)
      10. What ray of hope did God offer to the exiles? (11:16)
      11. What did God promise about the future of the exiled Israelites? (11:17)
      12. What internal difference did Ezekiel foresee in the Jews who would return to the land? (11:18-20)
      13. How did God determine the punishment for those who insisted on idolatry? (11:21)
      14. When the glory departed from Jerusalem, where did Ezekiel go? (11:22-25)

Get It

      1. Why would the leaders who were left in Jerusalem after many were exiled to Babylon assume that they were “safe”?
      2. If the meat in the cooking pot represents a position of privilege, why did Jerusalem’s leaders view themselves in this way?
      3. How do you explain Ezekiel’s reaction when God struck down one of the leaders before his eyes?
      4. What evidence do you see that many of the people of our world do not know that God is the Lord?
      5. Why would it not be effective for God to return the exiles to Jerusalem with their heart unchanged?
      6. What are the characteristics of a “heart of flesh” as opposed to a “heart of stone”?

Apply It

      1. In what area of your life can you pray that God will soften your heart to His will and His ways?
      2. In what area can you pray that your nation will acknowledge the lordship of God Almighty before He has to demonstrate it in a devastating way?

 

Tuesday 25 August 2020

Throughout this pandemic I have tried to offer something each week that will help each week be more fruitful to each and everyone in the church, as I recognise that one person’s taste may differ from another. I hope that everyone has found at least one study, quiz and just plain info to their liking, and who knows but you and God, if you found them all. If you have, then well done.

Women of Character Bible studies series

Women of Grace 3

The Grace to Stand for God

Esther 3:1-11

Setting the Stage:

Monday morning again. It was hard enough for Katherine to face going to work without what hit her when she walked in. Shannon announced loudly, “Here comes Ms. Holiness!”

Katherine tried to make light of it. She looked behind her, searching in vain for Ms. Holiness. “Are you talking about me?”

“Well, nobody else around here qualifies, do they?”

Once they were at their work stations, Katherine got busy stuffing papers and Shannon got down to the point. She leaned toward Katherine and said quietly but intensely, “You ratted on us! You did it because of your religion, right?”

It didn’t matter that Katherine was too startled to answer, because Shannon was still talking. “You went to Clyde and blabbed everything. Phil says she knows all about what we were going to do.”

“Of course I didn’t go to her!” Katherine shot back.

But Shannon wasn’t finished. “Now you’ve got Phil and me and some other people in hot water. She thinks we were trying to get her fired.”

Lord, how should I defend myself? “Shannon, I didn’t say anything to her. I only talked to you because I thought I should say something.”

That was the hook Shannon was waiting for. Her voice escalated. “You church people are always poking your nose into other people’s business! Why can’t you keep your religion to yourself?”

Good question! Katherine wondered the same thing. If only I’d stayed in my comfortable circle of church and family and neighborhood. If only I hadn’t gotten into this crazy place among these strange people. Never mind that Brad is out of work, it would have been better to—

Shannon interrupted Katherine’s thoughts with a warning. Her voice was full of exaggerated concern. “I’d watch out for Phil if I were you. He doesn’t care who he shoots down. What he can do to one person he can do to another. You may be next.”

So blame it all on Phil, is that it? Make him the ringleader? So what can he do to me? Get me fired? I’d love it! No, maybe I wouldn’t, because we still need this job.

If there was any doubt that Katherine was in the doghouse with Phil, he erased it later that day when he called out to her, “So did you help old Clyde get religion? When are you two leaving for your world cruise together? I hear you’re on buddy-buddy terms.” That was one of the nicer things he said to her all afternoon. Other people at work were even colder to her than usual. The word was out: Katherine was the new office scapegoat. It was all because of something she didn’t do, and it was mixed up with her being a Christian.

Katherine thought, Well, I sure can’t write any books on how to win friends and influence people. I tried to do the right thing and I made enemies. Lord, you’ll have to be my defender. I’ll stick it out. I don’t want to become like these people. But I won’t quit this place until you tell me to.

      1. How have Katherine’s motives been confused and misrepresented?

 

      1. As Katherine tries to maintain her Christian witness in this hostile atmosphere, what do you think is most important for her to remember about the Lord?

 

about herself?

God’s Word for Us

Read Esther 3:1-11.

      1. How was Mordecai different from the other palace officials (Esther 3:2-4)?

 

      1. The other officials, trying to protect Mordecai or trying to avoid trouble, begged Mordecai to comply with the king’s command. What explanation had Mordecai given them for refusing to bow to Haman (Esther 3:4)?

 

      1. How did Haman inflate his hatred of Mordecai (Esther 3:5-7)?

 

      1. How did Haman enlist the king’s endorsement of his plan (Esther 3:8-9)?

 

      1. Because Haman hated Mordecai, he went after all the Jews in Xerxes’ kingdom. When have you been the object of someone’s wrath simply through “guilt by association”?

 

      1. What are some ways that Christians today are targeted for criticism?

 

      1. When we hear Christian faith attacked, most of us get defensive. Perhaps we leap to our own defence even more than to the defence of Christ. How do you typically respond to unreasonable opposition to your faith?

 

      1. If you came to faith in Christ in your teens or adulthood, recall any negative feelings you had about Christians before then. How do your memories help you understand people today who find fault with Christians?

 

      1. How would you like to change the ways you respond to unreasonable opposition?

 

Now or Later

Write about your experiences with people who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in opposing your faith in Christ. Detail how you felt about those people and anything that helped you have a more Christlike attitude toward them, such as coming to understand their background, listening to their hurts, forgiving them, or feeling new compassion for them.

Pray specifically by name for the people who are giving you the most opposition because of your faith.

Confess to the Lord any ways that you may deserve the opposition (by unChristlike attitudes and actions, for example). Talk to another person about this if it’s appropriate.

For further study read 1 Peter 3:8-17. Decide now how you will react the next time you come under attack for your faith. (Keeping silent and doing nothing can be a legitimate reaction.)

Pray that you’ll have a Christlike attitude toward those who oppose you, showing compassion without compromising your beliefs.

 

Monday 24 August 2020

Growing disciples

Week 2 of Ministering to others

Confronting Barriers That Hinder Servanthood

“Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:45

The world’s goal is to wrap itself around us so that we look and act like the culture. It’s time for us to be honest about what the world is doing to us. An honest evaluation can be both difficult and damaging to our pride. We would like to ignore the fact that there is a great difference between doing acts of servanthood and actually becoming a servant.

Anyone can perform an act of service. However, to initiate behavioural changes that lead to a lifestyle of serving others, our hearts must be transformed. Unfortunately, because human beings are basically selfish creatures, we must be willing to admit and confront the ungodly barriers that hinder us from becoming the servants Christ desires us to be.

LEARNING GOAL

This week you will—

      • examine Scriptures that address surrendering to a lifestyle of servanthood;
      • identify barriers to servanthood;
      • recognise behaviours that require personal change;
      • learn simple ways to serve others;
      • understand the imperative of servanthood in Christlike ministry to others.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 2

Day 1: The Barrier of Materialism
Day 2: The Barrier of Entitlement
Day 3: The Barrier of Pride
Day 4: The Barrier of Spiritual Blindness
Day 5: The Barrier of Unconfessed Sin

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

Mark 10:45

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 2
Day 1: The Barrier of Materialism
God’s Word for Today

“Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.'”—Mark 10:21

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

The rich young man, whose story is told in Mark 10:17-22, is not much different from many people today. Though obviously a very religious and pious man, he still lacked what Christ desires most from His children: he was unwilling to give up everything for the sake of following the Savior. Unfortunately, his attachment to this world prevented him from inheriting eternal life.

Even Christians are willing to sacrifice the quality of their fellowship with Christ in order to obtain more things.

People don’t have to be wealthy to be attached to the world. Many who are not wealthy nonetheless have materialistic values, believing material goods will bring happiness and self-fulfillment. Prisons are filled with people willing to risk their lives and integrity for the sake of materialism. We live in a consumer culture. Men and women today spend more time at work than at any time in history to finance their enormous appetite for more. Could it be that we are so addicted to material things and the high of buying that we have become like drug addicts looking for their next fix? Even Christians are willing to sacrifice the quality of their fellowship with Christ in order to obtain more things.

How would you complete the following statement? Be brutally honest! I consider myself to be—

unimpressed with material things;
moderately impressed with material things;
totally consumed with material things.

In which category would you place the rich young man?

What evidence does Mark 10 provide to support your answer?

Most likely, you fall into the middle category. As I (David) see it, this is where the rich young man was. He could have gone either way. After all, he knew the commandments and seemed to be fairly committed to God, even as a youth (see Mark 10:20). The problem is, although he was a good person, the rich young man wouldn’t let go of his wealth to follow Christ.

How about you? Take a minute to pray about your attitude toward material things. Then check the statement that best describes you.

I am willing to give up everything for the sake of the gospel.
I prefer a moderate faith.

Carefully read Matthew 6:19-24 below. Honestly rank the following priorities in your life by numbering them 1 to 8, with 1 being the highest.

“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.”—Matthew 6:19-24

Family
Relationship with Christ
Job advancement
Personal integrity
Recreation/hobbies
Serving others
Obtaining nicer things
Education

It isn’t wrong to want a better life for you and your family. However, it is imperative not to be a slave of money (see v. 24). You can’t attract other people to Christ if your ultimate loyalty lies somewhere else. Furthermore, genuine ministry in Christ’s name requires a lifestyle of giving instead of getting. Jesus addressed the rich young man in Mark 10:21 because He loved him. Jesus knew that life is never about what we receive; it is the selfless acts of giving and following Him that matter.

Jesus instructed the rich young man to “sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” Serving others, including the poor, is one way to follow Christ. Think of ways you can begin serving others today.

      • If it is raining, use your umbrella to escort someone into the grocery store or shopping centre.
      • Be kind at your place of employment, a local restaurant, or a shopping centre by donating five minutes to open the door for others. Tell them that God loves them or just smile and see how people respond.

Start memorizing your memory verse for this week, Mark 10:45. If you would like, tear out and use the card at the back of the book.

Watch and Pray

Ask God to free you from the bondage of materialism and to help you set your priorities around His desires, not the world’s.

Day 2: The Barrier of Entitlement
God’s Word for Today

“James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Him and said, ‘Teacher, we want You to do something for us if we ask You?’ ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ He asked them. They answered Him, ‘Allow us to sit at Your right and Your left in Your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink or to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?’ ‘We are able,’ they told Him.”—Mark 10:35-39

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

My (David’s) mother tells the story of visiting a church one Sunday after the death of my father. She arrived early enough to seat herself in an almost empty sanctuary. Grieving and lonely, she was encouraged when an older woman approached her and began to speak. However, her warm feelings soon dissipated when the woman ignored my mother’s greeting and quickly reminded her that as a member of the church since its inception 45 years ago, she had always sat in the seat my mother had chosen. Without compassion she forced this grieving widow to slide over if she wanted to sit in her area of the sanctuary.

Unfortunately, incidents like this are common occurrences in congregations where an entitlement mentality is allowed to exist without being challenged. The opposite of being a servant, it is the same attitude James and John displayed in Mark 10:35-39—me first, others later!

Are you suffering from the same spirit of entitlement as James and John? Beside each statement write T for true or F for false.

T F I often complain about church decisions, being concerned only with my desires, regardless of how they affect the unsaved.
T F I believe I deserve to be treated better at church because I am a long time member.
T F I believe the church staff should cater to my needs first before ministering to the unsaved.
T F I am threatened by change and especially by newcomers to church.

Are you any different from James and John or the woman my mother met at church? Pray and ask God to reveal any areas of entitlement in your life. Record those areas below.

To fully understand how inconsiderate a spirit of entitlement can be, notice the startling announcement Jesus made just moments before being approached by James and John.

Read Mark 10:33-34 below. How does Jesus’ example compare to James and John’s request?

“Listen! We are going to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him, and kill Him, and He will rise after three days.”—Mark 10:33-34

After hearing Jesus’ prediction, how could anyone be concerned about themselves? What about Jesus’ well-being? What about His example of surrender to the Father’s will? No one in history deserved more honour and glory; yet He surrendered it all to make salvation possible.

Read Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24-25 below. What is the solution to an attitude of entitlement?

“If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.”Matthew 16:24-25

Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.” The only way to lose your life is to give it away and live for others, regardless of the way they treat you in return. That’s the attitude of a servant of Christ.

Identify a time in the past six months when you surrendered yourself to serve someone else, not expecting anything in return.

If you haven’t served someone this way, why?

Entitlement
Other priorities
Haven’t embraced servanthood
Other:

Complete the following sentences.

      • To deny myself, I must give up ____________________.
      • To take up my cross, I must be willing to ____________________.
      • To follow Christ, I must learn to ____________________.

Write this week’s memory verse.

Watch and Pray

Pray about your attitude toward God. Do you treat Him as though He owes you more than He has already given you? Confess any sense of entitlement and ask God to develop in you a heart of servanthood that wants to minister in His name.

Day 3: The Barrier of Pride
God’s Word for Today

“Jesus called them over and said to them, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.'”—Mark 10:42-45

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

From yesterday’s study you already know the background of “God’s Word for Today”—James and John’s selfish request to sit at Jesus’ right and left in glory. At the heart of the issue is sinful pride and a misunderstanding of the way Christ defines real influence and power.

How does the world define influence and power? Check the words that apply or add some of your own.

Money
Humility
Serving others
Being the boss
Position in society
Selflessness
__________________

__________________

How did Jesus define influence and power in Mark 10:42-45? Circle some of the defining words in the Scripture above.

Pride will never result in a servant spirit that sees others as more important than personal needs. Jesus said if someone wants to achieve greatness, he must be willing to become a servant; and if he wants to be first, he must be “a slave to all” (v. 44).

What does it mean to be a servant and a slave?

Write this week’s memory verse, Mark 10:45, below. Why did Jesus come?

Jesus gave His life to humble service, and He taught His followers to do the same.

Read Proverbs 16:18 below. Is pride destroying your witness? Stop and ask God to reveal any areas of destructive pride in your life that are hindering a selfless life of Christlike surrender. Be transparent. Confess your pride and ask for forgiveness.

“Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.”—Proverbs 16:18

The primary quality of a servant is humility. In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus told a parable to illustrate the value of humility in His kingdom. In verse 14 He concluded, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” God exalts a person only when he does not take credit for his service and willingly surrenders all the glory to Him.

Read Luke 18:9-14 in your Bible and answer the following questions.

Which man was more representative of the humble servant spirit that Christ desires from His children?

Pharisee
Tax collector

Which man are you most like in your spiritual life?

Pharisee
Tax collector

Name two persons you know who exemplify genuine humility.

What qualities make these persons servants?

The opposite of selfish pride is to become a selfless servant of God and others.

The opposite of selfish pride is to become a selfless servant of God and others. Jesus gave us a model for servanthood when He washed the disciples’ feet (see John 13:1-5). Washing feet was the most humiliating act a person could perform in Jewish society; yet Jesus willingly took up the towel and became a slave, even to the point of dying on the cross.

Today humbly wash the feet of someone you know—your spouse, a friend, or a family member. Don’t be shy; it is a powerful testimony to the humility and love of Christ. Then record your feelings and impressions in “My Observation Journal” below.

Identify two things you can do to demonstrate a servant spirit to someone who needs to see the love of Christ.

When you minister to someone, remember to update “My Ministry List” on page 92.

My Observation Journal

Watch and Pray

Spend time in prayer. Humble yourself before God and exalt Him as your Lord. Pray for a spirit of humility in serving others that exemplifies the character and love of Christ.

Day 4: The Barrier of Spiritual Blindness
God’s Word for Today

“As He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!’ Many people told him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, ‘Have mercy on me, Son of David!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man and said to him, ‘Have courage! Get up; He’s calling for you.’ He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. Then Jesus answered him, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbouni,’ the blind man told Him, ‘I want to see!’ ‘Go your way,’ Jesus told him. ‘Your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he could see and began to follow Him on the road.”—Mark 10:46-52

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

I (David) once approached a seminary professor during an exam and inquired about a true/false question that used the word always in reference to the way scholars interpret a certain passage of Scripture. I will never forget my professor’s response: “If you said a cloudless sky is always blue, someone would find a reason to disagree, especially in Baptist circles.” I smiled, returned to my seat, and decided the question was probably false.

Unfortunately, my professor’s assertion was correct in more areas than biblical interpretation. As a young pastor, I was quickly initiated to the reality of negative people with extreme spiritual blindness. Like the negative people who attacked Bartimaeus when he was begging for mercy, many others in the church today are indifferent to spiritual issues. Consider the following questions.

      • How can Christians pass by people like Bartimaeus without hurting for their plight in life? Is there ever a good excuse not to care?
      • If not, how do we treat people like Bartimaeus? Is our first response to judge the person without caring for their needs? When we see a homeless person, do we say, “They need to get a job” or “If they weren’t so lazy, they could make it”? Do we automatically assume the worst without considering the vast opportunities for ministry?
      • Has the church become a crowd of overly religious people ignoring the plight of a hurting world and conveniently telling everyone to be quiet? Is the church spiritually blind?
      • To the credit of Bartimaeus, he continued to summon Jesus, and a miracle followed as he receive his sight. Is it possible that Christians have become so blind, negative, and self-absorbed that we are missing the daily miracles of Christ?

In an attitude of prayer, read the previous questions and ask God to reveal any spiritual blindness you may have. Ask Him to remove the blinders so that you can see Him at work, recognize needs around you, and genuinely care about and minister to others.

A key area of spiritual blindness for many Christians is prejudice —an unholy attitude toward people of other races, cultures, and economic status.

