The following articles were written by Cindy Sears (member of Ebenezer UMC), unless otherwise noted. New lessons will first be posted on Ebenezer's Home page on Wednesdays; then moved here one to two weeks later. These essays were posted from October 2021 to March 2022. Go here to see next set of lessons.
|#1 God Knows||Psalm 139|
|#2 Christian Saltiness||Luke 14:34-35|
|#3 Managing God's Gifts||Luke 16:10-12|
|#4 Duty||Luke 17-7-10; 12:37; Matthew 25:23|
|#5 Kindness||Deuteronomy 22:1-12|
|#6 Little Children||Luke 18:15-17|
|#7 Leading the Blind||Luke 18:35-43|
|#8 Hoarding||Luke 19:11-27|
|#9 Willfully Blind||Deuteronomy 29:1-9|
|#10 Rededication||Deuteronomy 29:10-15|
|#11 One Bad Apple||Deuteronomy 29:16-29|
|#12 The Real Reason for the Season||Luke 23|
|#13 Revival of a Nation||Deuteronomy 30:1-10|
|#14 No Too Hard||Deuteronomy 30:11-14|
|#15 Seeing Jesus||Luke 24:28-34|
|#16 Light Wins||Luke 23|
|#17 Incarnation||John 1:14|
|#18 Law Is Grace||John 1:16-17|
|#19 World Against God||John 1:1-18|
|#20 Joyful Wine||John 2:1-11|
|#21 Not So Mild Jesus||John 2:12-22|
|#22 Deceptive Evil||Joshua 9:1-15|
|#23 Fearful Light||John 3:17-20|
|#24 The Gift||John 3:22-36|
|#25 Jesus Waits||John 4:1-15|
Mini-Bible Lesson #25: Jesus Waits
References: John 4:1-15; Interpreter’s Bible, v. 8, pp. 521-524
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” --John 4:10 NIV
Jesus grows weary on a hot day, and sits down by a well to rest while his disciples go into the nearest town to purchase food. Here we see his humanity. He needed to rest. He knows that we need time off, too. We should not feel guilty about taking time for leisure and sleep; because these verses show us that Jesus understands our need for rest.
Notice also that Jesus, the one who fed the five thousand with a few loaves and fishes, sends his disciples into town to buy food. He does not indulge in unnecessary miracles. He wants us to do the work in his power as it empowers us, but we must make the effort. “We need not fancy that Christ will do for us what with a little ordinary pains and troubles we can do for ourselves (I.B. p. 522).” Do not expect to become a prayer warrior or great preacher, a good witness for Christ, or a righteous person without study and hard work. As the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:12: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Don’t be a lazy Christian.
Jesus told the woman at the well that if she “knew the gift of God” she would be asking for it instead of for water that only temporarily quenches thirst. Isn’t that the problem in the lives of so many people today? If people knew how pointless is the striving for fame and fortune, for the things of this world that always decay and fail; if, instead, they could open their eyes and see the true riches found in a life devoted to the Lord—riches that are eternal, without end, and ever increasing in value; the true joy and abundance in the worship of the one, true God!
Even in the Church, so many “are lost, have strayed, have missed their way, go blundering into foolishness (I.B., p. 523).” Yet, Jesus continues to sit at the well waiting for them to realize that only the living water can quench their thirst; waiting, waiting for them to wake up and see and believe, and be healed. Jesus is waiting for you. Wake up and see and find true joy and peace that never ends.
Mini-Bible Lesson #24: The Gift
References: John 3:22-36; NIV Application Commentary by Gary M. Burge, p. 123-126
For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him. --John 3:34-36 NIV
When God poured out his Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism, it was the full measure of God’s Spirit (being), without limit. “Jesus bears a divine nature and carries God’s authority (Burge, p. 123).” That Spirit remained on Jesus, and he is able to distribute it to all who come to him in belief and obedience. The Holy Spirit is a gift directly from Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Because it is without limit in Jesus, he can give it to all his disciples—those who believe in him. “The Spirit does not simply appear—He is a direct gift to a believer from Jesus, himself! (Burge, p. 123)”
That is the good news; but there is bad news in these verses, too. Those who refuse to believe remain under the wrath of God. As we are told earlier in verse 18: “whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” The choice is set before everyone. Believe and be redeemed and justified; or refuse and remain under God’s wrath. This is not to say that God is angry at the unbeliever in his rejection of Christ, but that he remains under his judgment. The unbeliever has refused the pardon of the judge.
We are broken beyond repair. As Augustine says the “problem is not that we sin, but that we are in a state of sin (Burge, p.126).” This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:3 that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” When we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, Jesus gives us the Spirit that will work to transform us into a new being made in the image of Christ. It is not our work to be better, but God’s work to make us better; we need only to submit to his work of transformation, of rebirth. But, oh, that is so difficult for us, because we are often so comfortable and invested in who we are now, and so afraid of change—even for the better, and for eternal life. Yet, we are required to make a choice, for making no choice is the same as rejecting the greatest gift ever offered to us—a full pardon for everything we have ever or will ever do that is wrong; and to count this temporal existence as greater than the gift of eternal life through Jesus. Make that choice before it is too late because one day it will be too late. “Today is the day of salvation;” tomorrow may not come. (see 2 Corinthians 6:2)
Mini-Bible Lesson #23: Fearful Light
References: John 3:17-20; Interpreter’s Bible, V. 8, p. 513
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. –John 3:19-20 NIV
We like to think that people who refuse the call of Christ, or who put-down religious beliefs are doing it because they have intellectual and rational reasons for doing so. But God calls them out in his Word, and reveals their true motivation: they fear the Light. They live in darkness, they do evil things, and they do not want to change their ways, or let the whole world see all the evil that they are engaged in doing.
As Aldous Huxley said:
“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption…Those who detect no meaning in the [world] generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless…We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.” (from Ends and Means, 1938, pp. 270, 273)
How many people today turn away from church, from the Bible, and from God because these would interfere with what they prefer to do with their time, money, and effort. Or because it would cause them to see how much evil has entered into their existence that needs to be washed by the blood of Christ. Anyone can grow comfortable in sin. Though sin eventually leads to death and destruction, it can be fun or satisfying in the interim.
And do not think that believing in Jesus does not come without any cost. Grace is free; yet, discipleship is costly. Jesus wants to be our Lord, as well as, our Savior. And people of the world do hate the Light, and therefore, the people of the Light. They do not want their sinfulness to be exposed either by being called out by word, or shown up by the deeds and lives of the righteous.
