< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: September 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mark Trammell Trio

We went to hear the Mark Trammell Trio at First Church of God in Hickory last night. Amazing voices! I loved the words to some of the songs:

Satan couldn’t stop the baby being born,
he can’t stop the King from coming back,
and he can’t stop me from loving the lamb!

And the one about Paul being whipped by the Roman soldiers and saying, even if only 1 or 2 heard his message it would be worth it.

http://www.marktrammellministries.com/

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

More Thoughts from the Following Him Conference

Some random thoughts I took a way from the two days:

A God we can imagine is no God at all! The world makes light of God. Our job is not to make up a God, but to stand in awe of Him who has revealed Himself to us!

“We talk of the 2nd coming. Half the world has never heard of the first.” Oswald J. Smith. We need to be disciples and share the good news.

When we look up (worship God), we work out (service and missions), and as we live out, they will look up!

The number one discipline for a Christian is to read the Bible and pray. There is no substitute for simple time with God.

People watch Christians. They want to know if it works! They need us to show them unconditional love along with our faith and trust in God. We are all called to be ambassadors for Christ. It’s a huge responsibility to show God to the world. What if we are the only Christian someone sees?

We are God’s marketing campaign! How are we doing?

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Following Him Women’s Conference

I went to a great Women’s Conference last night and this morning at First Baptist Church in Hickory. Haven Parrott was the guest speaker and was very inspiring and also very funny. Haven's Website

She talked about putting Kingdom principles into earthly practice using the Bible passage Philippians 2:12-13 “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, both to will and to act for His good purposes.”

God doesn’t need us, His work will get done. But His work is most often done through human hands. We don’t work for our salvation, we work because of it. Salvation is a rescue; if we could do it ourselves we wouldn’t need a rescue.

She also pointed out that salvation happens all at once (called Justification) and also moment by moment (called sanctification). Every day we should make fresh confession. Fresh repentance every day so we stay sensitive. Salvation isn’t just about going to Heaven, it’s about the here and now.

What God is working out in and through us is not a what at all. It’s a who, and that who is Christ.

Are we practicing who we are in Christ? Are we sharing our relationship with Him?

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Friday, September 26, 2008

God’s Building Plans

I came across something C. S. Lewis wrote that really spoke to me:

I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would leave us alone. But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what he intended us to be when he made us...

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on. You knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.

But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.

You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Self-Control

They call it the marshmallow test. A researcher gives this choice to a 4-year-old: “I am leaving for a few minutes to run an errand and you can have this marshmallow while I am gone, but if you wait until I return, you can have two marshmallows.”

Researchers at Stanford University ran that test in the 1960s. A dozen years later, they restudied the same children and found that those who had grabbed the single marshmallow tended to be more troubled as adolescents. Astonishingly, the one-marshmallow kids also scored an average of 210 points less on SAT tests.

A Greek philosopher said, “No man is truly free until he masters himself.” The results of self-control are confidence and an inner sense of security.

We like to do things that aren’t good for us! We rationalize. We blame others…but the first step to having self-control is admitting we re responsible for our behavior.

It can be food, TV, exercise, clothes, temper, words or drink, but if we can figure out what our problem is we can control it. Once we’ve done that we need to put it behind us. Just because we failed at something in the past doesn’t mean we will again. Unless we think we will! Babies would never learn to walk if they stopped trying after they fell down once!

A lot of success is more persistence than talent! Thomas Edison failed a lot, but he called it education. He said he learned what didn’t work and tried something else!

Ulysses S. Grant once said, “One of my superstitions has always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, never to turn back or to stop until the thing intended was accomplished.”

Someone once asked Paul Harvey, the journalist and radio commentator, to reveal the secret of his success. Harvey replied, “I get up when I fall down.”

Everything today is about feeling good. We’re so afraid to feel bad, at all. But sometimes we will. We will be disappointed, stressed, sad and we need to realize this can be a learning experience. It can cause us to move in a different direction, stop us from doing something harmful or make us aware of someone else’s hurts.

If we’re really having a problem with self-control we need to find someone of the same gender who will hold us accountable; another Christian, and give him or her permission to ask, “how are you doing with that problem?” Alcoholics Anonymous is based on this principle and it works.

