< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: September 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

Review of Russia Rising: Tracking the Bear in Bible Prophecy

My husband and I were in Russia this summer and between that, all the news about Russia and our elections and receiving this book from Tyndale to give my honest review - I feel like someone is trying to tell me something!

I've always been interested in prophecy. Especially end time prophecy. And the author, Mark Hitchcock, was very thorough in covering Ezekiel 38 and 39 which talks about the countries that will attack Israel in the future. Most of what he writes about could be lifted from today's newspapers. It is extremely current.

This is a good read for any Bible student and I appreciate how we are reminded that we study prophecy to show us that time is short and we need to share the Gospel and live like Jesus IS coming back soon. "Russia Rising: Tracking the Bear in Bible Prophesy" by Mark Hitchcock.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

John 10:22-42

John 10: 22-29  Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter,23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

It’s thought Jesus went back to Galilee for a while and then returned to Jerusalem for the Festival of Dedication. Today Jews call this Festival Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights. It commemorates the victory of the heroic Maccabees over their enemies and the rededication of the temple after the desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C.

Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. Along the sides of the outer Court of the Gentiles were two beautiful porches called the Royal Colonnade and Solomon’s Colonnade. They had 40-foot-high pillars and people would gather here to pray or meditate. And rabbis gathered their disciples around them for teaching.

He was asked here, “Are you the Messiah?”

If only they had thoughtfully considered His tremendous claims. If only they had compared His words to the Scriptures. Then they would have understood the promised Messiah was infinitely greater than a political leader.

Jesus’ answer had two parts. He spoke first to those who rejected Him but continued to demand He tell them if He was the Messiah. “I did tell you.” He said. Over and over His miracles fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah and proved He was God. Many religious leaders had wondered how He could act with such power and still be a mere human being.

Jesus explained their unbelief with the truth: “You do not believe because you are not my sheep.” They were Jews, they had studied the Scriptures, they had taught the Scriptures – but Jesus told them they were outsiders because they didn’t believe in Him.

Jesus says of His sheep, “I give them eternal life.” And in His prayer to His Father later in John, He explains eternal life. “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” This knowledge of God is closeness to Him now and forever.

Jesus assures us next that we are secure in our salvation. “NO ONE will snatch them from my hand.” And just to be MORE secure He goes on, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

John 10:30 – 42 "I and the Father are one.”
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.
So, after saying that He could keep His people secure and give eternal life to those who believed in Him. He says, “I and the Father are one.”

The Jews rightly ascertained that Jesus was saying He is divine. To them, this was blasphemy and Mosaic law said that the penalty for that was death by stoning. As they raised their stones, Jesus asked, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
They answered that their problem was not His miracles, but that He claimed to be God.

Jesus answered with 2 arguments. The first, He used Scripture. And it’s from Psalm 82:6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ Here God was talking to unjust judges and challenged them to live up to their holy vocation. He used the words “gods” because He had appointed them to do the work that really only belongs to Himself. Judge. So, Jesus’ argument was: if Scripture spoke of mere men as gods (and you can’t set Scripture aside or challenge it) why do you say the unique One whom God set apart and sent into the world blasphemes when He says He is the Son of God?

His second argument was if they wouldn’t believe Him, then they should believe the works (miracles) he did. The miracles should have made them realize, as Jesus said, “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

They again tried to kill Him and again He escaped. Remember this when He DID go to the cross. He was always able to get away from them – when it was in His Father’s will. There is no question, He CHOSE to go to the cross.

Jesus left Jerusalem and went across the Jordan to the place John first baptized. The place His own public ministry began.

And as always people followed Him. Maybe some remembered that John had said, right in that spot, that Jesus was the Son of God. And they said that all John said about this man was true. 

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

John 10:1-21 Jesus the Good Shepherd

John 10:1-10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

If someone were to ask you today, “What do you believe in and why?” How would you answer?

The key message of John’s Gospel is “Believe in Jesus.” Believe in the Word who lived from the beginning, the Lamb of God, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World. But from where does this belief come? What is a “believing life” like? In Chapter 10, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the son of God, provides the answers to these questions.

