< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: February 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Contrasting Genesis 1-11 and 12-50

With the call of Abraham, God begins a new departure in His dealings with humanity. We’re going from talking about the entire human race to one man, Abraham, and his family. By the book of Exodus, this family reaches the status of a nation.

There was a need for a new beginning. Even after the flood man continued to degenerate. God had promised to never again destroy every living thing because of the sin of man, but how was mankind to be delivered from this encroaching corruption that would bring everyone and everything to ruin on its own?

With Abraham, God initiated a new area of concentration that would ultimately affect all nations. Side by side with other nations, God now proceeds to call out and prepare one special people – the Hebrews (or Israel) to become His means of revelation to all people. To this end they needed to be separated from the idolatry and moral corruption of surrounding kingdoms and to be uniquely related to God himself. God would entrust His oracles of revelation – the Bible – that pointed to Christ’s coming and God’s plan of salvation to this special people. In this way, God intended that Israel should witness throughout all generations to faith in one God, Creator of the universe.

And until Christ came Israel alone worshiped the one true God. Meanwhile God allowed the other nations, called Gentile nations, to walk in their self-determined way.

So Abraham now becomes the central figure in Genesis. He is the father of the Hebrew nation. Christ descended from him. In Genesis 15:6 we’ll see that God credited him with righteousness because he believed God’s promise that looked toward his offspring (which was Christ). All of us who are born again by faith in Christ are called spiritual children of Abraham. We are counted righteous by believing God’s Word concerning salvation in Christ.

Abraham’s life of dependence upon God is full of daily practical illustrations. He was very human with doubts and failures. But he trusted God. He obeyed him. And God rewarded Abraham. Abraham experienced companionship with God and was called God’s friend. Abraham became a blessing to not only his own generation, but to all succeeding generations.

Abraham spent his early years in Ur, whose ruins are about 120 miles north of Basra, near the Persian Gulf. Today it is a desolate spot amid a shimmering expanse of desert. Back then it was at the mouth of the Euphrates River and full of fields of corn and barley and stately palm groves. Spacious estates were irrigated by an intricate system of straight canals and ditches. It was an advanced civilization. A bill of lading from about 2040 BC was found that showed that a ship had come up the Persian Gulf after a two-year cruise laden with copper, ore, gold, ivory, hardwoods and alabaster. There were libraries and businesses. But they worshiped idols there. Abraham’s father, Terah was said to “serve other gods’ and worshiped the sun and moon.

God called Abraham to leave this city in the heyday of its power and prestige and go six hundred miles north to Harran and then six hundred miles south to Canann. Abraham was 70 years old when he left Ur and 75 when he left Haran. And he didn’t know where he was going. Just the first step. But God had set him apart for Himself. This is very symbolic of becoming a Christian too. We’re to set ourselves apart from sin and an evil lifestyle and focus on God. And Abraham would be God’s instrument of blessing to the world which is what we’re supposed to be too.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Review of The Pleasure of His Company

The Pleasure of His Company, A Journey to Intimate Friendship with God is a wonderful book by Dutch Sheets.

The author shows that God desires a close relationship with us, but that we have to know Him first. I love how Sheets describes Jesus:

Words are inadequate to describe Christ’s attributes, abilities, intellect and accomplishments. He was, and is, breathtaking yet calming, all-powerful but gentle, unsearchably wise though humble, and awe-inspiring while completely approachable. Perfection defines Him, intrigue surrounds him and eternity is in Him.

He is boundless love, everlasting joy, and the Prince of Peace. Oxymorons are necessary to describe Him, since He is God-man, both human and divine. Incredibly, He’s the Ancient of Days, is forever new, and exists in a perpetual now. His nature contradicts every natural law of time, space, and physics. He is the paradox of all paradoxes, and yet in Him there is no duplicity or inconsistency. When a famous leader named Moses asked Him His name, He simply said, “I AM.” Whatever you need, I AM is. Words fail.

