Thursday, August 28, 2014

God's Amazing Creation!

In Sunday morning's lesson we talked about God’s awesome work!

The Point: Everything in creation is the work of the God who loves us.

*** QUESTION - Are u the kind of person who walks into a meadow and immediately finds a manure pile? Or do you see the beauty?

--- Today we’re going to talk about finding joy in God’s creation, and recognize just how incredible our universe is that He created.

PSALM 104:1-5

1 My soul, praise Yahweh! Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with majesty and splendor.2 He wraps Himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy,3 laying the beams of His palace on the waters above, making the clouds His chariot, walking on the wings of the wind,4 and making the winds His messengers, flames of fire His servants.5 He established the earth on its foundations; it will never be shaken.

*** Verse 1 proclaims that God is great. VERY great!

*** Verse 1 also proclaims that God is clothed with majesty and splendor.

*** Verses 2 through 4 describe God's amazing work in creation that reflect God’s:

--- Majesty
--- Tenderness
--- Power
--- Creativity

*** The sky seems to go on forever and is filled with stars and clouds in ever-changing patterns, stretched out as simply as a tent or canopy. If you’ve been our west, look up at night in the clear sky, free of humidity and trees, and be amazed.

*** I get a tired of the lead stories in the news, so I love to check out the science sections instead to see how humanity is still exploring new wonders and learning about just how awesome God’s creation is. For instance:

Scientists at the Univ. of Hawaii said, if you assume a grain of sand has an average size and you calculate how many grains are in a teaspoon and then multiply by all the beaches and deserts in the world, the Earth has roughly 7.5 x 1018 grains of sand, or seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains.

Scientists estimate there are 12 sextillion stars in the universe. That’s 10,000 stars for every grain of sand on our planet. There 100 billion stars just in the Milky Way! If you took a spacecraft at the fastest speed possible now, it would take 75,000 years just to get to the nearest star.

So that makes stars the champions of numerosity, no?

Ummm, no.

If you took 10 drops of water and counted the number of H2O molecules in those drops, you'd get a number equal to all the stars in the universe.

--- Now think of it this way: Psalm 139:17-18 - “The sum of God’s thoughts toward me number more than the sand.”

*** Amazingly, in all of God's magnificence, majesty and splendor, He has chosen to love you.

PSALM 104: 24-26

24 How countless are Your works, Lord! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures. 25 Here is the sea, vast and wide, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small. 26 There the ships move about, and Leviathan, which You formed to play there.

--- QUESTION - How have you seen God's wisdom reflected in the natural world? We don't have to be Bear Grylls to understand the power of the natural world.

--- QUESTIONS - What are some of your favorite natural vacation spots? What is it about that place that makes it your favorite? What vacation moment (even if you were in your own backyard) this summer made you think of the wonder and power of God’s creation?

*** There is a place for everything. Everything in its place. Placed by God.

--- Jeremiah 23:24 – “Can a man hide himself in secret places where I cannot see him?”—the Lord’s declaration. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?”—the Lord’s declaration.

--- He has designed you, created you, and placed you in this life for purpose that will bring you joy as you walk in relationship with Him.

*** QUESTION - What hinders us from recognizing God's continual activity in sustaining creation?

PSALM 104:27-30

27 All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right time. 28 When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When You send Your breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.

*** God's creatures wait for Him. They understand that He is the One who provides food for them. He is providing what they need for life; therefore, they wait for Him.

*** God faithfully provides.

--- The psalmist explained that God provides His creation with food "at the right time." He desires to provide for us on a regular basis, all the time.

--- Just as you give your family good food because you love them, how does God’s provision show His love?

*** Verses 28-30 stress how God acts: "You give ... You open Your hand ... You hide ... You take away ... You send ... You renew."

--- He is powerful. He is powerful enough to speak things into existence. God spoke, it exists. He is wise. He designed every detail of the earth and its’ inhabitants precisely and perfectly, working in perfect rhythm and harmony in relationship with one another. God is also a loving God. He sustains that which He created out of love for His special creation, mankind.

*** QUESTION - How do we savor God as our Creator and appreciate His work?


--- How we think of God has much to do with how we think of ourselves. We need to see ourselves as the creation of Almighty God with a purpose. (Adrian Rogers)

How can we respond to the work of God as our Creator?

*** Enjoy God's creation. - Make it a point to get outside and enjoy different elements of God's creation. Allow the natural world to serve as a launching point for your communication with God, your Creator.

*** Give thanks. - Make a list this week of everything you're thankful for in your life. Be sure not to skimp - make it a long list! Then spend time expressing your thanks to God.

*** Love others. - Because God loves you, seek out an opportunity to reflect God's love to someone who needs it in the days to come.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cooper and Penny's first day of MDO

Val took some pictures of the kids before their first day of Mother's Day Out today at Faith Baptist. Cooper's an old pro, while it's Penny's first year, and unsurprisingly her note at the end of the day said that she has trouble with obeying the first time she's told to do something, and she wouldn't stay quiet at nap time. That's my girl.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Victorious Faith

(Jeff note: I am going to start posting my Sunday School teaching notes. Why use them just on my class where only 20 or so of us discuss it? Right now we are using the Bible Studies for Life guides from Lifeway:

This is the last of the series Resilient Faith and how Christians are to deal with trials and suffering.

*** When was the last time you had to “just grin and bear it,” “roll with the punches,” “bite the bullet,” or “weather the storm?” All are common phrases of encouragement when someone’s going through a tough time. The apostle Peter writes that we shouldn’t rely on ourselves to get through it.

*** Everyone loves a winner. Isn't it more fun to go into a situation when you know you're going to win? You know you're going to beat the other team. You know you're going to ace that test. You are totally going to beat the old ladies to the potato salad at the church potluck.