Chapter 10 records two teachings of Jesus. The first describes the relationship between Jesus and His people through the illustration of a shepherd and his sheep. This was right after He healed the man born blind. The second comes about 3 months later, at the Feast of Dedication. It focuses on the divine identity of Jesus and the great assurance the Son of God brings to His people.

At this point in His ministry – which is near the end – Jesus gives His people confidence and clarity in His call and care for His people.

So, in the Shepherd teaching, Jesus continues to confront the Pharisees. They had just thrown the man born blind out of the synagogue. This was one of THEIR sheep, but instead of being compassionate like Jesus, they only thought about themselves.

Jesus, of course is the Shepherd who “entered by the gate.” Who came as the promises and prophecies of the Old testament said. Sent by God, He was the true leader of His people. His compassion on the man demonstrated how a Shepherd acts on behalf of His sheep. And this gives believers assurance and peace.

Israel was a pastoral people for many centuries. Therefore, God often used the picture of a shepherd to illustrate His relationship with His people. As students of the scriptures the Pharisees should have known God’s warning, through Jeremiah, of “shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” God said to them, “I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done.”
In Jeremiah’s time, the Lord sent the nation into exile, but He also promised He would gather His flock and give them truthful and caring shepherds. “The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up from David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.”

A prophecy of the coming Messiah.

The prophet Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah. He also wrote about “shepherds” who did not lead and teach God’s people with the truth. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says; I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.” But the Lord promised, “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”

The passage closes with, “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

God the Father completed through His son the promise to care for and lead His own people. Perfectly and personally, Jesus continues to complete God’s Word as he calls His people to Himself.

A genuine shepherd demonstrates a relationship with his sheep. There are three points to notice here.

1. Jesus knows each sheep by name. The Son of God has a conscious, person-to-person relationship with every individual who belongs to Him. In the Bible, giving or knowing a name means understanding a person’s true nature or even changing their character.

2. Jesus knows you perfectly. He not only knows your name, He knows everything about you! What you are good at, what you think about! He knows the anxieties you carry with you from childhood, desires fulfilled and unfulfilled, your happiest times and your most profound fears.
He also knows His eternal purpose for you, which means your highest possible joy and satisfaction. And He’s known you forever!

3. Jesus Himself leads His sheep. He goes ahead rather than driving them from behind. He lived in this world as a man, experiencing human hunger, fatigue, family conflict, the betrayal of friends and violence of enemies. And He confronted all of that with focused purpose, justice and grace. The core of His human existence was to defeat sin and death on behalf of His people.

The writer of Hebrews called Jesus the “pioneer of their salvation.” Because of our sin, no human being could enter God’s presence, so Jesus went ahead of us to bring us with Him.

In His flawless life and His death as a sin-sacrifice, He paid our penalty and covered us with His righteousness. He entered into death so we could live forever and He entered heaven, where He intercedes for us, so we can follow Him there.

Jesus is and always will be the Savior of His people, but He also led His flock by example. He loved His Father and was always intent on God’s will. He thought, lived and spoke by God’s Word. He showed grace to those who were helpless and hopeless without Him. When he was treated cruelly, he acted with dignity.

Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus; who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing.

Here He is, the king of Glory. He can stay anywhere; He can go anywhere and do anything. He knows who He is. Yet what does He do – for us and for our sake? He empties Himself until He becomes nothing. The King of Glory allowed Himself to be born in a stable with goats and chickens. He had to learn a language. He had to be clothed and fed by someone. He just gave Himself away, always putting others first. He left His Kingdom, left His glory behind to show us how to live.

While we try to hold on tight to things, He is saying, Give it away. He humbled Himself and made Himself obedient even to death. What a teacher! All we have to do is follow the leader, be in unity with Him, see what He sees, go where He goes, do what he does, pray what He prays, love as He loves.

Peter wrote in 1Peter 2:21-25 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
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. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

David wrote in Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he restores my soul.

Not ONLY did He come to save us from our sins, but so that we could live new lives, energized and renewed by his own presence with them.

