Monday, April 16, 2018

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson For April 22, 2018

          The Lord God the Almighty

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson For April 22, 2018

To recognize the power of symbol in ritual and worship

Bible Lesson
Background: Revelation 4

Revelation 4:1-6, 8-11 (CEB)
1 After this I looked and there was a door that had been opened in heaven. The first voice that I had heard, which sounded like a trumpet, said to me, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in a Spirit-inspired trance and I saw a throne in heaven, and someone was seated on the throne. 3 The one seated there looked like jasper and carnelian, and surrounding the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald. 4 Twenty-four thrones, with twenty-four elders seated upon them, surrounded the throne. The elders were dressed in white clothing and had gold crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came lightning, voices, and thunder. In front of the throne were seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God. 6 Something like a glass sea, like crystal, was in front of the throne. In the center, by the throne, were four living creatures encircling the throne. These creatures were covered with eyes on the front and on the back. . . .

8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings, and each was covered all around and on the inside with eyes. They never rest day or night, but keep on saying,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is coming.”

9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the one seated on the throne, who lives forever and always, 10 the twenty-four elders fall before the one seated on the throne. They worship the one who lives forever and always. They throw down their crowns before the throne and say,

11“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you created all things. It is by your will that they existed and were created.”

Key Verse
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you created all things. It is by your will that they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

Some Thoughts

Today's lesson is a leap from the days after the resurrection to the apocalyptic scenes that John experiences in the Book of Revelation.

The Book of Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature. Simply defined, in this type of literature a seer is given a vision of the future and writes it down. The vision is usually filled with symbolism.

In this book, the seer is John, the beloved disciple, who has been exiled by the Romans to the tiny Isle of Pathos. John has been chosen by God to receive a look into the future and what lies ahead. And to share with the seven churches of that period, but also with us who would follow.

At the time of John’s vision, the accepted view was the universe was like a three story building,  “consisting of the earth, with Hades, the bottomless pit, and the lake of fire below, and a single heaven above.”  Another ancient view was that “there were seven heavens . . . God dwelled, as a rule, in the highest heaven.” Moses reflected this view when he told the people of Israel, “Clearly, the Lord owns the sky, the highest heavens, the earth, and everything in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14).

What John saw in this vision is described in verses 3-8. All that John saw was symbolic of a place beyond our wildest imagination.  Throughout the Old Testament God’s presence is often associated with thunder and lightning.

Interestingly the jewels mentioned are the same jewels that were sewn into the breastplate of the High Priest as recorded in  (Exodus 28:15, 17, 20).

The rainbow was a full circle rather than the arc we normally see. The Twenty- four elders could represent the twelve tribes and the twelve disciples, or it could represent the early martyrs of Christianity, like Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, Stephen, James and others, John is the only surviving disciple and many martyrs have given their life.

You have to jump to the next chapter (5:6) to see that the Lamb of God was also standing before the throne.
The seven spirits of God could be the “Gifts of the Spirit”  (Romans 12:6-8) 6 We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. 7 If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. 8 If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.”  
Also those recorded in  Isaiah 11:2-3 “2 The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding,     a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. 3 He will delight in fearing the Lord.He won’t judge by appearances,    nor decide by hearsay.”

There is another theory that they represent the perfect (seven meaning perfection) Spirit of God. (The third person of the Trinity)  

As for the Four beast that are all eyes that sees all, I think it is a depiction of God’s omnipresence in the four corners of the earth, but no theologians seem to agree.

Remember this whole scene is about worshipping God, today in our sanctuaries we have many symbols to remind us of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, all being part of the Triune God we worship.

There is a hymn that talks about some of these things, it was written many years ago by Fanny Crosby “Blessed Assurance,  Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!” and in the second verse “Angels descending bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.”


