Sabbath, January 2, 2021 - For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing . . . Revelation 3:17 Abundance or Fruitfulness?
Sabbath, January 9, 2021 - For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice; , , , Zechariah 4:10 Don't Despise Small Things
Sabbath, January 16, 2021 - Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket . . . Matthew 5:15 Shine!
Sabbath, January 23, 2021 - Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 1 Peter 3:3 What Should You Wear?
Sabbath, January 30, 2021 - All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:3
Sabbath, February 6th - church canceled - inclement weather
Sabbath, February 13th - . . . but blessed is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 - Don't Let It Slip Through Your Fingers
Sabbath, February 20th - For certain people have crept in unnoticed . . . . Jude 1:4 - Crept in Unnoticed
Sabbath, February 27th - Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:37 - What Are You Looking At?
Sabbath, March 6th - no sabbath class
Sabbath, March 13th - My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. , , , 1 John 2:1 (NIV) So You Will Not Sin
Sabbath, March 20th - You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. Psalm 89:9 (ESV) The Raging of the Sea
Sabbath, March 27th - Your bars shall be iron and bronze, and as your days, so shall your strength be.
Deuteronomy 33:25 (ESV) Bars of Iron and Bronze
Sabbath, April 3rd - . . a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) How Do You Handle God's Word?
Sabbath, April 10th - If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8 Missing the Mark
Sabbath, April 17th - O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:9 Truly Making All Things New
Sabbath, April 24th - The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.
Proverbs 17:3 - Flopification
First Day of Unleavened Bread, Wednesday, April 28th - Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. Psalm 26:2 Prove, Try, Test
Sabbath, May 1st - You shall count off fifty days until the day after the seventh Sabbath, Leviticus 23:16 - Count!
Tuesday, May 4th - Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Hebrews 12:12 - Persevering
Sabbath, May 8th - I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2 - Trusting in God
Sabbath, May 15th - It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. Psalm 119:71 - Follow the Directions
Sabbath, May 22nd - Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1 (NIV) - Keep on Praying
Sabbath, May 29th - Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing. Proverbs 27:14 - Timing is Everything
Sabbath, June 5th - For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:13 God Helps Me
Sabbath, June 12th - Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up . . . Ephesians 4:29 Sticks and Stones
Sabbath, June 19th - And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 Don't Grieve the Holy Spirit
Pentecost, June 20th - Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, Hebrews 4:16 Confident!
Sabbath, June 26th - Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, Romans 1:22 Wise or Foolish
Sabbath, July 3rd - And I will walk in freedom, for I have sought Your precepts. Psalm 119:45 (Berean) Christ our Banner
Sabbath, July 10th - while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:13 Seashells: Deceiving and Being Deceived
Sabbath, July 17th - For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 - Focus!
Sabbath, July 24th - Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33 - The Secret Things of God
Sabbath, July 31st - But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; Job 12:7 - Invention by Observation
Sabbath, August 7th - No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; . . . Psalm 101:7 - Practicing Deceit
Sabbath, August 14th - “Remember to magnify His work, Of which men have sung. (NKJV) Job 36:24 - Magnify the LORD
Sabbath, August 21st - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. Ecclesiastes 4:9 - Balanced
Sabbath, August 28th - Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. Job 37:13 - Swirling Clouds
Sabbath, September 11th - Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Job 38:4 - Our Creator God
Sabbath, September 18th - He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147:4 - God Knows My Name
Sabbath, September 25th - Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 - Anchored to the Rock
Sabbath, October 2nd - as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 1 Peter 2:2 (NKJV) - Soak in God's Word
Trumpets, October 8th - . . . ye have a sabbath, a memorial of shouting, a holy convocation; Lev. 23:24 (Young’s Literal Translation) - A Memorial of Shouting!
Sabbath, October 9th - . . . but we know that when he appears we shall be like him,. . . 1 John 3:2 (ESV) - Be Like Jesus
Sabbath, October 16th - All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:3 (NIV)
Atonement, October 17th - rend your hearts and not your garments . . . Joel 2:13
Sabbath, January 2, 2021
Abundance or Fruitfulness?
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, , , , Revelation 3:17
Materials: herb jars of homegrown dill, cilantro, coriander, mint
If you ever talk to an experienced gardener about planting dill, cilantro, or mint, they will strongly caution you about where you plant these three common plants. (I’m sure there are others!!) I remember my mom telling me, “You only have to plant dill once.” It comes back year after year. It’s very prolific. So is cilantro. To the inexperienced person, it seems like an overabundance of caution. What’s the big deal? You get lots of dill or mint or cilantro. So what? That may have been what the pilgrims on the Mayflower thought when they brought over dandelions to use for medicinal purposes! They would be shocked to find that today so many people work very hard to eradicate dandelions from their gardens and yards. Dandelions are considered weeds - a plant that comes up where you don’t want it! And that’s what happens, especially, with the cilantro and the dill. It comes up and takes over, choking out what you really wanted to grow.
Similarly, you’ve seen people work very hard to get their fruit trees to produce lots of fruit - only to find that the tree is so laden with fruit that the branches start breaking. If that happens, the fruit won’t mature on that branch. And if it’s a big enough branch that breaks, it can kill the tree! Or sometimes the tree is so laden with fruit that it overextends itself - and ends up dying even if the branches don’t break!! And sometimes the overabundance of one plant interferes with the fruitfulness of the plant next to it.
There are several lessons for us. First, abundance doesn’t necessarily mean fruitfulness. You can have an abundance of mint, dill, or dandelions. They could be considered a blessing. Sometimes things we consider blessings can take over your life, like weeds, and get in the way of other parts of your life that really need your attention. So be careful of the projects you undertake.
Secondly, be careful about taking on a project that sounds good, but it saps all of your time and energy so that you can’t do other things that have to be done. Sometimes we think we’re doing a Godly work, but we neglect to ask God for His wisdom and direction first. We find ourselves worn out, doing something which we end up realizing God didn’t want us to do in the first place. Like a tree whose branches are broken or a bush that has overextended itself, we can get to the end of a project with no energy left for what is truly valuable.
The Laodiceans thought they were rich and had an abundance! And physically, perhaps they did. But they were not rich in the ways God wanted them to be. We can think we are rich and are producing an abundance of fruit. Yet, in reality, we have an overabundance of something which does not benefit us or the people around us. In fact, it’s detrimental!! And it doesn’t bring glory to God.
Sabbath, January 9th
Don’t Despise Small Things
For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice; , , , Zechariah 4:10
Materials: small round rock, mustard seed, a match, word
People tend to overlook small things. When you see a small round rock, what Bible story does it bring to mind? Do you think of Goliath, a giant of a man, defying the armies of the living God? Or do you think of God using David, his sling, and a small round stone to gain a victory (1 Samuel 17:50)?
What about a mustard seed, a tiny mustard seed? What did Jesus say about a mustard seed? If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains (Matthew 17:20)! It seems incredible that if we truly had that much faith - a little tiny bit - we could do great things to bring glory and honor to God.
We could talk about God using Gideon’s 300 men to defeat an army of Midianites and Amalekites that were like locusts or the sand on the seashore as to number (Judges 7:12). We could talk about Jesus blessing and breaking the five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14) and feeding 5000 men.
What do all of these small things have in common? They all were small things that God used: the rock in the hand of David, a mustard seed faith in the heart of a believer, a small group of men defeating the foes of God’s people, and a boy’s lunch in the hands of Jesus. Each of these small things brought glory and honor to God.
Another small thing is a match. When you see a match, do you think of how “it only takes a spark to get a fire going?” It’s amazing how a little tiny match can start a pile of leaves or brush on fire. Such a tiny thing that you could easily smash and destroy has the power to create a blazing wildfire. James (chapter 3) makes the comparison between a tiny spark of fire and the power of our words. Our words have the power to tear down and they have the power to heal. Such a small thing - a word, a small comment, a smile or an insult, a harsh word, and a frown. What incredible power there is for good or for evil in the small things we do and say.
In Zechariah 4:10 God was comforting His people who had seen the magnificence of Solomon’s temple. The temple which was being built by Ezra after the people were brought back from captivity in Babylon was a small and pitiful temple in comparison. But God told them not to look down on the day of small things. It was a beginning. It might have looked small. But God often does great things with small things. And eventually, they would rejoice!
Sometimes we think that our actions don’t matter. We are rather insignificant. But God often takes the insignificant and uses it for His glory. If you are willing to be used of God, if you make it your goal and habit to act in a godly manner, if you trust God with all of your heart, He can take your words and deeds and use them in a very powerful way. But make a start today. Start reading His word, so you know what pleases Him. Start praying to Him. Start spending time thinking about His ways. Make a start. And don’t despise the day of small things. God doesn’t.
Sabbath, January 16th
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket . . . Matthew 5:15
Materials: candle, matches, bowl or flashlight and basket
We all know how silly it would be to light a candle and then put it under a bowl so that it won’t give its light. If you put the candle under the bowl, what will happen to the candle? Eventually, it will burn all of the oxygen available and it will go out. How silly to light a candle just to let it go out - and be of no use to anyone at all. This statement presupposes that we need the light. It’s dark and we can’t see; we need the light. So we light a candle. Then what do we do with the candle? We hold it up, or put it up high enough so it can shine its light so we can see.
We know that Jesus is the Light of the world (John 1:4-9; John 8:12). So it should not be surprising to find scriptures in the Old Testament that would point to this reality. For instance, the lampstand which was in the tabernacle was to be tended by the priests from evening to morning; it was not allowed to go out (Exodus 27:21). John 1:5 tells us that Jesus, the Light, shines in the darkness. Also, this lamp stand had 22 almond flowers on it - the same number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). He is the Word and the Light which illuminates our path.
And there are other references to light - very comforting and encouraging references:
Micah 7:8 - Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.
Psalm 27:1 - The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 18:28 - You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
And then there’s this very important scripture in Matthew 5:14; Jesus tells His disciples that they are the light of the world. Then He tells them that people don’t light a lamp and put it under a basket.
If you are a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ then Jesus has called you the light of the world. You are to be giving glory and honor to God in everything you do - especially as the world around you grows more dark. If the world were full of light, your light wouldn’t be seen - or as desperately needed. But in an ever-increasingly darkening world, your light is more important than ever. We each need to make sure that we’re following in the footsteps of Jesus, the Light of the world, that we can likewise spread His light to people who desperately need hope; they desperately need the Savior; they need Light.
