Contact: Rich Kurz  -  Page content last updated June 02, 2015

COUNCIL TIME TALKS

The teaching, views, and opinions expressed here are my own. I base it on my years of reading, listening, and thinking on the teachings of Jesus and the Creator, found foundationally in the Bible (NASV & other versions), in life, in history, in social studies - you get the idea.
My goal is generally God-likeness and Christ-likeness. Jesus modeled for us a life to follow. It is more than mores; it is principles and attitudes and purposes, and ultimately, action based on understanding and a view of creation and the Creator. Understanding Him results in understanding our life.
These lessons were taught in a context. It's a Wednesday evening youth club at a church for children ages 4-18. It is divided into clubs by age groups. I am a co-leader of three or four (depending on the year) men who lead the youth club for 3rd-6th grade boys. It is non-demonimation - anyone may join. The evening has three parts: group games (and active ones at that!), Council Time in which teaching or talk conveys understanding about belief and faith and following Jesus, and a Handbook Time whose purpose over the years is to cover the basic structure, history, and teachings of the Bible, Old and New Testament. The core of the last part is verse memorization, topically driven.
The teachings listed here are ones I gave during those Council Times, each one lasting about ten minutes. Of course the challenge is to get at the core of a teaching and communicate it at the level of a T & T youth who range from 3rd thru 6th grades. But really, if you can't explain the Gospel to a child, then it leads one to ask if one understands it. I say that because the Gospel Jesus preached was all encompassing of all people, and we came from all levels of functioning. The Gospel then is a simple theology, but incredibly profound.
The method one seems to always gravitate to is that of stories and metaphors, or comparisons, i.e., parables - like what Jesus used. After all, we learn readily something new when it is based on something we already know. And that has always been the challenge to those who try to communicate with people from a different culture. Be it the Kung tribesmen or professor of theology, be they great-grandparents or a two year old, it is the same challenge. Some of us just struggle against the message more. These are my attempts to get across what is the most meaningful, important thing I have found to those who are just on the cusp of self-actualization. Oh, if only I had understood it better back then! But there was no one who tried.
Your feedback is welcomed, but I won't promise to always respond. Please direct all questions, comments, suggestions, and complaints to Rich Kurz, the one who penned these lessons.


• Year 4: Stories of Trust

• Year 3: Stories of Grace (the theme of T & T)

• Year 2: Paul's Lessons to the Romans

• Year 1: Metaphors from John's Gospel

Ephesians, and Stories of Trust

"Ephesians 1: Who Does What"  Oct. 22, 2014

Paul's letter to the Ephesians is only six chapters long, but is one of the most packed full of teachings about God, Jesus, and us. Paul starts out telling them about the blessings in God and very quickly we learn that those blessings all go thru Jesus and Jesus was sent so... well... let's let Paul tell it.
(read 1:3-13)
I started getting confused by who was meant by all the he's and him's and his's, like in these verses.
(read 1:6-8a)
It reminded me of a little comedy routine called Whos On First - is one of the all-time best in American culture.
"Who's On First" (first two minutes)
So to figure who was doing what, I replaced the he's, him's, and his's with who it was, either God or Jesus.
(reread 1:6-8a)
Now I could figure it out.

3) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places IN CHRIST

In Christ we share what Christ has.

4) God CHOSE US IN JESUS BEFORE the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before God

to be just like Him in our hearts and how we live.

In love GOD PREDESTINED US TO ADOPTION AS SONS through Jesus Christ to God

We become real sons of God just like Jesus is.

This adoption will result in the praise of the glory of God grace, which God freely bestowed on us in Jesus

What God did is sooo good that everyone who hears about it will have to admit how good God is.

7) In Jesus we have redemption through Jesus death

Just like the prodigal son, we lived away for God but God loved us as sons and made it so we could be His sons again.

In Jesus we have the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of God's grace 8) which God lavished on us

The things we did wrong against others and God, God forgives, which He showed us by sending Jesus.

9) God made known to us the mystery of Gods will, which God purposed in Jesus

When Jesus appeared, we learned how God would take care of our problems with each other and with God.

10) At the fullness of the times, that is, all things in the heavens and on the earth will be summed up in Christ

Everything will point to Jesus and be owned by Jesus and be under him. Jesus IS the only answer!

In Jesus 11) also we have obtained an inheritance

What Jesus inherits, so do we. So, what did Jesus inherit?

This is according to God"s purpose

12) to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of God's glory

God's plan is to show everyone what it is like to live with God by how we live with God. And Gods goodness will be shown to all by how He treats us.

13) In Jesus, after listening to the message of truth, having also believed, you were sealed in Jesus with the Holy Spirit of promise,

God is giving us His spirit as a promise that He will do what He has said and promised.

the Holy Spirit of promise 14) is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of Gods own possession, -

The only way God gets back His spirit is to do what He promised, to bring us to where He is.
= We as God's own possession will become the praise of Gods glory
Just like a son belongs to a father, so we will belong to our Father God, only God will be the perfect father to whom we will want to tell, 'Father I love you'. Thats how we praise Him. by how we love Him.
So
Remember our stories of grace? Well, God's grace sends Jesus to be the Son He wants us all to be. God in Jesus forgives us, pays what we owe so we can become His sons once again. AND we will inherit all that the Father God has to share with JESUS. That inheritance is so good and so rich that there will be thanksgiving from now thru all eternity. And we can believe it will happen because, just like God sent Jesus, Jesus sent His spirit to be in us.
So, God wants us to be his sons so He sent Jesus to make things right between He and us. This is very important to learn and we will talk more about that next week. He wants us to be His sons, but not just sons like we are today in our families. We get adopted into the family of the Ruler of heaven and earth! We are sons of a King! THE King!! The King of everything in heaven and on earth!!! Thru Jesus.

"Ephesians 2-3: Who We Are Not...Any More And Who We Are...Now"  Oct. 29, 2014

Do any of you know who Mark Twain is?
Do you know any stories he wrote?
One story he wrote is called "The Prince and the Pauper". A pauper is a poor person. There are at least three movies about it. The story is about what might happen if a poor boy and a prince who look alike were to exchange places in the time of Henry VIII. In the story, the prince gets into troubles in the streets of London when he tells people he is THE prince but does not look like one because of how hes dressed. Meanwhile the pauper boy whos dressed like a prince cannot act like one in the royal court, EVERYONE believes he is the real prince, but thinks he must be sick and can't remember. In the end, the two meet on the day the prince is to become king and they change back their places and both live in the royal palace.
So, the pauper boy ends up living under the protection of the prince and enjoying the same privileges as the prince. Now, remember that story.
Last week we heard Paul talk about all the things God did and will do in and thru Jesus. Remember that I replaced the "he"s and "him"s with who it was? So - we heard that:

    God gives us every blessing in heaven in Jesus.
      that we get to be holy and blameless in Jesus.
        that God adopts us as sons thru Jesus.
          that our adoption shows the world once and for all just how good God is.
            that in Jesus we have forgiveness because of God's grace.
              that God's perfect will was perfectly expressed in Jesus.
                that all things will belong to Jesus.
                  that we have an inheritance in Jesus.
                    that God gave us His Spirit as a sign of His promises.

                    And Paul could go on an on. You may have noticed that Paul gets so excited that his sentences last for whole paragraphs! He just can't seem to find a good place to stop.
                    This week's lesson is like a Good News/Bad News story but one that ends with really good news. Do you know what a Good News/Bad News story is like? Well here is one:

                    Hey, Jed! I have good news and some bad news. Which do you want to hear first?
                    (Jed) Tell me the good news.
                    The good news is your women's soccer team finally won a game.
                    (Jed) That is good news! But, what is the bad news?
                    Well, the bad news is they beat your men's soccer team.


                    Well, with God, its different. He tells Bad News/Good News stories. And they bring life instead of laughs.
                    Here is Paul's Bad News/Good News story. The BAD news is...

                    2:1) you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2) in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air(Satan), of the spirit (of Satan) that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

And now the GOOD news!

4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His(Gods) great love with which He(God) loved us, 5) even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6) and raised us up with Him(Jesus), and seated us with Him(Jesus) in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7) so that in the ages to come He(God) might show the surpassing riches of His(God's) grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Who knows the next two verses? (Eph2:8-9)

8) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9) not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Now, this is where it gets like The Prince and the Pauper.
We start out as people who live in this world but really have no home in Heaven. Then Jesus comes along and calls us to leave our old ways and come with Him and join His royal family. We get to be princes with the Prince who will become King of both Heaven AND earth!
But wait - there is one more Bad News/Good News story with a really good ending! How shall I explain this... Okay-its like this:
How many of you are sixth graders?
Only a few. The rest of you are NON-sixth graders - not worthy of the sixth grade yet.
But let me ask you this - how many of you are boys?
Well now that makes you ALL alike!
Well in Paul's time, it was a big deal if you were a Jew or a gentile. After all, Jesus came from the Jews, and it was the Jews that God saved from Pharaoh and made a special people at Mt. Sinai and gave them the Law. But in Jesus, something new happened. God took both Jews and gentiles and made one NEW people.
Here's how Paul explains it. First the BAD News -

12) remember that you(Gentiles) were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

And then the GOOD News -

13) But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14) For He(Jesus) Himself is our peace, who made both groups(Jews & gentiles) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall . . . so that in Himself He(Jesus) might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16) and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it(the cross) having put to death the enmity.

And Paul goes on.

19) So then . . . you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of Gods household . . . growing into a holy temple in the Lord(Jesus), 22) in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

We not only get to live together with Jesus, we get to live together with God! Paul called this the mystery that God revealed in Jesus, a mystery that was not understood before Jesus' resurrection.
So we WERE sinners, but we repented, and we BECAME alive in Christ.
We WERE two different peoples but God made us into one new man, one body, fellow citizens, God's household, a dwelling of God - forever.
Paul ends with one of his prayer-praises:

21) to Him(God) be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Amen? AMEN!

"Ephesians 4-6: Who We Are And What We Do"  Nov. 5, 2014

Eph4:1-3(UC1), 5:1-2 summary "be imitators of God"
(We are one family with God by adoption thru Jesus. So we help each other to grow up to be like Jesus. You have been given a new self, a new suit, that looks like God. Now you can act like the Kings's sons. Just like Jesus did, with good will serve the Father by doing good service to others just like we were serving God.)


