That’s When

Dying Thief

Death and Resurrection – Lesson 12

TombThen said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. John 11:14

Lazarus’s sisters were crushed. The brother who they loved so much had been taken away from them by the cruel enemy called Death. They had sent word to Jesus that He was sick, knowing that if Jesus could get to Lazarus quickly, he would not die. But hours turned into days and Lazarus died.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. John 11:5

After Jesus finally arrived back to Judaea, Martha poured out her heart to Him. Her confidence in His power was unshaken but in her grief she could not grasp the deep purposes of God.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:23-27

We cannot go on without gleaning some gems from this short discourse. It is obvious by Martha’s words that she understood that her brother was dead – not in heaven looking down upon them. Her expectation, rightly so, was that not until the resurrection foretold in the scriptures, would her brother live again.

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2

But more to the point of our discussion was the promise Jesus repeated that day.

He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. John 11:25

This is beyond the comprehension of man to fully understand but not beyond our ability to accept. From the beginning man was not created to die. We scarcely begin to live before the shadows of death slowly creep across our path. Our zest for life, our loves and hopes and dreams, all will end as we enter death’s door. But that’s not the end of our story.

Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. John 5:25-29

This week as we study Death and Resurrection, what better outcome could there be than for us to recommit ourselves to Christ? What could be more profitable than understanding what it will take to be in the resurrection of life? And what can be more satisfying than helping others to share in this hope.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord Isaiah 1:18

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • Why does it matter if one falsely believes that everyone goes to heaven when they die?
  • Is it true that the fear of going to hell should motivate us to live right? Why or why not?
  • Is it true that all good people will eventually go to heaven? Explain your answer.
  • John 5:29 says “those who have done good” will be in the resurrection of life. What does “done good” mean to you?
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: Understanding the truth about the state of the dead is not crucial to your growth as a Christian. Explain your answer.

We close these week with the heart-warming words written to the believers in Thessalonica. Jesus is the resurrection and the life:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

For online lessons please visit  http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/14c/less11.html

The Sabbath – Lesson 11

SunsetAnd He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

We need the Sabbath. I am not primarily talking about a period of down time from our busy lives, although the Sabbath affords that. Our need of the Sabbath is deeper than mere rest. We need the Sabbath for our salvation.

The Sabbath reminds us that there is a God who created all things. Those sacred hours provide the time to turn our attention to His mighty creation. Our world, though marred by sin, still serves as a lesson book about the God we serve.

We see the beauty of His creation from the lowly flower full of intricate details to the lofty mountains that tower to the heavens. In each we see the hand of God. We read in nature’s pages the care and concern He has for us and we find assurance and contentment as we reaffirm each week who it is that controls our lives.

“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:28-30

The Law of God – Lesson 10

pvtv_logoIf ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15

God, in sending His Son, demonstrated His love for man. This demonstration of love is designed to pierce the hard-heartedness of man and open up his heart to reciprocate that love. Without love as a motivating factor, the keeping of the law, weighed in the scales of eternity, is just sounding brass and tinkling symbols. Our greatest need is to know and understand that love that was revealed through Jesus the Christ.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. John 17:3

As He walked this earth as a man we find that Jesus never used force or coercion for the building up of the kingdom of God. The invitation was to whosoever would and there were many who responded to that call of love.

No Inmates Beyond This Point!

PrisonNO INMATES BEYOND THIS POINT!

This was the sign that warned us each time we departed the prison grounds at the women’s federal prison in Texas. As we crossed the boldly red striped line each day we understood what a privilege we have to be free and able to leave the grounds knowing that those who watched us walk away could only dream of the day they could do the same. 

For three days Shelley and I have been conducting a series of workshops to the inmates on job readiness skills once they would transition back into society. For some, the departure date would be decades from now but they were none-the-less engaged as if their freedom was in the near future.

The group of women we served covered a broad spectrum. We had young women all the way to grandmothers that were in the years when most are planning retirement. We had multiple races and ethnicities.

During our time together we learned a little of each woman’s history. Some had been millionaires (not wanna bees), others had never really held a job. We had skilled artisans of a wide variety and even someone who had broken a racehorse in her previous life in the Midwest.

