6: Abraham’s Seed-Teaching Plan

6: Abraham’s Seed – Teaching Plan

Prepared by William Earnhardt

Key Thought: God’s true Israel is the people of faith: persons who live in a spiritual covenant relationship with Him.
May 8, 2021

1. Have a volunteer read Ezekiel 16:8Deuteronomy 7:6

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
  2. What made Israel special to God?
  3. Personal Application: What message do Seventh-day Adventists have that is special? Why do we need to be careful not to think we are automatically saved just because we are Adventists? See Jeremiah 7:3-7 and Matthew 7:21-23.
  4. Case Study: Your neighbor asks you why you keep the Sabbath, saying it was only given to the Jews as a sign they were God’s people. What do you tell your neighbor?

2. Have a volunteer read Jeremiah 11:8.

  1. Ask class members to share what the main idea of this text is?
  2. What are the blessings of the covenant? What are the curses?
  3. Personal Application: What role does obedience play concerning our entering the promised land? For example Israel lost some of their land to Babylon and Rome due to disobedience. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden by grace with no works of their own yet they lost it by disobedience. What lesson is there for us concerning entering the promised land and new earth?
  4. Case Study: Your neighbor tells you his pastor says once you are saved there is no way you can be lost. What do you say to your neighbor? What Bible passages do you share?

3. Have a volunteer read Galatians 3:26-29.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. What promises are we heirs to? What happened to make us heirs to these promises?
  3. Personal Application: What does Paul mean by we are no longer Jew or gentile or male and female? Why is it important in light of today’s current issues to know exactly what Paul meant?
  4. Case Study: Your friend tells you that the literal nation of Israel is still God’s special nation. What do you tell your friend? What Bible passages do you use? For example was Peter talking to Jews only in 1 peter 2:9? Why or why not?

4. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 28:1,15

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. What land was to be given and what were the obligations of the recipients?
  3. Personal Application: What promised land is given in the New Covenant? What conditions do we have in getting there?” Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.”Ministry of Healing, p. 148).

Go Light Your World, Go Light Your Universe

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” Genesis 15:5 NLT 

Of course Abram’s most important descendant is Jesus, but each descendant has his or her own sphere of influence just like the stars. The other day I was reading a book about stars to a group of first graders when a thought came to me. While our sun gives us light by day and even by night via its reflection off the moon, the stars still contribute to lighten our nights. That means that while being  the sun in another solar system galaxies away, that sun in another solar system contributes its light to our solar system as well even though to us it is just another one of the billion stars. Likewise if you are a parent, to your family you are the sun, but to your children’s friends you are still a star as your influence goes beyond your own family or “solar system.” If you are a teacher or pastor or Sabbath School teacher you are the sun to your class or church, but often throughout the day a teacher and pastor will minister outside their own church or class. It may be as small as tying the shoe of child in the hallway from another classroom or just speaking a word of encouragement in an assembly. For a pastor it may be getting a random phone call from someone who has a problem they are too embarrassed to talk to their own pastor about. And of course a sphere of influence is not limited to parents, pastors and teachers. I think the universe teaches us a valuable lesson that just as the sun’s light is not limited to its own solar system so our light goes beyond our little sphere as well.  I am just using pastors and teachers as an easy example. A teacher may be the sun in her classroom (solar system) but she is still a star giving light to the rest of her school (Universe or if you are a college professor you can say university, pun intended.) A pastor may be the sun to his church but he is still a star in his conference and community. 

A sun of course is simply a star and even the closest star is still 5.88 trillion miles away, but amazingly we still benefit from its light. It should be a sobering thought to realize how far away our influence is felt. We may be thinking we are too small or far away to make a difference but we do make a difference often without even realizing it. Years ago I was working in a 5th and 6th grade Adventist classroom. One day I was walking to my car when I saw a group of fourth graders playing football. A girl was running with the ball while the boys were trying to catch her. I yelled our her name and said, “Run! Run!” I got in my car and drove away never giving it another thought. The next morning the girl’s mother came up to me and told me, “My daughter told me she was playing football with the boys yesterday and was running with the ball. She said she was about to give out and about to get caught when she heard you call out her name and yell run. She said that gave her an extra boost of energy and she ran for the touchdown!” 

