Tag Archives: sabbath school quarterly

What is the Gospel

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of conducting my “In Light of the Cross” gospel seminar in New England. While there, a kind and gracious member of the Adventist Church I was speaking in, gave me a tour of the region and several old New England churches. Being a history buff, and realizing that the religious awakening, which spawned the Advent movement began in New England, created in my heart a deep appreciation for these old churches, some built in the early 1700′s or before.

New England Churches 100

I walked into one sanctuary, built in 1732,and sat on a pew deep in thought, contemplating the hundreds of people who had sat in that sanctuary over the last 280 years! I admired the pulpit from where the gospel was preached to weary sinners for centuries. Yes, I realize these churches were not Adventist churches, but they still preached the cross to sinners, and I imagine over the centuries many a sin weary pilgrim has laid his burden down on the altar and taken up the cross of Jesus. For that I am very thankful for these churches of various denominations. Each of these churches of various denominations were fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus that,

  ..this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, in [into] witnessing to all folks; and then the end shall come.Matthew 24:14 WYC (In my previous posts I often used the NLT Bible translation. However, writing about old churches and the religious awakening has me in a Wycliffe version frame of mind.)

When we think of the gospel we think of “good news.” Paul defines the gospel more specifically as the good news of the cross. The gospel is the cross.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not in wisdom of word, that the cross of Christ be not voided away. 1 Corinthians 1:17 WYC

Protestant churches rose out of the dark ages with the light of the gospel. John Wycliffe is remembered as “the morning star of the reformation.” If the sun rose up all at once it would blind us. God first sends the morning star to pierce the darkness so we become accustomed to a little light, and the sun gradually rises until noonday when the  darkness is gone and

the earth was lightened of his glory. Revelation 18:1 WYC

So while many think there are many different church denominations because everyone interprets the Bible differently, truth is, each Protestant church has discovered different points of light about the gospel, leading us gradually out of the Dark Ages. It is not so much about interpreting things differently as  it is about progressing as we have more light, with each ray of light leading us farther and farther out of darkness into the full light of the cross.

God has always had a people in every church, and the Protestant reformers were a light in the their time, leading to the Protestant Reformation, which brought us to the religious awakening and Advent Movement.

So the question is, what new light has the Advent Movement shined on the gospel of the cross?

1. The Gospel saves us from death instead of eternal torment.

 For the wages of sin is death.. Romans 6:23 WYC

The wages of sin is death and not eternal torment. As we study the doctrine ofthe punishment of the wicked, in the light of the cross, we get new light not only on doctrine but more importantly on the character of God. God is not a psychopath wanting to torture people because they did not love Him, and make them wish they had. He is a God of love. The purpose of hell is not to torment sinners (Though there will be torment and weeping and gnashing of teeth for a time) but rather to put sinners out of their misery.

For God loved so the world [Forsooth God so loved the world], that he gave his one begotten Son, that each man that believeth in him perish not, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 WYC

The most popular verse of the Gospel tells us Jesus saves us from perishing and not eternal torment in hell.

2. Jesus really died for us.

The Biblical teaching of the state of the dead changes how we view the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. If we believe in the immortality of the soul, and that one does not really die, then Jesus never died and we are still without a Savior. However, the Bible teaches us that Jesus did not only truly die, but He died the second death for us. He faced not only death but the death of the wicked, which meant He loved us so much He was willing to go into total oblivion and be totally separated from God. He did not save us from the death of the righteous. He experienced and saved us from the death of the wicked – being totally separated from God, which has the effect of eternal oblivion.

..all the heathen shall busily drink, and they shall drink, and they shall swallow it all down; and then they shall be as if they had never been. Obadiah 1:16 WYC

3. Jesus saves us from our sin, not in our sin.

I once heard a Protestant preacher on the radio say, “In order for you to be able to call Jesus your Savior He has to actually save you from something.” The preacher went on to talk about how Jesus saves us from sinful addictions. Seventh-day Adventists understand that on the cross Jesus freed us from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin.

