Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hope for the Hopeless

This is Michael Scott. He used to be the lead character in the sitcom The Office. This year he left the show and I am not sure it's going to survive without him, but that's really not what I want to write about this morning.

Recently I have found myself watching reruns of the show, probably because he's in them and they're funnier with him. Now, this is not an endorsement of the show, so please don't send me any hate mail. The nice thing about television these days is the on/off button. Anyway, it comes on at 11 p.m. and if I am not in the mood to hear more primary drivel, I turn on The Office.

In the episode last night, the warehouse manager was giving the employees a lecture on safety in the warehouse - what they were allowed to operate and what they were not allowed to even touch. Apparently, Michael Scott is a liability in the warehouse and this safety lecture was for his benefit. Scott decided to hold his own safety meeting, insisting the warehouse workers attend and it turned into a "Whose-job-is-more-dangerous" argument. In the office manual, one of the dangers of working in an office setting was depression, so Scott decided to fake a suicide attempt to show how dangerous depression could actually be, and thus win the debate with the warehouse guys.

Okay, long story short - he gathers all the employees in the parking lot and then, from the roof of the office, threatens to jump. Everyone knows that he's faking but they play along. After they call to him not to jump, he calls back - What do I have to live for? At that point, no one can come up with an answer, which causes Michael Scott to start to wonder if his life truly is worth living...the whole exercise backfires on him and depression sets in. Then they really have to talk him down...

Silly, right?

I fell asleep thinking about the truth of that comedy. So many people in this world can't figure out what they have to live for - they're lonely or they're broke or they're in a job they hate or they have no friends. Life is hard and when they realize they are losing the struggle to survive, they conclude they have nothing to survive for, nothing to cause them to keep going.

My friends, we know Jesus and He's all we need. We set our eyes on Him and rest in the fact that He's involved, He's in control, He's working in us, He wants the best for us, He loves us and will never leave us. Those six things are enough to get us out of bed in the morning and live a life that pleases Him.

  • Christians can be broke
  • Christians can lonely
  • Christians can hate their jobs
  • Christians can find themselves with no friends
Christians can struggle with the same things the world struggles with, but because we have been given spiritual eyes, we look at life differently than the world. Our struggles should not produce hopelessness. Sometimes our struggles are caused from circumstances outside of our control and other times they are consequences of our own sin. We confess what we can own and we trust in God through what we cannot control. All the while, we keep our eyes on Christ and we make choices that would please Him.

So don't live like the world, tossed and thrown about by the winds of difficulty. Choose to have a quiet resolve to keep your eyes on Christ and live a life with meaning. This will be a beacon of hope to those in a dark world and maybe someday one will ask you, What do I have to live for? and you will be able to tell them about your Hope...Jesus.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel...

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel
Translated: John Neal, 1818-66

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse's stem,
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow'r to save;
Bring them in vict'ry through the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Plan on Coming this Tuesday

The promise in the garden...the tiny town of Bethlehem...the humble virgin...the wise men...the trip to Egypt...the prophet in the wilderness...the teaching in parables...the miracles...the rejection...the triumphal entry...the thirty pieces of silver...the trials...the scourging...the vinegar...the thieves...

All this and more was spoken of by the prophets. These prophecies, coupled with the demands of the Old Covenant, indicated that a Savior was needed but who could possibly fit the bill? There were too many requirements, too many restrictions and not any candidates.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus..." Ephesians 2:2-7

God's plan would not be thwarted - it was His prophecies and His requirements and the fulfillment was in His timing and His way.

This Tuesday we are going to celebrate the fulfillment of these prophecies. We're going to lay them side by side with their New Testament counterparts and we are going to perhaps hear some of discourse of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

You all know the story, but perhaps you've never heard it quite like this before. Ladies, you won't want to miss this study.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Notes for Lesson 17

Lesson 17 – The Teaching and Parables of Jesus

The Gospels

I. The Beatitudes – Matthew 5:1-12

1. ___Poor in Spirit___ – v.3 – The poor in spirit are the ones who are humbled before the Lord

2. Those who ___Mourn___ – v. 4 – this is a sadness that goes beyond the tragedy and suffering of life, but recognizes the cause of it – sin

3. The ___Meek (Gentle)___ – v. 5 - the meek are those who have a spirit of gentleness and self-control, they are not driven by malice or vengeance, but rather are merciful and humble

4. Hunger and Thirst for ___Righteousness____ – v. 6 – hunger and thirst are the most basic human needs – it is a cry for satisfaction or filling

5. ___Merciful_______ – v. 7 – the one who is poor in spirit, meek and hungry for righteousness knows that these things can not be supplied within himself

6. ___Pure_______ in Heart – v. 8 – the one who makes decisions not based in sinful desires but out of a humble, merciful, meek spirit, this one has a pure heart

7. ___Peacemakers______ – v. 9 – God is the God of Peace

8. ___Persecuted_____– v. 10,11 – Jesus, throughout His earthly ministry, never hid the fact that persecution is a part of being in His family – He was persecuted and His followers would be as well – John 15:18,19 – the one who is persecuted can easily be discouraged and defeated, but Jesus says he should be happy – persecution is an indication of what family you belong to

I. The Lord’s Prayer – Luke 11:1-4

i. God-centered prayer – v.2

1. “Father”

2. “Hallowed be Thy Name”

· Verbally

· Physically

3. “Thy Kingdom Come”

· What should we be doing to prepare for the coming kingdom?