As Jesus says in Matthew 10:34, 37a, 38, 39 (NIV): “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
And in Matthew 10:22 (NIV), Jesus says: “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
It is better to pay the price now by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, than pay the price for your sins after death and the final judgment; because that punishment never ceases (‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ (see Mark 9:47-48)
Mini-Bible Lesson #22: Deceptive Evil
References: Joshua 9:1-15; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 2, pp.597-599
After the Israelites conquered Jericho and Ai, other kings in the area banded together to confront Israel. Forces of evil are good at pulling their factions together to fight the good. “Good causes fail because there is a lack of unity among those who seek to advance them.” (p. 597) Are the children of the world wiser than the children of the light, or just more coercive and determined? Are the children of the light weaker, or rely more upon actions of goodness than of violence? How far should the good go in fighting the bad? These are questions that can be difficult to answer, because good people have a moral compass, and bad people just want to win at all cost and by any means.
Evil people can also be deceptive. As Jesus said they can be “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” We cannot always take people or what they say at face value. As Christians we must be “wise as serpents, but harmless as doves.” This is why we are called to “test the spirits,” and rely on prayer and Bible study to help us discern bad from good.
In this story, Joshua ends up being deceived by the Gibeonites. The Gibeonite representatives cleverly dressed as if they had traveled a long distance to bargain for a peace treaty with the Israelites. They also used flattery on Joshua saying that they had heard of the “LORD your God…and what he did to the two Amorite Kings (vs.9-10).”
Then the Israelites and Joshua made their big mistake: they “accepted some food from them, but did not consult the Lord about it. Joshua made a treaty of friendship with the people of Gibeon…(vv.14-15, GNT).” Then three days later, they learned of the deception. Because they had made a solemn promise before God to not kill the Gibeonites (as God had said must be done to the people in the promised land during the conquest), they made them cut wood and carry water for the Israelites. So, though the promise was extracted through deception, Joshua and the leaders stood by their promise. It is a good thing to consult with God before any major decision, because we should stand by any promises that we make, even when deception or trickery is used to extract that promise from us. Unless the action can be nullified or remedied by law, it is disrespectful to God and harmful to God’s reputation for us to renege on our promises. So, do not fall for flattery, and do not rely upon your own experience or that of experts without first seeking guidance from God.
Mini-Bible Lesson #21: Not So Mild Jesus
References: John 2:12-22; Interpreter’s Bible, v. 8, pp. 497-498
So he made a whip of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. –John 2:15 NIV
I’m sure you have seen the pictures of a pale, benign-looking Jesus, gently cradling a lamb. We often hear Jesus described as meek and mild. But was he? Is he?
“The ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ idea has been so overworked that many preach and follow a Christ who has small resemblance to the Christ of the N. T.; a Christ who is not loving, but unkindly indulgent; weakly good-natured, immorally so; whose great aim seems to be to get us off” (I.B. p. 497).
Yet, the New Testament Jesus, who is also God, could be and was a flaming fire of righteousness. Was it meekness when Jesus referred to King Herod as “that fox”? (see Luke 13:32) Jesus also lets us know, that though our salvation or justification is free, we are expected to behave differently afterwards. For instance, he says in Matthew 6:15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
And Jesus did not forgive the hypocritical Pharisees, but spoke direct truth to them in very harsh ways. In Matthew 23:27, Jesus calls them “whitewashed tombs.” He referred to them as “You snakes! You brood of vipers” in Matthew 23:33; and also, as children of hell who led others to be the same way (Matthew 23:15).
No matter how often preachers and others try to soft-pedal the cleansing of the temple by Jesus, it was an act of violence—and anger. He did not just beat the animals, but the merchants, too. His zeal for his Father’s house overwhelmed all kindness and charity in his behavior.
We should not pick and choose only the mild and kind acts of Jesus from the New Testament gospel records, and avoid the harsher aspects of our Lord. He represents God, because he is God. He shows us the full character of God. This is the same God of the Old Testament! And we know from that record that God can be wrathful and harsh in his treatment of men who were rebellious. Though he is long-suffering toward mankind, he still punishes evil. We need Jesus to save us from ourselves, as well as from the wrath God has toward sinfulness of all kinds. Jesus feels the same about sin, about evil.
“Luther prayed that God would punish us and not remain silent toward us. He prayed for discipline. Without discipline, we will fall into greater and greater sin and error; and worse and worse things can happen to us; and our sinfulness will harm not only ourselves, but those around us” (I.B. p. 498).
If we do not become angry at wickedness, we are not being like Christ. God’s wrath in scripture is not “opposed to his holiness. It is a necessary part of it” (I.B. p. 498). It is because of his hate of sin that Christ does not compromise with us, but calls us to salvation and sanctification—constantly working to transform us into a righteous people.
Mini-Bible Lesson #20: Joyful Wine
References: John 2:1-11; Interpreter’s Bible, V. 8, pp. 490-494
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. –John 2:1-2 NIV
Here we have the story of Jesus at a wedding celebration with his disciples. These were joyful events that could last for days with lots of wine being served to the guests, along with good food. Notice that Jesus, becoming known as a great teacher of God, is invited. “There was no fear from the wedding host or guests that Jesus would put a damper on the festivities. Christianity is not an austere religion. Jesus came that we might have life in abundance; that we might have joy at all times—even in the worst of times.” (I.B., p. 490)
This episode sums up “pictorially what is the come: how our Lord enters into people’s troubles; how unbelievably he suffices in every difficulty; and above all how he enriches us. What water is to wine, what that embarrassing insufficiency was to the relief he wrought for his host, so is any other life compared to the fullness, the color, the adventure, the achievement that he gives.” (I.B., p. 491)
We see that Mary has confidence in Jesus, that he will do something to help the situation. She must have learned this by living with Jesus for years, and noticing his helpfulness and dependability. “Religion, faith is as much an attitude toward others and oneself, as it is a practice of prayer and righteousness. One’s righteousness should be filled with a joy of obedience to God and a helpfulness to others, whatever their current circumstances—at home, in the church, and in the world.” (I. B., p. 492)
Also notice that “Jesus called in the servants to help with the miracle—and to this day, the Lord calls for us to be his fellow workers in all the tasks of the kingdom—in our factories, and homes, and schools, as well as in the church. There is no ‘secular’ area in the world, it is all sacred ground when we serve the Lord in joy and gladness.” (I.B., p. 493)
To our modern ears, Jesus’ response to his mother’s request seems harsh; yet Jesus listened and responded, but in his way and in his time.