God the Father made him sin for us, which knew not sin, that we should be made [the] rightwiseness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 WYC

And he himself bare our sins in his body on a tree [Which he himself suffered, or bare, our sins in his body on the tree], that we be dead to sins, and live to rightwiseness, by whose wan wound ye be healed. 1 peter 2:24 WYC

Okay I think that last one needs a little help from the NLT!

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NLT

The gospel that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is taking into all the world not only gives us a clearer vision of the cross, but an even clearer vision of the the character of God.

God is a loving God who is not going to torment the wicked for all eternity because they did not love Him. He is a God of love who does not wish for us to perish. By understanding the Bible truth about death we understand the depths of Christ’s sacrifice and what great depths he was willing to go to in order to save us. We understand that He saves us from the penalty of sin, and from the power of sin, so that we don’t have to be slaves to the sinful addictions that hurt us over and over.

This is the gospel that pierced the dark ages until it will one day be preached all over the world and then the world will be lightened with His glory. May we engage in the work of spreading this Good News!

You may study this week’s Sabbath School less here. 

Apostasy! What it is and What its Not

 I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One Friday morning, I was helping a friend get their house “presentable” to have a group of Bible study students over for Sabbath afternoon. I was pulling weeds in their flower bed near their front door, when I got a little carried away, and found in my hands, not a clump of ugly weeds like I was suppose to have, but instead, before I could stop my over zealous hands,I realized I had just murdered a totally beautiful and innocent begonia! I snapped it before the root and there was no way now I could save it. In my mind I could hear Jesus telling me,

“See why I don’t let you go pulling weeds in my church? You can’t tell a beautiful begonia from a weed. There is no way I am going to let you destroy a totally innocent member of My church, just because you think they are a heretic. I will do My own weeding thank you. I can tell a weed from a begonia. Obviously you can’t.”

I am going to cut straight to the chase. I have become very concerned lately how easily the word “apostasy” gets thrown around Adventist circles these days. If someone does not agree with us, some of us accuse them of apostasy. That is a strong word! Apostasy simply means a renunciation or abandonment of a belief, but yet it carries with it an even greater connotation within our circles, of abandoning God Himself.  Funny, some people put themselves in God’s place of defining heresy and apostasy, yet I don’t ever find Jesus accusing anyone in the Bible of being an apostate or heretic, so I am confused as to why so many of His professed followers have taken up the practice.

Apostasy does not mean renouncing a doctrine because another church teaches it too. Remember, the Seventh-day Adventist Church grew out of many denominations. The purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not to disagree with everybody else. The purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist church is to

 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

In the mid 1800′s a group of Advent believers from many denominations sat down together with their Bibles. Rachel Oakes, a Seventh-day Baptist in that group introduced the Sabbath. The group found it to be quite Biblical so it was adopted by the group. The group found that the Baptist church was quite Biblical concerning baptism by immersion so that was adopted as well. However, the group found the immortality of the soul to be found nowhere in the Bible so that was not accepted. You see, this group did not say “Oh we don’t believe that! This is what the Baptists believe or that is what Catholics believe!” If we are going to use that logic we are going to have to give up the Sabbath because that is what Seventh-day Baptists believe! We would also have to give up the Trinity because that is what Catholics believe!

If our goal is to be the exact opposite of Catholics, then we are going to have to stop praying for loved ones in the hospital because that is what Catholics do. Actually we will have to stop running our hospital systems all together, because after all, having hospitals that provide compassionate care is something the Catholics do. And we don’t want to be like them, right? Friends, just because the Catholics do something does not make it wrong, and just because we do something does not make it right! Catholics are very reverent in their worship service. Shall we run and scream in God’s house just to prove we are not Catholics? Of course not! Like Paul said, we want to hold on to what is good instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I have met bitter former Adventists who have made it their religion to bash the Adventist church. Instead of lifting up Jesus they love to go online and bash the Adventist church. I have news for them. Bashing Adventism in not a religion. Now I have some news for some of us Adventists. Bashing Catholicism is not a religion either! Jesus, our example never made a religion out of bashing people for their beliefs.

