< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: October 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

Christ, Our Example

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.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

John 12

John 12:1-11 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

It was six days before Passover. Since the raising of Lazarus, Jesus had lived quietly at Ephraim with His disciples. But now it was time…

The crowds in Jerusalem were so great for the Passover it was impossible to accommodate Jesus, His friends and disciples in the city itself. Bethany was close enough to go back and forth. When they arrived, Lazarus’ family entertained them with a dinner.

Mary was the one who poured pure nard, an extremely expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Matthew and Mark say she poured it over His head first, breaking an alabaster jar to do it. Then Mary let down her long hair that, in Jewish custom, was always bound in pubic. John may have focused on the anointing of Jesus’ feet because of the great humility Mary showed. She poured on His feet the most precious ointment possible as a token of honor and worship and then lovingly dried His feet with her hair.

This touched Jesus deeply. The act came at a time of hostility toward Him was reaching a climax, and He didn’t hesitate to defend and praise her.

Judas criticized the act – and we’re told why. But what he said also implied that Jesus wasn’t worth it!

Jesus said Mary’s act would be remembered. And it has been. The Lord promises that when His people stand at the throne of God, He will reveal every act of generous devotion, of suffering for His sake, or self-sacrificing generosity. Although these acts often aren’t noticed at the time, He preserves them like jewels.

And while we can’t pour out perfume on His body – He lives in all His believers so every act of kindness, service, compassion and the comfort of the gospel on His people is like doing it to Him.

John 12:12-19  The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt.” 

16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Jesus had never put Himself out there in public demonstrations and attempts to honor Himself. But now was the time to fulfill prophecy.

It was Zechariah 9:9 that said, Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

As pilgrims continued to enter the city for Passover, news that Jesus was leaving Bethany for Jerusalem spread from person to person. Excited men, women and children began to join with Jesus’ procession and walk alongside Him as he approached the city. Palm branches were used in the Feast of Tabernacles. Since the victory of the Maccabean Jews over the Syrians in 166 BC, palm branches had been a symbol of the nation.

People even threw their own cloaks to make a royal carpet for Him. Using the Messianic words from Psalm 118:26, people shouted, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.

Hosanna probably means something like “save us now” and Jesus was on His way to complete His people’s salvation.

John 12:20 – 50 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn—and I would heal them.” 

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

This is really something! Never had Jesus been so popular and yet it’s His condemnation that would save the world!

Not just Jews were coming to Him, but Greeks sought Him out through His disciples. They represented the Gentiles who would be coming to Him and saved through Him.

It seems like everything was working out for Him to lead His people. He even said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” But His version of glorified didn’t match anyone else’s.
The ONLY way He could accomplish His glorification as Savior of the world was through His death on the cross. With no death there could be no reproduction of His life in men and women from all nations. He illustrated this great truth with a picture of “kernel of wheat” – seeds planted in the ground. Without “death” and burial of the kernels, there would be no fruit or productivity. But when each kernel dies, its life is reproduced over and over in new life.

In His illustration He is the first grain of wheat from which comes every other seed of His new humanity. Jesus is the Bread of Life by which each believer lives.

And each grain in the head of wheat is like the original kernel that died. God infuses Jesus’ life into their own. Christians are predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son. This is the ultimate glorification of God, of Jesus and of all those who receive eternal life.

Jesus calls His people to identify with Him in following God’s will, not our own. This means a death to yourself, setting aside your inclinations and submitting to His will. For Jesus, the cross meant denial of His natural human desires. It meant betrayal, accusation, loss of reputation and more. The death of self must be the experience of anyone who follows Jesus.

What does this dying to self look like? It may mean we accept our circumstances as God’s will, and we look for ways to serve Him in those moments rather than be resentful and complain. It may mean we speak to others about Jesus and His gospel even though we know we may be rejected and ridiculed, or even persecuted as He was. It WILL mean we live according to His Word, loving others, even if those same people misunderstand us or treat us badly. Putting others before ourselves.
In verse 27 Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
John doesn’t record the events in the Garden of Gethsemane, but here he showed the Lord’s deep inner struggle. Jesus knew how He would die, but He knew God’s will for Him and He never strayed from doing His will.

