< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: March 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ephesians 2:1-10

Ephesians 2:1-10 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

These 10 verses are the Gospel in a nutshell.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Unity and Evangelism

John 17:23 I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“So that the world will know you sent me.” In the Bible “so that” tells you the purpose.

Luke 19:10 tells us that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that whoever believed in Him should not parish, but have eternal life.

This is the message that gets spread when people see unity in the church. When an unbeliever sees a church serving together, loving and helping and caring about each other they are attracted. They want to know more and it opens the way for God questions.

God has poured out His love on us so that we in turn can pour it out on others. He has reconciled believers to Himself so that they will reconcile themselves to others.

Ephesians 2:19-20 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

We are fitted together to grow a Holy Temple. We are placed next to each other to grow His church.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Unity Helps us to Experience God’s Glory

John 17:22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.

God’s glory is visible because God works through His church!

God the Father has glory and gives it to His Son and the Son gives it to the church when we are united. We learn in Exodus when Moses asks God to show him His glory that God’s glory is His goodness and His character. God had to show up for Moses to see it.

When we say, “Lord I want to glorify You” we mean we want to show Him with our life. His traits and character: merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. We manifest Him.

The church shows by touching people, sending food, singing, praising, sharing the world, being there to help others.

We have to become part of a church and really integrate ourselves in it. Unity requires “death to self”. We say no to our own interests and pride and go out of our way for God’s interests and helping others. Being involved in church gives us the opportunity to experience God’s character. To feel like He designed us to feel, to love how He designed us to love, to do as He designed us to do. God is love, so we are sowing His attributes when we love and thus glorifying Him.

When we use our gifts, we are doing so by the enabling of the Holy Spirit so that we can spread the glory of God. And God shows up when we are obeying Him and glorifying Him.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011


Our Pastor, Kurt Gebhards, is spending three weeks on three verses in the Gospel of John. Below are some of the thoughts I took from the first week:

John 17:21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

The unity of our church says something about God. It says something to the world and drives home the Gospel.

John 17 is a very important chapter in the Bible. Not only is it Jesus’ final chance to be with His disciples, but this is a prayer of God talking to God! And the capstone of the ministry in the upper room.

In John 17:1-5 Jesus prays for Himself. That He be glorified.
In John 17:6-9 He prays for the Apostles. Their safety and “keeping them in God’s name”.
In John 17:20-26 He prays for future believers. (Us!) Our sanctification; that we become holy and more like Christ. That God would grow us. And unity. He says it over and over. “That they may be one”, “that they may be all one”, “perfected in unity”, “loving one another” and “ministering to one another”.

Pastor Kurt described this as the web of unity. In verse 21 the Father is in Jesus. We are in unity with each other. Jesus is united with God. All of us are united with the trinity. And Jesus is in us. Unity is beautiful and multifaceted.

Trinity actually comes from tri and unity. They are three and there is diversity between them: for example God has no body, Jesus does. God is the head and Jesus is the Son who shines a spotlight on God. But they are entirely unified in essence:

Jesus prayed, “Glorify me that I may glorify You.” God AND Jesus raised Jesus from the dead. God AND Jesus created the world. Jesus is the image of the unseen God.

They are also united in purpose. Jesus often said He was doing His Father’s work or His Father’s will.

And they are united in love. John 14:31 says “so that the world may know I love the Father I do as He commanded.” Because we love God we should obey Him. (To show our love for Him.)

In verse 26 Jesus gives us the love that is between the trinity. "I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

What we can take from John 17:21 is to love unity and hate division in the church. Hate slander, malice, self-seeking, etc. Hate factions! It’s the work of the devil.

Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Proverbs 6:16-19 16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Do not spread strife among others! Especially in church! We should be unified as the trinity is. They completely love each other and are each other’s cheerleaders.

Philippians 2:1-2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

A Tenacious Faith

I’ve adapted the following from www.christianity.com/devotionals

Mark 6:56 Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment and as many as touched Him were made well.
Tenacity means to cling to a belief without doubting. It is a set kind of faith, a determination that doesn't waver. Our Father made divine healing a commodity through Jesus. In the marketplaces — the center of business—divine healings were common and useful for building people's faith and winning souls, for setting people free from the bondage of disease, for restoring them to productivity and for the purpose of spreading the good news. Miraculous wonders of healing were evidence that Jesus was who He said He was.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 tells us that when we seek Him with all of our heart, we will find Him. And in His presence, His hem is available to us.

Surely, God has called us to tenacious faith.

That we humbly present or "lay" family members, friends and loved ones and/or people from our assigned workplaces before Jesus. That we beseech Him for a healing touch. That we have a heart for others to be healed, a heart for doing the work of Jesus.

