31 October 2013

29 October 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 6

Between the sermons at church and my weekly BSF lessons, it seems like God is really trying to speak to me and change me to become more like Him. The lessons in Matthew 6 are no different. And there were so many application questions this week that really struck me. So get ready for a long list of “things to think about!”

In Matthew 6, Jesus is still giving His Sermon on the Mount. He continues to teach His followers about His high standard for living the Christian life.

Jesus starts by telling us not to give, pray and fast for others to see us. Instead, He tells us to give, pray and fast in secret. Giving includes sharing money, clothes and time with the needy. Am I giving only so I’m noticed by other people? Why do I give? Would I still give if no one ever knew I did it?

Jesus says we shouldn’t pray for others to see or hear us. Instead, we should go to a quiet place to pray. He tells us not to be like the hypocrites. They prayed their personal prayer requests aloud in public places, such as synagogues and street corners. The hypocrites also prayed while standing instead of acting reverently toward God. Am I praying only so I’m noticed by other people? Why do I pray? Would I still pray if no one ever knew I did it?

Next, Jesus discusses fasting. Fasting is giving up food to study the Bible and pray. It is a self-discipline that was required only one day a year for the Jews until Jesus was born. Fasting is still acceptable today when done with the proper heart attitude. Just like giving and praying, our fasting should be done silently. Am I fasting only so I’m noticed by other people? Why do I fast? Would I still fast if no one ever knew I did it?

Then Jesus addresses our treasures. He tells us not to store up treasures on earth and not to have double vision. Instead, we should store up treasures in heaven and have a single focus. We store treasures in heaven by obeying God. And double vision is seeking praise for both God and myself, while single vision is seeking praise for God alone.

Finally, Jesus talks about worry. He instructs us not to worry about life, food, drink and clothes. Instead, we should seek His kingdom and His righteousness. We don’t need to worry because God knows what we need. He is a responsible Father and will meet our needs. Worry will not add any time to our lives. Worry is showing that I don’t trust God. God promises to take care of my needs.

Things to Think About
  • Do I privately give, pray and fast?
  • Is God receiving the glory when I give, pray and fast?
  • If I give, pray and fast for the praise of men, I will not receive anything from God. If I do it in secret, God will reward me.
  • If everything was taken from me, would I still love God? Is He my most treasured possession?
  • The same God who created my life can be trusted with the details of my life.
  • When worry creeps in, consider: God loves me. God cares for me. God sees me. God knows my need. God knows when I need it. My job is to trust Him.

25 October 2013

Hooked on phonics

Thanks to the skills she's picking up at preschool, Avery is quickly learning the letter sounds. Not only that, she's also learning how to put the sounds together to create words. Maybe she'll be reading sooner than we expected!

24 October 2013

22 October 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 5

Did you miss my BSF post last week? Did you even notice that I was gone? :o) Chris, Avery, my parents, my sister and I were enjoying the warm sandy beaches of the Bahamas, so I missed my BSF class last Monday night. Here’s a brief recap. Last week, we studied the beginning of Matthew 5. In this chapter, Jesus began His famous Sermon on the Mount. He was teaching His disciples about a variety of topics, and a large crowd of people listened to these teachings.

The teachings in the Sermon on the Mount show us that God calls every believers to display Christ’s characteristics. Through this sermon, Jesus taught His followers a new way of living life and a new way of dealing with sin. He emphasized heart attitudes and motives in addition to actions. This week in the rest of Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to beware of the warning signs so we don’t fall into sin.

This chapter begins with Jesus testifying that the Old Testament is true and useful. Many people today might not agree with that, but let me explain why the Old Testament is valid. The Old Testament includes the moral law, the civil law and the ceremonial law.

The moral law was the Ten Commandments. These are direct commands from God, and we still must obey these laws today.

The civil law was laws for daily living. Some of the Old Testament civil laws don’t necessarily apply to our daily living today, but God still calls us to obey the civil laws our local, state and federal governments have established over us.