Read the following passages in your Bible and record the type of prejudice or the unholy attitude illustrated.

Mark 10:13-16: _______________________________

John 8:1-11: _______________________________

Matthew 9:1-8: _______________________________

Matthew 9:10-13: _______________________________

Now read Matthew 7:1-5 below. How does Jesus’ teaching apply to our attitudes and actions toward people of different backgrounds and races?

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”—Matthew 7:1-5

Another common form of spiritual blindness is disobedience. In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus told a parable about people who say no to God’s work in their lives instead of allowing Him to multiply their talents.

Read Matthew 25:14-30 in your Bible. Are you willing to humble yourself and serve the unsaved, regardless of how difficult and inconvenient it may be, or are you saying no to God?

Review “Ideas for Ministry Actions” on pages 9498. List three immediate actions you can take to serve outside your comfort zone. An example is volunteering at a homeless shelter or at a pregnancy resource centre.

      1. _______________________________
      2. _______________________________
      3. _______________________________

Update “My Ministry List” on page 92 as you minister to others.

It is time for Christians to stop creating roadblocks to ministry. Instead of acting like Pharisees, we must take off the blinders and learn to love people unconditionally. Only then can we truly minister in Jesus’ name.

Watch and Pray

Pray for God to clear your heart of any prejudice that would hinder your service.

Day 5: The Barrier of Unconfessed Sin
God’s Word for Today

“Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. Wash away my guilt, and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.”—Psalm 51:1-5

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

In his book Beneath the Surface Bob Reccord shares a story about confronting a close friend who was involved in an ongoing affair. As a result, the man’s wife left him, and he lost his job as a minister.

Reccord asked the man, “How could you do it? Didn’t you realize what was happening? Weren’t there alarms going off, at least when the affair was in danger of beginning?” After an extended time of silence, the man responded, “Yes, Bob. There were warnings. I heard the alarms of my conscience and God’s Word clanging in my life … but I decided to disconnect the wires.”

Unfortunately, this response is exactly what David described in Psalm 51. The background of the passage is found in 2 Samuel 12:1-15, when Nathan the prophet rebuked King David for disconnecting his spiritual wires after committing adultery with Bathsheba. David went even further by trying to cover his sin; as a result, Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, was killed. In the end David lost the respect of much of Israel and almost lost his kingdom to Absalom.

Review Psalm 51:1-5 above. Underline any words or phrases that refer to David’s confession of his personal sin.

List words or phrases David used to identify the attributes of God to which he appealed as He sought forgiveness.

Read Romans 3:23 below. Since “all have sinned,” what words or phrases would you use in reference to your sin if you were writing Psalm 51?

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23

In reference to “the glory of God,” list words you would use to describe God’s forgiveness.

Infatuation with self becomes a stumbling block to Christ’s call for His followers to become servants and slaves to the world.

The essence of sin is total selfishness and a desire to be like God and to know what He knows. Infatuation with self becomes a stumbling block to Christ’s call for His followers to become servants and slaves to the world (see Mark 10:42-45). If left unconfessed, this sin of self-exaltation will overtake a Christian’s life and make our hearts calloused to the needs of others. It is impossible to be a true servant and self-absorbed at the same time. As John the Baptist stated in John 3:30, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.”

Search your heart and complete the following statements in regard to your personal sins.

I wrestle with God over …

I would become a better servant and slave to others if I …

What changes are needed in your life for you to decrease and for Jesus to increase?

Carefully read David’s response to God’s forgiveness in Psalm 51:6-17, paying special attention to the descriptive terms he used.

Respond to God’s forgiveness soon by ministering to a stranger. Record the results in “My Ministry List” on page 92.

Write this week’s memory verse.

Watch and Pray

Spend time in prayer confessing any sin that is hindering your becoming the surrendered servant God wants you to be. Reread Psalm 51:10-13, applying it personally whenever the pronoun me is used.

Session 2: Confronting Barriers That Hinder Servanthood

Opening Prayer

Learning Goal

You will—

      • examine Scriptures that address surrendering to a lifestyle of servanthood;
      • identify barriers to servanthood;
      • recognize behaviors that require personal change;
      • learn simple ways to serve others;
      • understand the imperative of servanthood in Christlike ministry to others.

Reviewing Week 2

      1. In pairs or triads take turns reciting your Scripture-memory verse, Mark 10:45. Discuss Jesus’ example of servanthood.
      2. Identify the five barriers to servanthood that were presented this week (materialism, entitlement, pride, spiritual blindness, unconfessed sin). Briefly describe how they discourage ministry to others.
      3. Christians are not immune to materialism. What are issues that tempt Christians to stray from complete surrender to Christ as servants to Him and others? What is your greatest challenge in this area?
      4. It has been said that worldly, materialistic values are hindering the church from being salt and light to the unsaved. Do you think this is true? If so, what are some issues that need to be addressed?
      5. What lessons did you learn from Mark 10:35-39? Respond to the true/false activity (activity 1) on page 26.
      6. Read Matthew 16:24-25. How does Christ’s proclamation differ from the worldly mindset of entitlement?
      7. Read Mark 10:42-45. Discuss what it means to be a servant. How does this concept differ from the attitude of secular society? What does it look like to be a slave? How does this understanding transform the approach you take in your ministry to others?
      8. Share experiences washing someone’s feet (activity 7, p. 29). What did you learn about Christ through the experience? What did you learn about yourself? If you refused to wash feet, why?
      9. Respond to the series of questions on page 30. Why do you think these attitudes exist among believers? How does a negative response to people in need match up with Scripture and Jesus’ call to be a servant?
      10. In what ways have you been spiritually blind to the needs of people in your sphere of influence? Are you too busy? Or like the Pharisees, are you blinded by the walls of religion?
      11. Name sins that hinder believers from becoming the servants God desires.
      12. Are there other barriers to becoming a servant that were not covered this week?
      13. Based on Scripture and what you have learned this week, discuss how your church could immediately start reflecting the biblical model of service by ministering to the surrounding community.

Ministering to Others

      1. Share ideas for practicing servanthood as a daily lifestyle. Start with these suggestions. Also see “Ideas for Ministry Actions” on pages 9498.
        • Begin in your home by assisting with chores before being reminded. This is especially effective in reaching teenagers and unsaved spouses and family members.
        • Practice servanthood by slowing down and seeing needs, opening doors, listening to others, actively caring, and so on.
        • Practice servanthood by slowing down and seeing needs, opening doors, listening to others, actively caring, and so on.
      2. Examine “My Ministry List” on page 92. What have you done this week to address these persons’ needs or to show God’s love to them? What will you commit to do this week? Who needs to be added?

Praying Together

Share changes you will immediately make to become a servant who ministers in Jesus’ name. Pray for these commitments in groups of three or four. Also pray that God will help you overcome barriers to a lifestyle of servanthood. Finally, pray for the persons on your ministry lists.

Previewing Week 3

Turn to page 37 and preview the study for the coming week.

Growing Disciples Series – Minister to Others.

 

Sunday 23 August 2020

Know your Enemy

By Phylip Henry Rees
Nehemaiah 4:1-19
Nehemiah 5:1-19 (ANIV)

1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers.
2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”
3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”
4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.
5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”
6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.
7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them
8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.
9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?
10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop!
11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them—the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.”
12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised.
13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!” At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.
14 Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor.
15 But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.
16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land.
17 Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations.
18 Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.
19 Remember me with favour, O my God, for all I have done for these people. 

Nehemiah 4-6

I love the Book of Nehemiah and somehow I think that with our current problems of the ever present pandemic, recession, depression I think that it has even more to tell us  about our situation today whereby it would seem to me that the devil has been loosed,  hence why I have called this message : Know your enemy.

You  see, we can find in our reading as much as  nine tools of the devil, and unlike so much of the news today which is false news, these tools of the devil are still very much a reality in our human experience, although I am only going to speak of FOUR of them today.

In our reading we find that  Sanballat the Arab  and Tobiah the Ammonite were having a great laugh at the expense of the people of God rebuilding the city walls of Jerusalem, just people did in the time  of Noah when they saw him building a ship in the middle of the land locked ground. My friends:

      1. Derision is a tool of the devil and his minions in the world, are they are still using it today on Bible-believing Christian like you and me.

Yet, Jesus reminds us that the servant is no better than his Master Mark 5:40 says of Jesus, “And they laughed him to scorn.”

Only this last week I was listening to the widow of PC Harper who was  killed by some young thieves  and she said of her husband always smiled as he didn’t take himself too seriously.

In fact I found life myself a lot more bearable when I learnt not to lighten up and even to laugh at myself!

In fact I will go as far as to say that it has been a gift of God in ministry because if you can’t have a laugh at your own expense then you will never put up with people laughing at what you believe, and consequently you’re not going to live a victorious Christian!

This is why so many Christian teenagers are reticent in sharing their faith! They can’t face ridicule, but it isn’t only children; many a person has worked alongside a colleague for 10; 20; 30 or more years only to be shocked in finding out that their colleague was a secret follower of Jesus like themselves. They have never shared their faith because they couldn’t face their friends ridicule and in the process they have failed to experience the beauty of Christian fellowship.

What was Nehemiah’s means of dealing with DERISION?
Like Noah before him, we are told in verse 6: that Nehemiah and the people of  God just kept on building, but verse 9 tells us that they also kept on praying.

My friends, if you don’t have a heart to pray, your work in the name of the Lord is in vein because the oil that lubricates the cogs of Christian work is always prayer. So if you are seizing up in the labour then I would suggest that you need more prayer.

But serving the LORD in the power of prayer is also the perfect antidote to those who show derision for your faith! Indeed as I have said before, if prayer was good enough for Jesus in his ministry  it has to be essential for ours.

But verse 9 also tells that they also kept on watching.

My friends we shouldn’t get so spiritual that we don’t watch what is taking place around us.

In watching The Apostle Paul saw that Alexander the coppersmith got up too no good, and he warned Timothy about him, and we need to remember that making valued judgments about situations and people is not being judgmental, and it isn’t slanderous to warn brothers and sisters about facts!

      • Secondly the Devil uses Discouragement

In verse 10 we find that Judah one of the chief tribes and leaders was daunted by the task himself. They were the typical folk who sees the glass half empty rather than half full!

We are told : He said: Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the labourers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”

My friends!  There are always those in our ranks who say, “It can’t be done.” Indeed, I am sure that there There were people who told you when it was first suggested that you should build the Christian centre that it couldn’t be done; or it shouldn’t be done; as it was too expensive; or  in saying what’s wrong with our buildings as they are?

Indeed every building program I have been involved with has had its detractors, and the devil will always use detractors to try and stop Gods momentum to go forward, and I will add that he sometimes uses Christians in his endeavours who walk by sight rather than faith.

Now it may that some of you are discouraged right now. You have been trying to do your best for the church through these difficult months, but on occasions you may feel that all you are having is negative feedback, and the devil is gloating about it.

He wants you to take the derision and discouragement to heart in order that you stop praying up and just give up , so it is important for you to remember that Isaiah 40;31 says: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” , while the Apostle Paul says to to you as said to the church at Galatia “… let us not be weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9).

Why?

Well when you do good for others, it is as good as doing it for Christ himself. So when you feel discouraged then refocus your eyes on the LORD, and keep building the walls by doing your best.

      • The third device of the devil: not only derision, and discouragement, but actual

Look, in 4:11:

Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” (Nehemiah 4:11).

Are we so foolish as to think that such a conversation didn’t on between the two brothers responsible for the heinous crime of the Manchester terrorism attack, and by other followers of darkness before they go in and commit their infernal terrorist attack in a Christian place of worship? Of course it is, and so shall it increase as we come closer the time of Christ return.  So what should we do?

Number one: Remember the Lord. Look, if you will, in verse 14: After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, ..”

Yes our God is  great and awesome. So when somebody threatens, when somebody comes against you, don’t look at how big they are; remember how big God is.

Robert Louis Stevenson told of a ship, which was driven by a violent wind toward a rocky coast. And, the people on board that ship were filled with terror. They thought, perhaps, they’d go down so one man made his way to talk to the captain.

When he returned he had a smile on his face. And, they said, “What put that smile on your face?” He said, “I looked at the captain, and he smiled at me, and I know that all is well.” Now, what you need to do, when danger comes, and when you’re afraid, is go look into the face of the Lord Jesus for he is a captain that holds you in a grip of grace.

Then Reflect on the Issue

Verse 14 goes on to say: , Remember the LORD and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

The late David Hughes once said: Remember, we Christians are not a mat for people to rub their dirty shoes on!. That is powerful message to those who think that Christianity is a wishy washy faith. It isn’t!

We my friends should always remember the Lord and go out in his power. My father didn’t fight for the King and country in the 2nd Word War, he like so many others fought  in a Just war against tyranny for the survival of his family. My friends,  Christians are not called to lie down in submission but to stand up and face danger in the name of the King of Kings.  

Yet today as the Reverend Adrian Rogers once noted: Many Christians are folding up, when they ought to be standing up.

This has never been the way of the people of God. Nehemiah and the people of God had a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other!

My friends! I remind you that we may be older than we were but we are still soldiers of the LORD. We still have battles to fight. We hold the moral, ethical and spiritual high ground and the enemy is trying to take it. We need to fight to keep it and therefore we must  not give up in the face of derision, discouragement or danger.

      • Fourthly the devil uses Discord

When Derision didn’t work against Nehemiah; the devil used discouragement. And when that didn’t work he tried danger and when that didn’t work we find in chapter 5:1 that he used discord amongst the Jews themselves.

Their discord was at this time over money.  It frequently is as I have found myself in some churches. But, it could be over anything.

Listen to what Proverbs 6:19 says: , “God hates ‘he that sows discord among brethren’” (Proverbs 6:19) and you can be sure that what God hates, the devil loves!

Know your enemy, next time you feel like taking a bite out of the ear of a fellow believer REMEMBER that your enemy is the same as mine, and every other Christian. It is the devil himself.

Indeed one One of the great proofs of the deity of Jesus Christ is how we love one another—the unity of the Church. Jesus prayed in John 17:20 and following—that “we might be one, that the world might believe that the Father had sent the Son” (John 17:20-21).

Do you know what makes Duckpool Road Baptist Church the wonderful church she is? The unity of this church; this church has a wonderful, glorious unity. And, the unity is the unity of the Spirit. It isn’t a one man or woman ministry.

Yet, we don’t build that unity. We only protect that unity.

It is the unity of the Spirit. It is a spiritual unity, and we must watch, watch, watch that nothing ever divides the unity of our church.

Indeed one of the great reasons is found in 5:9, on why we need to be so on guard. Nehemiah said, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?

My friends! Like it or not we are bearing witness to the world as much when we are squabbling with one another as when we are living in unity together. The only difference is that when we are squabbling we are witnesses of the devil, but in unity we are witnesses of God. Little wonder that Nehemiah said, “We’ve got to stay together.”

Now, what happened is simply this: The have nots with the Jews were paying exorbitant interest to the haves who were lending them money!

It was sinful, and something needed to be done, and . thank God, it was done for we are told in chapter 5:11, 12 that Nehemiah said, Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them—the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.” 12  “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them.

(Nehemiah 5:11-12). This was wonderful. There was repentance, there was restoration, and there was the resumption of the work!

Indeed a modern take on this unfairness between the rich and poor was the recent algorithm used to proportion grades to A and GCSE students. It penalised the poorer schools at the expense of the richer schools, and we can thank God that it was seen to be unfair, and the government had the courage to do a U turn!

My friends! There are no problems too big to solve, only people too small to solve them and so it is in the church? So, when we do have difficulty, when we do have division, let’s not let the enemy get the advantage. But, go to the Word of God, go to the man of God, the plan of God, and get back on the track, rebuilding the wall.

“…. Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Amen.

 

Saturday 22 August 2020

We missed a study on First Steps – Bible – Can We Trust It

 No 6

How to read the Bible last Saturday as we had a little change but we are now back on course. Week last Saturday we looked at How do I read the Bible part 1 The Old Testament, but now we have part 2 How do we read the Bible New Testament.

Enjoy, and keep well spiritually, and physically.

      1. 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 21 August 2020

Money

“Baby You’re a Rich Man”

The Beatles

How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
… Baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man, too

Backbeat

The Beatles were fabulously wealthy. John Lennon’s estate at his death in 1980 was estimated at half a billion dollars, and Paul McCartney is now a billionaire. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were wealthy as well, but less so (they were not beneficiaries of the Lennon-McCartney song writing successes). The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, also became quite rich, and he earned it. He took them on in 1961 when they were still playing dank Liverpool clubs and seedy Hamburg nightspots and leveraged their local following into worldwide success.

Epstein, however, suffered from bouts of deep depression, so the Beatles wrote a song to cheer him up. Using parts of two songs that Paul and John had created, “Baby You’re a Rich Man” was born. The song opens with John’s portion, originally titled “One of the Beautiful People,” and then moves up a notch to Paul’s “rich man” chorus. The song, unfortunately, did not cheer Epstein. Two months after the song was released, he was dead of a drug overdose.

A hit single from the summer of 1967, “Baby You’re A Rich Man” was included in the Magical Mystery Tour album.

Riff

The Beatles had it all, and Brian Epstein shared in the spoils. The Fab Four were definitely the most “Beautiful” people on earth, if you judge by their ability to attract crowds. Because of their success, Epstein could have just about anything he wanted. Except happiness.

Fabulously wealthy and just as unhappy—it seems ironic. But Epstein is just one of many with the same story. Money really can’t buy happiness, though we keep expecting it to. In fact, it’s rather sad that the Beatles’ attempt to cheer up their despondent friend took the form of this song, which merely reminded him how rich he was.