You remember last week I talked about how we all start out without God and slaves to sin. I also talked about the Prince and the Pauper and how once we WERE paupers, but now we are adopted sons of God and princes along with Jesus, who is the Lord over all creation and the real son of the King of Everything!
Now, if we talk about a royal family, who in the royal family gets to be the next king when king dies?
The oldest son.
Let's watch this scene from the movie The King and I and watch for the oldest son...
"March of the Children"
All of the children are princes and princesses of the king. But one of them stood out from all the rest.
He was different. He was the one who would become king some day. When he came in he acted just like his father. And when he faced his father, he honored him and his father honored him right back because one day the son WOULD be king and he was acting just like him now. The king was very proud of this special son. That is very much how Jesus and the Father treat each other and how they feel about each other.
But what about the other princes and princesses?
Well, we saw how the father loved each one and encouraged them to act like children of the king. Although only one will be king, all the rest will rule with him and help him and be his brothers and sisters always. What is more, the oldest son who will become king, when he becomes king, will also encourage them and teach them and train them and protect them and share the kingdom with them.
These are all things Jesus does now and will do when His kingdom comes fully. Jesus and the Holy Spirit teach us to become just like the Father. In Eph5:2, Paul tells us to be imitators of God. That is what we are to do - to look like and act like and be like and think like and love like and live like God.

Specifically, we are to:
4:2) live with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, -
We are kind to each other because none of us is lord over the other.
4:3) being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. -
Remember, as believers, we are all brothers to each other, the older helping the younger.
4:12) equip the saints for the work of service, to build up of the body of Christ; 13) until we all have the same faith, and know the Son of God, until we are grown up to be like Christ. -
We are to help each other grow up to be like Christ.
4:15) speak truth with love, so we grow up in all ways like Jesus -
Remember John 14:6?
25) lay aside falsehood by speaking truth each one of you with his neighbor, 26) Be angry, and yet do not sin; which means do not let the sun go down on your anger,
There are some things to get angry about. God did. But remember- God is always forgiving when we are ready to repent.
27) do not give the devil any opportunity.
Remember, we started out as slaves to Satan's ways. He tempts us and deceives us. Learn God's ways so you don't listen any more to Satan's ways.
31) let go of all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and all malice.
Don't be that way. What should you do instead?
32) Be kind to one another, not hurtful, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. 5:4 and give thanks.
We learn from Jesus what the Father looks like and acts like and loves like. Jesus learned it by watching His Father. We learn them from the Spirit. The Spirit teaches us about God's ways and when ours don't look like His, He reminds us about them so we may choose them. There is one final teaching we will talk about next week. We will learn how to be strong in Jesus and who we are really fighting against.

"Ephesians 6: - Be Strong!"  Nov.12, 2014

Review
Who Is Jesus and What Did God Do Thru Him
Who Were We Then and Who Are We Now: Prince and Pauper
How Do We Live As Princes: March of Children

    Speak truth in love/deceived
      Share/steal
        Kindness/bitter anger
          Praise, thankful/forgetful

          Be Strong
          Why?
          Our Father has an enemy, Satan, who wants to separate us from Him. Satan wants us to worship him and not God. And if we won't, he wants us dead.
          How do we resist Him? Well, what is his biggest weapon?
          Deception! Half truths, Temptation, Flattery, etc.

We wear God's armor and attack Him God's way. Satan is not flesh and blood so we use spirit weapons:

    Belt of truth - Tell what is, reveal and correct deception
      Breastplate of rightness - Don't act like our enemy, act like our Father
        Shoes of preparation of gospel of peace - Satans ways bring death. We share those things that make for Life.
        What brings peace with God, cuz God gives life?
          Shield of faith - Believe God will do what He says. Don't put down your shield just because you fear it might not work.
            Helmet of salvation - a renewed mind. Just like a helmet, you have it now, not just in the future.
              Sword of Spirit, the word of God. This is only weapon that we attack with, that works against Satan. Because God is greater than Satan, than sin, than anything!
                Pray at all times in Spirit
                  Proclaim make known mystery of gospel

"Moses on Training Wheels"  Jan. 21, 2015

What is the difference between this ten-speed and this tricycle?
Do you think you could ride this trike?
Do you think you could ride this 10-speed?
How did you learn to ride a bike?

We are starting the new year learning about trust. And we are learning from the experts about trust and trusting God. When I see this trike, I think of how Moses learned to trust God. But do you remember how God called Moses?
Moses used to be a prince in Egypt. He tried to free the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt. But when he killed an Egyptian guard, he had to flee Egypt to the Midian desert. For 40 years Moses herded sheep and goats, but all of a sudden, God called Moses from a burning bush in the Sinai dessert. All was ready for God to free the Israelites and he wanted Moses to lead them out.
What was Moses answer to God? Was it 'Yes, sir!'?
Nope.
Instead he said, "Who am I?", or "Who? me?", which was almost saying "No way!"
God told him, "I will be with you."
Next Moses asked "Who shall I say sent me?"
God answered, "Tell them, 'I am who I am' sent you."
Next Moses asked "What if they don't believe me?"
God gave Moses three signs, or miracles, to show them.
Then Moses said, "I can't talk well. I'm not a public speaker."
God said, "I made your mouth. I will teach you what to say."
Moses couldn't get out of it, so he said, "Please, send someone else."

Then God got angry.
Here was Moses, talking with God. He believed in God, but would not believe God when God told Moses to do a job for God. Moses would believe God, but he did not want to trust him.
But God chose Moses and Moses would have to go to Pharoah. But Moses needed help. He needed training wheels. He was not ready for a ten-speed.
So God gave him training wheels. God sent Aaron, Moses' brother, to do the talking. But Moses still had to pedal and do the signs and miracles.
And he did! It took ten miracles to force the Pharoah to free the Israelites, but it only took five before Moses started speaking directly to Pharoah instead of letting Aaron do the talking. It took five miracles for Moses to grow enough to trust the Lord. But He learned and he became the great leader of the Israelites. And when they got to the Red Sea, he was riding a 10-speed!
You too are learning who God really is and what He is really like. God tells us to be like Jesus, but do we really believe we can be like Him? Well, if you start today with what you CAN believe, soon you will trust God more and more to do what He says.
If God says He will be faithful, you can believe He will be. And you will become more and more faithful, just like He is, just like Moses did.

"Peter, Trust, and Courage"  Feb. 18, 2015

We are talking about TRUST using people who followed Jesus. EVERYONE who follows Jesus is an example and has their own story to tell. Today I will tell you one about the apostle Peter.

Peter would follow Jesus anywhere.
It was Peter who actually walked to Jesus on water.
It was Peter who drew a sword to fight the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus.
And it was Peter who followed Jesus after he was arrested right into the courtyard of the high priest.

But that was as far as he could go. He lost his courage and denied him 3 times because he could only trust Jesus as long as he could be with Jesus.
But that changed when the Holy Spirit came. Peter became the leader of the new church and of all the apostles.
It was Peter who was first witness about Christ on Pentecost.
It was Peter who would disobey the Sanhedrin when they ordered the believers to stop teaching about Jesus.
They even arrested Peter and tried to kill him, but an angel freed him.

Peter had found the courage that came from trusting the gift of the Spirit that Jesus sent to be in him and empower him. Now Peter was trusting Jesus ALL the time because Jesus was with him ALL the time!
And it was a good thing Peter believed the Holy Spirit because the Spirit was going to take him where he did not think a Jew should go - that is, to the Gentilesand Roman ones at that!
In Acts 10, we read about Cornelius, the centurion. He believed in the God of the Jews and God was going to answer his prayers, but first God had to prepare the Jews! God chose Peter. Peter had learned to trust the Holy Spirit, so the Spirit taught Peter a new lesson using a Biblical visual aid. He lowered a big sheet full of animals that the Jews were forbidden to eat by the Law, and then told Peter to kill and eat.


"No way" said Peter. "I've always obeyed your laws." Three times it happened, and each time the Spirit told him to no longer think something was unclean if God said it was clean. Then the Spirit told him to go with the messengers from Cornelius. So Peter did.
Now, as Peter later said, Jews were forbidden to go to the Gentiles. Peter still did not understand, but he knew to obey the Spirit instead of the law of his people. Peter told Cornelius and his family and friends the story of Jesus, and what happened next, Peter could hardly believe! The gift of the Spirit was given to them - just He was to the disciples at Pentecost. "Baptized them!" said Peter, "They are just like us, now." That was pretty courageous for Peter to visit a Roman centurion. He had to choose who he was going to follow - Jesus or the Jews.
But Peter's test was not done yet. Now he had to go back to Jerusalem and convince the Church leaders about what he had done. The story spread quickly and Acts 11 says the Jewish believers were upset that Peter, the great apostle, had actually gone to and ATE with Gentiles! What did Peter do? Well, he simply told them what had happened. He then challenged THEM that if God gave the Gentiles that same gift God gave the disciples, should HE, Peter, stand in God's way? The Jewish believers could argue with Peter, but they could not argue with God.
So Peter learned where to find courage - by trusting in the God whom Jesus trusted in, and following the Spirit that Jesus gave to all believers. Peter trusted so well, that God could use Peter to reveal to all mankind the complete message of the gospel, that is, that the gospel of Jesus is for all people.

What about you boys? Everyone trusts in something. And when we show courage, others know what we trust in. We want to believe and trust in Jesus. Let's DO courage and follow what Jesus teaches us.

"The WWJD Ranch"  April 15, 2015

This year, again, we are a team of three leaders - Jed (the director), Jake (his younger brother), and myself. That fact comes into play in this week's tale.

