Monday, April 20, 2015

A Refined People

My Sunday School lesson for April 19 ...

Back in 1990, Iben Browning received notoriety for his erroneous prediction that a major earthquake would occur on the New Madrid Fault around December 2 and 3, 1990.

His prediction freaked a lot of people out. I remember having earthquake drills specifically for this prediction.

Of course, no earthquakes occurred.

The Jehovah's Witness cult is popular for their specific dates for the end of the world and Jesus' return, especially in 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975.

The book The World's Worst Predictions lists some of history's all-time prophetic goofs:

--- King George II said in 1773 that the American colonies had little stomach for revolution.

--- An official of the White Star Line, speaking of the firm's newly built flagship, the Titanic, launched in 1912, declared that the ship was unsinkable.

--- In 1939 The New York Times said the problem of TV was that people had to glue their eyes to a screen, and that the average American wouldn't have time for it.

--- An English astronomy professor said in the early 19th century that air travel at high speed would be impossible because passengers would suffocate.

Prophecy is hard. And false prophecy is punished harshly.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** After two weeks in Luke to talk about the resurrection, we’re back to study the minor prophet Zechariah.

*** Zechariah was a priest, a member of the Great Synagogue, a council of 120 originated by Nehemiah and presided over by Ezra. Zechariah was born in Babylon and was part of the group of 50,000 exiles who first returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. when the Persians allowed it.

*** Zechariah chapters 1-8 were written about 520 B.C., while chapters 9-14 are thought to come from later, about 480-470 B.C.

--- Up til now, Zechariah prophesied about the coming Messiah. Today Zechariah reveals the Lord’s cleansing and restoration. No matter what the Israelites have done, God is still a God of forgiveness if the people will go to Him.

THE FOUNTAIN THAT CLEANSES (ZECH. 13:1-6)

1 “On that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the residents of Jerusalem, to wash away sin and impurity.” 2 “On that day”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“I will erase the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered. I will remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.” 3 “If a man still prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will say to him: You cannot remain alive because you have spoken falsely in the name of Yahweh. When he prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will pierce him through.” 4 “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive.” 5 “He will say: I am not a prophet; I work the land, for a man purchased me as a servant since my youth.” 6 “If someone asks him: What are these wounds on your chest?—then he will answer: I received the wounds in the house of my friends.”

*** “On that day.”

--- Used 20 times in Zechariah. Chapter 13, verses 1, 2 and 4 all begin with that phrase, and it indicates the fullness of God’s judgment of the world and the final salvation of His people.

--- God has in mind a wonderful day coming for Israel. Zechariah calls it the cleansing of Israel, for the wealthy and the everyday people alike. In chapter 13 and verse 1 he says, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."

--- Wednesday night in 180, Daniel talked about Jesus as the living water, pouring ourselves out and filling up with the Spirit. He then played the Casting Crowns song “The Well”. My favorite part is near the end, when the lead singer sings "Leave it all behind," and the woman sings these lines between:

Your pursuit of perfection
Your fear of rejection
Your temporary pleasures
All of your earthly treasures
Dried up empty religion
Rusty chains of addiction
All that guilt that weighs you down

--- The picture of a cleansing fountain indicates forgiveness of sin and impurity. Ultimately we find that abundance of forgiveness in Jesus and his blood shed on the cross, as he said in John 7:37–39 - 37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

*** What are the two sins singled out to be cleansed?

--- False idols and prophets did a lot of harm to the Hebrews. They seemed to fall for it hook line and sinker over and over again.

--- The Bible provides us with several instances of false prophets who misled the Israelites. The people too often loved to hear the lies promised by the false prophets (see Jer. 5:31).

For example, during the days of King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel, the queen hired 850 false prophets—450 devoted to the male god Baal, and 400 devoted to the female deity Asherah [uh SHEE ruh] (1 Kings 18:19). These and other false prophets were ultimately discredited and dealt with severely (1 Kings 18:40).

*** “On that day,” the false prophets will shrink into the background and try to hide his shady past.

--- “Oh no, I didn’t say that. I’m just a farmer. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

--- These pagan prophets would even lacerate themselves to gain favor with their false gods. But in the day of cleansing they'll have to pretend that they ran into a wall at a friend's house or something else.

*** QUESTION - The major sins of the Hebrew people were the worship of false idols and following false prophets. There was also an unclean spirit that dwelt in the land. Are these issues of concern today?

THE STRIKE THAT FREES (ZECH. 13:7)

7 “Sword, awake against My shepherd, against the man who is My associate”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will also turn My hand against the little ones.”

*** God strikes His own chosen Shepherd.

--- Jesus called it:

Matthew 26:31-33 – 31 Then Jesus said to them, “Tonight all of you will run away because of Me, for it is written:
I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.
32 But after I have been resurrected, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
33 Peter told Him, “Even if everyone runs away because of You, I will never run away!”

(Peter, of course, denied Christ three times and then went into hiding.)

--- Jesus used Zechariah’s prophecy to refer to what would happen to Him and predict the disciples’ reaction.

--- Zechariah gave no clear identification of the little ones against whom the Lord would also turn His hand. Since “the sheep” is a reference to Jesus’ disciples, the phrase “little ones” probably foreshadows the early converts to Christianity who also faced trials and persecutions for their faith.

THE FIRE THAT REFINES (ZECH. 13:8-9)

8 “In the whole land”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“two-thirds will be cut off and die, but a third will be left in it.” 9 “I will put this third through the fire; I will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say: ‘They are My people, and they will say: Yahweh is our God.’”

*** I've got good news and bad news. I’ll give you the bad news first.

*** "Two-thirds will be cut off and die."

--- The judgment sifts the true believers from the untrue.

--- It’s hard to nail this down. Could it refer to Greek or Roman conquest, or Nazi gas chambers? Anyone’s guess. Or, this is still a future event of the Great Tribulation, God’s divine judgment on sin at the end of time.

--- To gain a sense of the scale of this destruction, compare it to the pandemic bubonic plague that struck Europe in the mid-1300s. That massive outbreak of disease was responsible for about 20 million deaths, one-third of Europe’s population at that time.

- In the 1800s Memphis had six outbreaks of yellow fever. The 1878 outbreak was so bad that 30,000 Memphians fled the city (that was half the population), and of the 19,000 left, 17,000 caught the fever and 5,150 of those died. Twelve Catholic nuns, 9 priests, 4 Episcopalian nuns and 10 Protestant ministers died. Survivors had to face the city's bankruptcy and the loss of its charter. It wasn't until 1900 that it was figured out that yellow fever was brought on by evil mosquitoes. Memphis began to recover quickly after 1878. Its artesian water supply was discovered and turned into one of the purest water supplies in the nation in the 1880s. Its charter was restored. Its sanitation and sewer systems became models for other cities. Between 1900 and 1950, Memphis almost quadrupled from 102,350 to 396,000 residents.

*** QUESTION - Why do you suppose there are so many in the two-thirds group?

Jesus was honest about the prospects of saving the majority of the world:

Matthew 7:13-14 - 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Ask yourself, which road do you tend to walk on?

*** The good news: Out of this judgment emerges the true people of God.

--- God uses the fire of adversity to purify us like silver (“as silver is refined”); God uses the fire of adversity to prove us like gold (“test them as gold is tested”).

--- The process of refining silver means that the metal is crushed, melted to nearly 1,800 degrees, cleaned of impurities, heated again (over and over) and removed of impurities until the refiner looks into the pot and sees his reflection.

*** QUESTION - What tools does God use to refine believers? What factors impact how a person interprets God’s use of those tools?