Jesus asked, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Worldly wealth is not the measure of true success. In fact, money often distracts people from their true purpose: a relationship with God.

Jesus often talked about money, not really condemning it but warning against its power to control us. Money’s a fine servant but a bad master. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters…. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Some Christians keep trying to prove him wrong, and their faith is damaged as a result.

At one point, Jesus’ disciples heard him say, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours” (Luke 6:20). This sets up an interesting comparison: You can gain the whole world but lose your soul getting it, or you can be poor and humble in this world but gain God’s Kingdom in the process. Which do you want?

Harmonies
Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 Matthew 6:33 Acts 8:20
Matthew 5:3 Mark 8:36* 1 Timothy 6:9
Matthew 6:24* Luke 6:20*

 

Thursday 20 August 2020

The Glory Departs from the Temple

Ezekiel 10:1-22

Open It

      1. How would you describe a specific experience of being awestruck?
      2. What, in your mind, is spiritual emptiness or dryness, and how do you feel when you experience it?

Explore It

      1. How did Ezekiel attempt to describe what he saw in the presence of God? (10:1)
      2. What did God command his servant to do with the coals he was to take from between the wheels of the cherubim? (10:2)
      3. As Ezekiel watched, what movement took place first with the cloud that represented God’s glory? (10:3-4)
      4. How far did the radiance and sound of God’s glory extend? (10:4-5)
      5. How did one of the cherubim assist the man in white with the coals? (10:6-7)
      6. What new detail did Ezekiel learn about the cherubim as he watched? (10:8)
      7. What did Ezekiel notice about the wheels of the cherubim? (10:9-11)
      8. What unique feature virtually covered the cherubim? (10:12)
      9. What did the four faces of the cherubim look like to Ezekiel? (10:14)
      10. How were the wheels related to the creatures Ezekiel called cherubim? (10:15-17)
      11. What specific movements of the glory of the Lord did Ezekiel witness? (10:18-19)
      12. Where had Ezekiel seen the living creatures before? (10:20-22)
      13. What features of the cherubim especially stood out in Ezekiel’s mind? (10:21-22)

Get It

      1. What do you think motivated Ezekiel to describe everything he saw in such detail?
      2. Why was it valuable to Israel that the presence of the Lord inhabited the temple?
      3. How do you suppose it felt for a faithful servant of God to watch the glory depart from the temple?
      4. How would you characterize the idol worshipers’ awareness of the glory of the Lord and His departure?
      5. Why do people sometimes take the presence of God for granted?

Apply It

      1. How can you take advantage of your status as a child of God to cultivate and enjoy the presence of God?
      2. For what nation or nationality do you feel moved to pray for renewal?

 

Wednesday 19 August 2020

WOMEN OF GRACE 3

The Grace to Stand for God

Esther 3:1-11

Setting the Stage:

Monday morning again. It was hard enough for Katherine to face going to work without what hit her when she walked in. Shannon announced loudly, “Here comes Ms. Holiness!”

Katherine tried to make light of it. She looked behind her, searching in vain for Ms. Holiness. “Are you talking about me?”

“Well, nobody else around here qualifies, do they?”

Once they were at their work stations, Katherine got busy stuffing papers and Shannon got down to the point. She leaned toward Katherine and said quietly but intensely, “You ratted on us! You did it because of your religion, right?”

It didn’t matter that Katherine was too startled to answer, because Shannon was still talking. “You went to Clyde and blabbed everything. Phil says she knows all about what we were going to do.”

“Of course I didn’t go to her!” Katherine shot back.

But Shannon wasn’t finished. “Now you’ve got Phil and me and some other people in hot water. She thinks we were trying to get her fired.”

Lord, how should I defend myself? “Shannon, I didn’t say anything to her. I only talked to you because I thought I should say something.”

That was the hook Shannon was waiting for. Her voice escalated. “You church people are always poking your nose into other people’s business! Why can’t you keep your religion to yourself?”

Good question! Katherine wondered the same thing. If only I’d stayed in my comfortable circle of church and family and neighborhood. If only I hadn’t gotten into this crazy place among these strange people. Never mind that Brad is out of work, it would have been better to—

Shannon interrupted Katherine’s thoughts with a warning. Her voice was full of exaggerated concern. “I’d watch out for Phil if I were you. He doesn’t care who he shoots down. What he can do to one person he can do to another. You may be next.”

So blame it all on Phil, is that it? Make him the ringleader? So what can he do to me? Get me fired? I’d love it! No, maybe I wouldn’t, because we still need this job.

If there was any doubt that Katherine was in the doghouse with Phil, he erased it later that day when he called out to her, “So did you help old Clyde get religion? When are you two leaving for your world cruise together? I hear you’re on buddy-buddy terms.” That was one of the nicer things he said to her all afternoon. Other people at work were even colder to her than usual. The word was out: Katherine was the new office scapegoat. It was all because of something she didn’t do, and it was mixed up with her being a Christian.

Katherine thought, Well, I sure can’t write any books on how to win friends and influence people. I tried to do the right thing and I made enemies. Lord, you’ll have to be my defender. I’ll stick it out. I don’t want to become like these people. But I won’t quit this place until you tell me to.

      1. How have Katherine’s motives been confused and misrepresented?
      2. As Katherine tries to maintain her Christian witness in this hostile atmosphere, what do you think is most important for her to remember about the Lord?

about herself?

  God’s Word for Us

Read Esther 3:1-11.

      1. How was Mordecai different from the other palace officials (Esther 3:2-4)?
      2. The other officials, trying to protect Mordecai or trying to avoid trouble, begged Mordecai to comply with the king’s command. What explanation had Mordecai given them for refusing to bow to Haman (Esther 3:4)?
      3. How did Haman inflate his hatred of Mordecai (Esther 3:5-7)?
      4. How did Haman enlist the king’s endorsement of his plan (Esther 3:8-9)?
      5. Because Haman hated Mordecai, he went after all the Jews in Xerxes’ kingdom. When have you been the object of someone’s wrath simply through “guilt by association”?
      6. What are some ways that Christians today are targeted for criticism?
      7. When we hear Christian faith attacked, most of us get defensive. Perhaps we leap to our own defense even more than to the defense of Christ. How do you typically respond to unreasonable opposition to your faith?
      8. If you came to faith in Christ in your teens or adulthood, recall any negative feelings you had about Christians before then. How do your memories help you understand people today who find fault with Christians?
      9. How would you like to change the ways you respond to unreasonable opposition?
  Now or Later

Write about your experiences with people who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in opposing your faith in Christ. Detail how you felt about those people and anything that helped you have a more Christlike attitude toward them, such as coming to understand their background, listening to their hurts, forgiving them, or feeling new compassion for them.

Pray specifically by name for the people who are giving you the most opposition because of your faith.

Confess to the Lord any ways that you may deserve the opposition (by unChristlike attitudes and actions, for example). Talk to another person about this if it’s appropriate.

For further study read 1 Peter 3:8-17. Decide now how you will react the next time you come under attack for your faith. (Keeping silent and doing nothing can be a legitimate reaction).

Pray that you’ll have a Christlike attitude toward those who oppose you, showing compassion without compromising your beliefs.

 

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Woman of Grace  2

The Grace of Consistency

Esther 2:15-23

 Setting the Stage:

Layers of newspaper ink—years’ worth—were ground into the cement floor and walls of the room where Katherine worked. The lighting was utilitarian and harsh. But when she stewed inwardly about the atmosphere of the place, it was the human element that bothered her more than the bleak physical surroundings.

The atmosphere here is terrible, she thought. No, terrible is too strong a word. The atmosphere is . . . non-uplifting. It’s not very positive. It’s rather cynical. Well, yes, it’s terrible.

Nobody could accuse Katherine’s co-workers of lacking team spirit. They spoke with one voice about several matters: life was rotten, their spouses or partners were impossible to live with, this stuffing room was the world’s worst place to work.

Most of all they were united in their opinion of their supervisor, Ms. Clyde. To her face they were politely neutral. Behind her back they called her all kinds of things Katherine didn’t want to repeat. Leading the anti-Clyde forces were Shannon and Phil, who had work stations on either side of Katherine. They enjoyed depicting Ms. Clyde as the workplace witch.

At home Katherine let off steam by exploding to Brad. “I hate that place! All everybody does there all day is gripe and complain. They’re the crabbiest people I’ve ever had to be around!”

Brad looked pained. “Hey, things are rough enough. Do me a favour, will you, and don’t become a griper!”

While Katherine silently fumed, thinking, It’s bad enough I have to work there, now I have to put on a smiley face and not talk about it, Brad seemed to read her thoughts. “What I mean is, it’s helped me a lot that you’ve stayed upbeat. I hate to see you lose that.”

The next day at work Katherine told a couple of stories about amusing things that had happened in her family. She talked about her church. She suggested that Ms. Clyde had a lot of pressures on her. In response, her fellow workers treated Katherine like a visitor from another planet—someone who was out of touch with the real world.

One day Katherine came in to find the place in an unusually elated mood. Shannon and Phil, surrounded by some of their cohorts, were actually laughing. They shut down as soon as they noticed Katherine. “Don’t tell her,” someone hissed. But later that day Shannon couldn’t resist bragging how they finally had the goods on their supervisor. They planned to go to the higher-ups and lodge certain complaints about Ms. Clyde which had no basis in reality.

Katherine tried to ignore it. She told herself it was none of her business and it would only complicate things if she got involved. She reminded herself that she wasn’t so fond of Ms. Clyde either. But the unfairness of it nagged at her. No one else was going to stick up for the supervisor.

One day during their brief lunch break, Katherine drew Shannon aside. “This plan you and Phil have been talking about,” she began, “lodging those complaints—are you really sure it’s the best thing to do?”

“What’s it to you?” Shannon demanded.

“Well—nothing,” Katherine said. “Except that . . .”

“You’re going to be the goody-goody around here, is that it?”

“No, but—it just bothers me to see something done that isn’t based on facts. That’s all. It would be one thing if there were valid complaints about her work or her honesty, but when it’s just—well—a personality clash. . . .”

Shannon was looking closely at Katherine. This time her look said more than “What planet are you from?” It said “You’re dangerous.” Katherine wondered if she should have said so much, but what’s done was done, and she would deal with the conequences.

      1. What does Katherine risk by acting in a way that is consistent with her Christian faith?
      2. What does she risk by not acting in a way that is consistent with her Christian faith?

 

God’s Word for Us

Read Esther 2:15-23.

      1. What were the steps of Esther’s elevation to the position of Vashti’s replacement as Xerxes’ queen (Esther 2:15-18)?
      2. In the headiness of her new and glamorous position, Esther could have been swept into naively accepting whatever came her way. Throughout this passage, what evidence do you find of Esther’s discernment about whose advice to take?

Person She Trusted                  Evidence

      1. Mordecai learned some volatile information (Esther 2:21-22). What was it, and what did he choose to do with it?
      2. What did the king find out about Esther’s character through her actions (Esther 2:22)?
      3. Esther and Mordecai had the despotic king’s life in their hands. They could have thought of several reasons to stand by and let the plot be carried out. How was their intervention both compassionate and wise?
      4. When have you had the opportunity to act in a consistent Christian way toward someone you had reason to resent? What happened?
      5. How is consistency a reflection of God’s character?
      6. How would you grade your own trustworthiness?
      7. In what areas of your life would you like to be more consistent and trustworthy?

 

Now or Later

When Esther reported the assassination plot to the king, she proved that both she and Mordecai could be trusted. When she made her report, it was more than a PR move. She was not simply enhancing her image of trustworthiness; she was being trustworthy. Consistency earns us the reputation of credibility. How much credibility do you think you have with your community?
with family members?
at work?
in volunteer organizations, including the church?

Examine your conscience and ask the Lord to identify any ways in which you are not trustworthy, such as:
betraying confidences
not following through on things you promised to do
dishonesty, or evading the truth

Besides being trustworthy herself, Esther was wise about who else was trustworthy. Are you struggling to know who can be trusted? Maybe you’ve trusted people in the past and were disappointed when they proved untrustworthy. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Pray for wisdom to know whom to trust with sensitive information or delicate situations.

Thank the Lord for people you can trust. Recall times you confided in them or took their advice with good results. Praise God for their Christlikeness and take them for your example.

For further study read Psalm 27. Note each of David’s expressions of confidence in the Lord. Remember that the Lord is absolutely trustworthy. He can be told anything in strictest confidence—he is unshockable—and, best of all, he has all wisdom and can counsel you about what to do next.

 

 

Monday 17 August 2020

Growing Disciples Series – Minister to Others

Week 1: Connecting with God’s Activity Around You

“Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.”1 Peter 4:10

This week’s study will expand your concept of ministry to others. In giving you eternal life, Jesus made provision for you to join Him in what He is doing in this world. He equipped you by giving you abilities, strength, opportunities, experiences, relationships, and resources—all for the sole purpose of making His gift available to others. Putting those assets to use, whatever they are, creates opportunities for you to minister to others—both lost persons and fellow believers. The resources God has given you are not for your benefit but for the benefit of others. This week you will explore some ways you can start reaching out to serve others with the love of Christ.

LEARNING GOAL

By observing ministry roles in Scripture and through personal observation, you will identify ministry actions that will connect you with God’s activity around you.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 1

Day 1: Watch a Bridge Builder
Day 2: Watch a Reliever
Day 3: Watch an Intercessor
Day 4: Watch an Encourager
Day 5: Watch a Personal Trainer

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

1 Peter 4:10

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 1

My Ministry List (p. 92)

Profile of a Servant Lifestyle (p. 93)

Day 1: Watch a Bridge Builder

God’s Word for Today

17If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.’ 21He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”—2 Corinthian 5:17-21

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

Individuals who have put their trust in Jesus Christ face an obstacle in relating to lost people, because a great divide exists between believers and unbelievers. Christians who want to be bridge builders understand that separation, as well as the process required for lost persons to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Bridge building involves changing an individual’s receptivity to the gospel and developing the individual’s ability to trust.

Receptivity grows as the lost person observes the impact of the gospel in the life of someone he or she trusts.

It’s all about a relationship. Receptivity grows as the lost person observes the impact of the gospel in the life of someone he or she trusts. Every believer in Christ has an assignment to pass this trust on to others. The Bible calls that assignment the ministry of reconciliation. The love of Christ, demonstrated in word and deed, is never complete without the introduction of the gospel. No act of serving is complete until a Christian servant connects his intentional acts of kindness with the gospel.

One of the greatest challenges every follower of Jesus Christ faces is moving ministry actions, conversations, and relationships to a spiritual level to introduce the person’s need for Christ. In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul tried to communicate to a group of new Christians, who were living in a highly immoral culture, the assignment that was theirs because of their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Review “God’s Word for Today” above. What did Paul say is our ministry of reconciliation (see v. 18)?

What is our message of reconciliation (see v. 19)?

Paul said we have both the ministry of reconciliation and the message of reconciliation. As a result (“therefore,” v. 20), Jesus Christ changes our conversation; and He pleads with our family, friends, and acquaintances through what we say.

Who does Paul say has been given the ministry of reconciliation?

Paul said he was “certain that God is appealing through us” (v. 20).

In your opinion, how might a believer come to the certainty Paul had?

Because of his certainty, Paul said, “We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God'” (v. 20).

Have you ever pleaded with someone? What was the reason for your intense effort to persuade?

You no doubt pleaded with someone because of the urgency and importance of a particular situation. Can there be a need more urgent and important than being reconciled with God?

This week you will be asked to observe people who are ministering to others. Each day suggests a number of actions you can choose from. Don’t feel that you have to do them all. Choose several over the course of the week that are best suited to your schedule and your interests.

Today make plans to observe someone who is introducing another person to Jesus Christ. Use “My Observation Journal” below to record what you learned, felt, and decided to do as result of your experience. Choose one or more of the following actions.

      • Ask a close friend, a Bible study leader, or a pastor in your church to let you join them when visiting a person to whom they will extend the message of reconciliation.
      • Visit the Web site www.mostimportantthing.org and read the testimony of an individual committed to reconciling others.
      • Watch a television program in which a pastor preaches the gospel and extends an invitation to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

Begin memorizing this week’s memory verse, 1 Peter 4:10. If you would like, tear out and use the card at the back of the book.

My Observation Journal

 

Watch and Pray

Pray about your desire to be an ambassador for Christ. Begin praying for lost persons you know and for opportunities to serve them and to share Christ with them.

Day 2: Watch a Reliever

God’s Word for Today

“Soon afterward He was on His way to a town called Nain. His disciples and a large crowd were traveling with Him. Just as He neared the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was also with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said, ‘Don’t cry.’ Then He came up and touched the open coffin, and the pallbearers stopped. And He said, ‘Young man, I tell you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Then fear came over everyone, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us,’ and ‘God has visited His people.’ This report about Him went throughout Judea and all the vicinity.” Luke 7:11-17

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

In baseball a relief pitcher is a welcome sight to a starting pitcher who has “lost his stuff” or whose arm is hurting. A reliever in baseball does just what his title implies—he brings immediate relief!

Our memory verse for this week, 1 Peter 4:10, introduced us to the fact that God equips every believer to contribute to the welfare of others in numerous ways. Those abilities constitute ministry assignments. Helping others is the action we most often associate with ministry to others, so we readily recognize the need to bring relief to others in the traffic patterns of life.

Helping others is the action we most often associate with ministry to others.

