< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: July 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Dozen Ways to Honor the Gospel

Proclaim it
Matthew 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Do not be ashamed
Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Guard it
Galatians 1:6-8 6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

Fellowship in it
Philippians 1:5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,

Demonstrate it
Philippians 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.

Be empowered
1 Thessalonians 1:5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

Suffer for it
2 Timothy 1:8 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,

Believe in it
Hebrews 4:2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.

Defend it
Jude 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

Don’t hinder it
1 Corinthians 9:12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?

Preach it
1 Corinthians 9:16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
Do everything for it

1 Corinthians 9:23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sermon from John 15 – Abiding in Christ

Our minister, Kurt Gebhards, had a great sermon recently from the 15th chapter of John.

What Jesus talked about in John 15 took place on the night before He died. Since He knew He was going to die this was important stuff He needed to share!

John 15:1 – 2 1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes] so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Christianity is the story of the work of God and the work of Jesus Christ. God is the worker. This verse calls Him the gardener. He tends and protects the vineyard. Christ is the vine and Christians are the branches who bear the fruit. Bearing fruit gives Him glory! He is glorified when we grow!

This is one of the main differences between Christianity and other religions. Other religions are all about people trying to appease their god, but God has already been appeased by what Christ did on the cross!

We can’t do anything on our own – we must come to Him humbly and abide in Him.

John 15:3 – 5 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Christ gives us power. He gives life to the branches. We just abide, which means to stay or remain with Him. It’s an active reliance on the work of God. Spiritual prosperity is dependent on spiritual proximity and that depends on going to the Bible!

To have a close relationship with Jesus we must spend time in His Word! Rely on His promises. Trust Him always. When we do this His work will flow through us. His power will protect us and His wisdom will guide us.

John 15:6 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

The weeds are not part of the vine. And you can tell that because they don’t bear fruit. If you are not a part of Christ you aren’t under the mercy of His grace, but under the judgment of His wrath.

John 15:7 – 11 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Look at the blessings listed in these verses that we will receive if we remain in Christ:

1. Verse 7 - Our prayers will be answered. (Because we are living and thinking like Christ now.)
2. Verse 8 - We will bear fruit.
3. Verse 9 – We will have His unconditional love.
4. Verse 10 – Obedience. Keeping His commandments.
5. Verse 11 – Joy

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thoughts on Trials from 1 Peter 5:10

I wanted to share some things from a sermon I heard about trials. The sermon was titled “In the Fire, In His Hands” and it was about 1 Peter 5:10:
10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

The minister said that we live in a broken world, but as Christians we have God’s resources to sustain us through the trials that will come our way. So the first thing we should do is go to His Word, not the world.

Trials may come as temptations or persecutions. They may be the devil attacking… but whatever they are the first thing we need to do is shrink our suffering. This means, put it in perspective. When we put God next to our problem – the problem shrinks! The minister said we cannot and should not make a big deal about physical suffering. We shouldn’t focus on the pain. This life is not about the setbacks or the challenges we face, but about our glorifying God. Paul called his many trials “momentary, light afflictions in light of eternity!”

The minister also said that believers actually get more trials than non-believers because we are trying to do what’s right.

Secondly we need to remember our Redeemer. God’s grace comes to us through our understanding of who He is. In this verse we are told that God has called us into His eternal glory through Jesus Christ. Also in the verse, God of all grace comes first in the sentence because it’s most important. Then that you will suffer a little while and then that He will restore you. Our trials are always sandwiched between God and His work!

And third. We triumph through His toil. The verse says He will perfect, confirm and establish us in some translations and in this one He will make us strong, firm and steadfast. Trials are meant to prepare us for our future. They complete us, perfect us, train us. They bring us down to earth and closer to God because we start depending on Him.

The key to triumphing over our trials is our attitude! Don’t become bitter. Don’t blame God. Trials mostly come into the world through the sin of man. Accept God’s help. Don’t try to handle it on your own. God comes to the rescue of His humble servants. Always turn first to His Word to be revived.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red Sea Rules – Part 10

Exodus 15:1-2 1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD :
"I will sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.
2 The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him.

This was the first recorded song in Scripture. When it’s over, don’t forget to praise Him. I’ve heard grandparents say that eventually they stopped sending money gifts to their grandchildren who don’t say thank you. My mom has even said, “I’d like to at least know if they got the gift!”