Young people and old, male and female, rich and poor, moral and immoral – they all found Jesus interesting. He was so magnetic and gentle in His personality that children loved and trusted Him. He was so genuine and caring at heart that immoral women confessed to Him their sordid and painful pasts. On one occasion, a shamed prostitute found deliverance, cleansing, self-worth and destiny as she bathed Christ’s feet with her tears. But He was so overpowering in his masculinity and multifaceted in His gifts that both intellectual businessmen and coarse, tough fishermen left their careers at His simple invitation to “follow Me.”

Grown men fell before Jesus in worship and anointing oil worth thousands of dollars was poured upon His feet. A multitude of men, women and children – yes children – sat for days at a time listening to Him teach. Families loved having Him in their homes, men liked hiking and camping with Him and scholars enjoyed picking His brain – when He was only 12 years old!

Many more books have been written concerning Him than about any other person and people sit for hours writing songs about Him. Storms obeyed His commands. His spit healed blind eyes and His touch cured leprosy. He walked on water and through walls. He turned water into wine and multiplied by thousands a few fish and loaves of bread. He raised the dead. Demons fled from Him. When He died the sun stopped shining and the earth shook. Death however didn’t hold Him and His resurrection was so powerful it spilled over onto other dead people, raising them from the dead! His eyes are like fire; his voice is like a waterfall. Angels worship Him; rulers cast their crowns at His feet. He created everything…with just His words. And He keeps the universe operating in perfect order …with just His words.

The book is like a warm hug. It’s also a kick in the pants to do our part. In another chapter Sheets writes, “Being a part of God’s household, having a church home, or being in a family where God is served and honored is important and wonderful, but not enough. Sooner or later you’ll need to graduate from His house to His face; from knowing Him as someone else’s God to experiencing Him as your own. Only then will the promise of His company in heaven become the pleasure of His company here on earth. Don’t wait another day.”

This book is a wonderful tool for Christians and you will want to keep the prayers at the end of each chapter close by to pray often.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Psalm 16

We were behind a car whose license plate read Psalm 16. Of course I couldn’t wait to get home and look it up! And I can see why someone wanted to claim this verse!

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.

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.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Tower of Babel

Genesis 9:18-29 18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. 27 May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” 28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.
We don’t really know what Ham did besides tell his brothers. Maybe he made fun of Noah. And since the curse was directed at Ham’s son Canaan, maybe Canaan was there too. What we do know is Shem and Japheth refused to take part in anything disrespectful of their father.

The Canaanites were the people in the land of Canaan before the Israelites moved in and conquered them. At that time they were collectively known as Amorites and were ripe for divine judgment. Sodom was part of this. The Phoenicians and the colony of Carthage, more of this group, were known for their depravity. Their cult practice was oriented toward sex and its manifestations. In no country has so relatively great a number of figurines of the naked goddess of fertility, some distinctly obscene, been found. Human sacrifice was also well known.

The prophecy concerning Shem is a blessing. And the blessing is the knowledge of his God. Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! Our word Semite is used of the descendants of Shem. In modern usage it’s those who speak the languages termed “Semitic”. God committed the oracles of His revelation, the Bible, to Shem’s descendants. It was from Shem that Abraham came, and Jacob who became Israel and finally Jesus.

Japheth also got a blessing. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” To dwell in a person’s tent implies the sharing of his hospitality and his blessings. In contrast to the Canaanites, who rejected Shem’s God, the Japhethites, or Gentiles, have come to share Shem’s blessings. As Paul stated in Galatians 3:29 the Gentiles have been grafted onto Israel’s religious tree.

Genesis 10 and 11 are not in the Bible in chronological order. Chapter 11 is about the Tower of Babel and the dispersal of the nations. Chapter 10 is after the dispersal, but it’s placed right after Chapter 9 because all the names in it represent the future tribes. All of whom originally descended from Noah’s three sons. So we’re going to look at chapter 11 first.

Genesis 11:1-9 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Chapter 11 records the second great judgment of all mankind. They didn’t seem to learn anything from the flood!