When the Pharisees didn’t understand, Jesus gave them another example. In the first three verses, He described the kind of sheepfold shepherds used during a winter. In a village’s communal fold, a watchman who recognized the shepherds was authorized to open a strong gate. Verse 2 and 3 again; The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.

In verse seven He probably referred to the kind of sheepfolds used in the summer. These had stone walls and the gateway was merely an opening. At night, the shepherd lay down in the gateway, so the shepherd himself served as the gate. No one could enter the sheepfold except through Him.
So, in this illustration Jesus Himself is both the Shepherd and the only Gate into eternal life, God’s kingdom and God’s family.

The thieves and robbers were the self-proclaimed messiahs and teachers who have appeared in the world. All the false religions…

Where He said they will come in and go out describes a free and safe life. God told Israel as they approached Canaan that if they obeyed Him, He would bless their “going out and coming in.”

Psalm 121:8 promises, “the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
And where He says that “they may have life to the full” means our eternal life starts as soon as we become believers and abundant life happens when we live in His inexhaustible joy, peace, love, patience, self-control, power, endurance and ability to meet every situation. Life with Jesus becomes an adventure. It means eternally significant living now and an abundant entrance into heaven.

John 10:11-21 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So, when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
He says He knows them and they know Him. There’s a relationship there.
Where He says He has “other sheep” – Jesus came and spoke first to the Jews, but after His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, His Spirit spoke also through the apostles to the Gentiles. Non-Jewish believers flooded the early church.

He says there will be one flock and one Shepherd. The believers will be united in their belief.
And He says He lays down His life willingly. We know Jesus died for US. But we also need to know His sacrifice was first in devotion to God the Father. Jesus surrendered His human will to His Father’s purpose for Him.

On the cross He “gave up His spirit” and 3 days later He walked out of the tomb. So, He had the divine power to lay down His life and take it up again.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Jesus Giving Sight to the Man Born Blind

John 9:1-5 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

So, Jesus is leaving the group that had picked up stones to kill Him and He’s just walking along when He saw this blind man.

The word “saw” in Greek indicates Jesus looked closely and carefully at the man. It seems like this man was known because the disciples knew he had been born blind. Likely he was one of the many beggars who would sit at the temple gates hoping worshippers would be generous.

The disciples weren’t really concerned about the man – they just had a question for Jesus. “Who sinned, he or his parents?” Judaism in that day taught that all personal suffering was a result of personal sin or the sin of the parents. Scripture does teach that sin brings personal suffering. However the Old Testament also clearly teaches not ALL suffering can be traced to an individual or parents’ sins.

The entire book of Job shows that. And sometimes you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But suffering is always under God’s perfect, sovereign care. And sometimes a person’s response when they are suffering: if they stay faithful, cheerful, don’t blame God; will bring God more glory than if He miraculously got them out of their trial.

Jesus wasn’t as concerned with what caused it as how to relieve it and use it to glorify God. He would act in divine power to demonstrate God’s love and power.

He would show God’s glory by giving sight to a man who had never seen the light.
No matter what Jesus was doing He recognized that His Father’s will was woven into every encounter with every person.

Then Jesus said, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me”
He said “we” because His disciples were called to do God’s work. And we are too. We are to do the work of God in the lives of those we encounter while the opportunity is there – as long as we live or until He comes back.

John 9:6-7 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Often Jesus healed with a mere word. However in this miracle there were two stages in the healing.
This is one of three miracles in which Jesus used saliva to heal. In Jesus’ time, “fasting saliva” or saliva from some distinguished person was believed to possess healing qualities. The famous Roman writer Pliny devoted an entire chapter to the use of saliva for cures. It’s possible that Jesus used current customs to get the man to trust Him. This wasn’t a restoration of sight, but created sight. Kind of like when God breathed into Adam’s clay-formed nostrils the breath of life.

Jesus connected the gift of sight to the blind man’s obedience to His command to wash in the Pool of Siloam. John inserted the meaning of the word Siloam here. Sent. The Father sent Jesus and Jesus sent the blind man for the completion of the miracle.