TAKE AWAY POINTS

Think of your favorite shirt that is stained, or those work pants you only use when you are working in the yard.

What would you recommend to remove the stain and clean the clothing?

Why is the stain of sin so resistant to cleansing that it requires God to do such a radical act of sacrificing His Son?

What are some long-lasting effects of sin?

*** The message of God through Zechariah is a message of hope, forgiveness, grace, and refinement for His people.

*** No matter how far you wander from Him, no matter how great your sin is, and no matter how much you have followed other gods, His message today is the same message He gave through the prophet.

*** But don’t be surprised when the fires of refinement come your way. It is the forging of your faith. It is God shaping, cleaning, and testing you in order to strengthen your relationship with Him.

*** Peter said it this way: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cooper and Penny's Easter

Every year we take an Easter picture at Val's grandmother's before the annual lunch and egg hunt. Here's how our family has progressed since Cooper was six months old ...

The Promise Fulfilled

My Life Group lesson for this Sunday ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever wished to be the proverbial “fly on the wall,” with others oblivious to your presence?

We see it in tales all the time, of princes and princesses dressing as the common folk to walk among them and see what life is like. Celebrities go incognito to hide from the press and stalker fans. Or maybe you just feel unrecognized like that Mindy Kaling ad where she walks through New York as if she's invisible?

Have you ever had a close encounter with a famous person? If so, did you recognize the person at the time?

This week we’re going to talk about how Jesus hid his identity from two followers for several hours as they talked about Him until He was ready to reveal Himself.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Last week we studied Luke 24:1-12, when the women have the resurrection revealed to them. They then raced back to tell the disciples. *** This week we'll talk about the biblical theme of prophecy and its fulfillment. *** What is a prophet? What is prophecy? Consider several insights from just three New Testament verses.

--- Hebrews 1:1— “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways.”
--- James 5:10— “Brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience.”
--- 2 Peter 1:21— “No prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

*** Prophets were active in the history of God's people from its earliest days. Here are nine key insights about prophecy and prophets:

(1) Prophecy was God’s idea, not man’s.
(2) The prophets’ words were actually God’s, not their own.
(3) Prophets were human beings who served as God’s messengers.
(4) The Holy Spirit moved in the lives of the prophets to provide them with their messages.
(5) The prophets faithfully attributed their words to God.
(6) The recipients of the prophets’ messages were other human beings.
(7) God delivered His messages through many prophets over a long period of time.
(8) The prophets delivered their messages using a variety of techniques and styles.
(9) Prophets suffered at times for their faithfulness.

*** Prophecies throughout the Old Testament pointed to Jesus’ life, atoning death, and resurrection. These prophecies not only help us understand the meaning of the events in Jesus’ life but also bolster our faith in the risen Lord.

THE QUESTIONS RAISED (LUKE 24:19-24)

13 Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. 15 And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them. 16 But they were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 Then He asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.
18 The one named Cleopas answered Him, “Are You the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” He asked them. So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a Prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, 23 and when they didn’t find His body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see Him.”

*** The Road to Emmaus.

--- The disciples weren't Jesus' only followers. Here we see two of them, Cleopas and an unnamed follower as they walked to Emmaus, about 7 miles from Jerusalem. This happened the day of the resurrection, and they were talking about the empty tomb and the angels announcement that He was alive.

--- 24:16 says that they were "prevented from recognizing Him."

From Adrian Rogers: “I believe God held back Jesus’ identity from them for a while on purpose. He was soon to leave earth and return to the Father and would no longer physically be with them. What He is doing on the road to Emmaus is transferring their dependence upon His physical presence and moving it to the Word of God. As He opens the Word—the law and the prophets—He is opening their eyes to see Him now not after the flesh, but revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. Do you understand why He did this? He’s going back to Heaven, but He’s leaving the Word. Today we need the same thing. We don’t have Jesus before us in physical form. But we do have the Word of God. The written Word is what we have today to bring Jesus Christ to us and make Him real.”

--- Verse 21 makes it clear that despite the women proclaiming that Jesus is alive, that the tomb was empty and Peter and John found folded linens instead of a dead savior, these followers still had doubts about Jesus being resurrected, that their hopes had been dashed.

After all, He was supposed to be the chosen one (not like Anakin in "Star Wars"). They had expected Jesus to be the political Messiah who would deliver Israel, like the angels proclaimed. They’d been looking for a King, but they thought His mission had been cut short. That misunderstanding led to disappointment. Disappointment led to doubt. Doubt led to discouragement. That can happen to us, when we don’t understand the Word of God. So many Christians get discouraged because they don’t fully understand the Scriptures or believe all that the prophets have spoken.

--- While skeptical about the events of the morning, what they didn’t realize, of course, was that they were walking and talking with Jesus right then!

--- Would they be walking back to Emmaus if they thought that Jesus was actually alive and possibly ready to meet with His followers as they were gathered together around Jerusalem?

THE OLD TESTAMENT FULFILLED (LUKE 24:25-27)

25 He said to them, “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

*** Jesus was astonished.

--- Jesus called them "unwise" and "slow" to believe! Not only did they not believe the women, they didn't believe the prophecies that pointed to Jesus' resurrection.

--- Jesus taught the two disciples that as prophesied by the prophets, the Messiah had to suffer before He entered His glory, although His followers refused to believe it.

Isaiah 53:3-5 - He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

*** Jesus schooled the followers on the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah in what must have been one of the greatest Bible studies ever.

--- How would you like to have a recording of Jesus going through the Old Testament, saying, “Now, here’s Jesus. Here’s the Messiah. Here’s the Messiah in this passage. And here’s another one.”

Without Jesus, the Old Testament is

--- a book of unexplained ceremonies that won’t make sense
--- a book of unfulfilled prophecies
--- and a book of unattainable standards

If you try to live by the Old Testament without the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot make it.

*** QUESTION - What are some reasons that people today give for not believing in the resurrection? What Bible passages would you use to help someone move closer to belief and to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior?

THE MESSIAH REVEALED (LUKE 24:28-32)

28 They came near the village where they were going, and He gave the impression that He was going farther. 29 But they urged Him: “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them. 30 It was as He reclined at the table with them that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight. 32 So they said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?”

*** The followers' hospitality.

--- The disciples got to their destination late in the afternoon, and even as this Stranger was going to keep traveling, they urged him to dine with them and stay overnight. They probably wanted to hear more from Him as well.

*** Jesus revealed His identity.

--- After a day of traveling with Him, the followers were now ready to believe what they couldn’t believe that morning.

--- When Jesus took the bread, blessed it and gave it to them, He peeled away their doubts. They realized why were their hearts were on fire on the road as Jesus explained the scriptures to them.

*** QUESTION - What might Jesus reveal about Himself to you at a meal? During the Lord’s Supper at church? During a time of reading the Bible?

THE RESURRECTION PROCLAIMED (LUKE 24:33-35)

33 That very hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and those with them gathered together, 34 who said, “The Lord has certainly been raised, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they began to describe what had happened on the road and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

*** The disciples hightail it back to Jerusalem.

--- Now that they believe that Jesus has returned, they can’t wait to share the good news, the greatest testimony in history. They couldn’t even wait until the next morning to get back and let their grieving and confused friends know what happened.

--- The Eleven were already discussing their good news, that of Jesus appearing to Peter.

--- According to the law of Moses and Jesus’ own teaching, crucial testimony needed to be established by two or three witnesses (see Deut. 17:6; Matt. 18:16). With the arrival of Cleopas and his companion, that requirement was met.

*** QUESTION – Think of something that excited you so much that you had to immediately share it. Now understand the excitement of the two disciples. What has Jesus done in your life that excites you and compels you to tell others about the gospel?