Today we're going to talk about the ultimate victory. Despite difficulties and opposition, we are not left alone. The Bible shows us what happens when we drop the self-made approach to faith and rely on God. We are winners!

1 Peter 5:6-7

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.

*** What’s the danger of trying to handle life on your own?

*** Christians and depression in light of Robin Williams’ suicide. A tough subject, but is it one that churchgoers don't recognize or ignore?

Do Christians have trouble asking for help? It speaks to the struggles of a human soul and to the necessity of a local church. When we hear about a believer doing such a thing we might think, “where was the church, how did they get to such a dark place without others in the body knowing. Did others know?” Our local church community should be so tight and close that anyone who is going through such things has many saints whom they can confide in and seek help to.

How can we lead Christians who are depressed and suicidal to help them let God turn them around?

*** In verse 6 Peter tells us to “Humble yourselves.”

--- This means we are to submit to the will of God, even – especially - when it includes pain and suffering.

*** In verse 6 Peter also writes that we should do this “Under the mighty hand of God.”

--- It may be hard to accept but Peter encourages us that difficulties can come into a Christian’s life through God’s will:

Job 30:21 - You have turned against me with cruelty; You harass me with Your strong hand.

Psalm 32:4 - For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat.

Deuteronomy 9:26 - I prayed to the Lord: Lord God, do not annihilate Your people, Your inheritance, whom You redeemed through Your greatness and brought out of Egypt with a strong hand.

Ezekiel 20:34 - I will bring you from the peoples and gather you from the countries where you were scattered, with a strong hand, an outstretched arm, and outpoured wrath.

*** Cast your cares on Him.

--- Worry, burdens and anxiety distract us from God’s care and concern for us if we focus on them too much.
--- God cares for you right now, wherever you are in life. He doesn’t sit quietly off to the side as His people suffer.

*** Why do you think Peter uses the term “humble yourselves” in verse 6? What do you think that means in our everyday walk?

1 Peter 5:8-9

8 Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.

*** Peter makes it clear that we have an adversary. Do we take Satan seriously enough? Is it harder to believe in an evil power than in a righteous God?

*** Do you remember the traffic signs with the bees on them that said: "Bee alert, arrive unhurt!" We give the same message to the drivers who look down texting while driving, or doing the lean while talking on the phone in the car.

Likewise, in verse 8 Peter tells us to be serious and alert for those things that could derail our Christian witness.

--- Matthew 26:41 - "Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

--- Acts 20:31 - Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.

--- 1 Thessalonians 5:6 - So then, we must not sleep, like the rest, but we must stay awake and be serious.

*** It is easy for Christians to lose focus and fall away from the church, and even turn to things like drugs and alcohol for false comfort.

*** The study guide points out two steps Peter tells us we can take to resist the Devil: Know what you believe and why you believe it.

*** What are some of the most common attacks we experience from Satan?

1 Peter 5:10-11

10 Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. 11 The dominion belongs to Him forever. Amen.

*** If you were going to visit a church, would you still go if you heard that the pastor had cursed and swore that he didn't know Jesus?

And yet this is the story of Peter in Matthew 26. Think of Peter - called The Rock by Jesus Himself - panicking in the face of trials like this. Have you ever been on a flight that had bad turbulence or a mechanical problem where it was clear even the flight attendants and crew were nervous? That’s when my anxiety goes way up. I think to myself, these guys have seen it all. and if they are this nervous, things must really be bad!

Knowing this, we will be restored after suffering trials just as Peter was restored. Note that Peter doesn't say that he will make sure that God doesn't let you suffer in life. He says that God will come through AFTER you have suffered, but only a little.

*** What forms of suffering do you think we can experience in this life that will help us to grow stronger in our faith?

*** Peter uses this experience to assure us four things in these verses:

--- God is our foundation for a sure hope.
--- God is the only One worthy of our trust and reverence.
--- God is the reason we can endure suffering and trials with resilient faith.
--- God is victorious.

*** Peter says God calls YOU, all of us, to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus. The Lord is the One who gives us strength and victory. He is worthy of all praise because there is nothing we can accomplish without Him.


How will we approach God for strength and restoration?

*** Don’t worry. – Be conscious of moments when you experience worry this week. Turn it into trust in God.

*** Be prepared. – Make a plan for dealing with attacks when they come your way.

*** Plan a retreat. – Take some time in the near future to get away from your daily routine and spend a significant portion of time with God – and only with God.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jeff's Top 5 Robin Williams Movies

They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

That quote in "Dead Poets Society" is one of my favorite scenes not just from a Robin Williams movie, but from any movie.

Williams was found dead Monday in his California home. His loss has been felt around the world, and not just because of his comedic and acting talents.

Williams' love of others is an example any of us can follow. He was a tremendous supporter of the military and servicemen and women, spending a lot of time around the world entertaining and spending time with them.

Williams was also amazing when it came to how he loved children who are dealing with severe illnesses.

He was a long-time supporter of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital here in Memphis, appearing in multiple campaigns for the facility.

I could read stories like this all day that show how much kindness Williams brought to young patients and their families.

President Obama released a very nice statement of condolence:

"Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien - but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most - from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin's family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams."

In his honor, here are my top 5 Robin Williams movies:

1. Dead Poets Society - Williams role here as a teacher who uses unconventional means to get his students is inspiring, touching and funny.

2. Good Morning, Vietnam - Has some of my favorite one-liners that I still use.

3. Good Will Hunting - Another teaching role here, Williams is a weathered professor who mentors Matt Damon and humanizes the movie.

4. The World According to Garp - I used to watch this every time it came on cable in the 80s. A little strange, unexpected, and Williams keeps it light.

5. Aladdin - He may have been just a voice of the Genie, but without his whirlwind of improv, this isn't nearly as entertaining.