As a matter of fact, the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life are filled with one relief-providing encounter after another. In Luke 7 Jesus’ ministry was spontaneous; He was presented with an opportunity to bring immediate relief. On other occasions, as in the case when four friends lowered their friend on a pallet through the roof of a home to put him at the feet of Christ (see Luke 5:19), ministry was planned and intentional; but the result was the same. Their actions were designed to bring immediate relief.

Read Luke 5:17-20 and refer to “God’s Word for Today” above. Based on these two accounts, answer the following questions.

What type of relief did the mother receive?

What relief did the lame man receive?

What was Jesus’ underlying motivation to provide relief?

What was the four friends’ underlying motivation to seek relief for their friend?

What hindrances were faced by the people who brought relief?

What resources were used by the people who brought relief?

From these accounts, list some identifying marks of someone who brings relief.

What about your world? You may meet an individual who is agonizing over the death of a close family member. Perhaps you will encounter an individual who is looking for ways to assist a disabled friend. Maybe you have a close family member or a friend who is at the point of death or whose body or mind will not function in a way that allows him to integrate completely in everyday life.

Identify someone in your life who needs immediate relief. Write the person’s name on “My Ministry List,” page 92. You will add others to this list throughout the study as you identify needs and minister.

Today make plans to observe people who display an awareness of and a response to opportunities to bring relief—people who are helping others. A pregnancy resource center, a clothes closet, or a food ministry is a great place to see relief at work; but relief can also be a simple act like opening a door for someone. Complete “My Observation Journal” below, recording what you saw, what you felt, and what opportunities you had to help someone.

Quote this week’s memory verse, 1 Peter 4:10, to a family member or a friend.

My Observation Journal

 

Watch and Pray

Pray for the person you identified who needs relief. Ask God whether He wants you to do something to help and what He wants you to do.

Day 3: Watch an Intercessor

God’s Word for Today

1The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: During the month of Chislev in the twentieth year, when I was in the fortress city of Susa, 2Hanani, one of my brothers, arrived with men from Judah, and I questioned them about Jerusalem and the Jewish remnant that had returned from exile. 3They said to me, ‘The survivors in the province, who returned from the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned down.’ 4When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5I said, ‘Lord God of heaven, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant with those who love Him and keep His commands, 6let Your eyes be open and Your ears be attentive to hear Your servant’s prayer that I now pray to You day and night for Your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins we have committed against You. Both I and my father’s house have sinned. 7We have acted corruptly toward You and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances You gave Your servant Moses. 8Please remember what You commanded Your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples.”—Nehemiah 1:1-8

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

In the weeks prior to writing this lesson, I (Richard) was reminded of the importance of having people who pray for you. My wife walked into the garage in tears. One of our sons-in-law had just called to tell us that our 10-year-old special-needs granddaughter had been run over by a car and was being flown to a children’s hospital in Saint Louis. We stopped to pray, asking God to intervene and seeking His direction about what to do. God immediately led us to call people and ask them to pray for Him to intervene. They ministered to us by praying. Two hours later, we received word that, other than scrapes, bruises, and swelling in her leg, our granddaughter was fine. She had no broken bones and no internal injuries!

You can imagine the rejoicing that took place as we made a return phone call to everyone we had asked to pray. We recognized that our friends had ministered to us through their willingness to pray. Today you will see that sometimes God initiates prayer on behalf of something He wants to do. When the answer comes, God receives glory for it. Every day you have the opportunity to serve someone through the ministry of intercessory prayer.

Nehemiah’s prayer in “God’s Word for Today” provides a helpful model for believers who want to minister to others’ needs through prayer.

After rereading Nehemiah 1:1-8, answer the following questions.

Why did Nehemiah pray? List as many reasons as you can find.

What things did Nehemiah mention that showed the intensity or the seriousness of his prayer?

What pattern in Nehemiah’s prayer might be useful to others who make intercessory prayer a part of their ministry to others?

Serving others through prayer grows from discovering their needs.

Serving others through prayer grows from discovering their needs. Nehemiah was led to intercede in prayer when he discovered the needs of the Jews who had returned from exile (see vv. 2, 4). Intercession is more than just asking God to do something for an individual. It connects the intercessor with the individual on a spiritual plane and displays compassion for the person in need. Verse 4 says that Nehemiah “sat down and wept” and “mourned for a number days.”

The magnitude of the need and the commitment to pray are displayed in the time the intercessor commits to this act of service. Nehemiah is seen “fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (v. 4). Nehemiah’s prayer life also demonstrates the kind of relationship that is needed between the intercessor and God. In verse 6 he prayed, “Let Your eyes be open and Your ears be attentive to hear.” Intercessors can also pray confidently when they base their requests on the promises of God. Nehemiah asked God to remember the promise He had given Moses (see v. 8).

Today’s practical experience will require you to listen to what people are praying. Choose from these suggestions.

      • Contact several people in your church who pray for others. Ask them how they intercede.
      • Interview a Bible study leader, a close friend, or a pastor in your church on the topic of interceding in prayer for the needs of others.

After completing your assignment, write in “My Observation Journal” what you are hearing, how it makes you feel, and what you can do to minister to others through prayer.

Turn to “My Ministry List” on page 92 and write the names of people in your life who have ministry needs.

Look for an opportunity to tell someone how your memory verse, 1 Peter 4:10, is impacting your view of people and things.

My Observation Journal

 

Watch and Pray

Begin praying regularly for the persons on your ministry list who have ministry needs.

Day 4: Watch an Encourager

God’s Word for Today

“I was a stranger and you took Me in.”—Matthew 25:35

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

A teenage girl came to a pregnancy resource center to learn whether she was pregnant. She was in trouble with the law, had been kicked out of school, had been a runaway, and had a history of drug abuse The pregnancy test was positive. After volunteers worked closely with this young woman, she chose to keep the baby and try to turn her life around. She connected with a local church, got back in school, received coaching with homework assignments, attended Bible study sessions with a mentor from the resource center, and received prenatal care. Her life indeed turned around over time, and it started when Christians showed hospitality to her.

It is difficult to influence people for Christ if you don’t have relationships with them. Every witnessing relationship begins with investing time and energy in people you don’t know. Titus 1:7-9 (below) says that overseers (preachers or ministers) are on the front line in offering hospitality . What is hospitality? The Greek word for hospitable is derived from two words—philos (Greek), which refers to showing mutual love to one another, as in the case of brothers, and xenos (Greek), meaning stranger.

“An overseer, as God’s manager, must be blameless, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.”—Titus 1:7-9

How would you define stranger?

A stranger is someone outside your neighborhood—someone who is different from you, doesn’t know anybody, or is just passing through. If your job takes you out of town, you know the feeling of being away from home, family, and friends. You are lonely, you may be a little anxious, and you probably have excess time on your hands. Basically, a stranger is someone you do not currently know. The Bible teaches us to offer hospitality to strangers.

What are some ways to show hospitality to strangers?

The Old Testament law admonished the Hebrews to receive strangers into their homes and to provide food and shelter. It even commanded them to love strangers as themselves and to care for them (see Leviticus 19:33-34 below; Deuteronomy 24:17-22). Hospitality also formed a backdrop for Jewish life in the New Testament (see Luke 7:36). In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus characterized the righteous as those who care for strangers and others in need. The early church taught Christians to show hospitality as an expression of brotherly love (see Hebrews 13:1-2 below; 1 Peter 4:8-9).

“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”—Leviticus 19:33-34

“Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.”—Hebrews 13:1-2

One challenge we face today is overcoming obstacles to hospitality so that we can gain opportunities to serve others and share Christ.

What obstacles discourage you from showing hospitality?

Time
Culture
Timidity
Insecurity
Busyness
Motivation
Other: ____________________

Hindrances to hospitality may include any of these factors. It’s hard to get excited about connecting with people who are not a part of our circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. Yet establishing a relationship with someone is a critical prerequisite to showing the love of Christ.

Today observe people who display an awareness of and a response to strangers—people who are not from their neighbourhoods. Choose one of the following.

      • Ask your pastor for the names of people in your church who contact visitors to the church or newcomers to the community. Ask these people what they do to minister.
      • Visit a ministry your church performs or another ministry in your community. Observe the way volunteers engage with individuals who receive ministry.
      • Call your local police department, hospital, or military base to learn whether they have a chaplain on duty you can interview. Ask questions about how he connects with strangers.

Write your observations in “My Observation Journal” below. Describe what you saw, what you learned, how it made you feel, and what you want to do in response.

Quote 1 Peter 4:10 and then write it below from memory.

My Observation Journal

Day 5: Watch a Personal Trainer

God’s Word for Today

9For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. 13He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”—Colossians 1:9-14

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

Everything that has life grows until it starts to die. Growth is programmed into the human body. Bones grow, teeth come out and are replaced, and metabolism changes to reflect age. Other types of growth are not automatic: muscle development requires exercise; wisdom requires education; and relationships demand time, integrity, and attention.

In a similar way, spiritual growth is not preprogrammed. It is not automatic. It requires development and discipline. Because we are relational beings, nothing is more important in the Christian life than someone you trust to speak words of accountability to you. The words of the Lord Jesus Christ and the letters written by the apostle Paul are filled with specific instructions that lead to spiritual growth. Whether it is to follow through, endure, stay the course, obey, or face great difficulty, the goal of spiritual maturity is always at the forefront of Paul’s teachings.

Why do you think spiritual growth is important for someone who wants to minister to others?

The approach taken by two women who came to my (Richard’s) door reminded me that knowing what the Bible says is not the sole sign of maturity. They knew what they claimed to be another translation of the Bible. They were schooled in offering rebuttals to my statements. They even used the same terms I used. The problem is, they didn’t believe Jesus is fully God. Spiritual maturity is more than acquiring information. It is becoming obedient. We can’t effectively attract people to Jesus if we don’t grow in His likeness and embody His presence in the world.

Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae teaches us several things about the spiritual-growth process. Refer to “God’s Word for Today” above as you read the following summary.

      1. Paul considered prayer to be an important component of spiritual growth (see v. 9). God always initiates prayer for the things He wants to do.

What is the general subject of Paul’s prayer?

Your ability to have an impact in Christ’s kingdom hinges on your spiritual growth.

      1. Spiritual growth directly reflects on the Lord. Your growth or lack of growth says something about the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who put you in the position to grow spiritually and the One who enables your growth (see v. 10).
      2. Your ability to have an impact in Christ’s kingdom hinges on your spiritual growth. When you face difficulty, you will be called to an endurance that is found solely in the strength developed through spiritual growth (see v. 11).
      3. God uses multiple means to communicate the steps He wants Christians to take. The Holy Spirit is always at work to convince you (see v. 9). God may also use other believers to speak to you as they respond to God’s urging and enabling for their own service in the kingdom (see Prov. 27:17 below).

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”—Proverbs 27:17

What is the status of your spiritual growth?

Thriving
Surviving
Reviving
Diving

Explain why you answered the way you did.

Today observe people who display an awareness of and a response to opportunities to grow in Christ. Choose one of the following.

      • Call, e-mail, or visit your Bible study leader or discipleship leader and ask what he or she senses is a need in your personal spiritual growth.
      • Ask a family member or friend to appraise your walk with the Lord.
      • Ask the Lord to bring you into contact with someone who will tell you about a change God is asking them to make or a step of faith He is asking them to take to conform to His will for their life.

Record your observations in “My Observation Journal” below. Describe what you saw, what you learned, how it made you feel, and what you want to do in response.

Turn to page 93 and complete “Profile of a Servant Lifestyle” for one of the persons you observed ministering this week. Then complete the profile for yourself.

My Observation Journal

Watch and Pray

Pray about your response to activity 3. Ask God to show you what He wants you to do to grow in an obedient relationship with Him. Ask Him to enable you to move out in His power to minister to others.

Session 1: Connecting with God’s Activity Around You

Opening Prayer

Establishing Ground Rules

      • While you are in the group session, give the group meeting priority.
      • Everyone participates in the discussion, and no one dominates.
      • Everyone has the right to his own opinion, and all questions are encouraged and respected.
      • Anything said in the meeting room is never repeated outside.
      • Group members keep prayer lists for ministry needs (p. 92).

Learning Goal

By observing ministry roles in Scripture and through personal observation, you will identify ministry actions that will connect you with God’s activity around you.

Reviewing Week 1

      1. In pairs or triads take turns reciting your Scripture-memory verse, 1 Peter 4:10. Discuss what this verse teaches about a servant lifestyle.
      2. Identify the five ministry actions presented this week (bridge builder, reliever, intercessor, encourager, personal trainer). Define each one.
      3. Identify the ministry action illustrated in each of the following Scriptures passages and answer the questions about each passage.
        • Read 2 Corinthian 5:17-21. What is the ministry of reconciliation? What is the message of reconciliation? Who is responsible for the ministry of reconciliation? What does it mean to be an ambassador for Christ?
        • Read Luke 7:11-17. What was Jesus’ motivation in providing relief for the grieving mother? Who in your community needs relief from suffering?
        • Read Nehemiah 1:1-8. What was the source of Nehemiah’s mourning? What elements in his prayer are important for modern-day intercessors to use?
        • Read Matthew 25:35. How do you define stranger? What is hospitality? How much importance does the Bible place on hospitality? Why is hospitality an important practice for someone who ministers to others?
        • Read Colossians 1:9-14. Why is the filling of the Holy Spirit critical to spiritual growth? Why is spiritual growth critical to ministry? What are you doing to grow in Christ?
      4. Discuss your experiences observing practitioners of the ministry actions you examined this week. Describe the ministries of the persons you observed. How do they illustrate the biblical principles you have studied? How do they embody the qualities listed in “Profile of a Servant Lifestyle” on page 93? Share your observations from each day’s “My Observation Journal.”
      5. What challenges and blessings did you observe? What did you learn? What approaches can you use or adapt?
      6. Brainstorm ways believers can practice the ministry actions you studied this week to meet needs and to show the love of Christ in your community.

Ministering to Others

Turn to “My Ministry List” on page 92 and share the names of persons in your life who have ministry and/or salvation needs. You will update this list throughout the study. What have you already done to address these persons’ needs or to show God’s love to them? What will you commit to do this week?

Praying Together

Pray in pairs about the following.

      • Pray for the concerns on your ministry lists and for your role in meeting these needs. Pray for the salvation of anyone on your lists who is lost.
      • Share your assessment of whether you demonstrate the qualities in “Profile of a Servant Lifestyle” on page 93. Pray about any areas in which you need to improve.
      • Ask God to help you practice the ministry actions you studied this week in order to meet needs and share Christ.

Saturday 15 August 2020

SATURDAY SPECIAL

I want to share this extract from a e-book that I have called LifeLine – Help! I Can’t Handle All These Trials. It isn’t the start of the book and neither is it the end, but it is an appropriate part to share as you may be saying this yourself. Help! I can’t handle all these trials. Have a taste, and if you find it helpful as I have myself, then I will gladly share more of the book.

Pastor. 

      1. Why Did This Happen?

My wife is fond of saying, “There are no accidents in God’s program,” because our calamities are actually God’s carefully crafted plan. However, that assures us only momentarily: “What a relief that God is in control … [pause] … But if God is in control, why did he allow this painful thing to happen?” There are at least five reasons God brings calamity into the lives of his people. One of those takes centre stage in the book of Job, so let’s consider it first.

Is This God’s Judgment?

The first reason God causes calamity is to discipline someone for specific sin. But be careful! It was their misapplication of this principle that led Job’s friends off track. Many make the same mistake today; therefore, let’s carefully consider this point.

At first, Job didn’t demand answers from God when God brought disaster on him (1:22; 2:10). However, over time Job’s trust in God was devoured by a locust swarm of demanding “Why?” questions.

Why did I not die at birth? Come forth from the womb and expire?

(3:11)

Why is light given to him who suffers?

(3:20a)

Why then have You brought me out of the womb? … [Why will] He not let my few days alone? Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer.

(10:18, 20)

Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have you set me as Your target?

(7:20)

When Job asked, “Why has this happened?” the theologians in Job’s world were, as we shall see presently, happy to supply him with what they believed was the right answer: “God is disciplining you for your sin.”

Does God discipline people with calamity for specific sins they have committed? Yes … sometimes. King David destroyed his life in exchange for a few minutes of pleasure with Bathsheba. But his life wasn’t the only one that David destroyed. God brought calamity—the death of their infant son—on David and Bathsheba as judgment for their adultery (2 Samuel 12:15, 18). King Uzziah of Judah was struck with leprosy when he violated God’s law by trying to offer a sacrifice in the temple, something only priests from the tribe of Levi were allowed to do (2 Chronicles 26:16–19). And it wasn’t only royalty that incurred this kind of judgment. Gehazi was just a servant, but he was also struck by God with leprosy when he lied to Elisha about taking money from Naaman (2 Kings 5:20–27).

Sometimes God does cause calamity in order to discipline people for specific sins. Tragically, Job’s friends misapplied that principle to Job, with devastating effect—as we shall now see.

The Visit

When word of Job’s catastrophes spread, there was great concern among Job’s acquaintances. Three of them, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—wisdom experts like Job himself—determined that they would visit Job in an attempt to comfort him. When they arrived at Job’s house, they were shocked by what they found.

When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.

(2:12–13)

Enthroned on ashes and covered with maggots, filth, scabs, and oozing sores, Job was unrecognizable to his friends. His complaint, “So am I allotted months of vanity” (7:3), suggests that he had been in this pitiful state for several months before they arrived. In 7:14 Job spoke of hallucinations, a common result of significant sleep loss. He had no hope and would have given anything for a restful night’s sleep.

When I lie down I say, “When shall I arise?” But the night continues, and I am continually tossing until dawn. My flesh is clothed with worms and a crust of dirt, my skin hardens and runs … My days … come to an end without hope.

