Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cooper and Penny at the Pink Palace

Cooper, Penny and Levi enjoying the Pink Palace!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cooper and Penny playing at the mall

What to do when the women shop? Play! Levi joined Cooper and Penny to ride some rides, go for a ride around the mall on the train, and go for a spin on the carousel!

Faithful

My Sunday School lesson for May 24, 2015 ...

Have you ever done something online where you had to click on one of those "I Agree" buttons?

Like everyone else, you probably just click “Yes” and ignore the terms and conditions.

By clicking that box you promise to abide by the terms of use for that product. But have you ever read it? Usually there is a LOT of text, all of it written in legal jargon.

For Apple’s iTunes, that's a lot of pages. I printed out 24.

If it’s just for an app, then you can probably safely ignore the confusing legal stuff, but if something goes wrong with, say, buying plane tickets and then your flight changes, or if you have a dispute with your cable company or on your credit card bill, then you had better know what it said.

But one thing is for sure: entering into agreements is a big part of our everyday lives.

God set the terms of His covenant with Israel from the start. The problem was that the people ignored it and had to suffer the consequences.

One of the biggest ones was "Til death do us part."

Under the new covenant followers of Christ also must guard our hearts so that we won’t be led astray by sin’s deception.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Last week we introduced the book of Malachi, the last of the minor prophets in the Old Testament.

*** In chapter 1, the Lord through Malachi chastised the priests for dishonoring God during worship. They allowed people to bring in animals that weren't the best of the best, and God wasn't pleased.

*** This week in chapter 2 we see how Malachi described the unfaithfulness of the people. The people weren't following the covenant God had given their ancestors. They treated the Lord’s sanctuary with contempt and intermarried with people of other faiths. Others were divorcing their wives and marrying other women. God called it all unfaithfulness.

*** At the same time, Malachi said that people seemed to long for justice (see 2:17), but they apparently did not really want it in their own lives.

IRRESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOR (MAL. 2:10-12)

10 Don’t all of us have one Father? Didn’t one God create us? Why then do we act treacherously against one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has acted treacherously, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the Lord’s sanctuary, which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 To the man who does this, may the Lord cut off any descendants from the tents of Jacob, even if they present an offering to the Lord of Hosts.

*** We are family, all my brothers, sisters and me.

--- Malachi appeals to the people's heritage. They shared a common ancestry bound under one Father, and that's God.

--- They also shared in the sins of the nation.

(Is that fair? Surely there were many pious Jews there. Would we want to be punished for the sins of America?)

*** Malachi says the people acted "treacherously."

--- That's a strong term, suggesting willful irresponsible behavior.

*** They profaned the covenant.

--- Again, this is a serious charge, saying that the people have disregarded God's laws and dishonored God's promises.

*** Marriage to pagan women was a problem.

--- God established marriage. God loves marriage. But it is clear in the Bible that marriage to unbelievers violates God's covenant and thus our relationship with Him.

--- This isn’t some Old Testament law to keep the Jews’ ethnic bloodline pure. After all, Joseph married a believing non-Israelite. Boaz married Ruth, who was a Moabite. Moses married a Midianite and an Ethiopian.

This is also in the New Testament and it’s about keep ourselves pure. Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16a:

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

--- Our relationship with our Heavenly Father impacts all that we are and all that we do. They were also reminded that negative consequences that one generation’s bad teaching can have on the next generation.

--- Marrying a non-believer who doesn’t share your faith is almost always bound to affect your faith for the worse, just as spending time with friends and co-workers threatens to drag you down.

THE MARRIAGE COVENANT REAFFIRMED (Mal. 2:13-16)

13 And this is another thing you do: you cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning, because He no longer respects your offerings or receives them gladly from your hands. 14 Yet you ask, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant. 15 Didn’t the one God make us with a remnant of His life-breath? And what does the One seek? A godly offspring. So watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously against the wife of your youth. 16 “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

*** The people don’t get it.

--- The Israelites continued to offend God. The men of Israel had rejected their wives, so God rejected their sacrifices.

