Category Archives: Bible Lessons – mini

Little Bible lessons under 500 words. You or your group can look up the passages, discuss the scripture and develop your own questions.

How can God call Death of His Saints “precious”?

“It’s the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” he said.

We were eating ice cream on the porch of a log home. The sun was shining brightly. It was a beautiful chilly fall day as only the mountains can be.

He corrected himself. “No, the second worst thing.” I knew he was referring to the near death of his day old son, the tiny thing covered in patches and wires and tubes, coming back from being “80% dead.” But this time his sister had recently died from brain cancer.

How, he wanted to know, could God be happy over the death of his saints?

Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Those of us who know the Bible and know God also know this – He is not inconsistent, nor does He refute Himself. There’s a lesson here somewhere.

First, not everyone is called a saint. If we say someone is not a saint we get into muddy water.  Who are we to say who is and who is not a saint? At the point of physical death it is well known that individuals may grasp on to the truth of God and end up in heaven after a life as rascals who condemned God to His face. But that is His grace and we are not there.

God looks on the heart and we can’t see it.  His sister was silent for one week before her death.  Whatever she and God were talking about is not known to us now or then. And his sister wasn’t the chief of sinners either.  So that explanation is out.

But, there is more than one death. Locked as we are in the physical world we think only of that death, the one where we say prayers, send flowers and present a formal public goodbye.

The memorial service custom has nothing to do with the “departed” – all the formalities are for us, the living, to mark a point in our lives when we can say to ourselves, however weakly, we must move on. Grief, if held on to for any reason can eat up the soul and contaminate the spirit with bitterness and regret and blame.

There is no such thing in life as the status quo; we are either moving forward or deteriorating.

But second, there is more than one death; there is a second death. Since the physical body cannot die twice, God must be talking about something else, and that something else is what Christians call “death to self.”

Paul said in Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Paul is using the present tense: I am, right now, living in this body, believing myself crucified just as Jesus was, living not for myself and my own goals but for Him and His goals for me and the human race. All those wonderful plans I had for myself are gone and I am available to Jesus and to Him only for whatever gifts and work He has for me in this world.

That is what it means to be crucified – present tense – with Christ. It is a sacrifice and God knows a lot about that subject.

Jesus could well have lived forever in His sinless body.  No disease could touch Him.  He could have enjoyed a 2,000 year ministry laying hands on the sick and them recovering. He could have written some best sellers, been on TV (what a program) and spoken in multiple languages on radio to reach millions. But He chose His Father’s plan instead.

And that plan was then and is now to give the power and authority to His followers so they can put on TV shows, preach the good news in multiple languages, lay hands on the sick, cast out demons – whatever Jesus did is now possible for millions, perhaps billions of believers worldwide and through the centuries.

Yes, that is a better plan. He said, “As My Father sent me, so send I you.” He could not have been clearer. (John 20:21)

So when God’s people – the saints – make that choice to kill off their personal goals and take up whatever God’s plan is for their life, it requires them to die to their old ways, thoughts and projects. For introverts it may be coming out into a hostile world; for extroverts, it may be a life hidden in a life of prayer.

But whatever that plan God has for your life, it is superior to the one you have. Jeremiah 29:11 is a key scripture for any young person today.  God has a set of plans for you.

The death of God’s saints means an exchange – my plans for His, His work for my goals, my deliberate living today for Him and doing his work.  And yes, that is precious to Him and of great benefit to us.

The gruesome death of his sister? No, that is not precious at all. Make no mistake – Death is our enemy and Jesus has, in his time, overcome it all for us.

 

God gives you the desires of your heart? There’s a catch.

Psalm 37:4 says God will give you the desires of your heart and many people have flown away on this one, wishing for fame, fortune, good looks, and who knows what else – a Nobel prize maybe. But that is not the business God is into. He says elsewhere….. The heart of man is evil above all things and desperately wicked! Jeremiah 17:9 Certainly God is not willing to give an evil heart its desires.

