29 December 2016

22 December 2016

19 December 2016

15 December 2016

14 December 2016

Avery’s second annual Christmas recital

Every December, Avery’s piano teacher takes her students to play at local assisted living facilities. It’s good practice for playing in front of a live audience. Watch last year’s performance.

Avery went with an angel theme this year. The first song is “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and the second one is “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”

This piano was being a bit uncooperative. Some of the keys were clicking and sticking. But that didn’t deter Avery!

We are so pleased with how quickly Avery has taken to the piano. It seems we may have found her “thing.” She really enjoys playing, and we think she plays well too!

13 December 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 9:1-41

As we ended chapter 8 last week, we saw people picking up stones to kill Jesus, but He slipped away. Despite the threats against His life, Jesus did not fear anything, as evidenced at the beginning of chapter 9.

Jesus noticed a man who had been blind since birth. The disciples asked about the source of the man’s blindness – was it because he sinned or because his parents sinned? Jesus told them that the man was blind so God’s glory could be revealed in him. The disciples saw the man as an object lesson, but Jesus saw the man’s need.

Jesus emphasized again that He was doing God’s work. And He said, “I am the light of the world.” He brings light to the darkness.

Jesus spit on the ground, made mud, and put it on the man’s eyes. He instructed the man to wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man had to take a step of faith. When the man obeyed Jesus’ command, the man was able to see. For the first time, he could see everything around him!

Soon some people recognized that this blind man could see. They questioned his healing. When the people questioned the man, he simply told them what happened. They asked who healed him; he honestly didn’t know because he had never seen Jesus.

The people brought the man to the Pharisees. This healing took place on the Sabbath, so the Pharisees attacked Jesus for violating Sabbath laws. They rejected the man’s miraculous healing. The Pharisees questioned the man, and he called Jesus a prophet. He recognized that Jesus was from God.

The Pharisees and other Jews still didn’t believe the man’s healing. So they turned to the man’s parents. His parents said that he was their son and he was born blind. But they did not claim to know how he was healed. The man’s parents were afraid of the Pharisees.

For a second time, the Pharisees summoned the man and asked him who healed him. The man said, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” The man became bolder and called himself a disciple of Jesus. And he said, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

The Pharisees threw the man out of the temple. By doing this, the Pharisees were throwing him out of every religious and social perk of being a Jew.

Next Jesus sought out the man. Jesus asked him if he believed in the Son of Man. Jesus identified Himself as the Son of Man. Then the man confessed that he believed, and he worshiped Jesus.

This man’s healing is a picture of a believer’s conversion. Everyone is spiritually blind. We are lost, and we don’t recognize our lost condition. After we come to Christ, He reveals Himself to us. He opens our eyes so we can see who He is and what He has done for us. Then we worship Him.

The religious leaders ask Jesus if they are blind too. They were spiritually blind because they rejected Jesus as God and Healer. They refused to believe in Him and remained in their sin and guilt.

Jesus compassionately and graciously healed a man who was blind from birth. The man didn’t deserve Jesus’ grace or healing. Jesus healed a man who did not believe in him. The man’s faith grew with each round of questioning.

Things to Think About
  • How do you respond to the needs of others?
  • The blind man was changed and others noticed. Do other people notice that you are a Christian? Does your spiritual sight result in a life that looks different than unbelievers’ lives?
  • How do you respond to others’ rejection, ridicule, and persecution because you believe in Jesus?
  • Does pressure from others change what you think or say?
  • Encountering Jesus results in stronger faith or a harder heart.

This Week’s Memory Verse
As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one
can work. John 9:4 NIV

08 December 2016

06 December 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 8:1-59

At the start of a new day, Jesus went to the temple to teach the people. But the Jewish leaders brought an adulterous woman to Jesus. They wanted to trap Jesus and kill the woman.

They said the woman was caught in the act of adultery. Probably not very likely. But if it was true, the law stated that they should have stoned both the man and the woman. Again, the Jewish leaders were only partially obeying God’s law.

The trap – If Jesus sided with the woman, He would be breaking the law of Moses and Roman law. (Jews could not inflict capital punishment without Rome’s permission.) If Jesus sided with the Jewish leaders, He would not be compassionate as He claimed to be.

Jesus’ response: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, the leaders left until only Jesus and the woman remained. He told her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” He said He didn’t condemn her either. Then He sent her away and told her to leave her life of sin.

After this incident, Jesus spoke to the people. He called Himself the light of the world. For the Jewish people, light is symbolic of God’s presence. Jesus again declared that He was God.

Jesus also claimed that He stood with the Father, that He and the Father testify together in unity, that He will go to a place where His listeners cannot go, that He is from above and not from this world, that the listeners must believe in Him or die in their sins, that God is with Him.

He told the people to follow Him so they won’t be in darkness any longer. He told them that He was going to a place where they could not go. He told them that they will die in their sins because they do not believe in Him as God.

The leaders questioned Jesus’ identity. Jesus defended Himself with God’s Word. Many people believe in Jesus after this conversation.

Next Jesus spoke to the people who decided to believe. They may have believed Jesus’ words without fully believing who He was. So they questioned His next teachings.