It was back in the 1860s, on the plains east of where the town of Love-land would be some day, back before there were fences, back before the railroad came thru, back when cowboys and coyotes would sing themselves to sleep, the Governor of the territory had a ranch out on the prairie - the WWJD Ranch.
Ohhh the WWJD was a fiiine spread. It only covered one county, but back then, there WAS only one county east of the Rockies. It was s-o-o-o-o big that any cowpoke who showed up could hire on - jist fer the askin'. And the foreman would pair him up with one of the hands to larn the ropes. But what the foreman didn't tell 'em was that it was really a test - a test to see jist who really wanted to be one of the Governor's men.
Well one fine spring mornin', four sorry-lookin' city slickers showed up at the foreman's door. "I hear yer lookin' for help" said Jed. "We really wantta work fer ya" added Jake. "Yah, and we're hard workers" piped up Rich. "Right-o" squeaked Rongo.
The foreman looked 'em over, shooked his head, and jist grinned. He could see they were brothers - like four peas in a pod - only except one was a corn kernel. That Rich musta bin adopted. "Okay" he sez, "I'll take you on. Here's the deal. Work for me all summer and come fall you can join up in time for the great trail ride to the territory capital."
"It's a deal!" they all four shouted, and then they commenced their hootin' and hollerin'.

The next morning, the foreman introduces them to their dogies ("This is Mmmmarvin and Mmmmaynard and Mmmmmurphy and Mmmmmathiew and over there is Mmmmike") and to their helping hands ("Jist call me Bob" - all four were ALL called 'Bob'). And the foreman sent Jed, Jake, Rich, and Rongo off their own summer range. But it was a might suspicious cuz Jed got 40 head, Jake got 30, Rich got 20, and Rongo got only 10, which suited him jist fine. "That'll be easier" he thought. So they mosied off on their own four ways.
Now Jed spied out his range and realized it needed some work. He dammed up a crik for water and built a corral to keep the cattle safe in case of trouble. Bob told him how to tell the difference tween loco weed and prairie grass. Meanwhile Jake settled in a high chaparral. He larned it got mighty cold n windy up thar, so Bob taught him how to make lean-to shelters for the cattle - and hisself and Bob. Well, Rich thought he went to the wrong place! It was so scrubby and scraggly. But Bob taught him how to move the herd around so it wouldn't overgraze. And Wrongo?
Well, Rongo found a spot that had some prairie and some creek land and some forest in the foothills, and even an old miner's cabin. "Ah sure iz blest" he whistled thru his missing front tooth. "Yer mighty lucky" said Bob, "Jist watch out fer critters - you know... coyotes, cougars, bars, ratlers, and SKEETERS!" "I appoint YOU to be my critter sheriff!" he tells Bob. Bob jist looked at Rongo kinda funny and said nothing.

Well, April became June and June became August, and there were some bee-YOU-tee-full sunsets, some days that were real scorchers, a few scary close calls, a lot of guitar-strummin, and some real adventures that I'll have to tell ya bout around another campfire. Then on Labor Day, they all came back to the ranch house and the big corral. The foreman came out to meet em and see who was gonna go on the trail ride.
He spies what looks like a thunderhead of dust to the west that blocks the view of the mighty Faraway Peak, and underneath comes Jed and a herd of 80 head o cattle! "Mighty impressive" he says to Jed, "I'll put you in charge of 200 head on the trail ride."
No sooner had he closed the gate when he looks twice at what seems to be a rip-roarin twister o' dust coming from the other way! And who was galloping towards him on the lead bull but Jake hisself leading in 60 head of the best prime rib he ever saw. "Now thar's a cowpuncher iffn I ever saw one!" says the foreman, "I'll give you 150 head to take to the capital."
Well, while Jake was showing off his bullriding skills, the foreman catches a glint a sunlight off to the north. It sparkles like a shimmering diamond necklace and it grows larger until he see Rich driving 40 head o cattle - each one wearing a bridle of woven sagebrush with pieces of guartz like medallions on it. When Rich closed the gate the foreman told him "That'd make a dandy show at the county fair. In fact, I'll give you 100 head for the big opening pro-cession at the fair. Come along on the trail ride!"
Well, it was while everyone was chowing down in the mess hall when the foreman sees some longhorns amble past the winder. He goes out and, sure nuff, it's Rongo and his herd. But wait a minute... they don't look like the cattle he sent out - in fact, a few seem to be missing!? "Wellll?" he snorts.
"Wellll," says Rongo, "I did the best I could. I had to keep chasin them all o'er tarnation, so's I jist kept em in a corral until it was time to bring em back. And YOUR hired hand (I don't EVER want to hear his name again!), well, he was no help at all. I told him to watch out fer critters and he wouldn't stop em! I lost three before I kept them in the corral! Yer lucky you got back 8. And that's why they're all mangy, skeeter-bit, and lame. Iffn I were the foreman, I know who I'D tell to skeedaddle!"
Weeeeell things got mighty quiet - jist like it does before a twister hits. The foreman looked Rongo all up n down, then went nose to nose with Rongo, squinted his eyes, and began to speak... low and s-l-o-w. "You said it yourself - I know who I'll make skeedaddle. I gave ya ten 'n ya come back with 7. What's more ya can't even add em up. They were all healthy and now I gotta doctor em. I gave you a hired hand to HELP - not to be your slave. He wasn't there to do YOUR work. You call yourself a cowboy?!?! WRONG-OH!!! Now VAMOOSE a'fore I let Bob go at ya!"
And so Jed, Jake, and Rich went to the capital and met the Governor and saw a b-i-i-i-g rodeo that seemed to go on for ever. And Rongo - well, he's still wandering lookin for someone to make him a foreman.   The End
Now that was a mighty tall tale, but I reckon all you cowpokes have heard it before.
Have ya? ... That's right - it's Jesus' story about the minas.
So, what did YOU learn from the story? What did you figure out the trusting part?

"Whose Child Are We? (the parent talk - my last)"  May 6, 2015

Eph4:1-3, 5:1-2 "Whose Children Are We?"
Earlier I talked about Mark Twain's story "The Prince and the Pauper" - how once we WERE paupers, but now we ARE adopted sons of God along with Jesus who is the Lord over all creation and the real son of the King of Everything! We are not only sons, we are sons of the King - i.e., princes!
Now, if we talk about a royal family, who in the royal family gets to be the next king when king dies?
The oldest son! Let's watch this scene from the movie "The King and I" and watch for the oldest son...
"March of the Children"
The king in this story is something like how we think a king acts. He is stern and superior. You only approach him when he gives you permission - and you are always on your guard around him, lest you offend him and be taken away for punishment! And, for many of us, that is like how we first learn to think of God the Creator in Heaven. We want to be with Him, but He is dangerous to be around. But - SURPRISE - the King treats His children differently!
All of the children we saw in this clip were princes and princesses of the king. He was proud of them and wanted to show them off to everyone. He loved each one of them and encouraged them to ACT like children of the king! The children acted like they were afraid, not of their father, but of their father's disapproval! They had a different experience of their father from anyone else, and so they treated him differently. They loved him! And they loved his love OF them!
But one of them stood out from all the rest. He was different. He was the one who would become king some day. When he came in, he acted just like his father. And when he faced his father, he honored his father differently from how his siblings did.
And his father honored him right back the same way because one day the son WOULD be king and was already acting just like him. The king was very proud of this special son.
That is very much how Jesus and the Father treat each other and how they feel about each other. Jesus honored His heavenly Father and His Father in Heaven honored His Son. And Jesus only did the things He saw His Father doing. So much so that at the last supper when the disciples asked to see the Father, Jesus could tell them if you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father.
Now, although only one of the king's children will be king, all the rest will still rule with the oldest son and help him and always be his brothers and sisters. What's more, the oldest son, when he becomes king, will also encourage his brothers and sisters, and teach them, and train them, and protect them, and share the kingdom with them.
These are all things Jesus does now and will do when His kingdom comes fully. Jesus, in the person of His Holy Spirit, teaches us to become children of the King - to be just like His Father. In Ephesian 5:2, Paul tells us to be imitators of God. That is what we are to do, to look like, and act like, and be like, and think like, and love like, and live like. We are in short to grow up to be fully mature adults who are just like God in behavior and character.
Jesus learned it by watching His Father. And we learn from Jesus what the Father looks like and acts like and loves like.
And more than just being children of our Father, we are also children of a King - THE King! And that is both who we ARE, and how we will LIVE.
So if that is what Dad is like, I think I want to be one of His children! How about you?


Now, there is one more lesson I want to share. What I am about to share is for the dads, but is meant for you moms, too.
Our family has been with Awana for over 20 years. My own son is 25. My youngest child is a senior. And I have a vision to share with you, to hand off to all who will take it and run with it.
My vision is this: a club full of boys... and their dads... dads who help out - once a month or twice a month or every week.
I started helping because I saw a room full of rambunctious 3rd-6th graders and only one Jed. You know what I mean. I wanted to show these boys Christ and the Father for who they are - not as remote, concepts. I wasn't doing anything better, really, so I joined in. Jed made me and Jake a team to work with these boys, and little by little both we and the situation got better, such that the T&T boys is becoming a powerhouse - and still rambunctious.
But my time here is coming to an end tonight.
I'm over 60 and I can tell you that, for me, it seemed these childraising years would never end, but one day they did! And anything I wanted to do but did not, could not ever happen again. Those days and opportunties were gone.
I don't want you to live with regrets.
NOW is the time to be with them.
Now is the time to share with them.
Now is the time to give them what you have been given by YOUR heavenly father - or maybe what your own father did not give you.
And if a bunch of you dads are in it together, it won't be work or toil. It will be a joy. It will be like an investment, like an IRA, that you get to enjoy years later when you can no longer make those contributions.
You ARE the best ones to come along side these boys, to be there in the moment and encourage them and teach them, and give them the atta-boys and high-fives, and "the look" when it's needed.
Let me ask you - do you want to change their future? Be involved in their present. Because the day WILL come when you cannot.
I can imagine a club of sons and fathers.
I'm calling you to join that - not as a duty, but as a gift - from your heart
And you will have more than I ever experienced with your boys.
Do it... Please. And give 'em a hug for me. They are worth what you've got to give.
They are, after all, why we're all here tonight.