Monday, April 9, 2018

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for April 15, 2018

                                     Follow Me

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for April 15, 2018

To feast on Christ’s presence and Word and share the feast with others

Bible Lesson
John 21:15-25 (CEB)
15 When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 I assure you that when you were younger you tied your own belt and walked around wherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”

20 Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them. This was the one who had leaned against Jesus at the meal and asked him, “Lord, who is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw this disciple, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain until I come, what difference does that make to you? You must follow me.” 23 Therefore, the word spread among the brothers and sisters that this disciple wouldn’t die. However, Jesus didn’t say he wouldn’t die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what difference does that make to you?” 24 This is the disciple who testifies concerning these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If all of them were recorded, I imagine the world itself wouldn’t have enough room for the scrolls that would be written.

Key Verse
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)

Some Comments

As we look at today’s text, there are three questions I have about Jesus’ question to Peter. What did He mean when Jesus said,  “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

There are three possible answers, (1) more than fishing equipment and a return to a fishing career (2) more than you love these other disciples (3) more than these other disciples love me?

Remember, it was Peter that said after the resurrection, “I am going fishing.”  (John 21:3) It was also Peter that told Jesus at the last supper,  in Luke 22;33 “Lord, I’m ready to go with you, both to prison and to death!” Jesus reminded Peter, you will deny you know me three times before the cock crows.

All of these events are the reason for the questions ask by Jesus to Peter. Jesus had promised Peter and others that “He will make them fishers of men.” Now He was about to commision them and especially Peter for this ministry.

The first time Jesus ask the question is the only time He uses the phrase “more than these”  Was there a hand gesture that went along with the question? Did Jesus wave his hand toward the boat and nets or the other disciples.

After the third time Jesus ask the same basic question Peter becomes annoyed, why? Does Peter now realize that he had denied knowing Jesus three times as Jesus had predicted. And now Peter knows that Jesus knows that did in fact happen.

Verse 18 takes Peter further down the rabbit hole, Jesus is now talking about Peter’s death. Peter immediately tries to change the subject to John, what about this guy?

Jesus assures Peter one has nothing to do with the other, Peter you are called to follow me and take care of my flock. What I decide for John has nothing to do with your call. (I am paraphrasing)

John writes his closing thoughts on the life of Jesus and lives to a ripe old age and is an important part of early Christianity, becoming the Bishop of Ephesus.

Peter according to the Roman Church becomes the Bishop of Rome.  According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.

The time and commitments we make to Jesus are important, but also knowing we have been forgiven sets us free for joyful obedience.

My hymn for this week is “I Know who Holds Tomorrow”

Monday, April 2, 2018

Adult Sunday School Lesson from the Uniform Series for April 8, 2018

             The Risen Lord Appears

Adult Sunday School Lesson for April 8, 2018

To encounter Jesus in shared experiences

Bible Lesson
John 21:1-14 (CEB)
1Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter told them,“I’m going fishing.”

They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus.

5 Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”

They answered him, “No.”

6 He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water.

8 The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far from shore, only about one hundred yards.

9 When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, and some bread.10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got up and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so many fish. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Key Verse
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. (John 21:12)

Some Thoughts
The Gospel of John records four of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances: first, to Mary Magdalene as she stood crying “outside near the tomb” (John 20:11) and then three more appearances to the disciples.

The first appearance to the disciples was on the evening of the day of the Resurrection. Jesus “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ ” (John 20:19-23).

Thomas was not with the disciples at that time, but he was present eight days later when the risen Jesus appeared a third time. Thomas then confessed his belief, saying, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus responded by saying, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe” (John 20:24-29). The third Resurrection appearance to the disciples in the Gospel of John is recorded in John 21

John is the only Gospel writer who uses the name Tiberias for the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1). Two early non biblical writers, Josephus, who lived in the first century, and Pausanias, who lived in the second century, also used this name.

We have noted that in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ first two appearances to the disciples took place in Jerusalem, the second appearance eight days after the first. The text does not indicate how much time passed before Jesus’ third appearance. Several of the disciples had apparently left Jerusalem and were now in the area of the Sea of Galilee, perhaps in Peter’s hometown of Bethsaida, northeast of the sea.