Also, we’ve talked about temptation in lessons here before, but we need to stay away from situations that weaken our self-control. Ephesians 4:27 says, “Don’t give the devil a chance.” Don’t give him a foothold into your life.

And we need to ask God’s help. A lot of people think they’ll give God control of their life when they get it all together, but that’s backwards. We don’t have to be perfect to come to Him. You don’t get well before you go to the Doctor! The church has been called a hospital for sinners. It’s Christ who gives us the power to change and the Holy Spirit in us who keeps guiding us.

A productive, fruitful life is when we show the fruits of the spirit. Jesus said in John 15:8, “This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples.” And He goes on to say, “You did not choose me, but I chose you. And appointed you to go and bear fruit. Fruit that will last.” To do this we need to spend time in God’s Word and get rid of the things in our lives that are taking our time away from Him. Chasing after material possessions, worrying about things that don’t matter.

God teaches us the fruits by putting us in situations full of the opposite qualities. He teaches us love by putting us around unlovely people. He teaches us joy in the midst of sorrow. He teaches us peace by allowing irritations around us, patience by allowing things to frustrate us.

My husband and I just drove from North Carolina to Chicago for our high school reunion. It took 12 hours going, but while we were there Chicago had the most rainfall ever listed in its history. Shortly after we left my mom’s to drive home, we got on the Interstate and traffic stopped. They had shut down part of the road in Indiana and were merging us all onto a detour. After 5 hours we had gone a grand total of 49 miles! I was working on this Sunday School lesson about patience in the car! I felt like saying, “OK, God, I get it. You can stop now!” It took us 17 hours to get home…

If we cooperate with God during these times He will make us more fruitful. The way we express that cooperation is by praising Him through it all.

Also, growth takes time. It takes time to die to our own selfish desires and we have to do that before we produce great spiritual growth. Never give up on God. If we remain in Him, enjoy His presence in our life; there will be a harvest. In His perfect time.

Speaking to a large audience, D.L. Moody held up a glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass?”

One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!”

Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.”

After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Another quote by D. L. Moody is, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled.”

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gentleness

It’s a medical fact that people who have friends live longer. It’s also pretty much a given that in order to have friends one must be friendly.

We have to be likeable. One of the most likeable qualities the Bible says there is, is “gentleness”. Two people in the Bible are called gentle; Jesus and Moses. The Greek word used for gentleness in the New Testament means “strength under control.” Gentleness is controlling your reactions to people. Another choice. We choose our response to people rather then simply responding.

The author says there are six types of people we all come in contact with and we can practice gentleness with each.

Type 1 – The people who serve you.
Restaurant workers, clerks, employees, bank tellers… are we indifferent and impersonal? Rude? Or do we get to know their name and maybe even their story? Do we understand they may have had a hard day too?

Type 2 - The people who disappoint us.
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted”

The temptation Paul refers to is the temptation to be judgmental. To be “holier then thou.” And that’s the wrong response for a Christian toward a brother or sister in Christ who is struggling with sin. We set ourselves up for Satan’s attack in our own areas of weakness the moment we beginning to judge others. Why should we work at not being judgmental? Because that’s the way Christ has treated us. Romans 15:7 tells us, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

God puts up with a lot from us! The more we recognize His grace to us, the more gracious we can be to others.

Type 3 – The people we disagree with.
Some people will argue with us or contradict us in everything we say. How should we respond? We can retreat in fear, react in anger, or respond in gentleness. Gentleness requires a fine balance between maintaining our right to an opinion while equally respecting another’s right to one. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Type 4 – People who correct you.
James 1:19 tells us what to do. It says we should be teachable. People can always learn. Nobody has all the answers and we shouldn’t get defensive if someone makes a suggestion. We should also admit when we’re wrong.

Type 5 – People who hurt you.
Again we should choose our action. Gentleness is the ability to handle hurt without retaliating. Jesus called it turning the other cheek. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. We just need God’s power to live this way and He gives it to us in the fruit of gentleness.

Don’t let other people control your emotional state. The person who has control of his moods is strong.

Type 6 – Unbelievers
Respect them, don’t reject them, our attitude when we share the Good News has a lot to do with whether people accept it or not. Start with loving the person.

