< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: October 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hebrews Chapters 11 Part 4

Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Abraham, or Abram, as he was originally called, was of course a descendant of Noah and just one man among the tens of thousands of people who had repopulated the earth.

He lived in Ur of the Chaldees, the most civilized, progressive, magnificent city of his day. Ur was a seaport located on the Persian Gulf. It was an exciting place to live; highly sophisticated. There were universities there offering the best education in the world, international banking and shipping…and religious worship of a moon god and a moon goddess! The people had again turned from God.

Abram’s well-to-do family was idolatrous. But, increasingly his spirit became restless and uneasy. And while he was searching for the meaning of life, God leaned down and spoke to him.

Genesis 12:1-3 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

God promised to bless Abram, but he wouldn’t receive that blessing unless he left everything: family, home, friends, comfort – and set out in faith. Abram didn’t know where God would lead him – just that he was to follow. But, God’s command was clear. He was to put God first in his life if he was to receive God’s blessing.

God told him that He would make Abram, who had no children and whose wife was well past child-bearing age, the father of a great nation. Abram’s family became the chosen nation of Israel that provided the audiovisual aid of sacrifices and ceremonies that pictured for the world God’s terms for a right relationship with Him. It was also Abram’s descendants who recorded the revelation of God through the written prophecy, history, biography and poetry that we call the Bible. And it was Abram’s descendants who provided the human lineage for Jesus Christ.

God told him He would make his name great; and he’s in the honor role of faith in Hebrews 11. He told him that all the people on earth would be blessed through him. Jesus, born from Jews, was the ultimate blessing God was promising Abram. Jesus was the seed promised to Adam and Eve who would be the one to reconcile God and man, bridging the gap that sin and rebellion had created. Because of Abram the entire world would have a chance to get back in a right relationship with God.

If Abram accepted God’s call, his entire life would be changed. Even his name would change from Abram to Abraham.

And he did accept God’s call.

Genesis 12:4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.

He left his comfortable, convenient yet wasted life, in Ur and set out on a journey of faith. And it changed the world.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Hebrews Chapters 11 Part 3

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

The earth had become so wicked that God decided to destroy all, but Noah’s family. Jesus pinpointed the root of wickedness in Noah’s day as an indifference to God. Matthew 24:38-39 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Nothing was really wrong with any of the activities Jesus described, except God was left out of all of them. Many things in our world today aren’t criminal – as much as godless.

We need to ask ourselves: are we leaving God out of our decisions? Our activities? Our business? Our home? Our marriage? God needs to not only be present in our life – He needs to have first place in it.

Genesis 6:5 says “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become.” And Genesis 6:12 says, “God saw how corrupt the earth had become.”

Anne Graham Lotz wrote about this passage: God saw people gossiping. He saw the shady business deals going on, the preoccupation with perverted pleasure, the abuse of innocent children, the glory given to the obnoxious; the lies. God saw it all. And it broke His heart.

Genesis 6:6 says, “The Lord grieved that He had made man on the earth.” Grieve is a love word. You don’t grieve over someone unless you love them. The God who created the heavens and earth as an environment for man, the crowning glory of His creation, the God who created Adam and Eve because He wanted them to know Him and have fellowship with Him, was hurt by the indifference of Noah’s world.

I think He’s hurt by the indifference in our world too. What do you think He thought when we took prayer out of school? When we take the commandments off the walls of public buildings? His name out of the Pledge of Allegiance?

God is watching the world with patience. The Bible says Christ hasn’t come back yet, final judgment hasn’t come, because He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But, don’t mistake His patience for tolerance. There is a limit to His patience and we have been warned – just like the people in Noah’s day were warned through Noah.

God’s warning comes to us in the Bible, by our conscience or in the advice or rebuke from a Christian friend. It may be a challenge to us in a sermon or a Sunday school lesson or a Christian radio program. His warnings are there. He gave the people in Noah’s day 120 years. That’s how long it took Noah to build the ark. Noah’s neighbors thought he was nuts! Building a huge boat in the middle of dry land, talking about a big flood, when no one had even heard of rain before! Until the flood it had never rained on earth!

But, Noah listened to God. He believed Him and he was obedient. And his name is in the honor role of faith in Hebrews 11 because of it. In an age when men forgot and disregarded God – God, for Noah, was the supreme reality in the world. Noah was the one lonely man who stood for God in a day when all men were abandoning Him.