However, it's not only people who don’t know our God who need your light; God’s people need the encouragement too. There’s a stanza in a song: I will hold the Christlight for you in the nighttime of your fear; I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear. We each rely on the light of our brothers and sisters in Christ to endure and persevere, to stay the course. We need the light!!
Especially now, don’t hide your light under a basket. Let it shine!!
Sabbath, January 23rd
What Should You Wear?
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 1 Peter 3:3
Materials: pins, necklaces, paper crowns, etc.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s like putting lipstick on a pig?” That’s a very evocative mental picture which illuminates how little outward dressing really impacts the character, integrity, and behavior of the pig. That is, just because you put lipstick on a pig doesn’t mean the pig won’t go wallow in the mud. The pig still grunts and squeals when he eats. And he shovels his food around as he roots around for the “best” slop. It wouldn’t matter if the pig were wearing a diamond necklace or a royal robe. The pig would still do what pigs do by nature.
In a very similar way, what we do reflects who we are, truly, on the inside. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a big rough-looking man or a tiny, frail little old lady. That’s just the outside. They could be wearing raggedy clothes with more holes than not holes. Or they could be wearing the most expensively tailored suits money can buy. The outward appearance really doesn’t tell you anything about the relationship the person has with God, how much he loves truth, how she treats animals, and so on.
So Peter tells his readers not to put so much time thinking about the outward appearance - braiding your hair, wearing gold jewelry or expensive clothing. In reality, we must put on the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, what people see when they look at us should be the actions they’d expect to see from a follower of Jesus. We should stand for truth and justice, love and kindness, mercy and compassion, respect and humility.
So, does that mean your appearance doesn’t matter at all? No! Our outward appearance, whether we are clean and neat, speaks volumes to the people around us. It tells them whether you’re a good steward of what God has given you. It tells them that you are diligent in your responsibilities - like staying clean and neat. And especially when we come to church, we dress in our best clothes, not to impress the people in our church family, but as an outward expression of the respect we have for our Holy God. He deserves our best: our best clothes, our best attention, our best thoughts, our best actions. He is God. He is our God, and what we wear reflects on Him when we wear His name.
We need to think carefully about what we wear - both physical clothes and our actions. We are showing our love and reverence for God. And we are representing Him to the people around us. Let’s not act like a bunch of pigs wearing lipstick.
Sabbath, January 30th
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:3
Materials: miscellaneous homemade items - jellies, sewing projects, poems, drawings
Most people like to accomplish tasks. Not only is it nice to have it over, it’s also makes you feel good to have reached a goal. Finishing a task, completing a project, reaching the end of a book - it doesn’t matter whether it’s installing a new window, painting a room (or a picture), or any myriad of the things we find to do; when it’s done, we feel good about it.
We often talk about what we have done or made. I have made (crocheted) more than a dozen blankets over the past seven years. I’ve made three quilts, numerous bookmarks and bags. Just this week I sewed a dust cover for my dehydrator. I’ve canned hundreds of jars of produce from my garden. I’ve made a lot of things that I’m proud of.
But John 1:3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
So did I not make these things? No, not really. I may have taken the materials and arranged them into a different order. But I didn’t create the materials. I didn’t make the cotton plants. I didn’t make the soil in which the cotton plants grow. I didn’t make the water or the nutrients. I didn’t make the sun.
What about a calculator? That’s obviously manmade, right? Well, maybe the materials were arranged into a specific order by people, but where did the raw materials come from? Where did the metal come from? Where did the plastic come from? All of the building blocks that we, as humans, take and form into something new still had to be created (made) by God.
There isn’t anything that you can see that wasn’t made by God. God created everything. He’s the One who designed it all to work, to obey all of the rules He designed. (We call them rules of nature, but they’re God’s rules.)
There’s an old joke: Some scientists get together and they tell God that they’ve figured out how to create living things out of dirt, so they don’t need God any more. God tells them to get their own dirt.
I appreciate that joke - because when you trace everything back, everything, absolutely everything starts with God. And then when you have the basic building blocks, God’s the One who gives life. God’s the One who gives the intellect and reasoning to figure out how to combine the things He’s made. God’s the One who gives us the will to accomplish a goal. God is the Creator and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
We can be proud of our accomplishments - as long as we remember that we’re just rearranging what God has created. To Him belongs all glory and honor and praise!!
Sabbath, February 13th
Don't Let It Slip Through Your Fingers
. . . but blessed is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18
Have you ever checked your reflexes trying to catch a ruler dropped between your fingers? Someone holds the ruler between your first finger and thumb. They don’t tell you when they’re going to let go of the ruler. You have to react quickly enough to catch the ruler. Having done this with my fourth graders over the years, one thing becomes very apparent: if you know something is coming, you start anticipating. Many of the students completely missed the ruler the first time. But it didn’t take very long before they were catching it very quickly. They were no longer letting the ruler slip through their fingers.
Reading Proverbs 29:18 brought back the memories of the ruler reaction experiment, The first half of this proverbs is translated several different ways:
Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; (NIV)
Where there is no vision, the people perish (KJV)
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, (ESV)
Without guidance from God law and order disappear, (Contemporary English Version)
In other words, when there is no revelation from God, when the people don’t know what God is doing (now and future), when they don’t see God’s guidance - something happens: the people cast off restraint, they perish, law and order disappear. The phrase that is translated “cast off restraint” literally means that the people ignore an opportunity, they dismiss, they lose something. So putting both phrases together, you could restate it this way: When you don’t have a vision for God’s ways in your life, you let His ways slip through your fingers. God’s laws don’t seem important because you don’t look for His purpose and plan.
Now this makes perfect sense because this proverb, like many of them, is a contrasting proverb. The first half is the opposite of the second. And we know it’s a contrasting proverb because of the word “but” which starts the second phrase.
Check it out. Is the first phrase of “When you don’t have a vision for God’s ways in your life, you let His ways slip through your fingers” the opposite of the second phrase of “but blessed is he who keeps the law”? Yes. They are opposites!! If you let God’s laws slip through your fingers, life will not work well. But if you keep God’s laws, you will be blessed; life will work well. And! As you keep God’s laws, you acquire more and more understanding of His ways. Pretty soon you don’t want to let any of God’s ways slip through your fingers!
Sabbath, February 20th
Crept in Unnoticed
. . . For certain people have crept in unnoticed . . . Jude 1:4
Materials: paper, pencil, quarter (HAS to be a quarter)
I remember the first time that my older brother pulled this gag on me: First, challenge your mark (pun intended, as you will see) that they can’t roll a quarter down their nose while keeping three fingers in circles on the piece of paper. Once they’ve accepted the challenge, draw dark circles with the pencil around the quarter - making reasonably spaced circles for their fingers. Then with one hand, they pick up the quarter and roll it down their nose. Because it’s a quarter, it will have picked up graphite from the pencil. As they roll the quarter down their nose, the graphite will leave a nice mark all the way down. (Of course, I don’t plan to run the quarter down the children’s noses. We’ll run the quarter across the paper.) The point is this: a great deal of distraction was employed to achieve an outcome that they didn’t even see coming, literally! For my brother, it was a trick to have me walking around the house with marks on my face without even realizing it, so that he could laugh at me.
It’s a prank.But it does tend to illuminate the idea that if someone wants to pull something over on you, they’re going to try to do it when you aren’t paying attention. If they’re afraid you might be paying attention, they’ll employ some sort of distraction to get your attention somewhere else.
So when Jude says that certain people have crept in unnoticed - ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ - there are two possibilities. Either God’s people didn’t care enough about the faith that had been delivered to them to pay close attention to people who were coming in, or they were distracted by other things in their lives. In either case, Jude tells them to earnestly contend for the faith - in other words, the good news of Jesus Christ is worth paying attention to, it’s worth studying and meditating on so that you can give a solid reason for the hope that you have in Christ Jesus! Knowing what God’s word says is important. It’s valuable. It’s worthy of your time and energy.
I once had the kids count how many Bibles we have in our home. Not counting the ones online that can be accessed with the click of a mouse, we had 40-some physical copies of the Bible! But just having the Bible isn’t enough. You have to read it, think about it, digest it, and know it so well that you can defend your beliefs that are based upon it. Otherwise, people can creep in unnoticed and get you to believe things that just aren’t so. Stay on your guard. Value the gift that God has given. Make it part of who you are!!!
Sabbath, February 27th
What Are You Looking At?
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:37
Have you ever asked yourself who gets to decide how much something is worth? What is a glass of water worth? Well, it depends on how thirsty you are and how many other people want that glass of water. How much is a car worth? Or a painting? Or a book? In our society today, the value of an item depends upon how many people really want that item. It’s a crazy thing, really!!
Have you ever been to an auction? If there’s a really good turnout at an auction, the seller may do very well because people decide they really want an item and they’ll keep bidding until they get it - even if it’s not really worth that much. But if there are not too many people there, you can pick up items for a song! I went to one auction the summer I got my first teaching job. To the dismay of the seller, there was a bigger auction going on a couple of blocks away. I was able to purchase a bedroom set, pots and pans, a crockpot, etc, for next to nothing. There just wasn’t anyone bidding against me to drive up the price. Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
But what about money? That has a value, right? Actually, our money is supposed to have value, but once the government decided to take us off the gold and silver standard, our money isn’t stable. Even our coins are suspect. Did you know that it costs almost twice as much as a penny is worth to make it? And a nickel costs over half again as much as its worth to make. But we believe a penny is worth one cent, and as long as everybody agrees, our system keeps limping along.
But this verse in Psalm 119:37 gives a little different perspective. The second half of the verse says, “and give me life in your ways.” What is really valuable? God’s ways because they bring life. We want life, not death. We want good things and fun things and pleasant things. But here’s the kicker: some things are worthless. That is, they will not aid you at all in seeking God’s ways and finding life. And! the psalmist makes this point: I may not know what is worthless; I may have become beguiled by what everyone around me says is valuable! I may not even realize that what I’m looking at will not bring life; in fact, it will bring death.
This verse is really a prayer. The psalmist is acknowledging that he doesn’t always realize that he’s looking at something worthless, spending time on something that is not only not profitable; it actually could be harmful. Then he asks that God will turn his eyes away from looking at worthless things. The implication is then that God will turn the psalmist’s eyes towards those things which bring life, aka God’s ways.