There’s no coincidence that this took place after Jesus declared Himself to be the light of the world. This man had lived his whole life in darkness and Jesus gave him light.

Humans live like that too. We are in darkness and we don’t even know what we are missing out on until Christ comes into our lives. This man knew he was blind – but he didn’t really know what seeing was like!

John 9:8-12 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said.

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

The Pharisees were the faction of Jewish leaders who professed to believe in God’s supernatural power as revealed in Israel’s Scripture and history. But the chose not to recognize Christ’s power. Maybe because He interfered with their preconceived ideas and revealed their inadequacy. Probably because if they admitted He was who He said He was they would have to change their way of living. So they attempted to discredit Jesus and crush the healed man’s testimony.

They focused on the fact that it was the Sabbath and Jesus “broke the Law.”

The same thing happened when He healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda who couldn’t walk.
I had a thought here that maybe that’s REALLY why Jesus made the mud. If He had just spoken healing – maybe that wouldn’t have really been considered work, but He actually made the mud…..just a thought.

As the scene unfolds you can see the man changing. He gets more courageous. More bold in his testimony and more insightful in His appraisal of Jesus.

The parents however I thought were pretty awful! Wouldn’t you think they’d be overjoyed that their son could see? Instead they were so afraid they’d be thrown out of the synagogue that they threw their son under the bus by making him answer for himself!

Sometimes we don’t speak up for God. But our actions prove whom we fear most – God or man.
So the Pharisees called the man back. They basically told him to speak the truth as before God. (what they wanted him to then say was that the man was not a prophet and was a sinner.) And this is where he got bolder and more clear. He told the plain truth, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.”

As the Pharisees argued with him the man began to see his restored sight as God’s sign and approval of Jesus. He logically reasoned Jesus must be of God. God’s wisdom is hidden from the prejudiced “wise and learned” who profess to see but are really blind. He concluded that “if this man were not from God he could do nothing.”

It’s interesting that the Pharisees began to verbally abuse the man by saying he was steeped in sin at birth, implying that his blindness was a curse from God – because that would imply that his healing was God’s blessing. They sort of dug themselves into a hole with that one!!!

Frustrated and with no real answers (to their liking!) they threw him out. Declaring the work and truth of Jesus always carries a cost. It may lead to ostracism, persecution or broken relationships with non-believers. This can hurt because it’s human nature to want to be accepted. To belong. But a relationship with Jesus carries a value beyond measure that is eternal and exceeds all earthly treasure. Jesus is our treasure!

John 9:35-41  Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

Remember the term Son of Man refers to the Messiah. The man seemed to get this, but was still confused. “Who was he?”

And Jesus basically says, “You’re looking at him!”

And faith and assurance replaced confusion. The man knew he was looking into the eyes of the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God!

And he said, “Lord, I believe.”

And he worshipped Him.

So you can see how this man changed. At first he referred to Jesus as ‘the man”, then when he realized a miracle had taken place, he called him a prophet, and then he recognized Him as the Son of God.

Where Jesus says He came so the blind could see, but those who see will become blind, reflect Isaiah 6:9-10:

He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull
 and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
 hear with their ears, understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

This speaks of God’s judicial blinding of those who choose not to see. He’s not going to force us – and if we reject Him the consequences are on us!

The Pharisees WERE blind. They claimed to live by Scriptures, but they didn’t recognize the One to whom the text pointed. In their prideful ignorance they rejected God’s Son.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

John 8: 12-59

John 8:12-18 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

The Feast of Tabernacles was a time of great light in the city of Jerusalem. Every night, four large candelabra were lit. The Jewish historian Josephus recorded that the brilliance of their blaze was enough to light every courtyard throughout all of Jerusalem. Until dawn, men with flaming torches danced before the people and sang praise songs, accompanied with musical instruments by Levites, the authorized temple workers. As soon as the first cock crowed, the Levites blew three blasts on the trumpets as a call to worship the Lord for His gift of light and the new day. This recalled the time Israel left Egypt, and God let them with a shining cloud in the daytime and a pillar of fire at night.