TAKE AWAY POINTS

My project at work this week was to make a Standard Operating Procedure for the directors. This includes a checklist to run through before a show starts:

Mark show and rundown in iNews.
Load show on switcher:
--- Stillstores are correct for the specific shows.
--- Call up e-mem that sets the show (98 for the morning show, 00 for the evening show).
--- Auto Recall is lit.
--- Holds are cleared.
Show is loaded in XClyps 1B. Run animations to make sure they are working.
Correct graphic is set for XClyps 1A.
Load correct backgrounds and graphics in XClyps 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B.
Duet 2 is on with the time/temp bug playing.
WeatherFeed is running.
Ticker is loaded as needed.
TDOT is running.
Studio Countdown monitor is counting down breaks.
Correct sources on the Aux Panel are feeding the Ham, Tree and rolling monitors.
Weather center monitors are being fed the correct sources from the Aux bus.
Show has been mon-loaded.
Camio responsibilities are taken care of (Graphics are on the correct show and playing; CAW has been started and the correct show is reserved; Duet 1 is running.)
UpConverters are on the sources you need.
Correct lights for the anchors.
Live shots are up.
Audio checks all microphones and live shots.
Camera operators are in place and cameras are set up in the right spots.
The teleprompter is loaded and on the correct show.
Print rundowns, hand them out to all who need them.
Scripts have been printed by the producers and given to all who need them.
The foot pedal is running the timer.
All anchors and meteorologists are in place.

The Bible provides a list of prophecies about Jesus as the Messiah. If you see a list it seems authoritative, that there is a good reason to go into all that detail. For my job it means a show may run smoothly. For the Bible it means we can point to Jesus Christ as the One, the son of God, the focus of some 300 prophecies.

*** We are all on a journey of faith and Jesus is walking with each of us. Think about where you are on your journey.

*** Think about any questions you would have asked Jesus along the road to Emmaus. Now get into some quiet time reading the Word, and when you pray, ask those questions.

*** The Bible is our source of truth about the resurrection and everything that pertains to Christ. We should use it every day to equip us to speak to people who don’t know our living Lord.

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Declaration

My Sunday School lesson for Easter!

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** April Fools!

So who fell for one of those this past Wednesday? What were some of the best ones you saw or heard of?

CNN detailed some of the best on the web:

- In the most inevitable development, Honda announced the all-new HR-V Selfie Edition. With 10 cameras across the interior and exterior, the HR-V Selfie Edition allows drivers to snap self-portraits while the car is in park.

- Virgin founder Richard Branson announced that the British company's U.S. operations would move to the heartland city of Branson, Missouri. He claimed Virgin would name its latest plane "Jolene" in honor of the song by Dolly Parton.

- Tesco has revolutionized the supermarket shopping experience by introducing "trampoline inspired bouncy aisles" to help you shorties reach the top shelves.

- Reverse April Fools - A dealership in New Zealand put an ad in the paper claiming that the first person to come in and "ask for Tom" would be able to swap their old car for a new BMW. One woman gave it a try and came away with a new car.

- Cottonelle unveiled a new version of toilet paper for left-handed users.

- Researchers used the Large Hadron Collider in Europe said that they had discovered the Force.

--- What makes us fall for April Fools? It is kind of like email spam, the temptation to open messages the say something like, "Don't pass up this unbelievably amazing too-good-to-be-true offer!"

It's the Fear of Missing Out. What if there is big money waiting for you just a click away? What if this story is true?

If you have been burned, what these scams also do is to make us distrust all claims, even legitimate ones.

--- 2,000 years ago there was a group of women who came upon a scene that they couldn't believe, and it changed the world for eternity.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** The Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

--- We’ve been studying the minor prophets this spring, men who wrote over 500 years before Jesus walked the earth and yet foresaw His life and work through divine revelation.

--- In today's lesson, we fast-forward to about A.D. 30 and the fruition of all of those prophecies. The ancient empires of Assyria, Babylon and Persia are gone. The Roman Empire is the superpower in control of Israel.

--- Jesus knew all along He would have to die and accepted it according to God's will:

John 10:17-18 - 17 This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.”

THE EMPTY TOMB (LUKE 24:1-3)

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

*** The third day.

--- Jesus' body was taken down from the cross on Friday and placed in a cave-tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. His followers rested on the Sabbath Day as the law commanded. Before sunrise of Sunday, a group of women returned to anoint Jesus' body with fragrant spices similar to those placed by Nicodemus on Friday.

*** They observed their final Sabbath.

---The Sabbath as the disciples understood it would now be changed. With the resurrection and the new covenant, no longer would the strict laws of observing the Sabbath need to be followed. --

*** The unexpected.

--- The stone had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. The soldiers, who were supposed to make sure it didn’t happen, had been left unconscious with fear. In fact, they were so afraid of the angels “that they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:4) Throughout the Bible, when angels appear to people to encourage them in the Lord, they say not to fear. Not so with the soldiers!

--- By the way, the angel did not roll the stone away to let Jesus out, he rolled the stone away to let the people in. Jesus could walk through walls.

*** The women can’t believe what they’re seeing.

--- The soldiers were gone, the tomb's open and Jesus isn't there. The emotions would have been numerous: Surprise, dismay, confusion, anger, fear, anxiety and grief. In fact, they didn't even know what they were supposed to see. While they were observing the Sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees had imposed upon Pilate to secure the tomb with a Roman seal and with guards.

THE RISEN LORD DECLARED (LUKE 24:4-8)

4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered His words.

*** Like a rhinestone cowboy!

--- Not dressed in “bedazzled” clothes, but "dazzling," two men show up out of nowhere with the brightness of lightning. The term translated dazzling is the same word found in Luke 17:24 to describe the brightness of a lightning flash. In other words, standing close to these beings was like standing next to two lightning bolts! Matthew as well as John explicitly referred to them as angels (see Matt. 28:5; John 20:12).

*** The women bowed, knowing these were supernatural beings from God.

--- The angels asked “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” That was a big tipoff that things weren’t what they seemed.

--- “He is not here, but He has been resurrected!” Remember, the last the women saw of Jesus, He had been taken off the cross after being tortured by the Romans, stabbed by a spear to make sure He was dead, and wrapped and placed in a tomb.

*** They remembered the words of Jesus.

--- There are several instances of Jesus telling His followers about his fate, including Luke 18:31-34 - Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” 34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

--- Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His followers three important things about His impending death:

1. It would be necessary. It was part of God’s eternal plan (see Isa. 53:4-12).

2. It would be ugly and brutal. The Romans had not invented this form of execution, but they had perfected it. It was a slow, excruciating, public death designed to strike terror in its victims as well as in onlookers.

3. It would not be final. To be sure, it would be real. He would truly die, ceasing to breathe and giving up His spirit, yet He would rise on the third day.

SURE WITNESSES (LUKE 24:9-12)

9 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened.

*** The disciples were shocked!

--- The women hurried back to where the remaining 11 disciples were staying to tell them what they had seen and heard.

--- It is remarkable that the first witnesses were women. Teachings of Judaism in this period did not allow women to serve as witnesses even in minor legal proceedings. So why did God choose these women to be the first to proclaim the Good News? (He affirmed the value of all people, women and men, in His plan. Think of the ways God has used Christian women in our church!)

--- Imagine the scene, the women rushing in, excited and still in shock, their faces could even have had a little glow from the effects of the angelic encounter. Thus the disciples ... didn't believe them.

*** Nonsense!

--- Jesus hadn't been shy about telling His followers what would happen to Him, and what would happen three days later, so why didn't they believe it at first?

