< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: January 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

2 Timothy 4: 7 -22

2 Timothy 4: 7 -22 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 9Do your best to come to me quickly, 10for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

14Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.

16At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

19Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. 20Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. 21Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers.

22The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

In these final words, Paul reveals his loneliness and his strong love for his brothers and sisters in Christ. He was a man of deep faith, undying love, constant hope, tenacious conviction and profound insight. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit to give us God’s message. As we read 2nd Timothy we should recommit ourselves to stand courageously for the truth, to know the Word and to use the power given us by the Holy Spirit.

2nd Timothy tells us:
To renew our vision for worship by embracing the lifestyle of devotion to God. (2 Timothy 1:3)
To renew our vision for prayer. (2 Timothy 1:4-5)
To renew our vision for service. (2 Timothy 1:6-7)
To renew our vision for outreach (2 Timothy 1:8a)
To renew our vision for nurture (2 Timothy 1:8b-10)

I want to end with the final one. We renew our vision for nurture by responding to God’s invitation to a Holy Life. Grace brought us into a relationship with God. There is nothing we can do to contribute to our salvation. But with the Gospel comes a call to live a holy life; a life of spiritual depth and growth.

Once God saves us, He calls us to live differently. He calls us to be transformed. We are to grow and mature. To put down spiritual roots that are nourished by the truth of God. He calls us to live a holy life. The church needs to be a place where Christians are growing into wholeness and non-Christians are discovering Christ.

Spiritual growth is accelerated in small groups. Small groups should pray together, study the Bible together and serve together. We need to learn to think deeply and Biblically about issues that face us in the world.

So, to conclude: we need to constantly renew our vision for worship, prayer, service, outreach and nurture. This vision isn’t renewed by reading a book or hearing a sermon. It’s renewed by actually worshipping, actually praying, using our gifts to serve, actually testifying about Jesus and actually responding to God’s call to a holy life. There is no substitute for action.

Prayer: Lord, You have given us a vision for our lives. A sense of purpose about what You’ve called us to do. Fill us so with Your love that it overflows to others. Give us hearts that continually strive to do Your will. Grow our faith. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

2 Timothy 4: 1-6

2 Timothy 4: 1-6 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Paul gives Timothy the charge to preach the Word and to fulfill his ministry until the end. The Greek word Latreuo means serve. It’s used 20 times in the New Testament. It always refers to service offered to God as an act of worship. This kind of service is never directed toward other people, but always directed toward God.

The word Latreuo is where we get our English word liturgy, which refers to the order and structure of a Christian worship service. For Paul, worship was a lifestyle of devotion to God, not just a Sunday morning church activity. As a church, worship is first and foremost about celebrating Jesus Christ. About celebrating His presence among us.

Our vision should be a church that has the facilities to house multitudes who gather each week to praise, honor and celebrate Jesus Christ. The worship services should be an outreach program. They should be culturally relevant without compromising the absolute authority of the Bible. We should mix contemporary, drama, music and any other artistic expression that may help the unchurched develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sometimes it seems like worship got lost in all the other church activities.

Paul reported how he prayed day and night for Timothy. He goes on tell the content of his prayers. He’s remembering Timothy’s tears, he’s reminded how Timothy came to faith in Christ, he longs to reunite with him. Paul’s not using any prayer formats. He’s simply pouring his heart out to God. Paul’s life was so directed that whatever was of concern in his heart he automatically told God about it. The heart of prayer is daily intimacy with God where we share our heart with Him and He shares His heart with us. That’s what the Bible means by abiding in Christ, remaining in His love, being constantly aware of His presence. Our church should be a house of prayer. Prayer should provide the foundation for every ministry we are involved in.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2 Timothy 3

2 Timothy 3: 1-9 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

Paul warns Timothy of the opposition that he and other believers would face in the last days from self-centered people who use the church for their own gain and who teach false doctrine.

2 Timothy 3: 10 -13 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Paul tells Timothy to be prepared for these unfaithful people by remembering his example and understanding the real source of the opposition.

2 Timothy 3: 14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Find strength and power in the Word of God.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2 Timothy 1: 6 – 2: 26

2 Timothy 1:6-12 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

These are some of the qualities necessary for a faithful minister of Jesus Christ. He should remember his call and use his gifts with boldness. He should be diligent and unwavering in the service of the Lord. Paul refers to himself as a prisoner of God in this passage, not a prisoner of Nero because he considered it the will of God to be where he was and he left everything in Jesus’ hands.