It is a good idea to be aware of what has your attention and how valuable it really is. But it’s also very important to realize that God’s determination of what’s valuable is really the only true standard. May He turn our eyes toward life.
Sabbath, March 13th
So That You Will Not Sin
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. , , , 1 John 2:1 (NIV)
Materials: apple, banana, grapes; can of mandarin oranges, pineapple, cherry pie filling; frozen blueberries, strawberries, cantaloup; pecans
What happens when Mom or Dad tell you to do something and you disobey? There are consequences, aren’t there!! Sometimes it’s a swat. Sometimes it’s time out. Sometimes it’s no tv or being grounded. Sometimes it’s just Mom and Dad are mad at you. And as you get older, having Mom and Dad mad at you is worse than any other punishment. Or actually, it is worse when Mom and Dad are disappointed in you. If you are blessed to have this kind of relationship with your parents, then you have a much better understanding of how serious it is to disobey God, aka sin. There are consequences. Sometimes it’s a physical consequence, a punishment. Sometimes it’s knowing that God is mad at me, or, worse yet, disappointed in me. I don’t even like to think about that!!!
So when John writes that he scribed this letter to God’s people so that they would not sin, it is something to pay attention to. This whole passage is a great encouragement to obey God to the best of our ability, but to know that if we fail, if we make a mistake, Jesus Christ is there to forgive us when we repent. Then He restores our relationship with the Father. There might still be a consequence, but God is not alienated from us anymore.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had something you could do to encourage God’s people not to sin?! Oh, but there is!!! Hebrews 10:24-25 says that we need to think about how to spur one another on to love and good works and to encourage one another. We definitely do have something we can do to help one another. Maybe it’s a phone call. Maybe it’s making a card or drawing a picture. Maybe it’s a hug or a smile on sabbath. Sometimes just being at church is a great encouragement to the church family. We miss each one of you when you’re not here.
We are a family, the Lord’s army, a team. And a team, a family, an army works best when they work together. Here’s what that looks like: Let’s say I have an apple. An apple is good, but it doesn’t make a fruit salad. So let’s add a banana. That’s good! Now we have crunch and tangy along with smooth and subtle. Hmm. Let’s add some sweet - like a can of mandarin oranges. How about a complement of chunks of pineapple. We need something small and round for texture and color - how about some frozen blueberries. Let’s add some frozen strawberries and frozen chunks of cantaloup. Now we need a can of cherry pie filling. The filling will coat the apples and keep them from turning brown, even while it ties all the fruit together. Oh, and let’s add some nuts. Every team needs someone who nuts. Each one of these pieces in the fruit salad has a role in making the fruit salad stronger, more appealing, more able to be the best fruit salad it can be. Alone each ingredient is good, but together, it’s better.
In the same way, we can come alongside our church family and help to make each person stronger. Spend some time this week thinking about how you can encourage our church family, so they will be stronger in the Lord to do His will, so they will not sin.
Sabbath, March 20th
The Raging of the Sea
You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. Psalm 89:9 (ESV)
Materials: bottles of water, buoyant objects which fit into bottle
It doesn’t take long in this world for most of us to feel like we’re a tiny person caught in a maelstrom that we didn’t cause, that we didn’t want, and that we didn’t see coming. There’s a good reason people call them “storms of life.” It can feel like everything is conspiring to pull you under so that you’ll drown. And honestly, sometimes it feels very much like those waves are getting higher and higher with the sole, malevolent intention of swamping your boat, beating you under, dragging you down.
It’s much like putting a tiny figurine into a water bottle and then trying to keep it under the water all the time. You can turn the bottle end over end. You can shake it violently. You can spin it like a top. Or maybe you let everything calm down and then hit the bottle with a surprise attack.
But for those who belong to Jesus Christ, we have to keep our eyes on Him, not on the waves, not on the trouble, not on the tempest around us. We look to Him for strength, provision, and protection. God takes care of us. That’s His job and we don’t get to tell Him how to do His job. We have our own job: giving glory and honor and praise to Him regardless of our circumstances.
*** The Hebrew slave girl of Naaman’s wife (We don’t even know her name!!) trusted God enough, even as a captive in a foreign country, to tell Naaman’s wife that God could heal him of his leprosy.
*** Joseph was sold as a slave in Egypt. He refused to disobey God. Instead he trusted him - to go to him for the interpretation of the dreams and then to give God the glory for the interpretation.
*** Daniel was a captive in a foreign country - but he refused to obey the kind’s edict and continued his habit of praying three times a day to God, regardless of the storm that would cause in his life, i.e. being thrown into the lions’ den.
There are so many stories of Godly people whose circumstances were less than perfect, but they demonstrated their belief and trust in God through their actions, bringing glory and honor to Him, praising God through those actions.
Yes, sometimes it feels like the storms of life are bigger than we are. Sometimes it feels like we are in a hopeless situation. That’s when it’s time to praise God. I like to do it in song. It could be a song like “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” or it could be “We Won’t Be Shaken” (by Building 429) or “Even If” (by MercyMe), “Hills and Valleys” (Tauren Wells), “Sparrows” (Jason Grey), or so many others. The reality is we serve the great God who can still the raging waves in our lives.
Sabbath, March 27th
Bars of Iron and Bronze
Your bars shall be iron and bronze, and as your days, so shall your strength be. Deuteronomy 33:25 (ESV)
Materials: box lid, string/yarn, spaghetti, popsicle sticks, straws, metal bolts
Let’s suppose we have a model of a country. The country has a border wall around it for protection from wild animals and enemies. But we need a gate so we can get in and out. We still want to visit other countries. We still want to trade with them. We can’t completely block ourselves in. So we need a gate. What are we going to secure our gate with? We could use a nice strong cord. But if our enemies have a strong knife or if there’s a wildfire, that cord won’t last long. What about spaghetti? Well, that’s silly, right? At the first sight of rain, that spaghetti “bar” will be worthless. What about wood? Well, like the strong cord, wood can be cut or burned. What about plastic? It’s strong. But probably not strong enough. What about metal? If we make our gate and dead bolt (bar) out of metal, will it be strong enough to repel the danger?
This verse is part of a blessing pronounced by Moses on the tribe of Asher. Interestingly, Asher was along the northern border of Israel. So if Asher’s gates, and specifically, the bars securing the gates, were strong, the whole country was protected from enemies. In a sense, then, this was a blessing for all of Israel. And we know that it was a blessing of strength because of the parallel structure of the verse. The second half of the verse says, “As your days, so shall your strength be.” In other words, as long as you live, may your have the strength you need. So we know that the first half of the verse is also dealing with strength.
So then what happened? Israel was invaded by the Assyrians from the north. Didn’t they make their bars and gates out of iron and bronze? We don’t really know. But we do know that they turned away from something that is stronger than iron and bronze, something that could have protected them from any enemy. They turned away from God and His ways. They chose to follow pagan customs. So God allowed their enemies to overcome them.
Sometimes we worry about being strong enough to be protected from anything harmful. So what are you securing your gate with? Are you using spaghetti or cords? Are you using wood or metal? Notice that God still expected them to build with a strong material; don’t be stupid. Use the metal to build your gate and your bar. But then you follow God with all of your heart. He is our protection, our strong tower, our protection, our shield. In reality, if we don’t find our security in God, putting our trust even in iron and booze would be similar to trying to secure our gate with spaghetti.
Sabbath, April 3rd
How Do You Handle God’s Word?
. . . . a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
Materials: a hand-held fan, a box puzzle
Do you remember the first time you saw a fan folded up? Were you absolutely amazed when the lady snapped it open with a flick of her wrist? That fan, a combination of paper, wood, and glue, became a useful tool - when mere moments earlier, it was not helpful. Another apparently useless item is a puzzle box? It looks like a piece of decorative wood on a shelf. It seemingly does nothing but take up space and collect dust. But if you know how to open the box, it becomes a place to keep treasures.
I saw my fan the other day and couldn’t help thinking how well the fan illustrates this verse in 2 Timothy 2:15: a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
If we belong to God and we are His servants, then it logically follows that God has given us a job to do. We are to be witnesses of Him to the people around us. We are to make disciples of all nations. We are to spread the good news of the kingdom of God. Furthermore, God has given us a tool to accomplish that task: the Bible, the word of God, the word of truth.
So here’s the question: Do we handle that tool rightly? Do we use the Bible in the correct manner? That means believing it to be true, believing that it doesn’t contradict itself, that it means what it says and says what it means! We don’t take the Bible and add anything to it; we don’t add other people’s thoughts (other writings or books), we don’t add our own interpretations. We don’t pick and choose what we want to believe. We have to take all of the Bible, not just our favorite parts.
But just believing that God’s word is true isn’t enough. We have to know what the Bible says. That means we shouldn’t leave our Bible on the shelf and only read it on the Sabbath or when we need God’s help. We have to study it carefully, reading it diligently each day, seeking to understand what God’s telling us. Thankfully, those who belong to God have the Holy Spirit to help guide and illuminate God’s word so we can understand and apply the word of truth.
So we talked about the fan - how it’s a good object lesson of rightly handling God’s words. The puzzle box is also a good object lesson! Just as the puzzle box can hold treasures, so does the Bible. But you have to open the box to see the treasure, just as you have to open the Bible to find the treasures God has for you inside!
Here’s the bottom line: if you desire to know what God has said, so you open the Bible and read it, then you won’t be ashamed. Quite the contrary, in fact. God will bless you as you seek Him and His word of truth.
Sabbath, April 10th
Missing the Mark
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8
Materials: marshmallows, popsicle catapults (https://academy.animaljam.com/posts/marshmallow-catapult)
There's something very compelling about hitting a target: darts, basketball, golf, skeet shooting, archery . . . and catapults come to mind! It takes skill to hit the bulls-eye consistently time after time. Who doesn’t like the call: nothing but net!! It has even become part of our language. If someone is describing something, we might say, “You nailed it” or “You hit that dead center.” The slang term of “right on” derives from the concept of having your sights right on the target. You are accurate.
Because we have this concept in our culture, it helps us enormously to understand the concept of sin. Literally, the word sin in the Greek means “missing the mark.” What a mental picture this creates for us!! Our desire is to hit the target, to hit dead center, to hit the mark. Nowhere is this more important than when we’re talking about obedience to God. We want our actions to be right on, to nail God’s commandments, to be on target with every one of our actions.
