Thursday, February 26, 2004
Comments on Lesson: A Devoted Soul and an Impending Cross
This lesson presents some of most popular stories of all time. The raising of Lazarus and Mary’s anointing of Jesus are definitely two stories that are repeated time and again. We could be tempted to talk about these stories and not go any further. However, these two chapters bring forth examples and illustrations of what faith is and how it is shown. We see three categories of individuals with three different degrees of faith: a. those of no faith, b. those of little faith, c. those of great faith. But, first let define faith, then we will see how each group demonstrates their degrees of faith.
Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” What evidence do you have that God exists? Your faith. What evidence do you have that what the Bible says its true? Your faith. What evidence do you have that Christ died for your sins? Your faith. But how do show faith? What evidence do you have to show me you have faith? At first glance you say, “works.” That is what James seems to say,
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works…But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 17-18,20.
I submit to you that James is giving us the end result and that there is a middle step. “What is the middle step?” I am glad you asked. I submit to you that the middle step is the Fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5 Paul makes a distinction between those who fulfill the lusts of the flesh and those who walk in the Spirit. The only way to walk in the Spirit is by faith. Then in verses 22 and 23 it says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” You can have works without faith. But those who have faith will have works that are wrought from the Fruit of the Spirit. What changes here is the motivation of the work. The one without faith has a selfish reason. The one with faith is self-less and for God’s glory. Many will confuse them. Some may even misinterpret works that come from faith. But, God always knows.
Those without faith, are under the law and follow the lusts of the flesh which are:
… Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…Gal 5:19-21
In this category we find Caiaphas and Pharisees in John 11 and 12. You also have: those who told the Pharisees about Lazarus resurrection, and Judas. Even in the face of the evidence they chose not to believe in Christ as the Messiah, they chose not to have faith. They allowed their pride to tarnish their convicted hearts. They envied and hated Christ. In a seditious manner they plotted to murder Him. We who have no faith are no different. We kill God in our hearts.
Those of little faith include: Thomas, Mary and Martha in Chapter 11. Thomas had enough faith to follow Jesus, but thought that they would die on their way back to Jerusalem. They not only survived, but Jesus gave life to someone who had died. Martha and Mary believed in Christ as Lord and Savior. They believed the presence of Christ would have prevented Lazarus death. But, they lacked faith to believe that the power to prevent the death of Lazarus could also bring him from the dead. Those of us of little faith also lack faith to believe that that power is still at work today. We believe God can or will do certain things but not others. And, thus we miss out on the blessings God is willing to give us if only we believed and asked.
Those of great faith include: Those who moved the stone, those who spread the word about the raising of Lazarus, Philip, Andrew and the Greeks. Of course we cannot forget Mary in chapter 12. Those who removed the stone removed it without questions asked. They could have refused, like Martha did. But they did not. Do we do God’s will without questioning or are we like Martha? Those who spread the word about the raising of Lazarus were witnesses to others that were seeking regarding Christ’s famous miracle. Are we experiencing the miracles the Spirit works in us? Are we spreading the word? Philip and Andrew were always taking people to Jesus. Where do we take people we encounter? What do we tell them when they ask us about Jesus? Come to Church or Sabbath School? Come to the Bible study? There is nothing wrong with those answers, except that they may not find Jesus there. Philip and Andrew knew where Jesus was, do you? The Greeks traveled miles to see Jesus. How far would you have gone? You think your church is too far? What about a nice walk from Greece to Palestine?
