I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
There is a saying, “kids who are loved at home come to school to learn. Kids who are not loved at home come to school to be loved.” Is it any different in Sabbath School? Is it also true that God’s children (ages 0-125) who know they are loved come to Sabbath school to learn, and those who don’t yet know they are loved, come to Sabbath School to be loved?
I can still remember sitting at my desk in my 4th-grade classroom at Tulsa Adventist Academy, listening to my teachers, Miss Fisher and Mrs. Krueger, lecturing us about something. I don’t really remember exactly what it was about, but we must have been struggling with our grades, because all I remember is, both teachers told us, “If you only learn one thing this year learn this. We love you!” Now we were loved at home. We were loved at church and school, but as educated as my teachers were, they knew the most important thing is not money or a degree. It’s love. Without that nothing else matters, and when you know you are loved, nothing can stop you!
For the love of Christ controls and compels us, because we have concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died (2 Corinthians 5:14 Amplified Bible)
So while humanity tries harder, and reads self-help books and tries 12-step recovery programs, Paul says it is by looking at the cross and knowing we are loved that we get all our power to succeed. I remember John the Baptist telling everyone to “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John 1:29. He didn’t tell them to try harder next time. He told them to look at the Lamb. Let His love soak into you.
As legalistic humans we are always wanting to promise to try harder next time. But the answer is not promising to try harder. The answer is letting yourself be loved.
In Jeremiah God mentions how Israel had not kept the promises they had made, so He was going to make a better promise. His promise would be better because He is the the One making the promise instead of them. He is the perfect Promise-maker while we are lousy promise-makers!
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33 NLT)
So God promises to do for us what we could never even promise to do for ourselves, much less even try harder to make happen. God is the One promising, and He is the One who is accountable to make it so. Please notice something very important though. Its in Jeremiah 31:3 NLT, several verses before He promises to write His law on our hearts.
I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.
Just like my teachers realized all the book knowledge in the world doesn’t mean a thing without love, God feels the same way. Knowing all the laws and having them memorized in your mind and knowing them all by heart doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know how much God loves you!
Friends, there is no reason for you to promise God you are going to try harder and do better next time. He has already promised you! We don’t need to promise God what He has already promised us! What? I don’t have any work to do myself? Well yes, and I will let Jesus tell you Himself, exactly what your work is.
Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 NLT
Our work is to believe God’s promise that He loves us with an everlasting love, and He will place the principles of His love (also known as His law) in our hearts!
This is why John never told us to try harder! Just look at the Lamb and let His love soak into your heart till your heart is saturated with His love, which is also His law. You don’t need to promise God anything. Your work is to believe the promises God has made to you!
In 2017, I don’t need too many self-help books. I don’t need to try harder. I just need to look at the Lamb in 2017 and fall in love with Jesus! His love will change me in ways I could never change myself. After all, all the self help books and promises of better performance don’t mean a thing without love!
So just how good is God at keeping His promises to love and save us? For brevity, let me share one example. You can read about it in Joshua 9-10.
The Gibeonites used deceit to trick Israel into letting them in on the covenant God had made with them. Even though Israel was not supposed to make a covenant with anyone living as close as the Gibeonites, they did. Later when the Gibeonites were under attack, they called upon Israel to save them, and even though the Gibeonites had used deceit to secure this covenant, God was so relentless in keeping His promise of love, that He caused the sun to stand still until the Gibeonites were all rescued! God fought for Israel as Israel fought for the mischievous Gibeonites. Let that soak in. The Gibeonites were in no way worthy of any of God’s blessings, but God was still so loving and faithful to His promise that He made the sun stand still until they were all rescued! Talk about a love that moves heaven and earth! And this powerful love was given to the most undeserving people! So, scientifically speaking, the greatest power in the universe is not gravity or the suctioning power of the black hole. God’s love overruled all those powers and made the solar system stand still. Imagine what this love can do in your heart!
God’s powerful promises and love are also for you and me. In Hebrews 13:5 God promises to never leave us or forsake us, but the Amplified Bible is the only English version that even begins to grasp what God is actually promising.
for He has said, “I will never under any circumstances desert you nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless, nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you- assuredly not!” Hebrews 13:5 Amp version.
If we know we are loved we can come to Sabbath School to learn, and we can learn while we are loved, but we can’t learn without love.
If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 NLT
—and the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT
You may study this week’s SS lesson here.
DIALOGUE #3 – SUCCESS
by Pr Denis Sand – firstname.lastname@example.org
Objective of today’s dialogue: Challenge your group to make the Bible their guide and final authority for all their decisions.
