Sunday School Lessons

Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 27: Just How Heavenly is Heaven?

July 16 2008 by Jim Baldwin

Focal Passages: Rev. 21:1-5, 22-27; 22:1-5

John's description of heaven tells us more about what is not there than about what is there. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. There is no sun nor moon, nor night. There is no need for a temple because the Lord God and the Lamb are its temple. Our words are terribly inadequate to express the realities of heaven. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him (2 Cor. 2:9).

What we are told is that "They will see His face" (Rev. 22:4). John       Bunyan wrote in his classic work, The Pilgrim's Progress, "I see myself now at the end of my journey, my toilsome days are ended. I am going now to see that head that was crowned with thorns, and that face that was spit upon, for me. I have formerly lived by hear-say and faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with him, in whose company I delight myself."

Several years ago my brother-in-law helped open a new hotel in the Durham area. My family was invited to participate in the grand opening. It was a fancy affair and admission was by invitation only. As we walked across the parking lot we realized we had left our invitation at home. Fortunately, as we approached the doorman, we saw my wife's brother just inside the door.

"We're with him," we said, and he allowed us in. When we get to heaven we need only say, "We're with Jesus."

We try so hard to make ourselves worthy of heaven. We attend church, give our tithes and even study ahead for our Sunday School lessons, thinking that God will take notice and allow us into heaven.

The truth is that we do not qualify according to the standards of heaven. "Nothing impure will ever enter into it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful."

We all have impure hearts. We all have done shameful or deceitful things. The good news is not that God recognizes our goodness. The good news is that when we trust Jesus as our Savior it is His righteousness that God sees in us (Phil. 3:7-9). The only question God will ask us when we stand before Him is, "Do you know Jesus?" Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will enter heaven (Rev. 21:27).

7/16/2008 7:55:00 AM by Jim Baldwin | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 20: What's Up With Christ Coming Down?

July 1 2008 by Focal Passage: Rev. 19:6-9, 11-16, 19-21

Several years ago, at a Henry Blackaby conference, I heard Travis Cottrell sing a powerful praise song, "We Will Ride." The song ignited a passion in me for the return of Jesus. I hope it will help open up these verses about the return of Christ.

"He has fire in His eyes and a sword in His hand

And He's riding a white horse across this land

And He's calling out to you and me

'Will you ride with me?'"

After frightening images of beasts and dragons, of horsemen and prostitutes, finally we see Jesus, seated upon a white horse. All the multitude of heaven shout, "Hallelujah!" when He arrives. Although most of His contemporaries did not recognize Jesus when He walked on earth, there is no mistaking Him this time.

The first time He came riding on a donkey. Next time He will be riding on a white horse.

The first time He came on the dusty roads of Canaan. Next time He will be coming on the clouds of glory.

The first time He was followed by 12 men. Next time He will be followed by the armies of heaven.

The first time they spit on Him and mocked His name. Next time every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The first time they brought Him before Herod who sentenced Him to die. Next time He will sit on the throne, and He will judge all the nations.

The first time they asked, "Who is this man?" Next time they will all know He is King of kings and Lord of lords. It will be written upon His robe and upon His thigh, and all the angels of heaven will proclaim it.

The last stanza to the song says:

"That fire in His eyes is His love for His bride

And He's longing that she be with Him

Right by His side

And He's calling out to us right now,

"Will you ride with me?"

Whenever I officiate a wedding, I enter the sanctuary with the groom and the best man. We stand at the front of the sanctuary awaiting the bride's entrance. As all heads turn to watch the bride coming down the aisle, I watch the groom. I want to see the love in his eyes and the joy of knowing his bride will soon be with him. I envision Jesus standing at the gates of heaven, having defeated all His enemies, ready to receive His bride.

7/1/2008 5:48:00 PM by Focal Passage: Rev. 19:6-9, 11-16, 19-21 | with 0 comments

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

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