Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cooper and Penny at the Zoo, pt. 1

Watch Out!

My Sept. 28 lesson ...

Memory Verse: Hebrews 3:13a - But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today...

Main Idea: Believers must encourage each other to firmly hold to Jesus.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Warning signs are everywhere! Think of how many you see that you ignore. Every year there is a contest to find the most ridiculous warning labels. Here are some compiled by Forbes.com:

~ The Jabra Drive ‘N’ Talk is a Bluetooth speakerphone accessory for cellphones to be used in the car. The Drive ‘N’ Talk carries this contradictory warning label: “Never operate your speakerphone while driving.”

~ Nytol sleeping pills says "may cause drowsiness."

~ Picture on a chainsaw says, "Do not hold the wrong side of a chainsaw."

~ On gas caps for personal recreational vehicles such as jet skis and ATVs it says "Never use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level."

~ Vidal Sassoon hair dryer says, "Do not use while sleeping."

~ A letter opener for Staples said, "Safety goggles recommended."

~ Razor scooter says, "This product moves when used."

~ Finally ... Midol Menstrual Complete has a warning not to use it if you have difficulty urinating due to an enlarged prostate. ... ((((I'll let that one sink in ...))))

*** Now, spiritually speaking, what kind of warnings do you wish were in place for your spiritual journey with Christ?

--- The writer of Hebrews delivered a warning, calling on the readers to learn from history. We will discover a lesson from history and two actions we are to take to avoid the same mistakes made by the Israelites.

KNOW YOUR HISTORY (HEB. 3:7-11)

7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works 10 for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation and said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.” 11 So I swore in My anger, “They will not enter My rest.”

*** 1. Fix your thoughts on Jesus.

--- A. Verses 1 through 6 in the chapter relate that Jesus is greater than Moses, just "as a builder of a house is greater than the house itself."

--- B. The author of Hebrews is quoting from Psalm 95 in these verses to show how just as Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and delivered them through the wilderness and into the promised land, Jesus leads His followers of our the bondage of sin and into eternal life.

--- C. The Israelites lost focus. They didn't keep their eyes on the prize. They dropped the ball. We are called to think about and meditate on Jesus and the Bible. The hymn says it all:

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace."

*** 2. Rebellion leaves you distant from God.

--- A. The Israelites grumbled about a lack of water (Exodus 17:1-7), about a lack of meat (Exodus 16), and eventually even refused to go into the promised land at the given time because only two men - Joshua and Caleb- were ready to act on faith. (Numbers 14)

--- B. Is there a time in your life you were rebelling against God?

*** 3. Be faithful as He is faithful.

--- A. Even as the Israelites rebelled, God continued to guide them, to provide for them and protect them.

--- B. Can you think of someone who helped you out during your rebellion and didn't give up?

HEED THE WARNING (HEB. 3:12)

12 Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God.

*** 1. Watch out.

--- A. Unbelief can sneak into your life and take hold. Take concern for other believers.

--- B. God’s grace is sufficient to forgive us of our sins as we confess them (see 1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.). However, any professing Christians who develop a pattern of disobedience and retreat from their confession of Christ as Savior and Lord are warned to make sure, to watch out, to see to it that their faith in Christ is genuine.

--- C. Since we are to keep watch over our hearts, how do you do this in your own life? How might we keep one another accountable in a Bible study group or even in a church congregation?

--- D. Do you think there are any observable signs or indicators that a person is developing a rebellious heart. If so, what are they?

--- E. Paul gave a similar warning in 2 Corinthians 13:5 when he challenged the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were truly in the faith: Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER (HEB. 3:13-15)

13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. 14 For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. 15 As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

*** 1. Encourage each other.

--- A. Memory verse! 3:13a: "But encourage each other daily..."

--- Do you know someone who needs less discouragement and more encouragement?

--- B. In John 13:34-45 Jesus says that loving one another is not optional: A new command I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.