Jesus told them that the truth will set them free. The people claimed they were not enslaved and didn’t need to be set free. Not true! The people of God had been enslaved many times in their past and currently were enslaved in their sin. God sent Jesus to free them from spiritual bondage.

The people said Abraham was their father. Jesus told them that if Abraham was their father, they would listen to His teachings and believe that He is the promised Messiah. Jesus told them that the devil was their father because they were selfish, lying, murderous people.

Once again, Jesus slipped away without being arrested because Him time had not come yet.

Things to Think About
  • As Jesus exposed people’s sin, some sensed shame and left Him. Others grew more hostile toward Him and plotted to kill Him. And still others recognized something powerful and true in Jesus and were drawn to Him. How do you respond when Jesus exposes your sin?
  • Believers no longer are condemned; we stand in victory with Jesus because He paid the penalty for all of our sin. We are free from the guilt of sin.
  • Everyone is born enslaved to sin. Jesus wants to liberate us from our sin.
  • Jesus is the only one who can save us from our depraved nature and the only one who can free us from spiritual darkness and spiritual bondage.

This Week’s Memory Verse
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

01 December 2016

29 November 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 7:1-53

In John chapter 7, we see that unbelief and hostility toward Jesus are increasing. (This passage is about six months away from Jesus’ crucifixion.) The Jewish leaders were angry that Jesus healed the lame man on the Sabbath, so they plotted to kill Him.

Jesus remained in Galilee to avoid the Jewish leaders. The Feast of Tabernacles was arriving, so Jesus’ brothers expected Him to go to Jerusalem for this festival. They encouraged Him to go to the feast and perform signs and miracles to make their family famous and to show Himself to the world.

But Jesus told them that His time had not come yet. It was not the time for Him to go public. He didn’t want to have a premature confrontation with the Jewish leaders. Jesus was on God’s timetable, not man’s.

After His brothers went to the festival, Jesus quietly and privately went to the festival. At the festival, the Jewish leaders were looking for Jesus and the crowd was murmuring. Some said Jesus was a good man, some said Jesus was a deceiver. No one confessed that Jesus was God.

Later during the festival, Jesus taught in the temple courts. The people were amazed at His knowledge even though He hadn’t studied under Jewish rabbis. Jesus said He came from the Father to teach the people and to give God glory.

Jesus pointed out that the Jewish leaders were hypocritical. They refused to let Jesus heal on the Sabbath, but they “worked” to circumcise a newborn on the Sabbath. The Jews were tied to the letter of the law and ignored the spirit of the law. Jesus’ healing of the man kept the spirit of the law and followed God’s will.

The people of Jerusalem struggled to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus again confirmed that He was sent by God. The leaders did not believe Jesus was God and the promised Messiah. The Jewish leaders tried to seize Jesus but failed because it wasn’t in God’s will. Many in the crowd believed in Jesus as the Messiah.

Jesus explained that He would return to the Father. And anyone who doesn’t believe in Him (including the Jewish leaders) would not be with Him and the Father in heaven.

Again the people are divided and confused. Some said Jesus was a prophet. Some said Jesus was the Messiah. But they didn’t think Jesus was the Messiah because He came from Galilee and the Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem. The people were judging Jesus based on appearances and on what they thought was true.

The people wanted to seize Jesus, but they failed because it was not His time.

Nicodemus defended Jesus by bringing up a Jewish law that stated that no one could be condemned without first speaking his case. The Jewish leaders were treating Jesus unfairly but failed to realize this.

Things to Think About
  • God has a divine timetable with a divine agenda.
  • Do you ask God to reveal His will for you each day so you ensure that you remain on His timetable?
  • Jesus faced worldly pressures from His brothers. He did not cave in to these pressures because He was in tune with God’s perfect plan and timetable.
  • Jesus knew who He was and where He was going. He remained confident no matter what the people said. We shouldn’t allow other people’s thoughts to prevent us from claiming our true identity in Christ.
  • Someone’s opinion of Jesus does not change the reality of who He is. Jesus is the Messiah.

This Week’s Memory Verse
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7:37-38 NIV

24 November 2016

22 November 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 6:41-71

In the first six chapters of John, Jesus has one consistent message – He is life, and eternal life comes through Him. This week we see that Jesus’ consistent message caused people to grumble, to argue, and to leave Him.

The Jews began to question Jesus’ claim that He came from heaven because they knew that Mary and Joseph were His parents. The Jews did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. They dismissed this possibility and grumbled over Jesus’ divine authority. They could have asked Jesus for clarification, but instead they grumbled among themselves.

Jesus called Himself the Living Bread. The manna sustained the Israelites in the wilderness, but Jesus promised to sustain them on earth now and in heaven for eternity. Jesus did not say the people had to eat His flesh and drink His blood physically; there was spiritual symbolism to His words. To eat His flesh was symbolic of believing in Christ. And to drink His blood was symbolic of participating personally in Jesus’ death. It is accepting that Jesus’ blood covered your sins.

The people failed to make a spiritual application to Jesus’ words. Instead of asking Jesus to clarify His teaching, the people sharply argue with each other. After hearing Jesus’ hard teaching, many of His followers decided to leave. They could not accept that He was fully God and that His death and resurrection would bring eternal life.