May you all know how much the Father likes you. He showed you His heart... show the boys yours.
Thank you for letting me spend time with your boys

Stories of Grace

"CORNELIUS: God's Grace Is Impartial"  Oct. 23, 2013

Have you ever joined a group in which you could hang out with them but you could never be one of them?
Let's say you decide to join the GOCC or "Girls Only Cooking Club". Now, they are open to boys being part of their group. After all, they need someone to experiment on with new recipes. But they will never let you in the kitchen and you will never ever be a top chef in charge of a kitchen. You just get to set the table and lug the groceries. But you do learn what good cooking it like and enjoy the benefits of good eating. You would learn how to cook by observing and would experience all the good consequences of being part of that club. But, the other boys might make fun of you and give you problems.
There is a story about a man in the Bible who was in a similar situation. This man was not a Jew, but liked what he learned about God from the Jews. He practiced what he could learn from the Jews about living before God and even what God was really like. He taught those under him those ways too. But he could never become a Jew. Why? because he was a Roman, and a centurion, too! Jews would never fully accept him as one of them and what was more, he was a member of the occupying army in Israel, and a commander at that! Jews did not even want to be his friend. But the man loved God.
And God loved that man. All men, actually. And God did something about it. You may know the story.
One day an angel actually appeared to the man while he was praying and told him to send for the apostle Peter, which he did right away. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit gave Peter a vision about unclean food and told Peter to eat, saying 'what God has made clean, don't think of as unholy any more.' Peter did not get the point right away, other than that he was hungry and it was lunch time. But just then the men sent by the man showed up and asked Peter to come with them. Peter went but only because the Holy Spirit told him to go. And just to be sure, Peter took six others with him as witnesses.
By the time Peter met the man at his home, Peter understood what the vision meant. Peter, and all Jewish believers, should accept the gentiles when they believed, too, just as though they were Jewish. And to make it clear that this was from God, while Peter was telling them about Jesus, the Holy Spirit moved on the man and those with him just like the Spirit did on the 120 on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit first came upon believers!

What was Peter's reaction? He said, (Act 10:47-48)


47) "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he? 48) And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." This was important for Peter to see because he would have to defend that he even WENT into a gentile home when he returned to the believers in Jesusalem. But who would argue with God if God accepts someone.


Oh- do you know the name of the man? Cornelius.
It was a big lesson for the Jewish believers. In fact it is a big lesson every one who ever lived has to learn. This is one of the characteristics of Grace that we have been learning about. God's grace is the same towards everyone.
We have learned again and again that God chooses us. And He does not choose us because of how good or special we are by ourselves. That is silly. Which one of us ever made himself without the help of God?
So, what do we learn from this story?
Not only does God choose whomever He wants, God chooses EVERYONE... and so should we.
We learn that in God's Kingdom, all are equal.
There is no inequality. No one group of people is better than the others.
God does different things for each of us, but that does not mean one group is better or deserving more priviledges.
And even if people say 'no' to God, He still provides food and water and oxygen so they can live.
We learn that if we won't go and be like Jesus and tell others about Jesus, God will find someone to send.
We learn that God will teach us what He is like thru others so that we will become like Him and our character will be like His. He is good and we will be too. If you want to follow Jesus, God wants you to become like Him.
And God and you can do it together.

"TWO WOMEN: Lk7:11-17, Mk7:24-30"  Nov. 06, 2013

You know that in less than two months it will be Christmas. Christmas is a time of getting great gifts - things you have always wanted. And sometimes even things you did not know you wanted but were better than you thought. Of course there is one rule you have to follow. You get gifts if you are good all year . . . but if you are bad - well, what happens then?! You get coal in your stockings. And maybe a switch to spank you with.
But that tradition does not match the reason we celebrate Christmas. Why do we celebrate Christmas?
Yes, we celebrate Jesus' birth. That is the best gift of all time. And everyone can have it. Here's that thing, though. We all got the best gift even though we did not do anything to deserve it. We deserved coal in our stockings, but instead we got a lifelong pass to ride all the rides at Elitch's. That is grace. Grace is God showing us His kindness, or His favor. It is like He is saying, "You are my favor-ite.'
There are two women in Jesus' time whose stories are like the being good/being bad tradition. And both times Jesus showed them God's grace.
The first is a mother whose husband is already dead and now her only son has just died. Jesus shows up just as they are carrying the dead son to the graveyard. Jesus knows what a hard life this woman will now have with no one to help provide for her needs. What does Jesus do? He does not ask her if her son was bad or good. He goes up to the casket and tells the dead son to "Arise' and he does! Jesus saw the woman's need and out of his kindness, he commanded the dead son to live. That's God's grace.

But the second story is different. Jesus is way up in north Israel near the gentile border. He went there for a short break to rest some. But everybody has heard about him and people came looking for him. One of them is a gentile woman. Her daughter has a demon in her and she wants Jesus to make her daughter well. She was not a Jewess, but she was desperate enough to go into the Jewish territory and ask a Jewish religious leader to heal her daughter. She had what the Jews call "chutpah". But you remember the GOCC story? Jesus told flat out told her 'when I am done taking care of all the Jewish people, than maybe I will help you.' He actually compared the gentiles to dogs. But this mother would not take "no" for an answer. 'Alright,' she said, 'I am a dog, but even dogs get to eat the crumbs from their master's food.' She was a gentile, and a woman, and she talked back to a rabbi. She deserved coal in her stocking that year. And what did Jesus give her? . . . He gave her what she asked for. Just because she believed he could and would not take no for an answer. Jesus did it out of kindness, and even went against tradition. That was a gift of God's grace.
So, what do we learn about God's grace from these two women?

        • Grace is God's kindness.
          • Grace is given to everyone, Jew and gentile, male and female.
            • God gives kindness just because He wants to. That is the way He is.
              • And wherever God's grace shows up, people's lives are made better. In fact they get their life back.

            God's grace gives life.

"THANKSGIVING: What the Pilgrims celebrated"  Nov. 20, 2013

This is the time of the year of holidays with Thanksgiving followed closely by Christmas. The word holiday comes from the old phrase holy day. And holy means set apart or dedicated. Therefore holiday means a set apart day - a special day dedicated to something. Is there a grace lesson in Thanksgiving?
And Jesus gave thanks at special times in the Gospels. He gave thanks before raising Lazarus. And he gave a thanksgiving to the Father at the Last Supper. He thanked God not just for what He did, but for who He is. And He thanked God out loud so that others would know what the Father had done and what He is like.
Now... we pretty well know that when it comes to the things of God, we have all earned coal in our stockings. Oh, we try from time to time when we remember God and His ways and learn about Jesus, but we keep forgetting. Do we forget or... do we go after the things we want? Some of those things, God wants us to do, and some He does not want us to do. Still, God loves us all the time and does not want any one of us to live without Him. But it is really hard to live with God when so many others around us do NOT want to live with God.
The Pilgrims knew what that was like. They knew all about that. They lived at a time in England when the king ruled the church and the church had become a harsh ruler over the people, interested only in people obeying them. The king and bishops were not really the head of the church because only Jesus is the head and ruler of the church. The church leaders were only men - men who wanted people to serve them and who thought of themselves as having been given a right to rule by Christ. But they acted like they did not know Jesus' teaching about rulers being servants to everyone. The Pilgrims were believers who had discovered repentance and faith in Jesus and living simply and wholeheartedly in obedience to Jesus and his teachings. They obeyed earthly leaders unless they tried to replace Jesus's as ruler of their church. But the state church under the king thought they should obey them first and always, and when they did not, the king and state church leaders imprisoned and tortured and took their possessions and even killed the Pilgrims. Many Pilgrims tried escaping and living in the Netherlands. But life was hard there too, but for a different reason. They could only work the hardest jobs. They worked 12 to 15 hours a day and after ten years, they were growing old before they were old. And their children seeing their parents work so hard were choosing to become Dutch instead of Pilgrims.
It was then the Pilgrims sought God's leading and decided God was leading them to a new adventure. He was leading them to establish and live out the kingdom of heaven on earth in a new location - in the New World as a brand new colony. They sold everything they had knowing that they would not be able to come back - no matter how hard it would be. The first group set sail on two ships on August 5.

One ship kept having leaks so they returned to port, transferred everyone onto the other ship (packing about 120 people in a space the size of a volley ball court) and set out again. But it was late in the season and for the next seven weeks they stayed below in that space while the ship was tossed and rolled by continuous storms. But God was with them. Only one of them died on the voyage at a time when usually half the people would have died.
They made land on November 9, and only 100 miles off course. They were aiming for what is now New Jersey, but the wind would not allow them to go south. They concluded that God wanted them to settle there in what we now call Massachusetts. They found a place where the land had been prepared for fields but had not been planted for years, where fresh water was abundant, where there was a high point to build a barricade to protect themselves from hostile Indians. And so they built a common house and some lived there and some in the ship that winter. But it was a hard winter. By April half of them had died from disease and weakness from the voyage. But when the ship had to return to England, no one chose to return home. Then God's provision turned into abundance. First God sent an Indian who spoke English. Samoset told them that the land they settled on was once occupied by a tribe who murdered anyone who set foot on it. But they all died four years before from a disease and no other tribe wanted to live there. So now it was the Pilgrim's land. Then Samoset brought another Indian, Squanto, who taught them how to fish and raise corn and how to trade with the Indians and anything else they needed to know to live in the New World. And so they prospered that summer. And when fall came they were well provisioned and sheltered for the winter. It was a time to return thanks to the God who cared for them. The leader, William Bradford, called for a feast of thanksgiving in October and invited the neighboring tribe who had been peaceful and faithful friends to them. 90 Indians showed up and for the better part of a week everyone ate and competed in races and enjoyed each other's company... after they had praised the God who cared for them beyond their ability to take care of themselves.
I would like to tell you they feasted every year, but they did not. The next year they were not so faithful about taking care of their crops and so that next winter was another hard one. At one point they were reduced to eating just five kernels of corn a person... a day! They learned a lesson and that next summer their crops were abundant again and again they feasted with the Indians. But the first thing that was served to everyone at the feast was... five kernels of corn, so they would remember how God was faithful and kind to them, even when they were not to God.
So what is the lesson about grace in this story from American history?
1) God cares for us when times are hard and when they are easy.
2) We give thanks to God when times are hard and when they are easy.
3) Thanksgiving is remembering how God is good to us.