He tells us to take our share of suffering. We can expect to suffer, but we are equipped by the Holy Spirit to handle suffering because God has given us the spirit and power of courage and resolution, not fear.

2 Timothy 1:13-18 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.

Follow Paul’s pattern. Guard the truth and prepare others to follow in ministry.

See what he says in 2 Timothy 2:1-2 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

Be disciplined and ready to endure hardship.

2 Timothy 2:3-7 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

Keep your eyes and mind on Christ.

2 Timothy 2:8-13 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

Hold sound doctrine, reject error and avoid godless chatter. Correctly handle the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:20-26 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Keep your life pure.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

2 Timothy 1: 1-5

2 Timothy 1: 1-5 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Paul’s introduction is full of love for Timothy. He also states that the purpose of his apostleship was to make known the promise of eternal life through Christ Jesus. He names the blessings he’s asking for his beloved friend: grace, mercy and peace from God. When he talks about his forefathers he’s saying that Christianity is no new, upstart faith, but the culmination of Judaism. In worshipping God through Christ, Paul was in a sense, doing what had been done by generations of his devout ancestors. Paul always considered Christianity to be a sequel to Judaism.

See what he says in Acts 26: 6-7 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.

And look at Hebrews 6: 13-14 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants."

The promise to all Abraham’s descendents included Christians because it came through Jesus Christ.

He talks about Timothy’s mother and grandmother. This recognizes the influence of godly ancestors upon the lives of men. As parents we have a huge responsibility to pass on the baton of faith.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

2nd Timothy

Before studying the book of 2nd Timothy, it’s helpful to know who he was. Timothy was sort of an assistant to Paul and almost like a son to him. He was probably recruited during Paul’s first missionary visit to Lystra.

Acts 16: 1-5 1He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Timothy already had solid Jewish training in the scriptures from his mother and grandmother.

2 Timothy 1:5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

In the passage in Acts where it mentions his circumcism, this is important because of his mixed Greek/Jewish background. Since he was becoming a missionary to Jews who took that very seriously, he was showing his total commitment. At the time of this letter he was the Pastor of the church at Ephesus. We also know he was a little sensitive about his youth and also a little timid.

When you read the 2 letters you might keep in mind the phrase, “Famous last words.” 2nd Timothy was Paul’s last letter before he died. 1st and 2nd Timothy were the most personal letters in the New Testament. They revealed Paul’s heart and his priorities, which were: sound doctrine, steadfast faith, confident endurance and enduring love. And they were written to someone who had traveled with him, suffered, cried and laughed with him.

Paul and Timothy had shared the joy of seeing people respond to the Gospel and also the agony of seeing the Gospel rejected. This was Paul’s last chance to say the really important stuff and it’s meant to encourage. These are good letters to read when you have challenges that seem beyond your capabilities.

This book is only 4 chapters and I’ll start it in tomorrow’s post.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good to Great - Enjoying Great Moments Part 4

So how do you start enjoying life?

Well first we have to slow down. (And doesn’t it seem like every lesson we have in here it tells us to slow down?) It must be important.

We get frantic when we’re rushed and we often don’t do a good job when we multi-task. But more then that, spiritual development and intimacy with God are impossible in a hurried life. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Next – cut some things out. Out of your to-do list. Off of your calendar. Even in church we can be so busy serving we neglect a relationship with God. Remember the story of Mary and Martha and how Jesus told Martha, Mary was doing the better thing.

Next – learn to live in the present. Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow. We need to take stock and be thankful for what we do have rather than what we don’t. Practice being happy. Where you are right this minute. You can make it a game. If you’re bored, think – how great, I’m inside, warm and dry, or isn’t it wonderful so many of my friends are here – that kind of thing.

Start to really notice things around you and appreciate them. God keeps some things changing all the time for us. Sunrises, sunsets, fall leaves, spring flowers. Notice them! Enjoy them! While most of this sounds like just “enjoy daily life and simple pleasures” Chip ends with “Make great moments.” Try to make every moment better that it might have been. Give it your focus. Schedule time with friends, time with family, fun activities, leisurely walks.

One last thing I want to share –

This is an excerpt from Ruth Graham’s book Simple Joy:

Mother had an amazing capacity to find and to make joy wherever she went. Some years ago, my two sisters and I were traveling with her. The circumstances were less than ideal. A dark, dirty hotel. No food service. Our passports had been taken. There was political tension in the area. It was late, and we were weary from traveling, so we collected what food we had between us - some crackers and apples - and we sat around a little table in Mother's hotel room.