1. ____Repent_____ – turn from sin – Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14,15

2. ____Proclaim____ – give the gospel – Luke 9:60

3. Be ___Commited____ – don’t look back – Luke 9:62

4. _____Pursue_____ – aggressively seek after the things of God – study to show yourself approved – Matt. 6:33

ii. Personal Needs – v. 3,4

1. “Bread”

2. “Forgive us our sins”

3. “Lead us not into temptation”

II. Parables

What is a parable? An ____earthly_____story with a ____heavenly___ message

Parable of the Good Soil

"Sow with a view to righteousness,
Reap in accordance with kindness;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord
Until He comes to rain righteousness on you."
Hosea 10:12

The Pharisees had pushed Jesus to His limit - attributing the power of God to Satan was over the line. So He changed the way He taught to fulfill Isaiah's prophecy - "You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive, for the heart of this people has become dull..." Parables would now be the method of revealing heaven to the children of God.

It is not a surprise that after dealing with the hard-heartedness of the Pharisees that Jesus' first parable would be about heart conditions. Four soils - one a hard, well worn road, one mixed with rocks, one filled with thorn bushes and the last, rich, dark, good soil. During His ministry, these soils would become evident within those around Him:
  • The road - the hard-hearted Pharisees - the gospel truth bounced off them. Even a hard rain would not have made a difference...Matthew 23
  • The rocky soil - the followers who initially were drawn to Jesus' message, but when the message became too personal, too intense, they had to walk away - "Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, 'This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?' ...As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore..." John 6:60-66
  • The thorny soil - the rich young ruler who let the cares of this world choke out his desire to follow - "But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property." Matthew 19:16-22
  • The good soil - the disciples who one by one laid down their lives for Jesus - "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh..." II Cor. 4:8-11
We all know people who fall in these categories - people who have no ear for the Truth, people who initially respond but quickly go back to their old life, people who have to turn away because the call demands too much and then those who bear fruit constantly. But this parable was not given for us to measure our friendships with - it was given as a self check.

What does the gospel produce in your life?

Does it produce an emotion that is filled with good intentions, but then fades away with the busyness of life?

Does it produce an intellectual stimulation, a response that appreciates the complexity of scripture but has no personal application?

Or does it produce an action? When you hear the word of God, does it change your life? Does it enlarge your understanding of Who He is, producing a humility and sorrow over your own condition?

As you draw closer to the Lord, imitating His actions and responses, treating those around you the way He would treat them, submitting to the God-given authorities in your life, eating His bread and drinking His blood, immersing yourself with the knowledge of all spiritual wisdom and understanding, can you see the fruit of the Spirit in your life as well?

Today, if you are not a fruit producer, if you realize that your soil is hard, rocky or thorny, it is time to break up your fallow ground. Put on your gloves, get on your knees, turn over that soil, yank out the thorns and throw away the rocks. Break up the chunks and mix in the fertilizer.

As mysterious as sanctification is, it is also tremendously practical. No farmer wakes up and finds a full harvest without all the effort of soil preparation, planting, weeding, watering, and probably a lot of prayer. God wants us to grow up, to mature, to look like Him. Your soil condition will determine whether or not that happens. So decided today to get to work - this is the life God wants for you.

It's never too late to become a producer.

Friday, February 17, 2012


What comes to mind when you hear the word "oneness"?

Dave and I have been using it a lot lately in premarital counseling that we have been involved in, but although my mind goes to oneness in marriage, that apparently is not the norm. I googled "Oneness" for a picture for this blog and got a lot of new age, one-with-the-universe type pictures. This of course led to the whole COEXIST concept that is so popular today, which completely underscored what I want to chat with you about today, so here goes...

Sin separates and divides. It broke our oneness with God, it continues to break oneness in marriage, it breaks oneness in politics, it breaks oneness in the church, with our children, with our neighbors, etc. Though the world cries out for peace - which is really a cry for oneness - peace will never come until sin is dealt with here on earth. Even a one world government will be accomplished in the last days through force, not willing submission.