“…in our prayers we can be fussy and alarmist and unbelieving. Do not we too often speak to God as if he had forgotten, and we have to remind him of what it becomes him to be and do? Do we not at times find it difficult not to lose patience with his methods, which seem to us so incomprehensively tardy? Do we not keep running on ahead of him, or tugging at his hand, bidding him to hurry, hurry, do something in a way that is not seemly and is even ridiculous?” (I.B., pp. 493-4)
We are told to call on God for help, and that he will answer our prayers—but not when or how. So, we must learn to be quiet and wait on him to do what he chooses to do, and trust that he knows best. “Quietness before God is one of the most difficult of all Christian graces.” (Richard Cecil)
It is trust in our God that gives us the peace that passes all understanding; and that provides us joyfulness in all situations and circumstances. And that joy and peace ought to be so obvious that other people see it, and want to have it, too. “The only way in which we shall win the world for Christ is by convincing those outside that we have something infinitely valuable that they lack. Then of themselves they will come running for a share in it.” (I.B., p. 494)
Spread the joyful wine of the gospel (good news) message about Jesus Christ and what he accomplished on the cross for everyone who chooses to believe in him (see John 3:16).
Mini-Bible Lesson #19: World Against God
Rererences: John 1:1-18; New Application Commentary; John by Gary M. Burge, pp. 63-67.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1:10-11 NIV
“The world, then, is not a neutral place, a place of open inquiry and curiosity about God. As I bring this passage into the modern world. I need to keep John’s cosmology, his theology of the world, foremost in my thinking. The world is opposed to the light. Yet despite the world’s hopeless and hostile condition still, God loves the world and has entered it in order to save it. The world is thus a theological term for humanity set against God. ‘God so loved the world’ is not about God’s love for nature, but God’s love for those arrayed against him.” (Burge, p. 63)
Not only is the general world against God, those who do not believe; but those who do believe battle within themselves the same attitude of enmity with God (his own did not receive him). We all have a desire to go our own way, and not God’s way. We like to think that we can make it on our own power; that we have made ourselves; that we have earned our successes, and not deserved our failures. We think we are free agents, but we are not; because sin dwells in us. It is a part of our human (flesh) nature. Even the Apostle Paul wrestled with this tendency to choose the bad over the good (see Romans 7:14-20).
“Christian theology affirms that humanity is in a state from which there is no freedom. Sin is not a series of bad choices, but a state of being from which bad choices continually come.” (Burge, p. 66)
Our only hope out of the morass is Jesus Christ, and what he did on the cross for us. His gracious act opens the door to true forgiveness and true cleansing from sin. We now have his Spirit dwelling within us. Though the battles still rage, we have an advocate and a hint of desire to become the kind of person Jesus shows us we can be—in his power, not our own.
“When God takes the initiative, new possibilities are born. Divine power is released into the broken world and its broken lives so that new life is possible. The theological key that the world finds so foreign lies here: transformation and hope cannot be the fruit of human endeavor. Only God can take the initiative, and men and women must see, receive, and believe the work he desires to do. And when they do, they are reborn to become God’s children (see vs. 12).” (Burge, p. 67)
Accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and let the process of transformation begin.
Mini-Bible Lesson 18: Law Is Grace
References: John 1:16-17; Interpreter’s Bible, V. 8, pp. 476-480.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17.
What is the Law’s purpose? Where would we be without law? We have been given a taste of it lately, as laws have been broken with impunity, and criminals have remained unprosecuted or punished. Murder statistics are rising in areas where prosecutors are ‘soft on crime.’ Mass stealing in broad daylight has occurred in some areas. But more importantly, we see the cost of turning away from God’s law, which calls us to be a higher self, to be more like God in how we deal with one another in this world. The result is mass corruption, tyranny, and break down of the nucleus of society, the family and community.
“In verse 17 there is an obvious antithesis between law and grace. Yet, the law too is grace. For it was the Logos [the Word] who inspired Moses to see and teach to others what a glorious thing a human life can be; to make us shrink back with a shudder from what is mean and dirty.”
The law awakens in us a hunger for something better. “…a religion which does not result in a passion for righteousness, and a delight in it, proves itself thereby an imposter. It is not only for his promises that we ought to thank God, but no less for his claims upon us; for his honoring estimate of what we can become, and even now can do and be.”
Christ calls out to the lowly, the sinful, the mean and dirty, and declares “believe in me and I will make you whole and clean.” In Christ, we do not earn salvation; it is freely given. “For Christ’s bold faith is that this trust in those who have failed will shame them out of themselves, and lift them up above themselves, and made them trustworthy. If you want a man to be big, says Goethe, act toward him as if he were big, and he will rise to it. Christ staked everything on it.”
But have we responded to Christ’s offer? “Some of us are too mean to respond; some of us are too complacent to respond; some of us are willing to accept the justification, but not the full sanctification: we prefer to remain on Calvary at the foot of the cross, instead of going to the empty tomb and rising up into a new, better person with Christ as not only our Savior, but as our Lord, and our all. Christ offers us a full and abundant life, and we so often settle for the crumbs from his table. We remain blind or deaf or lame in the presence of the Almighty God, because we think we are not ‘good enough’ to be completely healed of our sinfulness; or because we think that we could never be ‘that good.’ So we continue as before accepting God’s grace continuously, but never striving to accept the fulness to be found in whole-hearted giving of ourselves to Him. Yet, to be righteous, we only need to hunger for it (see Matthew 5), and we will be satisfied.”
“The grace upon grace is there, ours for the accepting, for the carrying away; the most real of realities.” (p. 480)
Thank God for the law, and for the grace we receive through Jesus Christ. We need both to be the best person we can be.
Mini-Bible Lesson 17: Incarnation
References: John 1:14; Interpreter’s Bible, v. 8, pp. 473-474.
The most important event in history for mankind, besides the creation of this great universe just for us, is the Incarnation: God stepping into our world and becoming one of us.
“What is the central fact of Christianity, the very heart of the religion, the wonder of all wonders in this all-wonderful faith, that has so moved and impressed and changed innumerable souls, and made so vast a difference in the world?”
“Before Christ came, life for many was a desperate affair…And they were facing it alone for God was out of it.”
“And suddenly men found that they were not alone. There was someone beside them; and that someone was God! Not out of it, but in it, at the raw heart of it; touched with the feelings of our infirmities, afflicted in all their afflictions, and always there; so that, in the loneliest situation or experience, there are two of us; our own frail, foolish, frightened heart, and the all-sufficient God, upon whom it can lean…”
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV
God gave us life, and created a universe for us, filled with all kinds of wonders and pleasures; and the first thing we did was want something more, though we had barely explored his already given gifts. Gratitude is an art that many people never learn. It is much easier to learn gratitude when we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, because he is the greatest gift to mankind. He is the dividing point of history, as well as, the dividing point of mankind, between the believers/disciples and the unbelievers/rebellious. That is the only division that matters in the end and in the present. God never worries about the color of your skin, or your country of origin, or your sex, or your station in life; only do you believe in Him, and do you follow Him.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He lives with us when we bow at the cross of Jesus, His One and Only Son. You do not have to be alone. Call upon him. Accept him. Believe, and live, even though you die; because “whoever lives and believes in [Jesus] will never die. Do you believer this?” (John 11:25) Then live as if you do.