*** QUESTION - What do these passages say about the faith of Jesus’ disciples at that time? (The disciples had deep respect and devotion for Jesus because of all they had experienced and learned during the approximately three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry.)

*** Run, Peter, run!

--- Peter was surely still feeling very guilty about denying Jesus three times. He also knew that what the women were saying seemed crazy, but needed to be investigated.

--- John ran with Peter, as told in his gospel. They saw an empty tomb and the burial cloths were the only things in there. Where Jesus was, they still didn't know. But Peter knew the truth.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Opening day for the baseball season is this week! (Go Sox!)

When Spring Training began in mid-February, every team invited about 60 players to participate. By today every team has to set their final roster with 25 players on each team. The other players will be assigned to minor league teams or released.

Imagine the emotions felt by those last few players to be told they did not make the Major League team roster.

In our study today, we find an angel and others declaring the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Consider the emotions expressed as the news of Jesus’ resurrection was shared.

If you were one of the final players to make the team, who would you tell first? How would tell them?

Think of how would you react to making the team compared to how we react to the resurrection of Jesus. Our reaction to the resurrection should be greater than our reaction to other good news we may receive. Consider who you need to tell and how you will tell them about Jesus’ resurrection and what it means to them.

*** Faith in Jesus means we trust Him today as the resurrected and living Lord.

--- Jesus’ resurrection means that one believes God has the power to raise the dead to life. Just as He resurrected Jesus, God will resurrect those who place their faith in Jesus as Savior.

--- 1 Corinthians 15:14-19, Paul explains the importance of the resurrection: 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

*** Jesus death on the cross for our sins means we can be forgiven.

--- Think of the sin in your life that haunts you. Just that one thing you did. The one that if anyone in here found out about, you'd crawl under the chair to hide. Now know this: Jesus defeated sin on the cross and in his resurrection. You are forgiven. Now forget it. He has.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Promised Messiah

My lesson from March 29 ...

Trust not in the things of this world, but eternal things. Zechariah told the Israelites of the coming Messiah, who wouldn't be there in their lifetimes but would be what matters most.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Zechariah was a priest, a member of the Great Synagogue, a council of 120 originated by Nehemiah and presided over by Ezra. Zechariah was born in Babylon and was part of the group of 50,000 exiles who first returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. when the Persians allowed it.

*** Zechariah chapters 1-8 were written about 520 B.C., while chapters 9-14 are thought to come from later, about 480-470 B.C.

*** Zechariah, along with the prophet Haggai, roused the people from indifference about their faith and helped to get the temple rebuilt with calls of repentance and assurance of future blessings.

*** Zechariah is second only to Isaiah in the number of prophesies about the coming Messiah.

*** Primarily, the book is a prophecy about Jesus Christ, focusing on His coming glory as a means to comfort Israel. Prophecy was soon to be silent for more than 400 years until John the Baptist, so God used Zechariah to bring a rich, abundant outburst of promise for the future to sustain the faithful remnant through those silent years.

A PORTRAIT OF CHRIST

From Love Worth Finding, how we can look to the Old Testament to find Jesus:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)

In Luke 24:27, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two forlorn followers and began teaching them the secret to Scripture. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. The Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ. Every story and every event leads directly to the Savior.

In John 5:39, the Lord Jesus told His followers to “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” Of course, the New Testament had not yet been written, so Jesus is telling His disciples to explore the Old Testament writings, because they all point toward Him.

As you read through God’s Word, see how it points you to Jesus.

--- Christ is the Seed of woman and in Genesis 3:15 we are told He will one day crush Satan.

--- In Exodus we find the story of the Passover Lamb, and Christ is the sacrificial Lamb given for us.

--- In Leviticus we read of the high priests making sacrifices for the people, and Christ has become our High Priest, making the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins.

--- In Deuteronomy Moses prophesied of a prophet who would come that would be greater than Himself. Jesus is that Great Prophet.

--- In the book of Joshua, Joshua met the Captain of the Lord's host. That man is Jesus Christ.

--- The judges were leaders who delivered God's people, each of them typify­ing the Lord Jesus.

--- Boaz, the kinsman who redeemed Ruth's inheritance, is a picture of Christ.

--- David, the anointed one, pictures Jesus and Jesus is described as being the Son of David.

--- In 2 Samuel when the king is being enthroned, the entire scene is descriptive of the Lord Jesus.

--- The books of Kings speak of the glory of God filling the temple and the Chronicles describe the glorious coming king, both referring to Jesus, the King of Kings.

--- Ezra depicts Jesus as the Lord of our fathers.

--- Job says clearly that the Redeemer is coming!

--- Esther offers a picture of Christ interceding for His people.

--- Christ appears time after time in the Psalms, including when David describes Him as “the Shepherd.”

--- Isaiah details His glorious birth.

--- Jeremiah reveals that He will be acquainted with sorrows.

--- Joel describes Him as the Hope of His people.

--- Amos tells us that Jesus is the judge of all nations.

--- Obadiah warns of the coming eternal kingdom.

--- Jonah offers a picture of Jesus being dead for three days, then coming back to life to preach repentance.

--- Zephaniah says that He will be the king over Israel.

--- Zachariah is the prophet who speaks of Jesus riding on a colt.

--- Malachi is the one who calls Him the Son of Righteousness.

Can you see it? The entire Old Testament points toward Jesus as Savior, and if you miss that, you've missed the entire point of the Scriptures. Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of prophecy.

FAITHFUL (ZECH. 8:1-8)

1 The word of the Lord of Hosts came: 2 “The Lord of Hosts says this: I am extremely jealous for Zion; I am jealous for her with great wrath. 3 The Lord says this: “I will return to Zion and live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, the mountain of the Lord of Hosts, and the Holy Mountain.” 4 The Lord of Hosts says this: “Old men and women will again sit along the streets of Jerusalem, each with a staff in hand because of advanced age. 5 The streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in them.” 6 The Lord of Hosts says this: “Though it may seem incredible to the remnant of this people in those days, should it also seem incredible to Me?”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. 7 The Lord of Hosts says this: “I will save My people from the land of the east and the land of the west. 8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem. They will be My people, and I will be their faithful and righteous God.”

*** "The Lord of Hosts."

--- "Hosts" is another word for "Armies," showing that God is all-powerful and has enough resources to make sure that all of His decrees are carried out.

When God calls you to do something, if you don't do it He can call anyone else from His stable. But wouldn't you rather be a part of His great plans?

*** He is jealous for us.

--- God has full committed Himself to those whom he has a covenant relationship, and expects us to be exclusively committed to Him as well.

--- Many verses in the Bible describe God as a jealous God with great wrath and passion:

Exodus 20:5 - Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Exodus 34:14 - For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

Deuteronomy 4:24 - For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 5:9 - Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me

*** The message here promises:

--- The return of intimate spiritual fellowship between the Lord and His people.

--- Jerusalem’s residents would experience peace and security. It’s a Norman Rockwell All-American image of elderly men and women lounging peacefully, meaning that they didn’t die in battle or of famine, and live blessed lives of comfort. Another image of children playing means there are families in the city, unafraid of war and disease.

*** v. 6 is simple: Nothing is impossible with God:

Matthew 17:20 - Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

*** How would this prophecy have served as a source of hope for the people of Zechariah’s day?

KING (ZECH. 9:9)

9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

*** Jesus rides into Jerusalem as a King.

--- Matthew 21:1-11:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

*** As Zechariah prophesied, the Israelites cheered Jesus’ triumphal entry.

--- Why did the Jews rejoice? First, God’s people would once again have a King, the first since Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Second, this King would be One of impeccable character.