The COEXIST concept, that we can all get along despite our differences, will never work either. Within each religious system are specifics that demand intolerance. At the heart of Judaism is separation from pagan societies. Same with the Hindus - that's why the christians are beaten daily by the Hindus in Nepal. Religion requires intolerance. For example, can I get along with a Mormon? Of course I can, but they are going to hell. If I love them or even care about them in the slightest, I will share with them the truth of God's Word even though this may cause division among us. Coexisting means hiding your light under a bushel so as not to rock the boat and Christianity is not a call to silence but a call to evangelism. So, yes, we can be kind to others, but we cannot keep silent.

I won't even try to explain this in politics, but to say, have you ever met someone from your own party who you agree with on every point? Even the major political parties cannot experience oneness, which explains why the primary season is so disheartening.

In marriage, oneness is foundational. If a man and a woman do not have oneness in their relationship, their marriage is going to be a battle from that day forward. It doesn't mean identical hobbies and views, because men and women, though equal, are vastly different. But together they make a whole person - well-rounded, supporting, working towards the same goals, enjoying the physical union of oneness, submitting to God's calling for their family, playing on the same team mentality.

But it's not easy because of sin. If we choose to do life God's way, oneness comes a bit easier, but it's still a lot of work. And herein lies the crux of the matter - we don't have oneness with God. Sin has twisted our hearts and minds so that we battle against our very Creator. He made us. He knows what is best for us. But when He asks us to do something, we refuse and decide our way is better. No oneness, no unity, no trust, no dependence. Simply separating rebellion.

If you desire oneness with your husband, in your family, in your home, in your community, at work, at school, at church - it begins with God. Become one with Him. Meld your thoughts into His. Imitate His actions and His teaching. Decide to trust Him and obey Him at all costs. Be one with Him and watch the relationships around you fall into place.

No, we cannot achieve ultimate oneness here on earth because of sin, but Jesus broke the bonds of sin and enables us to choose obedience over rebellion. It is His desire that we be unified within His embrace - His call for the church is to be one with each other, as well as with Him:

"But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." John 17:13-22

Are you one with God?

Do you have like-mindedness?

Decide today to return to the Lord - read His Word to learn more about Him, pray to Him, meditate on His thoughts, commit His words to memory. Oneness with God will change your life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Notes for Lesson 16

Lesson 16 – Birth, Temptations and Miracles of Christ

The Gospels

I. Overviews of the Gospels

· What does Gospel mean? ____Good__News_____

· Each Gospel has a different perspective:

o Matthew – Jesus as _____King_______, written primarily to the Jews, gives His royal genealogy to prove kingship, in the Sermon on the Mount we see His laws for the kingdom

o Mark – Jesus as _____Servant__, written to the Romans – no genealogy because people don’t want to know the history of a servant, contains more miracles than any other gospel – Romans didn’t care about words, only actions – most likely was Peter’s gospel and John Mark recorded it

o Luke – Jesus as the ____Son of Man_______ (humanity), written to the Greeks, takes Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to the first man, focuses on the compassion and authority of Christ

o John – Jesus as the ____Son of God_____ (deity), written to all who will believe with the purpose to hail Jesus as God, everything in this gospel illustrates or demonstrates His divine relationship

· When all the gospels are all put together and harmonized, we are only given about ____50____ days of Jesus’ active ministry

· What is a synoptic gospel?

II. The Birth of Jesus Christ – 2 perspectives of the same story

· Mary’s perspective – Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-5

· Why Mary?

1. Because she was a ___virgin____

2. Because she was in the ____royal line___ of David

3. ____God's choice_______ – she found favor with God, just like Noah found favor with God

· Gabriel gives her a four point message:

1. You will become pregnant with a ____son_____

2. You will name Him ____Jesus______

3. He is the __Son of God____ (cut from the same cloth)

4. He is the _____Messiah_______ (given the throne of David, reign over the house of Jacob forever, kingdom will have no end – fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant – II Samuel 7:12-16)

· Joseph’s perspective – Matthew 1:18-25

· Engagement – was as binding as a marriage

· Isaiah 7:14

· The birth of Jesus Christ

III. The Temptations of Christ – Luke 4:1-13

· I John 2:16 – three areas of temptation, seen in the garden with Eve

· Genesis 3:6

o Lust of the ___flesh___ – good for food

o Lust of the _____eyes____ – a delight to the eyes

o ____Pride_____ of life – desirable to make one wise

· Satan uses these three areas to tempt Jesus as well:

1. “Good for Food” – v. 3,4 – lust of the flesh – Jesus was hungry, His flesh was crying out for sustenance – this temptation focused on His physical weakness – but Jesus responds with scripture – Deut. 8:3 – He would not rely on His deity to provide for Himself, but would depend solely on His Father to meet His needs – The Spirit had led Him into the wilderness for this time of fasting, then it was in God’s will for Him to forgo food