--- Bringing a sacrifice didn't automatically make up for the people's disloyal behavior when their hearts weren't full devoted to the Lord.

*** "For what reason?"

--- When the people ask that in verse 14, they reveal severe spiritual ignorance. They didn't see the disconnect between what they were doing in their lives and their worship. They were clearly just going through the motions.

--- When Malachi refers to the "wife of your youth," suggesting that they had been married young. But the men started going through a mid-life crisis, getting a sports chariot, etc. And divorcing their wives for a trophy wife who probably was a pagan. (Starring on “the Real Housewives of Judah.”)

*** Christ as our example.

--- Paul teaches us that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32):

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.)

--- Couples who marry for life have the opportunity to experience a great depth of love. As Christians, our marriages are a testimony to the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

*** Still, Christians are not immune to failed marriages, and not always at fault.

--- Just among ourselves in our class we see the effects of divorce, and if you haven't then you've been touched by it from your family and friends.

*** QUESTION - Why do you believe the divorce rate is so high among believers?

*** Since God loves marriage, it makes sense that he doesn’t like divorce. God really does not like it when people treat marriage flippantly.

--- This cuts against the grain of our culture, but the reality persists. Divorce severs relationships and shatters lives.

--- It is true that divorce was permitted in the Mosaic law, but only as Jesus later said, “because of your hardness of heart:”

Matthew 19:8-9 - Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

--- A wise man once said marriage is like gluing two pieces of cardboard together. You can pull them apart, but they are both torn, with pieces of each other permanently attached. One cannot be divorced without leaving some of yourself with your former mate, while you always carry some of your former partner with you.

*** QUESTION - What can we do to demonstrate God’s mercy toward someone who has been wounded by divorce?

GOD BRINGS JUSTICE (Mal. 2:17)

7 You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you ask, “How have we wearied Him?” When you say, “Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”

*** God was tired of the big hot mess that was Israel.

--- God cannot actually become weary, but He was tired of the whining, of the complaining, of the rebellious attitudes.

--- The culture had been tainted so much that the priests were allowing people to bring inferior offerings and to abandon the marriage covenant.

--- The more the culture disregards God's commandments, the further we decay spiritually.

*** Israel’s doubts continued.

--- According to Malachi, the people were accusing God of injustice for not punishing people whom they considered to be evil.

--- QUESTION - With these conditions, what did the Israelites believe about God? What realities in today’s world cause some people to ask “Where is God?”

--- How can we respond? Start by reading them 2 Peter 3:9-13: 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. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

--- As marriage goes, so goes the family; as the family goes, so goes the culture; as the culture goes, so goes the nation.

The 2012 report on Marriage in America from the Institute for American Values reveals that the health of family life has declined over the past several decades. For example:

• More than 40% of children in the late 2000s were born outside of marriage.
• Over the last forty years, the annual number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried adult women has dropped by more than 50%.
• The current divorce rate for an average married couple now stands between 40-50%.
• In 2011, 26% of all children lived in single-parent homes, a sharp increase from 9% in 1960.
• Since 1960, the number of unmarried cohabitating couples with children has increased fifteen fold.

Sadly, some marriages do end in divorce, and not always because of a casual attitude toward marriage.

When possible we should strive to avoid it and encourage others to work through their problems when possible rather than to give up on their marriages.

The church today must deal compassionately with those who have experienced this tragedy, while at the same time must uphold the biblical standard.

*** Lack of faithfulness toward God leads to breakdowns in human relationships.

*** Ask yourself, how would Jesus want you to treat those who have been through divorce?

*** What can you do to encourage the marriages around you?

Notes are taken from Lifeway's Explore the Bible as well as Grace to You Ministries, Love Worth Finding ministry and other sources.

Monday, May 18, 2015

True Hope

My Sunday School lesson from May 17, 2015 ...

What's your favorite movie about love? "The Notebook?" "Titanic?" "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days?" "Star Wars?"