We could all be as positive as Texas high school running back Apollos Hester, who has a grasp of what's important and how to have a winning attitude:

“It’s a mindset, yes ma’am, Hey, you can do anything you put your mind to. Never give up on your dreams. Keep smiling. No matter what you’re going through, you fall down, just get up. If you can’t get up, your friends are there to help you up, your mama’s there, your daddy’s there, God’s there, hey I’m there to help you up, you’re there!”

--- C. As believers were are to encourage one another. To do so glorifies Jesus.

1 Pet. 4:8-10 – 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

*** D. Question - What does daily encouragement in the faith look like? Can you think of at least one way you can encourage someone in the faith this week? Whom do you know who needs a call, a visit, an email, and your prayers?

*** 2. Persevere now and until the end and you will be in Him.

--- A. Verse 14: For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start says that if have genuine faith it must endure. This verse means that if someone does not have faith that endures, then it is not genuine faith.

*** 3. ”It was then that I carried you.”

--- A. Verse 15: "As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."

--- B. God’s grace carries us through the difficult seasons of life. Keep your heart ready to accept His help.

It’s like the poem “Footprints,” hanging in every grandmother's bathroom: “During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

Our faith grows because we see how God’s grace carries us through the difficult seasons of life.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

*** 1. Rely on, or find, an accountability partner. Use them for support, encouragement and to talk about areas where you need to make sure your faith is solid.

*** 2. Encourage Pastor David and other church leaders. Use emails, handwritten notes, and other mediums to let the pastor and other leaders know that your group is praying for them.

*** 3. Think of our memory verse - Hebrews 3:13a - this week.

Why was He one of us?

My Life Group lesson from Sept. 21 ...

Memory Verse: Hebrews 2:18 - For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.

Main Idea: God’s Son took on human nature to free us from sin and death.

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** The joke goes like this: "You are unique, just like everyone else."

Every one of us is a unique individual. Yet, we all have at least one thing in common. That’s right. We’re all human. We’re not plants, insects, or animals. We’re not robots or random collections of cosmic matter. We’re flesh-and-blood human beings, created in the image of God.

*** QUESTION - What are some positives about our uniqueness as individuals? What response do you have when you think about our common humanity?

Here’s another thing that, according to Scripture, we have in common. We’re all sinners in need of a Savior (see Rom. 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.). The world’s first two humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and became sinners (see Gen. 3:1-7). Every human being descends from this first couple; therefore all of us are born under the curse of sin.

*** QUESTION - Jesus was born of a woman. Why is it important that Jesus was human?

--- "What if God was one of us," the song goes, but thankfully he's not a slob like one of us.

--- Answers in Genesis writes that if Jesus had just been a spiritual being he would not have spilled blood and we could not be truly cleansed from our sins.

Because He was fully human, we could see our own sufferings in Him, for He endured the same types of trials as we face, and He persevered under great physical pain. We can identify with Him since He was fully human (Hebrews 2:14). He suffered pain and endured emotions so He could relate to and sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15).

EXPLORE THE TEXT

TO DESTROY THE DEVIL (HEB. 2:14-16)

14 Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil— 15 and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that He does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring.

*** v. 14 - Jesus shares our humanity.

--- Let’s talk about the term “hypostatic union.” It’s what the theologians use to explain that Jesus is fully God and fully man. While we may not be able to fully grasp this doctrine, the hypostatic union is the joining of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus. (Answers in Genesis )

--- He walked. He talked. He laughed. He ate. He drank. He smelled the flowers. He wept. He touched. Surely He got a cold virus. He stared at the stars (although he probably never asked “What is the meaning of life?”). Right there in the Bible it says that Jesus got tired. He got frustrated frequently with his disciples.

*** Verse 14 also says that Jesus came to take on the Devil.

--- QUESTION – What are some of the Biblical names for the Devil? - Satan, Lucifer/morning star who fell, tempter, father of lies, god of this age, evil/wicked one, adversary/enemy, great dragon). How do these names help you understand the Devil’s character?

--- What too many people – and this includes Christians fail to admit – is that the Devil is all too real.

1 John 3:8 - 8 The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works.

--- What we need to remind Satan is that he's a loser. It's in the Bible. He's already lost. Not only shouldn't we fear Satan, HE SHOULD FEAR US.

