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Mini-Bible Lessons Section 2

These essays were written by Cindy Sears (member of Ebenezer Church) based upon her daily Bible reading and study. Lessons are moved here one to two weeks after first being posted on our home page. This section holds essays that were posted starting in April 2022.

Table of Contents
Title Bible Reference
#26 Be Changed John 4:15, 16-23
#27 Unlikely People John 4:27-42
#28 God Provides Matthew 6:25-34; Malachi 3:6-18
#29 Don't Heal Me! John 5:1-18
#30 More Than Enough John 6:1-15
#31 Jesus Is God John 6:16-27
#32 Doing the Work John 6:28-34
#33 The Choice John 6:37-40
#34 God's Timing John 7:1-13
#35 Risk and God John 7:1-13

Mini-Bible Lesson #35: Risk and God

References: Joshua 17:14-18; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 2, p. 638

“You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out.”

The tribe of Joseph complains to Joshua about their allotment of land in the Promised Land, because much of it is forested, and the valley part is filled with a people who own chariots of war. They desire much land, but do not want to work or take risks to “carve out their future.” Their trust in God helping them to do the work of clearing the land of trees and the current occupants is lacking. Yet, anything worth having must be fought for or worked at. “The things we struggle for we value and appreciate.”

The tribe of Joseph must learn to step out in faith, and do the work. We must also learn to step out in faith, and do the work. God opens the land to us, but we must participate in occupying it. God opens up opportunities to us every day, but we must do the work and take the risks to take advantage of those opportunities—in material things and in spiritual things. Anything we get for free means less to us than what we work for—and that is why the welfare state fails. It encourages people to be lazy and wasteful, instead of productive and vibrant parts of the community. It is true that too much pride leads to a fall by overreaching; yet, too little pride leads to lack of character and dissoluteness by not reaching out at all. We need to strive, to struggle to grow physically and to grow in non-material ways, such as, in character, in faith, in obedience to God, and in service to God.

Taking risks in faith builds self-confidence and trust in God’s provisioning and protection. Self-confidence is not pride, but facing the reality that we can do things and do them well. Trusting in God is not “pie in the sky” thinking, but remembering how God has worked in our lives in the past. Put your faith in God, build your character in striving to do and be better—take the risks for God’s glory and your edification.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, KJV)

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Mini-Bible Lesson #34: God's Timing

References: John 7:1-13; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8, pp. 577-579

Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right…You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come” …However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. –John 7:6, 8, 10 NIV

Jesus tells his unbelieving brothers that he is not going up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Then he does go up alone later. Did Jesus tell a lie? Or did he just not elaborate on why he would not agree to go openly (as if riding into the city in triumph) to the Feast?

As John has pointed out on several occasions, the people and disciples, too, misunderstood the mission of Jesus. They wanted a warrior to free them from the yoke of Roman domination. Jesus has a higher purpose: to free everyone who will accept him from the yoke of slavery to sin. So, Jesus refuses to go publicly to the feast, but goes in privately, or “incognito” with a crowd of others going to the festival. Once there, he again teaches publicly in the Temple.

I glean two things from this episode. We cannot push God into acting too soon or against his greater plan (that we are not privy to); and God works a great deal of the time in less showy ways than we might prefer. The Lord continues to speak in the “still, small voice.” Works by Christians that appear quiet, unassuming, individual, and uninfluential can prove to be a large, essential part of God’s overall plan of action to change the world. The mother who reads the Bible to her children daily; the father who works to support his children and goes to church with them; all those who show how living in Christ is better than ruling with evil actions in a fallen world. The widow who gives her small penny to God’s work is just as important as the millionaire who donates a large piece of land to a church. The faithful giver, who gives all the time, and sacrificially, keeps the church going once it is built on that piece of land. An empty church is no better than an empty barn. There must be “food” there to give to those who come seeking shelter from a cold and stormy world. Many a great preacher was raised by a faithful parent; many a great sinner was turned toward God by the witness of one quiet, but steady Christian.