What's the same about all these lovey-dovey movies? To me it's that every one of them would be only 15 minutes long if there wasn't any conflict. They would "meet cute," fall in love and that would be it. But there has to be something unsaid, a dumb argument, or misunderstanding that makes the movie 90 minutes long.

Today wer'e going to talk about how God’s love has everything to do with His message to the Israelites through the prophet Malachi.

If the Israelites had just followed God’s will and if they’re hearts were pure in worship, their movie would have been 15 minutes long without conflict.

What really happened is that in their story, in spite of a history of disobedience and His need to correct their disobedience, God continued to be faithful to His people.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Malachi is the last of the minor prophets and the end of the Old Testament canon (though not the last book written). Jewish tradition identifies him as a member of the Great Synagogue that collected and preserved the Scriptures.

*** It is unclear when Malachi was written. Clues probably put it around 450-430 B.C. during the times of Ezra's and Nehemiah's ministries.

*** The exiles returned 100 years earlier and rebuilt the temple, but in the decades since the people were slow to show faithfulness by embracing God's commands. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah reveal that the people struggled with marrying pagans, violating the Sabbath, and many more issues (see Ezra 9:1-2; Neh. 13:15-27).

TRUE LOVE (MAL. 1:1-5)

1 An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you ask: “How have You loved us?” “Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” This is the LORD’s declaration. “Even so, I loved Jacob.” 3 “but I hated Esau. I turned his mountains into a wasteland, and gave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” 4 “Though Edom says: “We have been devastated, but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of Hosts says this: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called a wicked country and the people the LORD has cursed forever. 5 “Your own eyes will see this, and you yourselves will say, ‘The LORD is great, even beyond the borders of Israel.’”

*** God’s love.

--- The history of Israel is important for understanding the Book of Malachi.

--- God promised great things to Abraham for his people, and delivered over and over again despite their unfaithfulness.

--- Even still, Israel is still not convinced that God loves them. These verses are His response to their doubts.

--- QUESTION - Why would the people doubt God's love?

*** God can also hate?

--- It's Biblical:

Psalm 5:5 - The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong;
Isaiah 61:8 - “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Amos 5:21 - “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.”

The Scriptures teach us that God hates wickedness because it is against His nature - holy, pure and righteous. And yet He loves believers with the love of a father for his children, the love of a groom for his bride. "'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'" (Ezekiel 33:11).

*** QUESTION: What is the difference between God’s hate and people’s hate? (Does it bother you to say that God hates?)

*** Jacob and Esau, a rivalry through the ages.

--- Jacob was chosen to be the ancestor of Israel while his twin brother Esau was rejected. (Before the twins were born, even, the Lord had revealed to Rebekah that her younger son would receive God’s covenant blessing. Gen. 25:23. Nevertheless, God did bless Esau with numerous descendants (see Gen. 36:1-30).)

--- God is not a fan of Esau's descendants. (“Hate” in this case could also have the sense of “second best” or “not loved as much.”) The context suggests it means active rejection and displeasure that demanded judgment.

--- Remember our study of Obadiah, when the prophet delivered the message to the Edomites warning of their destruction. Esau’s descendants were prideful and arrogant during the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and the exile of the people.

--- Therefore, although Israel has experienced the Lord’s wrath for just a little while, Edom is a “people with whom the Lord is angry forever” (1:4). Furthermore, while Israel is heir of the everlasting promises of their covenant Lord, Edom will never rise again. And it was indeed judged and wiped out.

*** “Beyond the border of Israel.”

--- The Bible asserts again and again that the Lord God of Israel is King of kings and Lord of lords (see Rev. 19:16). He is sovereign over the other nations whether they know it or not.