--- Zechariah foretold that Israel’s coming King would enter the city riding on a donkey. The Jews of Jesus’ day would have been familiar with Zechariah’s messianic prophecy. They understood the claim that Jesus was making for Himself.

*** Righteous, victorious and humble.

--- Zechariah provides three key traits of the coming King: Jesus was righteous because He was without sin (see 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). Jesus was victorious in that He destroyed the works of the Devil (see 1 John 3:8). And although He was God the Son, Jesus humbled himself by dying on a cross (see Phil. 2:8).

CREATOR OF PEACE (ZECH. 9:10)

10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem. The bow of war will be removed, and He will proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will extend from sea to sea, from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.

*** From sea to shining sea!

--- Jesus would enter Jerusalem as King of the Jews, but he would reign around the world.

--- Jesus will rule a peaceful kingdom in His second coming, because once he has conquered His foes, peace will be proclaimed to the nations.

VICTOR (ZECH. 9:11-12)

11 As for you, because of the blood of your covenant, I will release your prisoners from the waterless cistern. 12 Return to a stronghold, you prisoners who have hope; today I declare that I will restore double to you.

*** You are free!

--- We have victory over captivity by sin because the “blood covenant” was fulfilled in the new covenant established by Jesus through His atoning death on the cross:

Matthew 26:28 - This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Heb. 9:15 - For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

--- We can only find peace, freedom from sin, and restoration through faith in Jesus.

TAKE AWAY POINTS

*** Have you ever seen a grand entrance? Have you ever witnessed the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the president of a country, a royal person, or the pope?

If you’re a husband, you should say yes right away, thinking of course of when your bride entered the room on your wedding day. Maybe you’ve also been fortunate enough to witness an opening ceremony at an Olympic Games. There you saw a grand spectacle as thousands of elite athletes and their coaches marched into the stadium.

Zechariah foresaw the Messiah’s grand entrance into Jerusalem more than five centuries before it occurred.

As we prepare for Easter, take time this week to think about your personal walk and figure out where Jesus is most important in your lives.

*** God intends peace for anyone held captive by sin. How can you work to promote God’s peace and hope to those in your community who need His rescue?

*** What does victory in Jesus mean to you? How does His promise to believers of victory over sin and death give you hope?

*** As God spoke through Zechariah, look to a time beyond your immediate circumstance to the time when there will no more war, God’s enemies will be vanquished, and the earth will be a peace with Jesus as the rightful king.

Family Pictures, pt. 2

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Family Pictures, pt. 1

When we were in Jeffersonville a few weeks ago we took pictures with all of my family. Here are some of them ...

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Compassion for Lost People

My lesson for March 22 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever been on the road and had another driver blow past you, fast enough that you hope that a cop is ahead to catch them? And then it turns out they do in fact get caught and you get a little thrill, that the driver "got what they deserved?"

The Germans appreciate this feeling so much they have word for it: Schadenfreude, or “pleasure derived by someone from another’s misfortune.”

While the belief that justice was done might be warranted in some situations, the attitude of compassion takes a different approach. A person of compassion humbly admits, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

When we view another’s judgment, we may think we’re viewing it through a window when actually we’re looking in a mirror. An attitude of compassion helps us remember that from which we ourselves have been delivered.

*** QUESTION - When we rejoice over someone else being judged, what does that reveal about how we see ourselves in relation to them?

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

This week we continue our tour through the minor prophets of the Old Testament. We've talked about Nahum and Zephaniah, this week we'll talk about Obadiah.

*** Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament.

*** Nothing is known about the author. Obadiah means“servant of the LORD” and occurs 20 times in the OT, referring to at least 20 other OT individuals.

*** It was written about 586 B.C., right after Babylon destroyed Jerusalem.

*** Now the judgment focuses on Israel’s neighbor, Edom, which was a kingdom populated by the descendants of Esau (Jacob’s twin brother).

*** Obadiah prophesied against the Edomites for acting with prideful disdain toward the people of Judah during the Babylonian invasion.

CHECK YOUR ARROGANCE (Obad. 1-4)

1 The vision of Obadiah. This is what the Lord GOD has said about Edom: We have heard a message from the LORD; a messenger has been sent among the nations: “Rise up, and let us go to war against her.” 2 Look, I will make you insignificant among the nations; you will be deeply despised. 3 Your presumptuous heart has deceived you, you who live in clefts of the rock in your home on the heights, who say to yourself, “Who can bring me down to the ground?” 4 Though you seem to soar like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, even from there I will bring you down. This is the LORD’s declaration.

*** Pride and prejudice.

--- Through His prophets Obadiah and Jeremiah, God promised Edom would be wiped out: Jeremiah 49:14-16 parallels Obadiah: I have heard a message from the LORD; a messenger has been sent among the nations: Assemble yourselves to come against her. Rise up for war! 15 Look, I will certainly make you insignificant among the nations, despised among humanity. 16 As to the terror you cause, your presumptuous heart has deceived you. You who live in the clefts of the rock, you who occupy the mountain summit, though you elevate your nest like the eagle, even from there I will bring you down. This is the LORD’s declaration.

*** The Edomites showed a prideful heart.

--- Verse 4 says that they saw themselves as above the fray and out of reach of predators. Edom’s capital, Sela, was surrounded on virtually every side by natural fortifications, making it relatively easy to defend. Thus, the Edomites felt they had a secure home on the heights, where no enemy could conquer them.

--- In their arrogance they assumed that their past success and blessings guaranteed future success and blessings.

--- God tells them through Obadiah that you can’t hide from Him. Though these actions would come down the road in our time, for Him judgment was as good as done.

--- As the Edomites had disdained the people of Judah, so the Edomites would feel the sting of being thought of as nothing.

*** QUESTION - How can pride make us vulnerable to calamity and destruction?

*** QUESTION - In what ways might followers of Christ be tempted to display a prideful heart toward some unbelievers? Colossians 4:5-6 - Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. What help can Colossians 4:5-6 offer to believers in their attitude toward lost people?

SHOW MERCY AND GRACE (Obad. 10-14)

10 You will be covered with shame and destroyed forever because of violence done to your brother Jacob. 11 On the day you stood aloof, on the day strangers captured his wealth, while foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were just like one of them. 12 Do not gloat over your brother in the day of his calamity; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction; do not boastfully mock in the day of distress. 13 Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their disaster. Yes, you—do not gloat over their misery in the day of their disaster and do not appropriate their possessions in the day of their disaster. 14 Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off their fugitives, and do not hand over their survivors in the day of distress.

*** Jacob and Esau’s rivalry continues.

--- The twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau struggled even in your womb, so much that Genesis 25:23 says that “two nations are in your womb.”

--- Their descendants, the nations of Israel and Edom, were perpetual enemies. When Israel came out from Egypt, Edom denied their brother Jacob passage through their land, located S of the Dead Sea (Num. 20:14–21). Nevertheless, Israel was instructed by God to be kind to Edom (Deut. 23:7 - Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you.). The Edomites opposed Saul (ca. 1043–1011 B.C.) and were subdued under David (ca. 1011–971 B.C.) and Solomon (ca. 971–931 B.C.). They fought against Jehoshaphat (ca. 873–848 B.C.) and successfully rebelled against Jehoram (ca. 853–841 B.C.). Herod the Great, an Idumean, became king of Judea under Rome in 37 B.C. In a sense, the enmity between Esau and Jacob was continued in Herod’s attempt to murder Jesus. The Idumeans participated in the rebellion of Jerusalem against Rome and were defeated along with the Jews by Titus in A.D. 70. Ironically, the Edomites applauded the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (cf. Ps. 137:7) but died trying to defend it in A.D. 70. After that time they were never heard of again. As Obadiah predicted, they would be “cut off forever” (v. 10); “and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau” (v. 18).