Works for Christ do not have to be loud or showy. The best advertising for the Gospel comes from each Christian that lives his or her life devoted to the Lord, and lives with obvious joy and peace, and with unbounded love for Christ and hope in his promises. A torrent of running water can turn a wheel that turns a large, heavy millstone. But it takes many drops of water to make that stream of water to turn the wheel. Don’t be ashamed to be one of those small drops. Continue to help turn the wheel and keep the Gospel message moving into the world. That is the only way promote real, lasting change in the world. Unless individual people change, evil will flourish, and people will continue to die without knowing Jesus as their Savior—and that is the greatest tragedy of all.

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Mini-Bible Lesson #33: The Choice

References: John 6:37-40; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8, pp. 569-570.

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  –John 6:37, NKJV

This verse has been used to justify a Calvinistic view of God—a God who chooses favorites, and ignores the unfavored (Doctrine of Election). A Calvinist says that some people are born with no hope of salvation, because God has pre-willed that it be so. So, some people are not savable. Yet, we are told that all who believe in Jesus will be saved; and that Christ died for the world—not only for a favored few (John 3:16).

The first part of this verse tells us that the Father gives the believers to Christ. We do not give ourselves. John Wesley and the Methodists believe that this shows that God, using prevenient grace, brings us into the faith in Jesus leading to our salvation. But this grace is open to everyone, not just a favored few. Each person can continue to resist the call of the Holy Spirit or surrender. God gives us that one choice—resist or surrender. If you are resisting his call, you are in open rebellion against the Father, and, therefore, condemned already (see John 3:18). If you stop resisting and surrender all to God, the Father then gives us to Jesus who will in no wise cast us out (KJV). He will not refuse us, nor surrender us back to the Devil—no matter how far from God we may believe we have strayed; we are never away from God’s presence or his power to keep us.

The Father brings us in; Jesus keeps us in. We are now the sheep of his pasture, and the Shepherd will protect us, guide us, lead us to green pastures and clear, calm water; or discipline us when we stray. We can go into situations where Satan can attack us (see the book of Job), but Satan cannot and will not win us back. We are sealed, branded, as a child of God.

“For we are definitely told that Christ’s own honor is bound up in getting us safe home. We may falter and forget and fail, prove disobedient and unruly: but Christ will not fail. With loyalty, and to the last jot and tittle, he will carry out the will that God has given him to do; and part of that will is that we must not slip through his guard (I.B. p. 570).”
This is the main way that I know I am truly saved. Though I was out of the Church for over 20 years, God never let me go; and he welcomed me back in when I returned. God is Good and Faithful. I can only hope and pray that he will give me the power and the desire to be a tenth as good and faithful to him as he is to me. Amen.

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Mini-Bible Lesson #32: Doing the Work

References: John 6:28-34; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8, p. 564

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” --vv. 28-29 NIV

The fundamental question of life is: what are we doing here? Why are we here? What is the meaning and purpose of life: without meaning or purpose life is a pointless game, and suffering, which everyone experiences in this life, is a cruelty beyond all cruelties. The results of not believing in God or paying attention to him is the base reason for all the problems of mankind. As the psychologist C. J. Jung explained:

“During the last thirty years, people from all the civilized countries of the earth have consulted me…Among all my patients in the second half of life—that is to say, over thirty-five—there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook (I.B. vo. 8, p. 564).”

The only religion that can heal completely is that based in the one, true, omnipotent God and his Son. As Jesus says in verse 29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Belief colors and shapes the life of every person. One’s actions, thoughts, motives, and speech all flow from one’s basic beliefs. This is why “faith without works is dead (see James 2:17). If you believe, you will do the work of the kingdom, because you live your life according to your beliefs. If you believe, you will live your life in a way that glorifies God. If you believe, you will rest in his promises no matter your circumstances—you will “fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4) for you know that God is with you. Belief, faith is the foundation of all God’s blessings. Believe and you will be saved—and have an abundant life (see John 10:10)—no matter how long or short it is, or how rich or poor you are, or how healthy or sick, hungry or full. Believe. If your belief is weak, ask God to help “thou mine unbelief” (see Mark 9:24). God will provide and strengthen your faith as necessary—if you are willing to be changed.

Go and do the work of God—Believe!

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Mini-Bible Lesson #31: Jesus Is God

References: John 6:16-27; Interpreter’s Bible, V. 8, pp. 561-563.