So let’s go back to God’s processes. He said He wants first to take out your stony heart and put in a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 11:19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

Now after you have a new heart that can serve God He will give you some new desires to go with it. I wanted more than anything to be a missionary. I ended up in the Far East at a duty station that meant very little to me – I could see nothing much happening. Then God gave me the desire to go to mainland China.

It is a long story how that happened but that desire in my heart never went away. On the contrary, years pass and finally I was able to teach there. I would go back in a New York minute if the door were opened! My heart’s desire has not gone away. But God is the boss you know, so He sets the schedule.

God knows you better than you know yourself. All the transitory things of this world do not compare to the riches God can give you if your change your heart and follow Him. Once you let Him change your heart, new desires from Him will follow – so expect that to happen!

The Bible came in handy in a high school class

Years ago I was a substitute teacher in a local high school when I was just out of college with no experience with teens. They can be a drag. This school system had just integrated black and white schools and there was a lot of tension. During one class a girl complained that a boy had stolen her pencil. It did not appear she had another one. Then I remembered this story from the Bible:

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.” 22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.” 28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

So I took the pencil and threatened to snap it into two pieces, telling them each could have half. The girl protested – Oh let him keep it, she said. Then I handed the whole pencil to her saying “I see it is yours,” and walked away.

The true owner of anything will not want to see it destroyed for any reason. The Bible is full of great ideas for explaining human behavior and helping you make decisions as this story did for me.

God supports Nationalism

The history of Man is one war after another, for land, for slaves (workers), for treasure under the earth, for ships others have made, or simply for bragging rights. Today we see Israel struggling against many millions of Muslims surrounding her tiny nation ready to gobble it up if they only could, but they won’t and they can’t.

If you read the Bible – and God jolly well believes what He wrote – you learn that the nations, their boundaries, their peoples and their languages are all pre-programmed by God. Israel is confident because she knows her nation was designed by God and He will protect it. They have to do the fighting of course, but they know God will guard his people.

Would that China knew this. Here is the verse of scripture.

Acts 17:26 From one man [Adam] he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

China stole Tibet many years ago. It does not belong to them and the Tibetans are still mad about it. China fully believes she can take areas over without penalty, also Vietnam and Inner Mongolia. There has never been a real peace in those areas where China has her paws. Why should there be? If you are bucking God’s plans, do not be surprised to find out YOU are the one in trouble.

Japan tried to take sizable portions of China and did not get away with it. Japan was in China a long time and caused a great deal of trouble but in the end, she was gone and returned to her natural homeland. Right now Japan is looking to Mongolia for more land. Mistake!

Do not tamper with other people’s borders. America is finished with adding states. She has protectorates, tiny areas that fear neighbors will try to invade, but 50 is the number for Freedom and 50 states is a good stopping place.

Jesus Died on Thursday

It may seem like splitting hairs, and perhaps no one cares or needs to care, but picky scholars want everything to fit together like parts in a machine.  We are told that Jesus was in the tomb 3 full days and 3 full nights to fulfill the prophecy of Jonah.

Jonah 1:17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

If Jesus died on Friday He spent only 2 ½ days in the grave. We need account for the additional one-half day.

Jesus Himself made a point of citing the Jonah relevance in this passage.

 Matthew 12:40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

If Jesus was crucified on Thursday and died at 3 p.m. on that day we can account for a complete 72 hours.

First, modern readers must realize that the official day for Jews did not begin at midnight but at sunset.  This came from Genesis where God said the day began at evening and ended at 6 p.m.  The entire world clock system is based on day first and then night so one must adjust his thinking.

Genesis 1:5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Second, Roman Law specifically said that Jewish citizens could not be prosecuted on their high holy days or on the “day of preparation” which is always a Friday. This preparation day was an opportunity for the Jew to cleanse his home and person so that he was clean enough to celebrate.

Jewish law also stated that one would not be clean enough to celebrate a Sabbath (Saturday worship) or the Passover if an individual had been near a dead body. Nor could someone go near a tomb without becoming unclean.

If Jesus was tried by both Jewish and Roman law, crucified and died on Friday this would have been a violation of the law of Caesar Augustus.  Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews Book 16, Chapter 6 gives the passage of the Roman law which applies here.  If local Jewish believers had been required to conduct the crucifixion and move Jesus to his grave on Friday that would have given the workers only a few minutes to prepare for the Sabbath not a full day of preparation.