One of the most positive benefits of being gentler is a more relaxed lifestyle. One reason many people experience burn out is they always demand their rights. They judge others. They have to prove their point. They are unwilling to learn from others. They react to situations with fear and anger. They don’t treat others with respect or dignity. God can help us be more gentle.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Thoughts about Faithfulness

Senator Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called “House of Dying,” where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. “How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?” he asked. Mother Teresa replied, “My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.”

We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table— ‘Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.’ But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there.

Listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying, ‘Get lost.’ Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.

Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it’s harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul.

F.B Meyer once said, “Don’t waste your time waiting and longing for large opportunities which may never come. But faithfully handle the little things that are always claiming your attention.”

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Faithfulness

To be faithful means to be reliable, trustworthy, dependable and consistent. And it’s wonderful when you can find people like that. People you can count on! You can be talented, creative and educated, but if you’re not dependable, you won’t get far.

The Bible says God rewards faithfulness. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that one day God is going to judge us and it will be on our faithfulness: what we did for Him – and we’ll be rewarded in heaven.

The author lists 8 things we can do to develop faithfulness in our lives.

1.Keep you promises. First of all we need to be careful about the promises we make. Don’t promise to pray for someone if you aren’t going to do. Don’t be the person who never arrives when they say they will. Or promises their kids they’ll take them somewhere and then never does. Or promises a spouse that you’ll fix something – and never get around to it. Broken promises are a big part of resentment. Ecclesiastes 5:5 says, “It is better not to vow then to make a vow and not fulfill it.”

2.Honor your marriage. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all.” This means “to hold in respect” “to value with high esteem.” You honor the vows you took, like the other fruits, as a choice you make.

3.Use your talents. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in various forms.” Warren says this means if we don’t use the talents God gave us, other people will be cheated because we’re not contributing what God has uniquely equipped us to provide.

4.Make the most of your time. The best use of your time is to use it in something that is going to outlast you. And we shouldn’t waste time with regret and worry. When we regret the past, we waste huge amounts of time looking backward to change something we can’t change anyway. When we worry about the future we waste time fretting over events that may never happen. And God says to be faithful now, not “when the kids are in school” or when I retire” – but, right now.

5.Stand by your friends. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A true friend is always loyal and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Genuine friends are reliable and consistent. They can be counted on in a crisis.

6.Manage your money. God says that if you are not faithful with your material possessions, he will not trust you with spiritual resources (that’s from Luke 16:11) We should plan prayerfully what we will give to the Lord and do it regularly.

7.Do your best at work. (Luke 16:10) Life is largely made up of little things, so if we’re not faithful in the little things, we won’t be faithful in most of life. The same is true with spiritual growth. The little things: daily quiet time and prayer, produce big results. Success comes from being faithful in the little things that other people may overlook. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for man.” Warren says Christians should have a reputation for being the most dependable people at work because they are always aware of who their true boss is.

8.Commit yourself to a church. A local body of believers. Christians are in a spiritual battle whether they know it or not and need support and reinforcement. A church membership is a commitment to other Christians. It’s a decision to become a participant, not merely a spectator. Not a consumer, but a contributor.

Jesus told the parable about the master who went away and left His servants in charge.

(Read Matthew 25:14-30) Jesus has left us in charge of His business here on earth and one day He will come back. When He returns, will He find us faithful?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Goodness

The next fruit is Goodness. This isn’t feeling good, looking good or having goods!

It’s being good and doing good!

In Genesis 1 every time God created something He said it was good. Why? Because it fulfilled the purpose for which it was created. Goodness for us is being what God meant for us to be. When we live the way God intends us to live we feel good and our life is meaningful. What does He mean for us to do? Ephesians 2:10 says we are created to do good works. And Titus 3:14 says we must learn to do good. Warren gives us 5 simple suggestions.

1.Become a student of the Bible. Fill your mind and your life with it. (All of his suggestions start with God’s word – have you noticed?)

2.Guard your mind. Control your thought life. If you want to do good, think about good, positive and uplifting things. Things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report.

3.Develop deep convictions. What do you stand for? America is a very open minded country. Everyone has an opinion about everything. But, Warren says there’s a big difference between opinions and convictions. An opinion is something you hold and a conviction is something that holds you. An opinion is something you’ll argue about. A conviction is something you would suffer for and if necessary, die for.