Actions speak louder than words: So often, the Lord has shown us that when we step out in faith and pray for the restoration of others, He rewards us by caring for our needs. Tenacity is about selflessness. It is about choosing to believe the truth of God's divine precepts over natural circumstances. And it's about taking courage to journey forth with Jesus no matter what. Tenacity means we must stand up for what is right even if it means making someone angry or upset with us. Sometimes this is a hard thing to do, but it is pleasing to God.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What is the Will of God?

Psalm 40:8 I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

Pastor Kurt Gebhards gives us 6 verses that clearly tell us what God’s will is:

John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

So first that we are saved!

Ephesians 5:16-18 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,

Be filled and led by the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 4:4-6 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.

That we have self-control and are sanctified.

1 Peter 2:13-16 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

Submit to the authority we are placed under.

1 Peter 4:19; 5:10 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. And 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.

Stay steadfast. Continue to do what is right.

Psalms 37: 1-7 1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Seek God first! Trust Him always!

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Mark 3:31-35

Our Pastor, Kurt Gebhards, continued his sermon study of Mark:

Mark 3:31-35 31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” 33“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus calls us in this passage to be part of His spiritual family. He told His listeners that those who were following Him and listening to His teachings were more His family then His physical brothers and mother.

We are adopted sons and daughters of God by His Grace.

How are we related to Him spiritually? We might answer that it happens because we believe in Him. But in verse 35 Jesus says something quite different. “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

This has confused people in the past. Can’t you just hear people say, “Wait, I thought you only get to heaven because of your faith? Are you saying it’s works now too?”

No! Jesus wasn’t describing here how to become a Christian. He was describing a Christian’s walk. Salvation is authenticated by our service. We are saved (justified) by our faith, but grow (are sanctified) by our good deeds.

John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life: he who does not obey the Son shall not see life.” Belief must include obedience. True belief includes action.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace alone. Not works, lest we boast. But verse 10 goes on to say we are created in Christ Jesus for good works.

That’s why Jesus describes Christians as those who do the will of God. In the next post Kurt tells us how to know if we are in God’s will.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

John and I went to Lenoir Rhyne University last night to hear a lecture by the Dean and Professor of New Testament and Preaching at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Dr. Gail O'Day, on "Friendship and the Gospel of John: Love as Christian Practice."

It was really interesting and I always love how people can pull so many different things out of a book or even just a passage. To me that just shows that the Word really is living and breathing.

Dr. O’Day used John 15:12-15 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

This is right in the middle of Jesus’ farewell discourse, which falls in John 13 – 17 It takes place right after the last supper and before the arrest. And we see not only from His words here, but His entire life that friendship, to Christ, is the ultimate relationship with God and one another.

Therefore it should be a model for Christian practice.

Friendship was very popular in ancient Greece and Rome. It was how you built a good society. And it was broken down into 3 aspects.

1. It was a relationship between equals that contributed to the city state. Aristotle said that the definition of a friend is one who would lay down his life for the other. Jesus wasn’t saying something they hadn’t heard before. The difference is, the philosophers talked about it and Jesus did it!

Dr. O’Day brought up Christ's parable of the Good Shepherd from John 10 about how a shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. She said Jesus’ arrest has echoes of this. He led His disciples into an enclosed garden (like a sheep pen) and a thief (Judas) was there. In John, Jesus stepped forward. In the other 3 Gospels Judas came up to show which one Jesus was. But John made a point that Jesus lay His life down willingly.

2. Friendship in antiquity was also boldness of speech. A willingness of the friend to speak freely. A friend would tell the truth. They didn’t flatter and they didn’t hold back. In John 15:15 Jesus says “I do not call you servants any longer.” The disciples were now His friends because He spoke to them openly and told them everything from the Father.

3. Friends have all things in common. Luke used this in Acts when talking about how the church was formed. How people shared everything they owned. John 16 says, “All that the Father has is mine and will declare it to you.” And prayed that, “they may be one as we are one.” Jesus said He told them everything and the Greek word for everything is all things. All in common. He also invited them to be one of heart. To “love as I have loved.”

They weren’t commanded to do this to make Jesus their friend, but because they were His friends. He was the model for them, but He was also the source. By speaking openly and having all things in common.

The mark of friendship with Jesus is what we do for Him. We can use the well known phrase What Would Jesus Do? Because He is our guide to decision making. For John though there is no point in asking what would Jesus do because Jesus has already done! He gave His life in love.

John would ask, “What would friends of Jesus do?” And the answer would be to love one another as He has loved us. Give love freely and generously without counting the cost.

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