Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Relationship with God Provides Freedom from Fear (Romans 8:14-17)

This is one of the richest and most beautiful passages. In it the apostle Paul explains the believer's intimate and permanent relationship to God as a beloved child. Through Paul the Spirit of God describes every Christian as children and sons of God. As children we are in God's family, as sons we have both privilege and responsibility. Paul reminds us that as those who are in God's family are led by the Spirit, have access to God as our Father, and are granted inner assurance by the Holy Spirit.

We are Led by the Spirit
As I understand it, the word in Romans 8:14 has the thought of being "willingly led". In other words there is a yielding process on our part. We can connect the teaching of Galatians 5:16-26 where we read again about being led by the Spirit in 5:18. Neither of these passages are speaking to a special class of people. They are speaking about what should characterize all and every one who professes to follow Christ! This is an amazing passage. It teaches us that the moment we enter the family of God we are not seen simply as babies in Christ. A baby can't talk, walk or make decisions or draw on the family wealth! We can walk and be led by the Spirit. We have liberty to follow the Spirits leading. We can speak and cry out "Abba Father."

We have Access to the Father
First the Spirit cries "Abba Father" in us (Gal. 4:6). Then He cries through us, as we cry "Abba Father." It is proof of a Relationship. In Romans 5:1-2 we are taught, "having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Again in Ephesians 3:12 we are reminded "we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him." As children of God we can draw on His spiritual wealth. We are not only heirs but joint heirs with Chris: what ever is His, will be shared! How amazing! What is required on our part, to be "willing yielded up to Him" if we are to enjoy our privileged position in Christ. Don't leave this up to a select few, it is for every Christian!

We have Assurance
To give us further assurance of our eternal relationship to the Father, the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. The Holy Spirit is constantly present to provide inner testimony to our divine adoption and eternal position before God. He does this through working in us by illumination and sanctification, as well as through the longing for fellowship with the Father. Paul may have the truth of the fruit of the Spirit which he emphasizes in Galatians 5:22-23 in mind here. The Holy Spirit produces it in us and it provides evidence that we belong to God. 

The Lord desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). In other words, God would like all of humanity to accept Christ as Savior. We can see at least for wonderful truths that the Father longs for His children to know.

Salvation. It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict us of our sinfulness and bring us to the knowledge that Jesus Christ died for our sin. When we receive the Lord as our personal Savior, we are reconciled to God and accorded full fellowship with Him. This happens the moment salvation occurs. Our sin debt is paid in full so we are free from guilt. Also, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit for eternity and set apart for God's service. 

Identity. What is our identity in the Lord? Believers are children of God. The Bible calls us joint heirs with Christ in other words, we share in the wealth of the Lord Jesus. Also, we have been transformed from sinners into saints. We may not always act saintly, but a true saint is someone who has been saved and set apart for the purposes of God. 

Position. Jesus Christ is always present to guide and provide for the believer. Through Him, we have instantaneous access to God the Father. 

Mission. Our primary mission in life is to demonstrate Christ to the world. Believers should live in such a way that others see the life of Jesus within us. And because we understand the wonder of our salvation, our identity in Christ, and our position to the Father, we share about the Savior with other people. God wants everyone to know the truth.

Lesson 12: Turning Hearts in the End Time (1 Kings 18, Matthew 17)

This is a study from Go.Bible which is an excellent resource for Christians produced by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D and used by permission. As we continue these studies on the family, let me just say that I may not agree with all of the applications the author makes, but for the most part the material is very good and the real benefit is to open God's Word and search the Scriptures!

Introduction: This week I saw the story of a couple who, with the passage of time, saw the romance drain out of their marriage. The wife was then diagnosed with a brain aneurism. Knowing they had very limited time left together, the couple rekindled the original excitement of their marriage. It took a tragedy to make the couple focus on what was important. Our study this week is about God focusing our attention on what is important, especially as we consider the time of His Second Coming. Let's dive into our study!

Drought
1. Read 1 Kings 16:29-32. What kind of King is Ahab? What are his sins?

2. Read 1 Kings 17:1. What claims does Elijah make to King Ahab? (That his God is alive and that He controls the rain.)

3. Why do you think God chose rain to be the point of contention? (Read Deuteronomy 11:16-17. Here and elsewhere in the Bible God links the blessing of rain to fidelity to Him. The Bible Knowledge Commentary tells us Baal was claimed to be the god of rain.)

4. Give me the big picture here. What is God doing? (He is challenging Baal. He is bringing the attention of the people to the issue of who is the true God? Who is worthy to be worshiped?)

The Contest
1. Read 1 Kings 18:1. What do you think the land was like after three years of no rain or dew?

2. If you were Elijah, how would you greet these instructions from God?

3. Read 1 Kings 18:17-18. Has King Ahab learned his lesson? I thought the lesson was that the Living God was in charge? Hasn't King Ahab learned that lesson?

4. Read 1 Kings 18:19-20. What picture do you have in your mind of this event? (They are on a mountain top. The people of Israel have assembled to watch. On one side is Elijah and on the other side are 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah along with King Ahab.) If you were an outsider and were picking a winner in this contest, which side would you pick?

5. Read 1 Kings 18:21. What is Elijah asking the people to do? (He is asking them the same question I just asked you: Which side will you choose to win? Which side will prevail?)

6. Why does Elijah ask this? Is this our task today? To present the choices to others? To try to get a commitment?

7. What rousing response did the people give? (They said nothing.) Is this lack of response good or bad?

8. Or, is this just typical? Are the people sheep who are ready to be led? (The good news is that they have been paying attention to the issue of the drought enough so that they do not cheer for Baal, even though the king and 850 prophets are on Baal's side. I think it is typical that people want to wait and see.)

9. Read 1 Kings 18:22-24. We finally get a response from the people. To what do they respond? (They respond to the offer of clear evidence.)

10. Read 1 Kings 18:25-38. How about this for clear proof?

11. Notice 1 Kings 18:37. What is Elijah's goal?

12. Read 1 Kings 18:39. How do the people respond to clear proof? (With a clear decision.) Don't you wish that God would act like this today?

13. Review in your mind what we have just studied. What plan of God do we see in this story? (People turn away from God. God creates a dramatic problem for them that creates doubt in the strength of the false god. When God has their attention, He arranges an unbelievable show of power.)

John the Baptist
1. Read Matthew 17:1-3. What is in the future for our friend Elijah? (He goes to heaven and then gets to come back to earth to see Jesus.)

2. Read Matthew 17:9-13. How does the work of John the Baptist compare to the work of Elijah? (Read Matthew 3:1-3. They were both working to bring the attention of the people back to God. They were a critical part of bringing the people together to view a great manifestation of the power of God.)

3. Compare Jesus coming to earth to the fire coming down on Mt. Carmel? How does it compare in the power department?

4. How does it compare in the miracle department? How does it compare in the attention- getting department?

5. Read 1 Kings 18:38. How does this remind you of Jesus? (Jesus "burned up" the sacrificial system. This entire system pointed to Him and He fulfilled it.)

The End Time
1. Read Malachi 3:17-18. What time is being written about in these texts?

2. Read Malachi 4:1-3. The time reference in the prior text was not clear to me. What clarity does this text bring?

3. Read and compare 2 Peter 3:11-13. (There is no doubt in my mind now that Malachi 4:1-3 is at least talking about the Second Coming of Jesus.)

4. Read Malachi 4:5-6. We had "Elijah" come in the person of John the Baptist before Jesus first coming. Is it reasonable to expect another "Elijah" before the Second Coming of Jesus? Is this a repeating prophecy? (I think the answer is "yes.")