The disciples had rowed about three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the water, coming near the boat, and they were terrified. –verse 19 (GNT)

Have we emphasized the love of Jesus who died on the cross to cover our sins with his blood so much that we have forgotten to “fear” him, too? He is not only our Savior. He is our Lord. He not only washes away our sins. He is our judge and jury. He is not only fully human. He is fully God. He is the same God of the Old Testament as he is the God of the New Testament.

Jesus showed his humanity when he stopped at the well to rest and talked to the Samaritan woman. He shows his godly powers here as he walks upon liquid water that is also making furious waves. He is the master of the universe. He ought to be the master of your heart and life, also—if you truly believe.

As C. S. Lewis put it in the Chronicles of Narnia when the little girl meets the Lion, a symbol of Christ the King:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

Someone with this much power ought to create some apprehension in us, even knowing that he loves us and only wants the best for us; because what Jesus considers to be the best for us is likely to be something we don’t think we want or need. Why? Because we are as dumb as sheep, chasing after greener grass and not paying attention to the cliff or boggy mire up ahead.

Jesus answered, “I am telling you the truth: you are looking for me to because you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you understood my miracles. Do not work for food that spoils; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life. This is the food which the Son of Man will give you, because God, the Father, has put his mark of approval on him.” –vv.26-27 (GNT)

What is worse than having too little reverence for the Lord is that we look to him more to provide us with material comforts, than to recreate us into the image of God we were meant to be.

“If he will be a judge and divider of material things, increasing our share in them; if he will give us loaves and fishes, better houses, shorter hours, bigger wages, gadgets to lessen work and add to our leisure—these are real things well worth the having, and we will follow him for them. But who wants his spiritual gifts? What would we do with them? What difference would they make? And so Christ’s supreme offers to us—the power to conquer selfishness and temper, and so be no longer the helpless plaything of temptation, to be masters of our own lives, putting them to high and worthy ends—are peevishly pushed aside as stupid irrelevancies and nothing to the point.” --I.B. V. 8, p. 562

We spend a great deal of time worrying about money: the lack of it, about those who have much too little, and those who seem to have way too much. We give away our used items to the less fortunate, which gives us an excuse to buy newer things for ourselves. We protest and march and vote and have fundraisers to help others with their physical needs; all the while never or rarely mentioning the Name of the ONE that they truly need in their lives.

“What vexes Christ the most in the economic situation is not that material things are so badly distributed, but rather that they are so grossly overvalued. In his standard of measurement, they rank very low indeed. As Jesus said in verse 27 (RSV): “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life...”

Be grateful for the grace offered to us by Christ; be thankful for the material things God provides for us; but stand in awe of the Maker of the Universe, who is our King and Judge. He not only saves us through the cross, he will sanctify us, even if it means making us carry our own cross while here on earth. Christ the Lord and Savior is Good, but he is not Safe! Praise be to God!

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Mini-Bible Lesson #30: More Than Enough

References: John 6:1-15; Interpreter’s Bible v. 8, pp. 552-560

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. –verses 12, 13 NIV

In this story of how Jesus fed 5,000 people with a few barley loaves and fishes, Jesus first saw the need, asked his disciples to feed the people, then took what little they had and fed the whole crowd until they were full. God ask us to feed the people with the gospel message; he will stretch our resources to meet the need, no matter how little we have to begin the work.

Jesus had the people sit down in groups first. This helped to avoid chaos, and made sure that each person received something to eat (no hogging the food by a few aggressive people). This is a common-sensible way to handle the charity he was providing. We are expected to do the same when we provide charity to others—be organized, and make sure that those who need it the most get what they need. Jesus gave thanks for what he had before him and blessed it. And even though, it seemed to be way too little for the purpose, the need before him; it became more than enough. Should we not start with thankfulness for what we have, go about the business of the Kingdom, and believe that God will see that our small store of provisions will be enough, and become more than enough to do the business God has called us to do? If we are doing the Lord’s will, he will provide. If he does not provide, maybe it would be wise of us to rethink what we are doing or trying to do.