This message must be given, but while it must be given, we should be careful not to thrust and crowd and condemn those who have not the light that we have. We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics. Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Christians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf.–Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 243.

Right and wrong is determined by the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and not by religious denomination. 

We are not to hold on to our beliefs because they are what our pioneers taught. If we do that then we are making an idol of our pioneers. We also become steeped in tradition if we only believe what our pioneers believe. It was never Martin Luther’s desire to bash Catholicism. It was his desire to take the Bible over tradition and the teachings of man. If we now set up our Adventist pioneers and Adventist traditions as the standard, then we are falling back into Babylon! The only way we can stay out of Babylon is to use the Word of God as our standard, instead of worshiping as idols the pioneers of our church even when they may be wrong, and bashing other churches even when they may be right!

Let’s be careful who we call apostates and what we call apostasy. Recently I have heard people saying the trinity is not an Adventist doctrine while it most definitely is! Many people are accusing other people of apostasy while they are in apostasy! So let’s be careful how we use that word, and not use it all if we can avoid it. It is not a word I read Jesus using. Let’s try to be more like Jesus.

Let’s not accuse someone of apostasy because they do something a Catholic or Baptist does. If we do, we will need to stop baptizing by immersion and having compassionate hospitals. Not everything they do is wrong and not everything you do is right. Let’s just go by the Bible.

Let’s not set up our Adventist pioneers as infallible and above the Word of God. If we tell the Catholics not to worship Mary and St.Peter, then its only fair we not worship Uriah Smith and Ellen White. Yes, I know Ellen White wrote under inspiration but so did Peter. Let’s not worship either one of them. Let’s worship Jesus. If we tell Catholics not to put their traditions above the Word of God then lets not put our traditions above the Word of God. Let’s not make a religion out of bashing other people’s beliefs and churches. Let’s make a religion out of lifting up Jesus!

You may study and discuss this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Recipe for Revival Part 2: Prayer

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

While prayer is not the only ingredient to revival, it is very important.

Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Well-spring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience.  –Ellen White, Heavenly Places, Page 83.

Just as we discussed in part one that binge dieting does not lead to good health, neither does a binge revival lead to good spiritual health. Actually a binge revival is no revival at all.

Binge praying will not lead to revival either. Prayer must be a daily part of our life, If prayer is the breath of the soul, then when we stop praying, the soul stops breathing, and when it stops breathing it dies.

Revival must be a way of life and not something we just experience from time to time. I have heard people refer to camp meetings and other spiritual retreats as an opportunity to get their spiritual batteries charged. Problem is we don’t have any spiritual batteries! Our souls are not batteries.

The other day while I was charging my cell phone, it froze on me. I tried to restart it, but I could not even turn it off. I then did what I have done a few times before and just took the battery out to make it go off. It still did not turn off! I quickly realized why. It was still plugged into the charger and so obviously was still receiving power even without the battery. I then unplugged the charger and restarted my phone.

Charging our spiritual batteries is not the solution. Staying connected to the Charger is. Many people have a golf cart religion. A golf cart charges its batteries in the morning, then runs all over the golf course all day under its own power. That does not work for us. We are not golf carts. We are more like trolley cars. A trolley car has no battery. Neither do we. The trolley must be connected to the cable or it cannot move a single inch. Once the connection is severed to the cable, the trolley stops dead in its tracks. So we must stay connected to Christ throughout the day.

Many people wonder why they try so hard to live like Jesus but keep falling short. One reason could be that they are trying to do it in their own power like a golf cart. Often we focus on the miracles Jesus did in the multitude without focusing on what Jesus first did alone, often for entire nights.

He prayed.

We can’t expect to live the way Jesus lived until we pray the way Jesus prayed.

Like us, Jesus realized He could do nothing in His own humanity without the Father.

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ‘The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.’”  John 5:19

And Jesus promises us that if we stay connected to Him as He is connected to the Father, even we can do great works.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  John 14:12

Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven.  –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 99 

I want to learn to pray as Jesus prayed, so I may live like Jesus lived. How about you?

