< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: March 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Proof that the Bible is the Inspired Word of God

A Lesson I Taught From the book, ‘Signature of God’ by Grant Jeffrey

Believers aren’t all the same. And their faith isn’t all the same. Some believers have no problem believing that everything in the Bible is there because God wanted it there, and in exactly the way it’s stated. (I’m one of those.)

Some might say we are the ones Jesus was talking about when He talked about faith like a child’s.

Some believers believe in God and in Jesus, but they want to examine matters for themselves. They want proof, even though they believe (if that makes sense.)

We call these people engineers.

The author calls his book ‘The Signature of God’ because he believes that God would authenticate His own true revelation by writing His signature on the pages of His scripture and that this signature of God would consist of evidence, knowledge and phenomena in the text of the Bible that no unaided human could possibly have written. So He wanted to prove to people that it is His Word.

One of the proofs is fulfilled prophecy and we’ll talk a little about that. We’ll also talk about some of the prophecy that is still in the future – but there are enough things in place that we can see we’re on the path to their fulfillment.

We’re not going to talk about things you’ve heard over and over: how some parts of the Bible were written and circulated while eye witnesses to Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection were still living, who could have disputed it, if it were wrong, but didn’t.

We’re not going to talk about changed lives in the people who read it with the Holy Spirit. We’re going to talk about the kind of proof that the engineer, scientist and scholar will “get” and be “utterly amazed!”

The primary purpose of the Bible is to reveal God’s plan of salvation. But, when the Bible talks about history, archeology, nature and science, it reveals advanced knowledge that is true, verifiable and was totally unknown about when it was written. We’ll talk about some of those. There are also mathematical designs and codes in the Bible that computers have recently found, which we won’t have time for in this lesson. And we’re not going to get into the fact that the Bible was written by 44 men over 16 centuries, but still the complete text of the Bible reveals a coherent unity and progressive revelation from Genesis to Revelation that develops God’s plan of redemption for mankind.

The Old Testament points to the coming of the Messiah king to redeem His people and the New Testament shows the fulfillment of these divine prophecies in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

For me it’s enough to read 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” And we should know that the Greek word for inspired is breathed. So God breathed this. It indicates His direct supervision of the writing by the Biblical writers.

Just so you know it’s out there: there is a lot of archeological proof; ancient copies of scriptures that when compared to copies thousands of years newer, were the same. Scientific findings. But, the book is long and I don’t want to tell you everything that’s in it. I would recommend you do get a copy of the book for yourself. Over the next several posts I’ll share the parts that especially fascinated me.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hearing God’s Voice

A friend sent me one of the email chain stories today. This was about a young man who had been to Bible study where they talked about how God still speaks to us today. He got in his car and prayed for God to speak to him and that he would listen and try to obey.

It goes on to tell about a thought he had to do something which made no sense and that by actually doing it anyway, he became the answer to someone’s prayer.

Then it said this:

Sometimes it's the simplest things that God asks us to do that cause us, if we are obedient to what He's asking, to be able to hear His voice more clear than ever. Please listen, and obey! It will bless you (and the world).

I think all along I’ve thought about this backwards! I kept waiting for God to tell me clearly and completely exactly what to do and then many times ignored the little intuitions, thoughts and urges because they didn’t seem to mean anything or seem to come from Him.

This tells me if we follow those thoughts, the outcome from our actions can be God’s voice shown clearly to us!

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Types of Soil in The Parable of the Seeds

Rocky Ground

Sometimes we read the Bible or hear a message and think, “Yes! That’s true! I’m going to apply that to my life!” But, then we don’t, there’s no fruit.

Say, if a minister says in his sermon that you should get up 30 minutes early everyday to pray and you think, “I’m going to do that!” And you do…for a week.

It was just an idea thrown at you that sounded good. Instead, let the message on prayer draw you into the Bible to see what it says about prayer: how often Jesus prayed, when and where, how Paul tells us to pray constantly and with thanksgiving and how Jesus told us never to give up.

Remember He used the story of the neighbor who kept knocking on the person’s door, until he got an answer?

Now the truths about prayer are becoming a part of you because you made the effort to understand.