In Verse 5. Jesus was still unrecognized as he asked a question frequently asked of fishermen. In his words of farewell to his disciples before the Crucifixion, Jesus called them “little children” (John 13:33).

Who was the disciple whom Jesus loved? In John 21:20, 24, the author of the Gospel identifies himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” In verse 2, he may be one of the two other disciples. It is also possible that he named the other disciples who were in attendance, and he was then the eighth person in the group of fishermen.

A leading bible commentator wrote that Peter was not actually completely naked. “He was wearing a loincloth as the fisher always was when he plied his trade. Now it was the Jewish law that to offer greeting was a religious act, and to carry out a religious act a man must be clothed; so Peter, before he set out to come to Jesus, put on his fisherman’s tunic, for he wished to be the first to greet his Lord.”

The whole setting we see in our text is about worshipping together, with diner on the ground and fellowshipping while we worship. Knowing without a doubt that we serve a Risen Saviour, .which brings me to my Hymn of the week “He Lives.”

P.S. I am adding a note received from a high school classmate about this passage.
"Just to interject an interesting fact which the Greek Orthodox Church has taken from this passage.

At the meal after a funeral (the makaria - ma ka REE a) fish is served because of this passage. Christ was living, after having been crucified, and the meal shared was fish and bread." Thanks Eleanor

Monday, March 26, 2018

Adult Uniform Sunday School Lesson for April 1, 2018

                        "He Has Risen"

Adult Uniform Sunday School Lesson for April 1, 2018

To realize that for nonbelievers “the cross is foolishness” while we know “it is the power of God” for our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Bible Lesson
Background: Luke 24:1-35

Luke 24:1-12, 30-35 (CEB)
1 Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 They didn’t know what to make of this. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. 5 The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Human One must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words. 9 When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women. 12 But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, wondering what had happened. . . .

30 After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”

33 They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” 35 Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.

Key Verse
They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34)

Some Thoughts On The Lesson

As you prepare for this lesson it is important that you read the other three accounts found in Mark 16:1-7, Matthew 28:1-10, and John 20:1-18. In addition to the Gospel account you might also want to read Paul’s account as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

At the time of Paul’s writing it is important to remember the New Testament did not exist. (Paul’s reference to the scriptures applies to the Old Testament writings) Paul’s writing is the first time this story was ever written down. The Gospel accounts were all written at a much later time.  The Gospel accounts followed Paul’s writing by as much as 10-35 years. The order of accounts as to date written follows the list above, 1st Mark, Matthew, then John.

While the four Gospel accounts have some variance, it is the differing accounts that make it more believable. It is hard for witnesses to testify to the exact same thing.

The things they all agree on is; the day of the week, the time of day and that the tomb was empty.

Starting with verse 30 of our lesson we are reading the tail end of the “Road to Emmaus” account as recorded by Luke. My take on this story is once you invite Jesus into your home or heart He will take charge and goes from guest to host. Jesus wants to be more than just a guest, He wants to be Lord.

My Hymn for this week is “Lead Me to Calvary.”

Monday, March 19, 2018

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for March 25, 2018

    Keep My Statutes and Ordinances

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for March 25, 2018

To commit to “turn from [our] wicked ways” and seek God

Bible Lesson
2 Chronicles 7:12-22 (CEB)
12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place as my house of sacrifice. 13 When I close the sky so that there is no rain or I order the locusts to consume the land or I send a plague against my people, 14 if my people who belong to me will humbly pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. 15 From now on my eyes will be open and my ears will pay attention to the prayers offered in this place, 16 because I have chosen this temple and declared it holy so that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 1 7As for you, if you will walk before me just as your father David did, doing all that I have commanded you and keeping my regulations and case laws, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, just as I promised your father David: You will never fail to have a successor ruling in Israel. 19 But if any of you ever turn away from and abandon the regulations and commands that I have given you, and go to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot you from my land that I gave you, and I will reject this temple that I made holy for my name. I will make it a joke, insulted by everyone. 21 Everyone who passes by this temple—so lofty now—will be shocked and will wonder, Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and temple? 22 The answer will come, Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt. They embraced other gods, worshipping and serving them. This is why God brought all this disaster on them.