We save the best for last: Mary’s scandalous act of outpouring of love toward her Lord and Savior. I say scandalous because even in this day, what Mary did would be talked about and criticized. After seeing how Jesus resurrected her brother, Mary’s faith deepened and grew to a point that she consider it not a waste to pour over Jesus an ointment so expensive it would take a year’s salary to purchase it. Mary did not care if others saw her act as foolishness or scandalous. Mary’s was an act of faith. Mary’s was an act of love. Would you give to God a year’s salary, let alone 10%? Or would you consider it a waste, like Judas? Would you wash his feet with your tears and dry it with your hair? Do you care more about, what others will say, then what God may think of you? “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Works without faith are to God like rags filled with female monthly waste. Works that are from faith are filled with the Fruit of the Spirit. And, it’s aroma is like a “burnt offering unto the LORD… a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD.” Exodus 29:18
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Thursday, February 19, 2004
Insights To Lesson 8: The Good Shepherd
This week the lesson covers chapters seven through ten. These are four intense chapters. They are packed with information that is vital in our understanding of Christ and His mission. There are some common motifs or threads. Four of these threads are: a. preaching, b. confrontation, c. Jesus escaping near executions, and d. Jesus declaring who He is. It is the fourth one that I will focus on.
Through out the four chapters we see many instances in which the Jews argue among themselves about who Jesus is. Those who opposed Jesus called Him a mad man. Others call Him demon possessed. Still others called Him a Galilean, adding that no prophet has come from there. Another group stopped just short of calling Him a bastard, by making an allusion to the way He was conceived. Those in favor of Christ called Him a Prophet. Others called Him the Messiah. Still others called Him the Christ. While these debated, Jesus never wasted any opportunity to make known who He was.
Jesus referred to Himself in many ways. With each name He used He showed different attribute of His character. During the Feast of the Tabernacles, for which each event symbolized Christ, Christ chose to identify Himself as the Living water that quenches all thirst. He also declared Himself to be the Light of the World who takes away all darkness. Later in the passage he shows that not only is He light, but also he gives light to those who live in darkness and want to see the light (e.g.: The blind man.) He declared Himself as the Divine I AM. For this He used the name he gave to Moses in Exodus. He called Himself the Gate through which salvation happens. He also called Himself the Good Shepherd that gives His life for the sheep.
Christ contrasts Himself with others who fall short of His standard of being a Good Shepherd. The wolves, whose only interest is to bring fear and confusion, scatter the sheep, and ultimately, dine upon them. You know who these are. These are the ones that come around causing dissension and creating divisions. Christ cautions us to be careful, because many of them come in sheep’s clothing. They are insidious in their deception. The thieves come in at night, using an entrance that is not the official one. Their main interest is personal gain. Then there are the hirelings, who in the time of trouble abandon the sheep and run to save their own lives. But, he who saves his own life, loses the eternal one. These are those from church leadership and Pastors. Their main interest to serve is their salary, not the salvation of the souls. By contrast, Christ loves His sheep. He died for them. He put His life at harm’s way to save the one lost sheep, but not without first securing the ninety-nine saved. And, those who truly love Christ will also give their lives for the sheep entrusted to them.
Christ knows his lambs and sheep. He knows them like a man knows his wife: Deeply, internally, and intimately. His sheep also know Him. They know His voice and follow Him everywhere He goes. Just like a body follows its head. So when Christ moved to the most Holy Place, so did his sheep.
At each port of entry, we are asked several questions. Three of them are: a. who are you? b. Where are you from? c. Why are you here? Along with: how long will you stay? these are questions you should perhaps ask yourself regarding your life in this earth. But, what about Christ? How did He answer those questions at His port of entry here? The answers are in the Bible. The answers are there for you to find. Just like he asked his disciples He is asking you today, “Who do you say I am? Do you believe He is who He says He is? Do you believe He comes from where says he comes from? Do you believe He is here to do what He says He will do? Your answers to these questions will determine your eternal destiny.
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Thursday, February 12, 2004
I am very careful how I use these two words. It may give the erronoeus idea that the spiritual is above any other aspect of our life. You may say, "But, Of course!" But, let's stop and analyze this for a second. What is our verse really saying.
John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
On face value it seems to say that the things of the flesh don't matter. Does it mean that eating, drinking, excercising, breathing fresh air, resting, bathing, and the such are not as important as praying, reading and studying the scripture? You may say, Well is that not what the Bible says? I say, can we truly separate ourselves in compartments between spiritual, emotional, physical and mental? Have we not learned that one aspect affects the others? What does the gospel matter to anyone who is starving? To them heaven and eternity are important if they can provide a meal, right now. That's why Jesus fed the 5,000. When we are fed and rested we can hear about things that pertain to salvation.