Thorns

This is when we hear and agree. Our understanding deepens, but we reject it because of our stronger desire for success in the world. This is when we come up with a dozen reasons why God’s way just doesn’t work in the 21st century, or in America, or in my life, or, or…

But, remember what we learned in Habakkuk? That the righteous shall live by faith? That means we obey God whether or not our obedience makes sense from a human point of view. It means our security, our satisfaction and our self-worth come from God, not man.

So how do we get more effective hearing?

First, we need to depend on the Holy Spirit. Every time we open the Bible we should pray first that He opens our hearts and ears and that He’ll help us understand. God’s the one who gives His believers insight to the Bible and we should remember that and ask Him for it.

Second, we need to spend time and energy trying to understand. We’re told to meditate on His Word. Jesus said, “Carefully consider what you hear” and as we read earlier, “By your standard of measure it shall be measured to you and more shall be given you besides. For whoever has, to him shall more be given and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”

So. Here are 5 ways to really listen to the sermon next Sunday:

1. Take the teaching of God’s Word seriously. It’s more important then what’s taught in schools or read in the newspaper or what your best friend tells you.
2. Pay attention. It might help you to take notes or have the Bible open to the passage if the preacher is speaking on a particular one.
3. Realize you won’t catch everything. When we lose focus, it’s tempting to just stop listening and Satan would love for that to happen. Instead, simply start listening again.
4. Pick 1 or 2 thoughts from the sermon to reflect on the following week and then put them into practice.
5. Don’t evaluate the sermon or the speaker, just look for God’s Word in the message.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Matthew 13:18-23

I’m going to talk about each of the verses separately, looking at the different soil types in two ways. The first more general and then I’ll go back and show how to apply this parable to yourself.

Matthew 13:18 -19 – The wayside soil.
18Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

This is a shut mind. The people who don’t want to hear. The birds are invisible emissaries of Satan and evil who snatch away the message so that one doesn’t even realize what it was about. This hardness of the heart can be the result of pride or a gross immorality that rejects changing one’s life in the way that is necessary.

Matthew 13:21 – The stony soil.
20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

This is the shallow mind. People who run after anything new and different. They may start with wild enthusiasm until the first difficulty or opposition or requirements for personal discipline occur.

Matthew 13:22 – The thorn congested soil
22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

This is the hearer with the overloaded heart. Again they seem to receive the seed, but their life is so full of pleasures or cares, their time so cluttered, that there isn’t time to pray or read the Bible. They may sit in church, but their mind is elsewhere. They have no energy left for a relationship with Christ.

This type of soil is the most deceptive of all. Unless our works and good deeds are fruit from our relationship with God, they are hollow.

In the book of Revelation Jesus speaks to the Ephesian church, a 2nd generation Christian church at that time, with strong leadership, both Paul and John had pastured this church. Jesus said, “I know your deeds, your hardwork and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles, but are not, and have found them false. You have preserved and endured hardship for my name and not grown weary.”

Anne Graham Lotz, in her book, “The Vision of His Glory” which is about the book of Revelation, said, “The Christians in the Ephesian church were doing many things right. As a matter of fact we have the impression they were doing many things!” She talked about visiting a mega church one time and reading the bulletin which listed aerobic classes on Monday called Jumping for Jesus, Bible studies and planning committees on Tuesday, Sunday School representative’s visits to rest homes and prisons on Wednesday, etc. etc.

She said first Jesus acknowledges their deeds. He said, “I know your deeds, your hardwork.” But, then he adds in Revelation 2:4, “Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love.”

Jesus wants our love and He wants it to stay fresh and new and strong like it was when we first became Christians. Anne says we need to ask ourselves if somewhere along the way our work for Jesus replaced our worship of Him. When we read the Bible is it just to prepare for a Sunday School lesson or Bible study? Or are we really looking to see what God has to say to us personally? Do we ever open the Bible just to hear what He has to say?

In Revelation 2:5 Jesus says, “Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first.”

Anne asks, “What were the things we did at first?” “When we were first born again?”