As Noah’s descendents multiplied, they gradually migrated southeast from the region of Ararat in Armenia to a plain in Shinar. This is the plain of Babylonia, situated between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and toward what is known today as the Persian Gulf.

Archaeologists suggest 4000 BC for their final settlement and guessed it was probably a century later that they had built enough industries to build a city and a “tower that reaches to the heavens.” But they didn’t put God first and they refused to obey His order to multiply and replenish the earth. In fact it says they built the city so they wouldn’t be scattered over the earth!

And the tower was all about self worship. The Assyrian and Babylonian kings were known for priding themselves on the height of their temples, having tops “as high as heaven.” The tower of Babel was the precursor of the heathen ziggurats, whose ruins are all over Mesopotamia today. They were temples to the heathen gods and consisted of huge artificial mountains made of sun-dried bricks of variegated color.

The rest of Chapter 11 is the genealogy from Shem to Abraham.

Chapter 10 is some of the genealogy from all three sons. The reason Chapter 10 is important is;

  1. Its unique and accurate ethnic information. Genesis 10 is often called The Table of Nations. It shows a remarkable modern understanding of nations, races and languages in the ancient world. Apparently it is quite impressive.

  1. The place of Shem’s sons among the nations. Instead of getting rid of the people who didn’t honor Him like He did with the flood, this time God chose one man in Shem’s family (Abraham) who through his family God would preserve His revelation of himself. Israel would become a missionary nation: spreading the message to all the nations. This revelation of Himself through the Old Testament Scriptures which point to Jesus Christ and God’s plan for salvation, has been preserved from ancient days by Abraham’s family- the Jewish people. Until Christ came and His gospel was preached to all nations, Israel alone worshiped the one true God. The rest of Genesis and really the Old Testament pretty much centers on this family and its descendents. Other nations appear mainly in their relationship with Israel.

  1. The third reason Chapter 10 is important is it provides clues to understanding certain Bible prophecies relating to events still future to us. For instance when Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation prophesized concerning wars, nations and events that haven’t taken place yet, they didn’t use our present-day nations, but ancient names found in this chapter. Many students of prophecy believe that the future people’s identity will be able to be matched with these geographical positions.
For example Ezekiel and Revelation speak of Gog and Magog as being engaged in a war with Israel which is of world importance and hasn’t yet taken place. Cush is Ethipia, Put is Libya, Philistines gave name to Palestine, Nineveh is possibly present day Iran. ect.

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Monday, February 03, 2014

My Review of the Book, 'Seeing the Voice of God. What God is Telling You in Your Dreams.'

I wanted to read this book because I was interested in finding out if my dreams really are God talking to me. (Instead of my mind sorting out my day like I’d always thought.)

In the beginning of the book the author goes into great (and interesting) detail about sleep, the types of sleep and what is happening in the body during each sleep cycle, what effects your quality of sleep, and even lists supplements needed for better sleep. This part is very well researched and covered.

The parts that sort of bothered me were where she tied her illness into the trouble all of her town Nashville was in (spirit wise). And I'm not saying I doubt her waking visions, but she does have epilepsy, so part of me wonders that that may be the cause behind them. And I felt her ending of each chapter where she prays for the reader and asks him or her to hold their hand out to receive the "impartation" was too new agey.

I will keep the book for the supplement information and also the huge list of items you might dream about and the meanings of each. But I’m not convinced every dream is God speaking to us. (Or even most dreams.)

I really appreciated one thing she said about prayer though: "Some people have never been taught to sit still long enough to practice God's presence, but if you will wait on God, you will notice a change in your spirit. It may not be in that moment of worship and you may be tempted to think it is wasted, but it is not. In fact, what happens as you sit there in prayer is that you make a deposit into yourself and into your inner man (or woman). Tomorrow or the next day or the next, when you are presented with a situation in which an immediate decision must be made, you instantly will be able to make a withdrawal and choose rightly. There will be a sudden wisdom that you cannot explain, or a "knowing" about how you should proceed. It came from God, and it came while you sat with Him and - by faith - allowed Him to pour His divine nature into you."

*I was given this book by Chosen Books to review.

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