Recipe for Revival Part 1: Humble Yourself

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Diet is a very important part of weight control, but it is not the only thing. There is exercise, and I have also read that the right amount of sleep is a factor in weight control.  Having said all this, weight control is not maintained by binge dieting, it is controlled by a healthy lifestyle.

Likewise when we talk about prayer and revival there is more to revival than prayer. In conversations about prayer and revival 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often mentioned. However, prayer is not the only remedy for revival mentioned in this quote. Furthermore, binge praying may lead to a temporary revival just as binge dieting leads to temporary weight control, yet temporary weight control is no weight control at all, and temporary revival is no revival at all. If a heart attack victim is revived in the ambulance only to die in the ER he is dead just the same.

So what besides prayer is suggested in the 2 Chronicles 7:14 recipe for revival?

The first ingredient is humbleness. God asks us to humble ourselves before we pray. This one is hard, because we often find pride in revival. We rebuild an old ’65 Ford Mustang, and once we have it looking shiny and new we are proud. Our teams revives itself and comes back to win late in the game, which makes us proud. The idea of humbleness being an ingredient to revival goes against human nature. It is also very deceiving. I once listened to a lady in Texas brag to me about how humble she was! No joke! Her exact words, which utter shock embedded into my brain forever, were, “I am the most humble person I know.” She was serious and sincere. Hence the utter shock on my part.

Once again in Texas, I was visiting with a family who was assuring me they realized nobody was perfect. One of the family members, as sincere as could be, said, “no family is perfect,” and then emphatically drove the point home by exclaiming, “not even us!” Say what? I did not bother assuring them I never thought that, and mused to myself where they got the idea that one would need to be assured their family was not perfect. They meant well. I don’t think theirs is the only family that does not sense its hidden pride.

I was amused a while back during volleyball season. The church school’s girl’s volleyball team was winless. That was not amusing. What was amusing were the three different team mothers who told me privately, one at a time, that their daughter is very skilled and talented, but the other girls just don’t know how to play. If those mothers had all been correct the team would not have been winless.  I never told the mothers that the other mothers were saying the same thing. I just nodded and smiled.

An old friend once told me in reference to prayer, “We can be kneeling on our knees but still standing in our hearts.”

Wisdom and humility make a very winsome combination, while stupidity and arrogance combine for disgrace. Funny thing is, I have never seen wisdom and arrogance together at all! They just don’t combine with each other just as iron does not mix with clay.

There is one cure for pride and arrogance. Look to Jesus and the cross.

 When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride. –Isaac Watts, “When I survey the Wondrous Cross.”

Going on a humble binge will not revive us anymore than binge dieting will lead us to health. It must be an everyday part of our life.

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  Luke 9:23

And I cried
Who nailed Him there
This Child of peace and mercy
Who nailed Him there
Come and face me like a man
Who nailed Him there
And the crowd began to mock me
I cried Oh my God I just don’t understand
Then I turned and saw the hammer 
In my hand! –Steve Milikan, “The Hammer”

That thought alone should keep us humble throughout our life here on earth, till the day we throw our crowns at the feet of Jesus! A binge humbleness will never do.

Any time self revives the revival dies.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on revival and reformation here.

The Innkeeper Did Have Room For Jesus!

Christmas Tree Cerca Pier

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

When the story of the birth of Jesus is told, the innkeeper often gets a bum wrap. How could you not have room for a pregnant lady? How could you not have room for the Son of God! Wait a minute. The innkeeper did have room for a pregnant lady. He did have room for the Son of God. He had room for them in the barn. It was a long day, with many weary travelers coming up to the counter needing lodging, and he did his best to please everybody. Then at the end of the day comes Mary and Joseph, and the innkeeper replies, “Well, here is what’s left.”

Can you identify with the innkeeper? At the end of a long day do you fall on your pillow, and send up a brief weak prayer before falling asleep? It’s not that you forgot God. You didn’t. It’s not that you had no room for Him in your day. You did. Just like the innkeeper had a barn left over for Jesus, you had a brief, weak prayer left over for Jesus.