*** The Edomites had received compassion and mercy from a God they did not worship. They should have shown compassion and offered grace to the people of Judah, who were suffering the consequences of their own unfaithfulness to the Lord.

--- Judah was their brother nation with a shared heritage. How would you feel if your sibling suffered consequences, and caught you gloating?

*** God gives Edom eight prohibitions:

--- First, the Edomites were not to gloat over the disaster that happened to Judah and Jerusalem. The implication is that the Edomites enjoyed watching the people of Judah suffer.

--- Second, the Edomites were wrong to rejoice over another people’s destruction.

--- Third, they were wrong to boastfully mock Judah in a time of distress. It suggests engaging in scornful laughter.

--- Fourth, the Lord prohibited the Edomites from entering the gate of My people. To join the Babylonians in the plundering Jerusalem instead of extending compassion would have added insult to injury.

--- Fifth, the Edomites were warned further not to gloat over another people’s misery, or affliction. (The Book of Lamentations explicitly describes these horrors of war (see Lam. 4:9-10; 5:11-13).

--- Sixth, the Edomites were prohibited from looting the possessions and property of the people of Judah. Instead of helping, the Edomites evidently joined in the pillaging of a defeated city and nation.

--- Seventh, the Edomites were warned against stopping Israelite refugees who were fleeing from the Babylonians.

--- Eighth, the Lord warned the Edomites not to hand over Israelite survivors to the Babylonians.

*** QUESTION - What attitudes can you cultivate that help curb judgmental tendencies and promote acts of compassion?


EXPECT RETRIBUTION (Obad. 15-16)

15 For the Day of the LORD is near, against all the nations. As you have done, so it will be done to you; what you deserve will return on your own head. 16 As you have drunk on My holy mountain, so all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and gulp down and be as though they had never been.

*** The Day of the Lord is coming.

--- We read a lot about the Day of the Lord in Zephaniah, when God would judge all nations.

--- The prophets Isaiah and Amos described it as a day of God’s judgment against His enemies (see Isa. 13:6-9; Amos 5:18-20). Malachi described it as a day of refining God’s people as well (see Mal. 3:2-4). In the New Testament, Paul described it as a day of salvation for God’s people (see 1 Thess. 5:2-5,9).

--- Obadiah’s warning about judgment for the sin of pride and for ignoring the suffering of others applies to us as well.

*** QUESTION - How dangerous is a prayer for God to grant you justice? When is it appropriate to pray for justice?

LIVE IN HOPE (Obad. 17)

17 But there will be a deliverance on Mount Zion, and it will be holy; the house of Jacob will dispossess those who dispossessed them.

*** A Promise of Restoration.

--- As with Zephaniah, a promise of God's wrath is followed up with a promise that God will deliver His people in the end, and we will have eternal victory. Moreover, from Mount Zion, or Jerusalem, would come the ultimate deliverance from sin when Jesus Christ laid down His life as an atoning sacrifice. In His death on the cross, Jesus took on Himself the wrath of God that we deserved. In His resurrection, Jesus conquered sin, death, and the grave.

--- God also calls us as followers of Christ to extend compassion to those who need His salvation or who are experiencing His discipline. God reached out to us through His gospel, and through faith in Jesus Christ, we became His children. We need to ask the Lord to give us compassion for lost people. God cares deeply for them, and He wants to use us to reach them.

*** QUESTION - What does it mean to you as a believer that Christ has made you holy (set you apart) to serve God? To what extent has God’s grace toward you given you compassion for lost people?

TAKE AWAY POINTS

In the mid 80s there was a Charlotte, North Carolina, woman who set a world record while playing a convenience store video game called “Tapper.”

After standing in front of the game for fourteen hours and scoring an unprecedented seven and a half million points on the game (all on one quarter), her fiancé called the news and a TV crew arrived to record her efforts.

She continued to play while the crew, prepared to shoot. However, the video screen suddenly went blank. While setting up their lights, the camera man had accidentally unplugged the game, thus bringing her bid for ten million points to an untimely end! The effort to publicize her achievement became the agent of her ultimate failure.

*** Unchecked pride and selfishness is a road to ruin.

--- Choose a path instead that leads to refuge and restoration. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

*** Commit to imitate the compassion of Christ as you encounter others this week.

--- Even after Jesus was tortured and while He was dying on the cross, He still demonstrated compassion for His attackers.

*** How can you show compassion this week to someone who is dealing with the consequences of a bad decision they have made? How can we mourn that bad decision without sitting in judgment over them?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Cooper and Penny's church Easter egg hunt

It was a little chilly and breezy for our church egg hunt yesterday, but the kids had a great time nonetheless. They got plenty of candy, even though Penny skipped a ton of eggs so she could get her favorite colors!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Everyone Accountable

My Life Group lesson from March 8 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Last weekend, the top five movies were "Focus," "Kingsmen: The Secret Service," "Spongebob Squarepants," 50 Shades of Gray" and "The Lazarus Effect." In four weeks, "50 Shades" has earned over $150 million.

QUESTION - What do you believe the most watched movies reveal about our society? Does it say something about the acceptance of sinful behavior in our culture?

Today we are going to talk about Zephaniah prophesying about the sins of the Israelites.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

We are studying the Minor Prophets the next three months. Last week we talked about Nahum. This week we're moving on to Zephaniah.

*** Zephaniah most likely prophesied around 625 B.C. He traces his genealogy back 4 generations to King Hezekiah (ca. 715–686 B.C.), standing alone among the prophets descended from royal blood.

*** Ten of Israel's tribes were already defeated and deported by the Assyrians 100 years earlier.

*** The Assyrians pressured the Southern Kingdom of Judah as well and the kings adopted the pagan values and idol-gods of foreign peoples, imposing those values and idol-gods on Judah (see 2 Kings 21:1-9).

*** King Josiah reigned as king of Judah (640–609 B.C.) and steered the Jews to a return to the worship of the true God. Zephaniah’s ministry overlapped with the early years of King Josiah’s reign. In fact, it is possible that Zephaniah’s prophecies helped lead to King Josiah’s conversion and the revival that started. But the evil kings before Josiah (55 years) had had such an effect on Judah that it never recovered. Josiah’s reforms were too late and didn’t outlast his life.

*** Zephaniah presents an unambiguous denunciation of sin and warning of imminent judgment on Judah. Zephaniah’s message on the Day of the Lord warned Judah that the final days were near, through divine judgment at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, ca. 605–586 B.C.

JUDGMENT ENCOMPASSES EVERYONE (Zeph. 1:1-3)

1 The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah. 2 I will completely sweep away everything from the face of the earth—this is the LORD’s declaration. 3 I will sweep away man and animal; I will sweep away the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, and the ruins along with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth. This is the LORD’s declaration.

*** The End Is Near!

--- How do people today usually respond to "The end-is-near!" messages? (If someone today posted such an ominous threat on a social media site, the authorities would probably run an immediate background check on the person!)

--- Zephaniah is describing the Day of the Lord.

--- In Matthew 24:42 Jesus says that we don't now what day the Lord is coming. So the end could be near. Might not. Depends on what you mean by "near."

*** The Word of the Lord.

--- Zephaniah didn't come up with this on his own. This book is a prophecy of the words of God, revealed to a human messenger.

--- Zephaniah’s opening message from the Lord was dark and threatening.

*** Verse 2 contains three features that make the prophet’s declaration especially ominous.

1) The Promise came directly from the Lord. If the Sovereign Creator says something will happen, it will happen.

--- Isaiah 55:10-11 - 10 For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, 11 so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.