*** v. 15 - "You may take our lives, but you'll never take our freedom!"

--- The Scottish voted to reject independence Thursday, whether to become free from English rule. Something William Wallace would have much rather have been able to do 700 years ago instead of battle!

--- In verse 15 we read that Jesus was made human in order to free us from the power and penalty of sin. Now that's real freedom!

--- You know those studies that say you have a 25 percent greater chance of dying if you drink too many Mountain Dews, or a 55 percent greater chance of dying if you jump of a cliff? Well, the reality is, unless there's a rapture in the next 75 years there is a 100 percent chance of death.

Many live in fear of death. We think about “What comes after death?” and “Is this life all there is?” Here is the good news for those who will trust in Jesus: We no longer fear death because we know Jesus overcame it by His resurrection.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 - 55 Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? 56 Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

*** v. 16 - Abraham’s offspring.

--- The term “Abraham’s offspring” can refer specifically to the Israelites, the physical descendants of Abraham. In this context, however, the term probably is broader in meaning. It can refer to all peoples of the earth in that God promised to bless all the nations through Abraham (see Gen. 12:3). The apostle Paul spoke of this broader meaning in Romans 4:13-25, where he declared that God’s promise of salvation by grace was guaranteed not only to Abraham’s descendants through the law (Israelites) but also to those who are of Abraham’s faith:

Romans 4:16-17 - 16 This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all 17 in God’s sight. As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He believed in God, who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist.

By His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, Jesus has removed forever the sting of death for believers. By His death, the Author of life rendered powerless the prince of death, the Devil. God the Son took on real flesh and blood to rescue those with whom He shared human nature. This rescue is given to every human being who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (see Rom. 6:23).

*** QUESTION - What characteristics of God are demonstrated through Christ taking on a human body? What other passages come to mind that point to Christ defeating the Devil? How do those verses add to your understanding of who Christ is?

TO MAKE PROPITIATION (HEB. 2:17-18)

17 Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.

*** v. 17 - Jesus was human to save us.

--- The term “propitiation” refers to a wrath-bearing sacrifice, which Jesus Himself became when He offered up Himself. It carries the idea of a sacrifice that turns away God’s wrath and judgment.

--- We don’t need a High Priest anymore. We don’t need a Pope. We have direct access to Jesus to ask forgiveness and thank him for being the only acceptable sacrifice to our sins.

--- Therefore, for believers - for all of us brothers and sisters in Christ - there is no more fear!

--- In His humanity Jesus did not want to die—He did not enjoy the thought of being beaten and crucified. He asked God THREE TIMES if there was another way:

Matthew 26:39 - Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:42 - Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Matthew 26:44 - After leaving them, He went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

--- When it came time, however, Jesus accepted God’s will.

--- Mankind cannot say that God has not lived as man, and thus cannot relate. Jesus understands the challenges of living as a man, and extends His mercy, in part, because of His understanding.

*** v. 18 – Memory Verse: Hebrews 2:18 - "For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested."

--- Jesus knows temptations.

--- QUESTION - How often do you give in to temptation because you are tired or sick or you’ve run out of patience? What causes you to give in? As Junior Asparagus sang on VeggieTales, “life should be a party but my hot dog has fallen off the bun.”

--- It's easy to say that we have it harder nowadays, that the temptations of today are more than what they faced 2,000 years ago. We fight temptations when it comes to technology and alcohol and drugs and money.

--- But think of it this way: He is aware of the full weight of temptation on His followers. In Matthew 4:1-11 it is written that Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, fasting and tired and hot. Then he took on the Devil. He wasn't just tempted by Satan. Satan was sitting RIGHT THERE having a discussion and trying to tempt Jesus.

--- Jesus provides believers the way of escape from temptation:

--- 1 Cor. 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.). Therefore, we can turn to Him and find mercy and strength to resist temptation. He promises that when we come to Him, we will find mercy and grace to help in our time of need, because He sympathizes with our weaknesses, yet without sin.

TAKE AWAY POINTS

QUESTION - Did anyone have anything stand out in reading the Bible this week that you can share?

