< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: January 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mark 2:21-22

This is the 2nd part of Pastor Kurt's latest sermon on the Gospel of Mark.

Mark 2:21-22 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

Verses 21 and 22 tell us that Christianity was radically different then the old religion. Jesus was not reforming Judaism. He was coming to do something radically new!

So what’s new about it?

Matthew 23:23 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."

Jesus wasn’t anti-law, but we need to fulfill it with our hearts. Do it from justice, mercy and faith.

John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

“As I have loved you”! We could almost love like others love us. Or maybe even as we love ourselves. But loving like Christ has loved us elevates the command to the near impossible. How does Christ love?

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

We don’t live for ourselves! We live for others! It glorifies God when we do. We are to walk in Christ’s love. However He loved – we should love! Christianity is to take the heart beat and love of Christ and give it to as many people as you can.

This is the test of love:

1 John 2:7-77 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.
9The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1 John 4: 7-11 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

God loves us unconditionally. That’s how we are to love others. It was sacrificial. How do we give ourselves up for others? His love is selfless: all for the glory of God and benefit of others. His love was lavish!

There is no limit to the love and grace of God!

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Mark 2:18-20

Below is Part 1 of another sermon on the Gospel of Mark by Pastor Kurt Gebhards:

Mark 2: 18-20 18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

Jesus was crucified in the 1st century because He wasn’t religious enough. Today He would be crucified because He is too pious, too focused on God and considered “exclusive”. No one goes to the Father except through Christ. Our world today is profoundly inclusive. Meaning whatever anyone chooses to believe should be ok.

The Pharisees were fasting. The Old Testament tells the Jews to fast once a year. The Pharisees were fasting twice a week! They took the law and because of their pride and wanting others to admire them they took it to an extreme. They missed the whole point of what Jesus was teaching though. That it’s our hearts God wants. Not rote “religious” habits and rituals.

Fasting is a sign of mourning, internal sorrow. Jesus says in this passage, “I’m HERE! There is no reason to do that. There is every reason to be joyful!”

In verse 20 He says there will be a time for fasting. When the bridegroom is taken away. He used a verb for taken away that means taken away violently. He was prophesying here how He would be taken from them.

And they did mourn…but only from Good Friday until Easter Sunday! We are still in the season of joy!

Here are the differences between Religious formalism and Christianity.

Religious formalism:

1. Duty
2. Easily see the sins of others
3. Listless singing
4. Humdrum routine
5. One day a week
6. Bad attitude
7. Going through the motions
8. Looking good
9. Change of behavior around spiritual leaders
10. Surface devotions

1. Delight
2. Searches heart for personal sin
3. Zealous worship
4. Privileged service to God
5. Trusting God every hour of your life
6. Joy filled!
7. Fighting for holiness
8. Integrity

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The First 15 Minutes

Last week we were visiting our daughter in Charleston and went to her church, Coastal Community. The pastor, Chris Rollins was just starting a new series called Get Fit. He challenged people to begin everyday by spending the first 15 minutes with God. It was an awesome sermon.

Psalm 5:3 “Lord, every morning you hear my voice. Every morning, I tell you what I need, and I wait for your answer.”

He started by saying that the beginning of a year is a good time to get fit spiritually. (Seems to be a common theme this month!) But then he asked, “What’s a “win” going to be like for you this year?” And I was immediately able to think of my answer:

To make my life a positive witness for Christ and to serve as an act of worship.

Somehow just the way he asked it, I was able to get beyond the “spend more time reading the Bible” and “go on a mission trip.”

He said when we have our answer, then we need to make every step we take full of purpose toward that. No wasted steps!

1 Corinthians 8:26 So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.

And that’s where the first 15 minutes of our day come in. Let God speak to you before you start your day.

Psalm 143:8 Let me hear of your unfailing love to me in the morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I have come to you in prayer.

How we start our day will impact how the rest of the day goes.