After giving away all their store of food, 5 loaves and 2 small fish, the 5,000 were fed and there was enough left over for the disciples to eat also. As Jesus has said elsewhere, hoarding is bad (see Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:13-21). It causes you to lose life, because you are always worrying about what you have and may lose (see Luke 12:22-34). But giving generously opens you up to grand possibilities and removes the constant grasping and clawing to keep and to have more. It is not yours anyway. All we possess is a blessing from God. Our blessings are meant to be used for his Kingdom’s work. Our reward awaits us in heaven; it is not given to us here. What we enjoy here is paltry compared to what we will receive in heaven and on the new earth.

Are you denying God a chance to bless you beyond measure by keeping it all for yourself? God says that he will provide. Do you believe this? Act as if you do. Let God bless you more by giving more.

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Mini-Bible Lesson #29:Don't Heal Me!

References: John 5:1-18; Interpeter’s Bible, V. 8, pp. 539-545.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’

Jesus waded through a mass of suffering people to one man who had been near the pool of healing for 38 years. The first thing Jesus does is ask the man, “Do you want to be healed?” Why would the man be there if he didn’t want to be healed? Why would he struggle to reach the moving, healing waters before all the others if he did not want to be healed? Yet, this is the perfect question, for we humans are a strange people. We often say we want to be made whole, but deep inside we aren’t so sure. We become comfortable in our current state of being—our physical state, our financial state, our relational state, and our spiritual state. We don’t really like to change—even for the better. All change brings disruption. We become uncomfortable—and none of us likes that.

So many people like the idea of Jesus and what he stands for—love, sacrifice, peace, hope—but cringe at the idea of giving Jesus full control over their lives. They want the love and forgiveness offered by Christ, but shrink from his lordship. They are comfortable in their sins, invested in their way of life. They do not really want to be healed—transformed.

But, we Christians should not look askance or feel superior to those who refuse the call to believe; because we turn away from God’s full healing, too. How many of us truly want to be transformed or completely made free from all our sins? How many of us are truly willing to give it all to Jesus? Aren’t we afraid sometimes that he will ask us to do something new and uncomfortable? Aren’t we afraid that if we let Jesus pour his whole Spirit upon us that we will be moved to do something that will force us out of our current style and form of living into something new that will change everything?

He may ask us to spend less money on ourselves and give more to His work in the world! He may move us to another location or field of mission. He may call us to teach, or preach, or to witness to a neighbor, or even a family member or friend that we have never spoken to about Jesus and their need of salvation. We say that we want God to pour his power out upon us—but only if we can have it on our terms, and for our purposes. Do you truly want to be healed? Do you really yearn to be transformed (thirsting after righteousness)? Or do you want to remain mostly as you are with only a little side salad of redemption, but little or no sanctification? Are we too bad to change, or too comfortable where we are to want to change?

Notice that the man, after being made whole by Jesus, immediately obeyed Jesus’s command to pick up his mat and carry it (though he knew it was the Sabbath and carrying a burden was prohibited) (vv. 8-9). Justification by Jesus leads to obedience, which leads to sanctification (transformation into the likeness of Christ), and abundant life in following Jesus.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform (be comfortable in) any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2, NIV)”

P. S.: Notice that Jesus waded through many other people who were suffering, but only chose one person to offer healing to. Jesus knows each of us better than we know ourselves. If you are not being changed into the image of Christ, and made whole, could it be because Jesus knows you are not yet willing to be healed?

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Mini-Bible Lesson #28: God Provides

Reference: Matthew 6:25-34; Malachi 3:6-18.

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34 NIV

God did it again. Anytime I begin to worry about finances, God steps in and shows me that I have no need to worry; just place it all in his hands. HE WILL PROVIDE. God’s reminder of this came to me again this month.

We recently held another Art & Crafts Show at Ebenezer UMC. In the last one we had, I offered to give God 20% of any artwork that I sold. I sold one item. This year, I felt led to promise 100% to God to help our church pay off the roof-repair loan. The week before the show my heat pump stopped working on Tuesday. I considered only giving a portion of any sales to the church, but decided to remain firm in my offer to God. On Friday, I received an unexpected monetary gift. At the show, I sold 5 art pieces for the same amount of the gift. I did not think that I would be able to give to the Thank Bank or my usual tithe to the church on Sunday, because my checking account was so low, and I knew some automatic payments were due to be deducted; yet, I managed to give almost as much as usual in cash, and by cleaning out my change purse. My wallet was lighter; but so was my heart. God is indeed good, and rewards those who faithfully give to his kingdom’s work.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10 NIV)

I await your next blessings, Lord. I know there will be many more. Praise to God!