As Christians we should stand up against sin. Jesus loves sinners and hated the sin. Today’s society is the opposite. We hate sinners and love the sin! Philosopher Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We need to stand up for what is right. It won’t make us popular, infact Jesus warned us that the more we identify with Him, the more the world around us will respond with hostility. But, Peter says in 1 Peter 2:19 – 20 it is better to suffer for doing good then for doing evil. Which leads to-

4.Have the courage to be different from your culture. This is hard. Everyone wants to fit in. But 3 John 11 says, “Do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.” You’ve heard the phrase “When in Rome”? Well Rome back in the 1st century would have made Las Vegas look like a Sunday School picnic. Every kind of debauchery and immorality you could think of was going on there. In Romans 15 Paul complimented the Christians in Rome. Romans 15:14 tells them they are filled with goodness. They weren’t going with the flow. They weren’t conforming – they stood out – and it got them mentioned in the Bible!

5.Develop the habit of meeting with other believers. We need to regularly challenge, encourage and support one another in our Christian walk and life style. Christians aren’t meant to go it alone. We face a lot of opposition, but God will protect us from evil and one of the most powerful means He uses to do that is the church.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Kindness

Colossians 3:12 tells us to clothe ourselves with kindness.

Clothe yourself. The Greek word literally means, “put on”. So Paul is telling us when we get up in the morning we should get dressed spiritually and emotionally as well as physically. When we decide what outfit to put on we should also ask “What kind of attitude am I going to wear today.”

Kindness, like the rest of the fruits is a choice. And it’s an action. It’s a practical expression of love. What does it mean to be a kind person and how can we become kind?

1.Be sensitive. Be aware of the needs of people around you. Kindness starts with noticing the needs and hurts of others. Everyone we meet needs kindness because everyone is hurting somewhere!

2.Be supportive. Build people up instead of tearing them down. Give everyone you meet an emotional lift.

3.Be sympathetic. Be there for people when they are going through a trial. The Bible tells us when people are happy be happy with them. When they weep, weep with them. Get excited about the things other people are excited about. Jesus was incredibly kind. We often read about His compassion.

4.Be straightforward. Sometimes kindness means leveling with people. Being frank and telling them where he or she is wrong. “You’re making the biggest mistake in your life.” Or “I’m not going to let you get away with - whatever – and ruin your marriage or career.” We can do this if we are committed to the person’s best interest and if we are going to stick around and help the friend work through it.

5.Be spontaneous. Don’t wait to be kind. Do it every time you have the opportunity. This is one time good intentions don’t count. If you have the slightest inclination to call someone, say a prayer for someone, write a note, do a favor, give a hug…do it! There are as many ways to show kindness as there are people who need it.

Jesus told us the story of the good Samaritan to remind us of all the people around us who are hurting. The number one enemy of kindness is busyness. The Samaritan wasn’t too busy. He didn’t stop and consider if he had time to help or what he would get out of it. He just did it.

It’s a fact of history that the Romans confused the Greek word Christos (Christ) with the word chrestos, which means kind.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Patience

Patience is the next fruit and Rick Warren says God will put us in situations that test our patience because that’s how we get more patience. This happens with interruptions, inconvenience, irritation and inactivity. (Waiting)

Impatience is very selfish, so if we want to develop patience we need to look at things through a different perspective instead of “my needs, my goals, my schedule.”

Know that we are not in control of most things that happen. We are only human. Know that everyone else is only human too. Patience is another mark of maturity. And maturity gives us the ability to wait and live with delayed gratification.

It also helps to develop a sense of humor. Or as Warren suggests – try to find the fun in frustration. Humor dissolves tension. If you can laugh at it you can live with it.

When people irritate us, when bad things happen to us, and we praise God through it all, if it’s Satan trying to get at us, he’ll eventually give up when he realizes he can’t penetrate the wall of praise around our life.

But, you can’t say, “I’m going to be patient if it kills me.” It’s not will power. Patience is a form of faith. It says, “I trust God. I believe that God is bigger than this problem. And I believe that God has His hand in these irritations and can use them in my life for good.”

Faith helps us look at life from God’s point of view. It helps us say, “God, what do you want me to learn from this?” Instead of, “Why did this happen?”