The pastor went on to say we are to give God the first part of our week. Meaning we should be in church every Sunday! And not with the motive, “What can I get out of church today?” but to encourage others and to worship God.

Next we are to give God the first part of our relationships. We need to build relationships and then share our faith with those people. All of life is an opportunity to make a positive witness for Christ. And wayward people coming home are very dear to God’s heart!

And lastly give God the best part of your energy. We don’t just go to church, we are the church.

Romans 14:17–19 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

In every situation you can test yourself by asking, “Am I willingly doing this as an act of worship to You, God?”

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Mark 2: 13 -17

It's been awhile, but Pastor Kurt Gebhards picked up his sermon series on Mark again last Sunday. We were out of town so I listened to it online and as usual was blessed by it:

Mark 2: 13-17 13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Christ was unconventional. The people didn’t anticipate who He would be and they didn’t understand who He was. Jesus came to call the sinners, not the righteous.

Jesus taught in Capernaum because it was a major trade route and the news of what He said and did would spread. He was doing what Rabbis did back then. Walking and teaching. But the difference was, other Rabbis would gather with the most influential people in a town. Not Jesus.

Levi was a Jew and he betrayed his people by not only working for the Romans, but working in a job that stole from the Jews themselves. This made him a traitor. The very worst, very lowest person in their eyes.

In those days the Romans let people buy a tax franchise, which allowed the owner to tax anything they wanted. The more they taxed, the more they made. And the people, understandably, hated them for it.

According to the Jews a tax collector could not testify in a court of law. His very touch would make an entire house unclean. And he was banned from the Synagogue. The tax collectors were daily reminders of the oppression of the Romans.

And Levi partnered with them!

Levi would have been sitting out in the public places where he could do his business. And that’s where Jesus taught. So Levi would have heard whatever Jesus had to say. And when Jesus looked at Levi and said, “Follow me” that’s all it took. He immediately got up and followed Him. Leaving a lucrative business behind.

He left more than that behind, though. Changing his name to Matthew, which means “gift of God” showed that he was leaving all of his old life and letting his Lord take over.

Like Matthew we are being called to follow Him. We must immediately give up whatever is holding us back, repenting of our sin and follow Him completely with obedience and abandonment.

In verse 15 Matthew had a party for other sinners to meet Jesus. In those days hospitality was a sacred duty and if someone accepted your invitation for dinner it meant you were willing to become a close friend. By Jesus attending he conveyed His willingness to extend forgiveness.

Jesus pursued the company of criminals so He could extend the gospel. He is still looking for the outcast. He is looking for us!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Colossians 1:9-12

Colossians 1:9-12 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

On the first Sunday in January, our associate minister, Mark Schmitz, said the New Year is a great time to decide to submit our will to God. And He used these verses to show us how.

These verses are all about wanting wisdom from God and then getting it and what to do with it. In verse 9 the “for” refers back to verse 4 “because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people". Verse 9 is also a great prayer you can pray for yourself or anyone else: “ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in knowledge of God.”

The Holy Spirit and the Bible guide us in learning about God and His will. What pleases Him. What His point of view is. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to do God’s will and we will bear good fruit when we do it.

Pastor Schmitz also said that when we do this we will be able to bear adverse reactions in the way we should. He said this is important because, “If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has called you to minister to people.” And most likely you are already where He wants you to be to do that! One way we minister is by being a good example. And people who face adverse circumstances “in the Lord” can be a great example.

We are accountable to God. We can honor Him by what we do.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Grace Card Movie

The Grace Card Movie

John and I were able to attend a pre-viewing of the movie The Grace Card, coming to theaters February 25th. I am so glad to report that Christian movies are getting better and better! Years ago the quality and acting just weren’t that great, but that’s all changed.

And of course the message is always excellent!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Suicide Q&A

A member of our church congregation committed suicide this month and the church had a question and answer type program to try and help the rest of us.

