< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: June 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Love is the remedy

Love is the only thing that can mend relationships. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” And remember what His two greatest commandments were: To love God with all of our heart and soul and mind and to love other people as ourselves.

So the proof, the real proof that we love God isn’t that we come to church on Sunday morning. Or even Sunday night or Wednesday night. It isn’t that we wear a cross or have a Bible – it’s that we love other people. All people. That’s the proof!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More thoughts on Just Like Jesus

Just a few more thoughts on Max Lucado’s book “Just Like Jesus”. He talks about how important it is to listen to God first hand. We shouldn’t depend on our pastor’s interpretation or Christian radio or Christian books.

In order to do this we should have a regular time and place set aside for prayer. And we should have an open Bible because God speaks to us through His word. Also we need to come with a listening heart prepared to put into practice what we hear God say.

I love this quote from his book, “We know we are listening to God when what we read in the Bible is what others see in our lives.”

Another good point he makes in this book is that God is always with us. He says, “We are always in the presence of God. We never leave church. There is never a nonsacred moment! His presence never diminishes. Our awareness of His presence may falter, but the reality of His presence never changes.”

He suggests practicing the presence of God: really working at feeling God with you at all times and communing with Him all day. The more time we spend with someone, the more we begin to think and act like them.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Just Like Jesus

I just read a book by Max Lucado called Just Like Jesus. I always get so much out of his books. In this one his theme is “God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”

Max says we aren’t stuck with today’s personality. If we are a worrier or a pessimist we don’t have to stay that way. He says we can have the same peaceful, pure heart that Jesus does. But, then he says something surprising. He says if we are in Christ, we already have the heart of Christ. Once we become believers Jesus takes up residence in our hearts.

One of the reasons Jesus had the heart he did was His constant contact with God. He also worshipped, prayed and memorized scripture. So the book examines Jesus’ heart and what He was like. It talks about the way Jesus forgave people, how He had compassion on them, how He not only listened to, but obeyed God.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Satan is no gentleman

I once did a Sunday School lesson about a topic close to my heart. That I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible is the infallible word of God.

I used to wonder why people would believe everything BUT the Bible. And then I realized that it’s because Jesus is a gentleman and Satan is not!

Jesus does not force us to follow Him. He invites us, sets an example and then gives us free will. Satan has always been a deceiver. From the very beginning in the garden he has been twisting the truth around to cause doubts.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

He is still deceiving people and the most effective way to do that is to cause doubt in God’s word. All the false religions, New Age, the ideas that money and material items are the things to go after in life, he is pushing. His time is short and he’s working hard. Unfortunately he’s doing a good job.

The world needs more people to seek God’s word, learn it and share it.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Christian Magnets

I love magnets. I am a list maker and make lists of lists! Next to my desk I have a file cabinet whose side is full of these lists attached by colorful and meaningful magnets. Little messages I like.

Here are four from http://www.givitup.com

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

1st John 5:21

1 John 5:21Dear children, keep away from statues of gods.”

An idol is anything in this life that man worships instead of God. Or something he allows to take God’s place. It can be money, career safety, pleasure or another person. John also could have meant all the pagan gods back then, because there were many. We need to put God first in our lives and stay away from false religions.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

1st John 5:18-20

1 John 5:18-20 “We know that those who are children of God do not keep on sinning. The Son of God keeps them safe. The evil one can't harm them. We know that we are children of God. We know that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We also know that the Son of God has come. He has given us understanding. Now we can know the One who is true. And we belong to the One who is true. We also belong to his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God. He is eternal life.”

There are three important things in these verses.

1. We have the power over sin. Where it says “anyone born of God does not continue to sin”
2. A Christian is on the side of God and against the world.
3. We know Jesus: that He came, why He came, that He is the truth and gives us eternal life. We don’t have to guess about the meaning of life anymore, or where did we come from or who is God or what happens after death. Jesus told us and we know.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

1st John 5:16-17

1 John 5:16-17 “Suppose you see your brother or sister commit a sin. But that sin is not the kind that leads to death. Then you should pray for them. And God will give life to them. I'm talking about someone whose sin does not lead to death. But there is a sin that does lead to death. I'm not saying that you should pray about that. Every wrong thing we do is sin. But there are sins that do not lead to death.”

The first thing we notice in what might sound like a disturbing passage, is he’s telling us to pray for others – intercessory prayer. It’s very natural for us to pray for someone’s physical healing and it should be just as natural to pray for their spiritual healing.