TRUE WORSHIP (MAL. 1:6-10)

6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me? says Yahweh of Hosts to you priests, who despise My name.” Yet you ask: “How have we despised Your name?” 7 “By presenting defiled food on My altar.” You ask: “How have we defiled You?” When you say: “The LORD’s table is contemptible.” 8 “When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?” asks the LORD of Hosts. 9 “And now ask for God’s favor. Will He be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?” asks the LORD of Hosts. 10 “I wish one of you would shut the temple doors, so you would no longer kindle a useless fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Hosts, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.”

*** Corrupt spiritual leadership.

--- These verse concern God's rebuke of the priests.

--- Here we go again. During the time of Malachi the people became complacent again. They thought their relationship with God could be maintained by formal ritual alone, no matter how they lived.

--- Apparently the people weren't bringing their best animals for sacrifice, and the priests were allowing it. This is a big-time offense to the Lord and showed that their hearts were impure.

--- The Lord says that if they won't bring that mess to their governor, why with Him? If your boss is coming over for dinner, do you give him the juiciest steak or do you give him pig lips and whatever potato chips were at the bottom of Aldi's bargain bin?

--- In verse 10 God even says that the priests might as well just shut the doors to the temple rather than burn another lame sacrifice.

*** QUESTION - How might we feel today if God closed the doors of the church because He longer respected our worship? What are some evidences that a person has fear and reverence for the Lord?

*** When we come to worship and we don't bring our best - whether it's our tithes, time or talents, then we're not doing any better.

--- 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul sums up our attitudes of giving: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

*** QUESTION - Why do you suppose the Hebrew people showed respect to one another—a son to a father and a servant to a master—but God, who is also the Father and Master of the Hebrews, received no respect?

TRUE GREATNESS (MAL. 1:11)

11 “For My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations,” says Yahweh of Hosts.”

*** His name is great!

--- Worship of God is useless if it is not rooted in humble adoration of God, who is our source of all things great and small.

*** QUESTION - How does God want to be worshiped?

--- John 4:24 - God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

--- Years ago, Henry Ward Beecher, was one of the most famous preachers in America. People from all over the nation came to worship at his church. One Sunday he was absent, and a visiting preacher substituted for him. When the visiting minister came to the pulpit the people realized that Henry was gone. Some of the people started for the doors. The minister said, "May I have your attention. All those who came this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may now withdraw from the church. All who came to worship God may stay."

People may come to a worship service for many superficial reasons: to hear a certain preacher, to watch their children perform, to visit with their friends, to fulfill an obligation, to enhance their business opportunities, to see what everyone else is wearing. But only one reason is acceptable - to give honor and praise to God. Worship is not an attempt to entertain worshipers or to stir their emotions. Worship is not an attempt to manipulate minds and hearts. Worship is not an attempt to indoctrinate. Worship is, first of all, an attempt to focus our attention on God, to honor Him.

Would that describe our worship today? Do you come to church and say: "How long is this going to last? Do we have to sing so much? Why is the preaching so long?" Do you come to worship and make a mental list of what you're going to accomplish when you get home?

What can you do to change?

*** The new covenant.

--- If the priests and the people of Israel would not worship God in spirit and truth, then God would find His worshipers among the Gentiles, beginning 450 years later.

--- Jesus first came to secure our salvation through His death and resurrection. He will come a second time to establish His kingdom over all the earth.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Think of when you grew up and your parents took you to extracurricular activities. We, as our parents were then, are their coaches, teachers, mentors. The emotional connection is important to how kids grow up into well-adjusted adults.

All too often we have a sentimental grandfatherly view of God. We think He winks at our sins, and no matter what we give Him He says, "Oh, that's great. Thank you so much."

But God doesn’t deserve our leftovers, the time we only give when we feel like it.

What does it mean to give less than the best?

--- It's when I spend an hour in an evening playing Words With Friends on my Kindle Fire and then in the five minutes before I fall asleep I read God's Word.
--- It's when we focus on our careers and think nothing of working overtime, but when it comes to serving in the church we either sit on the sidelines or look for something that requires the least amount of energy.
--- It's when we spend a lot of money on ourselves for a summer vacation, but when it comes to giving God an offering we look at the budget and say the cupboards are empty.
--- It's when we watch Memphis score a touchdown and jump up and down to celebrate, but in worship we sit passively.
--- It's when we love our kids so much there is nothing we wouldn't give them, but if we're honest our heart doesn't beat that fast for God.