How do people get better at archery or catapulting? Practice. Attention to detail. Desire to hit the mark. The same applies to not sinning, aka obedience to God’s law. We practice. When we fail, we repent and we try again. We pay attention to the details, seeking out God’s will to do it exactly as He desires. And we earnestly desire to do what is right in God’s sight. If we have the desire, if we pay attention, and if we persevere, we may get closer to obedience and avoiding sinning (missing the mark). We also need God’s guidance - through the Holy Spirit and reading God’s word.
Some people miss the mark repeatedly, so they want to move the target. God doesn’t change; His laws don’t change. We cannot change the law just because we feel like it - and we cannot move the target just because we can’t hit it with our marshmallow catapult.
Read your Bible. Pay attention to what it says. And greatly desire to hit the mark!
Sabbath, April 17th
Truly Making All Things New
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:9
Materials: Pez dispenser and candy
Have you ever seen a Pez dispenser? The dispenser top is usually some animal. I have a Winnie the Pooh and a duckling Pez dispenser. But they come in all sorts of tops. When the head is pushed back, the dispenser lifts one piece of candy and pushes it forward so that it is easily obtainable. It’s an ingenious gimmick to sell sugar candy. Kids are enthralled with the idea that you can get a piece of candy and then it’s “miraculously” replaced. Honestly, there are any number of things where adults would like to see that phenomenon applied.
Maybe that’s why we like spring so much. Every year daffodils spring out of the ground, sometimes in places we’d forgotten they were the previous year. Trees bloom. Lilac bushes that were just a mass of dead-looking twigs are again a fragrant bouquet. And even adults feel that childlike wonder when the row of radishes pops its head up. “Yea! I’ve got little baby radishes!!” Where everything was seemingly dead and colorless, everything is made new and fresh again.
However! Everything really wasn’t dead; it was just dormant. If it was really dead, spring would not bring it back to life. Dead is dead. And that’s how it works with people too - whether we’re talking about physically or spiritually. When we die physically in this life, we are dead. And when we are dead spiritually in our sins, we cannot make the choice to come to life again. Dead is dead. We need the Giver of Life. We need Jesus Christ.
Praise our God who calls us and draws us to Himself (John 6:44)! When we have a relationship with God the Father through Jesus, we are spiritually alive; we’ve been made new. Plus, we have the assurance of eternal life - being raised from the dead at Jesus’ return and living forever with Him.
During the springtime, we rejoice at the sight of new life. Imagine the rejoicing when God’s people are raised out of their graves to eternal life.
We are enthralled with a simple candy dispenser that gives us a new piece of candy every time we push back the head or the miracles of spring. As C.S. Lewis noted, we are too easily contented to sit in dirt and play in the mud. We need to set our minds on things above, on eternal life and God making all things new.
Sabbath, April 24th
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. Proverbs 17:3
Materials: egg & hard-boiled egg; uncooked spaghetti & cooked spaghetti; raw potato & cooked potato
A memorable Curious George episode involved George watching a chef at work. When the chef put spaghetti or carrots or potatoes into a pot of boiling water, they came out soft. George deduced that it was a special flopification pot. He wondered what other things he could put into the pot to make them floppy. George got one thing right: hot water changes things.
There’s an idiomatic expression, “being in hot water,” which means that you’re in trouble. We typically conclude that someone who is in trouble, or hot water, with their parents or with the authorities has done something wrong, something that has earned them trouble. But trouble doesn’t always have to come when you’ve done something wrong. Sometimes trouble, or hot water, comes your way when you were simply minding your own business.
Nevertheless, how you respond to the trouble, or hot water, reveals a lot about what kind of person you are. A potato or pasta put into hot water becomes soft and pliable. An egg put into hot water is hardened. It’s interesting, though, that both are ready to be eaten after their experience in the hot water.
What about you? When you experience hot water, or trouble, do you become more pliable to God’s will, more sympathetic to others who are also experiencing trouble, more easily approachable? Or do you become a little harder - with a little more resolve and determination to do God’s will, to persevere through difficulties.
God knows just exactly what we need to mold us into the image of His Son. Sometimes it’s trouble. And although we’d really like to avoid the hot water, as long as we trust God and praise Him regardless of the trouble, or maybe because of the trouble, we’ll continue to be changed into the image of Jesus Christ.
Just something to think about next time you find yourself in a flopification pot.
First Day of Unleavened Bread, Wednesday, April 28th
Prove, Try, and Test
Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. Psalm 26:2
Materials: lemon, lemonade, cups, iron, kite tail, string
Let’s say I have a string. It’s a fairly strong string and I think I can use it to fly my kite. But I might want to prove that it’s strong enough to use before I attach my kite to it. Otherwise, my kite might end up in the tree. So I’m going to tug and pull on that string, proving it is kite-flying worthy.
Let’s say I want to attach a tail to my kite, and I want it to look sharp. So I’m going to iron it. I can’t iron it until the iron is hot. How do I know when the iron is ready to be used? I have to test it. You have to be careful because when it is hot, it will burn your fingers. But if you lick your fingers and quickly touch the iron, you’ll know when it’s hot enough!!
And let’s say that I know that kite flying will make me thirsty. So I’m making some lemonade. But I want to know if I’ve put enough sugar in the lemonade. What do I have to do? I have to try it. Yum. That’s so good I’m not sure I want to go fly my kite. I think I’ll just sit here and drink my lemonade.
Perhaps you’re thinking that proving the string is the same thing as testing it or trying it out. Maybe you’re thinking that testing the iron’s readiness is the same thing as proving that it’s ready or trying it on the tail. I suppose you’re thinking that trying the lemonade is the same thing as testing it or proving that it is sweet enough. Well, you’re right. When you look up the Hebrew words they are all synonyms meaning to try, to test, to examine, to prove, to inspect, to evaluate.
It is interesting that this is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. David is asking God to prove that he is fully devoted and committed to God. He wants God to test that he is ready for service, and he wants God to try him, to verify that he (David) has done what he is affirming. That’s quite a request to make of God!!
Would you make that request of God - asking Him to try you, to examine your ways, to prove your heart is solely devoted to Him?
It’s a powerful thing to consider. We just celebrated the Passover, the commemoration of the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. We eat the bread and drink the wine not only as a reminder of what Jesus was willing to do on our behalf, but also a reaffirmation of our relationship with Jesus as our Savior. And just as Jesus was willing to be completely obedient to the Father, to be solely devoted to God, even to death on the cross, we are to be conformed to His image, willing to be completely obedient to the Father in all things.
Over the next seven days, we are daily eating unleavened bread. It’s a reminder of the changing power of taking Christ into us that we might be changed, fully, completely, unwaveringly into His image. Then we, like David, might have the confidence to ask God to try us, to prove us, to test us.
You shall count off fifty days until the day after the seventh Sabbath, Leviticus 23:16
Materials: calendars, 50 stickers for each child
God gives us certain things to do for each of his holy days. What are we supposed to do on Trumpets? Shout!! What are we supposed to do on the Day of Atonement? Fast or afflict our souls. What are we supposed to do for all of the Feast of Tabernacles? We’re supposed to dwell in temporary dwellings or tents. What are we supposed to do for the Days of Unleavened Bread? Eat unleavened bread each day. So what are we supposed to do leading up to the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost? We are supposed to count.
Do you know when you are supposed to start counting? You count from the day after the sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. It is the Wave Sheaf Day. It is the day Jesus was resurrected from the dead and presented before the Father, the First of the firstfruits. At the same time, the first of the barley harvest was waved before God before the new grain of the harvest could be eaten. This is the day that we are to begin counting.
How many days do we count? 50 days - up until the day after the seventh sabbath. These next seven weeks are the days that we are to count leading up to Pentecost.
It’s easy to live in a temporary dwelling for seven days during the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s pretty easy to remember to shout on Trumpets. It takes a bit more concentration not to eat anything on the Day of Atonement because sometimes you do things without thinking about what you’re doing. And it takes a deliberate effort to remember to eat unleavened bread every day for a week. But it is hard to remember to count each day. You might start out remembering to count, to think about what day of the count you’re on. Some people like to make a calendar and count off the days. Some people like to keep a journal for seven weeks to make a conscious effort to count as we are commanded.
God doesn’t tell us why we are to count. He doesn’t tell us to make a chain to count down the days, or to keep a journal, or to mark off the days on the calendar. But God does tell us to count. It’s important that we obey our God. Let’s count!
Tuesday, May 4th - Last Day of Unleavened Bread
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Hebrews 12:12
Materials: a glass of water (or object of similar weight)
One of the things God exhorts the seven churches of Asia to do is to persevere - to overcome - to keep fighting the good fight - to endure to the end. Sometimes we look at what we are called to do and think that it isn’t that hard. But consider a glass of water.
Can you hold that glass of water out in front of you? Sure. That’s easy. What if I asked you to hold it out in front of you for 2 minutes? You might find it a little more challenging: it’s boring; you don’t see any sense in doing it; and your arms get tired. What if I asked you to hold it for twenty minutes? Two hours?
Sometimes that’s how Christians approach following God’s commandments. They don’t see what the big deal is in obeying God in every minute detail. It’s not as “exciting” as doing what they want to do. And it requires effort; sometimes you get tired of fighting the good fight. It’s easier to go with the flow.
But our God is not capricious. He doesn’t make up commandments just to give us a hard time or to keep us busy. On the contrary, God’s laws are designed for our good. Keeping them makes life work better. There’s a purpose in everything that God asks us to do.
There’s an interesting story in Exodus 17. The Amalekites attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses told Joshua to take the people to fight while he stood on the top of the hill holding up the staff of God. As long as Moses could hold up the staff, the Israelites were winning. Whenever his arms grew tired and he lowered his arms, the Amalekites were winning. So Aaron and Hur told Moses to sit on a stone, then they stood on either side of Moses and held up his arms. Joshua defeated the Amalekites. Moses built an altar to the LORD there and called it the LORD is our Banner or Jehovah-Nissi. (This is the same name of God that is used in Isaiah 53!)
Here’s the lesson: God expects you to uphold His laws, honor His Name, revere Him as holy. But sometimes we get tired. We need someone to come alongside and hold up our arms, so to speak. We need someone who believes in God as we do to encourage us and tell us to keep fighting the good fight. We are going to grow weary at times. But just as Moses had some help from Aaron and Hur, we need to have people we can depend upon when we are feeling like we can’t persevere - someone to help strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees.