"WISEMAN"  Dec. 18, 2013

This was a special talk in which different people from the birth story of Jesus came to the room to talk to the boys about the event. I took the role of one of the Wise Men. Imagine me speaking with a slight Yiddish accent and manner.


The great Beltashazar who was called Dani-el could speak with the God above all gods. He was a man who was right in all he did and his God protected him, even from the king's mistakes. All that God told Dani-el came true. And all that he learned, we magi have studied. But the greatest thing Beltashazar told us was about the coming of the Greatest King who would save all the peoples. He told us when to look for his coming. We searched the stars for the sign of his arrival. And it happened - just as Dani-el predicted! And so we have come looking for the Greatest King. The Jewish teachers have told us to go to Bethlehem and we know this is true, because his star has come to rest above that place.

But what we found is NOT what we expected. The Greatest King is a baby born into a peasant family. What is more, no one knows he is here... yet. But King Herod wants to find him - to kill him. But he won't. The God above all gods (His Name will be blest forever!) has warned us to not tell him. God will protect him, until it is time for him to come forth and save the people. This is why God is the God above all gods - because He loves all people and saves them. Other gods only destroy the people under them. They are not gods at all, but evil spirits. The evil spirits would destroy us all if they could, but the true God stops them. The true God is full of grace for all humankind. That is how we know He is good. And those who follow him will be good, too, just like He is. We must go now before Herod comes searching for us. Little child - even though King Herod does not honor you, we do. Please accept our gifts as the first of many that will be given to you.

"LONESOME DOVE: Missionary of God's Grace"  Jan. 21, 2014

This year we are learning stories about God's grace from the stories of people in the Bible who experienced it. And this month we are hearing about missionaries. So tonight I will tell a story of a missionary in the Bible. In fact he may be the oldest recorded missionary in the Bible. I will tell this story as though it happened here in the American West. I will call him "Lonesome Dove" after the fictional cowboy of books and TV.
Lonesome Dove was deputized one day, not the local sheriff, but by the Governor of the entire territory! His job was simple and straightforward - go to the warlike Lakota Indians and tell them they have to change their ways... or else it will all be over with them! So what did Lonesome do? He hightailed it over to their camp and gave them the news - right?!?!
WRONG! Instead he skedaddled to the nearest railroad depot and bought a one-way ticket to San Fransciso. "Nuthin' doin'" he thought. No way was he gonna just saunter into the enemy's camp armed with only a metal badge and piece of paper. "I ain't gonna do it. The governor can find someone else cuz Im leavin' his territory."
But that night it started raining cats and dogs. It was a real gulley washer and it flooded the tracks and washed away the brigdes. So the conductor had to put off all the passengers - all one of them. Poor ol Lonesome. After three days of bathing while fully dressed, it dawned on him that maybe he was wrong and he should go back. After all, it HAD to be drier. So he did.
And off to the Lakota camp he went. And into camp he strides and goes from teepee to teepee and he pulls back each flap and tells them plain out, "You all are gonna die if you don't start smoking the peace pipe." What he did not tell them was that he secretly hoped they would all die. may have been obedient, but his heart just wasn't into it. So after he told each and every teepee, he mosied on over to the nearest sagebrush, sat down, and waited for the cavalry to ride in.
In the meantime, the chief called a pow-wow of all the braves. The messenger may have been freshly bathed and wearing clothes that were two sized too small, but the message was clear. The chief knew about the governor and he was afraid of him. So he told all his braves to put down their bows, stop practicing their war dance, and start making beads to sell to tourists. And they did.
Meanwhile, Ol Lonesome was just that, sitting by himself under the sagebrush getting hotter as the sun got higher. And still no cavalry charging into the camp. But as he was wondering why it was taking so long, a funny thing happened that sometimes happens in tall tales.

The sagebrush grew and grew into a shade tree, and just in time before he suffered sunstroke and went plum loco. The stars came out and coyotes howled and he fell asleep. But the next morning the shade tree just died and dropped all its leaves and was even less shade than a sagebrush.
That was it! He had had his fill. First the crazy mission to the Lakotas and then the sun broiled him and not the Lakotas and then... then his shade tree just ups and dies. "Governor" he says to himself "why did you send me a shade tree and then kill it off, while those savages over there are still walking sitting in their teepees making beeds? He did not expect an answer, but jumped with a start when a shadow fell on him as, just then, the Governor rode up.
With a squint in his eye the governor spoke, "Man up, Lonesome. You act like you've been sittin on a prickly pear catcus. You care more about that ol shadey sagey bush than you do about that campful of Lakotas."
Lonesome snorted, "Yer dern tootin I do! It's just like you to lay off em and let them open a tourist resort. I KNEW that's what you'd do, but I hoped that maybe just this once...
But the Governor glared at him and after a short but meaningful silence, he leaned into Ol Lonesome and spoke in a deep and somber voice, a voice like one who one had better listen to, iffin ya know what I mean. He said, "You cared more about a bush that you didn't even plant, that is here today and gone tomorrow. Should I not care even more about a whole camp of people living in my territory who did not know the difference between being good and being bad? Who do not even know how much I care about them?"
Our story ends at this point. What did Ol Lonesome say back to the Governor? Well, what would you say to Him?

      • Did you recognize the story?
        • Do you know who Lonesome Dove is supposed to be? Jonah.
          • Did you know Jonahs name means Dove?
            • And who is the Governor? God the Father.

          Jonah learned a big lesson about grace by how much God cares and forgives. First God forgave him. Then God forgave the Ninevites. God's grace forgives everyone every time we turn from our ways to Gods - just because that is the way God is. And that is why He sent Jesus - so that each and every one of us could experience just how full of grace God is towards us. In Jesus, He forgives us and makes us His sons once again. We give him our old life, our old ways, and He give us His life and His living ways.
          Pretty good deal, huh?

"GREED - NOT GRACE: Luke 12:13-21"  Feb. 26, 2014

If I had to make a guess, I would guess that tonight is YELLOW night. Did you know that yellow is not a Biblical color? What is called yellow in the Bible usually refers to gold. Now we try to teach very practical things here in T&T, so because we are talking about gold, let's have a lesson in economics tonight... Kingdom economics!
You will recall how the last time I talked about Ol'Lonesome Dove, aka Jonah, and how although he obeyed the Governor and went to the Lakota, he didn't really want what the Governor, aka God, wanted for them. The Governor wanted to give them grace so they could live, but Lonesome just wanted to give them the message and watch them die.
Well tonight I have another story about someone who completely missed what God wanted for him.
Back in the time of Jesus, when people were trying really hard to please God by obeying the law of Moses, what we call the Old Covenant, it was believed that if you followed all the rules then God would bless you. Therefore if you saw someone who was wealthy or talented, he must be doing things right, i.e., he must be righteous, because he had blessings in this life. We still do that today. People ask rich people all the time 'how did you do it?' so they can do the same things the same way and be rich too. It is like they are saying, "they MUST be doing it right because look at all the wealth they have!"
Our story goes like this...
Once not so long ago there was a farmer, and not just any farmer. This one had something of a green thumb. Whatever he tried growing yielded a bumper crop. I don't know how he did it - he was obviously gifted. His fields always succeeded and he always got the best prices at the market, and the best prizes at the county fair. His success was so good that he had to keep expanding his operation - more tractors, more farm hands, more silos, until one day he decided he had earned enough and could relax and take a looong trip down to Florida and do all the things he wanted to do. But it did not quite work out the way he planned, because that very night death took him and he never got to enjoy all that bounty.
The farmer's problem is one we all have. We think that getting good things means God likes us and is giving us presents. And if that is true, then that means when bad things happen to us, that God doesn't like us or what we are doing. So if we keep doing good things, God will keep giving us good things.

What we are SAYING is, we can control God and make Him give us good things! But what we don't see about what we do is that we specialize in doing just the things we think we do well, but not those things we do badly. God is not a puppet. He sees what we do well and what we don't do well. He sees even what we do not see about ourselves. And He still loves us and is generous to us - not because of what we do, but because THAT is what He does.
So the farmer completely missed God. He thought his green thumb and his own strength gave him good things. He completely missed that part about seeking God with his heart and mind and soul and all those things would be added to him... by God. He utterly failed to understand that God loved him so much that He died for him in Jesus, and God forgave him in Jesus for all the things he did not do right, and God wanted him to walk with him in all he did in Jesus's Spirit. Instead, the farmer wanted only what he could earn by himself. He wanted the gifts, but not the Giver of the gifts.
So let me tell you now. Do not want the gifts. Want the God who gives you good gifts. And want to live this life together with Him in all you do.
I want to read to you a passage from Ephesians that talks about this:

Ephesians 1:3)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4) just as God chose us in Jesus before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before God. In love 5) God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, which God freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Jesus). 7) In Jesus we have redemption through Jesus blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of Gods grace 8) which God lavished on us."

