< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: May 2014

Monday, May 05, 2014

Review of Out of the Depths. An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of The USS Indianapolis

The book "Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis" changed forever what I will think of when I hear someone was shipwrecked. The author goes into graphic detail about what happens to your body when it's in salt water, being surrounded by water which you can't drink and how your throat closes up. The sharks circling, the baking sun and the men didn't have rafts, only life preservers. It was a gripping story.

But what the author wants his reader to get from this is to see God's presence through it all. Edgar Harrell was already a Christian and before he stepped off the sinking ship into the Pacific Ocean he felt that God told him he was going to survive. And he clung to that promise the whole five days as his ship mates died one by one.

One day God sent a little rain for their parched mouths, another a crate of rotten potatoes that a little of the insides were ok to eat. Scriptures came to mind for him to recite and pray. And the eventual rescue was nothing short of miraculous.

Our brave soldiers, airmen and sailors need people to know what they give up for our freedom. And Christians need to let people know how good and merciful our God is, no matter what we are going through.

I was given a copy of this book by Bethany House to review.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Faith in Action

This is the end of my lesson based on Steve Berger's book "Between Heaven and Earth". The book is available on Amazon.

Jesus tells four parables in Matthew 24 and 25. This is at the end of His life. He knows he’s leaving soon, so you know what He’s telling His disciples at this point is extra important.

The first is Matthew 24:44-51. A parable showing a contrast between a faithful and an evil servant. The faithful servant worked in expectation of his master’s return. The evil servant was all about “now” and himself.

The second parable is the wise and foolish virgins. Matthew 25:1-13. The wise ones kept the oil burning waiting for the bridegroom. The foolish ones weren’t prepared. They didn’t know the truth of the Word and wasted time and energy on foolish things.

The third parable is the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-50. This one goes even further in explaining how important serving in the harvest is to Jesus. One day there will be a settling of accounts. The 5 and 2 talent workers were wise because they took what their lord gave them and worked hard. They doubled what they’d been given. And their lord rewarded them with more. This is where he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  The one talent worker was unthankful, bitter and rebellious. He was an excuse maker. And he was cast out into darkness. The last parable is the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:37- 46. The people represented as sheep served the last, the least and the lost.  Because of their faithfulness Jesus invited them in. They loved God, they loved people and their love for people manifested itself in serving others. By doing that they were actually seeing Jesus. The people representing goats were in trouble. They rejected serving other people and God and Jesus took their reward away. (Not truly saved!)

Remember the 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 passage mentioned earlier? Paul tells us that God is entrusting work to us. Then it is to be tested by Him. That work will either be something of eternal value or not. Enduring work will receive a reward. Work that is burned will be a loss. There will be a final accounting and how we serve will determine our rewards in Heaven. The very Christ we serve here is the One we will stand before in judgment. That shouldn’t distress us if we’ve been doing His work and look forward to His return. Every person we serve, everyone with whom we share Jesus, and every moment we spend praying with someone whose life is broken is a treasure stored up for us in heaven. It’s part of our reward.

Let me end with a couple promises about heaven.

In John 14:2 Jesus tells us that in His Father’s house there are many mansions. If you are a believer one of these is yours!

Jeremiah 31:33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” This verse makes it clear that God wants to be among us. Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God shows the fulfillment of this promise. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. shows God’s promise of happiness.

God gives us hope in Revelation 21:5-6 – hope because His promises are absolutely true and faithful. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Colossians 1:4-5 God’s promises of heaven are reserved for you. They give you hope and that hope causes you to reach out in love for all God’s people. It’s a calling based on His promises.

James 2:17-18 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

Our faith makes a difference in what we do. Real faith is accompanied by works. Faith in action. Get in His Word, let the Holy Spirit guide and lead you into the harvest. See the need, have compassion and meet it. Live a profitable life for Jesus right now – it’s not too late. And you’ll discover the joy of heaven, the joy of serving others and the joy of seeing other people receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.


Saturday, May 03, 2014

Two Power Sources for Christians

God’s Word and the Holy Spirit are the two most important power sources for Christians. The Bible gives us the power to know God, defend our faith and reap countless benefits. The Holy Spirit gives the power to share our faith with other people and meet their needs.

Again - Jesus said in Luke 4:18-19 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The spirit was upon Him – it filled Him. And it came upon Him for a very specific reason – to share the gospel and do the harvest work. We need to be filled too. And for a specific reason. There are people with needs. People to serve. People to save.