When we pray like this we must be ready: God may use us as the instrument to help this person. We don’t always just get to drop the ball in God’s lap. Sometimes He tosses it back!

Now the harder part. This passage speaks of the sin whose end is death and the sin whose end is not death. The Jews distinguished 2 kinds of sins. Those committed unwittingly or at least not deliberately; either through complete ignorance or sort of swept away in the moment of some strong emotion.

Then there were the deliberate sins. Knowing full well what you are doing. Some commentaries believe it’s this second type; the deliberate sins that John means because they think that if someone gets away with the sin and doesn’t feel very much remorse they may do it again and feel even less remorseful. And then again and again because it seems like they are getting away with it. And the person goes beyond repentance.

Other commentaries say it's blasphemy; or denying Christ. Not believing He is whom He says He is or repenting and asking for forgiveness of their sins.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

1st John 5:14-15

1 John 5:14-15 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

The key of course here is praying in God’s will. We pray that He aligns what we want with what He wants and then we can be sure He listens and will answer. Remember, Jesus prayed, “thy will be done” not “thy will be changed” (Matthew 26:39, 42) when He was in the garden praying.

People’s natural impulse when praying is asking for what we want; where as true prayer is asking God for what He wants and the only request is for grace to accept His will and the strength to do it.

God is always waiting for us to pray and is always ready to listen. We never need to take a number or leave a message. We don’t get the menu: Press 1 for God, 2 for Jesus, 3 for the Holy Spirit. (And then you press 1 and get Press 1 for spiritual request, 2 for material request, 3 for healing. And when you press 3: Press 1 for spiritual healing, 2 for healing of the body, 3 for healing for another person!) It won’t happen!

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Friday, June 15, 2007

1st John 5:11-13

1 John 5:11-13 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

If we believe in Jesus Christ we already have eternal life. It started the moment we believed. We don’t need to wait for it, work for it or worry about it. God has promised us!

My application Bible says, “this is true whether we feel close to God or far away. Eternal life is not based on feelings, but on facts.”

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

1st John 5: 9-10

1 John 5: 9-10 “We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.”

In the book of Deuteronomy the people were told a single witness wasn’t enough in their justice system. (Deuteronomy 19:15) So here are three witnesses and divine witnesses at that!

John in the Gospel of John lists many more witnesses to Jesus. John the Baptist was a witness, Jesus’ deeds witnessed for Him, the scriptures witnessed to Him. Plus the Father and the Spirit. If we refuse to accept all of this, John says we call God a liar.

And notice where it says “he who believes in the Son of God” There’s a big difference between believing in a man and just believing a man. To believe someone is just believing a particular something he’s said to be true. To believe in someone is to believe everything they say is true and to accept the whole man as someone you would be willing to stand up for.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

1st John 5:6-8

1 John 5:6-8 “This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”

There are three witnesses telling us (besides Christ saying it Himself), that Jesus is the Son of God. The Holy Spirit in us, God at Jesus’ baptism, (Matthew 3:16-17) and at His death, which God really spoke at the Transfiguration before Jesus’ death. (Matthew 17:5)

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Monday, June 11, 2007

1st John 5:3-5

1 John 5:3-5 “Here is what it means to love God. It means that we obey his commands. And his commands are not hard to obey. That's because everyone who is a child of God has won the battle over the world. Our faith has won the battle for us. Who is it that has won the battle over the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

This is another one of John’s central themes; obedience to God is the proof of our love. He says that His commandments are not burdens. This doesn’t mean they’re not hard! Christian love is not easy!

To love someone who hurts your feeling or insults you, to love someone you don’t even particularly like, is not easy. But, God isn’t going to give us a commandment without giving us the strength to carry it out. With God’s help all things are possible. Love makes all things possible.

Like the song “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother” – if you do for someone you don’t like, it’s hard, but if you choose to love the person and then you do for him or her, it’s not a burden. God’s commandments are a privilege because to carry them out is an opportunity to show love.

So, difficult? Yes. Burdensome? No.

I read somewhere that there is something in the Christian, which makes him able to conquer the world. And remember when we talk about the “world” like this it’s the world apart from God and even in opposition to God. What this is that enables us to conquer the world is faith. Faith that Jesus is the Son of God.