Key Verse
If my people who belong to me will humbly pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Some Thoughts
This is our fourth lesson in this series, and maybe one of the most important for today’s Christian.

God said, “If my people . . . seek my face . . . I will hear . . . forgive . . . and heal” (2 Chronicles 7:14). God also said, “When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, NIV). The opposite of seeking is not seeking. Yet worse than not seeking is willfully abandoning or rejecting. Like the people of Israel, we may be tempted to offer our allegiance to false gods (career, wealth, power, luxury, popularity) and cease to give our devoted and undivided worship to the one true God. What do we sacrifice when we do this?

Jesus promised the kingdom of God here on earth and in the life to come. When we live within God’s kingdom on earth, we experience fellowship with other believers. We reap “the fruit of the Spirit . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). We know “the peace of God that exceeds all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). We pray with confidence knowing that our prayers are heard, forgiveness is granted, and our loving God calls us righteous.

When the people of Israel abandoned God, they lost their land and their Temple. When we abandon God, we sacrifice the Kingdom here on earth and in eternal life. Jesus said, “Seek first” “strive first for” (NRSV), “desire first and foremost God’s kingdom” (CEB). It is an amazing and loving invitation.

God’s message is the same for us as it was for those in Solomon’s day,. My hymn for this week is “Depth of Mercy.”

Monday, March 12, 2018

Adult Sunday School Lesson for March 18, 2018 on Worship

 The People Gave Thanks to God

Adult Sunday School Lesson for March 18, 2018

To express our thankfulness to God with heartfelt, awe-inspired worship

Bible Lesson
Background: 2 Chronicles 7:1-11

2 Chronicles 7:1-9 (CEB)
1 As soon as Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the entirely burned offering and the sacrifices, while the Lord’s glory filled the temple. 2 The priests were unable to enter the Lord’s temple because the Lord’s glory had filled the Lord’s temple. 3 All the Israelites were watching when the fire fell. As the Lord’s glory filled the temple, they knelt down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, worshipping and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “Yes, God is good! Yes, God’s faithful love lasts forever!”

4 Then the king and all the people sacrificed to the Lord. 5 King Solomon sacrificed twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred twenty thousand sheep when the king and all the people dedicated God’s temple. 6 The priests stood at their posts, as did the Levites with the Lord’s musical instruments, which King David had made for giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “Yes, God’s faithful love lasts forever!” and which David had used when he gave praise. Across from them, the priests were blowing trumpets while all Israel was standing.

7 Solomon also dedicated the middle of the courtyard in front of the Lord’s temple. He had to offer the entirely burned offerings and the fat of the well-being sacrifices there because the bronze altar Solomon had made was too small to contain the entirely burned offerings, the grain offerings, and the pieces of fat.

8 At that time Solomon, together with all Israel, celebrated the festival for seven days. It was a very large assembly that came from Lebo-hamath to the border of Egypt. 9 On the eighth day there was a gathering. They had dedicated the altar for seven days and celebrated the festival for another seven days.

Key Verse
All the Israelites were watching when the fire fell. As the Lord’s glory filled the temple, they knelt down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, worshipping and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “Yes, God is good! Yes, God’s faithful love lasts forever!” (2 Chronicles 7:3)

Some Thoughts

This week’s lesson is a continuation of last week’s lesson. Our overall theme for this months  lessons are “Follow In My Ways.”

The goal is to get us to think about how we do worship.  Is our worship meaningful to us and to God? If you could design or plan a worship service, what would it include?  

The worship service in our text was years in the making, and King Solomon planned it both as a coronation of the newly built temple and combined it with the Festival of Booths and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur..  So we have three holidays rolled into about 20 days of celebration. This year it begins with Rosh Hashanah (New Year) Sept. 10, then Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) Sept. 19, then ends with Sukkot (Festival of Booths/Tabernacles), on Sept.24-30.