(7:4–6)

Observing Job’s misery, his friends broke their silence. Unanimously accepting that God was in control, they took it upon themselves to explain why God had ruined Job.

As we consider this, you must grasp a significant point: Job’s friends were both right and wrong at the same time. They were correct in saying that God does use calamity to discipline specific sin. Their mistake, however, was assuming that that is the only reason God brings calamity, and therefore, that it must be true in Job’s case.

Eliphaz was the first to speak. His opening salvo is a summary of everything he and his companions would say in the next twenty chapters.

Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it. By the breath of God they perish and by the blast of His anger they come to an end.

(4:7–9)

Eliphaz had a simple theology of calamity. If you live rightly, God blesses you. If you live badly, God drops a bomb on you. Job had obviously taken a direct hit from the biggest bomb in God’s arsenal; therefore, he must have been living badly.

Convinced that they were right, Eliphaz and his friends tightened their philosophical fingers around Job’s throat with clear references to his agonizing physical condition.

      • Eliphaz: “Affliction does not come from the dust … The wicked man writhes in pain all his days” (5:6; 15:20).
      • Bildad: “Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out … His skin is devoured by disease” (18:5, 13).
      • Zophar: “If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away … then, indeed, you could lift up your face without moral defect” (11:14–15).

The relentless accusations of Job’s friends had the same effect on Job that accusations of a lack of faith or hidden sin have on sick or hurting Christians today. They frustrated and dispirited him.

You smear with lies; you are all worthless physicians. O that you would be completely silent, and that it would become your wisdom!

(13:4–5)

My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me. Surely mockers are with me, and my eye gazes on their provocation.

(17:1–2)

Job’s calamities were devastating enough without his friends heaping insult on agony. Instead of untrue accusations, Job longed for comfort from them:

For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.

(6:14)

Job’s resistance to their accusations infuriated his friends; therefore, Eliphaz eventually stripped off the gloves and let Job have it right on the chin.

Is it because of your reverence that He reproves you, that He enters into judgment against you? Is not your wickedness great?

(22:4–5a)

“Job, do you think God has done all this to you because you are such a great guy? Because you are so godly? That’s ridiculous, Job!” Actually, it wasn’t ridiculous at all. How had God described Job in chapters 1 and 2? “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (1:8; 2:3). Derek Kidner has rightly said of Job, “It was his very innocence that exposed him to the ordeal.”

Unfortunately, the reductionistic view of calamity held by Job’s friends is still with us. You know the scenario. A Christian is in the hospital with a devastating illness such as cancer, and some well-meaning acquaintances show up and say, “If you had enough faith, you would be healed” or “You must have secret sin in your life. That’s why this is happening to you.”

To face calamity, you must embrace this lesson from the book of Job: a catastrophe in health, finances, or family doesn’t necessarily mean that God is angry at you. Occasionally God does use calamity to discipline a specific sin; however, Job’s terrible losses and ravaged body had nothing to do with a lack of faith or hidden iniquity. In fact, at the end of Job’s book God was righteously angry at Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for insisting that Job’s calamities must have been the result of his secret sin (42:7).

Our Lord Jesus Christ was also no friend of Eliphaz’s criminally simplistic, “You must have been bad” view of calamity, something his disciples learned in John 9.

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

(John 9:1–2)

The disciples had exactly the same theology of sickness as Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Jesus was quick to correct it:

It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

(9:3)

Many Christians today fall into the trap of Job’s three friends, assuming that calamity comes for only one reason. As a result, they often unjustly accuse suffering people, stealing their hope that, in the midst of their tragedy, God still loves them. To steal that hope is a theft more cruel than any other. God’s fury with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar in Job 42:7 serves as a warning against it.

If there is no obvious cause-and-effect relationship between your calamity and a specific sin, you don’t have to torture yourself trying to divine what the sin is for which God is disciplining you. Of course, if you are harboring sin you need to repent from, by all means do so! But don’t fall into the trap of Job’s friends, accusing others (or yourself) of being out of God’s favor because they or you have experienced a tragedy. Cancer, crime, or car accidents aren’t proof that God is angry at you.

“But,” you ask, “if God isn’t disciplining me for a specific sin, why did he allow this to happen?” Let’s step aside from the book of Job for a moment to answer that question from the rest of Scripture.

Other Reasons God Brings Calamity

After disciplining a specific sin, a second reason God brings calamity is because of human sin generally. In Genesis 3, Adam pulled the keystone out of the arch of creation with his sin, and ever since, bricks have been falling on our heads. When Adam sinned, the whole universe was plunged into futility and enslaved to corruption (Romans 8:20–22). In our bodies that means pain and infections. In our work that means weeds, forms in triplicate, and software that self-destructs during an important sales presentation. In relationships it means parental distraction, teenage disruption, and messy divorces.

We can praise God that Jesus Christ has defeated the Curse and has accomplished its ultimate removal through his death on the cross. The book of Revelation describes heaven with these seven powerful words:

There will no longer be any curse.

(Revelation 22:3)

But in the meantime, we can be sure that one reason calamity comes is because of human sinfulness generally.

Under Construction

A third reason God brings calamity is to mature believers in Jesus Christ (if you have not yet put your faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, God is using your trial, not to mature you in Christ, but to move you toward Christ). As a believer in Jesus Christ, you can be sure that, whatever happens, God is causing it to bring his Christ-reflecting and Christ-exalting work in you one step closer to completion.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

(James 1:2–4)

To make a sword requires heating and beating. In the same way, comfort, peace, and ease don’t produce spiritually strong, flexible, sharp Christians. Only the heating and beating of God-given trials manufactures resilient, Christlike character—a blade strong enough and sharp enough to be truly useful in the hand of God.

God used my wife’s illness (mentioned in the Introduction) that way in our family. No one likes to be bedridden, but my wife became more patient with sickness, and more accepting of the good and the bad from God. With Mom out of action, our kids learned to be better helpers around the house. Even Dad learned to do dishes with a cheerful heart. We all became sharper and stronger instruments in God’s hands because of it.

Just as a weight lifter doesn’t become stronger unless he exhausts his muscles moving chunks of iron, so spiritual progress comes only when God the Coach increases the intensity for us through painful trials. When he does so, the result is stronger faith, greater compassion, and enduring patience—firmer spiritual muscles in every way.

Faith on Parade

A fourth reason God brings calamity into the lives of believers is to prove our faith, both to ourselves and to others. How did God prove that Satan’s accusations against Job were slanderous? God tested Job, and Job’s endurance proved Satan to be wrong.

Peter told his readers that they had been embroiled in trials because the proof of their faith was more precious than gold. And when their faith eventually came through the crucible pure and strong, Peter said that their endurance would

result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

(1 Peter 1:6–7)

We had a woman in our church who had cancer twelve different times before she finally went to be with the Lord. It was hard in every way—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But as we watched her resilient, God-given cheerfulness, we couldn’t help but be encouraged. The proof of her faith in Christ spurred us to trust the Lord more ourselves.

Unanticipated Good

A fifth reason God brings calamity into the lives of his people is to bring about unanticipated good. The Bible is full of such surprises. The classic example? Joseph (Genesis 37–50). His brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery just as they might have auctioned off a cow or goat to the highest bidder. No doubt as the slave traders’ camel caravan humped its way toward Egypt (and at various awkward points after that) Joseph asked, “Why has God done this?” Answer: unexpected good.

Eventually God used Joseph’s kidnapping, slavery, and unjust imprisonment to put him in a position to keep his family from starvation. Decades later, Joseph said to his brothers,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

(Genesis 50:20)

No one could have guessed it at the time, but good was God’s plan for Joseph’s calamities all along.

Ruth provides another example. Tragedy doesn’t come much worse than having your father-in-law, brother-in-law, and husband die in rapid succession, leaving you and your mother-in-law impoverished and hopeless. How did God use that heartrending situation? Ruth went to a place she would never otherwise have gone to (Bethlehem), met a man she would never otherwise have met (Boaz), married him, and became the great-grandmother of King David and part of the Messiah’s line. Unexpected good.

It’s all over the Bible—apparently unsalvageable disasters are often the first step in God’s plan for bringing good.

All this helps us see that calamity isn’t arbitrary. God uses it for specific purposes: occasionally to discipline specific sin, but more often to make us dissatisfied enough with this sinful world to seek something (or Someone) better, to harden us in the furnace of troubles just as a blacksmith tempers a sword, to prove our faith, and to bring good that no one could have predicted.

Up to this point, we have discovered that God is in control and we have identified the biblical reasons why he causes calamity. But how should we respond when God stokes the forge, pumps the bellows, and swings the hammer, relentlessly shaping and sharpening the

 

Friday 14 August 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ at Duckpool Road

I say at Duckpool Road, as we need to remember that we are not alone as we surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world, and through the generations, both here and in glory. What a wonderful cloud of witnesses that is as it is so encouraging to me and hopefully to you.

I am sure that you like myself are as one in saying that this current challenge of CORONA VIRUS is unlike anything that we have lived through before, and as more than one has said; “not even Adolf Hitler  managed to shut the doors of the church” and yet the virus has done exactly that. However, the virus is an enemy that is unseen, and therefore more dangerous than an enemy that is seen, as we do not necessarily know who is carrying it, and it is remains deadly for those who are susceptible to catching it, and it can impact survivors with life changing weaknesses to their general health.

Therein is our quandary as a leadership as we have a duty of care for the whole church based on the needs of the most vulnerable within it. Therefore, let us continue to be patient; as we hold that the most important thing that we can do in our homes at this time is what I am sure that you are doing, and that is PRAY.

PRAYER has been been answered, as we as a church have been protected against the disease, and my prayer continues to be that we will continue to be protected from this illness, but today as from the beginning, God still expects us to do our bit! In other words, beside prayer we need to be diligent and think of others, as in thinking of others we help ourselves.

Finally, if anyone wants transcripts of my Corona sermons then please ask Jill. In the meantime, let us thank God and pray for the needs of the nation and the world and by grace we will meet together in flesh as well as the spirit in Gods allotted time.

Pastor

Now for some Not to heavy stuff!

 

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

Diana Ross

Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wild enough
To keep me from you

Backbeat

The Supremes were one of the first female supergroups of the sixties. This Motown Records staple had a highly polished sound designed to bridge the gap between soul and pop. The original members of the trio were Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson. Originally named the Primettes, the Detroit girls sang together in high school and were eventually signed to Motown. Among their accomplishments is an astonishing string of twelve number 1 hits. Once Diana Ross distinguished herself with her voice and personality, the group became known as Diana Ross and the Supremes. By 1970, she had gone out on her own to pursue a solo singing and acting career.

Diana Ross’s second solo release, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” was a remake of a 1967 duet by Marvin Gay and Tammy Terrell. Ross’s version reached number 1 in 1970. After the hit, she branched out into acting, earning a 1972 Academy Award nomination for her role in Lady Sings the Blues, the Billie Holiday biography. The next year saw her hitting the Top 10 with a best-selling album, Touch Me in the Morning. She also recorded an album of duets with Marvin Gay that produced three chart-topping singles. Another chart topper, “Do You Know Where You’re Going To,” came from her second film role in Mahogany. By the end of the seventies, she had starred in her third film, The Wiz, and scored more hit albums and singles. She continues to record and perform in the new century.

Riff

The story is told of a young man who wrote a love letter to his latest crush: “I would climb the highest mountain, ford a raging river, just for one glimpse of your sweet face. And I’d love to come and see you Saturday, if it doesn’t rain.” The poetic language of pop music claims far-reaching devotion that we don’t always find in reality.

Still, Ross’s majestic song, with that full-choir backup, sweeps the listener along. She’s expressing a complete faith in a love relationship, and we cheer her on.

Faith is a spiritual theme, of course, and it runs through the pages of Scripture. The Christian believer has faith in certain facts about Jesus, but there’s more to it. We need to believe in Jesus, to trust him, to invest our lives in him. You might believe that a chair is sturdy, but you don’t really have faith until you sit in it. And that’s where this song takes us—over mountains, through valleys, across rivers. Ross is singing about an active, committed faith.

Jesus also used a mountain to talk about faith: “If you have faith and don’t doubt,… you can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen” (Matthew 21:21). Perhaps you’ve tried to drum up enough faith to nudge Everest a few feet, to no avail, but we need to let Jesus use poetic language too. Hasn’t God taken a mountain of sin and tossed it away? We don’t put our faith in magic tricks, but in our devoted relationship to our powerful God.

Harmonies
Psalm 103:11-12 Matthew 21:21* Romans 8:35-39
Psalm 125:1 Luke 17:6 Ephesians 3:16-21

Thursday 13 August 2020

DAVID’S SPECIAL TREAT

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 12 August 2020

Women of Creativity 3 Wednesday SPECIAL

A Gift at the Right Time:

Inventive Caring

1 Samuel 25:2-35

 Setting the Stage:

As Jeannie Rinaldo comes home to her plant-filled and freshly painted apartment, she’s singing a little song of praise to God. Today Will reported that his baby granddaughter has turned the corner and should be going home tomorrow. Jeannie’s job has become much more interesting. Making the effort to really get to know the people at work has made all the difference.

The evening ahead doesn’t look bleak, though Jeannie expects to spend it alone, because she’s learning to make bread and has a new recipe to experiment with. She enjoys the gratifying feel of kneading the dough. Maybe she’ll plan a party for next week and invite some of the young single people from work—now that she’s not so ashamed of where she lives.

There’s still one embarrassing thing about living here. And just as Jeannie puts the loaves in the oven to bake, that embarrassment rings the bell. It’s Ann, the woman who lives in the other downstairs apartment. They don’t talk much, except that Ann is always asking Jeannie for some little favor or other.

Ann’s home is in as much disarray as the rest of her existence. She sits on her cluttered steps for hours talking on her cordless phone. She has two small children plus a new boyfriend, Gary, who recently took up residence in Ann’s life and in her apartment.

Now Ann is at the door saying, “Hey, Jeannie, can I use your phone?” She’s made the same request the past several evenings. “Uh—sure, I guess so, Ann. Is yours not working?”

“Gary didn’t pay the bill, so they cut us off. They’re not supposed to do that. Can you watch my kids while I make one quick call?”

Ann comes in Jeannie’s front door, and Jeannie goes out and then into Ann’s front door, where she finds the two kids sprawled on the floor in front of a big TV. There’s a garbagey smell in the air. Carefully Jeannie sits on the least dirty spot on the couch and tries to talk with the kids, but she can’t pry their attention from the screen.

Then with no warning the five-year-old says, “Gary’s not coming back.”

Jeannie isn’t sure what to say. Do the kids think of their mother’s boyfriend as their dad? As a visitor? Living next to Ann has shown Jeannie what a sheltered life she led before she left home.

Ann is back—and angry. “I called where he works, and they said he doesn’t work there anymore! They’re lying! I called his brother, and he says he’s out of town. Then I called the phone company. They’re supposed to call me back, so I gave them your number. Gee, your kitchen smells good. What are you making?”

Just one quick call, huh? “Bread,” Jeannie answers curtly.

“I wish I knew how to do that,” Ann says as Jeannie leaves, feeling used and manipulated. So she’s been giving Ann the benefits of a free phone while Ann ignores an unpaid bill! Lord, why did you put me next door to such a needy person?

Her own prayer haunts her. Certainly the Lord, not chance, put her next door to Ann. But what does Ann actually need? Her problems are so complicated.

The buzzer on the oven timer startles Jeannie. Time to take the loaves out of the oven. All day she’s been looking forward to peanut butter melted into fresh, hot, homemade bread. She shakes the loaves out of their pans, and it’s as though a voice in her head says, Take that over to Ann. Both loaves.

“Lord, are you kidding?” Jeannie responds out loud. “I’ve been looking forward to this all day! Besides, she doesn’t need bread. She needs a whole new lifestyle.”

Of course she does. So take that bread over to Ann and then offer to teach her how to make it herself.

“But she’s an irresponsible freeloader!”

You’re right, she is. It’s all she knows how to be. And you can start to show her a whole different lifestyle. Start by taking an interest and teaching her something wholesome and good.

Yes, Jeannie has to admit, that might be good for Ann. She takes a final wistful sniff and goes out the door with both loaves of bread and a copy of the recipe.

      1. How is creativity bringing wholeness to Jeannie’s life?

How might Jeannie be able to help Ann in practical ways while still helping her take responsibility for her life?

 God’s Word for Us

Read 1 Samuel 25:2-35.

Background: After escaping from his master, King Saul, who had tried to kill him, David was living as an outcast in the wilderness. With the skill of a military leader he kept moving to different strongholds accompanied by several hundred men who had given him loyalty. Nabal had grazed sheep in the area where David was hiding out, and David, once a shepherd boy himself, had protected Nabal’s flocks and shepherds.

      1. Describe the contrast between Abigail and her husband Nabal (1 Samuel 25:2-3).
      2. What conflict was set up by David’s request of Nabal (1 Samuel 25:4-13)?
      3. Why was Abigail a good person to enlist for help (1 Samuel 25:14-17)?
      4. The servant told Abigail, “Now think it over and see what you can do” (1 Samuel 25:17). Why is that excellent advice for anyone wishing to intervene to help someone else?
      5. How did Abigail show initiative in responding to the emergency (1 Samuel 25:18-19)?
      6. When have you wanted to intervene and offer help but been afraid to take the risk?
      7. What might David have thought and felt as he met Abigail and her caravan and realized what she was doing (1 Samuel 25:20-22)?
      8. How did Abigail’s words meet David’s needs even more deeply than her gifts of food (1 Samuel 25:23-31)?
      9. What does 1 Samuel 25:32-35 reveal about David’s reaction to the unexpected encounter?
      10. When have someone’s unexpected gift and/or words to you made a crucial difference in your life?
      11. What aspects of this story give you courage to offer help?
  Now or Later

“I’d like to help So-and-So, but I don’t know how.” Often we sincerely want to help, but we draw a blank on the practical specifics of what to do. The advice the servant gave Abigail is good advice for us: “Now think it over.” Take the need out of the realm of the vague and general. Focus your mind and heart, and reflect on as many specific details about the need as you can.