That means we believe in the incarnation. And the reason that’s so important and so victory giving is that it means God cared enough for men to lay aside His glory and take upon Himself the limitations of humanity in an act of love and sacrifice that passes human understanding. It means God knows our trials, temptations and sorrows. It means He is involved in the human situation. It means that everything that happens to us is fully understood by God.

Once we have the faith that God understands and cares we have a defense to resist the temptation of the world, the pressures of worldly standards and motives; because Christ is now in us.

There are a lot of things in life, which try to take our faith away: sorrow, disappointment, failure…the six o’clock news! But, we know Christ will be victorious over all – because the Bible tells us so!

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

1st John 5:1-2

1 John 5:1-2 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born again because of what God has done. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children as well.
How do we know that we love God's children? We know it when we love God and obey his commands.”

I think John has made it pretty clear throughout this letter that the love of God and the love of man are inseparable. Remember Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:28-31) John heard Jesus say this!

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

1st John 4:13-21

1 John 4:13-21 “We know that we belong to him and he belongs to us. He has given us his Holy Spirit. The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. We have seen it. We give witness to it. God lives in anyone who agrees that Jesus is the Son of God. That kind of person remains joined to God. So we know that God loves us. We depend on it. God is love. Anyone who leads a life of love shows that he is joined to God. And God is joined to him. So love is made complete among us.

We will be bold on the day God judges us. That's because in this world we love as Jesus did. There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives fear away. Fear has to do with being punished. The one who fears does not have perfect love.

We love because he loved us first. Anyone who says he loves God but in fact hates his brother or sister is a liar. He doesn't love his brother or sister, whom he has seen. So he can't love God, whom he has not seen. Here is the command God has given us. Anyone who loves God must also love his brothers and sisters.”

God has given us His Holy Spirit. It is the spirit that in the beginning makes us seek God at all. It is the work of the spirit, which makes us aware of the presence of God and it is the work of the spirit, which gives us the certainty we are at peace with God. It is the spirit, which lets us dare to address God as Father. (Romans 8:15-16)

The reason we don’t need to fear God when we stand before Him is because Christ took our punishment and God loves us perfectly. (Romans 8:38-39)

My application Bible says it’s easy to say we love God when that love doesn’t cost us anything more then weekly attendance at church. But, the real test of our love is how we treat the people in front of us: family members, fellow believers, etc. We cannot truly love God while neglecting to love those who are created in His image.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

1st John 4:7-12

1 John 4:7-12 “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”

Christian love is a choice and an action. Our source of love is God. Jesus is our example of how to love and the Holy Spirit living in us gives us the power to love. It’s been said that we are never nearer to God, then when we love. Since we are in His image and He is love: to be like God, to be what we are meant to be, we must love.

I read something interesting when I was studying this:

In this passage the statement, “God is love” is the explanation for many of the questions we have.

1. It’s the explanation to creation. Why did God create this world? Hasn’t it been heartbreak for Him? All the disobedience and rebellions. Why would He want something that’s nothing but trouble? Well, creation is essential to the very nature of God. If God is love, then there has to be something to love!

2. It is the explanation of free will. Unless love is a free response, it isn’t love. If we were like robots, programmed like machines, there would be no possibility for a personal relationship between God and man. God, by a deliberate act of self-limitation gave man free will so when we love God it’s real.

3. It is the explanation of providence. He didn’t just create the world and let it go. We are in His constant care and He sustains, upholds and broods over us.

4. It is the explanation of redemption. If God were only law and justice He would leave people to the consequences of their sin. He does this often during our lives, but remember the wages of sin is death. God seeks and saves the lost souls because He is love.

5. It is the explanation of the life beyond. If God were simply a creator, man like a flower, would live briefly and die and God would just create another. But, God loves us enough to want us with Him throughout eternity.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

1st John 4:4-6

1 John 4:4-6But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.”

The world, we remember from the Old Testament, liked the false prophets because those prophets told them what they wanted to hear. Unbelievers reject a Christian teacher because they don’t want to change their behavior. My application Bible says, “people who faithfully teach God’s Word won’t win any popularity contests.”

Luckily we are only trying to please God!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

1st John 4:1-3

1 John 4:1-3 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”

There are a lot of different teachings going around. There always have been. We shouldn’t believe everything we read and hear. In the past we’ve been told to compare it ourselves to scripture. John gives us the ultimate test. For him Christian belief can be summed up in one sentence, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” And he wrote that in John 1:14. Any spirit, any teaching, which denies that is not from God.