Their hearts were hardened. They were more interested in miracles, physical food, and political freedom rather than spiritual food and spiritual deliverance. They refused to humble themselves to ask questions. They were full of pride.

As the scoffers left, Jesus turned to His 12 apostles and asked if they were leaving too. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Things to Think About
  • Jesus’ claims demand a personal response. What is your response to Jesus’ hard teachings?
  • Do you ask God to help you understand difficult teachings, or do you dismiss the truth because it’s too difficult to believe?
  • Is God drawing you to Him? How are you responding?
  • Jesus lost followers due to a message of truth. He didn’t change His message to please them or to keep them as His followers. Remain faithful to the truth of God’s Word. People are not won to Christ by compromising truth.

This Week’s Memory Verse
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. John 6:51 NIV

17 November 2016

15 November 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 6:22-40

After Jesus fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, the people continued to follow Him. But they had shallow motives; they wanted Jesus to continue to feed them bread in miraculous ways.

Jesus told the people to work for “food” that endures eternally, not “food” that spoils. Anything that doesn’t have eternal value spoils; it is not worth our time and energy. The people asked Jesus what they must do to do the works God requires. They wanted a to-do list that they could check off. Jesus answered that they simply must believe in Him. This is the only work God requires for salvation.

No one can be justified before holy God with human works. God extends His grace to sinners by giving them faith to believe in Jesus. After we are justified, God gives us works to do. A sincere profession of faith is followed by a changed life with good works that have been ordained by God. We are justified through faith; it is God’s work alone. (See Ephesians 2:8-9.)

The same people who just the day before watched Jesus miraculously feed more than 5,000 now asked for another sign from Him so they could believe Him. There was a teaching at this time that the promised Messiah would provide manna from heaven just as God did for the Israelites in the desert. Jesus explained that God continues to give bread from heaven; now it is Jesus Himself who came from heaven to give life to the world. Jesus is the manna.

Jesus told them, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” We can’t do anything to undo our salvation, and we can’t do anything to improve our status before God.

Jesus said that His work is to graciously receive everyone whom God brings to Him and to secure believers in Him.

Things to Think About
  • Are you striving for something that doesn’t have eternal value?
  • The only work involved with receiving eternal life is believing in Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus Christ, the bread of heaven, gives eternal life, security, and lasting satisfaction to all who receive Him.
  • We make sure that we receive physical nourishment daily. But is it a daily priority for you to receive spiritual nourishment daily from Jesus?

This Week’s Memory Verse
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV

10 November 2016

08 November 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 6:1-21

Jesus originally planned to withdraw with His disciples to rest, fellowship, and listen to their ministry reports. But God interrupted this plan when a multitude of people expressed their desire for Jesus to teach them. The disciples wanted to send the people away. Jesus knew that the crowd took priority over any of His own needs.

The revised plan was to feed the more than 5,000 people. Jesus asked Philip how they should feed the crowd. Philip said they didn’t have enough money to feed the people. Andrew brought a boy and his small lunch to Jesus. The boy willingly offered his food to Jesus.

Jesus gave thanks to God then distributed the food to all of the people until they “all had enough to eat.” They had all that they wanted, and there were leftovers! Jesus instructed the disciples to pick up the leftovers because He didn’t want to have anything wasted.

In response to this miracle, the crowd wanted to crown Jesus as their king. They called Him the Prophet and the Messiah. When Jesus realized that the people wanted to take Him by force and make Him their king, Jesus withdrew by Himself to a mountain to pray. This large crowd could have caused a riot and taken Him as their king. Jesus protected His disciples by sending them away.

He sent them in a boat to go to Capernaum. While in the boat, the disciples ran into a rough storm. These expert fishermen struggled against the storm. In the middle of the lake, they suddenly saw someone on the water, and they became frightened.

It was Jesus! He yelled at them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then the disciples pulled Him into their boat, and they immediately arrived safely at the shore.

Things to Think About
  • Jesus develops our faith and calms our fears.
  • Jesus should set the priorities of our lives. When we allow Him to do this, we can fully engage in His plan for our lives.
  • We should be grateful for everything God gives us, no matter how big or how small.
  • Jesus makes sufficient whatever you place in His hands.
  • In which situation do I think my resources are insignificant? Will I bring it to Jesus in faith, trusting Him to multiply it?
  • Jesus was faithful to care for His disciples even though He sent them into the storm.
  • In our storms, Jesus prays for us, Jesus comes to us, and Jesus delivers us (though maybe not on this side of heaven).
  • Our obedience always brings blessings; sometimes it brings trials and storms. Jesus calls us to obey everything He commands us to do.

This Week’s Memory Verse
When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; donʼt be afraid.” John 6:19-20 NIV

03 November 2016

01 November 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 5:1-47

Jesus was in Jerusalem for a Jewish festival. While there, He passed by a pool where there were many disabled people. People believed that if they entered the pool’s water at the right time, they would be healed supernaturally.