Right away the three of us girls began noting the grim circumstances. Not Mother. Instead, she started to sing: "If Jesus keeps you polished you will shine. 'Course you will shine. If Jesus keeps you polished you will shine." How can you keep complaining in the midst of that kind of mirth? We all joined in, and soon we were laughing - not to mention the happy memory we made!

My mother knew how to live. I want to be able to follow her lead, finding joy in the simple things: Hearing the birds singing in the morning. Seeing a beautiful sunset where I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Giggling with my grandchildren. God has given all of us a great capacity for joy. Life is full of opportunities for delight and pleasure, and God wants us to experience them - to listen to the birds, to watch the sunsets, to revel in life's unexpected gifts, to enjoy other people, to delight in the laughter of children.

So often we miss out because we are burdened. Burdened by the cares of this world. Burdened by guilt, shame, and the weight of sings we've already taken to God probably many times over, seeing His forgiveness.

God's forgiveness sets us free. It gives us a fresh start to become who God created us to be. The things that encumber and hold us back are lifted, and we are liberated! That sin is gone. God erases it from His memory. He removes our sins from us "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12).

As Corrie ten Boom wrote in her book Tramp for the Lord, "When I confess them to the Father, Jesus Christ washed them in His blood. They are now cast into the deepest sea and a sign is put up that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED."

That is grace. If we embrace it, we can come to know a freedom and a joy from which we were designed. God has freed us to live, freed us to enjoy life and love. But more often than not, we walk around joyless under a yoke of past and sin and feelings of failure. Jesus invites us to trade our heavy load of guilt and our feelings of not measuring up for his yoke, which is pulsating with the joy of life (Matthew 11:28-30). That is what God offers us through Jesus.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Good to Great – Enjoying Great Moments Part 3

In the next section Chip asks, “So why don’t we enjoy life?” If enjoying life is a gift, an expectation and an integral part of the way we are made, why are so many of us discouraged all the time and weighed down by seriousness? How have we been trained to miss out on all the good things and good times God wants us to enjoy?

He thinks the first reason might be a distorted view of God. That even when we know what the Bible says about God we tend to magnetize some of the right characteristics in the wrong proportions.

He says one way to restore our right vision of God is to remember the story of the prodigal son. We all know the story, how after the son is welcomed back with complete forgiveness and mercy and thrown a party; the older brother was furious. He had stayed and worked, honored his father all along and here’s the “bad” son getting a party! But the father tells him, “you are always with me and everything I have is yours.”

Now, I always thought this was like the verse in the Bible about there being more rejoicing in heaven over 1 lost sinner and kind of thinking “that’s not fair! I’ve been a Christian forever. Rejoice over me!” But, Chip says the older son could have thrown a party anytime he wanted! He could have asked his dad any time if he could invite friends over, kill the fatted calf and have a ball.

But apparently he didn’t because he was too busy trying to earn his father’s favor than realizing he already had it. He was so absorbed in his performance he could never enjoy life. We already have a relationship with God. We can stop and enjoy it! We spend all our time trying to prove ourselves to God, to our boss, our parents or someone in the past who said we’d never amount to much – instead of having a godly drive to move forward and bear fruit. He says that being driven to perform may get a lot accomplished but there is a subtle self-righteous arrogance in it. It comes from a warped distortion of God’s heart.

Also we don’t have to give up all of our hopes and dreams to be a Christian. Many of them are God given. And part of loving others is allowing them to love us. Giving them an opportunity to make sacrifices and serve.

Another reason we don’t enjoy great moments is we have a warped theology of pleasure. Pleasure has been polluted and distorted to the point where we almost think of it as the opposite of godliness. That’s one of the subtle ways Satan has corrupted the goodness of God’s creation. The Bible does teach that hedonism is a sin. Pursuing sensual desires like food, sex, materialism, fame, money and status in order to feed your ego or make you feel like someone important are sinful. That’s putting self above God and others.

But, we can have fun with most of those things with the right attitude. Having more of any of that won’t make you happy. It’s like a drug. You need more and more to satisfy you the next time. But, if we walk with God and are able to stop and enjoy what He’s provided we get refreshed and renewed. God wants us to stop and look at His beautiful world. To appreciate our family and friends and good food, etc.

Chip points out in this chapter how often the ancient Israelites celebrated. Their weddings lasted a week! The Hebrew calendar has a lot more holidays then ours does! Chip also wrote that the early Christians transformed their world. That love was their marketing plan and their business card was joy. They shared meals and fellowship and prayed great prayers and dreamed great dreams.