Noah had to wait 120 years for the promised rain to come. Abraham had to wait 100 years for a son. Moses waited 40 years in the desert and then another 40 years leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. Those are all long times to be patient! Look how long people waited for the Messiah to come. Look how long we’ve been waiting for Him to come back! The Bible is a book about waiting. Why? Because waiting demonstrates faith and faith pleases God.

The hardest kind of waiting comes when you’re in a hurry and God isn’t. It’s hard to be patient when you’re waiting for an answer to prayer, but it’s a test of faith. God’s timing is perfect. Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” He may not move on our schedule (and usually doesn’t) but He is always on time and He wants us to show we trust Him and are willing to wait on Him.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Peace

The 3rd fruit of the spirit is Peace. There are different kinds of peace. There’s:

Spiritual peace – meaning we are at peace with God. We’re believers – we’re reconciled.
Emotional peace - which is an internal sense of well being and order.
Relational peace – or peace with other people.

Right before Jesus went to the cross, He said in John 14:27 “I leave behind with you peace. I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world.”

So, it’s a gift. And it’s different. God’s peace allows us to be tranquil in the midst of trouble. In order to have this kind of peace we must obey His principles, found in the Bible. When we’re cheating on something or not getting along with someone we are not at peace at all. But, when we’re doing what’s right and know it, we can feel peaceful even when everything else is coming unglued. We need to be in harmony with God. We need to do what He tells us to do. Our life will run more smoothly if we live it according to God’s design as presented in His Word. It’s that simple.

Guilt is a peace destroyer. We need to accept that He’s forgiven our past. Only God can give us a clean conscience. In the book of Micah it says God delights in showing mercy. He is willing and waiting and likes to forgive. What we can do immediately in any stressful situation is take a deep breath, let it out and focus on God’s presence surrounding us. God says be still and know.

And then trust His purpose.

All of our questions won’t be answered in our lifetime, but God never says, “oops!” because He never makes a mistake. All He expects from us is to trust Him and acknowledge He’s in control. If we do this He’ll direct our life. He’ll make our paths straight. The safest, most serene place to be is in the center of God’s will.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Joy

I’m going to go back to Rick Warren’s Book, God Can Change Your Life, because it’s so inspirational and so practical:

The second fruit of the spirit is Joy. And Joy is also a choice. It’s how we can stay positive when everything’s falling apart. As Christians, we have reason to be filled with Joy because of 3 things:

1. Our hope. This is our hope in Christ and remember, “hope” in the Bible is a done deal. It’s not a wish.

2. We have joy because God has a purpose in every situation. God uses everything that happens to us, even if it’s something bad that we’ve caused ourselves, and works it for good. Joy isn’t the absence of problems, but the presence of God. We can handle trials a little easier because we know they have a purpose, even when we don’t see it at the time: hurt can make us more compassionate, which is a step toward making us more like Jesus. Our problems also make us more mature. So our joy comes in knowing. We know God is in control. There is a reason. He is sovereign.

3. We can have joy because God is always with those who believe in Him. As believers we have been reconciled to Him through Jesus. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the deep waters, I will be with you! Your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned. The hard trials will not hurt you.”

This is a great verse to hang on to. It tells believers that no matter what happens, God’s going to take care of us. We will not go through it alone!

Rick Warren says you have to develop your inner joy. He says if you’ll do 4 things for the next 6 weeks, you’ll be a more positive, joyful person then you’ve ever been before.

1. Develop the attitude of gratitude. Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The most grateful people are the happiest people. So start by looking for ways to express your gratitude this week. Write a note to someone, make a phone call. Thank God.

2. Cultivate inner joy by giving. Malachi 3:10 is the only place in the Bible that says we should test God on something He says and it’s about tithing. He says if we give Him the first of our efforts just see if He doesn’t overflow our barns!

3. Develop inner joy through service. Joy comes when we get our focus off ourselves and concentrate on helping others.

4. Share Christ with others

All of this is counter to our culture, which is very “me” oriented. Gratitude? Most people feel entitled. Giving and serving? Volunteering has taken a real hit. There are lots of needy organizations. It used to be that women at least volunteered, but now they are all working too. To buy more and more things. (Which keeps them busy taking care of those things!)

Sharing Christ? That wouldn’t be very politically correct nowadays would it? Everyone else can talk about his or her religion, but not Christians. (I think that’s Satan’s doing. Christians are really the only ones he’s worried about!)

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