While I was not the sun in her classroom, by speaking three simple encouraging words I was one of hopefully billions of stars speaking encouraging words into her life. While I got in my car and never gave it another thought I found out later those simple words made a difference. A big enough difference she had to share them with her mother. 

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16. NLT

My friend, go light your world. Go light your universe.  

"Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever." Daniel 12:3 NLT 

Better Promises Make a Better Covenant

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The story goes of a man who got a job chopping down trees. The first day his foreman noticed he had cut down only ten trees while the other men had cut down a hundred or so. “Oh well,” thought the foreman, “it was his first day.” But the next couple days went the same way, so the foreman decided to have a talk with the new worker. “I am sure you have noticed you are not cutting down nearly as many trees as the others are,” the foreman began. “Yes I know, Sir, but I am having trouble with this saw you gave me,” said the new worker. The foreman took a look at the saw and pulled the cord to start the motor. The buzz of the motor scared the new worker, and he jumped back shouting, “What is that sound?” 

The new worker did not realize he was not expected saw down a hundred trees in his own power. He did not realize what power was available to him. It’s the same way with us.

Many people shirk at keeping the law, thinking it is an impossibility, not realizing they were never expected to keep it in their own power, and like the power saw, there is plenty of power available.

If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:7-10

There are those who would have us believe that the Ten Commandments were done away with because God realized they were unreasonable and could not be obeyed. However that is not the case.

Psalms 19:7 KJV says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

A popular urban legend tells about a captain on a battleship who spotted a light off in the distant fog and radioed the source of the light telling it to change its course 15 degrees to avoid a collision. The response came back that the ship needed to change its course instead. The arrogant sea captain once again demanded the other vessel change its course instead, threatening reprisals, if his demands were not met. The response was, “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

So it is in life. Many people want the law to be changed just like the ship wanted the lighthouse to change, but lighthouses don’t move out of the way and neither does the law. The law is perfect. The law does not need to change. The law is not faulty. Hebrews 8:8 NLT says the fault was not with the law but with the people. So why would God change the law when the law was not the problem?

The New Covenant was not an afterthought after the first covenant did not work. The new covenant was actually God’s original plan. What we call the “old covenant” was actually man’s idea – thinking he could save himself by his own strength and effort. It was not a faith response. (See Heb. 4:2) Man’s effort failed, so in what we call the New Testament God re-introduces His original plan from the Old Testament, and says “Are you ready to give up trying to do it on your own? and let me write my law on your heart Myself?

The fault of the people was in trying to keep the law in their own power. God made a covenant with the people, and instead of them asking for God’s help they confidently replied,

“We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 19:8 NLT

God knew this was never going to work from the get-go. He knew they could not keep His Law in their own power. This is why God says in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33 NLT,

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” 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.”

You see, the old covenant was not called old because it was the first covenant. It was called old because it was a useless covenant that God never asked them to make. He never asked Abraham to have a son on his own. He never asked us to keep the commandments on our own. This is what Paul is talking about in Hebrews 8:6 NLT when He says the new covenant is, “based on better promises.”

In the “old” covenant the people in Exodus 19:8 were the ones making promises God never asked them to make. I don’t need to tell you how worthless man’s promises are. The new covenant is based on better promises because they are God’s promises!

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 NLT

The law was never the problem. The problem was the people and their worthless promises. Even in the Old Testament we find the new and better covenant when Abraham becomes the father of Isaac, based on God’s promise. We find the new and better covenant based on better promises in Jeremiah 31:33 when God is promising to write and establish the perfect law in the hearts of men, not by their own power and promises, but by His power and promises.