Consider the particular personalities and idiosyncrasies of the people involved.
Consider time factors.
Think through cautions you should take so your help won’t backfire.
What are the deeper needs beneath the obvious surface ones?
Next, “see what you can do.” Think about what you can uniquely do to help, taking into account your gifts and talents.
How well do you know the people involved?
Who else do you know who could be tapped to help?
How can you keep from duplicating what others are doing?
How do finances factor in?
Time constraints?
Remember that people’s spiritual needs are bound up in their physical and emotional needs. Any plan for physical help can become an avenue for spiritual help.

For further study from the perspective of the recipient of a generous gift, read Phil. 4:10-19, Paul’s thank-you for a gift of love received at the right time.

 

Tuesday 11 August 2020

A WOMAN OF GRACE NO 1

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.

Katherine Fraley—mother of 3 teens, beginning a new job after not working outside the home for 15 years
Brad Fraley—Katherine’s husband, unemployed for the last 10 months
Ms. Clyde—Katherine’s supervisor at work
Shannon—Katherine’s coworker
Phil—Katherine’s coworker
Sarah—Katherine & Brad’s daughter, 13
Theresa—Katherine & Brad’s daughter, 15
Joel—Katherine & Brad’s son, 12
Gillian—Shannon’s daughter, 13

Introducing A Woman of Grace

She had tremendous stress. She experienced the pressure of making decisions and the equal pressure of having all decisions taken out of her hands. She was forced into unwanted roles. Yet stress did not overwhelm her. Through it all, her life showed inner serenity and grace.

As we dig into her story, we find the biblical character Esther a surprisingly contemporary woman. She faced many of the same obstacles and problems we face as Christian women living in a secular society.

She was a captive in a strange country where the king ruled absolutely. He could dismiss his queen with a word; he could order the nation’s most beautiful women to be rounded up and forced to audition for his harem, to be summoned at his impulse. But Esther refused to play the role of helpless victim, though she had plenty of reasons to do so.

Life was stacked against Esther from the start. She was orphaned in a land of exile. Even after she was drafted into the role of queen, she held a glamorous yet powerless position under the king’s domination. Yet Esther carried herself with such dignity, faith and confidence that she won over those around her.

She had the wisdom to know when to lay her life on the line for the people of God and when to hold back her words and actions. She carefully chose her risks. Esther’s life is a balance of boldness and restraint.

She affected history by her faithfulness and obedience. Through her intervention, disaster for the people of God was turned into a victory celebration; loss was transformed into salvation.

If Esther sounds like superwoman, there is good reason for it. In her life there was more going on than the triumph of the human spirit. Throughout Esther’s remarkable story, God is always at work behind the scenes: opening opportunities, arranging coincidences, protecting key players, revealing the right thing at the right time.

So we are more like Esther than we know. Like her, we were born into a culture not our own. That is true even if we still live in the town where we grew up. As Christians we live in this world, but we are loyal to another Lord beyond it. Our question is the same one that faced Esther: How should we live in this land of exile away from our true home?

We see wrongs being done. Are we willing to build credibility before we confront the people in power?

We see sin going on. Have we bothered to understand the sinners so in time of crisis we know how to approach them?

We see action that needs to be taken. Can we restrain ourselves at certain times so we can move boldly at the right times?

As we study the book of Esther, we will follow the story of a fictional woman, Kathleen, and her very contemporary struggles as a mom returning to the workplace. Yet Kathleen also faces many of the same ethical questions that Esther confronted. Kathleen’s story will introduce each study and get you thinking about the topic at hand.

Esther, our surprising contemporary, is also our example: a woman of grace who knew who she was and what she could do in God’s strength. And like Esther, we have the assurance that behind the scenes God is always working to accomplish his will.

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 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.

The Grace of Inner Beauty

Esther 2:1-14

Setting the Stage:

Katherine Fraley stood facing the battered metal door, weighing her options and shuffling her feet. On the other side of that door she would apply for a new job. After fifteen years of being a full-time mom, applying for any job was scary enough. What made it even harder was that this job—stuffing ad inserts in the local shopper—was far below her abilities and education.

The door popped open and a young woman, maybe fifteen years younger than Katherine, slouched out chomping a big red wad of gum. The girl collided with Katherine and moved down the hall without even saying “Excuse me.”

Another happy employee, Katherine thought. If that’s the kind of people who work here . . . What if that’s the boss!

I can’t allow myself to think like this. I should thank the Lord there’s even the possibility of work.

Katherine remembered the look on Brad’s face as she left the house that morning. In one way he was getting harder to read, less accessible. In another way she could read him better all the time. Unemployment was wearing on him more every day. The layoff was ten months ago. He didn’t object to her working, but it hurt his pride to think his wife might become the sole support of the family.

Standing straighter and taking a deep breath, Katherine opened the door and walked into the office. She told the bored-looking receptionist, “I’d like to apply for the job that was in the paper.”

“Yeah. Sure. Fill this out.”

Katherine took the application, sat down and tried to compress who she was into those cramped spaces on the form. A skeleton of data: name, address, social security number. Previous work experience. Hmm. Chef, chauffeur, repair person, nurse, home decorator, neighbourhood counsellor, referee . . . She handed back the paper, knowing it was a pathetic caricature of her true self. She was surprised when the receptionist said, “Ms. Clyde can talk to you now.” An interview already?

Ms. Clyde motioned Katherine to sit down as she scanned the application. Katherine watched the eyes, watched the hard face, wanted to interrupt, “What I’ve written there is not the real me! The real me is going to be an English teacher!” The face of Ms. Clyde dissolved into the face of Katherine’s college roommate. It was the end of their junior year, and they were talking late into the night.

“Sure, I understand why you’re marrying Brad now,” her roommate said. “But why can’t he hang around here for a year while you finish college?”

Katherine explained for the twentieth time, “He’s graduating and has this job offer in another town, and we want a family right away. There’s a small college near there. When the kids are older, I can go back and finish my degree and get my teaching certificate.”

Her friend looked sceptical. “Listen, Katherine, if you don’t finish your degree now, I’ll guarantee you’ll never get around to it.”

Katherine proceeded according to plan, marrying Brad the week after he graduated. She did office work that first year before Theresa was born. Sarah and Joel soon followed. Katherine was always busy, and Brad’s career looked secure. As the degree seemed less and less important, she somehow never got around to going back to college. Finally when the kids were fifteen, thirteen and twelve, no longer rushing home after school expecting Mom to be there, the time seemed right.

Then disaster hit. Brad’s company went through a big merger and layoff. After his first flurry of job-hunting, they both realized their small college town didn’t have enough jobs to absorb all the newly unemployed.

Katherine was pulled back to reality as Ms. Clyde announced, “You’re overqualified.” Katherine wanted to shout, “You bet I am!” She also wanted to break into tears and plead, “But I’ve got to have a job of some kind!” Instead of doing either, she silently prayed and then answered, “I know I can do this job well for you.”

The other woman’s face thawed out slightly. She asked Katherine a few more questions, gave her a couple of brief tests and said, “All right. Come back Monday and we’ll start training you.”

Katherine stumbled out. I’m hired! She looked back at the grungy door. Here? How would she explain this to people? Yes, this job was an answer to prayer. Through this work the Lord would provide for the Fraley family till Brad found something and life got back to normal. Katherine knew she should be ecstatic, but she wished the Lord had answered some other way.

      1. When have you been forced into circumstances you didn’t want?
      2. What factors make Katherine’s situation particularly difficult?

 

God’s Word for Us

Read Esther 2:1-14.

Background: The first chapter of the book of Esther relates how King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of Persia grew disenchanted with his queen Vashti. She refused to be paraded before drunken nobility as part of Xerxes’ display of wealth. Following the suggestion of his advisors, the king deposed Vashti. When he calmed down, he apparently realized he needed someone to take her place.

      1. Summarize the king’s plan for acquiring a new queen (Esther 2:1-4).
      2. What can you find out about the young Jewish girl Esther from Esther 2:5-7?
      3. How had God blessed Esther and taken care of her up until the time she was selected for the king’s harem?
      4. Even before she was forcibly taken to the king’s palace, Esther had many reasons to feel that her life had been difficult and unfair. Are there any ways in which you share her feelings? Consider the following factors.

Orphaned
Raised by an older cousin
Exiled in a foreign culture with radically different morals

      1. When Xerxes’ order went out, Esther attracted attention and was taken in as part of the royal collection of potential queens. How did God continue to take care of her in the king’s harem, where she appeared to be only a glamorous slave (Esther 2:8-11)?
      2. Each young woman in Xerxes’ harem received a year of beauty treatments before being sent to the king (Esther 2:12). During that year, why would it have been difficult for a godly woman to focus on inner beauty and character?
      3. How might Esther have kept and even developed her inner beauty while everything around her was focused on the external?
      4. When do you find it most difficult to conduct yourself with dignity and grace, even when you need both to get you through a tough situation?

Now or Later

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

Take time to think and write about your memories of undergoing stress. What qualities of your inner life (good or bad) have been revealed at those times? If you recall qualities you aren’t proud of, how would the grace of inner beauty have helped you to respond differently?

God is not named in the book of Esther. Yet on every page he is there, just as he is our unseen helper in our most helpless moments. When Esther was under tremendous pressure, God brought the right people into her life. Identify times when God put the right people in the right places to help you. Name each person and explain how that person’s help was just what you needed at that time.

For further study read John 14. Note how on his last night with his disciples before he died, Jesus promised: “The world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” John 14:19. Bring your most overwhelming situation to Christ and let him be your unseen Helper. Resolve to live tomorrow and each succeeding day depending on his grace.

 

Monday 10 August 2020

GROWING DISCIPLES

It is Monday and our first new study of the week. I am laying before the DRBC a new series called “Let’s Follow Christ Together” produced by Claude King. As you will see, it would be best for this study to be conducted in a group setting  and perhaps you could encourage those in your “Bubble” to share in the study with you, but if that isn’t possible, then please carry on with the study in the splendid peace of your own relationship with God. However let Claude tell you about the study first

Hello! I’m Claude, and I have the privilege of spending the next seven weeks with you as we seek to follow Jesus Christ more faithfully. I am a bit overwhelmed at this assignment. Who am I to teach you how to follow Christ? That’s a huge responsibility. Yet I am comforted to know that I’m not alone in this task.

God gave us His Word to teach and guide us—what a gift! And He’s placed His Holy Spirit in His children (you and me) to be our Teacher and to help us apply the truths of His Word to our lives. (I’m making the assumption that you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ and that you have a personal relationship with Him. If that is not the case, talk to a pastor or a Christian friend about how you can enter that relationship before we get started.) The Holy Spirit is going to point us to Christ and help us to know Him and experience Him at work in us and through us. Jesus once said to some religious leaders, “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). Here’s the plan: I want us to study the Scriptures together. Then we’ll take one more step to a relationship with Jesus Christ in which He will guide us to experience the abundant life He came to give us.

SMALL-GROUP STUDY OF THE CALL TO FOLLOW CHRIST

But let’s not stop there. Although you could study this book alone, I want you to experience God’s best. When God saved you, He placed you in the body of Christ so that you can benefit from the ministry of the other members of the body. You are also in the body to contribute to helping others. The writer of Hebrews instructs us: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Will you do that with me? Join a group of other believers in Christ. If necessary, enlist some to join you in your study so that you can help one another grow in following Christ. You will find that we need one another, and we can help one another. Let’s do it.

If you are the person who will lead the small-group sessions, I’ve included a brief leader guide beginning on page 101. For each of the seven sessions I’ve included suggested learning activities to guide your sharing, processing, and applying the things you are learning. If you are not the group leader, you may still want to look at the session plans on pages 10410 so that you will be prepared to respond to the things your leader guides you to do. Before the study ends, you will experience a special closeness to your small group. You will experience some of the benefits God intended when He created the church as the body of Christ.

MESSAGE MUSIC

I’ve also got some help from a dear friend, Dámaris Carbaugh. In 2003 while working in New York City, I attended a prayer breakfast at the United Nations as the General Assembly prepared to open. Dámaris sang that day, and I had the privilege of meeting her and her husband, Rod. I had been deeply impacted by her music for years. Two of her songs had particularly touched me: “Willingly” and “Whatever It Takes.” In fact, God had used those songs to prepare me to answer His call to serve in New York City. She and Rod invited me to visit their church on Sunday for an outdoor concert.

After the service they took me to dinner, and I heard about The Call (see p. 112). Dámaris and 80 people in her church had been studying MasterLife, a discipleship course by Avery T. Willis Jr. When her music publisher asked her to select a theme for her next recording project, she suggested that the writers use MasterLife as the source of their work. A few weeks later, 10 songs were ready for recording. That night at dinner she began to sing for me some of the songs she had just recorded. Wow! I was moved.

Two years later, I returned to work at LifeWay, the publisher of MasterLife. I made a proposal for The Call to Follow Christ, based on six disciplines taught in MasterLife. I’m thrilled that Discovery House Music has permitted us to use seven songs from The Call to enrich your study and to develop the six disciplines in your life. I call these songs message music. The songs have a powerful message that can help us grow in our walk with Christ and development of these spiritual disciplines. Each week I’ll introduce you to one of the songs and guide you to interact with the message in the music. But you don’t have to wait to listen to all seven songs. Go ahead and let God begin using these messages to saturate your heart and mind with the desire to answer His call to follow Christ.

PERSONAL STUDY OF THE CALL TO FOLLOW CHRIST

This book may be different from others you have read. I call this a self-paced, interactive study. I’m not just speaking to you as I write. I want you to interact with me and with the Lord. So I will give you instructions for at least two types of activities.

One is a prayer activity that begins with an arrow pointing up to God and down to you. The arrow symbolizes what I want you to do in prayer. Talk to the Lord and listen as He speaks to you. At the beginning of each day I will ask you to listen to God through His Word; you’ll read a verse or two from the Bible. Then I’ll ask you to meditate and pray. At other times I will give you suggestions for a time of prayer. While we’re here, take a moment to pray and ask God to guide you and speak to you as you pray to Him over the next seven weeks.

The other kind of activity will begin with a circled number. In these learning activities I may ask you a question and give you instructions for responding. Or I may give you instructions about something I want you to do. Take these learning activities seriously. Don’t just skip over them to move on in your reading. I don’t want you just to read some information about following Christ. I want you to understand the message, and I want you to apply it to your life. These learning activities will help you understand and apply these truths to your life. Will you work with me by completing these learning activities? Check your response:

yes
no

I hope you answered yes. If you answered no, you’ll miss much of the help this study can provide for your spiritual growth. After the learning activities I may give you some feedback about your response as I’m doing now. If there are correct answers, I will provide them in the following paragraph.

Each week you will study five daily lessons before getting together with a mentor or a small group to process what you are leaning. Don’t wait until the end of the week to start your study. I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by having too much to do in too short a time. That can be discouraging. But more importantly, I want you to develop a habit of spending time with God every day. Some people call this a quiet time or devotional time. Take some time every day (preferably at the beginning of the day) to read God’s Word, study or meditate on its meaning, and talk to God in prayer. For the next seven weeks, let this book be your guide. By starting the day with your focus on Christ, you will be in a position all day to let God apply the truths to your life. As you do this in “chewable bites” (or small pieces at a time), you will learn and grow at a reasonable pace. You will need to study week 1 before your first small-group session.

I will also ask you to memorize some Bible verses. These Scriptures can guide you, encourage you, warn you, or give you a promise from God to keep in your mind. I’ve chosen a verse for each week that will apply to the discipline for the week. One of your lessons in week 3 will help you understand better why memorizing Scripture is valuable. Just take my word for it: this will be worth your effort! The first week’s study provides tips for memorizing Scripture.

THE DISCIPLE’S CROSS

For years I worked with Avery T. Willis Jr., who had written the discipleship course called MasterLife. Probably half a million people or more have studied this course just as the people at Dámaris Carbaugh’s church did. It is being used all around the world. The Call to Follow Christ is an introduction to the six disciplines taught in MasterLife. After you finish this study, you may want to move into the four courses in MasterLife to grow much deeper and stronger in your walk with Christ.

In MasterLife Avery organizes the six disciplines into what I call a course “map.” His “map” is called the Disciple’s Cross. I’ll introduce it to you in week 2, but you can take a peek now on page 93. As you study the diagram, you will see all six disciplines on or around the cross. This can be a valuable memory aid for your own discipleship journey. I will use it for that purpose. However, it can also be a valuable tool for you to teach others what a life of following Christ looks like. With that purpose in mind, your small-group leader or mentor will probably ask you to describe parts of the diagram week by week. Watch for opportunities to draw and describe the Disciple’s Cross. That will help you learn the disciplines and may help you bring another person to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well, the time has come.

 Let’s get started on our journey of following Jesus!

Week 1: Introducing The Call to Follow Christ

“If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

God has chosen and called believers into a real love relationship with Jesus Christ that is joyful, meaningful, and fruitful. Following Christ requires denying self, taking up our cross daily, and following Him in obedience. Following Christ is reflected through a disciplined life in our relationship with Him, other believers, and the rest of the world.

