< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: April 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Love Foreshadowing in the Bible

In my study of Revelation, I've gone back to re-read Anne Graham Lotz' book 'The Vision of His Glory: Finding Hope Through the Revelation of Jesus Christ' and loved finding this bit of foreshadowing about David and Jesus:

1Samuel 22:2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

David had been anointed King of Israel. But Saul was still on the throne, so David was really a king in exile. He became a rallying point for God’s people though. His leadership in their lives, even before he ruled from the throne in Jerusalem, radically changed their perspective of the present as well as of the future.

David gave them hope. They became David’s mighty men. And when he was crowned king of Israel, they reigned with him.

In a sense, Jesus is God’s anointed king in exile. The enemy, Satan, reigns supreme on His earthly throne. Like King Saul, his power and authority causes us to be discouraged and distressed. But we’ve heard about God’s anointed one. About His compassionate leadership. And we chose to put our hope in Him. To give Him our loyalty, to make Him our priority and one day we will reign with Him.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In view of Heaven, how ought we to live?

This is something I wanted to remember from a Bible Study Fellowship study of the book of Revelation I’ve been doing all year.

2 Peter 3: 10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Peter sums up what kind of people we should be. Holy and godly ones who look forward to the day of the Lord and speed its coming.

It’s not enough to go through the motions of life, knowing we are on our way to a better place. Heaven motivates whole hearted commitment to holy and godly living now. God’s Word tells us when we see Jesus we will be like Him. Because Jesus is holy and we will be completely holy when we see Him, the logical goal for every believer is to pursue holy living now. This is also God’s command and it glorifies Him when we do it.

God has not only commanded us to be holy, He commissioned us to witness for Him. Words, deeds and attitudes that reflect God’s character reveal Him to a watching world. Confession of faith in Jesus Christ carries weight only when accompanied by the proof of a transformed life. A set-apart, holy life attracts those being drawn to the Savior while convicting those who reject him.

God’s plan to establish His eternal dwelling place fuels our desire to bless our community today. Believers join the Lord in His work of redemption, bringing the justice, peace and righteousness of his kingdom, in some measure, to our world today. God gave us a mandate to fill the earth and reign over it. We are stewards charged to help all of God’s creation flourish. Jeremiah called God’s people to seek peace and prosperity for their community.

How are you working for justice in your community as you pray and wait for Jesus to complete that work at His coming?

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Little Oil

I've just finished reading the book Reckless Devotion: 365 Days into the Heart of Radical Loveby Heidi and Rolland Baker for the third time. And I've put parts of one of their sections together for this devotion I'm going to share at a nursing home in a couple weeks.
2 Kings 4:1-7 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

Elisha asked the widow what she had when she cried out for help. And instinctively she said, “Nothing.” But then she remembered. “Oh, I have a little oil.”

So often we are dismissive of ourselves. We say we have nothing. Nothing God would want to use anyhow. We come up with all kinds of good reasons for why God can’t do anything notable or meaningful with us. “I have no special talent, I’m poor, I’m old, I have no connections, no special gift.”

“But, wait. I guess I have a little oil.”

And that is all God needs to take us and do a miracle.

Then Elisha told the widow to go around to all her neighbors to give her their empty jars.

What an interesting approach to solving her problem! God could have told Elisha, “Pay off her debts.” Or “Give her money.” But He did neither.

Why? Because God didn’t want to just solve her problem; He wanted to change her life, giving her a completely different outlook and perspective. He wanted to transform her faith and grow her trust in God, removing her anger and bitterness.

The process of gathering up all the empty jars was a prophetic act. She cooperated with God, making the statement that something was about to happen, even if she didn’t know precisely what. “Go and ask your neighbors for their empty jars.” Elisha told her. So she did. And he added, “Don’t just ask for a few.” Then he told her to start pouring oil.

Think about this. She had a lot of jars and her one jar with just a little oil in it. But she took the step of obedience and began pouring. And the oil didn’t run out until every jar was full!  God had done a miracle.

She now had the resources she needed to pay off her debts and get out of her bad situation. But more than that she had firsthand knowledge of the supernatural provision of our incredible Father. She had the faith to believe for His supernatural intervention in her life and the lives of others.

Her empty jar had been filled. Her life transformed.

And God wants to do the same for us. He wants to fill our emptiness with His plenty and He’s inviting us to take a step of faith, to trust Him completely.

He’s looking for is our willingness. He wants us to quit telling Him He can’t use us and just say yes. He’s looking for empty vessels to fill. He is looking for those people who want to be fully filled with His precious Holy Spirit, who don’t have a lot of stuff in the way.

And when we come to Him willing to cooperate He’ll do the rest. That’s when God is able to display His glory through us.

When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and filled Jesus’ disciples, empowering them to go out and plant the Church; that wasn’t a one time only thing. God is still anointing, filling and empowering those who belong to Him. We should each ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with His oil everyday.  In fact, fill us to overflowing so that oil touches the lives of those around us. So that the love of Jesus flows from us.

God wants to use you. When He calls you, go. Now you may be sitting there thinking, “I’m 80 years old and can’t drive any more. Where am I supposed to go for God?” Well, yes, I don’t think He’s going to call you to go to Africa as a missionary! But he may ask you to knock on your next door neighbor’s door and make a new friend. Or sit with someone at the dinner table who’s alone. Or attend a Bible study. Or write a letter. Or send a card. Or smile at someone. Encourage someone. Make someone laugh! Or listen to their problem without telling them about yours. Or pray for someone. Pray for our country, the church or the world.

God has placed each of us where we are. If we let Him we can be useful to Him.

And whatever He has you do, do it with all your might and for His glory. We are His children and He wants us to burn brightly for Him.

Ask God to empty you of all that hinders His work in your life. Choose to make yourself an empty container. Then He can come and fill you with His presence, and in a moment, everything can change.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review of The 30-Day Faith Detox

I just finished reading

The 30-Day Faith Detox: Renew Your Mind, Cleanse Your Body, Heal Your Spirit

And I was underwhelmed.

It’s interesting to me that some of the reviews said they expected this book to be more on faith, but that it was more about food and physical detoxing. I found it to be just the opposite.

There were a handful of smoothie and juice recipes in the back and while each day the author gave you a meal plan, it was basically the same every day and a plant based diet. (Which of course is a good idea, but hardly novel.)

And on her Facebook page most of the comments people wrote in about dealt with how much weight they lost. (And I would expect that after 30 days on a plant based diet, so no great surprise there.)

But personally I thought it had very little about eating and health.

I think she was trying to tag along on a popular theme now – the fitness/wellness world. I would imagine that authors who are in the business of cranking out books need to come up with something catchy all the time. (For instance look at all the adult coloring books coming out that are now “devotionals” or some other current theme.)

I do feel that if you took the time to read the financial part or the section on social media and really questioned yourself about what you are doing in those areas and work on making changes, it would serve you well. But you only get one day to do it in and I don’t think it needs to be tied into what you are eating.

Since the author is a certified nutritional counselor and also a pastor – maybe she should write a book in each area and not try to combine them.

Note: This book was provided free of charge by Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review.

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