2) The Lord promised that His judgment would be thorough. No detail will be missed. Everything on His list will be dealt with.

3) Third, the Lord described the worldwide extent of His judgment. Many prophecies in the Old Testament were narrowly focused. They dealt with a specific individual, group, city, or nation. Not so this prophecy. Its scope was as broad as the planet and included everything from the face of the earth.

*** Because of God’s goodness, He will not ignore the wickedness of people. While He wants all to find grace and mercy in His Son, a day of judgment is coming.

THE DANGER OF SPIRITUAL COMPROMISE (ZEPH. 1:4-6)

4 I will stretch out My hand against Judah and against all the residents of Jerusalem. I will cut off every vestige of Baal from this place, the names of the pagan priests along with the priests; 5 those who bow in worship on the rooftops to the heavenly host; those who bow and pledge loyalty to the LORD but also pledge loyalty to Milcom; 6 and those who turn back from following the LORD, who do not seek the LORD or inquire of Him.

*** Zephaniah prophesies about God’s judgment on Judah.

--- For God to pronounce judgment against His chosen people, the Hebrews must have done something horribly wrong.

--- Judah? Gone. The Holy City of Jerusalem and King Solomon's magnificent temple? Gone.

*** God lists specific sins for which the Hebrew people were guilty.

--- The people worshiped Baal and other pagan cults.

--- The people bowed down to the "heavenly host," which probably referred to the sun, moon and stars.

--- They practiced spiritual adultery, mixing Jewish practices with beliefs from different religions such as Milcom, the national god of Ammon.

--- There were spiritual quitters who stopped following the Lord, and broken off all contact, backsliding so much they couldn't even see the top anymore.

--- In addition, 2 Kings chapter 21 talks about how King Manasseh did "evil in the eyes of the Lord." Among the sins Zephariah mentioned, verse 6 says that Manasseh "sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists."

*** QUESTION - Are we as Christians accountable for the things embraced by our society? Surely there were many Israelites who were obedient to God, but they found their lives in ruin as well when the Assyrians, then the Babylonians conquered the kingdoms of Israel.

A DAY OF RECKONING IS COMING (ZEPH. 1:7-11)

7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests. 8 On the day of the LORD’s sacrifice I will punish the officials, the king’s sons, and all who are dressed in foreign clothing. 9 On that day I will punish all who skip over the threshold, who fill their master’s house with violence and deceit. 10 On that day—this is the LORD’s declaration—there will be an outcry from the Fish Gate, a wailing from the Second District, and a loud crashing from the hills. 11 Wail, you residents of the Hollow, for all the merchants will be silenced; all those loaded with silver will be cut off.

*** v. 7 - Silence speaks volumes.

--- Even though the people were doomed, they still were commanded to keep a respectful silence before God acted to demonstrate His overwhelming greatness.

--- Jerusalem was to be the sacrifice, and His guests were the Babylonian armies coming to conquer and destroy the city in the coming years.

*** v. 8-9 - Zephaniah paints another picture of how God will clearly judge people.

--- Officers and sons of the king were killed. Those who dressed nicely were killed or taken. The pagans were doomed. Hypocrites and enemies of God were marked for destruction.

*** v. 10-11 - The people will cry for mercy.

--- When the judgment came, panic and terror ruled. Wailing and howling would be heard all over Jerusalem. No part would be spared, not the Fish Gate (a market area), not the Second District (a residential area), not even those on the high ground of the hills

*** Lessons for today.

--- The prophecies of Zephaniah remind us that we are all accountable to God. We who follow Jesus Christ must resist the pressure to conform to religious pluralism or secularism. We must maintain devotion to Christ as the only Way, the Truth, and the Life (see John 14:6).

TAKE AWAY POINTS

To start today we talked about the top-grossing movies of today and how they seem to show our culture embracing and even celebrating sin.

What are some of the most common sinful activities taking place in the world today? In your community? Perhaps in your own life? (Idolatry? Adultery? Using the Lord's name in vain? Envy?)

What do you think motivates people to live as though no one will ever hold them accountable for their actions?

The author of Hebrews reminds us that “no creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Heb. 4:13). In Jesus Christ, believers no longer have to dread their accountability before a holy God.

What are some ways that we can “push back” against this embracing of sin?

*** As a believer, how can you show that you take seriously your accountability before God for your sins yet rejoice in the peace, forgiveness, and new life that you have in Christ?

*** Take time this week to prayerfully consider the sins in your lives. Place your trust in God to forgive you and develop a plan to ensure lasting change.

*** Know Jesus more intimately by focusing on practicing the disciplines that lead to spiritual growth.

*** Ask yourself and God, how does your life demonstrate that you are trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation? What needs to change in your life in light of the truth that Jesus is the only way of salvation?

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Cooper and Penny celebrate Grandaddy's birthday

Thanks to Cheryl for these pics from my dad-in-law's birthday dinner at Casa Mexicana ...

Monday, March 02, 2015

God Is

My Sunday School lesson for March 1, 2015 ...

Sunday we started our three-month study of the minor prophets in the Old Testament, beginning with Nahum ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** God has the last word.

--- Do you know someone who always has to have the last word? Is that you? Think it isn't? OK, how about this? White and Gold? Blue and black?

--- When you argue with God you get nothing but frustration.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** During the next three months our the study will focus on the Minor Prophets, beginning with the Book of Nahum.

--- The Book of Nahum opens with an affirmation of God’s characteristics, specifically His jealousy, sovereignty, goodness, and justice. Nahum used God’s characteristics to assure the Hebrew people of God’s power to relieve the storms they were experiencing at the hands of their enemies.

--- The Book of Nahum is a poem, written prior to the Babylonian exile, to be a constant reminder of God’s attributes and what God will do to unrepentant sinners.

--- Almost nothing is known of the prophet Nahum. We do know the book was written before 612 B.C. when Ninevah and Assyria were taken over by the Babylonians.

--- We don’t know precisely when or where he lived. Nahum came from the city of Elkosh. No one knows with certainty where ancient Elkosh was located. The city was probably situated somewhere in ancient Judah. However, another possibility is that Elkosh was located in an area of the Assyrian Empire to which Nahum and his family had been deported.

*** Nahum prophesies against the city of Ninevah, the capital of Assyria.

--- Remember, God was going to blot out Nineveh until Jonah (at first unwillingly) sparked a revival there over 100 years before, but clearly the revival was over.

*** The ruins of ancient Nineveh lie beneath the modern city of Mosul, Iraq. (Now under the control of ISIS.)

*** Nineveh and Assyria were the center of paganism and one of history’s cruelest armies, plundering, raping, pillaging, and enslaving enemies. You know the saying “They needed killing?” Well God decided that Nineveh and the empire was ripe for divine judgment.

JEALOUS (Nah. 1:1-3a)

1 The oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. 2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is fierce in wrath. The LORD takes vengeance against His foes; He is furious with His enemies. 3a The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will never leave the guilty unpunished.

*** v. 1 - Nahum's burden.

--- The literal meaning when it says "oracle" is “burden.” It describes the weightiness of the prophet’s message from God in this brief, three-chapter book - dark and terrifying prophecies that depicted the violent overthrow of the superpower in the world of that day. It is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer to various kinds of burdens such as a heavy load placed on the back of a donkey (see Ex. 23:5), sacred items of the tabernacle to be transported by a particular family of Israelites (see Num. 4:24), and the weighty responsibilities associated with protecting or caring for another person (see 2 Sam. 15:33).