OVERVIEW OF WEEK 1

Day 1: Chosen by Christ and Called
Day 2: Called to Follow
Day 3: Three Requirements for Following
Day 4: Christ-Centered Following
Day 5: Introducing Six Disciplines

VERSE TO MEMORIZE

“If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

DISCIPLESHIP HELPS FOR WEEK 1

“Tips for Memorizing Scripture” (p. 92)

WHY THIS WEEK WILL BE MEANINGFUL TO YOU

You will understand God’s calling on your life to follow Christ. You will show your willingness to follow Christ by doing such things as …

      • praying a prayer of surrender to Him and His will;
      • describing to Him your desire to be a faithful follower;
      • choosing to deny self so that you can freely follow His will;
      • taking up your cross daily, which puts sin to death in your life;
      • studying Scriptures diligently and moving through them into a relationship with Christ to understand and live by the spirit of His Word;
      • developing spiritual disciplines in your life that strengthen Christlikeness, demonstrate obedience, and yield spiritual fruitfulness.

Day 1: Chosen by Christ and Called

God’s Word for Today

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”—2 Peter 1:3, NIV

Responding to the Lord

Wow! Lord, I didn’t know when I first came to You that Your divine power would give me everything I need for life and godliness. In fact, I don’t think I’ve fully experienced the truth of that promise. But I sure want to. Lord, You are good and glorious. You have called me. I’ve joined this study because I want to follow You, but I need Your help. Empower me to live the life You have called me to live. I ask this in Jesus’ name and according to Your promise. Amen.

Optional Reading

2 Peter 1

Read and briefly meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above and respond to the Lord in prayer. As your time permits, consider the “Optional Reading” each day. Read it in your Bible and mark verses that are meaningful or that you would like to memorize. As you read, pause and talk to God about what you are reading. Cultivate your relationship with Him.

The night before Jesus laid down His life on the cross, He spoke to His followers. These instructions are also for us as followers of Christ. Here’s one:

I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain (John 15:11-16).

Which statement would you choose as the most meaningful to you? Check one or underline a phrase from John 15:11-16 above.

a. He wants my joy to be complete.
b. He showed His great love for me when He laid down His life for me.
c. I don’t have to be a slave of God; I can be His friend.
d. Out of all people on earth, He chose me and gave me an assignment.
e. His plan is to produce spiritual fruit through my life that will last.

As we begin our study together, we have every reason to be amazed. Jesus, the Savior and Creator, has chosen us to be His friends and coworkers. He has planned that we will be fruitful—spiritually successful. He has every intention to fill us with His joy, and best of all, He loved us so deeply that He went to the cross and gave His life for us. What a privilege to follow such a Savior. In addition to being chosen, we are also called.

Read 1 Peter 2:9 below and circle the word called.

“You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises’ of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”—1 Peter 2:9

What are you called from? ________________ And to?_____________

Read the words below. In the chorus underline the other things to which you are called. I’ve underlined one for you.

The Call

It’s a stirring in my spirit / It’s a tugging at my heart
It’s the voice of everlasting / Speaking in my deepest part
And as I read the Scripture / It leaps off of the page
It leads me as I worship / And draws me when I pray

Chorus

It’s the call to trust / The call to love / The call to walk by faith
The call to go / And the call to serve / To follow and obey
He is worthy indeed / Oh, will you heed the call
The question lies before us / A decision we must make
Oh, will we follow Jesus / Or hold to our own way
We must not take it lightly / ‘Cause it touches everything
It’s a lifelong surrender / To heaven’s gracious King

Repeat chorus

The call is like a whisper / The call is like a shout
And it’s the invitation / True life is all about

Repeat chorus

Words and music by Steve Siler, Tony Wood, Scott Krippayne. © Copyright 2004 Fifty States Music (admin. by Word Music, LLC)/Word Music, LLC (ASCAP)/Row J, Seat 9 Songs/Chips and Salsa Songs (All rights for the U.S. admin. by New Spring)/New Spring (ASCAP). All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The call of Jesus is to a “lifelong surrender / To heaven’s gracious King.” “Will you heed the call”? Check your answer below

a. I choose to follow Jesus—to trust, to love, to walk by faith, to go, to serve, to follow and obey.
b. I’m sorry, but I’m still going to hold to my own way.

God hasn’t called you to do or be anything that He will not also enable you to be or do in order to fulfill His purpose.

I pray that your answer is a. It’s a huge choice, isn’t it? If you are still at answer b, stick with us. Paul wrote, “It is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). God hasn’t called you to do or be anything that He will not also enable you to be or do in order to fulfill His purpose. He will even help you want to do His will.

Ask the Lord to make clear to you His calling on your life. Tell Him about your willingness to surrender to His will as He makes it clear to you. Ask the Lord to help you respond to His call in faith, obedience, and full surrender. If you’re not ready to pray like this, would you at least give Him permission to help you want to follow His call? If so, do it.

Day 2: Called to Follow

God’s Word for Today

“My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.”—John 10:27-28

Responding to the Lord

Lord Jesus, thank You for calling me and making me one of Your sheep. What a gift You have given me—eternal life and security in Your hand! Help me know Your voice so that I may follow You faithfully. Amen.

Optional Reading

1 Peter 2

Called

      • “To all who are … loved by God, called as saints” (Romans 1:7).
      • “All things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
      • “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling” (Ephesians 1:18).
      • “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope at your calling” (Ephesians 4:4).
      • “Take hold of eternal life, to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12).
      • “He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).
      • “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises’ of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
      • “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Read and briefly meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above and respond to the Lord in prayer.

God has called us into a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd (see John 10:11 below). As sheep, we will know His voice and follow Him (John 10:27-28).

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”—John 10:11

Read the Scriptures under “Called” above, and underline the words called and calling each time they occur. I’ve underlined one for you. In each verse, notice that to which you’ve been called.

My brother or sister in Christ, God has called us to salvation, to eternal life, to hope, to be saints, to an eternal inheritance and eternal glory. We’ve been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light!

JESUS CALLED DISCIPLES TO FOLLOW HIM

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He called 12 men to follow Him and learn from Him. He called them to be with Him so that they could learn from His words as well as His example and lifestyle. He called these men to train and equip them to carry on His mission after He returned to heaven.

As you read about Jesus’ calling of some of these men, underline the words that describe how they responded to His call. What did they do?

Simon Peter and Andrew. “As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. ‘Follow Me,’ He told them, ‘and I will make you fish for people!’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (Matthew 4:18-20).

James and John. “Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him” (Matthew 4:21-22).

Levi (Matthew). “After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ So, leaving everything behind, he got up and began to follow Him” (Luke 5:27-28).

These five, plus seven more, chose to follow Christ when He called them. Simon Peter and Andrew immediately left their fishing nets and followed. James and John also immediately left their family fishing business and their father to follow Christ. Levi left everything behind, including his tax-collecting career, to follow Christ. For three years they followed Him, and He readied them to carry on His work. He prepared them to carry out one great assignment that He would give them at the end of their training: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). By the time Jesus returned to heaven, at least 120 people had believed and chosen to follow Him (see Acts 1:15).

CALLED TO BE A DISCIPLE

A disciple is a learner, one who follows the teachings of another. A disciple is one who becomes like his master or teacher, one who imitates his teacher. When you answer the call to follow Christ, you begin the process of becoming a disciple, too. He is your Lord and Master. He wants you to follow Him.

Read the definition of disciple above. Which of the following is the best definition of a disciple of Christ? Check one.

a. A person who reads about Jesus and can answer questions about His life and teachings
b. A person who learns about Christ and His teachings and chooses to live like Him and to obey His commands
c. A person who chooses to live the way he or she desires without any reference to what Christ wants

Did you choose answer b? That’s correct. A person who chooses not to follow Christ’s commands (c) is not a disciple. Neither is a person who only knows about Christ and His teachings. A disciple is one who follows. Jesus has called you to be on mission with Him. As your Lord, He has chosen and called you to be His servant and follower. Jesus said, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26).

If Jesus Christ evaluated the quality of your following Him, what grade do you think He would give? Check one.
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a. A—excellent follower
c. I—improving
b. B—very good follower
d. N—needs improvement

Thank Jesus for calling you to His salvation and eternal life. Talk to Jesus about your desire to be His faithful follower.

Day 3: Three Requirements for Following

God’s Word for Today

“[Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.'”—Luke 9:23-24

Responding to the Lord

Jesus, I want to follow You. That’s why I’m doing this study. But it sounds costly. I’m not sure I’m up to the task. I know, though, that You are the One who will work in me to cause me to want to do Your will and then help me do it. Please help me. Teach me what You mean by denying myself, taking up my cross daily, and following You. I want to follow You. Amen.

Optional Reading

Luke 5:1-32

Read and briefly meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above and respond to the Lord in prayer. Use the written prayer or pray your own.

Following Jesus is costly. Not everyone who met Him chose to follow Him. Many turned away. Not all those He called were willing to pay the price to follow Him. Jesus described this journey of following Him as a narrow way and a difficult road that few find. He’s not hiding the cost; He invites you to it. But you have to choose to follow. I’m glad that you are indicating your desire to follow by studying this book with me. The benefits are well worth the cost!

Let’s briefly look at what Jesus asks of His followers in Luke 9:23-24. Jesus mentions three things you must do to follow Him.

Read Luke 9:23-24 (“God’s Word for Today”) and fill in the blanks below.

“If anyone wants to come with Me, he must __________________ himself, take up his _________________ daily, and ____________________ Me.”

DENY SELF

Self-centeredness is at the heart of our sinful nature. Pride demands its rights and wants its own way. The pride that lives is us has the idea that we know better how to live our lives than our Creator does. We want to live our own way. When Jesus calls us to be His followers, He calls us to repent (see Matthew 4:17 below). To repent , we turn away from living life our way, and we choose to make Him Lord. We decide to live life His way, according to His will.

“Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!'”—Matthew 4:17

What is the first thing Jesus asks you to do to follow Him?

 

TAKE UP YOUR CROSS DAILY

Jesus died on a cross to pay the penalty for your sin. His payment was sufficient for all your sin. He purchased the forgiveness He freely offers to you, but Jesus also died to win victory over sin. Because of Christ, you do not have to live under sin’s control any longer. Though a follower of Christ may sin, he doesn’t have to sin. Paul described his experience this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:19-20). You can die to self and to sin because the Spirit of Christ living in you is able to help you live free from sin. This may seem like an impossible dream, but it can be your everyday reality. You take up your cross daily by dying to self and sin.

Read the selected verses from Romans 6 below. Then write a statement describing the truth about the influence of sin in your life.

“We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”—Romans 6:6-7, 11

“Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. For sin will not rule over you.”—Romans 6:12, 14

“Do you not know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. But now, since you have been liberated from sin and become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the end is eternal life!”—Romans 6:16-18, 22

The truth about your relationship to sin is this: you are dead to sin. Sin’s dominion over you is abolished. You are no longer enslaved to sin, and it no longer rules over you. You are, however, enslaved to God’s righteousness. Sin is a choice you make. When you choose to obey your sinful nature, you are enslaved to sin. But you can choose to obey and follow Christ! That’s the truth! You are now a slave to righteousness.

Many followers of Christ are not experiencing this truth God has made possible. But Christ has set us free from bondage to sin. My prayer is that during this study you will increasingly experience this reality. Don’t give up by thinking the standard is too high. We’ll learn this truth together: what is impossible for us is possible with God. Today (and daily) choose to obey Christ and die on your cross to sin. Victory is won moment by moment, then hour by hour, and God can enable you to experience the reality of Romans 6 all day today!

Denying self is the first requirement. What is the second requirement for one who wants to follow Christ?

FOLLOW ME

When you choose to deny yourself, you turn from living life your way to living life Christ’s way. You choose to put to death your sinful nature and decide to obey Christ and His righteousness. Now you follow Him. All three requirements go together. You choose to make Him your Master and Lord. You obey Him. You live like Him. By His Spirit you think and act like Him.

God welcomes your honesty in prayer. Tell Him what you are thinking. Then in faith ask Him to empower you to follow Christ. He will!

Day 4: Christ-Centered Following

God’s Word for Today

“You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”—John 5:39-40

Responding to the Lord

Lord Jesus, that doesn’t sound good. I don’t want that to be said about my life. I want to experience all of life that You have for me. I am willing to come to You. Show me how. Amen.

Optional Reading

John 5

Read and briefly meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above and respond to the Lord in prayer. Use the written prayer or pray your own.

Jesus’ first disciples had one privilege over followers today. Jesus was physically present for them to talk to, learn from, and follow. Now that Jesus is in heaven, He has given us His Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us. His Holy Spirit is always present to guide us to understand and follow Him.

In Jesus’ day, people followed God in ways that were not adequate. We can see similar approaches to following Christ today. I see three approaches to knowing, understanding, and applying God’s Word in following Him.

THE HUMAN-CENTERED APPROACH: THE WAY OF THE SADDUCEES

The Sadducees or “righteous ones” were religious leaders in Jesus’ day. They did not believe in resurrection, but they came to Jesus with a question about the resurrection. Jesus responded by saying, “Are you not deceived because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (see Mark 12:24 below). They used their human reasoning and personal experience to determine whether their beliefs were right or wrong. Their error was that their beliefs were not in line with the Scriptures because they were not sufficiently familiar with them. The Sadducees were also in error because they did not have an experiential knowledge of God’s power. Many people today try to use their own reasoning to determine right from wrong or to know God’s will. Such people are greatly deceived.

“Are you not deceived because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God?”—Mark 12:24

What were the errors of the Sadducees identified in Mark 12:24?

They did not know the _________________ or the _________ of God.

THE SCRIPTURE-CENTERED APPROACH: THE WAY OF THE JEWS (PHARISEES)

Another group of Jewish leaders, probably the Pharisees, used a different approach to knowing, understanding, and applying God’s Word. They condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath and for claiming to be God’s Son.

Read what Jesus said to these leaders in the following passage. Underline what they failed to do to experience life.

“You pore over [diligently study (NIV)] the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

These leaders were Scripture-centered. They diligently studied the Scriptures. That sounds commendable, doesn’t it? But diligent Bible study was not enough. They needed a relationship with Jesus, and they refused to seek real life from Him. Being Scripture-centered can be one step shy of God’s best. God’s Word without a relationship with God can lead to a prideful and judgmental attitude, as these leaders had. They understood the letter of God’s Word, but they didn’t understand His Spirit. They needed a relationship with Jesus to experience the life God intended for them.

THE CHRIST-CENTERED APPROACH: THE WAY FOR US

The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and guides us to understand it correctly and apply it faithfully.

What these leaders were missing is what we need. We do need to study the Scriptures diligently. Without them we will not know and correctly understand God’s will and His ways. But we must not stop there. We need to move one more step into a relationship with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and guides us to understand it correctly and apply it faithfully. Living for Christ and following Him are not just a set of rules and regulations to follow. He is a person. We follow Him. We live for Him, and He lives in us.

Match the description below with the correct approach to following Christ below. Write a letter beside each number.

      1. Human-centered
      2. Scripture-centered
      3. Christ-centered

1. The way of the Pharisees
2. The way of the Sadducees
3. The way for us to follow
4. Diligently studies Scriptures and comes to the Holy Spirit to understand and apply them in following Christ
5. Diligently studies Scriptures, thinking they are the source of life rather than seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ
6. Uses human reasoning and personal experience to decide what is right and wrong<

If you had to identify the approach you have primarily used in following Christ up to this point, which one would it be—a, b, or c? Briefly explain your answer below.
Why?

Now talk to Jesus. Describe the kind of relationship you want to have with Him. Pledge to study the Scriptures diligently and come to Him for life.

Day 5: Introducing Six Disciplines

God’s Word for Today

“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 3:12-14

Responding to the Lord

Lord, that describes me. I haven’t yet reached the goal of full maturity in Christ, but I want to move in that direction. Help me forget my past failures and cleanse me of the sins of my past. Lord, clearly reveal to me the proper goal for my relationship with You and give me a passion to pursue that goal for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Optional Reading

Philippians 3

Read and briefly meditate on “God’s Word for Today” above and respond to the Lord in prayer. Use the written prayer or pray your own.

Today I want to introduce you to the six disciplines we will be studying and practicing during the coming weeks. Before I do that, let’s talk about the word disciplines. That may be a word that makes you feel uncomfortable. It may stir up thoughts of painful and tiring work. For some people it may rouse feelings of a harsh, dry, lifeless legalism or a mindless routine. Let me put you at ease. That is not where we are heading.

Our primary focus is not on religious activity but a relationship with Jesus Christ—a love relationship that is real, joyful, meaningful, and fruitful. The six disciplines are activities and actions you can take to cultivate and strengthen your relationship with Christ. They will provide guidance for loving obedience to the will of Christ and meaning for your life that will result in joy and fruitfulness for the kingdom of Christ.

Based on the above descriptions, which of the following words describe what you should think about the disciplines? Check all that apply.

harsh
joyful
loving obedience
love relationship
legalistic
fruitful
painful
meaningful
purposeful
tiring
mindless routine
uncomfortable
maturity
strengthened
a prize

If you checked harsh, painful, tiring, legalistic, mindless routine, or uncomfortable, you may want to go back and start today’s lesson again. Those words should not be associated with these disciplines. Here’s a brief introduction to the six disciplines we will study over the coming six weeks.

ABIDE IN CHRIST

To abide in Christ is central to all of the disciplines. Jesus invites you to a love relationship with Himself. He wants you to know, understand, and live according to His commands so that you can experience the best life God has to offer you. His Word and prayer are the tools through which we speak to Him and He speaks to us. By abiding in Christ, you receive all the life and vitality you need to be filled with joy and fruitfulness.