The ceremonial law was worship laws that pointed to Christ’s coming. These laws no longer are valid because Jesus came to earth to die for us. But by observing communion, believers recognize Christ’s fulfillment of the ceremonial law.

Jesus said that He did not come to change the Old Testament but to change the extra teachings the Pharisees added to the Law. The Pharisees were seen as the holiest and most religious people. They knew the truth and taught the truth to others, but they did not let the truth reach into their hearts and change their lives. This is the same for us today...we also need to live God’s truth in our lives, not simply know the truth in our heads.

We cannot gain righteousness through the moral law, the civil law or the ceremonial law. The only way we can gain righteousness is through the righteousness of Jesus (Galatians 2:19-21).

The Pharisees taught that righteousness results from words and deeds. Jesus taught that righteousness centers around our hearts. The Pharisees saw sin as outward action. Jesus saw sin as the attitude of our hearts.

In the rest of Matthew 5, Jesus gives six illustrations about Christians and the Law:
  • Anger – Jesus said anger toward someone is the same as murder. When I recall something, stop everything I’m doing to be reconciled with someone. Whether I was wronged or whether I did the wrong, I should be the one who takes the first step to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • Adultery – This is not a brief glace at someone. This is looking with the intent to fulfill my inner sexual appetite. When this red flag appears, take drastic measures. Do not allow this to infect your life.
  • Divorce – Divorce is not from God. God hates divorce, but He does not hate divorced people.
  • Vows – Let your yes be yes and your no be no. If I have to say “I mean it,” that means I everything else I have said are lies. Your word reveals who you are.
  • Revenge – Leave room for God’s wrath. The law in Leviticus was focused on fairness, not paying more than what the crime was worth.
  • Love your enemies – Love the people who hate you. Pray for the people who hate you.
We can’t do any of this on our own. We need God’s help.

Things to Think About
  • Am I allowing God to help me put His Word into action in my life?
  • Am I surrendering my will to God’s? Am I soaking in His Word? Am I serving wherever He calls me
  • My thoughts and heart are not hidden from God.
  • Temptation is not sin. But willfully placing ourselves in the way of temptation eventually may result in sinful acts.
  • God’s boundaries keep us aligned with Him. Where have I stepped outside of God’s boundaries? Will I ask for His forgiveness and return to living inside His boundaries?

17 October 2013

11 October 2013

10 October 2013

09 October 2013

The family jokster

Avery loves telling jokes. Too bad she makes up most of them on her own. Don't ask me to translate because I don't understand them either! I don't think she has a future in stand-up comedy.

08 October 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 4

Last week, we saw Jesus experience a “mountaintop” moment when He was baptized by John the Baptist. This week, we see Jesus go from the mountaintop to the valley where the devil tempts Him three times.

Satan tempted Jesus to turn away from God. But Jesus resisted the temptations. To do so, He used the same tools available to us today – the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

Jesus defeated the devil in His humanity. He didn’t use any godly powers or miracles. He simply withstood the devil the same way He asks us to. And because Jesus was victorious, we also can be victorious.

Temptation 1 – The devil said, “If Your Father loved You, He would feed You. So take these stones and turn them into bread.” Jesus could have done this, but then He would have sidestepped God’s will. When we put our physical needs above God and His will, we sin.

Temptation 2 – The devil said, “Your Father won’t let you be harmed. So throw Yourself down and see if the angels will come to protect You.” Jesus could have done this, but he refused.

Temptation 3 – The devil said, “I will give you all of these kingdoms without suffering on the cross.” Jesus knew that God sent Him to earth with the ultimate purpose of dying on the cross for our sins. It was God’s plan for Jesus to suffer for all humanity.

If Jesus had given in to any of these temptations and had sinned, it would have broken God’s plan of redemption.

We all are tempted in these ways. The devil tempts us to ignore God’s will, to do things for ourselves and to ignore suffering in the Christian life. But remember I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Jesus resisted Satan’s attacks and rebuked Satan with Scripture. We also can resist and rebuke Satan with the Bible.