Jesus in His human body needed the spirit.

In the book of Acts it was the Holy Spirit who gave the Apostles boldness. When we read Acts we can see what our life might be like as a Christian if we completely yield to, fully receive and totally obey the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave the disciples the great commission in Matthew 28:16 – 20, but in Acts 1:4-8 He told them to wait for the promise of the Father before they began His work. That they be baptized with the Holy Spirit first. He told them they would receive power to be His witnesses. 10 days later the Holy Spirit came and Peter preached and saved 3000 people. The same Peter who a month or so earlier had denied Christ three times.

Peter was a simple man, but he studied under Jesus and he knew his Bible and relied on the Holy Spirit to help him share what he knew. It’s the Word in us that the Spirit will enliven, embolden and enflame.

In Acts 2:37-38 it says when the people heard Peter they were cut to the heart. They asked, “What shall we do?” Peter told them “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It’s exactly what Peter had done, so people couldn’t refute it. People can argue all kinds of things. But not your personal experience. Your changed life.

Tell people how Jesus saved you, forgave you and how the Holy Spirit is daily renewing and making you more like Jesus. We’re not responsible for the outcome of our sharing, the Holy Spirit is, but we have to stand up and speak up to people who need to hear it.

But here’s a warning. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Grieving the Holy Spirit is doing what he says not to. It’s walking in disobedience. When we grieve him we diminish his power to transform us. An example of this is Samson. Several times it’s written that the Holy Spirit came mightily on him, but left him as he persisted in sin. King Saul was disobedient and the Holy Spirit departed from him. When the Holy Spirit leaves we are left on our own to try to work things out and that’s not the way Kingdom work is done.

Paul also wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Quenching is putting out His fire. It’s not doing what he says to do. So we lose him when we do what he says not to and also when we don’t do what he says to do! In other words – obey him!

We need to constantly invite him into our lives and hearts. It’s not a one time event like being saved.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 02, 2014

Christians Must Guard Against Deception

We also need to guard against deception. There are people out there preaching a different Gospel! In Paul’s day it was a mixture of magic, Greek and Roman mythology and some Christianity.

1 Timothy 4:1 the Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

The first deception by the devil took place in the Garden of Eden when he twisted God’s Word and he’s still doing it today.

Paul says there’s a solution to this deception.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people 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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

So preach the Word. Stay focused on it. Don’t get it from other people’s opinions. The author says don’t preach about your summer vacation. I thought about Billy Graham here. I remember thinking once that he never says anything different. He doesn’t write up a new sermon every time he speaks. Just the simple Gospel and our need for a Savior and how to get Him. Don’t compromise God’s Word or make an apology for it. Don’t hold back and never stop. God’s Word will do the work.

Paul warned Timothy that there would come a day when people turn from sound doctrine to find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. We see this today. People just want to hear what makes them feel good. They don’t want to be challenged or convicted. They don’t want to hear about sacrificial living or responsibility. They fell into false teaching and away from God’s Word. Reading the Bible equips God’s people to do God’s Work!

Most of us just want to be saved from hell. But God wants us saved from hell so we can save others from hell. We can only know His love and kindness and mercy when we read the Word. There isn’t one thing we will face in our lives that isn’t covered in the Bible. It has all the answers we need for those we are helping.

One of Satan’s tactics is to attack the authority of scripture. But Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

All of scripture from Genesis to Revelation is God-breathed. God inspired it. Why would He have anything else in the book He calls His Word? The Word is profitable for learning, for truth and for reproof (meaning conviction).

It’s profitable for correction (straightening us out) and for instruction in righteousness (guiding us in the right direction.) It’s profitable in making us complete and mature in the Lord. It can thoroughly equip us to live on this fallen earth and know how to reach out to people in the harvest.

The Word of God fills you, blesses you, and gives you wisdom, understanding, knowledge, hope and truth. It gives you power. It gives you something to share with people who are desperate and in need. To see Jesus through their hurt. It changes lives!

Jesus told His disciples to abide in His Word and they would know the truth and the truth would set them free. That means we should focus on it and meditate on it. This doesn’t just mean “keep God’s commandments”. Deception and opposition are defeated when we are immersed in the truth of God.