*** Jesus paid your sin debt in His death on the cross. We owe a debt so enormous that you could never repay even if you tried. So don’t.

*** Look at the study guide on page 40. Think of a friend or family member who needs to know that Jesus became flesh and shed his blood for our sins. Write their initials in the book and pray for them this week.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cooper and Penny at the Davies Plantation park

Oh yeah, I totally wore them out! Now who has more energy?!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cooper and Penny at the Brunswick Rd. park, pt. 2

"That's not a pocket where you can leave your rock," I told Penny. "It is!" she insisted.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cooper and Penny around and about

Penny's happy visit from cousin Aidan ...

All partying stops when "Olivia" comes on ...

Running around Bartlett Baptist during their great-great aunt Sissy's 85th birthday party ...

Penny helps me out when I had to fix (then replace) the garbage disposal ...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Who is Jesus?

My Life Group lesson from Sun., Sept. 7 ...

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

Today we start a 13-week study of the book of Hebrews:

--- We don’t know who wrote Hebrews. Possibilities include Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Mark, Phillip, Silas, Apollos, and even Priscilla (Aquila’s wife). Whoever it was had extensive knowledge of Jewish customs and the scriptures, and was possibly heavily influenced by Paul. Only God knows for certain.

--- We don’t know exactly when it was written. Probably just before 70 A.D. and the fall of Jerusalem.

--- "The letter of Hebrews is more like a sermon, delivered to a group of people who are thinking of giving up on the Christian faith." (From the Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook)

--- The writer is like a preacher drawing them back to spiritual safety. Hebrews calls us to stay strong in the faith, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

*** QUESTION TO OPEN THINGS – How do you explain God and Jesus to your kids, nieces and nephews, or how did your elders teach you as a child? Did they simplify it?

--- How do you clearly get across the point who Jesus is and what He did?

--- To my kids I try to keep it simple: God loves you, He always has, He always will, as the book goes from David Jeremiah, who coincidentally is also the editor of this study guide!

--- The author of Hebrews goes back to the basics. You’ve probably heard Pastor David tell the story of legendary college basketball coach John Wooden. He would start the first practice of the season with what you would think is the simplest of the simple: How to put on your socks correctly. If you don’t do that, you get bad feet and right away you’re useless.

--- Today we’re going to look at the basic but very important question: “Who is Jesus?”

Now let’s break Hebrews 1:1-4 down, verse by verse. The main idea of today's lesson is that as God’s Son, Jesus revealed God finally and without equal.

GOD SPEAKS (Hebrews 1:1-2a)

1 Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2a In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.

*** Verse 1 - Long ago, in a galaxy far far away …

Many stories begin with a phrase such as, “Once upon a time,” “A long time ago,” or “Once there was a...” These opening lines usually lead us to a story that’s full of fantasy, such as fairy tales or science fiction.

But the author of Hebrews begins with the words “Long ago,” not to take us away from reality, but to show that this wasn’t a new message, but one foretold for centuries. The message refers to the times of the Old Testament when God spoke to His people through the prophets – including Moses, Samuel, Elisha, Isaiah and Jeremiah.

--- God told the Israelites to trust the prophets:

Amos 3:7 - Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophet.

Moses: Deut. 34:10 - And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face...

Samuel: 1 Sam. 3:20 - And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.

Elisha: 2 Kings 3:11 - But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah."

Isaiah: 2 Kings 20:1 - In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Jeremiah: 2 Chron. 36:12 - He did evil in the eyes of the Lord his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the Lord.

--- These prophets faithfully spoke God’s words to the people of Israel. Yet they also pointed to the coming of One—Jesus Christ—who would be God’s perfect Spokesman. Jesus said that that in Matthew 5:17 - “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

--- Isaiah 9:6-7 - 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

-- Jeremiah 31:31-34 - 31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.34 No longer will they teach their neighbor or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

--- However, the Jewish Christians of the late first century hadn't heard from God in centuries. Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was written about 430 B.C.

--- QUESTION - It's been 2,000 years since the New Testament was written. We know that Jesus was the new covenant and the scriptures speak to us. But do you think that makes a difference when trying to explain Jesus and the Bible to nonbelievers?