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

2: Covenant Primer-Teaching Plan

Key Thought:The entrance of sin ruptured the relationship the Creator had originally established with the human family through our first parents. Now God seeks to re-establish that same loving relationship by means of a covenant. This covenant signifies both a committed relationship between God and us (like a marriage bond) and an arrangement for saving us and bringing us into harmony with its Maker. God Himself, motivated by His great love for us, is the Initiator of the covenant relationship. By gracious promises and gracious acts, He woos us to come into union with Him.

Prepared by William Earnhardt


April 10, 2021

1. Have a volunteer read Genesis 6:18.

  1. Ask class members to share the main idea of this passage.
  2. What is a covenant? What part did Noah play in this covenant?
  3. Personal Application: What was Noah’s obligation in this covenant? What is our obligation in the New Covenant?
  4. Case Study: One of your friends asks why was Noah’s family involved in an agreement between God and Noah? Did they have a choice too? What would you tell your friend?

2. Have a volunteer read Genesis 12:1-3.

  1. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
  2. What specific promises did God make to Abraham?
  3. Personal Application: How do the promises made to Abraham apply to us? See Galatians 3:29.
  4. Case Study: Someone asks, “What does it mean that in Abraham shall all families of the earth be blessed? What do you tell them?

3. Have a volunteer read Exodus 6:1-8.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. What does this teach us about the faithfulness of God’s promises, seeing how the people promised had all died? Are we bound to promises we have made to people even after they die?
  3. Personal Application: What parallels can we find between what God promised here and the promises made to those who are bound by sin?
  4. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “What is similar or different in this covenant with Israel compared to the new covenant of Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16?” How would you respond to your neighbor?

4. Have a volunteer read Jeremiah 31:31-33.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. How is this covenant new beings how its still in the Old Testament?
  3. Personal Application: Is the law in the old covenant different from the law in the new covenant? What is new and different about the new covenant?
  4. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.”Ministry of Healing, p. 149).

Trusting God’s Promises Alone

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in princes. Psalm 118:9 NLT

When you read this week’s lesson on how Ahaz sought support from surrounding nations instead of God alone, did it remind you of times you trusted in people and they let you down? It did me. I almost hesitate to share this example with you because I am sure you have enough examples of your own! But because this is a blog post and I am expected to give examples I will share a couple.

I bought a used car at a car lot, and I was getting ready to drive away I told the salesman that I never thought to check the trunk to see if there was a spare tire and jack. The salesman grinned and assured me it was in there. So without checking, I drove away. Not a week later, while on the Interstate, I had a flat tire. As I pulled to the shoulder of the road I was patting myself on the back for making sure I had a spare and a tire jack. I opened up the trunk and saw the spare tire but no tire jack! I thought what am I going to do now? Before I could even call for help, it had already arrived. A friend who just happened to be passing by spotted me and pulled over in front of me. He had a tire jack. I was saved! Even though things worked out, I still went back to the car lot and gave the salesman an ear full. He apologized and gave me a tire jack out of the trunk of another car. I thought oh great now the same thing is going to happen to whoever buys this car. I don’t remember if I told the salesman to be sure and replace the jack in that car. Hopefully whoever bought that car actually looked in the trunk!  Through this experience,  I learned an important lesson. While man misled me and let me down, God still had my back. God caused a friend to pass by at exactly the right time.

A married couple I will call John and Jane were working with me in an Adventist conference many years ago. One of the conference leaders was not treating the employees fairly. When I went to confront the conference leader, John and Jane told me this conference leader was “The Lord’s anointed” and therefore could do no wrong. I knew better than that. We all make mistakes. None of us are perfect. The Bible also gives us plenty of examples of the Lord’s anointed still making mistakes and needing faithful Christian confrontation. 2 Samuel 12 gives us the example of Nathan confronting the Lord’s anointed. It was not a year later until this same conference leader seriously wounded John and Jane. Since their confidence was in the human leadership of the church, instead of God alone, they not only left their positions in the conference, but they left the church completely. Thankfully after a little over ten years God led them back to the church. Still they never would have left, if their confidence had been in God instead of man.