*** Think of any part of your worship that is lacking before God. Find what you need to change to be pleasing to Him.

*** Read Psalm 96 this week, a joyful song of how great it is to worship the Lord.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Seek Him First

My lesson for May 10, 2015 …

Be honest: do you have some books on your shelf that you started, but have not finished?

Are there half-complete craft projects on the work table in your garage?

Did you start a blog with the intention of updating it regularly, but forgot that it exists until this second?

Sometimes we start things with great zeal and then lose our enthusiasm. This is similar to Israel’s work on the temple when Haggai was first written.

"Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. … Usually the first one to lose out on your crowded time is God." – Francis Chan

Thankfully, God finishes what He begins.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Haggai [HAG -eye] prophecies in the period after 40,000 exiles returned from Babylon in 538 B.C, and faced troubles in rebuilding the temple that was destroyed in 586 by Nebuchadnezzar.

*** In 520 B.C. Haggai and Zechariah were commissioned by the Lord to stir up the people to not only rebuild the temple, but also to reorder their spiritual priorities. As a result, the temple was completed 4 years later.

*** Haggai is the second shortest book in the OT (Obadiah is the shortest). It takes place over just a four-month period.

REALITY DEFINED (HAG. 1:1-9)

1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “The LORD of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.” 3 The word of the LORD came through Haggai the prophet: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” 5 Now, the LORD of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways: 6 You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. You drink but never have enough to become drunk. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.” 7 The LORD of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways. 8 Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house. Then I will be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why?” This is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts. “Because My house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.”

*** 1:1-2 - God asks Haggai to speak to leaders first.

--- Recall the context here. God used the kings of Persia to release the Israelites, but once they reached Jerusalem they found the city in ruins. When they began to rebuild the temple they faced opposition and stopped.

--- Haggai brought God’s direct message to two key Jewish leaders: Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua, the high priest.

--- The objections to rebuilding may have been economic, because their land was in trouble; or religious, because they thought the Messiah would rebuild the temple; or even timing, they thought they weren't supposed to build it yet. Such excuses showed that they were not pursuing God’s kingdom and righteousness.

--- QUESTION - What are some common ways we fail to put God first in our lives?

*** 1:3-9 - Now Haggai speaks to the people, giving them a message that God is not pleased.

--- QUESTION - What did the people choose to do instead of rebuilding the temple?

(Spent their time on their own desires like material things that never truly make them joyful; it's never enough. Verse 4 says they were living in paneled houses while God's house lay in ruins.)

--- Not rebuilding the temple was no little thing. The temple was the dwelling place of God’s special presence with His people.

--- 1 Kings 8:27-30: 27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

--- As important as building God’s temple was, what God really wanted was a change of heart for His people. He wanted the people of Judah to reflect on what they thought was more important. Matthew 6:25-34 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of the same issue: priorities. We the people get focused on the little things. We do not put God’s desires and the things of God first. It speaks to our spiritual health.

*** QUESTION - Consider the motives of the Israelites. Were they procrastinating or disobedient? What is the difference? How does the difference matter to God?

DISCIPLINE DEFINED (HAG. 1:10-11)

10 “So on your account, the skies have withheld the dew and the land its crops. 11 I have summoned a drought on the fields and the hills, on the grain, new wine, olive oil, and whatever the ground yields, on man and beast, and on all that your hands produce.”

*** "Acts of God" get the Hebrews' attention.

--- In Deuteronomy 7:13 God promised that as the people followed Him that He would bless them and increase their numbers: He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

--- Just as He could use nature to bless them, God used drought and other natural disasters to discipline the Hebrews because they arrogantly stopped rebuilding the temple and instead began to restore their own houses and land.