At this pool, Jesus met a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to get well?” The invalid made excuses. He could not be healed because no one would help him into the pool. Jesus instructed the man to get up, pick up his mat, and walk. Jesus healed the man instantly. The healing took place on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is a holy day God that set aside for His people to rest. But the religious leaders added many, many rules and regulations to the Sabbath. This was not God’s intent. The religious leaders saw the man carrying his mat, which was a violation of their Sabbath rules. The man told the religious leaders that Jesus told him to carry his mat. The religious leaders accused both the paralyzed man and Jesus of breaking the Sabbath.

Later, Jesus found the man at the temple. Jesus told him to stop sinning – stop doing what you’re doing. What was the man doing? He was being ignorant of Jesus, the person who healed him.

The religious leaders began to persecute Jesus because He healed the man on the Sabbath. Jesus responded by saying that He was doing His Father’s work. This caused the religious leaders to become even angrier because Jesus was calling Himself equal with God. He claimed to be God Himself. This was blasphemy.

But Jesus indeed is God! Jesus spoke out about His character and His purpose from God. Then Jesus presented the testimonies of other people to prove that He is who He says He is:

  • God the Father called Jesus His Son.
  • The Scriptures had spoken about who Jesus is and what He would do.
  • Jesus’ actual work allowed people to see His divine nature.

The religious leaders knew the Scriptures, but they didn’t know the God of the Scriptures. They loved their position more than they loved God Himself. The religious leaders rejected Jesus out of rebellion, out of a resistance to God, out of pride, out of idolatry, and out of unbelief.

What will you do with Jesus? Will you accept Him or reject Him?

Things to Think About
  • Do you make excuses when God asks something of your? Do you blame others for something you lack?
  • Are you in a hopeless or helpless situation? Have you taken your concerns to God? Sometimes God changes our circumstances; other times God leaves us in our circumstances but gives us hope and encouragement. Are you willing to trust Him?
  • Are you a religious person, or are you a person with real relationship with Jesus?

This Week’s Memory Verse
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24 NIV

27 October 2016

25 October 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 4:31-54

Just after Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, the disciples returned. They were focused on meeting Jesus’ physical needs and satisfying his physical hunger. But Jesus wanted the disciples to turn their eyes to a spiritual need all around them. He wanted them to lift their eyes and look at the Samaritans coming toward them; these people were hungering and thirsting for God.

Jesus said the “food” that nourishes Him was the work God had given Him to do. Accomplishing God’s will pleased Jesus so much that He didn’t need food to nourish His body. Then Jesus used an example of a harvest to describe the world’s spiritual needs:

  • Harvest – those who come to faith in Christ
  • Fields – unbelievers around us
  • Crop – the result of a believer’s work in conjunction with Christ that produces new believers
  • Sower – a person who shares the truth about Jesus
  • Reaper – a person who helps people receive Jesus as Lord and Savior
  • Wages – joy, fulfillment, God’s approval of the believer’s work, and believers’ future treasures in heaven

Jesus explained the disciples’ mission. He sent them to go into the harvest field and reap a true harvest, which is eternal life. Even today, believers have a part in this mission. Sometimes we are sowers; sometimes we are reapers.

The Samaritans were focused on knowing more about Jesus. They first believed in Jesus based on the woman’s testimony. Then the Samaritans asked Jesus to stay with them. They listened to Him teach for two days. After this, the Samaritans knew Jesus was the Messiah and believed for themselves that He was their Savior.

After spending time with the Samaritans, Jesus returned to Galilee, His home country. He visited several towns there. A royal official from Capernaum approached Jesus while He was in Cana. He begged Jesus to heal his sick son. The official knew that Jesus was his last hope. The Galileans were focused on Jesus performing a miracle. The royal official was focused on saving his son.

Jesus rebuked the Galileans for seeking signs and miracles. But the official continued to beg Jesus to heal his son. Jesus said, “Go. Your son will live.” The official took Jesus at His word. Jesus did not give the man a sign. The man trusted that Jesus would heal his son.

The official returned home the next day. Before he reached home, his servants found him on the road and said that his son was healed. The official realized that his son was healed at the same time that Jesus spoke to the official. Then the official’s entire household believed in Jesus because of this miracle.

Things to Think About
  • Ask God to make you a coworker with the Holy Spirit and with fellow believers to work together to bring people to God.
  • Participating in God’s work is about exalting Christ not self.
  • What work does God have for you?
  • Do your actions express a real faith in Jesus?
  • You can take Jesus at His word because He is trustworthy.
  • Who in your life needs to know about Jesus?

This Week’s Memory Verse
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” John 4:34 NIV

20 October 2016

18 October 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 4:1-30

Jesus had a divine appointment in Samaria. Most Jewish people avoided going into Samaria because the Samaritans mixed the truth of God’s Word with false idols. At noon, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well. She was hiding from her fellow townspeople because she came to the well at the hottest time of the day.

Jesus He asked the woman for a drink of water. But then Jesus said He wanted to give her living water. She mistakenly thought He was talking about a physical water. But living water is eternal life and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Then Jesus revealed her sin with kindness, grace, and truth. He did not condemn her. Now the woman looked for understanding about what was happening. She wanted to know the truth about worship. Jesus said all earthly worship points to heavenly, eternal worship. Jesus explained that true worshipers worship God in spirit and truth – God is everywhere (spirit), and we must worship the true God (truth).