5. What is the impact of Elijah on families of faith at the end times? (He will bring families of faith together.)

6. Why will that be true? (Difficult circumstances can bring us closer.)

7. We see God repeating a pattern. First it was between Elijah and the fire on Mt. Carmel and then John the Baptist and the power of Jesus. Tell me what you predict will be the first act of the Elijah experience before the Second Coming?

8. Recall that God went straight for the "power" of Baal? Baal was the god of rain and there was no rain. What is the god of our age? (It is hard for me to speak about other countries, but the god of our age in the United States is money and possessions.)

9. What does this logically suggest is God's first step to prepare us for the Second Coming? (Strike our wealth.)

10. If you doubt this, read Revelation 3:17-18 and Revelation 13:16-17. Both texts speak of money being a problem. The second text tells us that the penalty for the faithful will be a loss of the use of money.

11. After the "attention-getter" (the rain drought/ money drought) what will be the next logical step? (The dramatic display of God's awesome power! In the end time we get the previous two displays repeated. We get Jesus coming for the second time(Revelation 19), and He ultimately sends fire to consume the wicked! (Revelation 20)

12. Friend, will you give God your attention and your loyalty? The Elijah test is coming. Strengthen your faith, strengthen your family so that you will be prepared!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lesson 11 What Have They Seen In Your House? (Isaiah 38 & 39, Deuteronomy 6)

This is a study from Go.Bible which is an excellent resource for Christians produced by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D and used by permission. As we continue these studies on the family, let me just say that I may not agree with all of the applications the author makes, but for the most part the material is very good and the real benefit is to open God's Word and search the Scriptures!

Introduction: Many years ago I was invited to have dinner with one of my clients whose religious freedom I was defending. He had a large number of children and dinner was remarkably quiet compared to dinner at home with my two children. His children did not fight, indeed, they did not even talk to each other. When I asked about this, my client said they had a rule that at dinner the children did not speak unless spoken to. I went home and did some soul searching about whether I was deficient in my parenting skills. To this day I am not sure. I would like to find out how this client's children turned out when they grew up. The client's home arrested my attention. How does your home appear to others? Is it a witness for your Christian values? Or, is it a witness to your selfishness? Let's dive into our study on that topic!

Hezekiah's Illness 
1. Read Isaiah 38:1. Put yourself in Hezekiah's place. What are your thoughts? The New Bible Commentary puts Hezekiah's age at 39. What does that add to your thoughts? (If you have ever been tested for a fatal disease or diagnosed with one, you probably have a good idea of the thoughts running through Hezekiah's mind.) 

2. Read Isaiah 38:10-11 where Hezekiah recounts his thoughts. 

3. Read Isaiah 38:2-3. What kind of attitude does Hezekiah have? (I deserve to live. I'm a good guy.) 

4. Is Hezekiah right to have this attitude? (His attitude is understandable. No doubt I would pray the same thing, but the bottom line is that God owes us nothing. We owe Him everything. Moreover, we need to trust God to do the right thing. One commentary that I read put a better light on Hezekiah by arguing that he was simply asking God to spare him so he could continue to reform his country.) 

5.Read Isaiah 38:4-6. What does this teach us about our God? (He is compassionate to us. He listens to us.) 

6. What kind of relationship did Hezekiah have with God? (It seems that they were in regular contact through the prophet Isaiah.) 

7. Read Isaiah 38:7-8. Anyone here have an explanation for how God did this? (Commentaries suggest this could be anything from a special refraction of the sun's rays to a reversal of the rotation of the earth.) 

8. The stairs were some sort of sun-dial. What is the significance of this sign? (God is altering time for Hezekiah.) 

9. Why such a remarkable sign from God? (Because He could! Consider God's compassion and unprecedented power when you face difficult circumstances.) 

10. Read Isaiah 38:21. Friends, I want you to try to explain this to me. The sign that God will heal Hezekiah theoretically involved altering the rotation of our planet. Yet the actual healing is a simple poultice of figs. Explain this please! (We can know a lot about God's character. But, predicting God's actions is quite another matter.) 

11. Should you see a doctor when you are sick and need a miracle? (Yes. There is precedent for it right here.) 

Hezekiah's House 
1. Read Isaiah 39:1-2. What caused the King of Babylon to contact Hezekiah and send envoys? (News of his recovery.) 

2. How likely is it that the Babylonians noticed that the sun went backwards? 

3. Put yourself in Hezekiah's place. What should you be talking about with the envoys from Babylon? What,"in your house," should you be highlighting? (The stated reason for the visit was Hezekiah's miraculous recovery. It was the obvious thing to highlight what God had done.) 

4. Instead, what did Hezekiah highlight? (Himself. All of his wealth pointed to him as a great and successful king.) 

5. Read 2 Chronicles 32:31. In God's eyes, what was the visit from the Babylonian envoys? (A test of what was in Hezekiah's heart.) 

6. Read again Isaiah 39:2 and explain the test to me? (King Hezekiah would have been dead if God had not intervened. The Babylonians came for the stated reason of learning about the miracle that brought Hezekiah back to health. King Hezekiah could have focused on what God had done for him or he could focus on his wealth - what he had done for the nation. Notice that in Isaiah 39:2 it keeps referring to "his" storehouses, armory, and treasures.) 

7. How about you? Do you want people to notice you or notice your God? Is it all about you or Him? What in your house do you want to show the world? 

8. I've previously told the story about the first humble house we bought and how my neighbor asked me, "If you're a lawyer, how come you live here?" For many years I commuted to work in a Honda I bought for $200 and an Isuzu truck I bought for $1,000. At the time, I thought God was leading me to these deals to teach me humility. Finally, He led me to an old, beautiful Mercedes and I figured the lesson was over. What I hated during those times was that my humble home and vehicles would cause people to think this reflected on my skills as a lawyer. Is this an application of the test God brought to Hezekiah? (Yes. The test is whether you are worried about your glory or God's glory. I was concerned about my glory. My attitude shows that I would have flunked Hezekiah's test.) 

9. Read Isaiah 39:5-7. How does the test turn out for Hezekiah? 


10. Think back over this entire story. Should we pray for God's will to be done in our illness or should we, like Hezekiah, ask for our will to be done? 

11. Read Isaiah 39:8. What does this teach us about Hezekiah's attitude at this stage in his life? (The man is incredibly selfish.) Is praying that our will be done selfish? Is praying that our will be done foolish? 

Hezekiah's Family 
1. Read Deuteronomy 6:10-12. What historical lesson did God want His people to remember when they entered the land God promised them? (To remember they were slaves and that God freed them.) 

2. Where were Hezekiah's descendants heading? (Isaiah 39:7: slavery.) 

3. What was Hezekiah modeling in his home regarding his children? (He did not show care for them. The result of his sin was that he brought his children back to the original calamity of slavery - and he did not seem to care.) 

4. Read Deuteronomy 6:4-8. What should be our attitude towards our children? 

5. If you have children in your home, do you have an active or passive program for teaching them about God? Do you personally teach them, or do you mostly leave it to the church? Or, the church school? 

6. If a stranger were in your home for two days, what would the stranger see regarding the influences on your children? 

Friend, what outsiders see in your home is no accident. What we do proceeds from the nature of our heart. Hezekiah told God (Isaiah 38:3) that he had been faithful, wholeheartedly followed God, and done what was right in God's eyes. But we see the worm of selfishness in him blossom into a pride of achievement that brings down the whole kingdom. Hezekiah comes to the point where he seems to care only about himself. Guard your heart, friend, and it will be reflected in your home.

