June 2008

Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 6: Who's Really in Charge

June 18 2008 by Jim Baldwin, Focal Passage: Rev. 5:1-14

When my children were still young, they discovered the board game, "The Game of Life." As I watched them play for the first time I was totally confused. I could not figure out why they got so excited over a certain spin of the wheel, or why they had to hand over thousands of dollars.

You see, I had not read the instructions and did not understand the rules. It was all a mystery to me.

Many people find themselves feeling very much the same way about "real life." They feel like they are moving across a gigantic board where they are forced to make decisions and take steps, but they are not sure where they are headed nor how to get there.

As John steps into the throne room of God he sees the Lord seated on His throne and holding a scroll in His hand. The scroll tells of the coming judgment on sin and evil, but it also tells of God's protection over His people.

But the scroll is sealed, and no one on earth is worthy to open it. In this passage are the answers to some of life's questions.

Why can I not see God? John was told, "See the Lion." But he could not see a Lion: All he could see was a Lamb. Only when he was able to stop weeping could he see that the Lion and the Lamb were the same. It is normal and natural for us to grieve over loss and disappointment. But the Bible instructs us not to grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). I asked a somber young man one day, "How are you doing?"

"Pretty good, under the circumstances," he replied.

So I asked him, "What are you doing under the circumstances? We are told that we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!" We have to lift up our eyes so that, even through our tears, we can see Jesus.

Why does God not hear my prayers? John's vision of heaven makes it clear that God does hear our prayers. As the Lamb takes the scroll from the hand of God, the 24 elders present bowls full of incense, "which are the prayers of the saints." Even though you may feel that your prayers "never get higher than the ceiling," here we have confirmation that they rise up to the throne of God. Rev. 8:3 tells us that all of heaven stands still so that God can listen to your prayers.

6/18/2008 12:00:00 PM by Jim Baldwin, Focal Passage: Rev. 5:1-14 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for July 6: Hospitality to Strangers

June 18 2008 by Lamar King, Focal passages: Job 31:16-23, 31-32

As a young minister, I willingly responded to transients stopping by the church seeking help. But, over time, my attitude radically changed. I started calling them "beggars." I became more like the priest and Levite and less like the good Samaritan.

I was very busy one Thursday morning when the call came: "Someone at the door wants to see the pastor." A man in dirty clothes said he was a concert pianist who had been ordered out of the house by his wife in Charleston, S.C., with only the clothes on his back. He was hitchhiking to Salem, Va., to live with his son until he could get back on his feet. I suspected he was lying.

I had profound respect for concert pianists. Concert pianists don't beg. He waited in the lobby while I fixed him a ham and cheese sandwich. When I handed it to him, I expected him to leave and let me get back to my work. To my dismay, he opened the bag and began eating the sandwich. When he finished, he said, "I want to give you a gift." He asked if he could use the piano in the dining room close by. I insisted that he leave, but he walked into the dining room and sat down at the piano. He played classical music as well as anyone I have ever heard. He was brilliant.

Members of a committee meeting nearby heard the music and interrupted their meeting to come out and listen. We sat there spellbound for at least 20 minutes. When he finished, we gave him a standing ovation. As I walked with him to the door, I said, "I am so sorry." "Why?" he asked. I replied, "Because I treated you like a beggar, and you are not one." He said to me, "But I am a beggar." And, as he walked away, he said to me: "You should treat every beggar as if he were a concert pianist, and if you don't, you're not much of a Christian."

My life and my witness fundamentally changed that day. I resolved never again to forget that every human being has equal worth and equal value.

The biblical call to extend hospitality to strangers does not preclude being cautious. But, in our zeal to protect our lives and possessions, let us not overlook one of God's most wonderful blessings. One never knows when offering hospitality to strangers may also be an occasion for "entertaining angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2).

6/18/2008 12:00:00 PM by Lamar King, Focal passages: Job 31:16-23, 31-32 | with 0 comments