I think we all already know, but it bears repeating that the only way not to be disappointed by people is to never expect anything from them. A few years ago a church I had worked with a long time could no longer afford to keep me but still gave me a very generous severance check as a parting gift. Around that time a friend told me she was behind on her child’s tuition at the local church school and had no way to pay it. I decided since God was generous to me, I wanted to be generous as well. I went into the office to pay off my friend’s tuition bill. The school administrator asked if I wanted her to tell my friend who paid the bill. I thought for a second and then realized over the years many people have supported my ministry, and while some of them have come and gone, over time it was always God who was providing the support. I had learned to trust in God instead of specific individual contributors. I recognized that while God was using me this time to help my friend, that next time it may be someone else God uses. Therefore it was actually God who was supporting my friend and not me. I just happened to be the instrument He was using this time. I told the administrator not to tell who paid the bill. My friend needed to know that it came from God not from me. My friend needed to know she could trust in God and not that she could trust in me!

We all have heard people say after going through a trial, “No one helped me but God!” Well that is not necessarily throwing shade at their friends. It is very possible God did not cause anyone else to help because God did not need anyone else to help. Like a center fielder calling the left fielder off as he catches the ball by yelling “I got it!” God may be waving our friends off by yelling, “I’ve got it!” It’s not that the left fielder was unwilling to help. He just wasn’t needed. Likewise sometimes God wants us to know He is all we need. He is ultimately the one taking care of us. He loves us. The healthiest thing we can do is to not trust people or hold them accountable for our wellbeing. Let’s trust God alone and hold Him totally and entirely accountable for our well-being.

My 2021 Devotional Book Recommendation is….

I am writing tonight from beautiful hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

… the Bible!

Apple pies are great. I love them, especially with whipped cream or ice cream on top. They make a great dessert, and yes, even with everything else that goes into them, the apples provide real nutrition. Even so, for a daily breakfast routine I would recommend an actual apple over an apple pie. I just think an actual apple is more nutritious than an apple pie. That doesn’t mean I’m throwing grandma’s apple pie recipe away. It just means on a daily basis I eat actual apples. My stomach only holds so much food and if its filled with apple pies, then there won’t be any room for actual whole apples.

Its the same with devotional books and the Bible. Of course God created us to be social creatures. I actually learn from other people’s comments in Sabbath School class and on Sabbath School Net. I learn from books other writers have written. So I am not suggesting you throw away your new 2021 devotional book any more than I am suggesting throwing away grandma’s apple pie recipe. Just make sure you are eating plenty of whole apples, and make sure you are actually reading the Bible. While serving as a literature evangelist I learned that during the years Arthur Maxwell wrote The Bible Stories , he read only the Bible as he did not want anyone else influencing his depictions of The Bible stories.

Last year while I was teaching a 4th-grade Bible class in a local Adventist School in which I occasionally substitute, I asked the children why do we pray before reading the Bible? I received several good answers, but my favorite came from a boy who answered “Because Proverbs 3 says we are not to trust our own understanding but to depend on God for understanding.” What a great application of Proverbs 3:5 I thought! 2 Peter 1:21 tells us that those who wrote Scripture were moved by the Holy Spirit. In John 16:13 Jesus assures us the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. The same Holy Spirit that moved the writers to write those words thousands of years ago, is the same Holy Spirit that teaches us as we read those words. The Holy Spirit can teach you as easily as any theologian.

When I preach on Sabbath I like to make sure I use plenty of Scripture. That way if my own thoughts are worthless at least people got to hear actual Scripture, which is valuable. Most of my illustrations are my own, but of course I get ideas from others as well. When we read the Bible for ourselves we also have ideas the Holy Spirit gives us to share with others. If we do not read the Bible for ourselves then we are only getting ideas from others. This is not fair to them or to us. We are not contributing our fair share and others are doing all the thinking for us. A mother breastfeeds her infant with the hopes that one day the infant will grow up to feed him or herself. Likewise we should not always rely on other authors to feed us. God wants to teach us all how to find our own spiritual bread in the Bible.