I was working on this lesson on the way to Chicago for Thanksgiving and thought maybe that’s why everyone loves Thanksgiving so much. It’s all about family, friends and food and reminding us of our blessings!

Enjoying life is allowed! But we think we can’t do something fun till our to-do list is done, or we work all the time to buy a lot of meaningless things, or we say yes to doing more things because we want people to like us. We’re perpetually stressed because the work never ends.

Chip says a performance based life eats away at health and sanity. It creates guilt when goals of perfection, approval and maximum production aren’t fully reached, which means it always produces guilt.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Great to Good – Enjoying Great Moments Part 2

Chip lists 5 Biblical reasons we should be enjoying life here:

1.Enjoying our life reminds us of God’s goodness.

Psalm 84:11For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

God gives good things to us. How does He feel when we take them for granted? When we act like we don’t appreciate all He’s given us? Have you ever given someone a gift that you were excited about? You couldn’t wait to watch them open it and see their reaction. But then they put it aside without saying much and later you heard they didn’t appreciate it because it didn’t go with something else, or they didn’t have time to use it, or they’d have to go out and get something else to go with it or whatever. You feel really bad!

God gives us beautiful things every day. Sometimes we notice. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we notice, but complain about them.

2.Enjoying our life sustains us in adversity.

After the Israelites rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls, Ezra the priest read them the first 5books of the Bible (the Torah) and the people realized how far they had drifted from God and began to weep. They repented, but Nehemiah said:

Nehemiah 8:10 “Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

It was necessary to repent, but God also gave them reason to celebrate.

3.Enjoying our life honors God as the source of joy.

James 1:17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

4.Enjoying our life connects our hearts to those we love.

Most great moments are a shared experience. One thing I love about Facebook is you have your “friends” on there you are connected to and they put up information about what they are doing. So recently a friend’s father-in-law died and immediately a string of comments from his friends were saying they were sorry, or they were praying for the family kind of thing. We are also notified of all our friend’s birthdays so there’s always a string of good wishes on that person’s profile on his or her birthday. I like to send little pictures to kind of illustrate my messages. People put up photos of their kids and grand kids or special occasions. They share their lives. It’s a fun way of connecting.

When I was a travel agent there was a German man who was single and around 60 at the time. I did all of his business travel, but also all of his leisure travel and he traveled a lot. He would ski in the Alps; go to really exotic locations, but always alone. I always thought – I hope he takes a lot of pictures, because half of the fun of being somewhere really cool is being able to turn to someone else and say, “Isn’t that really cool?”

Humans want to connect. They want to share. They are made for relationships.

5.Enjoying our life is important because God uses the joy of quiet moments to renew us.

Chip uses the Sabbath as an example here. The Sabbath wasn’t meant to be a day of “You can’t do this and you can’t do that.” It’s God’s way of telling us not to stress like unbelievers who feel like they have to work 7 days a week. He urges us to stop, rest, worship and enjoy one another. It’s a required vacation day that God has given us because God knew we’d never get around to it on our own. Modern science tells us laughter builds the immune system and restores life.

I was reading an article in a Woman’s Fitness magazine and it actually said for better health we should have more fun! That all work and no play leads to burnout and a snarly disposition. Fun energizes you, keeps you grounded and gives you a break from pressures. The article even said that you can view fun as an investment in your job performance – it will help you keep perspective and have energy to deal with tough situations.

So if you are going to have a to-do list, put fun on it!

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Good to Great in God’s Eyes - Enjoying Great Moments

I’ve shared 2 other lessons I taught from Chip Ingram’s book Good to Great in God’s Eyes: here and here . This is a third lesson from the chapter Enjoying Great Moments.

CS Lewis wrote, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” And Chip Ingram says moving from good to great requires the ability to enjoy great moments.

But a lot of us think we need to take life SO seriously. That it’s somehow bad to have fun. That’s not true - we just need balance. We need to be serious of course about some things, but stop and have fun too.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Am I enjoying my life?” or “Am I really satisfied?” If someone asked a friend of yours if they thought you enjoyed life – what do you think that friend would say?

Chip says if you say you are enjoying your life, than you are unusual. That most people wait to enjoy life when their to-do list is done, or after they get a job, or after they retire, etc. It’s always right around the corner.

I have 2 friends who are both cancer survivors. One never flew until she got cancer because she was afraid to. But some medicine they gave her when she was going through chemo made her feel calm and she had to fly for some reason while on it. She felt calm on the flight, decided she didn’t mind flying and now she’s never home – in the past 2 years she’s probably made 50 trips – from Israel to Costa Rica to California.