Light manifests God’s glory. From the first day of creation – “Let there be light” to Revelation’s picture of the New Jerusalem – where God’s presence replaces the sun – light displays God’s holiness, truth and splendor.

In this divine light, Jesus boldly proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.”

Just as a sudden flash of light makes you turn your eyes away – the Pharisees turned from what Jesus was telling them. They understood what He was saying. That He was the Messiah, the promised Savior of God’s people. But they didn’t want to hear that – so they interrupted Him with their talk about witnesses.

The law of Moses said there has to be two witnesses to make any testimony valid. So, they said He didn’t have another witness.

First Jesus told them that based on His own unique position and authority His testimony was sufficient.

He also said He judged no one. Earlier, Jesus had said God gave Him authority to judge, because He is the Son of Man, a claim to being the Messiah. But the time for Jesus to act as judge had not yet arrived. He had come to save people in the world, not to judge them. The time will come when Jesus will return to judge but not yet. He wanted them to know His purpose then was Salvation.

And of course He HAS a second witness anyway! God the Father bears witness to Jesus’ words and works as well as the results of His works in the lives of those who believe him.

John 8:19 – 30 19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”

“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied.26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

When the Jewish leaders said, “Where is your father’ it was meant to be an insult. Remember everyone thought Joseph was His father. But Jesus replied, “You do not know my Father.”

Looking back at their history and Scriptures, these leaders should have recognized their Messiah. Yet they refused the very Savior whose coming they were chosen to proclaim to the world. They claimed to serve God, but they truly did not know Him because they refused to recognize His Son.

No matter who they are, anyone who refuses Jesus does not know God.

Jesus had also said earlier He was with them only for a short time, and at this point He repeated this prophecy, but with a stronger warning: “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin.”

This feast was probably the last time He addressed the crowds that had assembled from all parts of the region. The next festival would be Passover. Which is when Jesus would die. So, He’s warning the people here of the importance of this opportunity to believe.

Jesus went back to Heaven and it is ONLY through faith in Him that anyone can follow Him there. If you don’t trust Jesus to take away your sins you will pay for them yourself!

Those who confronted Jesus that day wondered if He were threatening suicide. Maybe that explained why they couldn’t follow Him. Jesus didn’t address that question, but instead pointed to the reason they did not understand Him. They were from the earth: He was from above.

He could not have been any clearer to the people. Over and over He told them who He was and they refused to believe Him!

When He said, “If you do not believe that I AM he” – remember that’s how God made Himself known in the Old Testament. I AM.

The shocking statement that they would die in their sins brought the key question, “Who are you?” Jesus said He had been revealing His identity from the very beginning of His ministry and life. Everything He revealed was directed by His Father who could be trusted in all things.

John 8:31-38  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.

Jesus said that true discipleship involves holding to His teaching. This means more than admiring Jesus and an inclination to live as He lived.

It means to repent of our old ways and turn to Him in faith.

It means making time to read His Word, the Bible, which reveals Him.

It means applying His Word to life.

It means making Jesus’ words the light-filled atmosphere in which we choose to love to live!

People who do all this will be His disciples and know the truth. To know the truth is to begin to understand God’s great purpose in creation and history, and the meaning of life itself. This begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.

All of this brings freedom. Freedom was vital to the Jewish people. And you’ll notice Christ’s promise of freedom through believing in Him enraged the Jews. They said they were descendants of Abraham and “had never been slaves”. (Which was wrong of course – they had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years! They had also been in exile in Babylon for 70 years.

Before this time, the key event in their history was their liberation from Egypt. They had just celebrated the Feast of the Tabernacles, remembering God’s faithfulness to them on their journey after that miraculous rescue. But in Jesus’ day the Jewish people were not free as a nation: the Romans ruled them. Every person listening would have been gripped by Jesus’ promise, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Of course He wasn’t offering them freedom from Rome. He offered freedom from God’s judgment and freedom from sin’s control of their lives. We can be free from sinful habits, dominating fear, self-indulgence, cultural demands, self-absorption, anxiety, greed, pride, etc.

