Exhort One Another

          “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
          How blessed are we to have so many opportunities to gather together and encourage each other? From Sunday morning Bible class and worship to Sunday evening, our mid-week studies, gospel meetings and seminars, we have many occasions in which we can receive sound spiritual nourishment.
          When we come together, God commands us to exhort or encourage each other. One way to do this is by taking notice of the good things our brothers and sisters are doing, and thanking them.
          Have you thanked any of the teachers from Vacation Bible School? Or those who helped prepare the snacks each day? How about those who led the singing, or those who helped with decorations, props, and bulletin boards? Many people were involved, and should be recognized.
          Have you thanked the men and women who are taking care of our teenagers, organizing activities and driving them to youth rallies and camps? Or those who teach the children on Sunday morning and Wednesday night?
          Have you thanked the parents who bring their children to learn more about God? There are many secular activities that can distract them from spiritual matters, and they need to be encouraged for attending as many services as possible.
          I hope that everyone is praying for the elders and deacons, but have you told them that you are praying for them? Have you asked them if there is anything specific you can include in your supplications to the Almighty? James says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Let us seek to live righteously and pray fervently for our overseers and servants.
          Look for opportunities to encourage each other, and thank each other. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

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“Teacher, Do You Not Care That We Are Perishing?”


Mark 4:35-41

I. THE DISCIPLES’ QUESTION TO JESUS (MARK 4:38)

    A. Literal storms
    B. Figurative storms (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)
    C. God DOES care!

      1. Children of God are not exempt from suffering (Matthew 5:45; John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:10-12)
      2. These afflictions serve to strengthen us (Romans 5:1-4)

II. JESUS’ QUESTIONS TO THE DISCIPLES (MARK 4:40)

    A. “Why are you so fearful?” (Philippians 4:6-7; 2 Timothy 1:7; Matthew 10:28)
    B. “How is it that you have no faith?” (2 Peter 1:5-11; Romans 10:17; Matthew 7:24-27; Psalm 46)

III. THE DISCIPLES’ QUESTION TO EACH OTHER (MARK 4:41)

    A. He is the Creator of all (Psalm 33:6-9; Colossians 1:15-16)
    B. He is the Master of all (Colossians 1:17; Matthew 28:18)
    C. He is our sympathetic High Priest (Hebrews 4:15)

Hidden Sin

          An All-Star second baseman, seemingly on the path to baseball immortality in Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame, was handed an 80-day suspension for using performance enhancing substances. However, it was not a performance enhancer that showed up in his drug tests, but a diuretic commonly used as a masking agent. In other words, the player was trying to hide what he was really doing.
          Are we guilty of masking or hiding things in a spiritual sense? We may attend church services regularly, participate in Bible classes, lead in worship…but are we hiding something from our brethren?
          Paul encouraged the brethren at Philippi to do the right thing, whether he was aware of their behavior or not. He wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). We should always strive to be holy, even if no one on this earth sees us.
          We can be sure of one thing: even if we are “successful” in hiding sinful behaviors from others in the church, we cannot hide from God. Paul assures us of this fact. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust we are well known in your consciences” (2 Corinthians 5:9-11).
          Let us not mask or hide our weaknesses, temptations, and sins from each other, but lean on each other for spiritual support and strength. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

“Who Then is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

Matthew 18:1-4; Mark 9:30-37

I. THE NATURE OF THE KINGDOM

    A. What Jesus taught (Matthew 16:16-19)
    B. The disciples’ misunderstanding (Matthew 20:20-23)
    C. The church is the kingdom (Mark 9:1; Acts 2; Colossians 1:13)

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF SERVICE, NOT POSITION

    A. “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35; Matthew 20:25-28; 1 Peter 5:1-3)
    B. Warnings against a power-hungry attitude (Romans 12:16 vs. Colossians 3:1-2; 3 John 9-11)
    C. Positive example of service (Philippians 2:5-8; John1 3:4-5,12-16)

III. BE CONVERTED AND BECOME AS LITTLE CHILDREN (MATTHEW 18:3)

    A. Innocence (Matthew 5:8; 1 Timothy 4:12; 5:22)
    B. Trustfulness (2 Corinthians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:11-14)
    C. Lack of prejudice (Acts 10:34-35)
    D. Teachableness (2 Peter 3:18)

Watch a video of this lesson.

Learning from Matthew

          Actions speak louder than words. The apostle Matthew (also known as Levi) demonstrated his devotion to the Lord through his actions. He worked as a tax collector. The Jews had a very low opinion of tax collectors, but it was a financially lucrative occupation. When Jesus called Matthew, Luke says that “he left all, rose up, and followed Him” (Luke 5:28).
          Matthew recognized the infinite value of the soul. He recorded the Lord’s words, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Knowing this surely made the decision to leave his position at the tax office less difficult.
          The humility of Matthew also shines through in his account of Christ’s gospel. He writes, “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples” (Matthew 9:9-10).
          Compare this with Luke’s account: “After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them” (Luke 5:27-29).
          Did you notice the differences? They are slight, but they are there. Matthew does not say that he left everything, but Luke wants to be sure the reader recognizes his level of commitment. Also, Matthew simply mentions a feast “in the house.” Luke tells us that Matthew “gave Him a great feast in his own house.” Matthew could have given himself credit for these things, but he didn’t want to draw focus away from Jesus.
          Let’s remember to always give God the glory, showing others His love and grace.

“This is a Hard Saying; Who Can Understand It?”