The woman said that the coming Messiah will explain everything. Then Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah.

After her conversation with Jesus, the Samaritan woman left her water jug and ran to town, telling others about Jesus. She came for physical water, but she left with her spiritual thirst quenched for all eternity. Because of her testimony, the people went to meet Jesus for themselves.

Things to Think About
  • Which barriers and prejudices do you need to overcome when it comes to sharing the Gospel?
  • Are you sharing the Gospel in your home? To the people across the street? To anyone God brings into your life?
  • How much time do you spend seeking the things that temporarily satisfy you? Are you seeking God more than the things that temporarily satisfy you? Will you allow Jesus to satisfy your deepest longings?
  • Jesus valued the woman enough to sit with her, to tell her what needed to be changed in her life, and to share with her the only One who could change her life.
  • Jesus is not partial to social status, political clout, or financial portfolios. He is willing to meet us where we are. This is grace.

This Week’s Memory Verse
But whomever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:14 NIV

13 October 2016

11 October 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 3

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council. He approached Jesus at night. Why? Perhaps he wanted an uninterrupted conversation with Jesus.

Nicodemus went to Jesus out of curiosity. Jesus knew Nicodemus’ heart. He knew that Nicodemus was coming to Him to find out if He is the Messiah. Jesus told Nicodemus that no one can see (understand) the kingdom of God unless they are born again. Nicodemus thought first of physical rebirth and how impossible that is. But Jesus was speaking of spiritual rebirth.

Jesus said that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of the water and of the Spirit. To be born of the water is to be born of the Word of God (it cleanses you). To be born of the Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit.

Everyone is born spiritually dead and separated from God because we are born into sin. Regeneration is the Holy Spirit’s work in a person, resulting in being born again spiritually. The Holy Spirit puts eternal life into the believing person. Regeneration happens once, in an instant. Regeneration brings people into God’s family and into His glorious inheritance.

Nicodemus asked how he can be born again. Nicodemus knew the truth of the Old Testament and the prophecies of the promised Messiah. But he didn’t realize that the promised Messiah was standing in front of him. Jesus pointed to an Old Testament story to prove that He was the Messiah and that He would die for our sins. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, they became impatient and complained to Moses that there was no water or food. So God punished them by sending venomous snakes. The people realized they had sinned by complaining to God and Moses. Then they repented of their sins. God instructed Moses to construct a bronze snake and place it on a pole. Anyone who looked at the bronze snake was healed and lived (Numbers 21:4-9). The bronze snake is an early symbol that pointed to Jesus’ death on the cross.

After the conversation with Nicodemus ended, John includes his own commentary about the subject of regeneration. This helps us understand what Jesus was teaching Nicodemus. John tells us that believers are not afraid to be in the light. Unbelievers do not want to go into the light because their sin is exposed there. Regeneration results in God-honoring desires.

Now we move to a new scene. John the Baptist’s disciples were upset that Jesus’ disciples were baptizing more people. But John realized that his ministry was short term and that God was raising up Jesus to fulfill His ministry on earth. John continued to point others to Jesus instead of himself.

And here is a beautiful description of John 3:16:
For God – the greatest Lover
so loved – the greatest degree
the world – the greatest company
that he gave – the greatest act
his one and only Son, – the greatest gift
that whoever – the greatest opportunity
believes in him – the greatest simplicity
shall not perish – the greatest promise
but – the greatest difference
have – the greatest certainty
eternal life – the greatest possession

Things to Think About
  • Belief in Christ produces a new life, a new way of life, and a new purpose in life.
  • Have you been born again?
  • Has your new life in Christ changed your thinking? Has your new life in Christ changed the way that you live?
  • Believers have a new way of living – living according to God’s Word.
  • The longer we believe in Jesus, the more we should look like Him. As we grow in spiritual maturity, there should be evidence of a changed life.

This Week’s Memory Verse
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 NIV

06 October 2016

04 October 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 2:1-25

This week’s lesson starts with Jesus, His (five or six) disciples, and Mary (Jesus’ mother) attending a wedding in Cana.

What were Jewish weddings like? The wedding festival lasted seven days, and the entire community was invited to attend. The bridegroom’s family was responsible for serving the guests for the entire week. To run out of food or wine would have brought embarrassment upon the entire family.

Mary was very concerned when this wedding celebration suddenly ran out of wine. She immediately went to Jesus to ask for His help. Mary knew that Jesus had the power to do anything. So she instructed the servants to obey whatever Jesus told them. Jesus told them to fill up six stone water jars. The servants obeyed. Then Jesus told the servants to draw some water out of the jars and take it to the master of the banquet. The servants obeyed. The master praised the bridegroom for saving the best wine for last.

This sign pointed to Jesus’ glory, deity, compassion, and grace. He also demonstrated His power over nature. He is the sovereign Lord – He is in control of all things. He has absolute authority and rule. Nothing is outside of His rule, and nothing is beyond His reach. Trusting in God’s sovereignty gives us a new perspective. We see every life event knowing it is subject to God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. This allows us to be joyful in all circumstances.

Jesus didn’t have to perform this miracle. But He showed that He cared about the details of people’s lives. And He still cares enough for us to do the same.