This freedom comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, which only Jesus can give. This is freedom to live the way God intended – purposefully, effectively and becoming more and more like Christ.
So, Jesus was speaking of spiritual bondage. Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Good intentions or believing you will start acting a certain way in the future are no match for the presence and power of sin in people’s lives. Every person is driven to obey the impulses that come from our nature.

Next Jesus told them that a slave had no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. It’s believed Jesus was referring to Abraham’s history. Remember, Abraham had a son by a slave woman, Hagar, and that son, Ishmael, lived in his house. But when God gave Abraham a son by his wife, Sarah, the slave woman and her son were sent away. These Jews were Abraham’s descendants and they believed they were sons in God’s house forever. But Jesus was saying their attitude, which reflected their cold hearts, proved they were not true sons. And unless they turned to Him, they would be rejected when the true Son comes into His full inheritance.

Today some people believe they are children of God because they have grown up in the church, or because they regard themselves as “spiritual” or have a commitment to help others. But membership in God’s family comes through new birth through the Holy Spirt and faith in God’s Son. In THAT relationship is freedom, from both God’s judgment and sin’s control

John 8:39-59
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered .“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 

40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 

41 You are doing the works of your own father.” 
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” 
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 

43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 
46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 
47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 
50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 
51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” 

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” 

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 
55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 

59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

The Jews protested about “Abraham is our father.” Abraham had faith. He believed God’s promises – and one of them was a great descendant he would have – the Messiah. And these Jews were planning to kill that Messiah. Abraham was no father to anyone who rejected Jesus. In fact Jesus told them their father was someone completely different!

He answered their next argument by showing them their spiritual darkness. That they were unable to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words because their father was the devil!

Can you imagine how this made them feel? These righteous Jews? But it was necessary for them to hear so that they would know they had to change and repent.

Jesus said the devil was a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies. In the garden his lie to Adam and Eve caused them to sin which brought death, first to their spirits and then their physical deaths. Everything and everyone after them died. And he (the devil) was behind the plot to kill the Messiah.

Next Jesus gave a tremendous challenge: Was there anyone who could accuse Jesus of ANY sin? Could they point a finger at any evil in His life?

The silence must have been deafening! They had no answer.

Jesus then asked, “Why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.”
The reason they didn’t believe Him was they didn’t belong to God.

Next they said that Jesus was demon-possessed. Even a demon-possessed Samaritan. By calling Him a Samaritan they accused Him of heresy: Samaritans believed only part of the Old Testament.
Jesus just told them He wasn’t. And that He honored His Father and they dishonor Him. Jesus lived on the earth as a man in humble submission to His Father. He always lived the truth that God, the Judge of all people, rightfully receives honor and glory.

Then He made another huge statement. “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

And they said, ‘Who do you think you are?” and “You are not yet 50 years old a- and you’ve seen Abraham?”

And here Jesus brought His teaching to a close with the clearest and most direct revelation of His deity. “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!”

When Moses stood at the burning bush and asked God who He was, God answered “I AM who I AM. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

Jesus was saying that before Abraham was born, He was already existing as the divine I AM. God the Son, with God the Father, was living His continuous, timeless existence. God had made a covenant to live with His people and now Jesus was announcing He fulfilled God’s promise to live with them. With absolute clarity Jesus was declaring that He, in fact, was God himself.

This is the central truth of Christianity along with the truth that He came to die in the place of sinners so we could live forever with God, beginning now.

The Jews thought this was blasphemy and following their understanding of the Law picked up stones to kill Him. But His time had not yet come and He eluded them.

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Friday, September 01, 2017

Review of The Wellness Revelation

This isn't a book you just read. It's more of a workbook. And if you do it right it will keep you busy. (You get out of it what you put in to it!)

You can go through this on your own or in a group, but I think it would be worthwhile for just about anyone whether they want to lose weight or not. It's about so much more than losing weight.

You'll need your Bible next to you as you start this - she gives you many verses to look up. And a notebook for your thoughts would help too.

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