The other friend has had cancer since she was 14 – she’s now 53. They are treating it as a chronic disease. But you’d never know it to see her – she is always in the middle of all the fun! Both friends live life large.

It shouldn’t take cancer or a near death experience for us to do that too. Especially Christians who have God and heaven on our side!

GREAT Christians do enjoy life.

The Bible is all about the balance Chip mentions. Yes, we are warned we will go through difficult seasons and will have trials. We all have serious responsibilities. But as Christians, our foundation is a deep lasting joy. Without it we can’t say we’re being conformed to the image of Christ.

Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 1 There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under heaven: 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,a time to mourn and a time to dance

That was written by Solomon, the wisest person in the world. And:

Ecclesiastes 3: 11-13 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

Being happy and finding satisfaction are gifts from God. The New Testament is full of reasons and reminders to rejoice. In the midst of a fallen world filled with pain and disappointment we can rejoice in our salvation, in the knowledge that Jesus is coming back and where we will be spending eternity. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Think for a minute how many people don’t know that and how lucky you are that you do! Now – doesn’t that bring you joy? You are one of the lucky ones! The blessed ones! This is better than winning the lottery!

Solomon went on to write Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. 20 He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

We can be content from simply being alive; knowing God loves us and seeing the opportunities He’s placed before us. We don’t need to look back in regret or forward in anxiety.

Instead of chasing after things we think we are “supposed” to be doing – we should just enjoy the life God has given us. But again, balance. Chip says Great Christians are focused and disciplined, make great sacrifices and take great risks. They get a lot done, but are still fun to be around.

We don’t need permission to start enjoying life. God wants us to enjoy it. Life is a gift from Him to us.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

James 1:22 -25

We went back to Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory this morning and heard a wonderful sermon by Pastor Kurt Gebhards on James 1:22 -25. The church is getting ready to start Life Groups and he related the sermon to the groups and also what the congregation should be doing when they come to church.

James 1:22- 25 22But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.

25But one who looks intently at the perfect law the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

The goal of the Bible is to understand and for understanding to lead to life application. Pastor Gebhards said when you look into the truth it compels you to do something about it. Hearing does nothing for you if you don’t apply it. You must know it, but then you must live it out.

These verses tell us that to be an effectual doer of the word we have to obey it. Obey God’s Word. We should also be taking on the attributes of Christ. His holiness, His humbleness, His servant’s heart, etc. There should be proof in our lives that we are Christians. That we are followers of Christ.

And there are two things we get from this. Freedom (God’s law gives us freedom and keeps us safe) and blessings.

The Pastor gave us another verse to meditate on:

Luke 6:46-50 46"Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47"Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49"But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great."

He ended with giving the congregation a list of 8 things they should do.

1. Bring their Bibles to church
2. Expect to hear from God in church and when reading the Bible
3. Have a “live” Bible during the sermon. (Meaning people should not only be following along, but reading the cross references and looking things up.)
4. Take notes
5. And along with that keep a Journal
6. Study the extra passages during the week
7. Bring their application plan to Life Groups to encourage others
8. Establish a to-do list from each sermon

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Great Prayer for the New Year

This is one of those prayers that gets passed around on the internet. This one I kept though because I thought it was a good one to pray everyday. It's also a fitting one for the New Year.

Dear Lord, I thank You for this day, I thank You for my being able to see and to hear this morning. I'm blessed because You are a forgiving God and an understanding God. You have done so much for me and you keep on blessing me. Forgive me this day for everything I have done, said, or thought that was not pleasing to you. I ask now for Your forgiveness.

Please keep me safe from all danger and harm. Help me to start this day with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude. Let me make the best of each and every day to clear my mind so that I can hear from You. Please broaden my mind that I can accept all things. Let me not whine and whimper over things I have no control over. And give the best response when I'm pushed beyond my limits.

I know that when I can't pray, You listen to my heart. Continue to use me to do Your will. Continue to bless me that I may be a blessing to others. Keep me strong that I may help the weak. Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others. I pray for those that are lost and can't find their way. I pray for those that are misjudged and misunderstood. I pray for those who don't know You intimately.

But I thank you that I believe that God changes people and God changes things. I pray for all my sisters and brothers. For each and every family member in their households. I pray for peace, love and joy in their homes; that they are out of debt and all their needs are met. I pray that they know there is no problem, circumstance, or situation greater than God. Every battle is in Your hands for You to fight. Amen.