After this wedding, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. This festival was a celebration and a reminder that God freed His people from Egyptian slavery.

When He entered the temple courts, Jesus found tables full of moneychangers and vendors selling animals for the required sacrifices. Jesus saw His Father’s house turned into a market. The house of worship was turned into a place of business. Jesus made a whip to drive out the animals and the people. He overturned the tables.

Jesus demonstrated a righteous anger. He was filled with indignation over the wickedness and injustice against God. Righteous anger reveals an intolerance for sin.

The Jews questioned Jesus’ authority. Jesus referred to His coming death, burial, and resurrection when He said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews did not understand that Jesus was not talking about the physical temple but about His body.

This is when we see that many people began to follow Jesus because of His miracles and signs. But they eventually fall away because they do not like Jesus’ teachings.

Things to Think About
  • Mary went to Jesus with the problem not the solution. True faith takes our problem to God and expects Him to do something.
  • The servants at the wedding took Jesus at His Word. Do you take Jesus at His Word?
  • Jesus is sovereign over time, people, nature, life, and death. He is able to handle anything in our lives.

This Week’s Memory Verse
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John 2:19 NIV

29 September 2016

27 September 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 1:19-51

This week, we see more of John the Baptist and his mission on earth. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. He was born six months before Jesus. John the Baptist was born into the priesthood, but God called him to be a prophet. His task was to prepare the way for Christ the Messiah and to prepare people’s hearts to receive Jesus.

John’s message was repentance. He also called for people to be baptized, an outward sign of an inward change. Baptism typically was reserved for Gentiles when they converted to Judaism. So it was unusual for John to tell Jews they also needed to be baptized.

When Jewish leaders questioned John and asked who he was, he humbly answered their questions and pointed them back to Jesus. They asked John if he was the promised Deliverer. John said he was pointing people to Jesus. John didn’t want people looking at him; he wanted people looking at Jesus.

John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God. This was a very symbolic name for Jesus. In Jewish sacrifices, a sinner brought a lamb to a priest. The sinner laid his hands on the lamb and confessed his sins so that his sins symbolically were transferred to the lamb. The lamb was slaughtered as the sacrifice, and the blood was sprinkled on the altar as an offering for the sin of the sinner. This was God’s appointed way to cleanse His people from their sins.

But then God sent Jesus as the lamb for all people. He was our substitute. He stood in our place, He symbolically took on our sins, He bore the full wrath of God, and He died for us.

Later, John the Baptist was with his followers, Andrew and John (the author of this book). John the Baptist again calls Jesus the Lamb of God. Jesus invited Andrew and John to come and see. They spent the day with Jesus. Jesus is never too busy to spend time with us. Jesus desires to spend time with us.

Andrew immediately found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at Simon in a way that showed Simon that Jesus knew him fully. Jesus gave Simon a new name – Peter.

Then Jesus called out to Philip and told Philip to follow Him. Philip found his friend Nathanael. Nathanael questioned if anything good can come from Nazareth. But he didn’t stay in his doubt. He went with Philip to meet Jesus. Jesus told Nathanael that He saw him sitting under a fig tree. Nathanael could have been studying the Scriptures or praying under the fig tree. Nathanael realized that Jesus was the Messiah and the only stairway to God. Jesus commended Nathanael for his faith.

Things to Think About
  • All of John’s life was a preparation for his calling. He had to be prepared first before he could prepare others.
  • The ministry of all believers is to point people to Jesus.
  • Are you stepping out of the way and working to point others to Jesus?
  • Man’s greatest tragedy is a loss of fellowship with God. Man’s greatest problem is God’s wrath. Man’s greatest need is a restored relationship with God. Man’s only hope is Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus is God’s chosen One to take away the sin of the world.
  • Do you worship Jesus for His sacrifice and for the changed life His death brings?
  • The ministry of all believers is to bring people to Jesus.
  • God gives His people the privilege of introducing others to Jesus. But we must be with Jesus before we can bring others to Him.
  • Who does God want you to bring to Jesus?
  • God can use you in a way that He can use no one else. Are you willing to let Him use you to touch other people’s lives?

This Week’s Memory Verse
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 NIV

22 September 2016

20 September 2016

BSF 2016-2017: John 1:1-18

As John begins his gospel, he wants his readers to know that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Jesus was with God, and He is God. Everything was created by Christ and for Christ, including you and me. Jesus is the life giver and the life sustainer. As the Creator, Jesus also holds the universe together. And He holds individual lives together.

John calls Jesus the Word. This means that Jesus was the source of God’s message to His people. Jesus was God’s communication to the world. He was God’s voice to the world.

Next, the apostle John presents John the Baptist. John the Baptist was appointed by God to prepare the way for Jesus. He pointed everyone to Jesus as God in flesh and the promised Messiah. He told others to follow Jesus.

The world did not recognize Jesus or know who He was. Even His own Jewish nation rejected Him as Messiah, although God called them to make Himself known to the world.

Finally, John discusses the miracle of spiritual birth. To be born again is to receive a completely new life from God. It is a supernatural experience. It is not from human decision or human effort. No one can decide for someone else.