This is one reason why I love Michael Fracker’s Sabbath School Lesson Teaching plans. With his teaching plans the Sabbath School class actually studies the Bible instead of just reading the quarterly.

Apple pies are great but we need to eat a lot more whole apples than apple pies. Likewise we need to read the actual Bible for ourselves a lot more often than we read devotionals or commentaries. We need to read the Bible every day. That is why I am recommending the Bible as the devotional book for 2021.

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

Obedience is the Only Acceptable Expression of Respect

I am writing tonight from my beautiful hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

When I tell one of my students at school to clean the dry erase board he does not come up to me several minutes later saying, “I memorized what you told me to do.” Memorizing is not the goal. Obedience is the goal. This is why I find this week’s Sabbath School lesson so crucial as it stresses the importance of not only understanding or even memorizing the Bible but actually doing what it says. I know people who show great respect for the Bible by not placing anything on top of it or by not setting it on the ground, treating it much the way we do our nation’s flag. This is commendable, but I believe and I’m sure you do too, that the greatest way to show respect for God’s Word is to do what it says. Otherwise not stacking things on top of the Bible or not letting it touch the ground is meaningless if we are not doing what it says. After all what traitor could stand before a judge and say, “Sure I traded military secrets to the enemy but I never let the flag touch the ground.” Treating the flag with respect is meaningless if we are betraying the nation it represents.

Today when writing even a pronoun for God like “He” and “Him” we capitalize the pronouns referring to God out of respect. However you may have already noticed that in the Bible the pronouns for God are not capitalized. What gives? Did the Bible translators have no respect for God and His holiness? No, they had great respect for God, but they realized that the best way to show respect for God is to do what He says, and not just simply write His name with capital letters. After all, writing pronouns referring to God with capital letters is quite hallow if we are not exhibiting the greatest form of respect which is obedience. 

After all, nowhere in Scripture does it tell us not stack anything on top of the Bible or make sure we write pronouns referring to God with capital letters. Nowhere in Scripture are we told the importance of merely memorizing Scripture if we are not prepared to actually  do what it says. In Luke 10 a lawyer engages Jesus in a theological discussion regarding the law and salvation. Jesus commends the lawyer for his theory on theology. But even as Jesus commends his theory as being theologically correct He also lets him know more than head knowledge and theory is required. 

Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” Luke 10:28 NLT 

Jesus was not satisfied with theological head knowledge. Jesus wanted the lawyer to do what the law says. Jesus then illustrates His point with the story of the good Samaritan, who practiced loving his neighbor. The Samaritan was doing in the story what the lawyer was only talking about. At the end of the story Jesus reiterates the importance of doing what the law says instead of just studying and memorizing the law. 

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Luke 10:37 NLT 

A few years ago I was a part of a discussion where someone was saying that we don’t need to obey the health and temperance principles in the Bible. We only need to call upon the name of the Lord and we will be saved. He referenced Romans 10:13. I agreed that Romans 10:13 does indeed say those who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved, but we can’t call Jesus “Lord” if we are not obeying Him. Matthew 7:21-23 makes it clear that we are calling on the name of the Lord in vain if we are not obeying His laws. After all obedience is the result of salvation. 

 Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. Philippians 2:12 NLT 

When Jesus was at the wedding party with His mother, and they ran out of wine, His mother told the servants something extremely simple but equally  profound.

“Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5 NLT 

Many years ago I was the guest speaker at a church where a family had just lost a child. The pastor explained to me that they would take up an offering for the family to help with funeral expenses and assured me they would still take up the customary offering to cover my expenses traveling to their church. When the plea was made for the family’s offering someone testified how poor the family was. I perceived the Holy Spirit nudging me to tell the pastor sitting on the platform with me to collect all of the money for the family  and not to take up an offering for me. I sat there a few moments considering what I felt the Holy Spirit telling me. Did I have the money to pay for this trip myself? Then I perceived the Holy Spirit speaking to my conscience again, “What is there to think about or consider? I just told you what to do!” I then leaned over and whispered in the pastor’s ear to forget about my offering and give it all to the family. I never missed the money I would have received that day. More importantly I did what I knew God was telling me to do. 