--- Today, as then, not all natural disasters are God’s discipline (see Luke 13:4-5). In the case Haggai described, however, God revealed that He was using the people’s difficulties to prompt their thinking about priorities.

GLORY TO COME (HAG. 2:5-9)

5 “This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt, and My Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid.” 6 For the LORD of Hosts says this: “Once more, in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all the nations so that the treasures of all the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the LORD of Hosts. 8 “The silver and gold belong to Me”—this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts. 9 “The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the LORD of Hosts. “I will provide peace in this place”—this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.

*** A call to spiritual restoration.

--- Haggai’s initial speech to God’s people brought results (see Hag. 1:14-15). The Lord stirred up Zerubbabel’s spirit, along with Joshua’s spirit, and all the people joined in to work on God’s house.

--- God promised that because the Hebrew people finally got their priorities back in order and returned to rebuilding the temple, He would fill the temple with His glory.

*** The power of God’s help.

---Verse 5, God reminds the people that He is just as much with them as when He brought the Israelites out of Egypt 900 years earlier: Exodus 29:45-46 - 45 I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 And they will know that I am Yahweh their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am Yahweh their God.

*** The provision of God’s assets.

--- Verses 6-9 promise that God will provide the things they desire now that their priorities are in order. He affirms that He alone has sovereign control of all the nations and the ability to “shake all the nations so that the treasures will come.”

--- All we have comes from God. There should be no sense of entitlement that God has to meet our wants. We are stewards of His resources.

*** The promise of God’s affirmation.

--- Verse 9, what the people really want, peace. This is more than the absence of war, but also shows that the people will feel completeness, wholeness, life as it was meant to be. ((Isn’t that what we all really want?))

--- What ultimately gives us that peace? In the new covenant we can look to Jesus Christ, the greatest manifestation of God’s presence and glory.

As Christians, we must rise above the mere pursuit of happiness in this world and live for an even higher purpose, loving God and using the things He has given us to seek His kingdom. This is the real secret to satisfaction, fullness, and lasting joy.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Today we talked about Haggai’s message to the people about their choosing to focus on self-centered pursuits and not work on the rebuilding of God’s temple.

Think about these if/then statements:

If the Hebrew people had their priorities in order in the first place, then _____.

So, if my to-do list was organized by God, then I would do ______ more.

We have a tendency to become confused about the things that really matter. A recent news story illustrates this well: in January 2014, a 26-year old man dropped his cell phone into the frigid waters of the Chicago River. He climbed over a fence to retrieve it and fell into the icy water. His two friends climbed over the fence to help, but they fell into the water as well. By the time authorities arrived, the first man was dead, and one of his friends, a woman, had disappeared into the water. Her body was found two days later. Only the third friend survived. Speaking to the media, one passerby made a profound comment: “I guess I can understand the impulse. You cell phone is sort of part of you, [and] we are kind of tied to it. But it’s only a cell phone. To risk your life is incredible.”

Life is too short and too fragile to spend it chasing after the wrong priorities. This is why Jesus encouraged his followers to make God’s kingdom our greatest priority.

*** Think about your priorities. How high is God on your list?

*** Is what you believe displayed in how you live?

*** What difference would quick obedience to God make in your spiritual life?

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Cooper's tumbling class

Earlier this week Cooper had parent day for his tumbling class as the Mother's Day Out year comes to a close. Penny did it, too, but Val went and I forgot to give her the camera. :(

Monday, May 04, 2015

Awestruck

My Sunday School lesson for May 3, 2015 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** What is awesome?

This week, everyone in the Mid-South decided that was is truly awesome is the $191 million renovation of the Pyramid to put in a 535,000 square foot Bass Pro superstore.

In addition to the sales floor, there is a cypress swamp with live alligators, a bowling alley, archery and shooting ranges, a restaurant, an observation deck and a hotel. Ducks Unlimited has its own space for a museum. Right in the middle is the tallest freestanding elevator in America.

