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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

Those who are blessed to be able to spend a part of their Sabbath in nature are rewarded with fresh evidences of God’s redemptive power. He has designed that nature would testify of His power. To those who have ears to hear He speaks words of hope and promise. From the thrilling sunrise to the majestic sunset, God speaks of a time of peace. There is a rest to the children of God that transcends the challenges of life.

And as we fellowship with like believers during a portion of the Sabbath hours, we find an added avenue of strength and encouragement. Each testimony that points us to the goodness of God, each song sung for the glory of God, reinforces us for this Christian journey.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 NIV

The spoken word, aided by the power of the Holy Spirit, turns the attention away from man to the power and glory of Jesus Christ. The truth pierces hearts and brings re-commitments to the cause of God. We hear the voice of God speaking to us through His Word and we are changed in the process.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Happier still are those who so order their lives that the Sabbath is a welcomed event. Happy is the family that finds each member of the family together for worship at the beginning of each Sabbath. This time of singing, prayers and reading of the word is more than a ritual. It is a time of bonding that cannot be replicated in any other way. It is the time when each family member reaffirms their allegiance to the God of creation.

We need every opportunity to develop into the men and women God expects us to be. Those sacred hours, if rightly used, are designed to bring us closer to God. From Sabbath to Sabbath we see God’s love for man and in return, if we allow it, that love will lead us to love Him more. We need the Sabbath.

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

  • What does “keeping the Sabbath” mean to you?
  • Is it possible to keep a day holy if the person is not holy? Why or why not?
  • Is it true that the main function of the Sabbath is to come together for worship? Why or why not?
  • Is it true that the best way to learn about God is through sermons? Explain your answer.
  • What, if anything, can be learned in nature that cannot be learned from a church service?
  • Self-reflection question:  Is your Sabbath observance more about what you should not do or what you can do?
  • What, if anything, makes the Sabbath a burden?
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: The more time you spend in church on Sabbath, the better your Christian experience should be. Explain your answer.

We close these week with some familiar verses from the Book of Isaiah. I believe we still have much to learn about what these words really mean:

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 58:13-14

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 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.

The Son – Lesson 2

Jesus & ApostlesI never really thought about this until this week’s lesson on The Son. Hyperbole in speech is so common that unconsciously I took for granted some of the words Jesus spoke to His disciples. But this week, examining who Jesus is, gave me an opportunity to look deeper into my beliefs and convictions.

Jesus had been intensely preparing His disciples for the climatic events that would soon follow. Who He was to them would determine their futures. The nation was stirred and on everyone’s lips was the subject of who Jesus was. Jesus asked His disciples what was being said about who He was.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Matthew 16:13-14

Our Loving Heavenly Father – Lesson 1

 

heaven I don’t know where heaven is. Those who study space constantly find that what they understood to be the limits of space in reality are only gateways to more expansive space. Using man’s fastest conception of speed it would take millions of light years just to reach parts of what our most powerful telescopes reveal. It is mind boggling to consider the size of the known universe and just how tiny our little planet is compared to the countless galaxies that surround us.

And beyond what we can see or even imagine, is a place called heaven. Is was there that Daniel was taken in vision.

As I was watching all this, “Thrones were set in place and The Old One sat down. His robes were white as snow, his hair was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, its wheels blazing. A river of fire poured out of the throne. Thousands upon thousands served him, tens of thousands attended him. Daniel 7:9-10 The Message

God is so big and powerful that human expression is unable to define Him nor can mortal man ever hope to explain Him. He speaks and life begins. Before there was time He was. He is God and God alone.

Yet man, with all of his frailties and steeped in a life of sin, is the object of God’s love and compassion. It is humanly illogical that God would concern Himself with our little world, let alone give Himself to save us. It is an outworking of a love that defies logic and is as unexplainable as the galaxies that surround our little planet.