Not too terribly long before the birth of Jesus God spoke through Malachi.

Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.

 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:7-8

Many of us, at least in North America can be materialistic. We think of wealth in terms of money or possessions. Yet Solomon says,

“a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes 9:4

A lion may be the king of the jungle but a living dog is better off than a dead king because he is still alive, and still has time. Therefore time is the most valuable and precious gift you can give. When you give someone your time you are literally giving them your life! Also, when we give time to God or the church we are often saving the church money. A modest family in a large church may not be able to give $1,000.00 a month to the church, but when they volunteer to clean the church, so the church does not have to hire someone, they are literally donating $1,000.00 a month by saving the church that money.

Even though time is the most precious gift we can give, we need to ask ourselves if we are really giving the best of our possessions. Am I really giving, when I give clothes to the community service center that I would otherwise throw away? Remember, what you do to the least of the brethren you are doing for Jesus. Is Jesus worth more than my throw away clothes? Then so is my brother. Am I giving the best I have, or like the innkeeper, just whatever is left?

Am I giving my best effort in both my time and money to save the lost? Jesus gave His life to save the vilest sinner. If the vilest sinner is worth the life of God’s own son, wouldn’t the vilest sinner also be worth my life as well? After Jesus gave everything He had to save sinners, would I not be considering my life of more value than His, if I do not give my life as well?

Am I giving my best for Jesus or like the innkeeper, am I just giving whatever is left? Am I giving the world my best, or just whatever is left over?

So as we evaluate the story of Jesus’ birth we see the innkeeper did indeed have room for Jesus. However since it wasn’t the room Jesus deserved, we pretty much consider it having no room at all! Maybe instead of picking on the innkeeper, we should evaluate our own lives and our own gifts.  Sure, like the innkeeper we all are giving something, but are we giving what is left over, or are we giving Him our best?

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Oh, and let me be the first to wish you a merry Christmas this year! 

Creation Again; Death and the Resurrection in Light of The Cross

IMG_20110704_203332

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

It’s that time of year when the leaves spring back onto barren trees and flowers bloom back to life. Every spring reminds me of the second coming and resurrection. I believe God lets everything die in the winter and come back in the spring to demonstrate for us His re-creation and resurrection power. Just as sure as the leaves come back to the dead and barren trees in the Spring, we can be sure our loved ones who sleep in Christ, will come back at the resurrection.  This week’s Sabbath School lesson touches on death and life, so I thought this may be a good time to share the study “Death in Light of the Cross” from the “In Light of the Cross Bible Study Guides.” By the way, there is also a Spanish version available.

Death

Brief overview:

Death is a state of unconscious sleep. The dead do not know anything at this time and are not awakened until the last trump at Christ’s second coming. See Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, Job 14:12, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Why is it important to know the truth about Death:

The teaching that you don’t really die is a lie Satan started in the Garden of Eden when he told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” By telling this lie Satan hoped to get Eve and all mankind to believe that there is really no consequence for disobeying God. He also wants us to believe that we are all immortal regardless if we have a relationship with God or not. This opens the door for spiritualism where people may actually be communicating with the devil and his angels, thinking they are speaking with their loved ones. Our salvation does not come from knowing what happens when we die. Our salvation is found alone in God’s love. However, no lie is ever harmless, and when Satan told the lie, “Ye shall not surely die”, not only was he lying but he was also calling God a liar. Not a safe path for us to follow.

Why understanding death in the light of the cross is important:

First of all if you don’t really die then Jesus did not really die for us and we still need a Savior. The lie that we don’t really die destroys the cross and everything Jesus endured and accomplished on it. If Jesus was not really tasting death like Hebrews 2:9 says He did, then we have just minimized the cross to a six hour pain endurance marathon.

