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Practice what you preach

Present this pertinent challenge to the class: Have you ever heard anyone say, “Practice what you preach!”? Is your reaction one of feeling criticized? It is not an unreasonable command or request. This concept is paired with the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” Take a look at your own behaviors. Are you living out what you truly believe? It is so much easier to find fault in others, but we need to continually examine ourselves by turning the mirror of God’s Word upon our souls. The Bible addresses this issue, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? … Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3–5).

Praying for Revival

Lesson 13 - February 25, 2018

Focus Text: Isaiah 63:15-64:12

Central Truth: The prayer of all Christians is that God would make His presence known so that all nations would recognize His greatness.

Objective: By the end of this lesson my students will have learned from Isaiah how to petition God for the revival of His people.

Lesson Outline:

  1. The Identity of God's People (Isaiah 63:11-19)
  2. The Cry of God's People (Isaiah 64:1-4)
  3. The Confession of God's People (Isaiah 64:5-12)

Mission: To Protect a People

Read Esther 4:6–14

“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (v. 14).

During World War II the ten Boom family felt it necessary to hide Jews from Nazi soldiers. The family prepared a room in their home to keep these individuals hidden. This family was willing to risk their lives to save a people, the Jews. It is estimated that they saved 800 persons. In so doing, some of the ten Boom family died in prison, and others lived on to tell of God’s great love during those troublesome times.

Esther, in our Scripture for today, was a noble and courageous lady who valiantly stood in the gap, defending her people, the Jews, and triumphed in her mission to protect the nation of Israel from Haman’s devious scheme.

What produces such lion-hearted boldness in a person? My friend, it is love; God’s love! There are millions of unborn babies murdered; what are we doing about it? There are souls headed for eternity; are we willing to stand up and share the salvation message with them? It is our mission! (Sharonda Baker)

Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?

Are we willing to stand alone and fill in the gap for truth and righteousness?

This devotional is the Tuesday, February 13, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

The Christian Race

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). The biblical metaphor of “the Christian race” is familiar to us. What if we allowed this concept to propel us forward each day? Think about your religious workouts (Bible reading, meditation, prayer, memorization, witnessing, etc.). Do you find that you have hit a wall, or are you advancing in your faith? A steady pace is advised if you want to have endurance until the finish line. Remember that it is a marathon rather than a sprint. Have you discovered that your spiritual “hamstrings” are strained? Be sure to stretch before you begin, and check your heart rate regularly along the way. Strive to set personal records, and reach for your individual best. Invite others to join you side-by-side, and expect those metaphorical endorphins to “kick in.” Run the race victoriously!

Engaged in Mission

Lesson 12 - February 18, 2018

Focus Text: Isaiah 61:1-11

Central Truth: Because the Holy Spirit dwells in them, the mission of all Christians is to bring restoration to the broken of earth.

Objective: By the end of this lesson my students will understand that to be true followers of Jesus, Christians must be driven by a spirit of mission to bring restoration to the broken of earth.

Lesson Outline:

  1. The Spirit of the Christian's Mission (Isaiah 61:1-3)
  2. The Goal of the Christian's Mission (Isaiah 61:4-9)
  3. The Joy of the Christian's Mission (Isaiah 61:10-11)

The Sacrifice of the Servant

Read Isaiah 53:4–9

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (v. 4).

The servant must focus on his mission. Jesus identified His mission as “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He was passionately consumed with that mission. John the Baptist summed it up when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29), but here Isaiah spells out what that involved. The Servant of the Lord was “stricken, smitten of God, afflicted,” He was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities,” chastised for our peace, seeking our healing with His stripes. The mission, not the sacrifice, occupied Him!

However, it is the sacrifice that grabs our attention when verse 6 of this passage says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Yet the cost of the sacrifice did not thwart His mission of love! As Lord and Servant-Savior, He willingly sacrificed to the utmost to accomplish His mission for you and me! (Rodney Stearns)

He left His Father’s throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace!

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race;

’Tis mercy all immense and free.

For, O my God, it found out me!

— Charles Wesley

He suffered to save; new life He gave!

This devotional is the Tuesday, February 6, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

Studying Bible Themes

What does the Bible say about marriage? Have the students list several themes from Scripture that characterize God’s intentions and plan for matrimony. Talk about the purposes of nuptials, and mention some of the differences that may be present in a Christian marriage vs. a secular or ungodly one. Have the class members share some blessings that they have experienced in their own marital relationships, or allow them the opportunity to tell of examples of couples who have followed God’s plan for a Christian home. Perhaps you could explore possible decisions that individuals might make that would take them away from a godly ideal of marital bliss. Discuss barriers to happiness that a wedded twosome faces which may prevent the unit from achieving God’s will for their lives. Ask the group for principles to live by that class members could share to bolster the strength of marriages today.

Finding Meaning in Suffering

Lesson 11 - February 11, 2018

Focus Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Central Truth: While no suffering is pleasant, God often chooses to make suffering the birthplace of blessing.

Objective: By the end of this lesson my students will understand that just as God used suffering in the life of Jesus to bring salvation to the world, He can cause our suffering to also bear precious fruit.

Lesson Outline:

  1. Rejected by Others (Isaiah 52:13-53:3)
  2. Punished for Others (Isaiah 53:4-9)
  3. Exalted by God (Isaiah 53:10-12)

Encouragement for a Despondent Prophet

Read 1 Kings 19:1–8

“And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (v. 7).

Are you feeling low on this Monday? It’s common for us to feel drained after a time of strenuous labor. How did your church services go yesterday? Did you experience the intense presence of God or was it a painfully discouraging experience? Either way, you are likely to be experiencing the Elijah syndrome: Deep sighs; hunger to hide for a season; fatigue; questions of adequacy. Don’t feel ashamed; we have all suffered from the symptoms of the Elijah syndrome, sometimes often. “The journey is too great for thee.” Can you relate? Are you there now?

Notice that the immediate remedy God prescribed to Elijah was not more prayer, witnessing, or preaching. He could not give out anymore because he had already drained himself at Mt. Carmel. It was time to take in: to eat, sleep, and recharge his soul. God still had work for him to do but first things first and he couldn’t pour out without first being refilled.

If you are suffering from the Elijah syndrome today, take some time to recharge. Take a breath, take a walk, take a nap, take nourishment, engage in a hobby, feed your soul. You’ll be empty without it. (Don D Callaway)

He knows how hard the fight has been;

The clouds that come our lives between;

The wounds the world has never seen;

He knows He knows! — G. W. Lyon

You can find encouragement when you feed your soul.

This devotional is the Monday, January 29, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

Influence

Solicit examples from the class of notable stories where one person had a major impact upon important Christian figures in history. Henrietta Mears is a solitary human being whose ministry influence still lives on today. She was a Presbyterian Sunday school teacher in Los Angeles who had a burden for young boys. By hosting Bible studies, she extended warmth and encouragement that resulted in untold eternal investments. Some of those who sat under her godly teaching and mentorship were Dawson Troutman (founder of the Navigators), Billy Graham, Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), and future Senate chaplain Richard Halverson. Everyone has a role in God’s kingdom, and there is a contribution for every believer to add. “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one” (1 Cor. 3:8).