A lot was talked about, but here were the top 4 concerns:

1. Please address why there are more suicides around Christmas and what can we (family, friends and church body) do to help:

Holidays are a likely time for suicides because they are looked at as family time and people who are struggling with depression are the ones who feel most unloved. Friends and church family can help by inviting them to join there celebration. “Invite the uninvited.” Hug them, pray with them and always tell them and show them they are loved.

2. I grew up hearing that suicide is a mortal sin. Meaning the person won’t go to heaven.

The Catholic Church used to teach that suicide is a mortal sin because you couldn’t confess your sin (of murder - self murder) because you were dead. This is not Biblical at all. This would be like saying that what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t enough. Romans 5:21 says that where sin abounds grace super abounds! And Revelation 1:5 says Jesus released us from our sins by His blood. Once we are saved we are saved forever! Paul tells us that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
A Christian’s faith is supposed to grow, but sometimes it’s weak. At those times, Christ covers us. 2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
3. How can we help survivors?

Just be there for them. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, 2It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. So go to them. You don’t even have to SAY anything. Help where needed. Listen. Hug. Pray with them. But BE THERE as long as they need you!

4.What do we do if we think someone is depressed and suicidal?

First you have to be aware. You have to be in their life enough to know what’s going on. You can talk to them about how God might be able to use what they are going through for good – so that they see that possibility. Let them know that they CAN get through it. Sometimes a depressed person needs to count on the faith of another person while theirs is faltering. Remind them that the definition of suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. As deep and painful as it is, it’s temporary. Let them know they are not alone and that you care. That they are loved. Try to get them to see a Dr. to make sure there isn’t an underlying physical problem. If they are on medication, see if it needs to be adjusted. If they are talking about suicide, call 911 or the suicide hotline.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Joy of Holiness

This is the last post from my lesson from the book The Pursuit of Holiness. I hope you've learned as much as I did. And that we are both obedient to what we've learned!

God intends for a Christian’s life to be full of joy. We should not be serving with sour faces!

John 15:10-11 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Jesus links joy and obedience in a cause and effect manner. There is joy in fellowship with God.

David said: Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

True joy only comes from God. When David committed adultery and murder he lost his joy and his prayer of repentance said, Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

We also feel joy just in knowing we are obeying God. Especially if a certain sin or disobedience is something we’ve struggled with for a long time. And we have the joy of anticipated reward. Even about Jesus it is said that:

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

As we grow as Christian we begin to find that the joy of a holy walk is infinitely more satisfying than the fleeting pleasures of sin. And just that knowledge brings us ever more joy!

God has given us everything we need. When we were saved He put the Holy Spirit in us. He freed us from the reign of sin. He revealed His will for holy living in His Word. He works in us to will and to act according to His good purposes. He has sent pastors and teachers to teach and encourage us. He asks us to pray to Him for help and comfort. We have to choose to accept all of this and discipline ourselves to live a holy life. Every time we fail we have to get up again.

The farmer we mentioned way back in the beginning of this study doesn’t sit back waiting for God to send rain and sun. He does his part, trusting God will do His. We must take the step of obedience. We must pursue holiness!

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Holiness in an Ugly World

Almost done with the lesson from the book The Pursuit of Holiness!

John 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

We’re stuck in an evil world. Some of us have it worse than others: kids in some colleges, some work environments, war zones. Unless we’re prepared for the world’s assaults, we’ll find it hard to maintain personal holiness. But we aren’t to hide. The Bible says we are to be salt and light to the world, all the while resisting its influence. One way is to identify ourselves openly with Christ! This will spare us a lot of temptation.

But we’re still going to be surrounded by a lot of second hand smoke! So the Bible, daily, is our best defense.

Little verses like these 2 can be memorized:

Ephesians 5:4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

Proverbs 27:20 Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes.