Lesson 10 Families of Faith (1 Kings 11)

This is a study from Go.Bible which is an excellent resource for Christians produced by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D and used by permission. As we continue these studies on the family, let me just say that I may not agree with all of the applications the author makes, but for the most part the material is very good and the real benefit is to open God's Word and search the Scriptures!

Introduction: What impact does the popular culture have on your faith? On your decisions about what is right and wrong? If you lined up your favorite television program with the standards of the Bible, how close would they be? Over the years, I have proposed about a simple but painful test: compare the amount of time you spend each week watching television with the amount of time spent studying the Bible. If you spend more time with the television, it will have the larger influence on you. Cultural influences have been with us for a very long time, so let's jump into our lesson and study their effect on families of the past!

King Solomon
1. Read 1 Kings 10:23-25. What do we learn about King Solomon?

2. Put yourself in his place: how would you feel about yourself? About your life?

3. How would you handle your pride?

4. Read 1 Kings 10:26-29. We talk today about having "toys" (possessions for pleasure). You know the phrase: "He who dies with the most toys wins?" How was Solomon on the "toy" front?

5. Do you think God had an opinion on acquiring "toys?" If so, what was it? (Read Deuteronomy 17:16.)

6. God's command seems contrary to logic. Horses and chariots were not just toys, they were the most advanced military weapons of the day. Why do you think God commanded that His people have limited military ability? (The Bible Knowledge Commentary has it: "the Lord wanted His people to depend on Him for their protection.")

7. Read 1 Kings 11:1. What other distracting things did Solomon have going in his life? (Many foreign women.) What is the attraction of foreign women?

8. How many times have you seen this repeated in life: a man becomes wealthy and successful in his old age. He gets all new things and finally he gets a new wife. Sound familiar? I guess in Solomon's situation he never left any of the old wives!

9. Read 1 Kings 11:2. Solomon is King. It was popular and important for a head of state to marry into the family of other heads of state. This helped to keep your nation on good terms with other nations. What problem do you see with this political strategy? (God specifically told Solomon not to intermarry with women of other nations.)

10. Did Solomon obey God? Why do you think Solomon disobeyed?


11. There is another relevant command that is not mentioned in 1 Kings 11. Read Deuteronomy 17:17. How would you rate Solomon's obedience? (This command also says the King should not accumulate large amounts of gold and silver. 1 Kings 10:27 says Solomon made silver as common as stones.)

12. Read 1 Kings 11:3-6. Was God right in His warning about foreign wives?

13. Tell me what you think about God's standards. Our text never says that Solomon stopped believing in God. What was Solomon's sin as far as God was concerned? (Solomon did not follow God completely.)

14. What was the reason why Solomon did not follow God completely? (The "cultural" influence of his foreign wives.)

15. Look back again at 1 Kings 11:2. What does it say about Solomon's emotional ties to his foreign wives? (He held fast to them in love.) Put yourself in Solomon's place. He loves his foreign wives. He loves God. Love is natural and wonderful. Solomon does not "force his religion" on his wives. Thus, he slowly slips into another mind set. Could you rationalize this if you were Solomon?

16. How about you, friend? Does God have the same standard for you as He had for Solomon? Would it be fair to say that you follow God "completely?" Or, do you have this private little area of your life that you keep to yourself?

What impact does the culture have on you?

1. Is it fair to say that you "love" the culture around you?

2. Read 1 Kings 11:7-8. To what did the influence of Solomon's foreign wives ultimately lead?

3. Read 1 Kings 11:9-10. What was the result of Solomon's unfaithfulness? Notice that the text says that God "had appeared to [Solomon] twice." What point is being made? (The closer you are to God, the more He expects of you.)

4. Read Revelation 3:17. Would this apply to Solomon? Would it apply to you?

5. Read Ecclesiastes 4:13. Did Solomon ever realize the error of his ways?

6. Read 1 Kings 11:11-12. What, at bottom, is God's complaint about Solomon? (God goes to the heart of the matter: Solomon's attitude. Our attitude is what God is most concerned about. Because Solomon had the attitude of (Eccl. 4:13) "an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning," God could not work with Solomon. Solomon now trusted in himself rather than God.)

7. What do you think about the penalty being imposed on Solomon's son? (If you read the rest of the chapter, you will see that Solomon had to deal with the problem of hostile nations in his own life-time. The most important point, however, is how the faith of the parents have the ability to affect the lives of their children. David's devotion helped to protect Solomon. Solomon's unfaithfulness helped injure his son.)

Resisting the Culture
1. As we have been looking at Solomon, I keep going back to pick up sections of Deuteronomy 17. Let's read the sections I have brought to your attention earlier in this study. Read Deuteronomy 17:16-17.

2. Now lets read Deuteronomy 17:18-19. What is God's antidote to being sucked in by the popular culture? (One of the great blessings of writing this Bible study each week is that it forces me to constantly compare God's will with my own sinful life. I am convicted this week of my sin of not giving God every part of my life.)

3. Proverbs 2:1-5 is believed to be either collected or written by King Solomon. When he wrote this advice is another matter. Let's look at this text as if it were written after the events we have studied in 1 Kings 11. Let's break these verses down to learn the lessons Solomon teaches us on how to avoid being taken in by the popular culture.

4. Read Proverbs 2:1. What lesson do we find here? (We need to have an accepting and diligent attitude towards God's word. Studying God's word so diligently that we can remember His teachings.)

5. Read Proverbs 2:2. What lesson is here? (We need to read and apply God's word to our life. God's advice needs to become part of our heart.)

6. Read Proverbs 2:3-4. What lesson is here? (We need to search for the meaning in God's word.)

7. Read Proverbs 2:5. What lesson is here? (If we diligently seek God's wisdom, and apply it to our life instead of applying the wisdom of the popular culture, then God will reward us with an understanding of His will. Our standards will come from God and not the culture.)

Passing the Torch
1. Read Judges 2:6-10. What caused Joshua's generation to serve God and the following generation to turn away from God? ( Judges 2:7 says the first generation "has seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.")

2. How do we make sure this does not happen to us or to our children - that we turn away from God? (The things which God has done for His people are recorded in the Bible. Just as Bible study is important for us to resist the popular culture, so teaching our children the blessings of studying the Bible is important for keeping the works of God before their generation.)

Friend, one very important key to remaining faithful to God and resisting pagan culture is to diligently and open-mindedly study the Bible. Will you commit to that today? Will you commit to spending more time with your Bible then you spend with your television?

Lesson 9: Homes of Peace and Healing (Proverbs 12 & 29, Ephesians 4, Matthew 5)

This is a study from Go.Bible which is an excellent resource for Christians produced by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D and used by permission. As we continue these studies on the family, let me just say that I may not agree with all of the applications the author makes, but for the most part the material is very good and the real benefit is to open God's Word and search the Scriptures!

Introduction: How do we have a happy home? Sometimes it is not easy, sometimes the members of the home make things difficult. But, like everything else, God gives us directions for making our homes better places to live. Let's jump into the Bible and find out how to improve our family life!
Planned Peace
1. Read Proverbs 12:20. What would you say is the first step towards having peace in your home? How would you "promote peace?"(You have to make a decision that you want to have peace.)

2. How would you go about making that decision? Would you call a family meeting and discuss whether peace is worth pursuing?

3. What is the next step? (You have to do something. You need a plan of action. Proverbs 12:20 tells us that joy waits for those who promote peace. That means we need to make a decision and then create a plan of action.)

4. Read Ephesians 4:3. To what is peace compared?(A bond. If you want to hold your family together, you need to have a plan of action and then make an effort to have peace.)

5. Read Ephesians 4:2. When we use the term "bond," we think of something that ties us together - sort of like a rope. What are the strands of the "peace rope" that holds our families together? (Patience. Humility. Gentleness. Bearing with each other in love.)

6. How do you think your family will react when you explain that these are some of the elements of the peace rope? Are they ready to be humble, gentle, patient and loving? Or, is this just some sort of fantasy?

7. Our text seems to suggest that love is the basic ingredient which allows patience, humility and gentleness. Can we just decide to be loving? Can we just decide to be humble, patient and gentle?

8. Read Philippians 2:12-13. In the preceding verses of Philippians chapter 2, Paul has just discussed how humility promotes the goal of unity. How do we acquire humility? (God works in us to do His will. If you have trouble with the idea of waving a wand which suddenly causes you to become humble, patient or gentle, Paul suggests that it is God who can change our hearts. It is the working of God that changes our proud, impatient, harsh hearts into something else.)

Specific Advice.
1. Read Proverbs 29:17. The Proverbs give us some specific advice for achieving peace in the family. This text tells us to discipline our children so that we will have peace. What connection do you see between disciplining our children and having peace?

2. Doesn't it seem that imposing discipline creates anger?

3. Notice the ultimate future conclusion to discipline: delight to our soul!

4. Read Matthew 18:15. Would this apply to conflicts with our children?

5. Have you heard parents publically complaining about their children?

6. What impact do you think this has on our children?

7. What direction does Matthew 18:15 give us on this issue, if any?

8. Would this apply to "faults" between husband and wife?

9. Have you heard wives (husbands) complaining to others about their spouse?

10. Read Philippians 2:3. Give me some examples of how husbands and wives can violate this Biblical advice?

11. Give me some examples of how they can comply with this directive?

12. Read Colossians 3:12-14. Are these principles that should apply in our homes too?

13. If so, what does it mean to "clothe" ourselves with compassion, kindness, etc.? What relationship does forgiveness have to wearing compassion and kindness?

14. Notice that we are to "forgive as the Lord forgave you." How did Jesus forgive us?

15. Read Hebrews 8:12. Does this also apply to our forgiveness? Or, is this an attitude that will only apply in heaven?

Anger
1. Read Matthew 5:22. In addition to anger, what else is prohibited?

2. I remember speaking to a divorced lady and she said one of the most difficult problems in her marriage was that her former husband used to verbally attack her intelligence and make her feel stupid. Would that kind of treatment be prohibited by Matthew 5:22?

3. Read Ephesians 4:26-27. Is it okay to be angry for a little while? Is anger only transformed into a "foothold for Satan" if we let it boil for more than one day? Or, is this text saying something else?

4. How can we reconcile Matthew 5:22 with Ephesians 4:26? One says "don't be angry" and the other says, "if you are angry, don't sin?" (It is important that Matthew 5 ties anger to murder. Anger is a gateway to murder. The text seems to say "Don't let your anger get out of control.")

5. Read Mark 3:1-5. The text plainly says that Jesus was angry. Since Jesus did not sin, how do we explain this? (Both this text and Ephesians 4:26 help us to understand that some anger is okay. Being upset over violations of God's law is acceptable. Being upset over the violation of our own space is something to try to reconcile before the evening.)

Abortion and Abuse
1. Read 2 Kings 16:1-3. What parallels are there between sacrificing your child in the fire and abortion? (The reason to sacrifice your child was to encourage the "gods" to treat you favorably. The reason to sacrifice your child to abortion is that you think life will be better for you. The two are very similar.)

2. Is abortion a form of child abuse? (The ultimate - you deprive the child of the opportunity for life.)

3. How could abortion cause harm to family life? (The feelings of regret and remorse can create later problems for the family.)

4. Often I hear about adults who abuse children who themselves were abused as children. Why should this happen?

5. If this is a temptation for you, consider the enormity of the pain and sin that goes from generation to generation. The time to stop the chain of pain is right now.

6. Read Romans 1:26-27. Would this prohibition cover child abuse?

Friend, a happy family does not just happen. It is an on-going project. Will you determine today to follow God's rules for happiness in your family?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Word to Fathers

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways … Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. (Psalm 128:1,4 ESV)

The Lord has promised blessing to the man who fears Him. Scripture is clear that the entire family is impacted when the head of the home and family fears the Lord! As a father I should be the kind of parent who helps my children tremble with joy in the presence of God.

Fathers are encouraged to be the kind of father their children delight to fear or to respect, helping them know the Lord. Take your place as God’s special representative in your family, and display the fullness of who God is, so that your children will delight to fear you.

If they only fear you, and there is no delight in it, it’s wrong and dysfunctional. If they only delight in you and do not fear you, it’s wrong and dysfunctional. In both cases you have made it very difficult for your children to embrace the true God. On the one hand, as fathers, we hear Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Why? Because that’s the way God is. Hebrews 12:6 tells us, “The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.” So when I discipline my child, I display God’s judgment and His love.

But on the other hand, as fathers, we hear this word from Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In our families we are in the place of the Lord. We are doing the discipline of the Lord. Our children are learning what the Lord is like. And what is He like? Psalm 103:13-14 assures us that, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

T. P. Hadley

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lesson 8: Keys to Family Unity (Ephesians 2, Matthew 5 & 22, 1 John 3, Hebrews 13)

This is a study from Go.Bible which is an excellent resource for Christians produced by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D and used by permission. As we continue these studies on the family, let me just say that I may not agree with all of the applications the author makes, but for the most part the material is very good and the real benefit is to open God's Word and search the Scriptures!

Introduction: I'm reading an interesting book that presents a new theory on how our brain functions. The book suggests that our brain handles the input for sight, touch, sound, and smell in much the same way. Most scientists (including the writer of my book)seem unable to grasp the obvious - that this points to a Master Designer with a master design. Master designs are also found in the spiritual world. If God's creation is a series of repeating patterns, why should we be surprised that God uses overarching patterns or theories of life (laws)to guide our day to day life. Let's charge into our study of the Bible and explore these laws!

One In Jesus' Love
1. Read Ephesians 2:11-13. What has Jesus done for the Gentiles?

2. How did He do it?

3. Read Ephesians 2:14-16. What was the dividing wall that separated Gentiles from Jews and humans from God? (The law.)

4. How do you explain that the great law of God could separate Jews from Gentiles and humans from God? (The Jews used the law as a basis for considering that they were superior to all other humans. The law separated humans from God because the law showed our sinful nature before a perfect God.)

5. How did Jesus "fix" these problems? (By fulfilling the requirements of the law for everyone who accepts Jesus as their Savior. Jesus both made us perfect in the sight of God and eliminated the basis for pride among those who "obeyed" the law.)

6. Let's analyze this for just a minute, just as if we were scientists. What overall theory of life (law of life) has Jesus put in place? (Jesus has shown us that reliance on Him gives us the gift of acceptability. We are sufficient if we rely on Him. Personal pride goes out the window because what Jesus has given us is more than any of us could "earn" by keeping the law.)

7. We started out saying that God has "theories of life," which we call "laws" which apply to different aspects of our life. Wasn't the law which separated Jews from Gentiles a "theory of life?"

8. Did one law replace another law?

9. Let's look at a couple of texts. Read Matthew 5:21-22 and Matthew 5:27-28. What is Jesus teaching here about the Ten Commandments? (They reflect deeper principles.)

10. Read Matthew 22:37-40. What does this teach us about the Ten Commandments? (It summarizes the deeper principles.)

11. What do you say now: Did Jesus replace the Ten Commandments with a new theory of life? A new law? (I think the correct answer is that the Ten Commandments were simply ten applications of the fundamental theories of life. They were not themselves fundamental theories of life.)

One In The Church
1. Now let's apply fundamental theories to the church. How appropriate are feelings of superiority or inferiority? (People should be respected for the role that God has given them in the church, but the idea of inferior and superior members is alien to the "fundamental theory" that reliance on Jesus alone makes us all sufficient.)

2. When I was young, my parents pointed out to me in this small church that we visited all of the "professionals" sat on one side of the church and all of the "laborers" sat on the other. Did the members of this church understand the fundamental theory that reliance on Jesus makes us all sufficient?

3. Read 1 John 3:16-18. What theory of life do we find here? (We started out saying that reliance on Jesus makes us all sufficient in God's eyes and in each other's eyes. We became sufficient because Jesus died for us. The idea that we owe an obligation of love to others because Jesus loved us is another overarching theory of life.)

4. How does John say this fundamental theory of life should apply in the church? (Since Jesus loved us enough to die for us, we should love each other in the church with deeds, not just words.)

One In The World
1. Let's take our theories of life outside the church. Does this same rule (that our worth comes from Jesus) apply to society in general? Does it apply even to people who do not believe in Jesus? (A candid book, The Bell Curve, revealed that a person's income and "professional" status are generally a predictor of intelligence. Thus, certain levels of intelligence are necessary for certain jobs. We often "rank" people in the world according to their money and position. What person chooses their own intelligence? Relative intelligence is a gift from God, it is not the result of personal choice. Thus pride should, once again, go out the window.)

2. If intelligence is not based on a choice, and thus not a basis to "rank," on what basis should we rank people? (Loving others is a choice. The extent of our ability to love is not something determined at birth. If we want to rank people we should rank them according to their love for others.)

3. Read Hebrews 13:5-6. We discussed how our reliance on Jesus levels the playing field when it comes to salvation, pride and status. What other benefit comes to us from following the theory of life of reliance on Jesus? (Jesus will be with us in the practical challenges of life. We can rely on Him and put away our worries.)

4. Why does Hebrews speak of "love of money" and being "content?" What has that to do with relying on Jesus? (Humans rely on their wealth to protect them from the world. The Bible says, "The wealth of the rich is their fortified city." Proverbs 10:15. Jesus says that He is better than wealth for protection against the problems of the world.)

5. Have you found this to be true in your life?

6. Read Philippians 2:3-4. Is this a new fundamental theory of life? Or, is it simply a reflection of one of the fundamental theories that we have already discussed? (It reflects the fundamental theory of loving others as much as we love ourselves. It reflects the fundamental theory of reliance on Jesus for both our self-worth and for solving problems in our life.)

7. How can we ever get ahead in the workplace with this kind of attitude? (Read Philippians 2:6-9. This teaches us that true success in life comes from the actions of God in our life.)

One In The Family
1. Let's apply these theories of life to our family. Parents are entitled to respect. But, are they entitled to believe that they are superior to their children?

2. I've seen situations in which the father was jealous about the success of his son. What fundamental theories of life does that violate? (It hardly seems to show self-sacrificing love. It does not recognize that value comes from reliance on Jesus.)

3. What about jealously over the success of a sibling? (If we love our children, if we love our brothers and sisters, we want them to succeed. If we realize that we are all sufficient in Jesus, then there is no need for competition in the family. If we are content in Jesus, then competition fades away.)

4. Does this theory of life apply between husband and wife? (Yes, this gets back to one of my favorite texts in the Bible: Ephesians 5:28, "He who loves his wife loves himself.")

5. Friend, making Jesus the center of our life, recognizing the theory of life that reliance on Jesus makes us sufficient and provides protection against the problems of life, alters our perception of others and the world. Will you try to apply the fundamental theories of life to your everyday experience?

Lesson 7: The Royal Love Song (Song of Solomon 1 & 8)

This is a study from Go.Bible which is an excellent resource for Christians produced by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D and used by permission. As we continue these studies on the family, let me just say that I may not agree with all of the applications the author makes, but for the most part the material is very good and the real benefit is to open God's Word and search the Scriptures!

Introduction: Recently, I saw a book title in which the author seemed to add the word "sex" just to help it sell better. When a read a little note about the book, it admitted this. Well, this lesson is sort of about sex, so let's hope more people are encouraged to read it! Does the Bible talk about sex and romantic love? You bet! Why? Let's plunge into our study and find out!

The Pleasure of Romance
1. Read Song of Solomon 1:1-2. Why does Solomon's wife want him to kiss her? (It is delightful. Notice that the Bible endorses the physical side of romance.)

2. To what does the wife of Solomon compare love? (Wine.)

3. Why? Is this like saying "your love is better than milk?"

4. Have you ever heard of someone getting "buzzed" from alcohol? (The suggestion here is that physical love gives a lift to your attitude. It gives you a "buzz.")

5. Read Song of Solomon 1:3. What other physical sense is involved in romance? (The sense of smell. Guys, if you are interested in romance, make sure you smell right!)

6. What does it mean "your name is like perfume poured out?" (By the way, this is great writing!)

7. Ladies, do you remember when you were dating and you wrote the name of your boyfriend down a few times? Then you wrote your name with his last name as yours? Why did you do that?

8. Why would his name be important? (This is a theme of the Bible. God often refers to His name being important. The idea is that your name symbolizes you. Here, Solomon's name is like perfume for his wife. He is just wonderful.)

9. Speaking of the importance of names, I trust that all of you noticed that if you re-arrange the letters in my last name (Cameron), you get "romance." How great is that?

10. What about the last line of verse 3. Put yourself in the wife's place, is this good or bad? Does the answer depend on your gender? (Pretty often I run into a spouse who is terribly jealous and cannot stand anyone admiring his or her spouse. If you have a strong marriage, you have a sense of confidence about it. Your attitude is that your spouse is more valuable to you because others see the value in your spouse. If you are the only one in the world who thinks your spouse has any worth, odds are your marriage is not very good.)

A Confident Marriage
1. Read Song of Solomon 1:4. What is Solomon's wife's attitude about others admiring Solomon? (She says that they are right! Here is a wife with a confident attitude.)

2. Assume that your attitude is that if your spouse looked around a little, your spouse would drop you and choose someone else. What signal does that send to your spouse?

3. Although Solomon's wife says other women adore you, who gets to "into his chambers?" (This is the confident attitude. All you other women can adore my husband, but I'm the one who gets to sleep with him.)

4. Read Song of Solomon 1:5-6. Why is Solomon's wife dark? (She has been out working in the sun.)

5. What does she mean when she says that she has neglected her "own vineyard?" (It means she has neglected her own appearance. I think we have a cultural issue here. In my culture, a "healthy tan" (healthy is in quotes because of the cancer issue) is admired as beautiful. In some other cultures, it is a mark of beauty for a woman to seem as if she has never been out in the sun.)

6. Is Solomon's wife bad looking? (No, she starts out saying she is "lovely.")

7. Then why is she complaining about being in the sun? (She exhibits a healthy concern about her appearance. Remember when I asked if only you could appreciate your spouse? If you are the spouse and you think only your spouse could appreciate you, then you need to work on your appearance.)

Solomon's Response
1. Read Song of Solomon 1:9-11. Guys, Solomon compares his lovely wife to a horse. Good idea or not?

2. What does Solomon say improves the looks of his lovely wife? 

3. Read 1 Timothy 2:9-10. Would Paul agree with Solomon?

4. Read 1 Peter 3:3-4. Would Peter agree with Solomon?

5. How can you reconcile Solomon, Paul and Peter on the issue of wearing jewelry? (Of the three, Peter (1 Peter 3:3-4) explains God's thinking about jewelry. He teaches us that true beauty comes from our character and not from what we wear. This is a caution to focus on developing character rather than carats. The Bible Exposition Commentary says "a woman who depends on externals will soon run out of ammunition!")

6. Men, what do you learn from listening to what Solomon said in Song of Solomon 1:10-11? (Compliment your wife on her looks - or at least on what she is wearing.)

Lovely Responds
1. Read Song of Solomon 1:12-14. What is the purpose of perfume? (To attract.)

2. What does Solomon's wife say he is to her? A bag of flowers? (She says that she is attracted to him.)

3.What do you think is important about the placement of the "sachet of myrrh?" Careful, now. (This is below her nose. She is saying that Solomon is constantly on her mind.)

4. En Gedi, according to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, is an oasis. What meaning does this suggest about the wife's comment? (That Solomon stands out from the other men - like a good-smelling, beautiful oasis in a desert.)

5. Ladies, do you tell your man how much you appreciate him? Do you compare him favorably to other men? Or, do you suggest that he is a desert and other men an oasis?

Excitement in Marriage
1. Read Song of Solomon 1:16-17. Are we learning something about the way Solomon's palace was built? Does King Solomon have a green (verdant) bed? (No. This means that the lovers are enjoying each other outdoors.)

2. The man has a palace. Why would they be outdoors? (Adventure, excitement.)

3. Is there a lesson in this for your marriage?

Flashback
1. Obviously, we cannot study the entire book of the Song of Solomon in one short lesson. From what we have seen so far, Solomon and his wife (by the way, her name is Shulamith) have a good marriage. This solid marriage is built on a solid foundation. Let's move ahead in Song of Solomon to the place where we have a "flashback" to the time before their marriage. Read Song of Solomon 8:8-9. Shulamith's brothers are talking about what they can do to help her have a good marriage. What does the discussion of "walls" and "doors" in verse 9 mean? (This is a reference to their sister being chaste (wall - keep others out) or wild (door - let others in).)

2. How do the brothers react if their sister is a wall? (There are several suggested meanings here. One is that the "tower" means that the sister will stand tall in their opinion. Another is that the brothers will reward her with lots of jewelry to make her even more attractive. Another is that this refers specifically to a type of head ornament. The bottom line is that the brothers will give her freedom and reward her if she is a "wall.")

3. How do the brothers react if she is wild? (If she is a "door," they will lock her in her room! I think the sense is that they will restrict her freedom.)

4. Parents, is there a lesson in here for you?

5. Read Song of Solomon 8:10. What is she? (A wall - even though she asserts that men would be interested in her body. Her brothers do not need to worry about her.)

6. Who else does not need to worry? (Solomon. She says that the fact that she has been a wall before marriage brings him "contentment.")

7. Read Song of Solomon 8:11-12. What does this discussion about vineyards mean? (Solomon has an actual vineyard which brings him money from its fruit. She says her body is also a "vineyard" capable of producing "fruit.")

8. What is the girl's attitude towards her "vineyard?" (She is specifically speaking about her virginity and she realizes that it is something of great value - just as a regular vineyard would be. She saved it to give it to Solomon.)

9. Do we teach our children that their virginity is a valuable gift? Something of great worth?

10. Read Song of Solomon 8:14. Since this is a flashback, what is Solomon's wife suggesting? (She is harking back to the days of their youth. The Bible reminds us that being chaste until marriage, and then faithful to our spouse, lets us have this private memory garden for when we are old.)

11. Friend, the Bible has something to teach us about sex. It tells us to be pure, save our self for marriage, and then in marriage pay attention to the romance! Are you paying attention?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lesson 6: Wise Words for Families (Proverbs 5, 15, 21, 31 and Ephesians 5:28)

This is a study from Go.Bible which is an excellent resource for Christians produced by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D and used by permission. As we continue these studies on the family, let me just say that I may not agree with all of the applications the author makes, but for the most part the material is very good and the real benefit is to open God's Word and search the Scriptures!

Introduction: The Bible is filled with all sorts of practical advice. Last week we studied Biblical advice about how to teach our children about God. This week we move on to advice for grown children in their marriage. Having a good family requires a good relationship between husband and wife. Our lesson this week starts with advice for those who are married. After studying those potential problems, we consider how some of these problems can be avoided by being alert when dating. Let's dive into our study!

Honey and Gall 
1. Read Proverbs 5:1-2. Who is being taught in this Bible text? 

2. What does the Bible say is the "payoff" for children paying attention to the Bible-based advice of their parents? ("Maintain discretion" and "your lips preserve knowledge.") 

3. What do you think it means to "maintain discretion?" (It means you are going to save yourself from evil. The result is that you will not be embarrassed. Want to maintain your dignity son? Want to avoid falling in a pit? Then pay attention to this!) 

4. What do you think it means to have "your lips preserve knowledge?" (People will listen to your advice. They will learn important life lessons from seeking and taking your advice - as opposed to learning important life lessons from seeing how your actions wrecked your life.) 

5. Read Proverbs 5:3-4. Oil and honey. No one in my office has oil and honey oozing out of their mouth. Even if they did, it would not be attractive. What does this mean? (It means that when you begin an extra-marital affair it seems like a lot of fun.) 


6. How does it end? (It hurts you (double-edged sword) and it feels terrible (bitter as gall). 

7. Why is that? (Affairs are irrational.) 

8. How many times have you seen someone have an affair with another person who is not as desirable as their spouse? (This happens all the time. What is "fun" about an affair is that it reminds you of when you were dating. The reality of actually living with the "other" person - a person you now know is probably willing to "cheat" on you is a different matter.) 

Years ago I needed a new secretary. The (female) office manager came to my office and announced, "I've got the perfect candidate for you. She is beautiful and she married her last boss." It turned out the manager was not joking about either of those facts. (She was joking about my job qualifications.) Not too long after we hired her, guess who came to visit me? Right, her new husband/ex-boss. He wanted to see what I looked like. Guess why? 

9. Read Proverbs 5:7-8. How would you apply the "do not go near the door of her house?" (It obviously means "do not be alone with her in her house." But the "near the door" means a lot more.) 


10. How many of you like to flirt? (I do. It is a wonderful ego boost (especially in my old age) to have a pretty lady flirt with me.) 

11. Is flirting "going near the door?" (This is an area in which you need to be alert. I believe the "near the door" phrase certainly includes our mind. It is critically important to avoid thinking about the "oil and honey" of an affair with someone else. Our words reflect what we think. Therefore, if the "flirting words" cross the line to describe improper conduct, pay attention because the alarm bells are ringing. Turn away. Better, run away.) 

12. Read Proverbs 5:9-10. Why should we run? 

13. Does Proverbs 5:10 describe divorce lawyers? (Toby Keith is probably my favorite Country singer. He sings this sad song about driving by the place where he used to live and seeing his house, his kids, his wife, his truck and his dog - and a stranger who now possesses all of his stuff! His song asks, "Who's that man running my life?" If you have an affair, the likely result is that strangers will "feast on your wealth," they will be "running [what used to be] your life.") 