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Mini-Bible Lesson #27: Unlikely People

References: John 4:27-42; Interpreter’s Bible, v. 8, pp. 529-535

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.”  --John 4:39-41 NIV

Christ has confidence in unlikely people. Here is a lonely woman, oft married, now living with a man who is not her husband, and a Samaritan, too! Yet, Jesus plainly says to this sinful, poor, contentious woman that he is the Messiah (vv. 25-26) that she has been waiting for—something he did not do for many other people.

God often chooses people to serve him and do his greatest missions’ work that we good Christians would or do overlook as being hopeless or too broken to be saved. Witness the persecutor of Christians, Saul, whom God transformed into the Apostle Paul, author of a great deal of the New Testament; witness John Newton, “a brutal captain of a villainous slave ship (I.B. p. 529)” who wrote arguably the most beloved and most often used hymn of all time, even by unbelievers, “Amazing Grace.” Here is the unnamed woman at the well who hurried into the town to tell the whole village about this Jesus, the Messiah. It is a privilege and honor to be used by God as a witness and as his hands in the world—or it should be. Not a task or job we feel obligated to perform, but a reward given by God to those he knows that he can trust, because they are true believers who allow themselves to be transformed by him into his image.

This is what Jesus wants most of all--to change us into his image; yet, we must be willing. God does not coerce us. He coaxes us to let him do his work of transformation, of sanctification. We can help by studying his word and praying regularly and devotedly, by attending worship services, by giving gratefully of our material blessings from God back to the Lord, of making ourselves available to be used by God. Be willing, be changed, be an unlikely person who God can use to do the work of his kingdom in this world.

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Mini-Bible Lesson #26: Be Changed

References: John 4:15, 16-23; Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8, pp. 524-527

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” –John 4:15 NIV

When told about the forever thirst-quenching water that Jesus could provide for her, the woman at the well thought he was referring to physical water (I.B. p. 524). Was she obtuse or evasive? Did she not really want to acknowledge what Jesus was telling her?

Don’t we respond the same way? We look at the physical and material things to assuage the thirst within us; but they never satisfy for long, and certainly not forever. So many of us are “hugely interested in the by-products of Christianity—and they are most important—but in Christianity scarcely at all (I.B. p. 525).” We want Christ to help us resolve the poverty and inequities and violence in the world; to help us make more money, and have nice things to enjoy; but we refuse to accept his greatest gift of, not only justification, but sanctification—being transformed into a righteous person, the very foundation that a truly good and prosperous and equitable civilization is built upon.

This attitude can lead to a religion choked by religiosity. In verses 19 and 20, the woman at the well uses religion as a shield against who Jesus is:

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

It is possible to use religiosity as a shield against a true relationship with Christ that we know deep down would involve changes in our lives and attitudes that we prefer not to make. Many people work busily in the church because of their love for Christ, his people, and his mission. Yet, there are those who use their religiosity to avoid true commitment, and complete submission to the Lord. They think they have or are earning their way to heaven without the need to change or be changed by God into the image of Christ, which could involve major changes in behavior, lifestyle choices, what to spend money on, and attitudes toward other people; plus call for sacrificial acts by them.

Jesus does not let her use her religiosity to keep her from the truth: God wants true worship from truly committed believers:

“Yet the time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth (vv. 23-24).”

“The central fact in a time of worship is not that we are seeking God, but that he is seeking us (I.B. p. 527).” When we are receptive to God’s call and willing to reach out and climb up to him with hearts filled with gratitude and adoration while he is reaching down and calling for us with love and graciousness to come, great and significant things can happen—to individuals and within whole congregations. We ought to come into any worship service with expectancy—expecting God to show up, expecting answers to our prayers, expecting empowerment, expecting change for the better, expecting action from God through us. Be changed by full submission to Christ, and help change the world.

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Contact Information: 828-396-2214; ebenezerumc@yahoo.com; 4948 Burns Rd, Granite Falls, NC 28630