Trusting in God
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2
Materials: fully opened iris, iris bud (Can be done with any flower.)
There’s an old hymn that I love entitled “Lead, Kindly Light.” The author speaks of wanting to figure out where he’s going in life. He wanted to know what his life was going to look like and make firm plans about his path. What he learned through life was that he has to rely on God to do the leading and finally came to the place where he could say, “I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.”
It’s good to make plans. It’s good to think ahead, to see trouble coming and to avoid it. It’s important to have a goal and work toward that goal. Without a sense of direction, you don’t really get anywhere. You float. You meander. You wander.
However, there’s another saying: If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.
The reality is that when we give our lives to Jesus Christ as our Savior, He becomes our Captain. He pilots our path. That’s what it means to be completely surrendered to God. He gets to decide. That doesn’t mean we sit on the couch and watch tv until God drops something in our lap. We still make plans. We still work hard at what our hand finds to do. But we start each day asking God for His direction and guidance in our lives. Then when things don’t go the way we thought they would go or should have gone, we don’t get upset. We don’t find ourselves “thrown for a loop.” We trust that our lives are in God’s hands. He’s in control. He’s sovereign. He knows that we’ve turned our lives over to Him and there’s nothing that happens to us of which He is not aware. Our prayer is the title of that hymn, “Lead, Kindly Light.” He leads us. His commandments light our steps. His Holy Spirit directs our days.
Sometimes we want to take matters into our own hands. And it’s much like taking an iris (or rose or tulip) bud and trying to open the flower fully. If we try to open the bud, we’ll end up making a mess of the flower. If we allow God to open the bud, it will unfold as He designed it. Similarly, we need to remember to trust God and to allow God the unfolding of our lives, not rushing before His timing to make things happen as we want them to. He is more than able to cause beautiful things to happen in our lives - to His glory and honor.
Follow the Directions
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
Materials: assortment of items with directions (box of macaroni and cheese, tea, popcorn, game, electronic device, etc)
There’s a saying that I grew up with around my house: if all else fails, read the directions. You laugh, but way too many people have the mindset that it’s easier to just figure it out. Who needs directions?!
Let’s talk about that theory for a minute. Do you know that macaroni and cheese tastes a lot better if you drain the water from the noodles before adding the milk, butter, and cheese? But, hey, to each his own! . . . Look at a package of microwave popcorn. Do they really need to tell people to remove the plastic wrap before putting it in the microwave? Apparently! Can you imagine what a mess it would be if someone tried to microwave it with the wrapper still on? . . . . Did you know that you should steep your tea bag for four minutes? Most people go dunk-dunk-dunk and throw the bag away. Or did you know that for Throat Coat, a special herbal tea which soothes sore throats, you’re supposed to let the tea bag steep for 10-15 minutes? Imagine if you just went dunk-dunk-dunk with that one! Your throat might not be feeling very coated.
Seriously! Think about all of the things that have directions for use! What happens if you don’t use them that way? The short answer is: it’s not good.
Why do you think that God’s law would be any different? God gave us His laws, His commandments, His decrees, His statutes, His instructions so that life will work well for us. If we don’t keep them, it doesn’t hurt Him. But it can really hurt us! We can be, in the psalmist’s words, afflicted.
And there’s a funny thing about being afflicted: it makes you want to go back and figure out why things aren’t going smoothly. You know that saying, if all else fails, read the directions? Don’t wait until things have failed in your life. Don’t wait until things are really bad and you’re afflicted. Read God’s statutes now. Follow His directions now. You’ll be glad you did.
Keep On Praying
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1 (NIV)
Materials needed: enough candy for each child
How many times have we read this passage. The widow is persistent is going back to the unjust judge to get justice against her adversary. Eventually, he grants her request - not because it’s the right thing to do, but because he wants her to quit bothering him. Jesus tells his disciples that if a judge who cares for neither God nor man will grant justice, how much more will God answer those He loves! (paraphrased)
What does that look like? Well, suppose I tell one of the children to go ask my husband if they can have a piece of candy. He’s going to ask them if they have brushed their teeth this morning. If they say yes, he may say that he’s going to think about it and tell them to go away. I’ll tell the child to go back and ask again. This time Ron may ask if they ate breakfast. If they say yes, then Ron may say that he’s going to think about it and to go sit down. When they come back to me, I’ll ask them to go ask again. This time Ron may ask their parent if they can have a piece of candy. If the answer is yes, then he may give them a piece.
The point is that God doesn’t say yes or no just because He’s in a good mood or a bad mood. God loves us. He wants the very best for us. So, as Ron was asking about their teeth, their breakfast, their parent’s approval, it emphasizes that God answers our requests because He has a reason - a reason for our good.
I will ask the child to go back to Ron and tell Him thank you, if he didn’t already do so. I want to emphasize that when God answers our prayers, we must remember to say thank you!! It is from God that all blessings flow and Deuteronomy 28:47 comes to mind.
Next I’ll ask the child to go back to Ron one more time and ask Him if everyone else can have a piece of candy. The point is that our prayers shouldn’t be just about us and what we want. We diligently need to be praying for others as well.
We should always pray and not give up.
Timing is Everything
Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing. Proverbs 27:14
There’s a fun skit called “Is It Time Yet?” Multiple kids are lying on a full-sized bed. The one on the end says, “Is it time yet?” The question is passed from child to child all the way down. The last child says, “No, it’s not time yet” which gets passed all the way back to the first child. They all pretend to go back to sleep. This is repeated a couple of times. Finally the answer is “Yes” and after it gets passed all the way down, the last child rolls over, causing each child down the line to roll over, which causes the last child to be rolled off the bed.
As silly as that sounds, timing is crucial in so many things! And Ecclesiastes chapter 3 says there is a time for every activity under heaven. That is, there’s an appropriate time to do things.
You wouldn’t put your houseplants outside right before a hard frost.
You wouldn’t drink a lot of caffeine right before you wanted to sleep.
You wouldn’t drink two liters of water right before leaving on a long car trip.
You wouldn’t turn on the television, with the volume turned up, in the middle of the night when everyone is trying to sleep.
You wouldn’t put your clothes in the dryer halfway through the wash cycle.
You wouldn’t roll down your car window in the middle of a deluge of rain.
You wouldn’t tell everyone a secret that you know shouldn’t be told.
There are all kinds of things that are not bad necessarily. But it’s important to do them at the right time. One of Solomon’s proverbs is “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.” It’s not wrong to bless your neighbor. But loudly blessing your neighbor, early in the morning when everyone is trying to sleep, just isn’t going to be well-received. It’s not going to go over well!
But this verse could go deeper even that not having the right timing. Proverbs 29:5 says, “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.” The two Hebrew words “flatter” and “bless” are totally different, but it’s a cautionary reminder that if you are going to praise someone, make sure that it’s accurate. It’s not inflated.
Sometimes, in our eagerness to share news or our excitement over something that means so much to us, we forget to stop and think what is happening in the life of the person with whom we want to share. We don’t think about other people. We don’t consider their feelings. We just don’t think about our timing. And timing is definitely important.
June 5, 2021
God Helps Me
For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:13
Have you ever thought about God holding your right hand and helping you? What kind of picture does that create in your mind? How many times have you experienced help just when you needed it?
How does God help you? Can you think of a time when God helped you and you know it was God working for you? Many years ago, Ron had tennis elbow - he’d pulled the tendons in his elbow. It was so bad that he wasn’t sure he could climb a telephone pole to do his work. He was seriously thinking about putting in for time off. He couldn’t even hold a coffee cup!! So at church he asked to be anointed. The minister mistakenly asked for healing for Ron’s shoulder. So the next day, Ron was sitting in his truck, eating lunch and he just asked a quick prayer, that God would apply that request for healing to his elbow. About thirty seconds later, Ron felt something give and he was able to use his arm again. God helped Ron when no one else could.
How else does God help us? One day Ken and Dan were driving home from our house. It was late. It was raining. It was not a good time for the serpentine belt to come off. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know that it means the van doesn’t move. There just happened to be a gas station right there. And there just happened to be a mechanic who just happened to be filling up his car with gas right then who knew exactly how to put the belt back on. God helped Ken and Dan by providing a person in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.
There’s a third way that God helps us. One day my parents got home from church and parked their car in the driveway right next to the house and unloaded everything from church. Mom had a really strong feeling that they needed to move the car back behind the house in front of the garage. So they did. During the night, a huge wind blew up and blew down a black walnut tree onto the driveway next to their house, right where the car would have been. So sometimes God helps us by giving us nudges by the Holy Spirit.
We could sit here all day long and talk about how God has helped us. Whether it was a direct miracle, whether it was help from exactly the right person in the right place at the right time, or whether it’s a strong feeling (I’d call that a nudge from the Holy Spirit), God provides what we need - if we love Him and if we seek Him with all of our hearts.
I encourage you to write down those times when you know God held your hand and helped you. It helps for those times when you’re facing something really tough.
Sticks and Stones
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up . . . Ephesians 4:29
There’s a saying: Sticks and stone can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
That’s just not true. Words don’t leave visible wounds, but words can leave interior wounds that last for years and people never realize how much they’ve hurt you. There’s a video going around on Facebook that illustrates this pretty well. It goes something like this:
Take a piece of paper. Nice, smooth, unblemished, a blank slate ready for use. Now say something unkind about the paper. Crumple a corner. Say something mean. Crumple some more. Continue until the paper is completely crumpled up. Now, apologize for the things that you said about the paper in an unkind or mean-spirited or rude manner. With each apology, straight out the paper. What does it look like when it’s all uncrumpled? Is it smooth and nice and unblemished? No. There’s the evidence of the crumpling.
Think twice before you say something. Don’t say something in anger. Consider how beneficial your words will be, even if they are true. Sometimes your words are true, but it’s not the right time to say that particular thing. And then, consider how you say your words. You might be correct in what you’re saying, but your rude manner, or simply unkind manner, can leave unnecessary wounds.
Think of it this way: God created everything there is with the spoken word. If we are in training to be like God (for we will see Him as He is), then we’d better learn how to control our tongues (and the words we speak with that tongue) right now.
Sticks and stones can break my bones; and words have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21).