Mini-Bible Lesson 16: Light Wins
References: John 1:1-5; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8, pp. 467-469
The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. John 1:4-5 GNT
Jesus, the Word of God, is described as Light for a good reason. He shines truth into the dark lies of the world. He lights our way when we follow him, as he did for the Israelites in the wilderness. The absence of light is darkness, and it is profoundly disturbing to be without any light at all. One definition of hell is the total absence of light; a darkness so deep that it feels like fire.
The Good News is that the light always dispels the darkness. Where there is any light at all, the dark is driven away. “…wherever men are groping after God, however crudely, their efforts are God-inspired, and dear to him; and that always, always, he is seeking to dispel their darkness. For as is the way of light, he who is Light keeps feeling for an opening into each mind and soul; pouring in through every smallest chink he can find; eagerly seeking to flood every life with the glory of the noontide of the full knowledge of God.” (p.467)
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (vs. 5) “In all this amazing world is there a more amazing thing than the invincibility of goodness? Everything seems against it, yet it refuses to be killed. Often and often it is down, and looks over. But somehow it always scrambles to its feet again and fights on. The tide ebbs out and out; and then it turns. The night falls, and grows ever blacker; and then comes the dawn.” (p. 468)
“How is it done? Because, says the New Testament, this fight is not our fight, but God’s; and he is in it with us. Grim, terrifying things are massed against us, principalities, and powers, and the rulers of darkness. But the best of all is God is with us. And until God’s throne goes down, and unless the Almighty fail, goodness cannot be conquered; and must win in the end. So, in the individual life and heart how often things die down; aye, and how often they blaze up again!” (p. 469)
Reach for the Light; believe in the Light. No matter how dark the days, his Light continues to shine. Follow that Light, and be warmed and comforted by the Light; knowing that he loves you, and is always seeking you, and caring for you. For the Light of the world is Jesus. Praise be to God!
Mini-Bible Lesson 15: Seeing Jesus
References: Luke 24:28-34; Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 8, pp. 426-427.
When [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him… Luke 24:30-31a NIV
The two disciples who were walking along on the road to Emmaus, were very concerned and disappointed about what had happened recently in Jerusalem. The death of the man whom they believed to be the long-awaited Messiah had died on a cruel Roman cross at the instigation of their religious leaders. There were rumors that the tomb where he had been laid was now empty; but they were unsure of what that meant.
Life hits us all this way, sometimes. We think everything is going well; then tragedy strikes in the form of a financial setback, sickness, or accident, or emotional trauma. Our world is moving along great, then insane things begin happening over which we have little or no control.
Yet, there is a stranger waiting to join us in our journey, to guide us through the scriptures, to show how God is looking out for us, and always keeps his promises. But do we recognize him for who he is? Do we acknowledge his presence?
After expounding on the scriptures and still not being recognized by the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus started to move on down the road, until the two disciples asked, and even compelled him to stay with them. Jesus complied; and, at the breaking of the bread with Jesus acting as the host, the eyes of the disciples were finally opened, and they saw Jesus for who he is.
Jesus does not push himself on us, neither does he reveal himself to us completely, until we invite him into our homes, and our hearts. He wants an intimate relationship with us, but he will not force it upon us. The men let Jesus be the host of the meal in their lodgings; then their eyes were opened. Let Jesus be the host of all your life, and he will reveal himself daily. Obey him, and you will become a partner in the work of his kingdom here on earth, and live eternally with him beyond death. Let Jesus be your host and your anchor in a topsy-turvy world, and in the good times,too.
Mini-Bible Lesson 14: Not Too Hard
References: Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Interpreter’s Bible, v. 2, pp. 509-510; Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, Deuteronomy by Mark E. Biddle, pp. 449-450. See also Romans 6-9.
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach…No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deuteronomy 30:11, 14 NIV
God’s Word is not hidden or so complicated that it cannot be understood. As a matter of fact, it is “simple, understandable, and practicable. Every person possesses the capacity to recognize the word as coming from God.” And “God never asks the impossible of his children, and man is able to obey.”
There hath not temptation taken you but such as man can bear. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ASV
Obeying is simple, because God’s laws are written on our hearts as Christians, we have the example of Jesus, and the laws help us to live better, calmer, quieter and more prosperous lives (monetarily and otherwise).
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. Deuteronomy 30:15-17 NIV
The choice of life and goodness over death and evil was set before the Israelites by Moses. They had a choice, individually and corporately as a nation, to follow God’s ways or to be like the other nations and allow evil to take over. Turning away from God always leads to bad consequences for individuals and for families, communities, and nations. God will not be mocked or have his sovereignty denied for long before bad things begin to happen and multiply.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV
The Israelites were promised life, and “length of days;” plus the land producing much, leading to prosperity. Were all the faithful prosperous, and all the unfaithful poor? Probably not—on the outside. But even the poorest of the poor are better off obeying God, rather than man, on the inside—for this faith has made them whole and will provide them with the ultimate paradise in heaven.
Obedience to God’s laws brings good to the world, but it is God’s grace in choosing the Israelites, and now each Christian, to be a member of his covenant. He chooses us, we accept, through faith, his offer of covenant relationship. God initiates; we respond. We cannot earn our salvation through obedience, but obedience is a necessary sign of our love and gratitude towards God, our Creator and Savior. (Biddle, p. 449-450). (see also Romans 6:1-4, “by their fruits you will know them” and Matthew 7:20; 1 John 2:3-6).
Dietrich Bonhoefer in “The Cost of Discipleship” (6th edition, London:SCM, 1959) wrote:
“Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before…Cheap grace is not for the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” (pp. 35-36)
See also James 2:18-26; “faith without works is dead.” The Old and New Testaments “agree that God redeems as an act of grace. But God’s redemptive grace is effective: it produces holiness. To be a nation and church of priests, we “must not turn away from the Bible’s call to covenant living.”