But more than being on the defensive we have to be concerned with other’s destinies. As lights of the world, Christians bring the good news. We don’t do this by denouncing their sins. Our lives should be a sufficient rebuke. And we should b more interested in their need of Jesus Christ as their Savior than their sins. We’re sinners too. It’s not up to us to point out other’s sins. We all need Christ. That’s what we know! That’s what we share!

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Holiness and Faith

We are to obey, by faith what we believe is God’s will. Whether it makes sense or not.

Holiness is not just separation from impurity, but obedience to God. No one can pursue holiness who is not prepared to obey God in every area of his life. Even when it’s costly.

Faith enables us to claim the promises of God and it also enables us to obey the commands of God. Hebrews is the great “faith chapter” and the author of Hebrews uses the words obey (or obedience) interchangeably with faith.

The world tells us “we deserve it”, “go for the gusto”, “get ahead” and “be #1!” The Bible tells us “whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave. That’s Matthew 20:26-27. We’re not to have as our goal, being rich in money, but being rich in good deeds.

It takes faith to pursue such Biblical values when the society around us is pursuing goals that are totally opposite. We believe that God ultimately upholds and blesses those who obey Him and trust Him for the consequences of obedience. We must have conviction in the necessity of obeying the revealed will of God as well as confidence in the promises of God.

Think about what we do all the time:

Because we don’t believe that humility is the path to God’s exaltation, we jockey for a place of position and power in our relations with others.

Because we don’t believe that God takes note of and will in His time avenge all wrongs done to us, we work at “getting back”” at someone who has wronged us.

Because we are not convinced of how bad sin is in God’s eyes, we play with it.

And because we don’t have a firm conviction that “without holiness no one will see the Lord” we don’t seriously pursue holiness on a priority in our lives. Obeying the commands of God involves believing the promises of God.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Habits of Holiness

Every sin we commit reinforces the habit of sinning and makes it easier to sin. Habits play a very forceful role as external influences on our actions. Repeated acts of sin make us slaves to sin. But Paul tells us to put off our old self and put on the new; with its character and habits of holiness. Breaking bad habits must be done in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Sheer willpower rarely works.

Make saying no to a sin a habit. Over and over as you’re tempted, say no. The more often you do it the easier it will get. You can also develop the habit of thinking good thoughts, of praying, of reading the Bible. But it will take frequent repetition.

During this time you have to be careful not let an exception occur. No “just this once” type of thinking! I know people who have gained weight on a diet thinking this! “Tomorrow will be different.” Actually tomorrow will be more difficult if you give in today!

But, also don’t be discouraged if you fail. There’s a difference between failing and failure. Failure is when you give up. God expects us to pick ourselves up and keep trying.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Guarding our Emotions

We must also guard our emotions. While God most often appeals to our wills through reason, Satan usually appeals to us through our desires. Yes he attacks our reasons to confuse and cloud the issues, but that’s to enable him to conquer us through our desires. Each of us should be aware of how sin attacks us and take preventive action.

Paul told Timothy to “flee the evil desires of youth” in 2 Timothy 2:22.

But we must also take the offensive. Paul, in Colossians 3:1 tells us to set our hearts on things above. That is - on spiritual values. The Psalmist in Psalms 1:2 tells us to delight in the law of God. We have to work at directing our desires toward God’s will.

Sometimes you have to read and re-read something, not for clearer instruction, but for motivation!

The stories of Daniel, Nehemiah, Elijah, Abraham, Joseph, Noah and David can motivate us to live lives more pleasing to God.

So to summarize; we are to guard our minds and emotions, be aware of what influences our minds and stimulates our desires and stay in God’s Word to direct and motivate us.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Holiness and Our Wills

The author of The Pursuit of Holiness says our wills were corrupted in the fall. The will became rebellious and stubborn and wouldn’t listen to reason and it gave in to emotion. While the will is the ultimate determiner of all choices, it is influenced in its choices by the strongest focus brought to bear upon it. These forces come from a variety of sources. Subtle suggestions from Satan and his world system, an urgent voice of conscience, a Christian friend or the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Whatever source, they reach our wills through our reasons or our emotions.