We all have the same choice that Noah did. We can live as if the message of God is of no importance – or we can live as if it’s the most important thing in the world!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hebrews Chapters 11 Part 2

Hebrews 11:5 – 6 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Enoch’s story is in Genesis 5: 18-24. It seems that Enoch started his walk with God after his first son was born. Many times becoming parents brings people to church. All of a sudden we are given this awesome responsibility for someone else’s life and our priorities begin to straighten out.

If you walk with someone you have to go in the same direction, don’t you? If I were taking a walk with my husband and he went one way and I the other, we wouldn’t be walking together. Or if we started off together and I turned off and he kept going, we wouldn’t be walking together. Or if I walked really fast and he walked really slow.

We need to go in God’s direction and accept His timing. Not insist on our own. We need to ask ourselves what adjustments must we make to our schedules, to our attitudes, to our ambitions, our personal habits – so that we can truly walk with God. If we don’t know His pace or direction we can’t do it. We find this out (His pace and direction) through prayer and reading the Bible and spending time with Him.

God really wants us to spend time walking and talking with Him. He had that with Adam and Eve in the garden. He created us for fellowship. Enoch walked with God for 300 years and became increasingly aware of His presence and love. The Bible doesn’t say it was a drudgery or he got tired of it. What is keeping you from walking with God?

The second part of this (verse 6) is where we are told it is impossible to please God without faith. He says we need to believe in God and believe He is interested in us. Even the demons know He exists! We are called to have a relationship with Him. Where it says in that verse, “He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” my application Bible answers a question we ask all the time – using this sentence – “Sometimes we wonder about the fate of those who haven’t heard of Christ and have not even had a Bible to read. God assures us that those who honestly seek Him, who act in faith on the knowledge of God that they possess, will be rewarded. Those who hear the gospel are responsible for what they have heard.”

Less and less people today have not heard of Christ. His disciples have done a good job taking His message to all nations. What this says to me is, we don’t need to worry about babies that die or the mentally disabled, but anyone who has heard and is capable of understanding – either accepts or rejects Him.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Study of Hebrews Chapters 11 Part 1

Hebrews Chapter 11 is called the faith chapter. It is to faith what 1 Corinthians 13 is to love.

Hebrews 11:1-3 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

My application Bible likens this to an approaching birthday. Especially for kids. They look forward to it. They know they’ll get presents, but that there will be some surprises. Birthdays combine assurance and anticipation. And so does faith.

Faith is the conviction based on past experience that God’s new and fresh surprises will be ours. Faith is sure and certain. And when we believe God will fulfill His promises even though we don’t see those promises materialize yet, we demonstrate true faith. The word hope in the Bible is a certainty for Christians.

The Christian hope dictates our actions and dominates our attitudes. The whole Christian attitude is that in terms of eternity a man cannot lose by being true to God. We believe God’s promises are true and we act on that belief.

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

This next part I’ve heard called the honor role of faith and it begins with Abel. Remember back to Genesis 4. Cain was a farmer and Abel a shepherd. They both offered a sacrifice to God. Cain’s from what he grew and Abel’s; an animal. God preferred Abel’s and didn’t accept Cain’s. Cain was jealous and murdered Abel.

The Bible doesn’t say why God preferred Abel’s. It could have been their attitudes when presenting the sacrifices. It could have been that Abel picked a perfect animal with a lot of thought and care and Cain gathered up an armload of grain at the last minute.

Or it could have been that God had already showed them what He expected in a sacrifice and Abel did it and Cain didn’t. Some people say the first sacrifice was after Adam and Eve sinned and God killed an animal to use its skins to make clothes for them. This was the first time blood was shed in the Bible. We do know from the story, that Abel pleased God – that means he was obedient to God - and he was remembered forever for his faith.

Did Cain give God leftovers? Do we give God leftovers? Is what we sacrifice for God pleasing to Him? Is our service pleasing to Him? Or not?

If you weren’t too tired before you went to bed last night, or if you even thought of it, you might have prayed. If you weren’t too busy last week, you might have read your Bible. If the weather isn’t good enough for golf or the lake, you might go to church.

God refuses to be second place in our lives.

God rejected Cain’s apparently apathetic sacrifice. Cain could have had another chance. God told him in Genesis 4:6-7 “Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” If Cain just misunderstood what God wanted from him, he could have tried again.

But, he didn’t. The Bible says he got angry and he was jealous of Abel and killed him. His heart was wrong all along and God knows our hearts.

Do you ever feel like God is too hard to please? Do you ever wonder why He doesn’t lower His standards to yours? Do you ever get angry that a prayer of yours goes unanswered?

We’ll see in verse 6 that actually, God is impossible to please – if we don’t have faith – and if we don’t do things His way!

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