Then we will prosper in the Lord, and lead others to Christ for their own redemption and cleansing. For our greatest witness that we believe in Jesus is to follow God’s rules for living, and obey all his commandments. Our parents and grandparents and previous generations were morally strict, not because they were mean, but because this was their witness to belief in God and his sovereignty. And as Benjamin Franklin said in his autobiography: “vicious actions are not hurtful because they are forbidden, but forbidden because they are hurtful;” so also with God’s laws. He only forbids the hurtful, and commands the good, which is helpful. Learn God’s ways and you will be wise; ignore them and you will be and do foolish things. Take the easy, straight, but narrow, path of righteousness. Let this be your greatest witness for the Lord Jesus in our sinful and more and more foolish world.
Mini-Bible Lesson 13: Revival of a Nation
Reference: Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Interpreter’s Bible, v. 2, pp. 507-509.
No one and no nation are ever too far gone to repent and turn back to God, and be blessed (Consider Jonah and the Ninevites). Although the fight to regain our freedoms lost in the United States, which was established as a nation under God and as a “city on a hill,” is growing stronger each day; we cannot win this battle until there is true repentance, in the church and outside the church.
I realize that people, even Christians, are hesitant to mention Satan, but isn’t it obvious that he is alive and active in our nation today (and the whole western world). Afterall, Satan is the “father of lies,” and lies, deception, and corruption are rampant in our world today. When people are insane enough to deny the two sexes, and that one’s DNA determines one’s sex (and therefore, gender), the father of lies is laughing with glee. When people can deny the right to live to the weakest, most innocent humans on earth in the womb of the mother, the father of lies and death also laughs with glee. When even people in the church renounce chastity and marriage and promote divorce, the father of lies celebrates the break up of every nuclear family—the very foundation of a civilized society. And when we Christians shelter in our churches and refuse to speak out against these lies and corruption, the father of lies smiles with satisfaction and a feeling of triumph.
Revival must come or the United States and the best, most prosperous, most free society ever founded in the world will continue to deteriorate into a totalitarian dystopia.
Man cannot live by bread alone, but must have the word of the Lord; and obedience to that word to survive. Life is hard enough without adding in rebellion against God, the Father of Truth; who is not only our Creator, but our Sustainer.
Will we continue to slide down the slippery slope and be swallowed up by the lies of Satan in this culture; or will we cry out to our God to turn us around and pull us back up to the mountain of Truth and true Justice; which are grounded in God’s word and the grace God offers us through his Son, Jesus Christ?
All we can do, each individual, is repent and turn back to God and his ways. The juggernaut of Satan’s lies in the culture is too big for us to fight or counteract on our own. Only God can win this battle; but he needs soldiers who are willing and able to join in the battle, even if it is only to pray for revival and cleansing. When enough people, especially Christians, repent; then God will heal our land as he heals us.
Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 30:9-10 NIV
But it must be whole-hearted! Please God, revive us again. Amen.
Mini-Bible Lesson 12: The Real Reason for the Season
References: Luke 23
Reading through the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments, during this season of joy about the birth of our Savior, I am reading in Luke 23 about his crucifixion. I admit that I hesitated to continue the reading, because this is supposed to be a joyous time of the year. Then, I realized that the baby born at Christmas was on the road to Calvary on the very day of his birth. So, these readings are very appropriate for Christmas, because sin is the real reason for the season. If man had not rebelled against God and continue to rebel, Jesus would not have come as a baby, fully human, fully God, at Christmas.
Jesus is not just a cute baby born in adverse circumstances for us to coo and smile over. He was born to die. Not just any death, as we are all subject to in this world. He died a horrible, atrocious, vicious, and humiliating death on a Roman cross, because we have sinned. Every sin from the beginning in the Garden of Eden to the end in some misty future, was poured out upon Jesus while he hung on that cross. His willing sacrifice freed us from guilt and from the punishment we justly deserve; so that now, all those who accept his offer of forgiveness and discipleship, can stand before our all Holy, all Just, Father and God and not be burned up because of our unholiness, our unrighteousness.
Jesus the Christ is truly the greatest gift of all time. Accept his offer of grace beyond measure, and be made holy in the eyes of the One True God. Then that peace that passes all understanding can be yours, now and forever.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14 NIV
Will you be like the shepherds and come to Bethlehem to see the Savior, and move on to the road to Calvary, and kneel at his cross where your salvation is found; there and nowhere else?
Peace in God’s Grace, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year in Christ’s Care and Salvation!
Mini-Bible Lesson 11: One Bad Apple
References: Deuteronomy 29:16-29; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 2, pp. 505-507.
Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.
–Deuteronomy 29:18-19 NIV
You cannot count on your husband’s or wife’s faith to save you or your children from consequences of sinfulness and rebellion. Nor can the faithfulness of your children protect you.
“The rewards of godliness are reaped by those who themselves no longer seek the fruits of negligence or sin, and there is no way in which to substitute another’s performance for one’s own duty.” (I.B., p. 506)
Notice that the sin of one or a few can cause disaster on the watered and the dry land; the believers and the unbelievers, the righteous and the unrighteous. Sin works within the family, the church, and the nation. When it is not called out, it can rot the whole bunch. We see this in action in our country now, as so many have turned away from God and his laws that the rot has spread, and has begun to take over all our institutions, and is well on the way to destroying the family unit. The fewer believers and righteous people there are, the greater the chance that God will remove his protective hand. On bad apple can spoil the whole bunch; or a great deal of it.
Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it…All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt.” (vss. 22,24,25)
Concerning verses 22-25: Even the earth suffers from man’s rebellion against God, because greed and corruption (products of sin) can lead to exploitation of the natural world beyond sustainability or in ways that cause irreparable damage. The natural world is there to use, but responsibly and judiciously.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of the law. (v. 29)
“What would it do to the mind of modern man, even modern Christian man, if he really believed that the future is in the hand of God; that, provided he is faithful, he may safely leave the issue to the divine plan?” (I.B., p. 507)
As long as we are living rightly (righteously), we can leave the future and all outcomes to the Lord. He knows the things we have need of; better than we do, even. God’s Word gives us directions; follow them and life is much easier, and more secure. Yet, even the righteous will suffer when there are more bad apples than good in the bunch. We must preach and teach the truth that comes only from the one true God, or we will all suffer from God’s punishments (consequences of sin) in his efforts to lead us back to him and righteous living.
Mini-Bible Lesson 10: Rededication
References: Deuteronomy 29:10-15; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 2.
You are not the only ones with whom the LORD is making this covenant with its obligations. He is making it with all of us who stand here in his presence today and also with our descendants who are not yet born.
--Deuteronomy 29:14-15 GNT
The renewing of the covenant in these verses shows us that nations and individuals need periodic renewal of their “covenant” with God. Our spiritual walk with God/Jesus is not a steady state. We do not walk straight up the mountain of faith and into heaven. Instead, we walk up and down hills. Our faith can falter, and will.