If Jesus didn’t become man and live on earth, then we can’t use Him as our example. If He wasn’t God, then He didn’t have the power to save us!

In verse 3 John writes the spirit of the antichrist, even now is already in the world. The word spirit is important. It’s not the final antichrist. He’s not saying the guy was alive and walking around earth while he was writing this. The spirit was (and is) on earth: the kind of people who are against Christ and spreading false teachings.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

1st John 3:19-24

1 John 3:19-24 “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

What happens when our hearts condemn us – our conscience says we’re not good enough, we’re not showing all the love we should. John says, “God is greater then all these doubts.” He knows all things, not just our sins, but also our love, our longings, even the fact that we would love to be a certain way, but somehow always fall short.

He knows we are sorry. He knows all our dreams and when we struggle. And because of the greatness of His knowledge He not only knows what we did do and is either pleased or forgives it, but He understands what we meant to do and He can sympathize with us.

God knows exactly the way we are and why we are the way we are and He love us anyway! I think we get glimpses of this with our children occasionally; when they’ve done something wrong and because we now them so well and love them so much and we’ve been there too, we almost understand what they meant to do and how sorry they are and how they wish they could be good!

John goes on to say that we are to believe in the name of Jesus Christ. Psalm 124:8 says, “Our help is in the name of the Lord.” Remember in the Bible a name is not just what we call a person, but the whole nature and character of that person. So this means our help isn’t just in the fact that God is called God or Jesus is called Jesus or Lord, it means our help is in the love, the mercy, the power, the compassion, which is His nature and character. “I believe in the name of Jesus” is to believe He is the Son of God. He can perfectly reveal God to us and He is the savior of our souls.

So we are to obey Him and love other people. The Christian life depends on the right belief and the right action.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

1st John 3:10-18

1 John 3:10-18 “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

You can tell what a person is by their conduct.

We are told you should love one another. If you want to know how to do that, look to Christ for example. He laid down His life for us. (1 Peter 2:21) No man can see Christ and say he doesn’t know what a Christian life should be.

If we argue that the opportunity to die for someone else doesn’t come along that often, John tells us that when we see our brother in need and we have enough, we should give to him. To shut your heart and to refuse to give is to show that the love of God, which was in Jesus, isn’t in you. Any time we show self-denial or self-sacrifice for another person, we show this kind of love.

The little insert story about Cain and Abel is there to explain why bad people hate good people and why non-Christians hate Christians. Good people are a walking rebuke to evil people. The evil person will always show his flaws in comparison. And wherever a Christian is, if he’s living right – he acts as the conscience of society. That’s why Jesus was hated and why He warned Christians they would be hated.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

1st John 3:9

1 John 3:9 “Those who are born again because of what God has done will not keep on sinning. God's very nature remains in them. They can't go on sinning. They have been born again because of what God has done.”

When we are born again we are given a fresh start in God’s family. God gives us power over sin. Again, it’s not that we will never sin again – we just won’t have the nature of continually sinning or treating sin lightly.

Because remember, earlier in this letter John said if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and in chapter 1 verses 8-10 he urges us to confess our sins and goes on to say that when we do sin we have an advocate with the Father in Jesus Christ.

Being sin free is our goal, which will be realized in the world to come and right now we are in the process of getting there.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

1st John 3:3-8

1 John 3:3-8 “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.”

The man who knows that God is at the end of the road will make all of life a preparation to meet His God.

What do we know about Christians and sin? That we still sin; we just don’t enjoy it as much any more! Who John is talking about here is the person who continues to sin and isn’t sorry, doesn’t confess and won’t ask forgiveness. Our victory is not complete and we still struggle with temptation and sin.

My application Bible suggests three ways we can find victory over a prevailing sin:

1. Seek power from the Holy Spirit and from God’s Word
2. Stay away from tempting circumstances. Remember Joseph ran from Potiphor’s wife! If you are tempted by money, don’t volunteer to be the treasurer of your club! If you are married and someone of the opposite sex is looking good to you, you may have to cut that person out of your life.
3. Seek the help of the church or have a Christian friend who will hold you accountable and pray for you. And vice versa.

John says if we don’t abide in Christ, sin comes into our lives. This just means we need to continually remember His presence and deliberately walk the way we know He wants us to. It’s at least harder to sin if we picture Jesus standing right there.

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