Luke 12:13)

"Someone in the crowd said to Him, Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me. 14) But He said to him, Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you? 15) Then He said to them, Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions. 16) And He told them a parable, saying, The land of a rich man was very productive. 17) And he began reasoning to himself, saying, What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops? 18) Then he said, This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19) And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry. 20) But God said to him, You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared? 21) So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

"GOSPEL OF GRACE"  April 16, 2014

I told you pardners about Lonesome Dove and the Lakotas and the Governor. But there is more to the story - much more! You see, It was the Governor who organized the territory when there was nothing out there but dust storms. He created irrigation ditches and made the desert bloom and settled folk in the new land. There were trees and flowers and crops. It was all so wonderful, He called it "Colorful", but over time it came to be called "Calla-rada." But He didn't mind. He just wanted to walk the streets, visit with the territory folk, and enjoy all that they were doing. And He did. Oh He also gave the territory ordinances to govern itself by. They were to make the land fruitful and multiply its population. They could enjoy themselves and play about any card game they wanted. Except one - Poker. He told them straight up, "You can play any card game you want but not poker, for on the day you play it, you shall surely lose."
All went well, but wouldn't you know, the Governor's own first lieutenant got jealous of what the Governor had done. He was pretty sure that he could do just as well if not better. It was inevitable, but when the showdown came, the lieutenant was no match for the Governor he was thrown out of the territory and all the way across the Mississippi. Now the Lieutenant stopped being jealous and wanted revenge. If he could not beat the Governor, then he would wreck everything He made.
Well, one day in the town of Love-land, a stranger came to town, or so it seemed because you couldn't see him - just his shadow. So they called him Shadow Man. He mosied on over to the sasparilla emporium and game room, walked in, sat down at the card table and took out a deck of cards and dealt a hand of... Poker! He called out, "Who said you can't win at this game? There's always a winner to every hand. Try it." And who should sit down across from him but Adam, the town's number one citizen. He held a full house but Shadow Man had five aces. It was then he realized he had been cheated and what was worse, he had bet the deed for the whole county. Now it belonged to Shadow Man. All of a sudden things started going haywire. First the telegraph line to the Governor was cut. Then the sun parched all the crops. Then the Indians took back all their beads and moccasins. And then the Governor shows up. He asks the crowd, "Who played poker?" Everyone points to Adam. The Governor says, "You lost more than you think, son. All this was yours and you gave it away. But I will get it back for you. Just you wait. I'm going to take care of it all now." And he left. And they waited.
Everyone once and a while a Pony Express rider would show up with a letter from the Governor. Sometimes he gave them instructions to follow. Sometimes he warned them about danger. Sometimes the cavalry would come charging to the rescue when it looked like outlaws were going to take over the town. They kept waiting for the promise. Some thought it would be a tall masked stranger wearing a white hat and riding a silver horse who could ride like lightning. Others thought someone would be appointed sheriff who could throw the Shadow Man out of the territory. But they hoped it would happen soon because all of Shadow Mans mayors robbed the people and imprisoned them. People were getting sick with no cure, broken-hearted because they no better than prisoners, blinded from the glaring sun, and growing hopeless for lack of any good news. They hoped the one who wore a White Hat would come soon.
And then one day something did happen.
One of the miners from up in the hills came to town by the name of Jesse Josephson. He wore a white hat and went about telling people that the day of the Governor had arrived. He didn't wear a badge or carry a gun or own a horse, but wherever he went, people were being healed, getting out of jail, getting their sight back, and hearing the news about the Governor. He even told Shadow Man's henchmen to get out of town or else - and they did.
But not everyone liked this newcomer. They would say, Who ever heard of any law-abiding citizen from a mining camp? Certainly White Hat would not come from there! So, the townfolk were of two minds about what to think of this new stranger and were just like a herd of hunger longhorns bellowing for their feed. I mean, what would you think iffen some gringo came along spouting words like, "I'm the corn bread that gives life - chow down on me and you'll live forever!" or "Me and my paw are closer than two peas in a pod - in fact iffen ya seen me, ya seen him." and "Whatever I do pleases my paw, cuz I only do what I sees him a'doin. but y'all are doin the same things your paw does, and he's an outlaw. Iffen you were a ranch hand for my paw, you'd do what I tell ya, but instead, you all jist wanna string me up!" In fact, he went to far as to let it be known that the Governor was his Pa!

Well, the mayor and his boys were getting pricked like barbed wire. They got together a posse to git Jesse, but decided to hold off till after the annual Going Away party. That is, until one of Jesse's boys decided to turn him in for them. So after the Good-by meal while everyone was sleeping it off, they came and got him and threw him into the calaboose till morning when the judge was awake. It was a sham trial and sure enough they sentenced Jesse to die. They decided hangin was too good for him, so they hog-tied him to a railroad tie and left him in the sun to die. And he did, saying, "Paw forgive them. They're just acting like a bunch of dumb lost heifers."
But that was not the end of my story. Not by a long shot.
Ya see, just three days later they found his grave empty, and his gang began telling everyone that Jesse was alive again, and this time it was for good! Ya see, it turns out Jesse was not really a miner from the hill country after all, he was ... the Lone Savior! And his gang who used to act like a bunch of reformed ruffians now looked for all the world like experienced ranch hands, like men who never backed down, like... like Jesse himself! In fact, they said that anyone could sign on with them for the big roundup that Jesse's paw was organizing. They told people all about the Lone Savior and said, "Change your ways now and ask the Governor for a pardon before it's too late, cuz the Governor is gonna clean up this town." Not everyone believed what they were telling them, but those who did, who wanted to join Jesse's gang, they deputized each and every one of them and gave them a golden badge with Jesse's name on it as a sign of Jesses authority as the Governor's man.
Of course, Shadow Man didn't like all these goings on, but what could he do? Ya can't stop someone you can't kill. He had been disarmed. He was a'gonner, but he still could yell and fuss and make people think he was still in charge. Why, he even scared some of those in Jesse's new gang. So much so that they took to wearing their badges on the inside of their vests and acting like they were just like everybody else - only pardoned. It'll be a sad day for them when they meet Jesse face to face and he asks them, "Why didn't you live like the deputy that I made you to be? Didn't you believe me??"
Others were scared, too, but instead, they figured out that iffen they just tapped on their badge, they could actually talk back and forth with Jesse at the big ranch house. And others found out that those badges gave them the authority to do things they never could on their own. Just like Jesse, they were undoing all the bad things Shadow Man had changed. And one day, they were promised, there would be no more crying nor dying - everything would be made right - everything would look like and be like Jesse hisself and his paw, the Governor.
Now, you may think this is just a story about the old West, but it is still going on today. Love-land is real. It is where the Governor has showed everyone how much he loves what he made. And he hasn't changed one bit since the beginning. What he loved then he loves now, but he hates wrong and will not allow it to stay. Someday everything wrong will vamoose and everyone who doesn't want his ways will go with it. What about those who make the Big Roundup? Well, it'll be like one big hoe-down and a trail ride that never ends. Just the Governor and his ranch hands. You won't want to miss it!

Well now you know the Big Story, the best story. It is the Gospel story. This is THE story that all the stories of all the people we told you about this year were leading up to.
You see, all the stories about grace had one thing in common - God. It was God who was full of grace. It was God who time and again would give His grace to anyone who would believe Him and follow Him wherever He went. Everyone who followed God, learned that grace happened not because of who THEY were but because of who GOD is. And JESUS is the grace of God sent for all people in the past and in the future. That's how much grace God has. God's grace forgives and God's heart desire is to have us all for His sons, just like Jesus is. We get more than a pardon, we get an inheritance because we are sons.
But be careful. Those who only want the inheritance and not the Father will get neither one.

Lessons from Paul's Letter to the Romans

"ROMANS 2"  Sept. 26, 2012


KEY VERSE


Romans 2:12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law:


CONTRASTS

      • condemnation/justification
        • repentance/condemnation
          • hearers/doers
            • heart/flesh
              • evil/good

            INTRODUCTION

            full-sized outline in paper of me = my standard

            Do two of you want to come up and see how you compare to my drawing?...
            Well, I don't think I would confuse you with me. You seem different from my drawing.
            It looks like me, YES?...
            Do you see any differences? (What is this stuff on my face... sideburns?)
            I guess I don't still look the same anymore.
            Is it still a self-portrait of what I look like today?...Not completely.
            So, what does this have to do with today's lesson? Well, we have a problem. Our key verse is about God's rightneous. But last week we learned that people want to cover up God's rightousness and live how they want to. And the result in their lives is not good.
            How do we solve the problem?

              1) We could use God's measure.

              Paul understood this very well. He knew about God' rightousness and how people try to make themselves acceptable to God accourding to God's righteousness.
              Even if we agree to God's measure, even though it is the best one, if we don't always measure up to it, we STILL have the same problem.
              Paul knew what he was talking about. He knew the Law and was blameless, but that was not good enough (refer to his prior life Phil.3:4-11)
              BUT if man does not want to be under God's idea of righteous, he has a couple options:

                2) WE CAN MAKE OURSELVES OUR own measure of what right

                (but things change and WE can't always measure up the same way - REMEMBER MY DRAWING?) If we are our own measure and we can't always be that way, then OUR MEASURE DOES NOT WORK OR we are hypocritical.

                  3) Make a measure outside of OURSELVES (then NO ONE will measure up all the time!)

                  Could we write a set of rules to run the world by? (NO. No one will agree to them all and no one wants to do them all the time)


 

CONCLUSION
WE cannot measure up to ANY measure, OUR OWN OR GOD'S, ONLY God can. AND HE DOES. HERE'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD AND US:
+God's deeds reveal truth, lead others to repentance, and are publically displayed in Jesus.

VERSES
+ Our deeds REVEAL THAT WE ARE NOT ALWAYS GOOD EVEN BY OUR OWN MEASURE OF GOOD AND WE ARE against others and condemn them. WE EVEN suppress the righteousness of God AND try to hide from the truth.
SUMMARY - EXAMPLE
The second half of Romans 2 gives us an example of what we are talking about.
Gentiles = followers of their own law
Paul began Romans with this. The Gentiles without knowing God made their own measure.
Jews = followers of God's Law
They knew God and had a measure and tried to live up to it and make others do so, too. Yet neither Jews nor Gentiles succeeded because neither one can be as right as God it.
We still do what they do, even today. We say we don't kill or steal - we believe in God and go to church. But sometimes we still do wrong things - things that are not like what God does.
We misunderstand something about God: the Law's purpose is not for us to judge others with it, but for it to judge us. It tells us about ourselves - that there is something wrong with us.
Finally, Paul tells us where the problem is -

Rom2:28-29

It is not what we do. It is our heart. The problem is in our heart. We can't make it all right and keep it that way. Only the Spirit can make it new and seal it up.

(possible example of adding black to white.

Adding more and more white will never make it as white as it was before. What we need is to start over!
So, how does that happen? Paul is going to talk about that as we go on next week.