When you see all that Solomon was celebrating and the period of time involved you can understand the enormous amount of sacrifices it took just to feed that many people for all of those days.

The promise made to David was partially fulfilled by Solomon’s building of the Temple, but the best part for us is that God’s promise from the previous chapter. In 6:21 when Solomon prayed, “Listen from your heavenly dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive!” . God offers forgiveness to everyone through David’s descendant Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God offers everlasting life to all who believe.  

For the people in Solomon’s day the all consuming fire confirmed God’s acceptance of the offerings made. Today we depend on a changed life as proof of God’s acceptance of our offering of repentance.  Lives changed are every bit as powerful as a temple filled with smoke. When we repent we offer ourselves, our desires, our time, and a willingness to change from a life of taking to a life of giving and growing to be more like Christ.

Most worship services today are based on the “Road to Emmaus” story found in Luke 24:13-35. That is we have a “Gathering,”  “Proclamation” “Communion” “Sending Forth.” Our services consist of various forms of that encounter. The goal should be for us to be as excited about meeting Jesus as those on the road to Emmaus, after they knew they had encountered Jesus.
My hymn for this week is “I Surrender All”

Monday, March 5, 2018

Adult Sunday School Lesson for March 11, 2018

          There Is No God Like You

Adult Sunday School Lesson for March 11, 2018

To build on the promises God made to those who have come before us

Bible Lesson
Background: 2 Chronicles 6:1-21

2 Chronicles 6:12-21 (CEB)
12 Solomon stood before the Lord’s altar in front of the entire Israelite assembly and spread out his hands. 13 Now Solomon had made a bronze platform seven and a half feet long, seven and a half feet wide, and four and a half feet high, and he set it in the middle of the enclosure. He stood on it. Then, kneeling before the whole assembly of Israel and spreading his hands toward the sky,  14 he said:

Lord God of Israel, there is no god like you in heaven or on the earth. You keep the covenant and show loyalty to your servants who walk before you with all their heart. 15 This is the covenant you kept with your servant David my father, which you promised him. Today you have fulfilled what you promised.

16 So now, Lord God of Israel, keep what you promised my father David your servant when you said to him, “You will never fail to have a successor sitting on Israel’s throne as long as your descendants carefully walk according to my Instruction, just as you have walked before me.” 17 So now, Lord God of Israel, may your promise to your servant David come true.

18 But how could God possibly live on earth with people? If heaven, even the highest heaven, can’t contain you, how can this temple that I have built contain you? 19 Lord, my God, listen to your servant’s prayer and request, and hear the cry and prayer that I your servant pray to you. 20 Constantly watch over this temple, the place where you promised to put your name, and listen to the prayer your servant is praying concerning this place. 21 Listen to the request of your servant and your people Israel when they pray concerning this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive!

Key Verse
This is the covenant you kept with your servant David my father, which you promised him. Today you have fulfilled what you promised. (2 Chronicles 6:15)

Some Thoughts

In the Old Testament there are four different books that chronicle the history of Israel.  1st and 2nd Kings and 1st and 2nd Chronicles. Sometimes the stories overlap so you can get two different perspectives of the same events.

First and 2 Kings begin with the last days of King David’s reign and end with the people still in exile in Babylon. Bible scholars believe the original author completed his work before King Cyrus conquered Babylon and released the exiles in 539 bc. Much of the material in 1 and 2 Kings is drawn from Deuteronomy and the Prophets and presents “an account of the past that assigns responsibility for events.”1 In contrast, the focus of the author of 1 and 2 Chronicles is worship, specifically “worship at the temple in Jerusalem, the site chosen by God and linked to Solomon, David, and Moses.”2 While scholars have not been able to determine a specific date for this work, the concerns it addresses “reflect a Jerusalem context during the late Persian period” (approximately 400–325 bc).