We can become cold in our belief and practice; ignoring God as we carry on with our lives; moving in and out of sinfulness or apathy. We need periodic reaffirmation of our faith. Some valleys of apathy or rebellion (aka sin) against God can be very deep and long, leading to all sorts of bad consequences for oneself and others around you. The same thing can happen to a nation (Example: the prosperity of the U. S. in the 20th century was built upon the religious faith of the 19th century and before, in which revivals broke out periodically, and churches were everywhere with “virtue” expected of everyone. Now, the increase of apathy toward God and his moral laws is leading to bad consequences for everyone, and more and more corruption as “virtue” becomes “relative,” and everyone does “what is right in his own eyes.”)
If you have fallen away or become apathetic in your service to God, rededicate your life (everything in your life) to God today. Start walking up that mountain of faith and service again. Don’t be cocky or prideful about it, though, or complacent; because you will enter a valley again. Ask God to lead you out each time. You will thank him, and so will the next generation and the next, and so on; because righteousness and sin both influence future generations for good or ill. Wouldn’t you prefer that your actions, words, and faith be a source of good for you, your family and friends, and the culture today and tomorrow; rather than a source of sorrow, degradation, and despair!
Renew your relationship with Jesus, and rededicate your life to him today as we enter into the season in which we celebrate our Savior’s birth, while looking forward to his return.
Mini-Bible Lesson 9: Willfully Blind
References: Deuteronomy 29:1-9; Interpreter’s Bible, V. 2, pp. 501-505.
Moses called together all the people of Israel and said to them, “You saw for yourselves what the LORD did to the king of Egypt, to his officials, and to his entire country. You saw the terrible plagues, the miracles, and the great wonders that the LORD performed. But to this very day he has not let you understand what you have experienced.
--Deuteronomy 29:2-4 GNT
Why are people spiritually blind? Despite all the wonders that the Israelites witnessed, they continued to be blind to God’s presence, power, and care. As men are today. Why? Does God purposely refuse to give some people “ears to hear and eyes to see?”
The early Jews believed that God deliberately “blinded” some people. Christians (except maybe Calvinists) believe that everyone can “see” if they so choose. The truth may be in between these two viewpoints. God withholds insight until each person becomes open to the truth of God, becomes willing to believe, or cries out for God to “help thou my unbelief.”
Then God, as the Holy Spirit, opens his eyes, ears, and mind. After that, “obedience is the discipline by which faith grows or, as Phillips Brooks said, it is the organ of spiritual knowledge. The Lord then, waiting upon man’s willingness to believe and obey, does finally give the mind to understand.” (Interpreter’s Bible, V. 2, p.503)
So, in essence, a person can be willfully blind. This blindness may be nothing but apathy towards anything relating to God, to sin, to grace. Or, a person may just be too busy to worry about such “superfluous” matters. Or they are caught up in sins that are so pleasurable to them that they refuse to consider that God, who created us, knows better what we have need of. So, God, leaves them blind and insensible to his presence. But, this does not mean that God is not actively working and seeking to get their attention. He will do what he must to get each person’s undivided attention. Tragedy may be the only solution to a person’s hard heartedness toward God. The Church and Christians are used by God to get them to listen up, too. That is our responsibility toward our Savior and Lord, because of the grace he has given to us when we woke up and, finally, had “ears to hear, and eyes to see.” Praise be to God!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving in the Lord. He is our One Provider and Sustainer. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords. There is no other. There is no greater gift than the Son he provided for our redemption and salvation, whose birth we will soon celebrate again, while looking with hopeful eyes to his return to “make all things right” again. Come Lord Jesus. Amen.
Mini-Bible Lesson 8: Hoarding
References: Luke 19:11-27; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8, pp. 329-330; Through the Bible, J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, p. 334.
“I tell you,” he replied, “that to those who have something even more will be given; but those who have nothing, even the little that they have will be taken away from them.” (Luke 19:26 GNT)
A high-ranking man is going off to be made a king, but will return. Before he goes, he calls his ten servants and gives each one a gold coin (or mina, or pound in some translations). Notice that each person receives the same amount; they are all equally endowed. But when the man, now king, returns, and calls the servants to account for their actions with the endowment; he finds different outcomes for each. The first servant turned his one gold coin into ten gold coins; the second servant turns his gold coin into five gold coins. The first one is praised highly for being faithful in small matters, so he is given authority over ten cities. The second one was only half as successful, but is given control of five cities in proportion to his profitable investments.
The only other servant of the ten mentioned returns his gold coin to the master with the excuse that the king is a hard man, and the servant was afraid to invest the coin in anyway, just in case he lost it all. The king is not pleased, and gives the gold coin to the first servant, condemning the third servant for his refusal to even try any type of investment with the money.
“Miracles we could help to work in this harassed world stand around waiting to happen, knocking and ringing the bell: while how many trudge on through existence that gets duller by the hour, simply because so much of it is so unspeakably selfish and insists on carefully hoarding what it has, keeps thinking of life as a possession instead of as an investment.” (Interpreter’s Bible., V. 8, p. 329, emphasis added)
The third servant was a hoarder. He did not trust himself or his king. I like the NIV translation of this parable by Jesus, which says that the servant with the ten coins says, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” This gives the credit to the king, not to the servant. Like all the servants, we have nothing of our own to invest in the world or the work of the Kingdom. All things we have, including life itself, comes from God, and he sustains it all. The question is: what are we doing with it?
One important thing that we can do is “…to quit being indifferent to it [the state of the world], saying that it is none of our business. The Kingdom of God is our business; ours or nobody’s. One more retreat, or one more facing of life’s peremptory challenge, with one more turning of the back; and we may well have on our hands a pagan, godless, hostile world, with terrified little bands of men and women and children peeping from their underground caves, to steal out silently into the light of day from their hidden, secret altars! It was so once. It can be so again.” (ibid, p. 329)
Are we stopped from speaking and working for the Kingdom because of fear of ridicule or criticism, or because it might hurt our “profit margin,” or turn pseudo (fake) Christians or lackadaisical ones away from the church? Or because we could personally suffer loss? Where is the faith that “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword…waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens (Hebrews 11:33-34 ASV). Will Jesus find faith on earth when he returns—as King of kings, and Lord of lords?
We all have something to invest: talent, skill, money, time, energy, et al. But “how often do we spend our time bewailing what we lack, instead of eagerly making use of what we have?” (ibid, p. 330)
When he returns, Christ will reward us according to our faithfulness (McGee, p. 334, Vol. IV). If the third servant had at least given the money to the bank to earn interest, he would have not lost it all at the end. If we at least invest our money, time, and effort in church work, Christ will see that we are rewarded. The other two servants “stewarded” the money, preserved it, invested it to the best of their ability (the outcomes were different, though each began with the same amount), to give it all back to their king. God gives the increase. Invest in the Kingdom; you will not regret it.