Today we’re going to continue our study of Habakkuk and figure out what is truly awesome.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Habakkuk prophesied about the same time as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah, around 600 B.C. as the Babylonians were taking over the region.

*** The book is essentially a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. Habakkuk had some hard questions for God, and God responded with even harder answers.

--- The prophet struggled to understand and accept the answers God gave him - namely that God would use the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment against Judah.

--- Habakkuk had two choices: he could either become proud and arrogant, refusing to believe God’s way was best, or he could choose to live by faith In the end, Habakkuk chose to believe God’s way was best and to live by faith in God.

STAND IN AWE (HAB. 3:1-2)

1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. According to Shigionoth. 2 Lord, I have heard the report about You; Lord, I stand in awe of Your deeds. Revive Your work in these years; make it known in these years. In Your wrath remember mercy!

*** The persevering prayer of Habakkuk.

--- Even as God in chapters 1 and 2 told Habakkuk of His judgment on Judah and the prophet has trouble accepting it, in this prayer poem we find how Habakkuk learns to praise the Lord anyhow, no matter what.

--- The meaning of the expression according to Shigionoth [shig ih OH nahth] is unclear. Some Bible students suggest that it designates a musical notation. It may be an instruction to recite the prayer with feeling or with a free flowing melody and rhythm.

*** Habakkuk reflects on God's past works.

--- Using the Holman Bible transition I looked up “awe,” “awesome,” awe-inspiring” at Bible Gateway and got 56 results, including:

Isaiah 8:13 - You are to regard only the Lord of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe.

Exodus 34:10 - And the Lord responded: “Look, I am making a covenant. I will perform wonders in the presence of all your people that have never been done in all the earth or in any nation. All the people you live among will see the Lord’s work, for what I am doing with you is awe-inspiring.

2 Samuel 7:23 - And who is like Your people Israel? God came to one nation on earth in order to redeem a people for Himself, to make a name for Himself, and to perform for them great and awesome acts, driving out nations and their gods before Your people You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt.

*** QUESTION - What were some of the deeds of God to which Habakkuk stood in awe?

*** Mercy!

--- At the end of verse 2, Habakkuk adds a little note to say, "God I want You to do Your work," and then he sort of adds a P.S. "God in wrath remember mercy." He says, "God I know You've got to do it, but could You just remember mercy?" You want to know something? God always does, doesn't He?

TREMBLE IN HIS SPLENDOR (HAB. 3:3-6)

3 God comes from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise. 4 His brilliance is like light; rays are flashing from His hand. This is where His power is hidden. 5 Plague goes before Him, and pestilence follows in His steps. 6 He stands and shakes the earth; He looks and startles the nations. The age-old mountains break apart; the ancient hills sink down. His pathways are ancient.

*** "Theophany."

--- Theophany means a visible representation of the presence of God using the highest human terms possible.

--- His majesty is described as a brilliant glory of light and brightness. The mountains tremble violently; the earth quakes; the people are afraid.

--- The power of nature is one of the easiest ways we can understand the omnipotence of God. If He can control the force of a hurricane or destruction of an earthquake like the one that killed thousands in Nepal last weekend, then He can take care of me and you.

--- David wrote in Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.”

--- As the VeggieTales sang, “God is bigger than the boogeyman, He's bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV, oh God is bigger than the boogeyman and He's watching out for you and me!”

CELEBRATE HIS VICTORY (HAB. 3:11-13)

11 Sun and moon stand still in their lofty residence, at the flash of Your flying arrows, at the brightness of Your shining spear. 12 You march across the earth with indignation; You trample down the nations in wrath. 13 You come out to save Your people, to save Your anointed. You crush the leader of the house of the wicked and strip him from foot to neck. Selah.

*** God is a Mighty Warrior.

--- Habakkuk knows that God would conquer His enemies, make everything right and vindicate His people.

*** The sun and moon obey Him.

--- Recall when Joshua prayed for the sun and moon to hold in place so that Israel might completely defeat God's enemies (Joshua 10:12-13).