The way we are born again is by receiving and believing in Jesus. To be a child of God means I have peace, security, and comfort.

Things to Think About
  • There is no lasting satisfaction outside of a life lived for Jesus Christ.
  • What are you looking to for satisfaction? True, lasting satisfaction can only be found in Jesus.
  • To reject Christ as God is to reject God as God.
  • Jesus was not simply a prophet, a teacher, or a good man. Jesus is God. He is the long-awaited Messiah.
  • Have you confessed Jesus as God and the Lord of your life?
  • Jesus Christ gives eternal life to all who receive Him and believe in His name.
  • Are you in the majority or the minority? Do you reject and dismiss Christ, or do you worship and obey Him?
  • Jesus is the only way to know God.

This Week’s Memory Verse
“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:18 NIV

15 September 2016

13 September 2016

BSF 2016-2017: An Overview of the Bible and the Gospel of John

Welcome to a new year of BSF!

Each week, I will provide summaries about the lessons, starting today. Since I serve in the School Program, I also will share the students’ memory verse each week. I am extra excited this year because Avery will be attending BSF with me! She will be participating in Level 1 of the School Program.

This year, we will be reading through the Gospel of John (and supplemental Scriptures from other parts of the Bible). The Gospel of John is all about Jesus. In fact, the entire Bible is one story about Jesus Christ. So before we look at the Gospel of John, we need to understand the outline of the Bible.

There are 39 books in the Old Testament:

  • Genesis to Deuteronomy are The Law.
  • Joshua to Esther are The History of Israel.
  • Job to Song of Solomon are The Books of Poetry.
  • Isaiah to Malachi are The Books of prophecy.

There are 27 books in the New Testament:

  • Matthew to John are The Gospels.
  • Acts is the book about the disciples and the beginning of the church.
  • Romans to Jude are The Epistles (or letters).
  • Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Bible contains 66 books. More than 40 human writers composed the Bible as they were directed by the Holy Spirit. The Bible was written over the course of 1,500 years. God is the Bible’s Author. God uses the Bible to reveal Himself to the world and to reveal His purposes. The Bible is God’s written revelation of Himself. The Bible tells the story of redemption. Jesus used his blood on the cross to purchase sinners, setting us free from sin’s bondage.

God’s Word is all-inclusive – we cannot add to it or subtract anything from it. God’s Word is true and inerrant. Reading Scripture is like looking in a mirror. God shows us who we really are and who He really is. The Bible is the final authority for life.

There are four Gospels in the New Testament. Each one recorded the events of Jesus’ life in a slightly different way. Matthew wrote his gospel to prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah and eternal King. Mark wrote his gospel to present the work, person, and teachings of Jesus Christ. Luke wrote his gospel to present an accurate account of the life of Christ and to present Jesus as the perfect human and Savior. These three gospels recorded what Jesus did.

John wrote his gospel to record what Jesus meant in his actions and words. John wrote his gospel to reveal Jesus as the Son of God and so that all who believe in Him have eternal life. Here is an outline of the Gospel of John:

  • The Prologue – John 1:1-18
  • Jesus Revealed to the World – John 1:19-12:50
  • Jesus Revealed to Disciples Alone – John 13-17
  • Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection – John 18-20
  • Epilogue – John 21

Are you ready to see the life of Jesus through John’s eyes? I’m looking forward to another exciting year as we study God’s Word together each week!

Things to Think About
  • God transforms believers who study and apply the Bible. Will you commit to studying and applying God’s Word with me this year through the Gospel of John?
  • Will you surrender to God’s authority, purpose, and plan for your life?
  • Jesus is the Son of God, and belief in Him leads to eternal life.
  • In the book of John, the truth of Jesus is revealed. We will see many people reject Jesus, and a small minority will accept and follow Him. Which one are you?

This Week’s Memory Verse
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31 NIV

08 September 2016

04 September 2016

Damon's potty training: Day three

We're breathing a sigh of relief around these parts today because we're done with potty training! Damon successfully completed the training today with a big poop in the potty chair, many little potties in the potty chair, and lots of dry underwear. He didn't always tell us when he was ready to go potty, but we saw a panicked look on his face or saw him dancing and then sent him to the bathroom. He almost always went potty. When he didn't, he still had dry underwear. Yea!

We'll stay close to home tomorrow and count it as an extra day of potty training, just to be sure Damon is ready to face the real world on Tuesday. But we can say for sure that this Three-Day Potty Training Method really works!

I'm so proud of Damon! I was feeling unsure about everything mid-afternoon yesterday, but he managed to figure out the whole process in the three days. And I'm very grateful for Chris. Potty training is not for the faint of heart, and it should not be done alone. We leaned on each other a lot the past few days. I'm also grateful that we're done having kids and thus done with potty training. ;o)

Just as it happened with Avery, the real test will be how Damon handles everything when we return to our normal routine later this week. We'll be sure to let you know how that goes! In the meantime, I'm happy to say goodbye to diapers!

03 September 2016

Damon's potty training: Day two

Today was both worse and better -- worse because we changed Damon's underwear at least 12 times (though he was only slightly wet each time) and better because he went in the potty chair many more times than yesterday.