LIVE IN THE WORD

God has revealed Himself, His purposes, and His ways in the Bible. He has given guidelines for an abundant and meaningful life. Jesus set an example for us by knowing Scripture and applying it in His daily living. You will learn to read, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word in order to know Him and understand His commands, His purposes, and His ways. Then you can live your life in a way that pleases Him and is abundantly full for you.

PRAY IN FAITH

Prayer is not just a religious activity; it describes a relationship with a person. Prayer is your intimate communion with God. In prayer you experience a loving relationship, you receive God’s counsel and directions, you respond in praise and worship, you receive cleansing through confession, and you work together with God through petition for yourself and intercession for others.

FELLOWSHIP WITH BELIEVERS

When Jesus saved you, He placed you in the body of Christ with other believers. In relationships with other believers, you receive help to be all God wants you to be; and you are used by God to meet the needs of the rest of the body. Together we grow strong in our faith, and we accomplish the kingdom work of Christ in the world for which He died.

WITNESS TO THE WORLD

Jesus came with an assignment to seek and to save those who are lost. He went to the cross to reconcile a lost world to God the Father. He has given to us the ministry and message of reconciliation so that others may experience a saving relationship with God. We have both the privilege and responsibility to witness about Christ to a lost and dying world around us.

MINISTER TO OTHERS

Jesus modeled a life of service for His disciples and for us. He did not come to be served but to serve others. His call for us is to a life of service to those who are needy, both in the body of Christ and in the world that has yet to believe. When we love and serve others who are needy, we show our love for Christ Himself; and God uses that service to build up the body of Christ.

Draw a star beside the discipline you most look forward to developing further. Circle the one for which you feel the most inadequate.

Six Disciplines for New and Growing Believers

      1. Abide in Christ
      2. Live in the Word
      3. Pray in Faith
      4. Fellowship with Believers
      5. Witness to the World
      6. Minister to Others

Ask Christ to enliven your walk with Him through these six disciplines.

 

Sunday 9 August 2020

Higher Ground

Joshua 14:6-14

A very  good friend of ours phoned last Saturday and said “Phyl, sut mae cof ti” Phyl how is your memory? and I said that since corona virus I think it has got worse.

He then reminded me that 50 years ago, he and his family became our neighbours in Pontycymer when he was ordained as a Baptist minister in Noddfa Pontycymer where incidentally, I first preached myself.

Alas! Noddfa has long closed, but our friendship has endured through the years and he  is still in harness as a full time minister today at 76 years of age.

As we reminisced over those 50 years I couldn’t help saying what you may have said on occasions yourselves: Where have the years gone, we are getting old, and in his indominable style he said it all: Phyl, we are aging, but we are not old.

Caleb was such a man himself. Yes he was ageing but he was not old; he still retained a young heart even at 85.  For even at 85, he was still climbing mountains and knocking proverbial giants down, and I hazard a guess that even as 90; 95 or a 100 and more, he was still doing the same just like  some of you.

What was Caleb’s secret?

Prov. 16:31 says: “The grey head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.”

In a sentence, Caleb drew down the promises of God.

He was a righteous man who was prepared to stand on Gods side even if he was called to stand alone

Indeed you will remember that he was one of two spies; Joshua being the other who were not frightened by the giants in Canaan .

The other 10 spies allowed the numerical odds against them to govern their thinking. They gave a negative report , and the Israelites listened to them as they quacked in their sandals. Consequently they wandered in the wilderness  for 40 years when they could have lived in a land flowing with milk and honey.

In contrast, Caleb and Joshua remembered that being a minority of one when God is on your side is enough for victory.

That generation of defeatist had to pass away before they were ready to claim the Promised land and what did Caleb; the old man choose as his plot of tera firmer?

It was the hardest spot of all to possess –  It was Mount Hebron the highest point, and what is more it was filled with giants. What a man!  Caleb was still ready to knock those giants down. If they had skittles in those days, I am sure that Caleb would have had a strike every time.

He was the epitome of positive thinking . Little wonder then that the mountain that Caleb wanted as his plot represents the victorious life.

My friends, too many Christians are earning a living but wasting their lives. Unlike Martin Luther King they do not dream great dreams. In fact they live in the valley of defeat when they ought to be like Caleb reaching for the mountaintop of victory.

I have never shared a message about Caleb before, as in many ways I treated him as  the proverbial battered tin can at the back of a supermarket shelf; whereas people like Joshua were bright and young and standing in the front row. In that I have done a disservice to the church as what I see in our reading is that:

      1. CALEB’S life espoused Godly CHARACTER (vv. 8, 9, 14)

He exercised his free will to wholeheartedly follow the Lord.

His wasn’t a half-hearted follower. Indeed the half-hearted followers of Christ will soon be the faint-hearted. They get half way up the mountain and turn back. They will never live on the mountaintop and subsequently they will never claim the victory as they travail the pilgrims path in this world.

My friends, it doesn’t take much of a person to be a great Christian, but it does take ALL of the person.

I have often told you stories about Dwight L. Moody. John Piper wrote a book called Brothers we are not Professionals.

D L Moody was to me a picture of such a man. Preaching was not another profession to himHe once spoke about the turning point of his life.

He came from being a shoe clerk to a lay preacher and evangelist and he held a number of unsuccessful crusades including a few in the UK.

However, on his second visit to the UK he heard a preacher by the name of Henry Varley preaching in revival meeting in an open field.

In my minds eye, I would imagine that it would have been  like the Glebelands where we recently held a deacons meeting. Can you imagine the Glebelands being full of people thirsting after the Word of God?

Perhaps, one day we will meet there for a preaching service.

D L Moody heard Henry Varley say something like this:

“The world has yet to see what God can do IN, and THROUGH, and WITH, and FOR, a man WHOLLY COMMITTED to Him.”

      1. L. Moody said, “That moment I resolved to be THAT MAN, and I gave myself in a total commitment.

That was the turning point in his life!

He didn’t go to Bapt Col. He had no training and little education. There were no letters behind his name and yet he became a mighty instrument of God who took two continents and shook them for Jesus Christ because he was totally committed to His cause.

Caleb was such a man himself. His life was the essence of Godly character.

My friends, I would say that

      1. Godly character is ALWAYS fertile soil in which godly CONFIDENCE WILL GROW.

The seed of his faith was the Word of God.

I have heard many a minister say: Dr Martin Lloyd Jones said, and even Karl Barth recognised that the good doctor was the greatest preacher in Christendom and we thank God for his legacy.

However, Caleb in his day didn’t refer to what Moses said or what Joshua said, but for Five times he spoke of what the LORD SAID.

He was immersed in Gods Word. Yes! I know that Moses wrote the Word that Caleb had, but he was a man who recognised that what Moses wrote was inspired by God himself.

Caleb had soaked his soul in the Word of God. As one preacher said: He had been standing on the promises a long time before he was sitting on the premises.

My friends. We are told on the history channel that a good general always has an exit strategy in case things go wrong.

Caleb had no exit strategy. It never entered his thinking that he would experience anything but total victory. He went up that mountain to claim his inheritance and he wasn’t going to come down without  the victory.

My friends, unbelief comes out of the heart, not the head. When Caleb went up that mountain with a sword in his hand, he already had the title deeds of the land in his pocket.

In the New Testament we see Caleb’s heart in the Apostle Paul. Even when he was in prison, Paul wasn’t defeated. He said to the church at Philippi:  I  can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

My friends, you will never live victoriously until you base your faith on the Word of God.

Feelings are deceptive. You can be up one day and down the next. You can be on the mountain top one day savouring victory, and down in the valley of despair the next.

If you are that type of person and I admit that I am a little like that myself, you need to ensure that your anchor is placed in something infinitely stronger than feelings. It needs to be anchored in the Word of life.

The Word of God is a rock that never moves. It is a light to our feet in the storms of life and its promises to hold even in old age.  Isaiah 46:4 “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”

Again the psalmist said: Psalm 37:25I have been young, and now I am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”

Again the psalmist said: Psalm 92:13-14, “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be FAT and flourishing.”

My friends! This is one FAT that is healthy for us TO CARRY and Caleb was carrying that FAT.

      1. THIRDLY, we see that CALEB’S godly CONFIDENCE led to an inevitable VICTORY (vv. 11-12

Most Welshmen love the film Zulu, and who of us can forget the picture of the British colours floating down the Buffalo river after the defeat of the Battle of Isandlwana  where 1300 British soldiers got killed.

In comparison that defeat made Custer’s last stand look like a school yard squabble, and in part it is said that it came about because the quartermaster was reluctant to release ammunition without a authorised requisition order, and when they did they could not open the boxes as the lids were screwed down and rusty.

All in all, they were primed for defeat, whereas, Caleb in  flying the colours of Lord was primed for victory.

Unlike the British army’s ammunition whose lids were screwed down and rusty like many a Bible in a Christian home which is never opened from one year to the next, Caleb’s ammunition was primed and ready for action as the Word of God was inscribed on his heart.

He didn’t fight to lose. He fought to win.

In comparison to the giants of Anakim, he may have been physically like a a grasshopper, but he was a grasshopper that could jump high. He could jump over their head even at 80 years of age, as he knew that the bigger they were the harder they fall.

In essence  Caleb saw the giants from God’s viewpoint. Not how much bigger they are than we are, but how much smaller they are than God is. Consequently Caleb saw this opposition as an opportunity.

My friends, an optimist always sees an opportunity in every difficulty. In contrast, a pessimist always sees a difficulty.

Listen to what Moses says Numbers 14:8-9 says:

Numbers 14:8-9If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” My friends we are nourished by the bread we eat.

Anakim are the breakfast of champions.

Who is your Anakim?

It may be old age.

Listen to what Caleb said:

I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

God hasn’t promised us an easy life. He has promised us a mountain to climb, but he has also promised us the strength to conquer it. So be courageous

As God preserved Caleb’s inheritance, God preserved Caleb, to claim his inheritance, and so he has with all of us who are strong in the faith .

Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Warren Wiersbe said that he thinks of the old and young in church like the hands of a clock. The young are the minute hand and move quickly. The old are the hour hand and moves mores slowly. Yet, it takes both to tell the time. We need to blend the wisdom of age with the daring and zeal of youth.

What a wonderful combination and as we meet the challenge of climbing to the mountain top of this pandemic.

Indeed I would say that we need the prayer life of the aging  as never before

What a tremendous prayer power there is in aging adults. You know how to pray and what to pray for.

Like Caleb, be a continuing instrument of God by standing on the rock that is his unmoveable and enduring Word. For certain he like Moses was not wasting his time on the mountaintop while the younger warriors were in the valley.

He knew that what was needed was continued faith in Gods Word in order to draw down the promises of God.

Let us pray.

Amen

 

Saturday 8 August 2020

FIRST  STEPS –

The Bible – can we trust it – No 7

Is the Bible Still Relevant Today?

What’s the Point?
The whole Bible is relevant today.

Stop

So, what do you think? Do you think the Bible is relevant for today? All of it? Some of it? None of it?

So far, we’ve established that the Bible is 100% trustworthy. But, so what? Why go to all the trouble of reading it? I mean, what can an old book written thousands of years ago really have to say to our 21st century lives?

Pete

Reenie, I keep telling you that you’re wasting your time. That Bible-bashing nonsense is old-fashioned and pointless. I don’t know why you spend so much time reading it. Pointless waste of time if you ask me,’ said Pete, looking up from his newspaper. ‘Well I’m not asking you, am I?’ Reenie was sitting at the table with her Bible open. It felt like every time she opened it, Pete started an argument. Sometimes, she wondered if he was right.

Like Pete, many people say that the Bible is completely irrelevant. So, let’s look at two reasons why they are wrong.

Firstly, people confuse relevance with popularity. The Bible has many things to say on subjects such as life and death, the nature of good and evil, gender roles, sexual purity, homosexuality and marriage and divorce. The problem many have is that what the Bible has to say conflicts with what our modern culture believes.

For that reason, people reject the Bible as bigoted, narrow-minded and stupid.

Secondly, many people in today’s society think that newer is always better. Therefore, because the Bible is an ancient book, it is considered to be useless to the modern world.

Let’s look at these issues in some more detail.

Confusing Relevance and Popularity

Illustration

Suppose I know for a fact that you have a fatal, yet easily curable disease. Should I keep this news to myself or should I tell you so that you can get treatment? Why would it be bad to keep the news to myself out of a fear of upsetting you?

Obviously, I should tell you the news, bad as it is. Will this news be welcomed with songs of joy and unwavering happiness? No. I imagine the news of this potentially fatal illness will be entirely unwelcome, uncomfortable, unpalatable, and unpopular. Yet, it will also be the single most relevant and important piece of information you could possibly receive. What if your house was on fire but it’s the middle of the night and you hate being woken up abruptly? Should I say, ‘It’s unfeeling and unkind to wake people suddenly in the middle of the night, I’ll let them sleep!’ No. That would be evil. I should call the fire brigade and attempt to save you.

The same is true with the Bible and what it teaches. It has some hard things to say to the human race. It tells us that the whole world is in rebellion against the King of the Universe. Because of that, the world is in grave danger of being eternally crushed in hell.

BUT

The King has made a way for us to escape this punishment. By turning from our sins and putting our faith in Jesus alone we can escape God’s punishment.

Christians believe that the whole world needs to hear this message. Even though our culture thinks that what the Bible teaches is bigoted, narrow-minded and out of date, we refuse to keep it to ourselves.

Why?

Because we don’t want people to spend eternity in hell.

Illustration

The world famous magician, and well known atheist, Penn Jillette (one half of Penn and Teller), asks a great question. ‘How much do you have to hate somebody to not evangelise? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?’

Jillette gets the point we are making. If the Bible is true (and it is) then it’s the most important and relevant news in the world, whether it is popular or not.

Stop

Do we know people who think the Bible is irrelevant to the world? What would you say to them now?

The main message of the Bible is timeless.

The truths of sin, righteousness and judgement to come, have never been popular. Human beings have never welcomed the message that they are guilty sinners. But they need to hear the truth, whether it is popular or not. Not to tell them, would be an act of hate.

The Big Issues

The Bible doesn’t just bring us unpopular, but ever relevant, truth. It also speaks clearly on many of the big questions of life. It contains God’s answers to questions we would otherwise have no answers for.

Stop

Why am I here? What is the point of life?

This is in many ways the most important question in the world. If we turn off our TVs, computers and phones, sit in silence and think about the world we live in, then eventually we will ask ourselves, ‘Why?’ The chances are we’ll struggle for a meaningful answer. Secular science and philosophy tell us that there is no meaning and no point to life. They say we come from nothing and are going to nothing. We are told we’re the result of a cosmic explosion. We are told that life is just a cruel joke, an accident and that death is the end.

But deep down we know that life is
too precious to be pointless,
we know the universe is
too complicated to be accidental,
we know the world is
too beautiful to be purposeless.

We only find meaningful answers to our deepest questions inside the pages of the Bible.

The Bible begins with the simple fact that,

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen. 1:1).

This sentence means that the universe and everything in it, including us, exists for a reason. That means that we have value and a purpose, we are here for a reason. Isaiah 43:7 gives us that reason: ‘Everyone who bears my name and is created for my glory. I have formed them; indeed, I have made them.’ We are created for the glory of God. That is a weird phrase but, basically, it means that we are created to reflect

the awesomeness,
holiness,
righteousness,
beauty,
love and
wonder of our creator.

Stop

If this is all true then why is there so much suffering in the world?

Nothing causes us to ask ‘Why?’ quite like pain and suffering. Some people will ask how a good God can allow suffering to happen. They think that the presence of suffering must mean the absence of God. C. S. Lewis (author and brilliant dead guy) says this: ‘We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’

When we see suffering we ask why, because we know in the depth of our souls that something is wrong. We instinctively know that life isn’t supposed to be this way. When we see evil people getting away with evil deeds or hear about awful crimes on the news, we cry out for justice because we know deep down that evil should not go unpunished. We feel this way because we have been created in the image of God.

The Bible explains
why suffering exists
that God’s justice will one day be eternally served
about the reality of eternal suffering
how to escape God’s judgement though the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Suffering exists because of the sinful rebellion of humanity against our creator. We were created with dominion over the world, but our rebellion brought death and decay into the world.

‘The creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children’ (Rom. 8:20-21).

This verse explains that even though the world is broken, and isn’t as it should be, a day is coming when it will be made new and set free from the power of decay and the reality of death.

When Jesus returns He will perfect those who trust in Him and He will perfect this world and we will get to live with Him forever in a world of joy and bliss.

That final day will also mark the end of all evil and injustice shall be no more. Everything that we think has been swept under the rug will be dragged into the light and the King of the Universe will act as the righteous judge and His justice shall be done for eternity. In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John gives us a glimpse of that final day as he writes:

‘Then I saw a great white throne and one seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. Then the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them; each one was judged according to their works. Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire’ (Rev. 20:11-15).

Revelation 13:8 tells us more about the book of life. It describes it as, ‘the book of life of the lamb that was slain’ (esv). That is to say that anyone who trusts in Jesus and follows Him will be saved.

Evil has an expiration date. One day Jesus will return and on that day all evil will come to an end and those who love evil and reject Jesus will be thrown into hell for eternity. There is nothing in our world more relevant than this news!

Summary

The Bible is the most relevant book in the world. Only in the Bible will we find the answers to the deep questions of our lives. However, the Bible will challenge our beliefs and our morals, but don’t confuse that with being out of date and irrelevant. His truth remains the truth throughout all generations, whether it is popular or not.

Memory Verse

‘God’s divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness’ (2 Pet. 1:3).

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)

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, s