But in our rebirth, emotions and reason are renewed, not immediately, but a little at a time. James 4:7 tells us to submit our wills to God. That’s the start.

How do we guard our minds and emotions? David wrote in Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.

The Word of God. The Bible speaks to us primarily through our reason and that’s why it is so important for our minds to be constantly brought under its influence. The Bible is a priority in a Christian’s life.

Solomon told us in Proverbs 2:10 – 12, that wisdom, understanding and discretion will guard us from the evil way. How do we get those qualities?

Proverbs 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

From God. Through His Word. His sayings, His stories, His commandments. We need to read it diligently, prayerfully and seeking to understand. Not just for the spiritual information it gives, but also for the daily application of it in our everyday lives.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bitterness and Retaliation

Bitterness is another defilement of the spirit that can wreck a Christian. It happens when we don’t trust in the sovereign rule of God in our lives. Joseph’s story shows us how we should act. He had every reason to be bitter: unjustly thrown into a well by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused by his master’s immoral wife, but he never lost site of the fact that God was in control of all that happened to him and at the end good came of it.

He told his brothers in Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Bitterness toward God is because we think He’s being unfair. Bitterness toward people is the result of an unforgiving spirit. Someone has wronged us and we refuse to forgive them. And that makes us like the servant who having just been forgiven the debt of millions refuses to forgive a debt of a few dollars and throws his fellow servant into prison.

Retaliation is another sin of the spirit. Paul said in Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Leave it to God! We often tell our kids when they come to us about how mean and unfair someone is treating them, “You be the one who’s good. You set the example!” Well, that’s what our Father tells us too!

We need to pray daily for humility and honesty to see these sinful attitudes for what they really are and for the grace and discipline to root them out of our minds and replace them with thoughts that please God.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Holiness in Spirit

Continuing my lesson from the book The Pursuit of Holiness:

Our thoughts are just as important to God and are known to God as clearly as our actions. Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount that God’s commands are intended not only to regulate outward conduct, but inner dispositions as well. It’s not enough “not to kill” – we must also not hate. It’s possible to seem completely good on the outside and have all kinds of bad stuff going on inside.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” And there’s a well known verse that goes, “Sow a thought, reap an act, sow an act, reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character.”

Our thoughts are important. Paul wrote:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Holiness begins in our minds and works out to our actions. So what we allow into our minds is really important. TV shows, movies, books, magazines, music and conversations all have an affect. We need to evaluate the effects of any of these honestly using Philippians 4:8 as a standard.

Is what I’m watching, reading, listening to true, pure, admirable and praiseworthy? There are primetime TV shows that not only throw swear words around, but “Jesus” and “God”. Even child actors talk like this!

Christianity Today recently had an article about faulty theology in some of the Christmas hymns and how dangerous that is. For some people this is the only gospel they hear and it’s wrong!

Jesus also warned us about what our eyes see.

Matthew 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In one of his letters, Paul listed some acts of the sinful nature: defilements of the body, sexual immorality, impurity, drunkenness, etc. And of the spirit: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition. We must get rid of all of it. That’s our everyday battle. We can’t let an inner life filled with envy, pride, bitterness and a critical, unforgiving spirit go on unchecked.

King Saul was envious of David. The older brother was envious of the Prodigal Son. It causes problems. All over the Bible we are told to be content. To be grateful. That God has assigned each of us a place in life.

1 Corinthians 7:17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Christian Discipline

A necessary ingredient of Christian discipline is perseverance. We will fail, but we will keep on trying, and gradually we will see progress. Know we won’t have instant success and every time Satan puts the thought, “what’s the use” in our mind we need to resolve to try again. Sinful habits are not broken overnight.