"ROMANS 4: Abraham (Romans 4:3)"  Oct. 24, 2012

My name is Abraham. I hear you are learning about the law of faith. I can tell you about that. God our Father taught me about that and even tested me and found me faithful to His lesson. Let me tell you how He taught me.
I grew up in Ur of the Chaldes. One day my father Terah and all his sons set out from our home to move to Canaan. But we had only gone as far as Haran when God told me to Go to Canaan and that He would make a great nation of me and make me a blessing. That was His first promise to me. So at the age of 75 I moved to Canaan with my nephew Lot, but my father and brothers stayed in Haran.
Later Lot and I decided we had to move apart because we each had so many possessions and animals. Lot chose the best land to move to, but God promised me that all the land I could see would belong to my descendents. And I believed God and traveled all around, even down to Egypt.
Well one day when I was 86 God promised me again that I would be very great. So I asked Him how that was going to happen since I did not have any children to even start a family. He told me to look at the stars in the sky and count them, if I could. That is how many descendents I would have. Then He told me to prepare a sacrice, which I did, and then to wait. After it grew dark I saw an oven and a torch appear and pass over my sacrice - without me doing anything! He promised me all the land from the Euphrates to the Nile would belong to my descendents forever.
God kept promising me all this land and all these descendents time and time again. And I kept believing Him even though I still had no child to begin having descendents. Then one day, when I was 99 years old, God said He wanted to make a covenant with me. This was bigger than a promise. God HAD to do this or He would no longer be God! He said He WOULD make me the father of many descendents. Even kings would be my descendents. And He changed my name from "exalted father" to "father of multitudes"! And again, all I had to do was believe Him and by so doing I would be keeping His covenant.
He gave me a sign to show me I was under His covenant. It was a mark on my body. But listen to me carefully. That mark was only a sign of the covenant I made with God. It was NOT the covenant. It was my BELIEVING God that He would do what He said that was the covenant.
And one more thing God told me. He said that one year later I would have a child and Sarah would be the child's mother. And one year later my son Isaac was born to Sarah.
If I had more time I could tell you the final test God gave me to see if I had learned to believe Him. It was a hard test but I passed it.
So here is my lesson for you to learn.
Four hundred years after I died, God made another covenant with my descendents through Moses. It was called "The Law". It was as good and as perfect as God is, but no man could always do it all. And that was the point of the Law. No one could - but God. And the promises God made to me were not ones I could make come true by what I could do. But God made them come true.
So why did He need me? Well, He wants to pour out all His blessings and all His good ways on me and everyone else. All we have to do is believe Him when He says He will, and enjoy being with Him whenever He spends time with me. How do I know He does? Because He sent Jesus to fulfill all His promises and to take the punishment I had earned and bring me back to Him. I like Him so much I want to act like Him and talk like Him and think like Him and like what He likes and hate what He hates. I want to be just like Him. He promises all His blessings on me and to grow me up to be just like Him. I just need to believe He will do it. He does it, and I believe Him when He says He will. And He taught me by giving me promises again and again and then finally doing what He promised. And His all His promises are fulfilled in Jesus.

ROMANS4 OUTLINE: Lesson on the Law of Faith

Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
= GEN 15:6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.)


My name is Abraham. I hear you are learning about the law of faith. I can tell you about that. God our Father taught me about that and even tested me and found me faithful to His lesson. Let me tell you how He taught me.
Promise#1 - (in Haran/75yr) +Go to Canaan and He would make a great nation of me and make me a blessing.
Promise#2 - (in Canaan) +All the land I could see would belong to my descendents
Promise#3 + Sacrifice(Oath=Promise) (Hebron/86yr)
+ Abe would have a son and as many descendents as stars
+ All the land from the Euphrates to the Nile would belong to my descendents
+ Abe prepare sacrifice & God made covenant by self (God swore oath by His own Being)
Promise#4 + Covenant (99yr)
+Father of many descendents. Even kings would be my descendents
+ Name change
+COVENANT (God's big promise - He would do it or He would not be God)
= Abe part: walk before me and be blameless, make mark (sign) of covenant, and son born to Sarah 1 year later
= God part: father of nations & kings, give land of wanderings, with your descendents forever
LESSON
400 years later = Moses' covenant (The Law) - good as God but no man could do == the point - only God can do that
|| God's promises made to me, and only God could make come true
Why does He do it? to pour out blessings and good ways on everyone What do I have to do? believe Him, that He will do it, and spend time with Him always and be like Him
LAST PROMISE == JESUS
+ God's fulfilled promises
+ God dealt with my punishment that I earned
+ God makes me like Him and brings me back to Him
God teaches me by using promises of what He alone can do so I can walk before him nd be blameless (GEN 1:17)

"ROMANS 7: An Interview with Paul the Apostle"  Nov. 28, 2012


Paul has been explaining God's ways to us over and over in his letter to the Romans. We ended chapter 6 with: 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now in chapter 7 we read: 7:6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
Then he begins chapter 8 with the conclusion: 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
The apostle Paul was trained to be a Pharisee under the teaching of Gamaliel. He knows the Bible from memory like you are learning to do. But that was not enough to understand what God was saying to us about ourselves and about God and about living with God in this world. In spite of Paul's incredible learning and fearless loyalty to God, he had to meet Jesus to see things the way God sees them. To help us better understand what he wants us to learn, I have invited Paul to join us to teach us in person. Once again, I will be acting as his translator since Paul speaks Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek, but not English. Please welcome our brother in the Lord, and Jesus' apostle to the Gentiles, Paul!

(Paul speaks in Koine Greek, which I translate into English) There are some very important lessons we need to learn when we see what Jesus did. Let's start with something we all know about - the law.
There are different types of law. Every city and county and state and country has its own law. And in the Bible, we know about the Law that came from God thru Moses and was given to the Jews.
Did you know that the law has authority over you as long as you live in a country?
As long as I live in or visit your country, your laws tell me what I can and cannot do. When I go to another country, the laws there tell me what I can and cannot do, and they may be very different from your laws. But I am always under someone's laws.
Some laws last your whole life long. For example, when you get married, God's law says you two are married to each other for as long as you live. Your marriage only ends when one of you dies. Only then can you marry someone else, says God.
Now then, you have learned about the law of sin and death and the law of faith and grace. I call these "laws" because like marriage they rule over you as long as you live.

 

The difference between the law of sin and death and the law of faith and grace is like the difference between the laws of two different countries. When you move to the country of faith and grace, you no longer live under the law of the country of sin and death.
But I discovered that I, Paul, still had a BIG problem. Even though I lived under the Law of Moses - God' special Law for Jews - I still sinned, even though I did everything that Law told me to do. Was there something wrong with the Law? NO! Was there something wrong with me? YES!!
There is NOTHING wrong with the Law. God made it. It showed me that the problem was in me and the problem was not me (God made me!), but it was the law of SIN in me. And once I started doing what sin wanted to do, the law of sin controlled me and killed me. So I learned that Sin is the problem, and Sin is in me and Sin kills me and I cannot stop it.
But was there something missing from the Law - did God not give us a perfect Law?? NO!!!
There is NOTHING missing from it. The Law did all God wanted it to do, but God was not done doing all HE wanted to do, and the Law was only a part of that. What else did God want to do?
First, teach us what was good;
Second, teach us what the problem was;
Third, show us what Good looks like and how much He loves us;
Fourth, and then kill off the law of sin for good and replace it with another law. And do you know how God did that???

(boys answer, "Jesus")

Yes, Jesus!
So now, when I come to Jesus and see that sin really lives in me, and then agree that Jesus is God who came as a man - who died to kill off sin for me then I too can get a new passport to become a new citizen of a new country under a new law, where I can live in Jesus and grow up to be like Jesus, who is just like His Heavenly Father.
And now, when sin tries to tell me that it controls me, I can talk back to it and tell it that 'I died to the law of sin when Jesus died and I now live with Jesus in his country and sin does not own me or tell me what to do any more. I live under a NEW LAW - the law of life in Christ Jesus!!!' And that is what I talked about in the next part of my letter.

(me) Thank you, Paul. Our time is at a close. Thank you for those examples. No wonder Jesus chose you to be an apostle to us Gentiles.

"Mission Talk"  Jan. 23, 2013


I am going to talk to you in a very different way about missions. I've thought about this a lot over the years since I went to France, and I want to give you a bigger understanding of what it means to be a missionary.
You wont find missionary in the Bible, but one of the comparisons Paul makes is that of an ambassador (2Cor5:20). An ambassador is a person who represents the country he is from. What he does and what he says is what his home country wants him to do or say. The President sends instructions and the ambassador speaks. An American ambassador treats the people in a foreign country (like France) the way Americans would. And how they treat the ambassador is how they treat the country he comes from.
We live in a country in which the Constitution is our government. When we talk about God, we are talking about a kingdom in which God is king. In a kingdom, the KING is the government. When a king sends a message to tell you something, it is the same as the king talking to you. And how you treat the kings messenger is how you treat the king! So, how does God send out His message? He used angels and He used Jesus and He uses us.
There is a lesson about Jesus in this, too. Do you remember how John said that Jesus was the Word of God (John 1:1) and how what Jesus did and what He said were what Jesus heard and saw the Father do? (John5:19-20, 13:49, 17:4,8) Jesus IS God's Word in the flesh. He was with God and was made a man (e.g., Luke2:32,35) and so He could say that He and the Father are one. We cant. We were made by God and are now adopted as sons. But sons we now are! And what our Father the King does and says, that's what we want to do, just like Jesus did just like Jesus taught us to do.
So not only are we ambassadors, we are sons, too! And we too in our very persons as sons of the King, act and represent the government of God our Father. We are like Jesus was going out to meet people, and meeting us is how people first meet Jesus and the Father.
So, God is like the government of the United States and and we are like American ambassadors. We tell everyone we meet in this world what the King told us (like I did in France) and we treat them the same way God treated us.

 

Now, did you notice that I said "everyone we meet in this world?" Someone once told me it is easier to go to another country and be a missionary than it is to go to my school or my family and be a missionary. It is true that people in another country see you as being different and will listen to you out of curiosity, BUT... they will just as easily completely reject or ignore what you say because you ARE different and not like THEM. That is why believers who serve in other countries learn to live like the people in those countries, so they can speak the Word in ways others will understand. But that means that the easiest people for YOU to talk to as a messenger an ambassador a son of God are those where you live now!
If you are a believer and follow Jesus, then you already ARE a son and an ambassador of the King (your Heavenly Father) right where you are - to your family AND to your friends. You are learning to be the LIVING Word of God to them - just like Jesus was. And what we say and do to everyone in this world is what we learned from Jesus who did what He saw and heard His Father do. (John 17:8,14).
So, learn from Jesus now and some day you will be ready to tell the Gospel (John17:3) to people you don't know - who are very different from you - and who may never have learned about Jesus and the Father - until you came!
QUESTIONS
What is an ambassador?
A representative of a country. A messenger from a government.
What is our message from God?
The Gospel about Jesus.
How was Jesus like an ambassador?
He did what He heard and saw the Father say and do.
God does not need us to tell others the Good News, but Jesus tells us to go. Why do you think God and Jesus want us to tell others?
Open ended question - one idea is that we now know God and we know people, so we can tell them about what God is like and explain what He wants them to know about Jesus.