Meanwhile Roman soldiers were an army of occupation. Soldiers would not be charged with handling any dead bodies; they would delegate that to local citizens.  And after all there were three bodies to dispose of not just Jesus.

Romans were able to conquer and dominate many nations because they did not change local custom or break local religious rules.  They were not popular conquerors but they were tolerated because they were sensitive to indigenous people’s way of daily life and custom. In addition the Romans thought the whole Jewish religious thing was nonsense so they were not anticipating anything to come of either the Jewish laws or the prophecies of Jesus.

Because the Hebrew laws were so specific, Roman managers knew that the Jews would do things by the book so they did not need to post a guard at the tomb until Sunday morning.  If, as was predicted, Jesus’ disciples would move his body, they would not do it until the holy days were past.

Modern church dramas often show the tomb guarded for the entire three days but this is not correct.  If that were so then when the Mary came to the tomb and found the stone rolled away the guards would have stopped her.

One of the major proofs that Jesus was raised from the dead is the fact that for over 2,000 years no one has been able to produce a body of Jesus.  That Sunday morning an entire cohort of Roman soldiers could find only two badly damaged corpses in all of Jerusalem.

How do you work out your salvation? Sins(s) vs. Sin

“Philippians 2:12 work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Evangelicals make a big deal out of saying you can’t be saved by good works –BUT salvation from sins is only the 1st stop in a walk of a lifetime. In fact, too many people think they are through after accepting Christ. Not so. There is much work to do to change the inner personality which leans always towards sin.

The Old Testament illustration of this is the brass laver in the tabernacle. After you slaughter your spotless lamb, i.e. Jesus, you walk up to the brass wash basin (laver) filled with water, i.e. the Word Of God, you look at your self and see – whoopps – I have inner flaws.

At this point you are not supposed to be looking at the goodness or sins of other people. 1 Corinthians 11: 28 –examine yourselves. 2 Corinthians 10:12 warns –not to compare yourself with someone else. God has a picture of the real you.

The real you is visible in the water of the word, that is the Bible. Look there. Ephesians 5:26 Jesus wants to …sanctify and cleanse … with the washing of water by the word.

The main difference between the brass altar and the brass laver is the difference between “sins” and “sin.” Sin(s) are taken care of on the cross, the altar. Sin – singular- is a process of gradual change as we look into the word of God because it involves not conscious wrong acts, but a pattern of our inner personality, i.e. a propensity to sin which does not go away with salvation.

Many Christians fail to see this difference and “get saved” time after time, living lives of frustration. Without being negative and ending up n depression, ask God what is wrong with you.  (The world will tell you anything and everything is wrong with you.) He knows best and can give you the cure as well.

How to Explain Death to a Child

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

I cannot claim the genius which produced this illustration but it is perfect and it works – with all ages. If you can, find a toy truck and a toy automobile to demonstrate.

Son (or daughter) do you remember how when we go on a road trip we often have to pass big trucks that are going slower than we are? Do you remember how, when we passed on the side away from the sun that a giant shadow fell on our car? But we did not fear then because we could see the road ahead. Very soon we were back in the sunlight.

Well that is what death is like. It is only a shadow. And passing from here to there is simple and uncomplicated. God is on the other side waiting for us.

Of course we don’t want you going there any day soon. That is also God’s choice. Almost no one in this world chooses or knows the date of his death.

But that is why we live in faith, and with faith. If we have accepted Jesus and know He is our savior. He is waiting on the other side.

How to Pray for your Family

It sounds so simple, praying for your family, but there always is a catch. What you pray must line up with the Word of God. Some people at this point will duck the issue; they’ll go to priest, minister or trusted friend for prayer. But the authority in this situation belongs to Mom or Dad, or adopted parents- whoever is in charge. Praying according to the Word means actually knowing and believing what the Word says. So go to the Bible for the answers.