How can we better thank God? How can we live more praise-oriented lives?

You can start by noticing things more. Slow down and be aware of the good stuff and offer up thanks to God. For small things and large. You can listen to Christian music, sing hymns of praise. You can start your prayer by thanking God. Be faithful in attending church and concentrate on the worship while you’re there. Practice thanksgiving. Practice praise and practice His presence!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Red Sea Rules – Part 9

Exodus 14:30 -31 30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

The author says that from this verse we learn that we should view our current crises as a faith builder for the future. We may not always know why God allows problems, but we do know He intends for them to deepen our faith, make us more mature and more like Christ. They make us stronger after we’ve come through them.

The Israelites benefited from the trial. It says they “feared the Lord and believed Him.” Their faith was beefed up for the challenges ahead. Faith grows. It gets stronger during different seasons of our life.

One definition of faith is found in Luke 1:45 and it’s what Elizabeth said about Mary: Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!

In Romans 4:20 – 21 Paul wrote about Abraham: 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

And of course the most well known definition of faith in the Bible is Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

For Christians, faith is making reasonable assumptions about God’s care and control over our lives, based on His scriptural promises whether we understand or appreciate what’s going on.

God is like a teacher. After teaching awhile we get quizzes and tests to see how much we’ve learned.

In this Bible story, God gave them instructions through Moses and then brought them to the edge of the Red Sea and there was the test. Would they apply His promises to their problem?

In another Bible story Jesus taught the disciples on the mountainside, then loaded them into a boat and sent them into a huge storm.

Same with us. At church we hear the Word of God, at home we do our devotions and study scripture. And then the trials come to see how much we’ve learned. They give us the opportunity to put His teachings into practice. As we trust Him and pass each test we are strengthened for the future.

So here’s the principle: our faith grows when we choose to apply God’s promises to today’s problems and use the experiences to mature us for tomorrow’s challenges.

That’s why the Bible is so full of promises. We never encounter any situation for which God has not provided a promise to bear us through it. There is no condition we can be in that we don't have a promise for. The way to strengthen your faith is to focus it upon particular promises that speak to what you’re going through. Find and claim a promise of God for your situation.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Red Sea Rules – Part 8

Exodus 14:21-22 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

Trust God to act in a unique way. He did a lot of miracles in the Bible. He helped a lot of people in trouble. Does He still? Does He help people when they have money problems? Marital problems? Health problems?

Yes! But we must have God’s perspective on deliverance. He doesn’t always view things the way we do.

Isaiah 55:8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.

We can’t view His deliverance by emotional reflex, human standards or even common sense. Only by Biblical truth.

Even though there are a lot of miracles recorded in the Bible (and actually not as many as some folks may think.) helping people in ordinary ways was what He did most often. That’s why we need to pay attention to accidents and what we call coincidences.

No such things in a Christian life.

So what about the Christians who are murdered or don’t get well? The author says that they are snatched from a place of pain, tears, stress and sickness and taken to a place where Satan can no longer harass them. A place that is far better.

Vance Havner, an evangelist, wrote that when we finally stand before the throne, all the puzzle pieces will fall into place and all the question marks will straighten out to exclamation marks!

Christians can latch on to this verse:

John 13:7 7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

When we don’t understand why something is happening remember this verse because it was Jesus who said those words!

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Red Sea Rules – Part 7

Exodus 14:19-20 19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

The Lord went with them. The Angel of God appears several times in the Old Testament and it is Jesus who manifests the Father’s presence.

To the Egyptians He was in the form of a cloud and darkness and to the Israelites He was light. Jesus gives light to those who trust Him, but to those who reject Him – darkness.

For His children He is both guard and guide. He goes before, leading the way and behind, gathering up our debris, our failure and our poor attempts at ministry. He is with us. He is all around us.

At the Red Sea, God put His people in a position where His presence had never been so real to them. Using difficulty He cultivated within them a greater appreciation for Himself. One commentator even wrote that, “God’s presence in a trial is much better than escaping from the trial.” Difficult times can sensitize us to God’s presence.

“I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” And Psalm 46:1 says He’s a very present help in trouble.

The author told how his mom really struggled for a while with loneliness after his dad died. And it took awhile but finally she told him that she had adjusted to living alone very nicely because it gave her time to feel God’s presence. She said she talked to Him all day. Her son said that while she had been a Christian her whole life, her later years were marked with a renewed love for Scripture, busy ministry to others, a deepened prayer life and accelerated growth in praise and worship.