After His temptations, Jesus began His public ministry. Remember that John the Baptist was the forerunner for Jesus. Jesus didn’t change John’s message. Jesus carried on the same message. He proclaimed the good news.

Jesus met Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John and called them to follow Him. Immediately, they left their fishing nets and families and followed Jesus. He called them to be fishers of men. He wanted them to fish for people and bring them to God. Following Christ requires sacrifice, sometimes leaving things behind.

Things to Think About
  • No temporary pleasure will outweigh the satisfaction of obeying God.
  • Believe that what God has allowed me to have is good, even if I want more. God is enough for me.
  • Believe that God’s will is right for me, even if it seems crazy.
  • Which situation in my life is causing me to doubt God’s goodness and sovereignty?
  • Am I equipped for Satan’s attacks? Am I using the Holy Spirit and God’s Word like Jesus did to resist Satan?
  • What am I willing to give up for Jesus? Time? Money? Pride?

03 October 2013

01 October 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 3

It’s always interesting to see how God uses our families and our childhoods to prepare us for the Christian life. The same is true for the men in our lesson this week. Both John the Baptist and Jesus were born to godly parents. God used their families and their early circumstances to prepare them for their service later in life.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth like any child of that day and age. But not much is written in the Bible about the 30 “silent years” at the beginning of His life. Luke 2:52 tells us, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” He grew in wisdom in both earthly and spiritual things. And He grew in grace. He always was obedient. God’s grace kept Him from sin. Jesus also grew through temptations, which we’ll see in next week’s lesson. Jesus learned real obedience through temptations.

John the Baptist introduced the world to Jesus. John was the first prophet Israel had after 400 years of silence from God. John was a fulfillment of prophecies in the books of Isaiah and Malachi. John didn’t want the attention on him but was simply the messenger about Jesus’ coming. John understood his role and accepted it. He lived a life of self-denial. He spoke the word of God fearlessly. He prepared people’s hearts for the arrival of the King.

John’s message was to denounce the people’s sin. And he called for the people to repent of their sins or face judgment. Repentance is a changed thinking and a changed life. It’s turning from sin and turning toward God. True repentance requires seeing my sin for what it is and confessing it; having sorrow over my sin; and hating my sin enough to turn from it.

John also called the people to confess their sins to God and to submit to the symbol of baptism. Confession is agreeing with God about how sinful I am. John’s baptism was a preparation that was symbolic of the desire for a changed mind and life. John’s baptism simply introduced people to the coming King. John knew Jesus was the only one who could baptize people with the Holy Spirit. Today, we are baptized with the Holy Spirit at the moment of our salvation. And water baptism is an outward demonstration of the inward change of our hearts.

Jesus Himself asked John to baptize Him. Jesus didn’t need to repent and confess His sins because He was perfect and sinless. Instead, Jesus’ baptism announced His arrival as the Messiah and marked the beginning of his public ministry. Through His baptism, Jesus identified Himself with our sin and became our substitute (Isaiah 53:12). His baptism was a sign that He was consecrated to God and was approved by God for His work on earth.

Following Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and remained on Him throughout His ministry, giving Him the power to heal and speak. Today when we are saved, we receive the Holy Spirit, which identifies us with Christ. The Holy Spirit helps us live a holy life for Christ. He helps us change our minds and our actions. We are anointed to serve, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do that.

God prepared Jesus throughout His childhood. And now Jesus is entering into His public ministry to claim God’s people for Himself.

Things to Think About
  • What temptations am I facing right now? What do I want more than anything but I know it’s wrong?
  • Am I pouring out my heart to God and asking him to help me withstand these temptations?
  • How can I remove obstacles for others to hear God’s message? Am I willing to get out of the way?
  • Am I always lifting up the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • We always talk about the person we know and love the best. What is in my heart comes out of my mouth. When people are with me, are they left thinking about Jesus instead of me?
  • If the identifying mark of a true believer is a life that has repented from sin and bears fruit, what kind of fruit am I producing?