--- The Lord had promised David that if his descendants were faithful, He would preserve David’s dynasty (see 1 Kings 2:4). This led the line of David to pass to Jesus, the Messiah. In contrast, God's wicked enemies would be crushed.

*** God battles on His terms.

--- He never tires, he never lets His guard down. Whatever the enemy is God's ready, God is vigilant, God is ready. It’s a tremendous picture of God's defense of His people.

--- We should never rely on ourselves to fight His battles. We get tired. Our determination wanes. Remember the song "The Warrior is a Child" by Twila Paris?

Lately, I've been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I'm amazing strong beyond my years
But they don't see inside of me, I'm hiding all the tears

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
'Cause deep inside this armor the warrior is a child

Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I'm amazing never face retreat
But they don't see the enemies that lay me at His feet

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and and cry for just a while
'Cause deep inside this armor the warrior is a child

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and look up for a smile
'Cause deep inside this armor, deep inside this armor
Deep inside this armor the warrior is a child

*** QUESTION - Does it scare you more or encourage you when God talks about leaving His throne to come down to earth and do battle?

REJOICE IN FAITH (HAB. 3:16-19)

16 I heard, and I trembled within; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness entered my bones; I trembled where I stood. Now I must quietly wait for the day of distress to come against the people invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls. 18 yet I will triumph in Yahweh; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! 19 Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!

*** Habakkuk rejoices in faith as he commits himself to God's purposes.

--- The Book of Habakkuk began with Habakkuk questioning God because of injustices but closed with Habakkuk praising God and recommitting himself in faith to trust God in the difficult times to come.

--- Think of Job 13:15 when Job said, "Though He slay me, what, yet will I trust Him."

*** Trembling.

--- Habakkuk confessed that the thought of what God's judgment would do to him and to Judah shook him to the core. His lips quivered, his bones ached, he trembled. Have you ever literally felt sick about something troubling you?

*** No matter what.

--- Even under the worst possible scenarios, Habakkuk chooses to triumph in God and rejoice.

*** QUESTION – What scenarios today can we choose to walk in faith and trust in His plans, no matter what?

(Financial troubles, failing marriages, job losses. Nationally, the gay marriage debate, religion under attack in the schools. Internationally, Christians killed for their faith.)

--- Follow up question - When we choose to trust God in all our circumstances, how will it impact our attitude and actions?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Sometimes your life can seem like a Memphis Grizzlies game. Sometimes you're Vince Carter diving for a loose ball, sometimes you're Courtney Lee draining a critical three-pointer, and sometimes you're Mike Conley getting your face broken by a dude's elbow.

Whatever adversity the Grizzlies find, they know you have to grit and grind to win. Nothing's handed to you.

Habakkuk stood alone against the injustices of his day, but he realized God was in control and is worthy to be praised and worshiped.

James writes in chapter 1, verses 2 and 3: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Someone once wrote, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.” There will be trials, oppression, and misunderstandings. And when you become a Christian, you do not become immune to these things.

Trials are a part of life, but how Christians behave in response is what causes an unbelieving world to sit up and take notice.

Now, open yourself to some accountability and get someone to judge you honestly: “How would you rate the way I have responded to trials in my life this year on a scale of 1-10? ‘One’ means I’ve been thankful for the opportunity to learn patience, and ‘10’ means I’ve been resentful for every speed bump my vehicle of life had to pass over.”

How are you responding this week to the difficulties in your life? Thankful for the opportunity to learn patience? Or resentful for every speed bump your vehicle of life has to pass over? You can tell the size of a Christian by what it takes to stop him.

*** Do we act as Christians like we truly believe God has the power as described in Habakkuk's prayer? If not, what would it take for their belief in God’s power to grow?

*** What insights into God’s power do you have? What is some of the awe you have experienced?

*** It is a challenge for believers to choose to trust God when they look around and see virtually no reason to do so. But when they do so, they have won the victory.

Say it loud and proud: "I don't care what happens, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation."