Monday, July 16, 2018

This week's Adult Sabbath School Lesson (July 14-20): Life in the Early Church

Just as God is One, so should be God's people - One in faith, One in practice, and One in loyalty. 

For that reason, we have watched with concern as various schismatic "movements" have spread among our people; that is why all we ask all believers to carefully consider the following questions as  they seek God's guidance in these troubled times:

1. Does this "movement" place undue emphasis upon controversial beliefs, i.e. the resurrection?

2. Does this "movement" show respect for the established symbols of our faith, i.e. the Temple?

3. Does this "movement" encourage trust in the leaders of God's people, i.e. the priesthood?

4. Does this "movement" lead to undue familiarity (and even compromise) with those who have rejected the truth, i.e. tax-collectors and other sinners?

5. Does this "movement" follow the teachings of someone who has already been judged and found wanting, i.e. Jesus of Nazareth?

Organizations, groups, or individuals that answer in the affirmative to any of these five questions should not expect any kind of endorsement from the Sanhedrin . . . 

Even if they did heal a man born lame.

Monday, July 09, 2018

This week's lesson (July 7-13): Pentecost

SHIVAN 6
Dear Diary:
Pentecost was GREAT! I mean, we had miracles! Crowds! Thousands converted in a single day! I can hardly wait until we do it again tomorrow.

SHIVAN 7
Dear Diary:
Something must have gone wrong - I mean, NOTHING happened. Maybe tomorrow?

SHIVAN 8
Dear Diary:
A lot of those people who joined on Pentecost need help - a LOT of help! Well, what can you expect? Still praying for another Pentecost.

SHIVAN 9
Dear Diary:
They got some Bible-studies going for all those people who joined, and they're talking about some kind of feeding program for those in need. All valuable in its own way, I suppose . . . BUT IT'S JUST NOT THE SAME!

SHIVAN 10
Dear Diary:
Am I the only one around here who sees the need for ANOTHER outpouring of the Holy Spirit?

SHIVAN 11
Dear Diary:
Somebody asked for a donation to the feeding program - I told them this kind of thing attracts the WRONG kind of people. She said the people in her group would pray for me. THE NERVE!

SHIVAN 12
Dear Diary:
One of the new people asked me to join their study group - said I'd find it a blessing. Told them I was too busy praying for ANOTHER Pentecost. They asked what was wrong with the one we'd already had. THEY JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND!

SHIVAN 13
Dear Diary:
Almost two weeks have gone by, and still nothing!

SHIVAN 14
Dear Diary:
We began with such high hopes.
What went wrong?

Monday, July 02, 2018

This week's lesson (June 30 - July 6): You Will Be My Witnesses

Overheard in the Upper Room before Pentecost:

. . . "No luck - Joseph says he's not interested in trying for two out of three.". . .

. . . "Samaria? That can't be right! Are you sure He said we're going to Samaria?". . . 

. . . "Given the way he behaved, you'd think Peter would be too embarrassed to show up - much less say anything.". . .

. . . "I know He said we won't know dates or times - but if you look carefully at the time-prophecies of Leviticus, you'll find . . . "

. . . "Okay, maybe He didn't actually mean the literal place we call Samaria; maybe He was using this as some kind of metaphor." . . .

. . . "Are you sure that really happened to Judas? I mean, ewwww!". . .

. . . "I'm not saying we should get rid of them, but I am worried about precedent. If the Holy Spirit falls on everyone here, after all, that means some of the people who receive it will be women.". . .

 . . . "It's so nice we can all be together like this; I wish we could stay here forever!" . . . 


Friday, June 29, 2018

This week's lesson (June 23-29): the Return of Our Lord Jesus

Christ's return is like falling in love:
  • It is the culmination of everything you've ever thought and done . . . 
  • But at the same time, it is a complete and utter surprise.
As such, you are always ready for it . . . 

And you are never ready for it.

Discuss.

Monday, June 18, 2018

This week's lesson (June 16-22): Babylon & Armageddon

The line between good and evil cuts through every human heart." - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956.
Two things you need to know about the Battle of Armageddon:

One: there's no such place - not literally, at any rate.

And two: there's no such battle - again, not literally.

No, "Armageddon" literally means "the Mountain of Megiddo" - and while Megiddo is a real place (and the site of many famous battles), it is not a mountain; it is a plain (which is why it was able to host so many famous battles). The name is a contradiction in terms, in other words - much like "the Alps of Kansas," or "the Great Tillamook Desert."

Which is reason enough not to take it literally.

And while Revelation 16:14-16 speak of "the kings of the whole world" being gathered for battle on "the great day of God Almighty," there's no mention of any such battle actually taking place. No, when God shows up in Revelation 17, the fight is over before it even begins.

Which is reason enough not to try and fight against God.

In short, the Battle of Armageddon is not fought in the Middle East.

Instead, it is a symbol of the ongoing battle inside every human heart.

Which is reason enough to decide which side you're on.

Monday, June 11, 2018

This week's lesson (June 9-15): God's seal or the Beast's mark?

God's seal is a sign of His love and protection . . . 

Until it's not.

Think of Cain, for instance - the man who murders his brother, then whines that someone might go after him for what he's done.

"Not going to happen," said God. "I'm putting my mark on Cain so that everyone knows he's under my protection - and anyone who messes with him gets it back from me times seven."

Well and good - but then one of Cain's descendants by the name of Lamech goes and kills a man . . . 

Then he claims the same protection God gave Cain (only more so).

"I have killed a man for wounding me," he says, "a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech [is avenged] seventy-seven times."

Which is not a nice thing to say.

In fact, the way he turns a sign of God's love into an excuse for vengeance is downright "beastly."

And no, there was nothing wrong with God's gift to Cain; like all of God's gifts, it was a blessing.

But any blessing can be turned into a curse.

And given Lamech's example, I suspect that any "Seal of God" can be turned into a "Mark of the Beast."

Thursday, June 07, 2018

This week's lesson (June 2-8): America & Babylon

This election, I've noticed a number of candidates running on the platform of "strong Christian values."

You know - the kind you read about in Luke 6:
  • Blessed are the poor - but woe to the rich.
  • Blessed are those who hunger - but woe to those who already have their fill.
  • And love your enemies - not just those who love you in return.
At least, I think those are the values they're talking about.
Or maybe they'd prefer the values of a different god . . . 

Like Marduk?