*** v. 2 - God's jealousy is different than ours.

--- Nahum proclaims four of the greatest truths of the Bible:

1.) The Lord is a jealous God. - To say that God is jealous doesn't make him sound petty or insecure. God is protective. God deeply cherishes His relationships with us and wants nothing to get in the way, just as a spouse cannot pretend to be unconcerned if their marriage vows are broken. Nahum wasn’t the first or last prophet in the Bible to talk about divine jealousy. That message had been circulating since at least the days of Moses (see Ex. 20:5), and it was affirmed by other prophets (see Ezek. 5:13; Joel 2:18; Zeph. 1:18; Zech. 8:2). The message also carried over into the New Testament (see 1 Cor. 10:22).

2.) The Lord is an avenging God. - He punishes wrongdoing. He still does (Romans 12:19 - Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.).

3.) The Lord is fierce in wrath.

4.) He is furious with His enemies. - The truth is, God counts some people as enemies, and sometimes He acts with rage against them. He did so against Ninevites.

*** v. 3a - God uses his powers for good.

--- The Lord is patient. Thankfully. He’s going to let us pout and fume for a bit. It comes with a purpose. In the New Testament, the apostle Peter declared that God is patient toward sinners, because He does not want people to die in their sins. He wants them to repent (see 2 Pet. 3:9 - The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.).

--- God’s display of patience may appear to us at times to allow shamelessly wicked people to escape His justice. But God’s justice will ultimately prevail (see Ex. 34:7).

SOVEREIGN (Nah. 1:3b-6)

3b His path is in the whirlwind and storm, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet. 4 He rebukes the sea so that it dries up, and He makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither; even the flower of Lebanon withers. 5 The mountains quake before Him, and the hills melt; the earth trembles at His presence—the world and all who live in it. 6 Who can withstand His indignation? Who can endure His burning anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, even rocks are shattered before Him.

*** “The greatest single distinguishing feature of the omnipotence of God is that our imagination gets lost when thinking about it.”

--- God can do it all. ALL. Can we fathom that?

*** Respect the polygon.

--- When there's a killer storm bearing down on the Mid-South, where do you go? Do you have a storm shelter or safe room? Do you go to a community shelter? Yet some storms overwhelm even our best efforts to prepare.

--- QUESTION - Have you ever spent time in a shelter or safe room during a storm? If so, what did you think and feel before reaching the shelter? What did you think and feel while sitting in the shelter?

--- The people of Bible times were no strangers to the destructive power of nature. The same thunderstorm that brought rain for parched fields could also produce a flood that washed away houses and drowned livestock. Whirlwinds, earthquakes, droughts, and pestilence often struck without warning, leaving the land decimated and survivors in distress.

--- In Scripture, the fury of nature is often described as nothing less than the power of Almighty God on display. God's power to enforce His commands is staggering.

--- v. 4 - Bashan and Carmel were symbols of agricultural prosperity in ancient Israel (see Jer. 50:19; Ezek. 39:18; Zech. 11:2). Lebanon, a fertile land situated to the north of Israel along the Mediterranean Sea, was also idealized as a place of great forests and fields (see 2 Kings 19:23; Ps. 72:16).

--- When Jesus died God showed His power and control as "darkness came over all the land for three hours," and in Matthew 27:51-53 - At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

*** QUESTION - In what ways do the sovereign acts of God cause fear today?

GOOD (Nah. 1:7)

7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in a day of distress; He cares for those who take refuge in Him.

*** Acts of God cause fear, so Nahum shifts to focus on the Lord's radiant qualities:

1.) The Lord is good. - This truth was so valued by the ancient Israelites that it was mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament (see Pss. 25:8; 34:8; 100:5; 135:3; 145:9; Jer. 33:11; Lam. 3:25).

2.) The Lord is a stronghold in a day of distress. - Earthly fortresses may fail to protect those who hide in them, but God’s strong presence will not fail in times of trouble. God never promised to put some kind of magical dome over believers that protects them from every sort of physical, financial, and emotional trouble. However, just as an ancient rock fortress was large, strong and protective of the one who stayed in it, so we who are believers will find God to be an unfailing source of strength and confidence as we live in faith.

3.) The Lord genuinely cares for those who take refuge in Him. - He knows every detail of our lives, inside and out, past, present, and future (see Ps. 139:1-12). More than that, with the utmost of sensitivity He takes all of who we are or will be into account as He works out His will in our lives.

*** He does all this even though He doesn't have to do anything to prove Himself to us or to be worthy of our worship. His promise is not that we will have riches in this world, but that if we believe in Jesus and glorify Him that we will spend eternity in heaven.

--- God is aware of those who trust Him.

*** God's goodness to those who are repentant is evident in Joel 2:12-14 -

12 “Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the LORD your God.

--- QUESTION - How has the Lord been good to you? How has He cared for you in a time of distress?

JUST (Nah. 1:8)

8 But He will completely destroy Nineveh with an overwhelming flood, and He will chase His enemies into darkness.

*** God doesn’t bluff.

You know those Grizzlies growl towels that say “We don’t bluff?” Well, God doesn’t bluff.

--- Verse 8 presents a harsh ending for the Ninevites, as well as for unbelievers who turn away from God. More complete and accurate than any security camera’s videotape, God keeps a record of every person’s words, actions, and thoughts. Everyone is accountable (see Eccl. 12:14; Matt. 12:36; Luke 12:2).

--- It wasn’t long after that God the Babylonians in bringing the capital city of the Assyrian empire to a catastrophic end in 612 B.C.

TAKE AWAY POINTS

We talked about chapter 1 today, but chapters 2 and 3 of Nahum remind me of "The Princess Bride." Do you remember when the Dred Pirate Westley insults Prince Humperdink? The prince says that no one has dared to talk to him that way, like when Westley says, "I'll explain and I'll use small words so that you'll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon" and "It's possible, Pig, I might be bluffing. It's conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I'm only lying here because I lack the strength to stand. But, then again... perhaps I have the strength after all."

Check out Nahum 3:5-6 when God speaks against Ninevah, he tells the Assyrians in terms they aren’t used to hearing:

“I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty.
“I will lift your skirts over your face.
I will show the nations your nakedness
and the kingdoms your shame.
6 I will pelt you with filth,
I will treat you with contempt
and make you a spectacle."

*** God doesn’t bluff. Today we learned that God has revealed His characteristics so that we can know Him and trust that He is in control.

*** What are some ways that you and we can serve as a God-given place of refuge for someone experiencing a storm?

*** To be against God is to be damned, and yet for those who seek Him we read in 1 John 4:8 - Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. God is holy and He is love, but not in the sense that we are holy and loving. His holiness and love are perfect. Because of His perfect love, God has provided a way for the sinful world that He loves to escape His vengeance and wrath. That way is through His Son, Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus can we find refuge from the storms of life.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cooper's first Monster Jam, pt. 2

Cooper's joy all night was so much fun to be around. I mean, I like Monster Jam and it was a great show, but doing it with my son was awesome.

Before the show started they had a bunch of people out driving around remote control Monster Jam trucks, which really kept Cooper's attention for a good 15 minutes. Which was also the number of times he let me know that he'd really like one of those sometime.

FedExForum is tight quarters for monster trucks, so they can't do as many tricks as the football stadiums, but it was still a great show ...

The trucks started off with a Wheelie Competition, plus they had a Donut Competition and raced before doing the ultimate freestyle round ...

We bought some headphones that day that are made for going to gun ranges, which was good, because it was so loud Cooper actually requested to wear them the whole time ...

Max-D doing his thing ...

Cooper was very much impressed with the Freestyle Motorcycle guys who jumped the ramps and did tricks, flips, all kinds of sweet moves ...

Then there was Megasaurus, a tank that turned into a dinosaur to "eat" a car while breathing fire. Cooper wasn't sure whether it was super cool or super terrifying ...