Proverbs 24:16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

We don’t quit because God has made us righteous and we have His power in us. The author of the book, The Pursuit of Holiness, spent a chapter talking about how Christians may give in to gluttony or drunkenness or laziness and they don’t consider it sinning. But he said if we aren’t keeping ourselves in good shape to do His work then it is.

It’s interesting that the Mormons abstain from tobacco, liquor and caffeine, and the 7 Day Adventists are vegetarians, maybe even vegans, but we Christians don’t even think about that. He wrote about the Mormons, “Their religion is a practical response to their belief that their bodies are the temple of God. For the Christian, the body truly is the temple of God. How sad then that a false religion should be more diligent in this area than we Christians.”

He said that physical softness often leads to spiritual softness. And that one of the problems of always giving in to what feels good for the moment is it will extend to other areas: sexual, immorality, lust and evil desires, greed, idolatry, etc. He wrote that greed shows up in materialism and materialism makes us discontent and envious of others.

The place to start controlling the cravings of our physical appetites is to reduce our exposure to temptation.

2 Timothy 2:22 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.

Romans 13:14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

We are to take positive steps to avoid temptation.

Proverbs 27:12 The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

Spending time in the Bible

And still more from my lesson from the book The Pursuit of Holiness:

Not only do we need planned time in the Bible, we need a planned method. Usually the method falls into 4 categories and we need to be doing all of them.

1. Hear the word. Through pastors or teachers.
2. Read the Bible ourselves
3. Study the passages intently
4. Memorize key passages

So one thing we can do is take a pastor’s sermon and listen. Maybe take notes. Then each day of the following week, read the passages mentioned in the Bible, look up cross references and finally pick some of the verses to memorize.

But then we go further. We meditate on it. God told Joshua as he was assuming leadership over Israel: Joshua 1:8Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Few of us take the time to do this. We rush through our reading to “get it done”. We find it odd to just “sit and think”. It takes discipline.

And the objective of our meditation is application. Obedience to what Scripture says. Again this takes discipline because it takes discipline to break habits.

We’ve talked in other lessons about questions we should ask ourselves while reading the Bible:

1. What does this passage teach me concerning God’s will for my holy life?
2. How does my life measure up to this scripture – specifically where do I fall short?
3. What definite steps of action do I need to take to obey? And be specific.

Here’s an example the author gave about the love chapter: 1 Corinthians 13. He said as you read and think about it you realize the importance of love and you also see the practical outworkings of love: love is patient and kind and does not envy. You ask yourself, “Am I impatient or unkind or envious toward anyone? As you think about this, say you realize you are envious toward someone. So you confess this sin to God, specifically stating the person’s name and you ask God to bless the person and to also give you a spirit of contentment so that you won’t continue to envy this person, but will instead love him or her. You even start looking for ways to help this person. And you do it everyday until it sticks and you really do have a spirit of love toward the person.

This is discipline toward holiness. It’s a structured plan. And that’s why it’s a life long process.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Using Scripture to be Obedient

In the last post we said we have to know God's commands well enough so that they are the dominant influence in our thoughts, our attitudes and our actions:

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Memorize scripture and then apply those verses. For example when tempted to lie, remember Ephesians 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
When tempted to steal – Ephesians 4:28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

There are hundreds of verses that speak to very specific sins or decisions.

For the unspecific decisions we have to make, he suggests asking 4 questions based on 3 verses in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 6:12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Ask: Is it helpful; physically, spiritually and mentally? For example you can apply this to TV programs you watch. (We have the right to watch anything, but is it beneficial?)

Again from 1 Corinthians 6:12 – Does it bring me under its power. You can apply this to drinking, smoking, drugs, too much shopping (!) Sometimes it’s not the activity itself, but that we make it all important – our idol.

1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Ask, does it hurt others?

1 Corinthians 10:31 ask, does it glorify God?

And if all of that is hard to remember, just ask, “What would Jesus do?”

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