*** Verse 2a - In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.

*** "The last days" refers the time from Jesus' birth forward, not necessarily saying that we are in the end times. The phase is talking about the separation of the two ages, before Jesus and after Jesus.

*** The Old Testament has books by 17 prophets, all revealing bits of prophecy about Jesus. He even said as much while walking with the disciples after His resurrection: --- Luke 24:27 - And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

--- The first age pointed to what would come in the second: 1 Pet. 1:10-12 - 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

GOD REVEALED (Hebrews 1:2b-4)

2b God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

*** Seven truths about Jesus are revealed in verses 2 and 3.

(1.) Christ is the “appointed … heir of all things.” - This phrase alludes to Psalm 2:8, where the psalmist foretold that the Messianic King from the family line of King David would be given the ends of the earth.

(2.) Christ is the one through whom God made the universe. - Jesus is the Heir of all things precisely because He was with God in the beginning as the Agent of creation.

--- John 1:3 - Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

--- Colossians 1:16 - For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

(3.) Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory.”- This phrase means that to see Jesus Christ is to see the glory of God.

(4.) Jesus is the “exact expression” of God’s nature and being. - Once when Philip asked Jesus to show the Father to the disciples, Jesus responded by declaring that to see Him was to see the Father (see John 14:8-9 - 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?). While the Father and the Son are distinct Persons, they are of the same divine nature.

(5.) Jesus upholds all the created order. - Unlike the mythical deity Atlas, who is pictured as holding the earth on his shoulders, Jesus is the Creator and Commander of all created things. He sustains everything by His powerful word—and He is not the least bit taxed by the effort. It is deeply assuring.

--- QUESTION - What are some things that might cause Christians to question whether Jesus is in control of all things?

(6.) Jesus makes purification for sins. - This is a preview of a major theme in Hebrews, Jesus sacrifice for our sins. In Old Testament times, the high priest offered an atonement sacrifice once a year for the Israelites' sins, but none offered themselves as a perfect sacrifice. None were qualified. Jesus was and is.

(7.) He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. - Jesus the Eternal Son of God lives and rules with the power of God the Father, doing so with all authority as the One who bears God’s own name.

*** QUESTION - What keeps people from trusting Jesus with every aspect of their lives? How do these verses strengthen your resolve to endure in faith?

*** Verse 4 - So He became higher in rank than the angels, just as the name He inherited is superior to theirs.

*** Jesus the Son, through whom God has now spoken in a full and final way, is greater than the angels.

*** QUESTION - Why would it have been important for the writer of Hebrews to establish the fact that Jesus has a higher rank than angels?

--- The writer of Hebrews adds in verses 5 through 14 that no angel shared the relationship Jesus the son and God the father. Angels are servants; Jesus is the Divine Son. We need to remember that the first readers of Hebrews might have been tempted to return to Judaism. They needed to understand that Jesus surpassed the nature and role of angels in the Old Testament just as He surpassed the prophets.

--- Given who Jesus is, then, we can trust Him in everything. That was the writer’s intention for those early Christians and also for us today.

*** Question - What makes some people uncomfortable when asked to speak about what they believe about Jesus?

*** So who is Jesus? Adrian Rogers writes:

“Nobody knows the exact date of His birth, and yet His birth has divided all of history to A.D. and B.C. As far as we know, Jesus never wrote a book, and yet more books have been written about Him than any other person who ever lived. He never painted a picture or composed any poetry or music that we know of, and yet He has been the inspiration of the greatest music, art, and poetry that the world has ever known.

“Jesus did not travel extensively, and yet His influence is worldwide. He never had any formal education, yet more schools, colleges, universities, and seminaries have been founded in His name than any other person who ever lived. In His own life, He was relatively unknown outside of His own friends and countrymen.

“That’s who the Lord Jesus is, and, friend, we need to understand this: Never has there been another like the Lord Jesus Christ! And there never will be.”

(Love Worth Finding)

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

*** Think of someone who needs to know that God has revealed Himself in Christ. Pray for that person this week.

*** If that person is you, seek out the Bible for answers. Talk to someone about it.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Our Work With God's Creation

Sunday morning our life group talked about how God has given us responsibility over His creation ...