Common implies usual everyday quality or frequency of occurrence and may additionally suggest inferiority or coarseness. Sacred then means opposite: dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity. What makes the difference? The Bible says that anywhere were God is, is sacred. Also, anything that God declares to be, is sacred. If God blesses it, it is sacred. Eating every day is common. But, we pray for God to bless our food. Is it common our sacred? We pray for God to bless our days and interactions? Is what we do and our interactions with others sacred or common? You may say, "I am only a factory laborer?" Did you not pray for God to get you that job? Is is common or sacred. Did you not pray to God for a partner? Is your marriage sacred or common? If God did not get you that car, job, house or spouse - guess who did? If God did not bless your plans or actions this day - guess who is?
Feeding out of Jesus' flesh and drinking of His blood goes beyond a Bible study. When we do this we partake of Him and all we are is affected. Our personal lives, our business lives, and our devotional lives are affected. When we feed and drink out of Jesus' flesh and blood the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we become His temple. Then He starts the work of sanctification in us. He begins to cleanse and purify our characters so that in the end our body temples are worthy of the presence of an indwelling God.
What is truly common is not eating of Jesus' flesh and blood. Rejecting God's message of eternal salvation. Resisting the work that the Holy Spirit does to make us whole physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually is common. And, like most common things they will end up in the biggest, hottest, and most effective land field ever to exist. It is your choice!
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Not quite about Sabbath School, but worth reading.
Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread":
A thoughtful person has written: is Islam and “jihad” (holy war)
prominent in Bible prophecy? The Holy Spirit has singled out two books
of the Bible as especially asking for our careful attention: (1) Jesus
says, study Daniel (Matt. 24:15), and (2) a special blessing comes to
the one who studies and understands the book of Revelation (1:1-3). For
hundreds of years some humble-hearted, reverent-minded scholars say
yes, they have seen Islam in a prominent place in the prophecies of
both books--Daniel 11, and Revelation 9. Today Bible scholars are far
from united in their understanding of those prophecies; the most deadly
deception is not to disregard them completely but to misread and
distort what they say.
* That’s why the counsel of Jesus is so needed. He says, of
Daniel, “Whoso readeth, let him understand.” In other words, reading
the book is not good enough. He actually commands us, “understand” it.
And that applies to Revelation as well.
* He wouldn’t say that if it were impossible. Prayerful, careful
thought, plus some reasonable humility, is needed. Beware of
theological smart-alecks. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed
lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). The Lord Jesus says He will have to tell
them to their chagrin, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23).
* Let’s also remember that going to sleep on the pretext that no
one can understand will also merit His judgment, “I know you not”
(Matt. 25:1-12). In the hour of crisis the five foolish young women had
been absorbed in reading novels (religious ones?), sports, games, TV
fun, and had neglected to search for what Peter says is “the present
truth” (2 Peter 1:12). What’s happening behind the scenes is a wedding.
The parable is clear as sunlight: “they that were ready went in with
[the Bridegroom] in the marriage and the door was shut” (Matt. 25:10).
The ones “ready” are the same as those who “follow the Lamb
whithersoever He goeth” (Rev. 14:4). Just that simple: stay awake; keep
close to Him.
* It’s useless to say “I love Jesus!” unless we love His word,
He says “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6). The “wise” young women in
the parable are “blessed” in that they “hunger and thirst after
righteousness” (Matt. 5:6; the only kind there is in the universe is
that which is of faith).
* If you are hungry for cotton-candy novels and can’t stand a
serious thought in Daniel and Revelation, ask the Lord to have mercy
and wake you up.
* Islam in Bible prophecy? Step #1--read prayerfully Daniel and
Revelation, and stay alert. And patient.
Be sure to check your e-mail for "Dial Daily Bread" again tomorrow.
Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to
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