1st and 2nd Kings was written prior to 1st and 2nd Chronicles, so the writer of the Chronicles uses some of the same events, as you can find today’s text similar to a text found in 1 Kings 8:22-23( 22 Solomon stood before the Lord’s altar in front of the entire Israelite assembly and, spreading out his hands toward the sky, 23 he said: Lord God of Israel, there’s no god like you in heaven above or on earth below. You keep the covenant and show loyalty to your servants who walk before you with all their heart.)

The event in both books is the same, the dedication of the newly built temple by Solomon. Note how the latter writing adds some additional information.

Solomon and the Chronicler are reminding the people of God’s faithfulness and how they can trust God to fulfil His promises as long as they remain faithful in their worship of the one true God. All of Israel's neighbors worshipped more than one god. Israel was God’s witness to the rest of the world that He (God) was the only God worthy of worship. And the only one with the power to influence events.

Solomon is wise enough to know that God can not be confined to a temple. If heaven itself cannot contain God then certainly a building cannot contain God.

Solomon’s prayer is one of petition, seeking security for the structure but also for the people. God’s promise was conditional, as long as the nation obeyed, did not worship other Gods He would be their God and they would be His people.
Jesus gave a promise to Martha in John 11:25-26 (NKJ) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus’s question to Martha is one we all need to answer, do you believe?

My hymn for this week is one of my all time favorites, “Standing On The Promises.”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Adult Sunday School Lesson for March 4, 2018

           “The Lord Will Provide”

Adult Sunday School Lesson for March 4, 2018

To trust that, ultimately, God will provide

Bible Lesson
Background: Genesis 22

Genesis 22:1-3, 6-14 (CEB)
1 After these events, God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!”

Abraham answered, “I’m here.”

2 God said, “Take your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah. Offer him up as an entirely burned offering there on one of the mountains that I will show you.” 3 Abraham got up early in the morning, harnessed his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, together with his son Isaac. He split the wood for the entirely burned offering, set out, and went to the place God had described to him. . . .

6 Abraham took the wood for the entirely burned offering and laid it on his son Isaac. He took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?”

Abraham said, “I’m here, my son.”

Isaac said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the entirely burned offering?” 8 Abraham said, “The lamb for the entirely burned offering? God will see to it, my son.” The two of them walked on together.

9 They arrived at the place God had described to him. Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He tied up his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 But the Lord’s messenger called out to Abraham from heaven, “Abraham? Abraham?”

Abraham said, “I’m here.”

12 The messenger said, “Don’t stretch out your hand against the young man, and don’t do anything to him. I now know that you revere God and didn’t hold back your son, your only son, from me.” 13 Abraham looked up and saw a single ram caught by its horns in the dense underbrush. Abraham went over, took the ram, and offered it as an entirely burned offering instead of his son. 14 Abraham named that place “the Lord sees.” That is the reason people today say, “On this mountain the Lord is seen.”

Key Verse
Abraham said, “The lamb for the entirely burned offering? God will see to it, my son.” The two of them walked on together.” (Genesis 22:8)

Some Thoughts

Today we start a new series of lessons, our first four lessons will be on “Acknowledging God.”

I think as we start this series we must understand the difference between the way God was acknowledged in the Old Testament compared to the teachings of the New Testament.

In the Old Testament, fear seems to be the way God chose to make His presence known.  While in the New Testament, God’s people are led by “faith.”

As our lesson text begins, we should be aware of what the first few words mean. What events are we talking about. There are two major events in the previous chapter, first, is the eviction of Hagar and Ishmael from Abraham and Sarah’s camp. The second might come as a surprise to some because it is a treaty between Abraham and the Philistines. (today’s Palestinians)

That brings us to today’s lesson. In many ways the lesson is bothersome, it is not the God we know. But as previously stated, fear was the motivating factor in the way God communicated with the people He had chosen to represent him to the rest of the world.

Abraham’s willingness to obey unconditionally is remarkable. Whether it was obeying the call to leave family and the  idols they worshipped. Or the country they called home. Or to sacrifice his only son whom he loved. Abraham’s obedience was counted as “righteousness.”  Much in the same way our faith is our avenue to righteousness.