Sabbath, June 19th
Don’t Grieve the Holy Spirit
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
Materials needed: containers with lids (some tight seals, some not so tight) in a picnic basket
Have you ever packed a picnic lunch (or lunch box)? You might put in some potato salad, maybe some coleslaw, and some apple slices. You have sandwiches, a jar of pickles, a couple of bottles of lemonade, and napkins. But when you get to the picnic spot and start unpacking your basket, you discover something leaked! The napkins are soggy! Everything is sticky. Yuck. Not a good start to the picnic. Then you discover the jar of pickles isn’t sealed. This is not a good thing. Not only did that allow the pickle juice to leak all over, it also means air could get into the jar. Depending on how long the jar has been sitting out, the pickles are no longer safe to eat.
“Seal” means the same thing in Ephesians 4:30: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. The word “seal” means “to seal, to set a seal upon, from a word that means to stamp for security or preservation.”
This is an interesting verse. The Holy Spirit seals us for the day of redemption. It keeps us secure; it keeps us safe in Christ. (This does not mean we don’t experience trouble or danger in this world; it means we will be in God’s kingdom.)
We know that the Holy Spirit can warn of what’s coming (Acts 20:23). The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16). The Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13).
These are all good things for the Christian who loves God! We very much want these things! So Paul says in Galatians 5:25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” That is, if we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within, teaching, guiding, protecting, then we also need to be making choices which will reflect the character of God. Here’s how The Message puts it, “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.”
Or to put it another way, don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. If it’s something you’d be ashamed of before God, don’t do it.
Pentecost, June 20th
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, Hebrews 4:16
Materials: collection of “things” your dad might agree that you can have (balls, stickers, crayons, notebook) and things you probably can’t have (balloon, bell, popgun)
Do you know what it means to be confident? It means you are comfortably sure of something. If you are confident that you can go ask your dad for something, you wouldn’t hesitate. But if you’re not confident that he’ll like your request, or if you’re not confident that now is a good time, you will probably be hesitant or reluctant to go ask your dad for what you want.
But here’s a scripture that talks about being confident when we go before God’s throne! How comfortable are you in going to God to ask for what you want?
It’s a curious thing. God has given us the privilege of coming before Him with our concerns. He wants to hear from us. But we humans can get off track too far on either side of the road. Our daily prayers can start looking more like a grocery list of things that we want - almost treating God like He’s a genie in a bottle. Then when we don’t get what we want, we doubt God and His goodness for us. That’s not right. He loves us so much.
On the other hand, we can think that God doesn’t want to be bothered by our little problems. That’s not right either. God is the One who graciously gave us His Son; what could be bigger than that? (Romans 8:32) But if we need the confirmation that God loves us and that we can go to Him to find help in time of need, God also gave us His Holy Spirit.
As we talked about yesterday, the Holy Spirit teaches us, warns us, keeps us safe in Christ, intercedes for us when we pray, and testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God. (John 16:13; Acts 20:23; Ephesians 4:30; Romans 8:26-27; Romans 8:16) This last one should resonate with anyone who has had a good dad. We are confident that we can go to our Heavenly Father with our request because we’ve had that experience with our earthly fathers. We are confident going to our earthly father because our relationship with him; we are confident going to our Heavenly Father because of our relationship with Him. Pretty cool that we get to celebrate Pentecost on Father’s Day this year.
Wise or Foolish
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, Romans 1:22
Materials: toy turtle, markers
There have been some pretty ridiculous things said by people who claim to be wise, or at least smarter than all the rest of us. For instance:
*There’s an idea out there that we need to quit raising cattle for food because they are creating too many greenhouse gases, which is raising our global temperatures and causing the icecaps to melt. That means the polar bears won’t have any place to live and will die.
*Environmental groups stopped the logging industry in the Northwest because they claimed the logging was destroying the environment of the spotted owl, thereby endangering the owl.
*Property owners built a house. When a culvert near the road was blocked with trees and debris, it caused the water which normally drained, to back up and flood their property. When they cleared the blockage, the EPA came in, accusing them of illegally draining a wetland, illegally building a house on a wetland, and fined them daily until they would demolish or relocate the house - even though a local court ruled in the property owners’ favor. (source: Stossel)
But this is nothing new. There have long been those who defied common sense and Biblical wisdom, claiming themselves to be wise.
*George Washington had a common cold. But the medical experts of the day believed you had to let the bad blood out of your body to get over an illness. They drained an estimated 40% of his blood.
*Evolution is based on the assumption that the cells of all living things are simple. Once science proved that cells are enormously intricate, the evolution debate should have been dead. But evolutionists still argue that all life came from a rock.
*Some people (who don’t believe in God) believe in a big bang theory which states that there was nothing. Then nothing exploded into everything. The Bible says there was nothing but God, and God spoke everything into existence.
*Some people believe that the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle. O.K. even supposing that were true, what does the turtle rest upon?? When asked this question, the proponent of this belief said, “It’s turtles all the way down.”
*Some people believe that we need to re-introduce wild animals to areas where they were once found. That means bears, wolves, and mountain lions have all been brought into areas to live where they had almost all been killed. The problem is that these wild animals don’t cohabitate with humans well. There was a good reason why our ancestors hunted and killed some of these wild animals. The Bible talks about wild animals being a curse on the land: Leviticus 26:22 I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted. Yes, God gave mankind the dominion mandate to take care of the earth. That doesn’t mean we have to reintroduce wild animals to populated areas.
We could talk all day long about the foolishness of humans! But here’s the bottom line: Psalm 119:98 says that God’s laws make me wiser than my ungodly foes. If you reject God, then you are also rejecting the wisdom of God. And if you think you are wise, and yet you reject God, you become a fool.
July 3, 2021
Christ our Banner
And I will walk in freedom, for I have sought Your precepts. Psalm 119:45 (Berean)
Materials: American flags (one to give to each child)
Have you ever thought about the American flag (or any flag) and what the colors and symbols on the flags represent? The United States flag is comprised of three colors, arranged in 13 stripes, and an array of 50 white stars on a blue background (a canton). Red: Signifies hardiness and valor. White: Signifies purity and innocence. Blue: Signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice. Those are all admirable traits. Who wouldn’t want to have a country full of people who displayed hardiness, valor, purity, innocence, vigilance, perseverance, and justice?
The flag is not just a decoration. It’s a banner which flies over the country it represents. It also is lifted up during battle so that in the melee soldiers can keep track of which way to fight. It is a point around which soldiers will rally, or gather, so they can continue to fight as a single force, stronger and less vulnerable.
So isn’t it interesting that one of the names of God is Jehovah-Nissi which means God our Banner. It’s found in Exodus 17:8-15. And the description we just read about the flag applies to Jesus as well.
*For the Christian, Jesus is not just a decoration. We don’t just hang the label “Christian” on our lives and then go about our daily business. We identify ourselves as Christian and then conduct ourselves as Christians in everything. That’s the goal - to accurately reflect the character of our God through our thoughts, words, and actions.
*Jesus was lifted up, like a banner or flag is lifted up, when He was crucified. As His disciples, we are always mindful of the redemption He provided in dying for each of us. Knowing what Jesus did for us affects us and the decisions we make every day.
*Jesus, our Banner, draws His people together. We help and encourage each other. We are stronger together.
There will likely be a lot of flag waving tomorrow on the Fourth of July. Many people will not even think about what the flag represents nor the freedom that was won when the flag first flew over this country. In a similar way, there are many Christians who proclaim to be followers of Jesus who don’t know their Bible and don’t think about the freedom He purchased for us with His death on the cross. But freedom is not free; it comes at a great price. Our Founding Fathers who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor were following the example of Jesus Christ who died for us.
As you celebrate the Fourth of July, think about our freedoms and what the flag represents. But also think about Jesus, Jehovah-Nissi, God our Banner. Think about the freedom we have because of Him and how we should live our lives.
Seashells: Deceiving and Being Deceived
while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:13
Materials: conch shell
Has anyone ever told you that if you hold a conch shell to your ear you can hear the ocean? Now, let’s just think about that for one moment. How in the world could that be possible?!! The ocean isn’t inside the shell. The shell doesn’t have a tiny speaker broadcasting the ocean sounds. There is no way you could actually be hearing the ocean when you hold a conch shell to your ear.
So why do people say that? Well, it kinda sounds like the ocean. Hmmm. So if something “sounds” like something, we just assume that’s what it is? What kind of logic and science is that?
Unfortunately in our world, there are too many people who see something, hear something, or taste something - and jump to the conclusion that it is a specific thing. And perhaps in many of those cases, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Or does it? If we get accustomed to coming up with a plausible explanation without having evidence and truth behind it, then we are much more easily deceived by someone who comes along with a plausible story they’re trying to sell us without evidence and truth.
And if they can convince someone that it is true - like hearing the ocean in the conch shell - then the person who has been convinced that it’s true walks happily down the road, spreading the same untruth (AKA lie) without ever realizing that it is a lie.
For instance, I recently read that it’s not the ocean; it’s the blood surging through the veins in your ears. That sounds plausible. And I might even have spread that tale to others . . . except, I decided to verify the information. Guess what?! That’s not true either, no matter how plausible it sounds. Nor is it true that it’s air whooshing around inside the shell.
In this world where pictures can be photoshopped so easily, sounds can be mimicked and tweaked so easily, and where many people are too busy to verify a story before they spread it, it is really hard to know what to believe. Even if you trust the person who is telling you something, did they carefully check their facts?
Paul exhorts us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” That’s an important modus operandi in a world where “evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
And as for the seashell, what is it that you’re hearing when you put a conch shell to your ear? You are actually just hearing the ambient (background) noise around you resonating in the shell. You can produce the same effect with your hand or a cup.
Check it out at:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5
Materials: magnifying glass, bottle of water, basin of water, spray bottle, bottle with multiple holes poked in it
If you were to use a magnifying glass, you can bend the light rays coming from whatever it is you want to see and focus them on your retina. This makes the thing appear bigger to you. But you can also use a magnifying glass the other way. (Try this at home only with adult supervision!!) On a bright, sunshiny day, you can focus the light of the sun on a piece of paper and it will get so hot that it will burst into flame. You have intensified the focus of the light and light energy to the point that the paper catches on fire.
In a similar way, if I want to move a bunch of water, it is not effective to use my hands. I can splash some of it toward you, but I can’t focus the molecules with enough energy to make them go to a precise point. However, if I get a bottle with a pop top or a spray bottle (or a water gun), I can focus the water with energy behind it to get it to go farther in a unified direction.