And she suggests we need to return to Calvary where we first realized how great the burden of our sin and guilt was and confessed it and turned it over to Christ’s cleansing. That we need to take a good long look at what it cost Him to take away our sin and bring us into a right, loving relationship with Him. To get back to our first love with Him may mean different things for each of us:

It might be daily prayer, where we talk to Him, not just hand Him our wish list.
It might be daily Bible reading, on our own, not just for an organized class or lesson.
It might be witnessing or fellowship with other believers.
And yes, it might even be church involvement.

We should also be aware that some sin or habit may have crept into our lives affecting our relationship with Christ and ask Him to show it to us and take it away as we repent.

So what are some barriers to our hearing? Let’s go back to the birds eating the seed that fell on the road. Jesus explained this as Satan taking the word before it has a chance to germinate. This is when we are distracted while listening or we have preconceived ideas. The message never registers in our brains.

The Pharisees are good examples of this. They had a preconceived idea of the Messiah; so what Jesus was, what He said and did, just didn’t register.

Do what it takes to hear, really hear, God’s Word. Sometimes it helps to not depend on 1 person or thing: a sermon by the minister. Maybe it takes; Christian radio, Christian books, Bible study too. But, we do have to spend time thinking about the message and let it change us.
Tomorrow I’ll share more about the different soil types.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter with Christianity Today

Since this is Easter weekend I thought you might enjoy Christianity Today’s Easter section. Check it out, there’s a lot to read and learn here:

Christianity Today

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Matthew 13: 10-17

Matthew 13: 10-13 The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

The part that says whoever has will be given more, doesn’t suggest a kind of privileging in which, “the rich get richer”. Rather, it expresses a relational or spiritual truth: People who commit themselves to Jesus will grow in their understanding of God and ability to keep God’s law; those who refuse to commit themselves to Jesus will discover their interest in the ways of God withering.

Matthew 13: 14-17 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Jesus is further contrasting the uncommitted crowds with His disciples by citing the verses from Isaiah 6:9-10. Their ears were hard of hearing because they didn’t want to hear. That would have meant repenting and turning their lives over to God.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gold City

Today was amazing! John and I went to Lakeview Baptist Church to hear Gold City. When we were there a couple weeks ago to see Tony Perkins we heard they would be in town and singing at that worship service. It’s a good thing we didn’t know this special service was starting at 10:30 instead of 11:00 because I had to teach Sunday School at our church, which goes until 10:40, so I know I would have decided not to go.

And then we would have missed it!

Gold City is a Southern Gospel Group that is outstanding. Gold City
The congregation was on its feet most of the time. Then a pastor visiting from Puerto Rico, Pastor Carlos, preached and it was the most wonderful service ever. I have never been so moved at any church service in my life!

He challenged the congregation to let go of all the things they were holding on to that were getting in the way of God’s blessing. He talked about surrendering everything to God and how Paul had said he died daily to self. How we were all tired of trying so hard. That God has plans for us and they are good.

This was what I talked about in my Sunday School class today! So I know for sure He was talking to me and I was there for a purpose! I've been teaching on "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. Here's part of what I said: Surrendering to God doesn’t weaken us; it puts Him in our corner. It adds His strength to our pitiful little strength. And surrendered people are the ones God uses. Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant and I’m willing to accept whatever He wants.” And she became the mother of Jesus!

Warren also says that we all eventually surrender to something and it’s much better for us if it’s God! Because otherwise it’s: other people’s opinions or expectations, or it’s money, fear, pride, ego…and he says that while we are free to choose what we surrender to, we aren’t free from the consequences of that choice. He says surrendering to God is the best way to live. All other approaches lead to frustration, disappointment and self-destruction. He wrote, “Your wisest moments will be those when you say yes to God.” He also wrote, “Sometimes it takes years, but eventually you discover that the greatest hindrance to God’s blessing in your life is not others, it is yourself: your self will, stubborn pride and personal ambition. You cannot fulfill God’s purposes for your life while focusing on your own plan. But, don’t be afraid; nothing under His control can ever be out of control. Mastered by Christ, you can handle anything.”

He goes on to say that surrendering to God isn’t a one-time event. Paul wrote, “I die daily.”