It was not enough for me to know what God was telling me to do. It was not enough for me to memorize what God was telling me to do. The minimum God was requiring of me was to actually do what He was telling me to do. So it is with studying God’s Word. It is not enough to study. It is not enough to understand. It is not enough to memorize. We must obey the Word of God. 

Video-Three Angels Message in Light of the Cross

 

https://ssnet.org/blog/thursday-why-interpretation-is-important/

https://williamdearnhardt.com/2011/09/16/the-three-angels-message-and-the-gospels-triumph-over-babylons-legalsim/

https://williamdearnhardt.com/2016/02/23/the-three-angels-messages-and-the-triumph-of-the-gospel-over-legalism-part-2/

It’s the Little Things That Make a big Difference

Arkansas River

I am writing today from my beautiful hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Its funny the memories that stay lodged in my mind. The impromptu summer afternoon trip to the ice cream shop with grandma ranks right up there with Thanksgiving dinner. The meaningful 30 minute conversation with my friend on the west coast who accidentally pocket dialed me at 2 AM my time was more fun than the call I got on my birthday.  Sometimes its a simple compliment from the heart of a stranger who you never see again, but never forget just because of the way they made you feel that one time you met. I’ve heard it said, and I’m sure you have too, that what we remember most about people is how they made us feel. I believe this is especially true about our leaders.

As I studied this week’s Sabbath School lesson about leaders I found my self reminiscing not only about leaders in the church, but also leaders in the secular work place. And why not? After all, while we discuss the theory of the Gospel in Sabbath School class, the workplace is where we exercise the Gospel. While I have been a full time Bible Worker most of my career there have been times I also had to pick up a secular side job to support myself and my ministry. I believe my example in the workplace is so crucial that over the years, when I arrive at my secular job I pray the same prayer I pray before taking the pulpit to preach Sabbath morning. I would say its even more crucial because behind the pulpit I am just talking for maybe 30 minutes, but at work I am demonstrating the Gospel for several hours.

One the jobs I had several years ago when I was a Bible Worker and lay pastor in Texas was being a part time supervisor at UPS. And its there that I had three simple encounters with my own supervisors that years later I have never forgotten, and this week’s lesson brought them to mind once again.

I supervised the people loading the brown delivery trucks. When a worker could not show up and I could not find a replacement I sometimes had to load a few trucks myself. When this would happen I would always go to the break room to get my favorite cold drink and some chips, set them in the back of the truck so I could  enjoy them as I was going in and out of the trucks. Early one morning the packages were already stacking up in an area before I realized the worker was not there. I had no time to find someone or even alert my own supervisor as to what was going on, much less go to the break room for my ritual. I had to jump in there  right away and get to work. About thirty minutes later my own supervisor came by with my favorite drink and chips and placed them in the back of the truck for me. A very simple gesture but it meant a lot because it showed she knew me, and even though it was not necessary for my work she wanted me to be happy.

Drinks and chips are not the only things I had in the back of the trucks. I often placed my cell phone in the back of the trucks. One morning after the trucks had all left to run all over town, I realized my phone was still in the back of one of them. I told the day time supervisor who called the driver to see where I could meet him to retrieve my phone which I did. Later in the day my cell phone rang. It was the daytime supervisor making sure I got my phone okay. Wow! I thought. Those daytime supervisors are so busy how did he even remember me? And why would he remember? My phone wasn’t his problem or responsibility. It meant a lot to me that in such as busy time crunched place like UPS a full time supervisor for another shift, with plenty of responsibilities and problems of his own, took the time to make sure I found my phone.