It seems Damon is learning a bit of control. He will catch himself going in his underpants then stop and say, "Let's go!" He doesn't always finish in the potty chair, but I still call that progress!

He woke up dry both first thing this morning and after his nap. He had a few little accidents throughout the day, but they were followed by a BIG potty in the potty chair. And there were plenty of runs to the bathroom for false alarms. I had to look back at Avery's potty training to remember that she had what seemed like hundreds of false alarms herself.

Now all we need is Damon to poop in the potty chair!

Chris and I both were a bit discouraged. We know it's all starting to click in Damon's head, but maybe we had some unrealistic expectations about how quickly this would all come together for him. Added to the discouragement, we are completely exhausted. Whether that's due to constantly running to the bathroom for false alarms or simply tiredness from normal life I can't say. I just hope we all three survive the weekend!

We are so grateful that Grandma and Grandpa Hromada and Aunt Karen stole Avery away for a couple of overnight adventures. We definitely couldn't do all of this with Avery hanging around here.

Here's hoping we have a good report tomorrow night!

02 September 2016

Damon's potty training: Day one

For the past several months, Damon has shown many signs of being ready for potty training. For weeks, we've talked up "big boy underwear" and using the potty chair. Since Daddy had a four-day holiday weekend, we decided to take the plunge and start potty training this weekend. Happy Labor Day to us!

After breakfast this morning, Damon chose his first pair of underwear (Thomas the Tank Engine). That was just before 8 a.m. Then Avery went to school, and I headed out to my half-day of work! Daddy and Damon were on their own until just after 1 p.m. when I returned home. Here's what happened the rest of the day:

8:15 a.m. - False alarm run to bathroom, dry, nothing in potty chair.
10:30 a.m. - Daddy paused the movie when Damon said, "Damon go potty." Dry, nothing in potty chair.
11:40 a.m. - False alarm run to bathroom, dry, nothing in potty chair.
12 p.m. - Big accident when Damon said, "Uh oh!" as he pottied on the floor. Nothing in potty chair.
12:15 p.m. - Asked to go to bathroom, dry, nothing in potty chair. Several more false alarms.
1:45 p.m. - Asked to go to bathroom, dry, nothing in potty chair. Nap time.
3:15 p.m. - Woke up from nap, dry.
3:20 p.m. - Small accident in underwear, nothing in potty chair. Several more false alarms.
4:45 p.m. - Small accident in underwear, BIG potty in potty chair!
Several trips to bathroom with no results.
7:25 p.m. - Asked to go to bathroom, small potty in potty chair.
7:45 p.m. - Bedtime.

Damon went through just five pairs of underwear (compared to 20 pairs on Avery's first day of potty training!). We were pleased that he stayed so dry. We just hope he's not holding it in! And we're waiting for the first poop on the potty chair.

A few times, Damon asked to put on a diaper. I'm kind of surprised that he did that. But I think it was because he wanted to poop and just couldn't muster the courage to do that on the potty chair.

Here's hoping we have see some more progress tomorrow!

01 September 2016

25 August 2016

19 August 2016

Damon's second birthday party

Did you wonder if Damon had his second birthday? Once again, I'm slow on the draw. So here is his birthday in review...finally!

On Damon's actual birthday, the four of us went out for pizza and frozen yogurt at our favorite local shop. Then Damon opened his presents from Avery, Mommy, and Daddy.

Believe it or not, Damon didn't have an IU hat. So Daddy knew just what to give Damon for his birthday.

Daddy also knew it was high time for Damon to have his first pair of Nike tennis shoes.

 Avery chose two construction trucks for Damon because he loves anything with wheels!

Damon's big gift was a balance bike. This is a different way of teaching kids to ride a bike. They learn to balance first (as young as 18 months!) then comes the easy part of pedaling and breaking. Both Chris and I had heard good things about balance bikes. And since Avery still has training wheels on her two-wheeler, we figured we could try a balance bike with Damon

He was very eager to ride his new orange bike and wear his matching orange helmet. Since his birthday, he has gotten more comfortable with the bike. We'll see how this goes!

On the Sunday after Damon's birthday, the grandparents and Aunt Karen joined us for a little party. As I mentioned before, Damon loves cars and trucks. So I was leaning toward having some type of vehicular theme for the party. Then when Grandma Hromada surprised Damon with a personlalized birthday shirt featuring a dump truck, I knew we had to go with a construction theme!

Decorating was easy! One roll of caution tape, some black and yellow accessories, and plenty of construction toys from Damon's personal collection was all we needed to make the house look festive.

I purchased these construction toys just for the cake. The "dirt" is crushed Oreo cookies.

All of the food also fit in the construction theme.

Wrecking Balls – cheese balls
Nuts and Bolts – Chex Mix
Measuring Tape – bubble gum
Rope Knots Salad – pasta salad
Traffic Cones – Bugles snacks
Build Your Own Burger station
Tools – silverware

Damon didn't need any help opening his presents. He knew just what to do! Though I don't know who was more excited about his toys – Daddy or Damon!

Here Damon is trying to show two fingers, in case you don't know how old he is.

Happy (very belated) birthday to our sweet little boy!

18 August 2016