So how can we master the practice of His presence?

1. Affirm His nearness in your heart. We see people doing this in the Bible all the time. These verses are Promises of God:

Genesis 28:15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Hebrews 13:5 5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

Philippians 4:5-6 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

2. Visualize God’s presence in your mind. Picture Him in the room with you and talk to Him! Visualizing His presence not only bestows comfort, but it restrains sinful tendencies.

3. Access God’s presence through prayer. James 4:8 tells us to draw near to God. How do we do that? We pray! Dwight Moody said there wasn’t any problem or uncertainty in life that he didn’t turn and speak to God as naturally as someone in the same room.

4. Reflect His presence in your demeanor. No matter what we are doing, even cleaning the house, working in the yard, writing a letter or an email, we can do it for His glory: by doing it well, by being happy about it, by being positive, by sharing Him with others… Lots of ways!!

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Red Sea Rules – Part 6

Exodus 14:15 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.

When it was time and the Israelites had stopped and cried out to God, He gave them a simple plan. Move forward. That’s Rule 6.

There are many stories in the Bible where God acted after someone’s taken a single step in faith. Jesus had the man with the withered hand reach it out. He had the crippled man get up. A Christian walk is step by step, day by day.

Psalm 42:8 says, “Day by day the Lord also pours out His steadfast love upon me.” Or how about the prayer Jesus taught us, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

When you don’t know what to do, stay close to God and then do the next logical step in faith. A big problem you have may be overwhelming; so you don’t do anything. But try doing just the next thing toward its solution. It might be a phone call, or rearranging your schedule, or paying 1 bill, or cutting up 1 credit card or whatever. But start with the smallest step that’s right in front of you. The next step often becomes more or less obvious.

Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount not to be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of our tomorrows. We need to live one day at a time. And of course this means living with His teachings and will in mind.

When you don’t know what to do – ask God to get rid of your fear and just show you the next step.

There’s a hymn called “Moment by Moment” that says, “Never a trial that He is not there, Never a burden that He does not bear, Never a sorrow that He does not share. Moment by moment, we’re under His care.”

God grows us little by little. He leads us one step at a time.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Red Sea Rules – Part 5

Exodus 14:13-14 13 Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Rule #5 - Stay calm and confidant. Give God time to work.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

God delights in doing the impossible. I was thinking about this and a thought struck me that we need to be willing to share what He’s done. His great acts need to be talked about. Why would God move in mighty ways for someone who doesn’t notice or if they notice doesn’t thank Him or give Him credit?

When you have a problem and ask God in prayer to move and you wait on Him while He works and your problem is fixed – give God the credit.

But that’s moving ahead. This section is the wait on the Lord part!

Psalm 37:7-8 says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Do not fret, it only causes harm.”

We’ve said before how often God tells us in the Bible not to fear. 365 times. It’s important to Him. We all have strong emotions and depending on circumstances they can be all over the place! But a sign of maturity is controlling those emotions. A mature Christian walks by faith not feeling. The author of this book says that sometimes we must choose an attitude that’s contrary to the way we feel.

The Israelites had every reason to be afraid. They were cornered! There was no human escape. But they had an Ally who had sent locusts and plagues on the Egyptians, who had showed up as a pillar of fire and a cloud. And He was telling them through Moses not to be afraid. To stop and see what God would do. To trust Him and that He was going to fight for them.

No matter what’s going on in our lives. OR IN THE WORLD! We need to trust God and leave room for Him to work! Everything happening in our world today is predicted in the Bible. Wars, earthquakes, bad economy, disease, the enormous increase in knowledge and information, that people would love themselves more than Him, etc. etc. It’s all moving along just like God said it would. We are moving in a direction that He is in control of. And for Christians it will end fine. In the end. But for now, we need to trust and let Him continue His work.

Deuteronomy 1:29-31 29 Then I said to you, "Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."

Deuteronomy 3:22 “Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you."

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Romans 8:31, 37 31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? And 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

The battle is not ours. It’s God’s. Commit every situation, one by one into the hands of God. And trust His timing. Kneel in prayer and then stand to see what He does. We gain nothing by our restless and anxious efforts.

But that doesn’t mean we do nothing. We move with the logical next step in our lives. A step at a time, moving in what we know is God’s will and He will reveal a little more at each faithful move.

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