14. Why would the Bible be talking about the financial side to infidelity? (The Bible is telling us to be rational - not emotional - about marital fidelity.) 

15. We skipped a couple of verses before. Read Proverbs 5:5-6. Is this the spiritual advice side of this? 

16. Notice that verse 6 says, "she knows it not." What does that suggest? (The other person in the adultery is not knowingly trying to cause you loss here and eternally. It is up to you to be careful even when it is a friend who is the potential source of your infidelity.) 
Married to Gall 

17. Read Proverbs 21:9 and Proverbs 21:19. Our discussion so far has assumed that marriage with the original spouse was good. We assumed it was excitement that lured one spouse into an affair. Assume you live with a short-tempered and angry spouse. What do these texts say about living with Mr./Mrs. Angry and Twisted? (It is not much fun.) 

18. Read Proverbs 27:15-16. How do you find the constant sound of dripping? (Annoying.) 

19. How do you like rainy days? (A quarrelsome spouse is like an annoying dripping on a rainy day.) 

20. The NIV seems to miss an important point here. Strongs says the Hebrew word "yamiyn" refers specifically to the right hand. What additional meaning does that add? (Your right hand is your strongest hand. All your efforts are insufficient to restrain this kind of spouse.) 

21. What hope does the Bible give us for restraining an angry and twisted spouse? (Not much.) 

22. Read Genesis 2:18. How did Proverbs get so far from the ideal? 
If you have a short-tempered and angry spouse, is it okay to dump them for someone else who is more pleasant? 

21. Should you move to the roof? How about the desert? 
Let's not just describe the problem, let's look at solutions so you don't have to move to the roof. If you are not married, what should you be looking for in a spouse? 

22. How important is appearance as opposed to personality? (Before I was married, if someone suggested that I should date someone "who had a good personality" I took that as a signal to run because this potential date was going to be ugly.) 

23. Did I have the right attitude? (No. It turned out that God led me to someone who was both beautiful and pleasant - but if I had to choose, an angry and twisted beauty would be no fun. With the passage of time, she would likely not even be beautiful. All you are left with is angry and twisted. See Proverbs 31:30.) 
Let's read a text that suggests what an unmarried man should be looking for in a potential wife. Read Proverbs 31:10-11. Is this the goal? To find a spouse that will allow others to say that you "lack nothing of value?" 

24. Read Proverbs 31:12. How can you make a judgment about this while you are dating? (If your date is beating you up and causing problems while you are dating, you can be sure this will not end when you get married.) 

25. Read Proverbs 31:13. What characteristic does this describe? (She is not lazy. A lazy spouse is frustrating.) 

26. Read Proverbs 31:16. What characteristic does this describe? (That she has a business mind. She has a sense of money management.) 

27. Read Proverbs 31:20. What characteristic does this describe? (She has compassion - even for the less fortunate.) 

28. Read Proverbs 31:25-26. What characteristics do we find here? What does it mean to "laugh at the days to come?" (She is wise and prepares for the future.) 

29. Should you expect all of those qualities in your wife-to-be? (Ask yourself how many of those qualities are in you? These texts give you an idea of what to look for in a potential mate.) 

30. What if you are already married? Is there any solution, other than the roof, if you are currently married to "angry and twisted?"(Read Ephesians 5:28. You cannot, as Proverbs 27:16 tells us, "restrain" angry and twisted. You can, however, love "angry and twisted" into something else. I have seen this happen in a couple. Some mistakes impose long-term penalties. God gives us advice to overcome our mistakes.) 

31. Read Proverbs 15:1. What other advice does God give us for living with "angry and twisted?" (It is hard to be unbiased about our own failures. If you are living with a quarrelsome spouse, chances are that you are part of the problem. Gentle answers help to prevent arguments.) 

32. Friend, the best way to have a good marriage is to pay attention to the character of the person you choose to marry. If you are already married, God gives us advice on how to keep our marriage intact. Will you put forth the effort to keep your marriage together and improve your relationship with your spouse? 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lesson 5: Disciples Making Disciples (Joshua 4, Matt. 28, Genesis 37)

This is a study from Go.Bible which is an excellent resource for Christians produced by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D and used by permission. As we continue these studies on the family, let me just say that I may not agree with all of the applications the author makes, but for the most part the material is very good and the real benefit is to open God's Word and search the Scriptures!

Introduction: Jesus calls each of us in Matthew 28:18-20 to make disciples of "all nations." Would this include making disciples of our children? Of course it would! Last week we discussed what the Bible teaches about the blessings and challenges of having children. This week we turn to the topic of "discipling" our children - teaching them to love and obey God. Let's jump into our study!

Stones
1. Read Joshua 3:14-15. Imagine that you are one of the Israelites heading towards the place God has told you He will give you as your home. You come to the Jordan river and have to cross it with your family and all of your possessions. Unfortunately, the river is at flood stage. What are your thoughts and your concerns?

2. Read Joshua 3:15-17. Now, tell me, how do you feel? What is your attitude towards God?

3. Read Joshua 4:1-3. Those of you who have spent time in the outdoors, tell me what these stones would look like? How would they differ from other stones in the area? (They would be very smooth - perhaps even have a little shine.)

4. Read Joshua 4:4-5. Did this require faith on the part of the stone retrievers? (The water is still piled up. I would be concerned that it might come down on me!)

5. Why do you think Joshua chose 12 stones? (One to represent each tribe of Israel.)

6. Read Joshua 4:6-7. What is the purpose of these stones?

7. Read Joshua 24:25-27. What is the purpose of this stone?

8. Read 1 Samuel 7:12. What pattern do we see with the use of stones and the relationship between God and the people? (They memorialize great events in the history of God's people.)

9. Read Joshua 4:20-24 for the end of the story about the stones from the Jordan river. Notice especially verses 21-23 and the comment about children. What lessons about teaching our children can we learn from this story? (1. Teaching children is an intentional act of the Christian community. 2. Teaching the children involves using something that catches their attention. Did you notice that Joshua intended the stones to be attention-getters? 3. The stones are a consistent generation to generation reminder. 4. The stones remind the children of God's power, love, care and provision for them and their parents.)

10. What can the church do today to create "stones" for teaching the next generation? (Read Exodus 12:12-14 and Exodus 12:26-27. By observing and explaining religious holidays we can create "stones" for our children.)

11. How can parents create "stones" in their home for teaching their children?

12. Is the weekly Sabbath a "stone?"

13. How can you create a visible reminder of the Sabbath?

14. How would you make sure a "stone" does not become an idol?

Love
1. Read John 13:34-35, Matthew 5:44 and 1 John 3:14. If Christian parents are to show love to others, should they show it to their children as well?

2. Parents of teens, does Matthew 5:44 resonate in your life? (We may be tempted to return hurtful words with hurtful responses. We may be tempted to turn away from our children when they say they hate us. But if enemies deserve better, so do our children.)

3. Parents, leaving aside the question of discipline, would you say the things to others that you say to your children?

4. Read Exodus 4:22-23 and Isaiah 66:13. How does a child's view of God get influenced by his parents? (God consistently portrays Himself as our parent. If you want your children to have a proper view of God, you need to be very careful about the mental picture your children draw from the word "parent.")

5. Read Genesis 37:3-4. Is this a foreseeable result of showing favoritism among your children?

6. What problems followed because of father Israel's (Jacob's) favoritism in his love? (Scan Genesis 37:23-36. Would it be too far a stretch to say that 400 years of Hebrew slavery can be traced back to this event? Parents, do not show favoritism!)

Instruction
1. Read Proverbs 22:6. What do you think it means to "train up" your children?