Then God spoke out loud. As He did at Jesus’ baptism and at the Transfiguration. This time He said, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

Before the extreme humiliation of the cross, God publicly gave His Son His loving approval.
People standing by heard the voice of God. Some of the people thought it had thundered others thought an angel spoke. And this was done for the people’s benefit. So they would see the relationship between God and His Son.

But before the glory would come the cross. The cross represents God’s judgment on humanity because of sin. He took on all of our sins – all of BELIEVER’S sins.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

John 11:1-54 Lazarus

John 11:1-16 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Mary, Martha and Lazarus were some of Jesus’ closest friends. We have more information on this family than any in Scripture other than Jesus’ own.

The two sisters were sure Jesus would come immediately when He heard, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

But Jesus said the sickness would not end in death. That it would glorify God and His Son. And they would be blessed because Jesus was giving them a lesson in steadfast faith. God promises that steadfast faith would never be put to shame. Trust in trying circumstances produces in a believer a new vision of God’s character and strong reassurance of His constant presence with them.

John 11:17-27 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Jesus was in Bethany a lot. He and His disciples stayed at Mary and Martha’s home since it was so close to Jerusalem. This is where Jesus started out His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and it was to Bethany He returned for the night during the few days before His crucifixion. AND it was near Bethany that Jesus ascended into heaven.

So, Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days when Jesus arrived. Jewish tradition taught that the soul of the deceased lingers close to the body for three days after death, but departs at the onset of physical decomposition. Because it was the fourth day there was no hope he could be revived.
So there would be no question about the great miracle. Also, the house and grounds were filled with crowds of people who had come to be with Mary and Martha. So lots of witnesses and people who the miracle might cause to believe in Jesus.

Martha believed in the resurrection of the dead. But Jesus was going to show her who had the power to resurrect! He told her, “I AM the resurrection and the life.”

John 11:28-37  After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Both Mary and Martha said the same thing to Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

They both believed in His ability to heal. He was about to show them something more. Even though He knew He was going to bring Lazarus back, Jesus wept. He wept as a man does because His friends were suffering. Jesus cared about everyone. Hebrews 5:7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears.”

John 11:38-44 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

So, they all walked over to the sealed tomb. Lazarus had been in there for 4 days and was wrapped in burial cloths. Israeli tombs were either natural caves or caves carved from solid rock. There would have been several chambers in there with shelves for more than one body. Jews clothed their dead in a linen garment then tied up the arms and legs with bandages and wrapped the head in a towel. The stone across the entrance was probably round and flat like a wheel, so it could be rolled to tightly cover the entrance.

Martha hesitated. To a Jew, any form of contact with a dead body meant ceremonial defilement. Martha believed everything the Lord said, but now He was calling on her to act on her faith. When she hesitated He reminded her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
When Jesus thanked God for hearing Him, He wasn’t so much asking God for help as acknowledging His complete dependence on His Father.

Can you imagine being in that crowd that day? Hearing Jesus say, “Lazarus, come out!” and then seeing him come out?

Lazarus’ gratitude. Mary and Martha’s JOY! The crowds’ shock!

John 11:45-54 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

The people were divided. Hard to imagine someone seeing that great miracle and falling on their knees to worship Jesus and God!

And isn’t it interesting what Caiaphas said, “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” Because that’s exactly what Jesus did!

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Monday, October 09, 2017

Review of All Saints - The Surprising True Story

I just finished reading the book 'All Saints - The Surprising True Story of How Refugees from Burma Brought Life to a Dying Church'

What an inspiring story! Newly out of seminary, Michael Spurlock was asked to take his first assignment with a small church in Smyrna, Tennessee which had dropped down to only about 25 members. Each Sunday he knew could be his last because they couldn't afford the mortgage. Until one Sunday when 3 refugees arrived asking if they could join the church - along with about 70 of their family and friends.

As the story unfolds you see God's hand in it over and over. I loved where Michael told someone that God is still speaking to His people, but Michael finally started listening. He was also asked how he knew it was God telling him to do something at one point and he replied, "Because I know my voice and it wasn't something I would have said"!

The story reminds me a little bit about going from the Old Testament to the New when you get the "ah ha" moments. "Oh, THAT'S why that happened then - so THIS could happen now!"

Remarkable story!

I was given this book by Bethany House for my honest review.

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