There’s a moment of surrender and there is a practice of surrender, which is moment by moment and life long. We may have to resurrender ourselves 50x a day. But, if that’s what it takes, we just keep doing it. Because when we live a surrendered life our decision will be tested. It will mean inconvenience, being unpopular, it will cost us and often it will be doing exactly the opposite of what we feel like doing. We need to think about what areas of our lives we are holding back from God and give them to Him. God will bless our lives when we do that.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Matthew 13:4-9

Matthew 13:4-9 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds cameand ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.

The seed is the Word of God. This is not just the letters and words of the Bible itself; it’s also the revealed purpose of God. Jesus himself is the Word of God.

John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” And John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

To Jesus’ audience, the seed was His message. But, it was also Himself. To us, today, the seed is dropped into the soil of our hearts every time we read the Bible or hear a message that is the true revelation of God and is empowered by the Holy Spirit. So the seed is not just the Gospel, the message of salvation. Every message from God, whether it’s about the Holy Spirit or a call to live a disciplined life, a prophecy, an instruction, an invitation for a closer walk with God or a challenge to witness to someone, is a seed and it can be lost, crushed, withered or produce fruit, depending on the condition of the heart.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Thoughts on Parables

Jesus called the parables “secrets of the kingdom of heaven”. He also said these secrets had been hidden through former ages even from God’s choicest prophets who prophesized, but often didn’t understand the meaning of their words.

In the Bible, a mystery is not secret hidden knowledge, but instead a truth that one can only come to know by God’s revelation. We can’t discover it on our own. So Jesus is saying, “I am revealing to you the mysteries, these vital truths.”

God’s intention was always to reveal these truths when the time was right. In Colossians 1:26 Paul refers to “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but its now disclosed to the saints.”

So while Jesus was disclosing mysteries, which had been hidden for ages, there would be people who heard the parables and wouldn’t understand them.

There are many people who don’t understand the Bible and therefore deny its power. It’s hidden from them because they depend on only human reasoning and experiences. They oppose God’s truth and as with the parables they are either too lazy or too indifferent to spend time studying it.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Why Did Jesus use Parables so Much?

Matthew chapter 13 shares 7 of Jesus’ parables. Why did He make it so hard for people to understand what He was saying?

Matthew 13 is a time in Jesus’ ministry when He changed the way He was doing things. At the beginning of His ministry Jesus preached in synagogs. This became increasingly difficult because the Pharisees and Sadducees were watching Him and ready to tear apart His message. So from this point on Jesus began speaking on seashores, in the desert, in homes and on the roads.

Jesus used parables to teach publicly, but veil the full meaning from all, but the people who really wanted to know.

Many of the people who were flocking to hear Jesus speak were basically indifferent to His message when it conflicted with their whims. According to Matthew 13:13 they heard with their ears, but chose not to respond with their hearts. The crowds were coming to see Jesus perform in a sense. To hear the latest “philosophy” or watch another miraculous healing. But, then they walked away without it having impact their lives.

This happens in church today too. Someone walks out the door and half the eyes in the congregation follow him. We nod and smile at the pretty music and then plan our afternoons during the sermons. Not always of course. Sometimes we get really caught up in it all and really do feel like we are worshipping God. But, do we take that feeling out the door with us? Are we listening, actively, with open hearts and minds? We need to hear the word of God and we need to put it into practice.

Parables draw the listener in. They cause him to really think, to discover the truth. I read somewhere once that His use of parables represented both judgment on a majority of His listeners and grace. Judgment because the parable conceals the truth from those too indifferent or prejudiced to understand its meaning. But, also an act of grace because He was still speaking to these people and parables were apt to stimulate a waning interest. Parables draw out a person’s desire to discover truth personally instead of being spoon-fed. So Jesus was giving His listeners another chance to respond to Him.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Christian Tote Bags: Earth Friendly and with a Message!

Spread the good news wherever you are! Perfect for Sunday School teachers or to take to Bible Study! Lots of designs, or send us your favorite verse or idea and we'll customize a tote bag at no extra charge. Use our red product drop down button on the front page of http://www.givitup.com/ to see all totes.

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