2. “Worship before me” – v. 5-8, lust of the eyes – Satan offered the rule and allegiance of the world to Christ without Calvary – he showed Him the nations of the world – appealing to His eyes – Jesus responds again with scripture from Deut. 6:13 – He would only worship God – why was Satan able to offer this temptation? (Remember the lost title deed to the earth from the garden story? See Ephesians 2:1,2 and I John 5:19)

3. “Throw Yourself Down” – v.9-12 – pride of life – Satan urged Jesus to reveal His divine nature by allowing the angels to save Him – don’t live the life of a pauper – let the world know you are a King – Satan misquotes from Psalm 91 – but Jesus again answered with scripture from Deut. 6:16 – “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test!” – Who has tried to test God in our study? Jonah when he ran away and Moses when he struck the rock in disobedience – remember God is not mocked – do not test the Lord

· How did Jesus defeat Satan?

1. By using the ___Word____ of God

2. By following the ____leading___ of the Holy Spirit

3. By having _____ongoing fellowship____ with the Father (This is My Son in whom I am well pleased) – Jesus had a vibrant prayer life

***Gals, I am not going to post my mom's teaching on the site because she hasn't taught it yet in Orlando and some of her students read the blog - I don't want to steal her thunder. If you need a copy, email me and I'll send it to you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Prophecy Probabilities

Here is the handout I gave out from

Recently I purchased a book entitled What the Odds Are. It's an A-Z collection of the odds on "everything you ever hoped or feared could happen".

Lightning. Illustration copyrighted.

For instance, did you know that the odds of your being injured by a lightning strike on any given day are only 1 in 250 million, but over the average lifetime are 1 in 9,100? In contrast, the odds that the average citizen of Washington, D.C. will get "plugged, stabbed, poisoned, or bludgeoned to death" in the course of a year are only 1 in 1,681!

Couple eaating out. Illustration copyrighted.

One in 10 Americans read the Bible daily. One in two eat out somewhere every single day of the week--1 in 20 at McDonald's. In Sweden, 40 of every one hundred persons are senior citizens; in Fiji, only 1 in 50. And here's one that really amazed me: 1 in every 24 Americans has membership in theNational Geographic Society. I guess it figures, though, because I noticed recently that a staggering 9,975,558 average copies of theNational Geographic magazine are printed by the Society every month (including those intended for international distribution).

If you still happen to be unconvinced that the baby born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago was anything more than just an ordinary human baby, let me challenge you with a few of “the odds” in that regard.

  1. To begin with, did you know that the Old Testament prophetMicah, writing circa 700 B.C., out of the hundreds and hundreds of cities in the scores and scores of nations in existence all over the world even in those days, designated Bethlehem of Judea as the birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2)?

  2. And that at about the same time, Isaiah (7:14) said that the Christ would be born of a virgin?

  3. Or that a prophecy made in 1012 B.C. specified that the Messiah's hands and feet would eventually be pierced--a clear reference to death by crucifixion--800 years before the Romans ever even instituted crucifixion as a form of capital punishment!

  4. Malachi 3:1, penned in about 425 B.C., specified that the Messiah would be contemporary with the temple in Jerusalem--a temple that was destroyed in 70 A.D. and has never been rebuilt.

  5. Well, if all this impresses you even a little bit, you ought to go compare Zechariah 11:11-13 (written over 500 years beforeChrist) to Matthew 27:3-10 (written some 25-30 years after Christ). Only coincidence?

  6. A number of years ago, Peter W. Stoner and Robert C. Newman wrote a book entitled Science Speaks. The book was based on the science of probability and vouched for by the American Scientific Affiliation. It set out the odds of any one man in all of history fulfilling even only eight of the 60 major prophecies (and 270 ramifications) fulfilled by the life of Christ.

    The probability that Jesus of Nazareth could have fulfilled even eight such prophecies would be only 1 in 1017. That's 1 in 100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000.

    Stoner claims that that many silver dollars would be enough to cover the face of the entire state of Texas two feet deep. Now I've been to Texas. I've driven for days to get across Texas. Texas is a very big state. Who in his right mind would suppose that a blindfolded man, heading out of Dallas by foot in any direction, would be able, on his very first attempt, to pick up one specifically marked silver dollar out of 100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000?

One March several years ago I received a paper from United States Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson. In it he wrote:

"The fact is, the birth, crucifixion, and bodily resurrectionof Jesus Christ are celebrated worldwide by folk of every race, language, and color, every year. And believing in Jesus, they have been delivered from the most evil, disastrous, frustrating, debilitating habits and life forms possible. The real problem with Jesus Christ is not that folk can't believe in Him--but that they won't believe in Him."

My friend, in all honesty, what are the chances you've not been altogether objective about the nature of the baby born in Bethlehem? What if the baby was God? What if He is God? What if you are to submit your life to Him?

References: Les Krantz, What the Odds Are (HarperPerennial, 1992