Mini-Bible Lesson 7: Leading the Blind
Reference: Luke 18:35-43.
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” –Luke 18:35-37 NIV
Other people following Jesus made so much noise that the blind man wanted to know what it was all about. This is the church’s responsibility: to highlight Jesus by our praise, and our lives as we follow him, so that the spiritually blind people of the world will want to see him and check him out.
The blind man heard that Jesus was nearby; he did not see him, but had an idea that Jesus could help him. He must have heard of Jesus through others, already.
Jesus called to him to come, only then did he get up and go to Jesus. When he got up to go to Jesus, he threw off his outer cloak; he was prepared to let go of his most precious worldly item to go to Jesus.
Jesus was passing by; this was the blind man’s only opportunity to respond to Jesus, and ask him to heal his blindness, because Jesus was on the way to Calvary. The opportunity to come to Jesus may not come again, because we may become too “hardened of heart” to respond later; or we may die in our sins. “[N]ow is the day of salvation.” (see 2 Corinthians 6:2)
Even though he was blind, he ran to Jesus; not worrying about possible injury. He knew this chance of being made whole was worth being hurt in the process. Turning to Jesus is not always easy. There are consequences; and they may be painful. You may have to give up friends, activities, lifestyles, and pleasures to follow Jesus.
Jesus stopped and waited for him. This chance of redemption for a blind man is why Jesus is on the way to the cross.
The blind man received his sight from Jesus, and immediately began following Jesus, and glorifying God. What other response is possible when Jesus gives us our sight back, and we see God’s love for us, and see the world and worldly things and ways as Jesus sees them? Be willing to keep your eyes open to God’s truth as you follow Jesus each day; and glorify him always in word and in deed; so that, your joyful praise and righteous life will cause another blind person to seek out Jesus, and be made whole again.
Mini-Bible Lesson 6: Little Children
References: Bible passage, Luke 18:15-17; Commentary, pp. 311-312, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8.
People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (NIV)
The disciples tried to keep the children away from Jesus, because they did not want him to be caught up in “trivial” matters. He had more important work to do!
The disciples’ pride caused them to rebuke the children, but “it was not the disciples’ merit that they were older and that therefore they had more knowledge and physical power.” The disciples lived in a selfishly adult world; not thinking of the harm they were causing to children with their actions. How many of us do things in the sight and hearing of children that can harm them, or cause them to turn away from God? Or, for instance, burden them with debts that their generation will have to pay for in the future?
What were the traits that Jesus saw in children that belong to those who are in God’s kingdom? “Their candor: when a child is asked, “How old are you?” he will give an instant answer (Adults with defensive pride are less open). Their seeking: a child asks endless questions, especially about God (“Who made God?); for a child instinctively knows the real issue, whereas a man forgets,and gets sidetracked in secondary inquiries.Their trustfulness and sense of dependence: when crises come, they do not pretend to be self-sufficient. How easy it is for adults to imagine that by their science and skill they can bring heaven on earth, and how tragically they fail?”
Although Jesus wants us to have the above attitudes of children, he does not want us to remain in an infantile state. We take on the responsibilities of adulthood; yet, we learn to trust in God, surrender to him, and lean on him, and live in his wisdom in all that we do. That is living in the Kingdom of God.
Mini-Bible Lesson 5: Kindness
In reference to Deuteronomy 22:1-12.
“If you see your brother’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to him.” (Verse 1, NIV)
In this section of Deuteronomy, there is a collection of “if” statements, and other statements of how to behave with kindness and consideration towards one’s neighbors that are also extended to animals. Some verses are concerned also with the “order” in God’s world, which should not be messed with by man.
An “if” statement is not a legal provision, “but it illustrates what will be everyone’s daily conduct when the true spirit of Yahweh (God) is at work in his heart. Courtesy and tender consideration of others will extend even to the birds in their nests.” (p. 463, Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 2)
The commentator goes on to say that “…warm and thoughtful kindliness is the fruit of real religion and is basic to Christian character. Happiness and selfishness may not lie down together. Only he who loses his life finds it.” (ibid, p. 464)
So, if we see that our neighbor needs help, we should not ignore him; but reach out and help. In this instance, I would think the neighbor is someone that I actually know and can see. We can pray for those people that we do not know or have actual contact with, but helping them is limited. We can only give so much money to a cause before we endanger our own well-being. Does this mean that we should always help? Probably yes—if we are able; yet we may not be able to help. Or the person may refuse our help. Sometimes, God is asking us to show a person a better way (God’s way). After all, many of our problems are caused by sin or disobeying God’s commandments. We should not be so “kind” that we refuse to point out sin and its consequences. And we should not be so blinded by our own self centeredness that we do not see when others need a helping hand.
God has given man the power of life and death over all the animals on the earth. Yet, in verse 6, we are told not to take the life of the bird and her young or eggs together; but turn the mother bird loose. This is a practical application of kindness toward animals. Letting the mother bird free to breed again insures that there will be more bird nests to remove eggs from later for eating. This is a way of telling us to not overuse our resources, but always leave some to continue to breed or grow for future use.
But then in verse 10, the farmer is told to not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together. What is that all about? This shows kindness and consideration toward animals. Because of the differences in size, strength, and temperament, it would be difficult for these two animals to work together.
In verse 8, the owner of a new house is told to put a parapet around the top of his flat roof. Guests were often entertained on the roof area, instead of in the dark and stuffy home. This would insure that no one fell from the roof to be injured or killed. A homeowner or business owner should work to make his home or business building safe for visitors or customers—another way to show kindness and consideration to others.
Also, there are admonitions against wearing clothes made of two fabrics, or putting two types of seed in a vineyard, or a man or woman wearing the garments of the opposite sex; these relate to the order in God’s world, which ought not be violated or compromised. So, is it a sin to wear blended fabrics? The priestly garments of Israel had blended fabrics, so it must not be sinful. These could just be examples to highlight that God has placed a certain order in the world, and we should adhere to that order as much as possible. Only the admonition about wearing clothes of the opposite sex states that “the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” Pretending to be someone you are not is deception, and God is a God of truth, not lies. This kind of behavior leading to sexual sin and perversion was found in the pagan religions, too; so, that could be another reason for why God detests it.