We have to approach the Bible with a teachable spirit; praying that God leads us to His truth. This doesn’t happen when the Bible is on your to-do list as “read 5 verses today”. The religious Jews in Jesus’ time knew the Old Testament inside out. They memorized huge portions of it, but it didn’t change them one bit.

Jesus told the Jews in John 5:39-40 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Jesus was saying that a spirit-led encounter with His truth would lead them to a personal relationship with Him. Not just a checked off list of memorized verses. We should all take 1 Peter 3:15 as a life verse: But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.


Thursday, May 01, 2014

When we really "get" Heaven, we change!

More from my lesson based on Steve Berger's book; Between Heaven and Earth.

Once we grasp all that heaven is and all that a heavenly focus gives us, we change. Our lives, our attitudes and our priorities. We know where we are going and long for it, but we realize we have a purpose for remaining on earth. We see the needs of people. We want to help them know the Savior through our testimony, our lives and our service. It’s not just preachers and evangelists. It’s every believer. God’s mission for all of us is winning the lost, discipling the found and sending forth the willing. And there’s a shortage of labor. Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

The harvest is people who need Christ. And there are multiple opportunities for the gospel to go out and for people to be saved. Jesus doesn’t force us to work; we serve Him willingly and gladly. Jesus looked at the crowds and saw weary, broken and scattered people. He had compassion for them. And we must be like Him. Is there someone right in front of you that you know isn’t saved? The harvest is great.

John 4:35-36 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.

Jesus was clearly telling us not to wait until someday in the future. We can make a difference and nothing we do for the harvest is trivial. Everything we do for it has eternal reward. But it’s called labor for a reason. There will be discomfort sometimes. And it’s not a part-time job. It’s a perpetual assignment. There is no moment when we are not “on call!” Preaching the gospel is the priority. People are waiting and there aren’t enough workers. 20% of the people do 80% of the work in all areas. But it needs to be 100%. No more saying “me first” “let other people do it” “I’m too busy” “I’ve got other things to do first”. That’s selfishness.

We also let fear stop us. We see a need, we feel the stirrings of wanting to do something about it, but immediately the doubts about our ability come in. But 2 Timothy 1:7 says For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

There are things we can do right now that will move us past these blocks.

  1. Renew – look inside ourselves in prayer, through God’s revealing Word and with the help of the Holy Spirit make sure our hearts really do long for heaven.
  2. Repent – turn from the behavior that takes our focus off the harvest. Cry out to God and let Him bring change.
  3. Receive Forgiveness – God’s forgiveness must be actively received. We must deliberately accept it.
  4. Pray – seek God’s will for our lives and let Him show us both where to act and how to do it.
  5. Obey – don’t let distractions, attitudes or excuses get in the way of serving.
Next it’s important to know we can’t do anything without God’s strength and His strength comes to us through the Holy Spirit. And we need to know God’s Word so we are ready to share it when opportunities arise.

Do you know that according to the Gallup Polls only ½ of U.S. adults know the title of even one Gospel? People have Bibles. They just never open them! Only 16% of adult Americans say they read the Bible everyday. People feel that they know from Sunday school and church everything it has to say.

I was in that religion class once and a student made it clear she thought King Saul and Saul who became Paul were the same person!  28% of adults don’t know who Moses was! The Bible is our opportunity to know God, His ways and His will. Scripture leads us to a personal encounter with Jesus. Jesus is the Word! We have to know the Bible so we are prepared to help people know Jesus.

If you remember the parable of the sower and the seeds, you’ll remember that only 25% or 1 in 4, of the soils produced fruit. The people, represented by the soils in the parable, all heard the same message and had the same word available to them, but only 25% actually did anything lasting with the truth they heard. We need to be among those who commit to read and study God’s Word and let it produce fruit in our lives.

You’ll also remember from this parable that Satan actively works to steal the word from us. He knows that if we receive and keep God’s Word in our hearts, we will bear fruit and he can’t stand that idea!

If God’s Word isn’t deeply implanted in us, when difficulty comes we won’t persevere. We’ll miss the chance to be an example to others who are hurting and need encouragement from someone who has been there and made it through victoriously.

And in the parable you’ll see that the word gets choked out. Jesus said, “They will hear the words, but the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other good things will choke the word.” There is serious opposition against those of us who want to read and study God’s Word. We face Satanic and worldly pressure to put our attention on anything, but God’s Word.