*** Question - What chores were you responsible for growing up? What chores do your kids do?

With new freedoms growing up comes responsibility. Getting a pet means walking out or feeding it. A driver's license means running errands.

*** God has given us freedom to enjoy His creation, but with responsibility to take care of it.

Creation of man, woman and the earth was supposed to be a relationship of perfect harmony. In Genesis God places Adam in a beautiful garden and provides his needs according to God’s rules. God asked all humans to be stewards of the environment in Genesis 1:28, when He said to Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 2:15, Adam and Eve obey God’s instructions both to ‘work’ the land and to ‘take care of it’ (2:15). Sadly, it is not long before everything is spoiled by human sin. (Truth For Life Resources)

Leviticus 25:1-3

25 The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: 2 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you, the land will observe a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its produce for six years.

*** The Israelites were coming out of slavery and 40 years of wandering the wilderness. In the Promised Land they would have freedoms not known for generations.

*** It's important to remember that our enjoyment of God's creation should encourage us to praise Him and give Him glory.

*** Question - For you, is caring for creation a political issue, a biblical issue, or a non-issue? Why do you think environmental issues become so political?

--- Politically you have the folks who would get rid of humanity to save the planet, and others who say we are the top of the food chain and can exploit natural resources as we wish.

Leviticus 25:4-5

4 But there will be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the Lord: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You are not to reap what grows by itself from your crop, or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. It must be a year of complete rest for the land.

*** God was teaching the Israelites a lesson, that everything comes from the Lord, and the way we use it shows our level of trust in Him.

--- By giving the land a year of rest, the Israelites were almost totally dependent on God as their provider. This wasn't a random test. All God's command are for our benefit. For example, it helps the land to let it lie fallow for a season. Doing so replenishes the soil, leading to stronger crops in the yard to follow.

--- QUESTION: Do you have enough faith to not work for a year? Could you save up during the six years, and then just not work your land, so to speak, for the seventh?

*** God desires for us to recognize the same truth as the Israelites 2,000 years ago:

--- He has given you what you have.
--- He is the One taking care of you now.
--- He will continue to be your ultimate provider.

Leviticus 25:6-7

6 Whatever the land produces during the Sabbath year can be food for you—for yourself, your male or female slave, and the hired hand or foreigner who stays with you. 7 All of its growth may serve as food for your livestock and the wild animals in your land.

*** God teaches the Israelites that as they are provided for, they must provide for others, such as servants, hired hands, and livestock.

God's command is to use what He gives us to take care of ourselves and benefit others. The study guide asks us to consider these questions:

--- If you're an employer, how are you taking care of those who work for you?

--- How are you using what God has given you to benefit those less fortunate than you?

--- How are you using what God has given you to help people around the world?

*** Do not draw attention to yourself as giving handouts; draw praise to God as the ultimate provider. The greatest blessing will be more people coming to know Him for eternity.

*** QUESTION – Do you use cloth diapers? Do you follow Sheryl Crow’s advice to use one sheet of TP? Are low-flow toilets and showers evil? What are some changes you can make in your lifestyle that will fulfill God’s desire concerning your care of His creation?

*** There is actually a Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative. It’s an independent coalition of Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, and laypersons who believe in stewardship that is both biblically rooted and intellectually informed.

(1) Humans Must Care for Creation and Take Responsibility for Our Contributions to Environmental Degradation.

(2) It Is Prudent to Address Global Climate Change

(3) Christian Moral Convictions and Our Southern Baptist Doctrines Demand Our Environmental Stewardship.

(4) It Is Time for Individuals, Churches, Communities and Governments to Act.

LIVE IT OUT

How can we fulfill our responsibility to care for God's creation this week?

--- Steward your space. You can't fix the world, but you can make a difference where you are. Choose to take a small step by recycling, picking up trash, planting a garden, etc.

--- Shop responsibly. Reward companies that have taken steps toward carrying for God's creation.

--- Serve the world. Do missions to experience the joy of giving to others because of what God has given you.