Before I became a part time supervisor in the loading area I was a sorter. One morning while sorting away I turned to the belt behind me and my eye caught the zip code of a package right as it went by. I instantly realized that zip code did not go on that belt. Another sorter miss sorted it. I quickly grabbed it and placed it on the correct belt as I kept up sorting my own packages. My supervisor walked by and patted me on the back telling me he saw what I just did. He commended my eagle eye. A couple years later was when I became a part time supervisor in the loading area. At the end of one of my shifts I failed to realize that a next day air package was still left on the belt. The next day the manager over the entire building was very upset with me. I probably would have been in hot water had it not been for my former supervisor years ago when I was a sorter. He took it upon himself to go to the building manager and tell him how he thought I was one of the best workers he ever had. When the building manager later talked to me, he told me my old supervisor told him about the package I caught on the wrong belt and how I corrected it, even though in my position I was not expected to. The building manager told me I was not going to be in any trouble.

Again UPS is a hard nose job and it amazed me that a former supervisor took the time and effort to stand up for me even though he had nothing to gain one way or the other if anything happened to me or not.  In these stories I recall each leader showed true character even though they were outside of church and in a place where it is a struggle for even the best of church members to show good character. Each experience may have been small within itself, but I will never forget them. I also try to be what I admire in each of these leaders.

Love Comes First

Indian Rocks 5

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

If you love me, obey my commandments. John 14:15 NLT

Jesus didn’t say, “if you want to go to heaven, obey my commandments.” He did not say, “if you don’t want to go to hell, obey my commandments.” Okay we already knew all that, but while studying Monday’s lesson about the works of the law, it occurred to me something else Jesus did not say. He did notsay, “If you obey my commandments then I will love you.” He said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” I believe this is what Paul meant when he said we are not justified by the works of the law. The works of the law don’t lead us to God’s love. God already loves us! His love leads us to His law of love.

Paul does not teach earning love by our works, but rather working because we are already loved.

working through love. Galatians 5:6 NKJV

What is important is faith expressing itself in love. Galatians 5:6 NLT

The Adventure’s pledge goes, “Because Jesus loves me, I will always do my best.” The pledge does not go, “I will always do my best so Jesus will love me.”

Please take a look with me at a couple of passages, where Paul uses the phrase “Works [or deeds] of the law.”

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. … Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:28-31 NLT

Notice, justification by faith establishes the law. That’s because God is the One doing the justifying and God is love and His law is love, which is why Paul says that justification by love will establish the law of love.

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! Galatians 2:16-17 NKJV

Paul makes it clear that our works will not lead to God’s favor, but God’s favor will lead us to works of love. God’s love and justification will not lead us to sin. Paul says Christ is not the minister of sin. He does not give us grace so that we can continue in sin and disobedience. Suppose I promised to pay everyone’s speeding tickets here in Florida. An officer pulls a man over and gives him a $200.00 speeding ticket. “No problem!” the man says, “I will just take this ticket over to William and he will pay for it.” And the next time he does the same thing and the next time. By paying his speeding ticket all the time I would be encouraging him to speed! This is very dangerous. Paul says this is not how grace works. Grace and justification by faith lead to obedience.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

Notice God’s grace does not respond to our faith. Our faith responds to God’s grace. God does not say, “William has faith so I will give him grace.” God gives me grace and that is why I have faith. Notice too in the passage that while works do not lead to grace, grace leads to good works. In legalism our works lead to God’s favor.  In the gospel God’s favor leads to our good works.

As with us, this is how Jesus justified the woman taken in adultery.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

Notice Jesus did not tell her that if she would go and sin no more that He would not condemn her. It is because He gave her favor instead of condemnation that she could go and sin no more.

In legalism and pagan religions, the works of the law lead to the gods love and acceptance. In the gospel God’s love and acceptance lead us to express our love by doing good works, because we love Him because He already loves us!

Thus Jesus said,

If you love me, obey my commandments. John 14:15 NLT