Let’s talk about focus in context of this verse in Romans: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5
If your focus is on pleasing God, then you will expend your energy in a different way than if your focus is on yourself or pleasing another person. And really, you have to make a deliberate choice. Are you living your life in a way that glorifies and honors God? Is serving Him and pleasing Him your focus? Or are you making choices according to your wisdom, your wants, your desires, and your goals?
Let serving God be the focusing mechanism for everything you do. Be productive for our God to Whom we owe everything!
Sabbath, July 24th
The Secret Things of God
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33
Materials: long strips of paper, tape, scissors, marker
Have you ever seen a Mobius strip? They are used in an advanced branch of mathematics called topology and are used in conveyor and pulley belts. It’s fun to construct your own. Take long strips of paper. Make a 180º twist in one end before taping the ends together. Now draw with a marker along the middle of the paper loop. Even though you’re on the outside of the paper, by the time you get around the loop, you are on the inside. Now cut with the scissors along the line you drew. Suddenly our two pieces of paper have become one complete loop. Now let’s try it again. Only this time, put a complete 360º twist in the paper before taping the ends together. This time when you cut the paper you get two intersecting loops. It’s fun to see what happens every time you increase the number of twists in the paper!!
The first time you see this done, you want to have it repeated because the brain doesn’t think that what just happened could possibly have just happened. And this is just paper! And the construction of the Mobius strip is repeatable. And yet, it takes our brains a while to figure out how this could possibly have happened!
Do you understand how coal put under incredible pressure turns into a diamond? Do you understand how a bee can take nectar from flowers and turn it into honey? We could get someone to explain these processes to us; people have studied them.
So extrapolate out a little bit. Do you understand how a caterpillar can go into a chrysalis, completely turn into goo, and come out a butterfly? Do you understand how the human brain works? Do you understand the universe with its black holes, wrinkles in time, and flexible time?
These are all observable, repeatable actions in our world. But when we start to consider our great God. How can we, who can’t even understand these “simple” things, ever begin to think we could understand God, how He thinks, and why He does what He does. We just have to sit back in awe and thankfulness for His mercy and love toward us. Our great and awesome God!! How incredible You are!!!
Resource: 77 Science Activities, DeYoung, Donald B., BakerBooks, 1982, “Mystery Loops,” pgs. 59-61.
Sabbath, July 31st
Invention By Observation
But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; Job 12:7
Materials: glow stick, velcro, suction cup, scotch tape, photo of St. Louis arch, paper airplane, sponge, candle, alligator clip, bird-nose pliers
Do you know what each of these things has in common? They were all inspired by nature, or more precisely, an inventor saw something in nature which he copied to create something we use. For instance,
Glow sticks were inspired by fireflies.
Velcro was inspired by the thistle burdock.
Sonar was inspired by bats’ and dolphins’ use of echolocation.
Flight was inspired by watching birds, how they are formed and how they achieve lift.
Bullet trains were improved by watching the kingfisher.
Suction cups were inspired by octopus, but aren’t nearly as effective as the octopus’ suction cups which have ridges and can grasp things which have uneven surfaces.
Scotch tape was inspired by geckos whose feet are covered by tiny hairs.
Flippers were inspired by ducks’ webbed feet.
Submarines were inspired by studying whales.
St. Louis arch (and similar architecture) were inspired by the design of an egg shell.
How amazing it is that our God created the world around us to be so detailed and incredible! And then He created us with brains to use, to observe, to mimic and create. And when we do “create” something new, we realize the truth that there’s nothing new under the sun. God has already created it; we’re just building with His building blocks, using His creation as inspiration. So . . . keep an eye out. See what you can see in His creation. Be inspired! And remember to praise God for Who He is and what He’s done!!
Check out these links for more information:
No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; . . . Psalm 101:7
Materials: Things that look like other things, i.e. a rock that looks like a potato, a super ball that looks like a rock, a book that has a hollowed out center; a knife that looks like a bullet, etc.
There are some very clever gadgets out there that strike our fancy because they look like they are one thing, but they are actually something else. And sometimes these things can be useful. Take for instance, a college textbook that has been hollowed out. Before you open the book, it looks as if it’d be a dull textbook with limited value. (You certainly can’t resell them for anywhere close to what you paid for them originally!!) On the shelf, it blends right in with the other books. But when you open the cover, you discover a space that is perfect for hiding valuables from someone who might come looking.
The other day when I was digging potatoes, I found another look alike. Right next to the potato was a rock that looked like the potatoes around it, knobs and all.
So what is Psalm 101:7 talking about? And should I be concerned that there’s something attractive to me about these look alike? It all has to do with intent. Did the rock intend to deceive me? No. Was it trying to do harm to me? No. It’s just a fun example of coincidence. The hollowed out textbook is meant to deceive someone else - as protection from their evil intents towards me. There’s nothing wrong with protecting yourself in this way. The bouncy ball rock is not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s just a silly toy.
The thing is that if someone wants to harm you they can find all sorts of ways to do so, to trick you into believing something is one thing when it just isn’t. You can’t always believe what you see or hear in a world where people lie intentionally to hurt you.
God is very clear about this! If you are intentionally trying to deceive other people to hurt them, you will not be in God’s kingdom. Think about that next time before you try to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. You’ve got to know where the line is between fun and hurt. And what you think is funny may not really be funny at all.
Sabbath, August 14th
Magnify the LORD
Remember to magnify His work, Of which men have sung. (NKJV) Job 36:24
Materials: paperclip with a small closed circle bent into one end (Source: 77 Science Activities for Illustrating Bible Lessons, Donald B DeYoung, pgs. 82-84), water, glass bottle, plastic bottle (both filled with water)
A couple of weeks ago, one of the students during the sabbath lesson commented that you can use a bottle of water as a magnifying glass. (Of course, he’s homeschooled! 😁 ) But what makes it a magnifier? Is it the curvature of the glass? Does this also work with a plastic bottle? Can it be empty? Or is it the water which acts as the magnifying glass? Well, empty bottles don’t work. But either plastic bottles or glass bottles filled with water will work. It’s the water which acts as the magnifier!!
We can see this using a paper clip. We straighten out one end and then bend it into a circle with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Dip the circle into the water. Surface tension will keep the water in the circle and allow you to use it as a magnifier.
Water is an amazing substance!! It has some unique properties: its polarity, its high boiling point, its less dense solid state vs liquid state, its low freezing point, its high specific heat - to name just a few! Because water boils at a relatively high temperature (given its size) and freezes at a relatively low temperature, water stabilizes life. Not only that but because of water’s high specific heat property, it takes a lot more energy to raise the temperature of water 1º. That’s important because living things are made of such a high percentage of water. (Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%. Source: www.usgs.gov)
So water sustains life. Water is essential in getting things to grow. Water protects life. Water can be used as a solvent and a magnifier. We literally could talk about water for weeks and explore its properties. . . . So isn’t it interesting that water is a metaphor for the living water that Jesus referred to in John 4:10 and in John 7:37 - the Holy Spirit!! The Holy Spirit protects us, guides us, is life-giving, affirms to us that we are the children of God, and translates our prayers to God. And the Holy Spirit helps us to magnify God - to see God’s work in our lives, to praise Him for His goodness and provision, to see God’s character, His goodness and love.
The next time you get a drink of water, take a bath, wash the dishes, or water your tomato plants, remember to magnify God for His creation which points us right back to Him.
Sabbath, August 21st
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. Ecclesiastes 4:9
Materials: pen, potato, two forks
Let’s say, just for fun, that I have a pen and a potato. The potato and pen represent life and potential for balancing everything in life so that life works. Christopher is the fork and he is going to grab hold of life. He’s going to have a rather difficult time getting everything balanced! We know this because God said that it is not good for man to be alone. Man needs a helpmeet. He needs someone to balance him out. So Alyssa and Christopher, both being forks, are going to grab hold of life. They have a better chance of balancing things out if they work together than Christopher would by himself. We can see that if we stick the forks into the potato so that all three are lined up in a straight line. But if Alyssa and Christopher are grounded in the Lord Jesus Christ, something amazing happens. We see this when we put the forks into the potatoes so that they have a lower center of gravity. The potato is now able to balance on the pen. Christopher and Alyssa can balance all the good and bad, their strengths and weaknesses, and all the things life will throw at them, if their center of gravity is lower - aka, they are grounded on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Being balanced is a very important aspect to consider when beginning a marriage or a work partnership or a group project. Solomon was absolutely correct when he said that “two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). That balance in personality, in goals, in ambitious, in worldview - it’s all so much stronger if Jesus Christ is the center of your relationship.
Something to think about the next time you pick up your fork to eat a potato.
Resource: 77 Science Activities for Illustrating Bible Lessons, Donald B. DeYoung, 2013, pg. 253.
Sabbath, August 28th
(Please note that this memory verse was chosen a month prior to Hurricane Ida making landfall, even though the lesson was done the day before.)
Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. Job 37:13
Materials: jar, water, food coloring
Clouds can be so much fun to watch! Can you remember a time when you saw a formation that reminded you of something? A duck? A dinosaur? A cat wearing a top hat? But clouds can also be menacing, threatening, and downright scary. The mystery of how air flows has yet to be unlocked by meteorologists. That’s why they can make weather predictions and be wrong so much of the time! They just haven’t figured out all the variables involved in making air currents move the way they do. Some of the old timers’ and their descriptions of the clouds are more accurate than the meteorologists! My great-grandmother said if there was enough blue sky to make a Dutchman’s britches, the clouds would break up. Every time, I find myself watching the sky to see if it happens that way.
I love watching the clouds. They are so varied. They moved so interestingly. They can be so many different colors. And sometimes they bring much-needed rain. Growing up in a part of the country where rain is a precious commodity, I rarely mind the rain. The longer I’m in Missouri, however, the more I realize there are limits to how much rain is actually beneficial! But I’m always very aware that God is the One who controls the clouds and the rain.
Look at this passage from Job 37 (not just the memory verse).
11He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning.
12They turn around and around by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.
13Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.
The memory verse indicates that sometimes God can send storms, not not send rain, as a punishment on the land and the people. That’s scary! Having seen the destruction of a tornado and hurricanes, I’m quite sure I don’t want God’s punishment in the form of a storm. But it also indicates that God send rain for the land because He loves the inhabitants. He knows they need the life-giving moisture in the clouds.
The next time you find yourself watching the clouds, remember the One who made them. Praise Him for His love. Thank Him for His provision. And pray that He doesn’t send the storms in His wrath, but that He is merciful to those who love Him and seek Him wholeheartedly.