"ROMANS 9: Children of Promise (Faith) or Children of Flesh (Law)
" Or - It's who you believe GOD is, not who you believe You are! Jan. 30, 2013


KEY VERSE: Rom9:8 (6-8), & 9:33

We esteem Paul as a great teacher because he knew the Bible so well and could teach by examples from it. In this chapter he again teaches about Abraham and sons of God. And again he teaches us by examples. From Abraham, Esau & Jacob, Pharoah, and the Israelites we learn that it does not matter who you are or what you do in this world, it is those who trust who God is and His promises who are sons of God. And we also learn what happens when we don't trust who God is. It is a history lesson from the Bible that begins with Abraham who believed in a promise, but ends with the destruction of the nation of Israel.
How did it happen?
Two weeks ago I talked about being sons of God. Now in chapter 9 Paul tells us again how we ARE children and sons of God. How many of you know the story of Abraham and Sarah and the birth of their son Isaac?
The story is in Genesis 18:10. It is a lesson to us of faith in God's Word - His promise. But there is another side to this lesson. Paul calls it the stumbling block (ROM9:32-33).
Paul tells us about Esau and Jacob and about Moses and Pharaoh. Things happened to them that they had no control over. But they COULD choose who they would trust who they would believe in. Esau was older than Jacob and therefore had the birthright. That meant that he would inherit his father's land and most of his possessions, but Jacob ended up with it and became a patriarch of the Israelites. That was not happy for Esau, but the two brothers ended as friends. Then 400 years later Moses confronted Pharaoh with God's command to let the Israelites go worship God... or else! Pharaoh chose the else. In fact he chose it over and over again, and the Israelites still were able to leave and Pharaoh's kingdom was left in ruins. Once again, God made a promise and God made it happen.
And finally we learn about the people of Israel, the Israelites. Although they said they followed God, when Jesus, God's Messiah, came they would not follow him, and the leaders even had him killed. Forty years later the Jews experienced their own destruction, even as the Gentiles were becoming children of God. That sounds backwards, but those Jews, who had been given the promise thru Abraham, had pursued the promise,not by faith, like their patriarch Abraham did, but by THEIR own understanding and actions. They made a religion out of following the Law. They made even MORE rules to be sure they followed the Law. They placed their faith in knowing the LAW and not the LAWGIVER.
They made the mistake of trusting their own acts of obedience to the Law rather than to the promises of God to act for them to save them - the promises made by God to do for THEM what they could not do by themselves. And they believed it to the very end - an end they were warned about (LK21:6,21-24, MT24:2) - an end Jesus lamented (LK19:42-44, MT23:37-39) - an end that did not have to happen if only they trusted in the Savior God sent them. But they didn't.

 

 

Instead, they trusted false prophets who told them what they wanted to believe, who made promises that sounded LIKE those God had made hundreds of years earlier. They rebelled against the Roman rule 35 years after Jesus died and rose again. They fought hard against the Romans, but their belief did not save them. The Romans defeated them in battle after battle and finally surrounded them in Jerusalem. Their treachery and rejecting the Roman peace offers infuriated the Romans. In the end the Romans captured the city. Its destruction was horrific. They burned it all down, killed over one million Jews in the city, enslaved about 100,000 who were captured, and leveled all the buildings to the ground leaving only three towers and the western wall just to show how great the city had been.
And the Temple? It was burned and completely destroyed and never rebuilt. Instead, the Romans built their own temple over the spot it used to be on. Today it is one of the three holy places of Islam and a shrine called the "Dome of the Rock" occupies a part of the site of the old Roman temple.
Fifty years later, the Jews rebelled again under a leader named Bar Kochba who proclaimed himself Messiah. The Roman armies came again, defeated them, and again leveled Jerusalem, and this time forbade the Jews from ever living or visiting Jerusalem again. It was the end of the country called Israel until 1948, 1,825 years later.
Why do I spend so much time talking about the bad example? Because I want you to know that you can chose God or not chose God. But which ever way you chose, there will be outcomes - for good or for bad. When God speaks, He means what He says.
The lesson for us?
You may have heard people say that if you believe you can do anything you want to do. And How many of you have heard that if you believe in the Lord Jesus you will be saved? . . . Here is what people get mixed up. It is not BELIEF that saves you, it is GOD who saves you the God who acted to save you by sending Jesus to make things right again between you and Him. If you believe that He did, then you can begin living in that new life with Him. You can do many things is you really want to do the hard work to get them, but you cannot do what only God can do no matter how much you believe you can. Those Jews in Jerusalem believed. They believed so strongly they were willing to die waiting for God to save them. But God did not help them just because they believed. They believed in the wrong thing. What was the right thing to believe in?
So, it does not matter if you are a Jew or a gentile. One becomes a child of God the same way - by faith in God who saves us and makes us right with Him thru Jesus - but NOT by doing things to make ourselves right with Him. It has always been that way. God took care of things through Jesus.
Will we believe Him, or will we try to find another way?

"ROMANS 14"  March 20, 2013


There is a story preachers like to tell, about a little boy who did not want to go to church but had to anyway. When he got there he kept standing up and looking all around and playing with papers. Finally his father told him to sit down and be quiet because he is in church. He did, but then he tells his dad, "I may be sitting down on the outside of me, but on the inside I'm still standing!"
Now - what does that have to do with food and Romans 14, you might ask... I'm glad you asked. Well, sit back and let me tell you.
We have been learning about living under the Law and living by God's grace. You know what it is like to live under the Law. You live under rules all the time. And you know that, just like that little boy, whether you like the rules or not, you still have to follow them. Or else.
Now, rules are not bad or wrong. Rules are just rules. It is we people who do good or bad with them. Rules CAN be good when people agree upon them for a good purpose. For example, have you ever played Capture The Flag? What happens if someone breaks a rule?...
Everyone gets pretty upset with him, don't they? They might even kick him out of the game.
FIRST PROBLEM
But there are some Bad Rules. They are bad because there are a couple of problems.
The first problem is sin-fullness, which shows itself by selfishness. God shows us ways to live that bring life. But we do things that we like to do, even if others are hurt by it. Some even LIKE to hurt others! God knows this, so because of those people He gave us some rules to live by. What that means is that:
Rules are for the unruly and laws are for the unlawful.
But rules don't always help. People's sin-fullness will even use rules to help themselves even if it hurts other. And more than that, some people LIKE to rule over others in place of God.
SECOND PROBLEM
This is a second problem. When God created man, He made him to rule over the Earth and all the animals and plants. But... God did not make man to rule over other men. When men do rule over other men, either as a governor or a president or a principal or a boss, they must do so as servants, which is what we heard Paul say last week in Romans 13. Only God has the right to rule over people. After all, He made us. He owns us. So people who rule over other people are simply servants of God and of people.
Not only are there people who want to be masters over other people, even believers do that! We see it in history. The church in the Middle Ages has a bad reputation because of how it ruled over people. And it even happened in the New Testament when the first apostles were alive. That is what we see here in Romans 14. Let's start at Romans 14:1.
ROMANS 14
:1) Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2) One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.
Who is the one who is weak in faith here?... Well, Paul makes it sound like it is the veggie eater.
But first I have to tell you what is going on at this time in history. By AD 60 when this was written, the Gospel was just going out from the Jews to the world. The Jews had been raised and kept safe by following the Law of Moses until it was all fulfilled when Christ came. Under the Law, they could not eat anything sacrificed to foreign gods.

 


But now there was a new covenant, so what should they do about the old Laws? So there was this big argument about it in the early church. The jews of Judea decided that ALL should follow the Law now that Christ had come. But not everyone agreed. Back to Romans 14.
I was thinking over Paul's example of meat and vegetables, and here is what I hear each side saying. First, the meatie man:
(meatie) "I am not bound by the Old Man nor tied to following the Law like a slave. I now live by grace and in the freedom of Christ. All things are clean for me. Meat sacrificed to an idol is meat sacrificed to nothing. It cannot harm me for I am over any idol because I am in Christ. Instead, I will redeem these wrong ways and show people what these ways look like in Christ."
All that he says is true. Now let's hear what veggie says:
(veggie) "I am now in Christ and have overcome the world and overcome the sin that dwelled in me. I am now free to follow Christ fully. I now CHOOSE to take on ways that God taught us in the Law. I believe they are better ways. And I have the discipline now to do so wholeheartedly because of Christ's Spirit in me. What is more, I do not want to do anything that would cause someone to question the reputation of Christ, so I will not eat anything someone has dedicated to idols. I will eat food that has been dedicated to God."
There is nothing wrong with what he says either. Both meatie and veggie are practicing their their faith in God, and neither one is weak when it comes to following God.
But each sees the other as weak and wants to change the other to be like him. And they would do so if they could. They would... OVERRULE ...the other. Did you hear that? They would overrule - rule over - the other. That is the way our un-transformed minds are. Remember Romans 12:2?
CONCLUSION
So Paul warns us what not to do, and tells us what to do instead. First, the warning:


ROM14:4) Who are you to judege the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
:13) Therefore let us not judge one another anymore,...


Stop there. And now Paul will tell us what to do instead:


... but rather determine this - not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.
:17) ...for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy spirit.
:19) So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.


And finally, borrowing from next week's chapter:


ROM15:1-3) Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2) Let each of us please his neighbor for his good to his edification. 3) for even Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell upon me."


All of us have strengths that others do not. All of us have things that are really hard for us to do. Paul tells us to use THOSE strengths to help each other when they are having problems. If we do that, we WILL be building each other up in Christ.

Metaphors from John's Gospel

"John 2"  Fall, 2012