We were struck with how normal many of the ladies were yet through bad decisions they chose to make, they were now convicted felons. We shared useful job readiness information on how to move forward in life once they would be released. But even more important than that we were also able to share example after example of how Jesus had a habit of meeting people at their worst and changing their lives in ways they could have never dreamed.

Meeting people at their worst…, I might have to write something else along those lines.  

Living Like Christ – Lesson 7

Walking on Water (300x123)Where have all of the nice Christians gone? I know they still exist. I have seen them. They stand out because of their constant cheerfulness, even in trying situations. They never have anything negative to say about anyone, including the growing online internet bashing and mocking of others (check out a typical Facebook feed). They always appear supportive of others and are known for their willingness to lend a helping hand.

Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. Luke 7:39

Growing in Christ – Lesson 6

Growing (300x186)The people did not see that coming. They were hoping for and expecting an announcement that the long-awaited kingdom would soon begin. There was no denying that Jesus was more than a normal man. It was not only the miracles He performed but His king-like bearing and an authority that none could deny.

As they sat gathered on the mountainside everyone was in rapt attention, listening to the words He spoke. In the crowd were all classes – from the lowly to the distinguished members of Jewish society. Each with their own dreams of the Jewish nation being restored.

Spell-bound they listened as Jesus began to talk about the kingdom of heaven in ways that they had not heard before. He pronounced blessings upon mourners and the meek, upon the merciful and the peacemakers.

Then He made a statement that must have turned their religious world upside down:

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20

How to be Saved – Lesson 5

DungeonHis name was Nelson Mandela. He is enshrined in history as a testament to the greater impulses of man. After being imprisoned 27 years of his life, much of it in brutal conditions, Mandela emerged with a message of forgiveness and tolerance. His witness was so compelling that his name has become synonymous with greatness, dignity, and honor.

His story of unjust imprisonment has been sadly only one of countless others who have suffered indignity, pain and torture without just cause. For those that are fortunate enough to find freedom, many do so with a bitterness that strangles joy and hope from their remaining years.

Then there are those who inexplicably see their unjust imprisonment as a disguised blessing. The Bible records our most famous example in the imprisonment and eventual release of Joseph. What others meant for evil, God turned into good.

But for today, as we study this week’s topic of How to be Saved, we turn to a similar incident recorded in the Book of Acts. Paul and Silas had taken the gospel to a new region and encounter and release a women who was under demonic possession. Consequently a riot ensues and the apostles are taken into custody, brutally beaten and thrust into prison. Their response to this injustice would set in motion events that would prove life-changing.

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. Acts 16:25

Salvation – Lesson 4

Doubt (300x232)When did we stop believing? When did we begin to take pride in declaring our doubts about our salvation?

I was in a Sabbath school class recently when, during a discussion about salvation, a long-time member raised a hand for comment. “We should never say that we’re saved!” A partial but oft-quoted Ellen White statement was the basis of the admonition to the class. Thus began a lively exchange about the assurance of salvation.

Rebuttal texts like the following were then quoted:

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 16:31

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:36

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.Ephesians 2:8-9

So when did we become hearers of the Word but not doers of the Word when it comes to our belief in our own salvation?

The Holy Spirit – Lesson 3

Fiery DoveTheir mission was simple – find Jesus and ask him a very direct question. The expected answer would either be yes or no. The reason for this simple question was more complex. The imprisoned John the Baptist was a believer in Christ. Yet, through the insinuations of others and his own misconceptions of the role of the Messiah, doubts began to arise in John’s mind. He needed an answer from Jesus confirming who He was and to this end he sent his disciples to inquire. Luke 7 records this event.

When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. Luke 7:20-23

The evidence spoke for itself. Jesus’ character, works and words all revealed His divinity. There was no greater answer than what Jesus demonstrated as He walked this earth as a man.

This week as we look at The Holy Spirit much will be discussed about who He is. Speculation outside of what is written consumes many. His existence is a mystery to man, but the evidence of His presence is ample for those willing to see.