Resource: 77 Science Activities for Illustrating Bible Lessons, Donald B. De Young, pgs. 85-87.
Sabbath, September 11th
Our Creator God
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Job 38:4
Materials: apple, cutting board, butcher knife, pinecones, pine needles, pineapple, tea boxes
There is a series of numbers called the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 897, 1597 etc. The number is found by adding the previous two numbers together. (Jonathan can rattle off the first dozen or two without taking a breath!) Leonardo Fibonacci recognized this set of numbers from observing nature, and subsequently came up with the formula for finding this sequence. For instance, flower petals often come in clusters of 5 or 8, i.e. asters often have 21 petals, buttercups have 5, iris have 3. You can find them in 4 or 9, but they are less common. Pine needle clusters almost always grow in clusters of twos, threes, or fives. The center of an apple has five points. Pinecones likely have distinct spirals of 5, 8, or 13.
It’s not just nature!
The ratio of the fibonacci numbers (especially as they get larger) approaches what is called the golden ratio. For example, you get a ratio if one side is 5 and the other is eight. In the case of a box of tea bags, one side is 3 and the other is 5. This ratio is extremely pleasing to the eye and is used as a marketing tool. But that this is pleasing is not a new awareness; it was widely used in Renaissance architecture, but was also used as far back as the Acropolis of Athens and the Greek Pantheon. In fact, the fibonacci numbers are seen all around us in art and in science. For example, there are 8 notes in an octave, with five black keys and eight white keys.
It is very cool that Leonardo Fibonacci recognized this pattern (although he’s not the first. It’s documented in Sanskrit). But it’s even more amazing that God chose to put His fingerprint on creation in this way. There’s no way this could have happened by chance. It’s another example of what happens when you begin to really examine what can be seen in nature: you are left with the indisputable evidence of the Creator. Keep your eyes open for the fibonacci sequence - and then praise the One who displays His fingerprint in what He has made.
Resource: 77 Science Activities for Illustrating Bible Lessons, by Donald B. DeYoung, 2013, pg. 88-92.
Sabbath, September 18th
God Knows My Name
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147:4
Materials: a jar of paper origami stars
A few years ago, Christopher became really interested in folding origami. He made a jar full of 3-D paper stars. There are quite a few in this peanut butter jar, but imagine if Christopher gave each of them a name. Giving them a name wouldn’t be too hard; remembering which star was which would be the trick! How do you tell them apart? There are an awful lot of similar stars in that jar!!
Psalm 147:4 says that God is the One created the stars. He’s the One who creates new stars and causes the old ones to burn out or go nova. That’s amazing all in itself because it’s estimated that there are 1 billion trillion stars in the observable universe. That’s 1 x 1021 or 1 with 21 zeros after it. To put it another way, there are as many stars in the observable universe as the number of grains of sand on all of the Earth’s beaches. Since Earth’s population is about 7.7 billion people, that’s about 130 billion stars for every person who is alive today! I can’t even call my three children by their right names some days. I can not even imagine trying to count all of the stars that would be mine, give them all names, and keep them all straight. Can you even think of 130 billion names?
Our Great God, our Heavenly Father, numbers the stars; He knows them by name. He knows when one sparrow dies. Then Jesus compares God’s care of the birds to how He cares about us: we are so precious to Him that Luke 12:7 says that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Jesus goes on to say, “Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
The next time you are out at night, counting the stars, or the next time you see a sparrow (or other bird), remember how much God loves you. I consider them hugs from my Heavenly Father, a special reminder for me. We can all use more hugs from our Heavenly Father.
Sabbath, September 25th
Anchored to the Rock
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24
Materials: tray, container of water, towels, sand, two fist-sized rocks, houses from Monopoly, glue gun
“A wise man built his house upon a rock and the rain came a’tumblin’ down.
The rain came down and the floods came up and the house on the rock stood firm.
A foolish man built his house upon the sand and the rain came a’tumblin’ down.
The rain came down and the floods came up and the house on the sand went smash.”
We sing this kids’ song. The tune is catchy. It’s fun. But have you really thought about what it means? If I put a Monopoly house on a pile of sand and then sprinkle water on it, what will happen? Given enough water, the sand will wash away and the house will be destroyed. (Since it’s a plastic house, it’s not destroyed; it’s tipped over, perhaps even upside down. But you get the idea.)
So what if I put a Monopoly house on a rock. I can sprinkle water on it and as long as it’s not a deluge, it won’t be tipped over. But what if it is a deluge? Or what if it’s another storm - like a tornado or a hurricane or an earthquake? If the house is just sitting on the rock, it’s not secure. It has an appearance of security, but it is not truly secure.
But what if I used a hot glue gun to glue the Monopoly house to the rock? Now what can I throw against that house which would cause it to be tipped over or destroyed. It would take a hammer, wouldn’t it!!
I suspect there are Christians out there who fall into all three categories. There are the house-on-the-sand Christians who say they are Christians, but their foundation on the Word of God is shaky. At the first storm in life, they are in trouble! There are the house-on-the-rock Christians. They look like they are set solidly, but the storms of life can be relentless. A huge storm, a large wave, can knock them over. The appearance doesn’t count for anything when the chips are down.
The Christian who is anchored to Jesus Christ is the only one of the three who can endure. Their trust and faith is not in themselves, but in the One who can save them from any and all storms in life. And because that’s where their faith and trust is, they live their lives as servants of the Most High, children of God, ambassadors for Christ. Their lives reflect God’s ways so that no one has to wonder if they’re a Christian.
Do you understand that part of building a house is having a firm foundation? Sand doesn’t give a firm foundation. There’s nothing to anchor to. Setting your house on a rock isn’t the definition of building a house any more than looking like a Christian makes you a true Christian. Make sure your foundation is secure. Anchor your house to the Rock. I want you to not just sing “On Christ the solid rock I stand;” I want your feet to be anchored there!
October 2, 2021
Soak in God’s Word
as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 1 Peter 2:2 (NKJV)
Materials: water, measuring cup/graduated cylinder, absorbent materials (sponges, paper towels, velvet, foam, soil)
The paper towel, Bounty, would like you to believe that they are the most absorbent paper towel on the market: you know, “Bounty - the quicker picker-upper.” But are they the most absorbent material? Which of these materials do you think would be the most absorbent? Sponge, paper towel, velvet, foam, soil? We could investigate and find out, with the added challenge of not making a mess as we conduct our experiment!
Being absorbent is a good quality. If soil didn’t absorb water very well, the plants growing in it would suffer. If a sponge didn’t absorb water very well, it would be hard to clean well with it. If the paper towel didn’t absorb well, it would be a lot harder to clean up a mess.
But there’s something else that should be really absorbent: you!! Think about the things that would be good for you to absorb. Nutrients from the food you eat. Water. Oxygen. Instructions from your parents. All good things to absorb - they keep you healthy.
The apostle Paul likewise encouraged Timothy to desire the pure milk of the word. That is, he wanted Timothy to really want to take God’s word into himself. But it’s not enough to just take it in; that’s like letting it go in one ear and right out the other without stopping to make an impact. That’s like water flowing through the sponge without the sponge getting wet. In order for the word of God to cause you to grow - like Paul told Timothy it would - you have to take God’s word into your life. You have to absorb it like a sponge.
Hang onto God’s word. Let it grow you. Let it change you. I hope that people someday say of you that, where the Bible is concerned, you are a quicker picker-upper.
Trumpets, October 8th
A Memorial of Shouting!
. . . ye have a sabbath, a memorial of shouting, a holy convocation; Lev. 23:24 (Young’s Literal Translation)
The Feast of Trumpets is the only holy day to fall on the first day of the month during the year in God’s calendar. It’s also a holy day that doesn’t have much information about it. We know that it’s a day of blowing the trumpet or of shouting. So we can look at some of the other verses which talk about instances when the trumpet was blown or when there is shouting. Then we can build a case for the Feast of Trumpets representing the return of Christ. But what we are literally told is that it is a day of shouting - a day to literally split the air with sound. The word means a loud outcry, shouting, sounding the alarm, clamour, noise, rejoicing, joy or battlecry. What do you think that shout would sound like? What an evocative word picture: splitting the air with sound!!
Isn’t it interesting that the word can mean rejoicing or outcry or battlecry?! If the Feast of Trumpets really is the day that Jesus Christ returns to this earth, the air will split with sound. But what sound will you be making?
The return of Jesus Christ will be a welcome, joyous event for those who belong to Him! 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command [a loud shout, a yom teruah], with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air . . .” This is a fantastic picture. Jesus is returning. We’re getting to see family members and friends who are currently dead. We’re shouting with joy and excitement. But, at the same time, there are those who have been fighting against Jesus Christ. They are not happy that He’s returning and He’s going to win. They are shouting the battlecry with a cry of anger and dismay.
So which are you? There’s no middle ground. You are either one way or the other. Are you on the Lord’s side? Are you shouting today for joy at what is coming? Or are you shouting in defiance of Jesus Christ?
Sabbath, October 9th
Be Like Jesus
. . but we know that when he appears we shall be like him,. . . 1 John 3:2 (ESV)
Materials needed: different kinds/color/textures of yarns, buttons, fabric
If you lose a button off your shirt, you need to try to match a new button to it. If you tear a hole in your jeans, your mom tries to find some denim that will match it to patch it. If you are crocheting a blanket and run out of one skein of yarn, you want to find a new skein that has yarn similar in color, texture, and weight. You want to match these things as closely as possible.
In a similar way, we are told that God is transforming us into the image of His Son. (2 Corinthians 3:18) We want to be like Jesus. We want to like the things He likes. We want to do the things He does. We want to think about things the way He thinks about them. We want to have the same goals and values. We want to be like Christ.
How does that happen? It’s a daily choice. We read the Bible to find out how God feels about things. We pray and ask for wisdom and guidance. We come to church and talk with Godly people about God and about how to live a Godly life. And then, we have to put it into practice. When we’re faced with decisions, we have to choose to do things God’s way. We have to train our minds to view things the way God would view them. We have to desire to be like Christ more than we desire to have our own way.
We are not ever going to be perfect in this life. But when Jesus returns, 1 John 3:2 tells us, “We know that when he appears we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.”
Do you think that you look like Jesus right now? Right now is a good time to start making some choices that will draw you closer to Him.