I remember sitting in a funeral a while back for a little girl who was hit and killed by a car. Her mother sat on the front pew sobbing uncontrollably. Meanwhile the pastor talked about how happy the little girl and Jesus were right now up in heaven. Do you know how cruel that made Jesus look to the poor mother? Would Jesus tear a mother’s heart apart just to go have fun with her daughter? I think not! The little girl is resting in her grave and will be united with Jesus in heaven when the mother is reunited with her at the second coming.

For Further study on Death:

What did Adam become?

And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

Whose spirit returns to God?

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7

What is the Spirit?

All the while my breath [is] in me, and the spirit of God [is] in my nostrils; Job 27:3

What does God take that turns the body to dust?

Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Psalm 104:29

What age old question did Job ask?

But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where [is] he? Job 14:10

What is the Bible answer?

So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens [be] no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. Job 14:12

Do the dead know what happens to the living?

His sons come to honour, and he knoweth [it] not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth [it] not of them. Job 14:21

How much do the dead know?

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any [thing] that is done under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6

What did Jesus call death?

These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. John 11:11-14

How long had Lazarus been dead?

Then when Jesus came, he found that he had [lain] in the grave four days already. John 11:17

Did Martha believe Lazarus was in heaven?

Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. John 11:24

What did Mary say?

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. John 11:32

Was Lazarus called from heaven, hell or the grave?

And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. John 11: 43, 44

When are the dead raised?

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins.Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 1 Corinthians 15:16-23

When do we receive immortality?

Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54

Our hope and comfort:

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. for this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Texts that are difficult to understand about death and other topics.

Why Go To Church?

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma (Boston Avenue Methodist Church)

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:25

Over the years, I have heard many people tell me they don’t need a church. They can just study the Bible for themselves. They don’t need to go to a church that is filled with hypocrites, even if there is always room for one more. However, you can’t have a “one-person” church and fulfill the counsel in Hebrews 10:25. By setting up His church, God does more than command us to study and worship. He commands us to do more than spread the gospel by ourselves. Hebrews 10:25 is a command to be social. Paul does not merely say, “Do not give up hope and do not stop studying the Scriptures. He says, “Do not stop meeting together in a social setting.”

Paul, of all people, knew the importance of a church. Once he was converted in Acts 9, God directed him to the city where he met Ananias and Barnabas and the rest of the church. Even though Paul had a one-on-one encounter with God, he still needed to understand the importance of living and growing in a church setting.

Paul counseled us to keep being social, because he knew it was not good for man to be alone. Now think about this for a moment. God creates Adam. Adam has God and God has Adam. Yet God does not say, “Adam has Me, and I am all that he needs.” No, God Himself says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18

Now let this soak in. God Himself is saying, “I am not all Adam needs! He needs a community.”

If you believe God is all you need and that you don’t need anyone else in your life, then you are contradicting the God you serve! He Himself says He is not all you need. You need a community of believers. God created a mate for Adam, and thus fulfilled some other obvious needs of Adam, but ultimately they fulfill God’s purpose of creating a community. God knew Adam needed more than just to be able to worship God alone. He needed to be able to worship and serve God with a community of believers.

If you ever date someone who tries to isolate you from your family and friends, be very concerned about that. If their love is a Godly love, they will love like God and encourage you to be social and active in your family and community. If God Himself realizes we need more in our lives than just Him, how dare a mere mortal human being tell us they are all we need!  If their love is from God they will not be egotistical and tell us we don’t need anyone but them. God’s love is a healthy love which does not isolate. A love that tries to isolate is very unhealthy.

Worshiping in a social setting such as a church, means we will meet hypocrites, and they will meet hypocrites when they meet us. Hypocrites are just people who do not live up to all of their ideals, and that is all of us. But by God’s grace, He is getting us there and will get us there. In the meantime we need each other to get there.

I have a community Bible study where people of all faiths are invited to our church on Wednesday mornings. One morning an elderly lady said something that has always stayed with me. She said, “If someone in the church keeps rubbing you the wrong way, maybe God is just using them to polish your character.” I think she is right. God says it is not good for us to be alone. We need a community of believers. Some will encourage us, and even those we don’t get along the best with, will help polish our characters.

We need each other!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.