A great scripture is this: Proverbs 11:21 – The seed of the righteous shall be delivered. That sounds so quaint –the seed. Simply put, that is the offspring. Your children are your seed. No matter how far they stray – they can me living in Nepal; they are still your seed.

Are you righteous? Hopefully so, because now you have a platform on which to launch your prayers. A rather confusing prayer starts this way, “Lord I know I am a rotten sinner, but please deliver my kids.” Yes, God hears that, but how much better to ask God to save you from being rotten first and then praying for your kids?

Nevertheless, a parent’s cry God always hears. Years ago the father of a mutual friend was torn up because his 30 year old daughter had cancer. His prayers for her healing were heart-wrenching, and God heard. Today, 30 years later, I have no memory that the father ever lived a Christian life. But God still heard and the girl was cured.

You’ll not get anywhere praying with worry, fear or unbelief. All situations should be viewed as an opportunity for God to guide, correct, teach, etc.

Are you not seeking God because you think He will fail?

And you are not to pray saying, “I can’t pray because what if I fail?” You are not the healer, the deliverer, or the savoir, so that thought delete from your mind. You are praying to God not to yourself. So you cannot fail.

Job 1:10 – This is a very effective prayer for when we are separated. You “pray a hedge” around the person you are concerned for.  This hedge is made of thorns and when you put it around someone it helps keep bad influences away from someone. If the person is involved in the occult, with drugs, prostitution etc., that hedge should form a barricade against the contacts and the customers.

When I have been frustrated in a situation, especially when I’m unclear about the facts, I simply send angels. “Please God rush angels to the situation and have them act as you see fit.”

And how does this work? By faith of course. If you think your faith is weak go back to the Bible and get a new dose of juice. Faith comes by hearing and that by the Word Of God.  In fact, you can read it out loud to yourself and see if your faith does not increase.

Finally, one or two bullet prayers is nice, but pray often and then again.  God likes to know you are still on the case, and so is He.

What is the 1st sign of sin?

Self-justification is the first sign of sin, according to Martin Luther. Of course he was not speaking out of order – the Bible’s first sinners did exactly that. Here is the story.

After Adam and Eve ate the fruit (maybe an apricot – they are grown in North Africa) and in doing so openly disobeyed the clear command of God, both Adam and Eve blamed someone or something else. Adam had the nerve to actually blame both Eve and God.

Genesis 3:12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” [The wife then blamed the snake]. 13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Was she deceived? Yes, but there was something in her (a basic sin nature) that wanted the forbidden item so badly that she was willing to listen in spite of knowing what was right and wrong.

From that day to this, it is exactly the same for all human kind.

The smallest child whines – brother made me do it…or it is HER fault. My boss made me do it. My friends all had this great idea. I didn’t want to be involved, so let me out of jail.

Divorce is frequently two people blaming each other. This blaming business can go to wicked extremes. Some rapists will say, “She wanted me to rape her.” This fellow will soon learn in prison what real rape is all about.

Nothing beats politics. Blame for everything from no jobs to high taxes belongs at the other party’s door.

A corollary question is this: How do you know when someone is grown up? When he or she assumes complete responsibility for his behavior. Is that true of you?

It is Finished!

This famous last saying of Jesus right before He died requires some explanation. The term in Greek daily use indicates a bill had been paid in full. But there the translation falters, because one can always incur a new bill. Not so with God.

When He said it is finished He meant forever. We are wrong to think that life is ahead of us. In actual fact we are walking out the program of God.It is Finished

Compare this to a toy train. If it is going too fast or meets an obstruction, it jumps the track and the little wheels on top of the train keep spinning until we right the train and put it back on the track. That is our lives. We get off track and have to right ourselves, but the train track doesn’t change direction. We have this notion that God is thinking up ways to make us miserable, or to discipline us. Not so. He is only interested in the track.

Now if we make a deliberate rejection of his plans, we jump the track. It may be some time before we get back on the track, but we will, eventually. He does not determine our sins; He merely recognizes them and waits for us to right ourselves.

The track for our life is the “tetelestai” and our obedience puts us on the track – or not as the case may be. We are not living day-to-day. All of life is nothing more than living in His plan.