The story in our text has been told many times, but I think there are some things that need to be explored. First, is Abraham's confidence in God. Note in verse 5 Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will walk up there, worship, and then come back to you.

The other thing is, God is asking Abraham to make the hardest choice of his life. But it is also one that God himself will make about His only Son whom He loved. It is important to notice the words used in our text and the words of John 3:16. While God provided a “Scapegoat” for Abraham and Isaac, He willingly offered up His only begotten Son for us. Faith in that, along with God’s grace provides us with a “Scapegoat.” We no longer have to fear God, we need only “Trust and Obey.”  Which is my Hymn for this week.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Adult Sunday School Lesson on "Faith" for February 25, 2018

              “The Good Fight of Faith”

Adult Sunday School Lesson for February 25, 2018

To endure in faith by contending against the forces that seek to undermine our faith.

Bible Lesson
1 Timothy 6:11-21 (CEB)
11 But as for you, man of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. 12 Compete in the good fight of faith. Grab hold of eternal life—you were called to it, and you made a good confession of it in the presence of many witnesses. 13I command you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and Christ Jesus, who made the good confession when testifying before Pontius Pilate. 14 Obey this order without fault or failure until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15The timing of this appearance is revealed by God alone, who is the blessed and only master, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16He alone has immortality and lives in light that no one can come near. No human being has ever seen or is able to see him. Honor and eternal power belong to him. Amen.

17 Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. 19 When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.

20 Timothy, protect what has been given to you in trust. Avoid godless and pointless discussions and the contradictory claims of so-called “knowledge.” 21 When some people adopted this false knowledge, they missed the goal of faith.

May grace be with you all.

Key Verse
Compete in the good fight of faith. Grab hold of eternal life—you were called to it, and you made a good confession of it in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)

Some Thoughts

All of our lessons this quarter have been focused on faith. We have looked at how the faith of the early church sustained it as it spread in a turbulent era. We have seen how the faith of Daniel and his friends sustained them through persecution. We have explored how faith is expressed through our actions and words.

How fitting that we end this series of lessons with a passage from one man of faith to another. The elder one passing along the wisdom he gained at great cost over the years about what it means to endure in faith.  (1 Timothy 1:1-2,) 1 From Paul, who is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the command of God our savior and of Christ Jesus our hope. 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Timothy was not a pastor, or elder, or bishop of the Ephesian church. He was doing what he often did for Paul––going into a difficult situation where true teaching and loyalty to Paul were needed.

Paul had used Timothy in other situations like this in 1 Corinthians 4:17 and 1 Thessalonians 3:2-6.  Timothy acted as an ambassador for Paul.  Not only was Timothy there to combat false teachers, but his job was to develop good leaders to sustain the congregation.

Instruction without love can become empty dogmatism. Love without instruction can become sloppy sentimentalism. Paul was well aware of the necessity of love and instruction. 1 Timothy 1:5 The goal of instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

Older pastors are fond of telling younger pastors, “They (one’s congregation) need to know you care before they will care what you know!”

Paul had given Timothy four commands: run, pursue, compete, and grab hold (verses 11-12). He gave those commands not on his own authority but in the presence of the life-giving God, on the authority of Christ Jesus, who was a witness before the powers of darkness (represented by Pilate) and obedient unto death.

No doubt Timothy would face opposition from the more educated.  Knowledge was only a good thing for Paul if it pointed to the knowledge that begins in the worship of God and is grounded in the good news of God’s reign. Paul wrote about it in 1 Corinthians 8 that “makes people arrogant” (verse 1) and destroys “the weak brother or sister” (verse 11).

In our lesson Paul spoke of the goal of faith, which was, and is, becoming part of the body of Christ, looking forward to the hope of the resurrection. With false knowledge, people forget that they are saved by grace, through faith.

As older members of our congregation and communities we need to share our faith and how over the years this faith has sustained us. We do not need to say this is what we did in the olden days. Many among us are facing trials and temptations and need to know “Faith is a Victory” that overcomes the world.