John 6:48-60

I. THE OFFENSIVE TEACHING OF CHRIST

    A. The Jews refused to believe (John 6:41-42)
    B. We can partake of the bread of life because of His sacrifice on the cross (John 6:48-51; Philippians 2:5-8)
    C. The literal interpretation (John 6:52)
    D. Complete commitment: 24/7/365 (John 6:53-58)

II. THE DISCIPLES ASK A DANGEROUS QUESTION

    A. “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (John 6:60)

      1. “Who can hear it?” (KJV)
      2. “Who can listen to it?” (ESV)
      3. “Who can accept it?” (NIV)

    B. A discouraging question – what’s the point in even trying? (Ezekiel 33:8-9; Galatians 6:1-10; James 5:19-20)

III. THE WORDS OF JESUS CAN SAVE

    A. Our responsibility to evangelize (John 6:63; Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2)
    B. It is not our ability, but God’s power (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 3:7)
    C. Consider what the Word does

      1. “Build you up and give you an inheritance” (Acts 20:32)
      2. We are “born again…through the word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23)
      3. “Able to save your souls” (James 1:21)

    D. Is anyone too corrupt to be saved? (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Watch a video of this lesson.

On NBC’s Rise and the Christian’s vigilance

          Christians must be aware of the world around them. Inspiration teaches, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Our awareness of the world will help to guard us against falling prey to Satan’s schemes, and prepare us to help others find God’s truth.
          NBC premiered a new program called Rise in March. The show focuses on Lou Massuchelli, an English teacher put in charge of his high school’s drama club. His first act is to announce the production of the controversial musical, Spring Awakening, which addresses several issues of teenage sexuality.
          Rise includes a male homosexual student, a transgender female transitioning to male, and a straight male who is cast in a role that requires him to kiss another male. All of these are presented as completely normal, acceptable lifestyles to most of the other characters. The few that object are portrayed as narrow-minded people. Showrunner Jason Katims released a statement in which he affirmed the producers are “firmly committed to LGBTQ inclusion” and that Rise “portrays positive depictions of LGBTQ characters and stories…with honesty and sensitivity.”
          In a recent episode, a parent asked the teacher, “What do you believe in?”
          Lou responded, “I believe in the kids I teach. I believe in the truth. I believe in helping them to grow up in the sun and not in the shadows,” further reinforcing the character’s view that homosexuality and transgenderism should be accepted by everyone.
          I am reminded of the prophet who cried, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
          Fornication — whether heterosexual or homosexual — is wrong, regardless of age. Transgenderism is wrong. Brother Ben Giselbach published an informative article about transgenderism in 2015 on his website, “Plain Simple Faith” (plainsimplefaith.com/2015/06/transgenderism).
          Christians, be aware that many of your co-workers (adults) and classmates (youngsters) believe in the acceptance of deviant sexual behaviors. Be ready to defend the Biblical truth on these matters (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3).

“Lord, Is It I?”

Matthew 26:20-25

I. THE SETTING

    A. Jesus’ startling revelation (Matthew 26:21)
    B. The fulfillment of prophecy (Psalm 41:9; cf. John 13:18)

II. THE REACTION OF THE DISCIPLES

    A. The innocent eleven were “exceedingly sorrowful” (Matthew 26:22; cf. John 13:22; Luke 22:23)

      1. Humble self-examination (Matthew 26:22; Mark 14:19)
      2. Reaction to “this night” (Matthew 26:31, 33, 35)

    B. Judas was neither innocent nor humble (Matthew 26:14-16, 25)

III. APPLICATION FOR TODAY

    A. The duty of elders (Acts 20:28-30; Titus 1:10-11)
    B. The preaching of sound doctrine (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
    C. The obligation of the entire church (Matthew 28:19-20)

Watch a video of this lesson.

On Stephen Hawking and the reality of God

          The Hebrews writer penned, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
          Stephen Hawking passed from this life into eternity on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. As of 2011, Mr. Hawking did not believe the words of inspiration. In an interview with The Guardian, quoted by USA Today, the physicist said, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
          God blessed Mr. Hawking with intelligence, but the man refused to use that blessing to observe the Almighty’s creation all around Him and seek the designer of it all. In The Grand Design, published in 2010, Mr. Hawking wrote, “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
          Sadly, to the best of my knowledge, Mr. Hawking never shed his self-proclaimed atheism. As Christians, we must mourn not only the loss of his brilliant mind but also the eternal state of his soul. We cannot rejoice in the eternal condemnation of the unbelieving, but trust in the righteousness of God. We need to share the desire of the Lord, who is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to the repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and strive to reach those with whom we have some influence.
          Mr. Hawking said, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.” Friends, all the answers that we need are found in the Holy Scriptures.
          “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

“Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

Luke 9:51-56

I. THE SETTING (Luke 9:51-53)

    A. The Feast of the Tabernacles (Luke 9:51-52)
    B. The refusal of the Samaritans (Luke 9:52-53; contrasted with John 4:39-41)

II. THE REACTION OF JAMES AND JOHN (Luke 9:54)

    A. Their question shows their attitude (Luke 9:54; Proverbs 14:29; Mark 3:17)
    B. Positives

      1. They ask permission
      2. They know their history (2 Kings 1:2-12)

    C. However, they misapplied the history

      1. The Samaritans were not idolatrous
      2. The Samaritans still had potential (Acts 8:1,4-8,14-17)

III. THE RESPONSE OF JESUS (Luke 9:55-56)

    A. The Lord’s mission (Luke 9:55-56 KJV/NKJV; John 3:16-17; Luke 19:1-10)
    B. Our mission must be the same as Christ’s – whether face-to-face or on Facebook
    C. When rejected, “they went to another village” (Luke 9:56)
    D. Be prepared when someone comes around and is later ready to hear the truth (1 Peter 3:15)

Watch a video of this lesson.