Welcome (15) – Fellowship
• Were you ever appointed to replace a very talented and successful person? Share how it feels.
• What do you think is the reason why some people are successful in life while others are not?
Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read Joshua 1:1-8
• What is God promising Joshua and the people of Israel? v1-5,8
• How would you feel if God promises you prosperity and success? v5
• Why do we need to be reminded that God will be at our side at all times? v5
• Why is God telling Joshua to be brave, courageous so many times? v6,7,9
• What does it mean not to turn to the right or left from the law? v7
• What do you think God is trying to tell us in v8?
• How can we meditate on it daily and keep it in our mouths? v8
• Why is success and prosperity tied with obeying and following God’s counsel in the Bible?
• What benefits could we experience if we make the Bible our guide when making daily decisions?
• Share an experience where following God’s advice gave you success.
• How are you integrating the principles of the Bible to your daily life?
• Would you like to study the Bible, get to know Jesus, and discover the divine principles for success?
• What is God telling you tonight?
• To do: Write now on a small card the key text of this week Joshua 1:8. Carry it in your wallet or pocket, place it in your fridge and memorize it.
Works (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• What can we do as a group to promote the Bible as the key to a successful life?
• Do you know anyone that needs to make the Bible the foundation of his/her life? how can we help them decide to follow God and His word?
• Write their names and invite them to next week group meeting
• Share the vision of reaching others so they can have Jesus as their Savior and experience real success in life.
• Find the way by which you can talk to people during refreshments. Try to talk to those new in the group. Build relationships!
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
My grandmother on my mother’s side passed away a couple years ago at the ripe age of 100. A person with so many years is quite a treasure to have, with so many stories about the old days. However, old stories of days gone by is not what I remember about my grandmother. When I was little I remember playing the rummy game with her. But as I got older, even up until the end, I would go to see her and ask if she wanted to play a game of rummy like we used to. Every time her answer was, “No, I have learned a new game. Let’s play it instead.” I got tired of having to learn the rules to new games all the time, but every time I turned around she had learned a new game. She loved talking about current events. She was always open to trying new restaurants. While she was a centenarian, she simply did not live in the past. You had to probe her to talk about the past. Oh, she did not mind talking about the olden days once you asked her about them, she was so caught up in the here and now that those things did not come to mind unless you asked. She was not a has been. She was always living in the present.
This is how I picture God when I read this week’s SS lesson key verse, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 God is not a has been either. Sure the Bible is full of rich history which our lesson brings out, but the Bible and God are also very much in the present and future.
When the Israelites entered Canaan they were to take all of the land. However Judges 1 tells us, “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” Really? Those chariots of iron were just too much for God huh? I don’t think so. That was no excuse and God knew it. Earlier in Joshua 17:8 God Commanded, “for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.” So what was the problem? Zephaniah talking about the church says, “And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees.” Those who are settled on their lees are riding on their past reputation. They have a lot of accomplishments under their belts and they are content to relax with that and be satisfied with past successes. I imagine this was true of the Israelites when they entered Canaan. They had crossed through the Red Sea and the Jordan River. God had seen them through a lot. Let’s stop now and just rest. Why go further? The iron chariots was just the excuse they used to stop where they were, and become a bunch of has beens, content to rest on past accomplishments. That is not my God! That is not the God of the Bible. God is not a has been. God is not just a historical Figure. He is in the here and now! Instead of sitting in His rocking chair talking about what He did in the past He is planning His next great accomplishment in the future!
In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us.- Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, page 31.
There are many valuable lessons in Bible history to strengthen our faith in a lot of areas. As we learn those lessons, we can relax like the tribe of Judah did in Canaan, and rock back and forth in our old rocker thinking wow that was great, or we can be like my grandmother who even at a hundred years was ready for the next new thing. I have to believe some of the greatest stories of victory and triumph in the Christian era have yet to be written. I don’t believe God wants a church that sits around and talks about the great days gone by when our sanctuary used to be filled and our programs used to be strong. I think God is well capable of driving out the iron chariots and making it so that each new day we can say “We have never tasted success as wonderful as the success God had given us today!”
My grandmother could tell you a lot of wonderful stories about how God led her in the past, yet she was always excited about the present. Even in the nursing home where she stayed briefly, before coming back to my aunt’s home where she died, she was making new friends that she dearly loved. She never compared her current friends with her friends from years gone by. She was happy where she was and with who she was with. She loved life to the very end. Well it hasn’t ended yet. My grandmother has fallen asleep. She needs her rest, because when she wakes up, she has a big day ahead of her! That’s how my God and my Grandmother are. Always ready for the next big thing!
You may download the SS Lesson Guides to your cell phone or Ipod here.