2. Let's look at some texts that more fully explain this "train up" idea. Read Genesis 18:19. What did God expect of Abraham as a parent? (Do what is right and just.)

3. Read Proverbs 2:1-9. Notice that these verses have an "if/then" sequence. What are children called to do? (To seek to know God and His will.)

4. What does God promise if they do this? (God will given them wisdom and understanding which will help to protect them from making harmful mistakes in their life.)

5. How can parents instill in their children a desire to know God and His will? (The first thing they must do is present God's words to their children. They should be presented as something that is desirable.)

6. Read Proverbs 3:11-12. What should a child's attitude be towards discipline?

7. How do we teach that attitude to our children? (This gets back to the "stone" issue. If God has disciplined you, tell your children about it and how it has helped you to grow.)

8. Read Proverbs 1:8-9. How is learning from parental teaching like wearing jewelry? (It makes you more attractive.)

9. Do you know some "good" kids that just draw you to them? You feel pleasure in talking with them? I think that is part of what Proverbs is talking about in this text.

10. Read Proverbs 3:13-15. What is another benefit of parents teaching their children the wisdom of God? (It makes you rich. Whether this means rich in money is not clear, because the Bible says that God's wisdom is better than money.)

11. Read Proverbs 3:17-18. What else lies in wait for those parents who teach their children to accept the wisdom of God? (Peace, blessings and life.)

12. Parent, do you want your children to have a great life here and eternal life hereafter? Disciple them. Show them God's love. Teach them the wisdom from the Bible. Remind them with "stones" of what a great God they serve! Will you determine today to do this?

Lesson 4: Living With Lambs (Psalms 127, Deuteronomy 6, Ezekiel 18)

This is a study from Go.Bible which is an excellent resource for Christians produced by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D and used by permission. As we continue these studies on the family, let me just say that I may not agree with all of the applications the author makes, but for the most part the material is very good and the real benefit is to open God's Word and search the Scriptures!

Introduction: How do we view children? Do we look upon them as blessings or an expensive nuisance? Before my wife and I had any children, she jokingly told some young parents we were going to have a baby. The reaction of the other couple was most interesting. They seemed to take glee in the fact that we now were entering the same swamp as they were in - we were going to have to face the challenges of raising children! Their reaction did not encourage us to become parents. Let's plunge into our study and see what the Bible says about the blessings and challenges of having children!

The Blessing
1. Read Psalms 127:3. How does the Bible view the gift of children? Are they a blessing or a curse? (They are a reward. This reminds me of a wife who complained that she was just a "trophy wife" -- to which the husband responded, "What contest in hades did I win?" Unlike the joke about the trophy wife, God tells us that we "win" a wonderful reward in life when we have children.)

2. When the Bible says that children are a "heritage" from the Lord, what does that mean? (The Hebrew word means "an inheritance," or an "heirloom." They are "from the Lord" in that God's original plan in Eden was that Adam and Eve would bear children. See Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:24.)

3. How are children like an heirloom we inherit? (Heirlooms remind us of the past. Our children remind us of ourselves and our parents.)

4. Read Psalms 127:4-5. What does it mean that sons are like arrows and it is good to have a "quiver" full of them? (Children help to support the parents. They are supposed to be a buffer against the problems in life and old age.)

5. Why does the text refer to "sons born in one's youth?" (The sense of the text is fathers and sons working together. If the father is old, he may not be able to work with his sons or may not live to be around.)

My wife is the second of four children. Her parents were poor and after their first child they decided to wait to have another until they could "afford it." Years later a friend said to them, "If you wait to have a child until you can afford it, you will never have another child." My wife's parents accepted the friend's advice, and my wife was born. What do you think about the friend's advice? (The advice turned out to be right - and a fabulous blessing to me. My wife never lacked anything she needed when growing up and her parents ended up paying for her four years of private college.)

Is the friend's advice Biblical? (If you read the quarterly, you will find in Monday's lesson all sorts of "hand-wringing" about being a parent with questions like "What purpose would a child serve?" Do I have the "emotional resources" to have a child? While I have known couples who were lousy parents, the Bible teaches that children are a blessing. How many people say, "I'm not sure I'm qualified to be rich" when they suddenly come into money?)

Parental Responsibility
1. Instead of asking whether you are worthy of having children, let's ask "What does God require of parents?" Read Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

2. What economic and philosophical requirements does God set for parenting? (Nothing is said here about economic prerequisites to having children.)

3. Is there a cultural reason for that? (In an agrarian society, children would be a source of income, not just an expense.)

4. Read 1 Timothy 5:8. Could this be considered economic advice on having children? (This is the closest I could find to finding a Bible statement about parents having to have a certain amount of money before they could have a child.)

5. What does God say are the obligations of parents when they have children? (To teach them God's law.)

6. Read Deuteronomy 11:18-21. What link is their between the quality and length of life and parents fulfilling their obligation to teach obedience to God's law? (Living in Canaan was God's reward to His people. Teaching children obedience to God extends the quality and length of life of both the parents and the children.)

7. Read Proverbs 19:18. How does this explain the ability of parents to extend the life of their children?

8. Read 1 Samuel 3:13-14. What obligation does this suggest that parents have towards their children? What did Eli fail to do with regard to his sons?(He failed to restrain them when it came to known sin.)

9. Read Ephesians 6:4. What other obligation do parents have towards their children? (Not to exasperate them.)

10. How can we avoid exasperating our children? (The Bible tells us that bringing children up in the training and instruction of God is the path to avoid exasperating your children.)

11. Have you found that to be true? (Parents get into trouble when they are inconsistent. When parents are inconsistent, children are not sure of the boundary "lines" and therefore they can become exasperated.)

12. Can children exasperate their parents? How can we avoid that? (Read Proverbs 29:17. By disciplining our children.)

13. Instead of saying, "Potential parents, you must pass a test of income and motives before you have children," the Bible views children as a gift from God and says "Now that you are parents, teach your children to love and obey God."

Eternal Rewards
1. Did you notice when we read about Eli and his sons, it seemed that both the parent and the sons were in trouble for the sins of the sons? Read Exodus 20:5-6. What impact can sinning parents have on their children?

2. What impact can sinning children have on their parents?

3. Read Ezekiel 18:4. Will a sinful parent cause a righteous child to lose eternal life?

4. If not, then what is Exodus 20:5-6 speaking about? (The Bible teaches what we can observe: parents pass on to their children good and bad traits. These may present character issues which we need to address in our effort to live a holy life. But, these inherited character traits will not cause us to lose eternal life.)

5. Will a sinful child cause a righteous parent to lose eternal life? (In Ezekiel 18:5-9 we read about the life of a righteous man. Read Ezekiel 18:9. In Ezekiel 18:10-13 we read that this man has a wicked son and the facts of the life of this son. Read Ezekiel 18:13. In Ezekiel 18:14-18 we read that a grandson is born who lives a righteous life. Read Ezekiel 18:17-18.)

6. Read Ezekiel 18:19-20. How would you summarize God's thinking? (We may talk about the impact of parents and children on the life of the other, but God teaches that everyone is responsible for his or her own salvation.)

7. Even though parents cannot cause their children to lose eternal life, can the way a parent raises his children cause the parent to lose eternal life? (Read Matthew 18:5-6 indicates that this is a serious sin. Of course, Jesus came to forgive us of our sins.)

Friend, God desires you to have children. They are a blessing and a reward. God, however, expects you, as the parent, to be very careful in raising your children. Will you take your God-given responsibilities as a parent seriously?