What we are being told here is really simple: do not be selfish, and do not be so self-centered that we do not see the needs of others, or treat them or animals with cruelty, or by neglecting them. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 NKJV)
Mini-Bible Lesson 4: Duty
Suppose one of you has a servant who is plowing or looking after the sheep. When he comes in from the field, do you tell him to hurry along and eat his meal? Of course not! Instead, you say to him, “Get my supper ready, then put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may have your meal.” The servant does not deserve thanks for obeying orders, does he? It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.” –Luke 17:7-10 GNT
As Christians, our work is never done! We are to do the work of the kingdom of God until we die. There is no right to rest or retire. There is no expectation of reward or respite while we serve our Lord on earth. His grace, showed so dramatically on the cross, is all we need or are guaranteed.
We cannot repay him for what he has done for us. We cannot earn special favors from him. We cannot expect special favors from him. In our gratitude for what he has done, we serve him and obey him because it is our duty to do so. Taking a day off from service or obedience is not an option; at least, it shouldn’t be. As our pastor said on Sunday, we must submit to our Lord’s will.
We have received already all the reward we need or could ever hope for which is our justification by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. All other rewards pale in comparison to this. No matter how good we are or become, we have only done our duty to our God. Any and all other blessings we receive while on earth are “icing on the cake.” They are all unearned; all gifts of grace.
Therefore, pride of religion or righteousness is not acceptable behavior in any Christian. We are all equal in the eyes of our Lord; from the highest, most righteous bishop to the lowliest most sinful lay person. Do your duty to God every day, every hour until the day you die. Your reward has been given to you already. Accept it with gratitude and joyfulness, and never give up the fight for your personal sanctification or the sanctification of the world through your own righteousness, and through your own work for the Kingdom as you pass on the love and good news of Christ to those around you.
Do not tire of doing your duty. Do not retire from serving our Lord and Savior until you sit at the banquet table in heaven and Christ’s serves you that celebration meal (“How happy are those servants whose master finds them awake and ready when he returns! I tell you, he will take off his coat, have them sit down, and will wait on them.”) (Luke12:37 GNT).
NOTE: even though we never retire from service, physically, we older Christians do need to be willing to give up some of our previous tasks in the kingdom, and pass these works on to younger Christians. We must encourage and make room for the younger generations to take on more of the kingdom’s work; so that, when God calls us home, the work will continue. The younger Christian must be willing to jump in and do the work, too. It is his duty, so that one day he can hear his master say, “well done, you good and faithful servant…come on in and share my happiness!” (Matthew 25:23 GNT)
Mini-Bible Lesson 3: Managing God's Gifts
Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones. If, then, you have not been faithful in handling worldly wealth, how can you be trusted with true wealth? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what belongs to you? (Luke 16:10-12 GNT)
Our Homecoming and $10,000 Sunday is coming up on October 10th (see article below for more information).I found this verse and some of the commentary from my daily Bible study resources appropriate, because we want our people to give generously and even sacrificially this Sunday.
“We are stewards of that which is material. We own nothing as believers. We are responsible to God for how we use His goods. “How smart are you, Christian friend, in money matters? Are you using your money to see that the Word of God reaches those who need it?” “…money is a spiritual matter. You are responsible not only for giving it, but for investing it where it will yield the highest dividends in folk reached for Christ.” (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Vol. IV, p. 319)
In relation to being faithful and honest in small matters, I found these words in the Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8 made me think about what true greatness is:
“What makes greatness? Not the size of the means, but the nobility of the end…What makes greatness? Not the size of the means, but the intensity of the need to which it ministers…What makes greatness? Not the measure of a man’s body or even his mind, but his willingness to work in double yoke with Jesus.”
So, you do not have to have great resources—money, energy, time, courage, fame, or influence—to be able to achieve greatness in God’s kingdom. Just do the will of the Lord in all matters, great and small. One more quote from p. 286: “…why money is important—as training ground for real living.” When we use our money here wisely and judiciously for God’s work on earth, we will be given the true riches of the heavenly kingdom.
Think about it: should God trust you with his gifts of prosperity? Have you used your money, time, and energy well, and in ways that help to advance his kingdom on earth? Or have you mostly squandered it on yourself—not just to maintain your life, but for a lifestyle that has become more important than supporting God’s work here on earth? We all waste money and time (which is important to God also). Can you think of ways that you can be more faithful with God’s blessings in your life? May you have the courage and the desire to use all your resources in ways that will help spread God's love and the Good News about Jesus in your part of the world and beyond.
Mini-Bible Lesson 2: Christian Saltiness
Salt is an important substance today, and, before the era of refrigeration, it was even more important. Salt preserved food and seasoned it to make it taste better. Often, because it was so valuable, it was heavily taxed. So, sellers of salt would adulterate it with cheaper substances; then sell at high prices to insure a bigger profit.
Jesus says in Luke 14:34-35: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” Another way to translate (and probably follows the meaning more closely) is that it can neither be used for seasoning (of food) or fertilizer (for the soil). When Jesus says that the salt has lost its savor or taste, he is referring to the adulterated or cheaply made salt, which is less useful or no good at all.
In this passage on discipleship, Jesus is telling us that a Christian or disciple who has become “adulterated” or compromised by the culture and the things of this world is not able to season the world to be a better place or to keep it from spoiling and becoming more evil or dark. We are here to lead people to the Savior through the spreading of the Good News about Jesus, and to season the world with goodness and righteousness. Be as pure a “salt” as you can be in Christ Jesus everywhere you go and in everything you do; or the darkness and decay caused by evil will spoil the world for you and everyone else.
Mini-Bible Lesson 1: God Knows
Two of God’s attributes are that he is omnipresent and omniscient. These are big and ominous words, but what they mean is simple and profound.
God is present everywhere—omnipresent; or, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 139:7-8: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” There is nowhere to hide.
And God knows everything—he is omniscient. He knew me before I was born; he knows all about me. The Psalmist speaks of this, too. In Psalm 139:13 & 15 he says: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.” And is verses 1-2: O LORD you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.”
To a believer in Jesus Christ who lives in the shadow of the cross and its grace, these attributes of God can be comforting. To the unbeliever (blaspheming the Holy Spirit) and the Christian who is not even trying to live according to God’s will or who is involved in unrepentant sinfulness (grieving the Holy Spirit), these qualities of God are ominous (scary). There is no where to run, and nowhere to hide; therefore, you need to make sure of your salvation in Jesus Christ—the one and only Savior.
Take the time to read all of Psalm 139 to get the full image of God’s awesome presence and knowledge. I will leave you with this quote to contemplate and meditate upon: “We must be faithful in little things because there are no little things; we must be faithful in God’s absence because God is never absent.” (Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8, pp. 232-233)