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Ideas For Teaching Bible Knowledge

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Books Of The Bible

  • Put the names of Bible books on index cards. Children put cards in order. A table game can be made of this. Each child, in turn, selects a card from a face down pack and places each book card in chorological order. One point for each correct placement. The cards are realigned on the table as cards are added. When a card is placed in error the player looses the point and the next player can capture that point. If the next player is wrong, each player in turn attempts to place the card until it is in the correct order. Game requires a game moderator with knowledge of the correct order or a listing of the correct order. This game can be played with all Bible books, or just Old Testament or New Testament.
  • Blocks of wood with names of Bible books written on the spine and one side. Players or team selects a Bible book block from a stack and place it correctly in a chorological line.
  • Blocks of wood or Bible book cards. On signal players or team place book blocks or book cards in correct chronological order. First player or team to line up books correctly wins.

Bible Divisions – It can be helpful for children to being learning some of the basic Bible book divisions and section names. The books of the law (Pentateuch), the Minor Prophets, the Major Prophets, the books of Poetry the books of history, the Gospels, Acts-the history of the Church, Paul’s’ letters, Hebrews and general letters and Revelation, the book of prophecy.

Bible Features – Unless children are provided with a solid Bible teaching curriculum that includes a comprehensive scope and sequence of basic Bible knowledge skills, they can miss out on acquiring knowledge of basic Bible features. Make sure that somewhere during the teaching years in children’s ministry that children learn the following special Bible features:

  • The Ten Commandments
  • The Beatitudes
  • The Armor of God
  • Heaven
  • The Fruit of The Spirit
  • The 23rd Psalm
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Hebrews 11 – The Faith chapter
  • The Tabernacle and how it relates to the coming Christ
  • Names of God
  • The Parables
  • The Miracles of Jesus
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Prophecy concerning Jesus passages

Bible Facts With A Deck Of Cards

  • The Ace reminds us that there is only one God.
  • The Two represents the two parts of the Bible, Old and New Testaments
  • The Three represents the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.
  • The Four stands for the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
  • The Five is for the five virgins there were ten but only five of them were glorified.
  • The Six is for the six days it took God to create the Heavens and Earth.
  • The Seven is for the day God rested after making His Creation.
  • The Eight is for the family of Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives -- the eight people God spared from the flood that destroyed the Earth.
  • The Nine is for the lepers that Jesus cleansed of leprosy He cleansed ten, but nine never thanked Him.
  • The Ten represents the Ten Commandments that God handed down to Moses on tablets made of stone.
  • The Jack is a reminder of Satan, one of God's first angels, but he got kicked out of heaven for his sly and wicked ways and is now the joker of eternal hell.
  • The Queen stands for the Virgin Mary.
  • The King stands for Jesus, for he is the King of all kings.
  • There are a total of 52 cards in a deck; each is a week - 52 weeks in a year.
  • The four suits represent the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.
  • Each suit has thirteen cards -- there are exactly thirteen weeks in a quarter.

When you want to thank God, I just pull out a deck of cards and be reminded of all that we have to be thankful for.

Ideas For Teaching Worship

Teaching children to worship is not just sitting and listening, but is activity thinking about God, appreciating God for who he is, thanking God for what he has done, giving back to God, and praising God though song and other expression. Children need guidance to learn how to worship God. Consider some of the following worship encouragement ideas:

  • Help children recognize, understand and accept God’s gift of Salvation, as an act of faith, not based on works don works.
  • Encourage children to discover the importance of corporate worship. Structure experiences where children both contribute to and receive from others through corporate worship.
  • Instruct children how to worship when they are alone. Use selected Psalms to help children discover expressions of worship.
  • Help children discover the greatness of God through all of His creation.
  • Teach children and encourage children to worship through prayer.
  • Make full use of musical expeir4ences to enable children to worship God through voice and instruments. Use God’s Word as examples of how people worshipped God through music and song.
  • Teach children that part of worship is giving to God both materially (offerings) and through Christian service.
  • Have children write original Psalms and songs of worship

Ideas For Teaching Stewardship - Giving

This is one of the often-neglected areas of children’s ministry teaching. While many churches “take offerings” regularly, we seldom help children to develop a sense of personal responsibility about giving to God. Stewardship is not only giving to God financially, but it is also honoring Him with our time and our talents as well.

  • Make offering time a regular part of the children’s programs
  • Encourage parents of young children to give them small tasks to do at home where they will get “paid” nominal amounts. Then, guide the parents in taking the money children earn through the week, placing those coins or dollars on the table and help children to see what part of what they have earned should be given in the offering and that the rest is for them to spend or save
  • Provide children with information on where their offerings are used
  • Develop special stewardship projects that the children can give toward. Consider developing some stewardship projects that involve other children
  • Develop special containers for special projects. Decorated coffee cans can be used, small jars, cardboard box banks.

Ideas For Teaching Church / Doctrine

It is not uncommon that children’s ministry leaders so heavily emphasis other areas of ministry program components such as Salvation, Bible memory, Bible knowledge, missions projects and stewardship that basic doctrine is avoided as a dry and uninteresting topic. However, Basic Bible doctrine is very important to the children’s ministry teaching program. Children need to be instructed and need to learn basic doctrine. Doctrine is what we believe about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Heaven, Satan, angels and events regarding Christ’s eventual return. This is basic doctrine. Planning a purposeful teaching of doctrine can be accomplished not only through direct teaching, but can be incorporated into music, games and a variety of other activities. In developing a plan for teaching doctrine, following are some of the highlights in the area of doctrine that should be considered. Do keep in mind that every denomination or church may have specific doctrine distinctives that they will also want to have taught to the children.

  • Plan at time for the pastor to visit the children’s program. Have an interview time to ask the pastor about how he became a pastor, what he typically does during the week, how he develops a sermon, etc.
  • Include in the regular teaching program lessons on the history of the church (appropriate to the age / grade level)
  • Make sure that children are instructed at appropriate ages about the sacraments of the church or other special worship features
  • Have church leaders such a elders, deacons and deaconesses as special guests to a class and teach the children about their church leadership roles and responsibilities
  • Plan times to take children into the sanctuary and teach them about special features of the sanctuary.
  • Teach children the history of worship of God’s people. Teach children about the Israelite tabernacle and temple and the meaning of the tabernacle/temple furnishings.

Ideas For Teaching Global Awareness

International Worker Prayer Tree – An artificial tree can be used to place the photo cards of international workers (missionaries). Children can take a card home for the week and prayer for that missionary and family and then bring the card back the following week and exchange it for another missionary card off the tree.

Cross Cultural Meal – Correspond with one of the church’s international workers or families and enlist their assistance in putting together a meal that would represent their country. Plan an international ministry meal and use this time to also teach the children about the work of the worker being highlighted.

Children’s Games In Other Countries – Children love to play games. Do some research and determine what type of game the children play in countries that are being highlighted. Plan a time to have children play those games or play games from countries around the world.

Learn A New Language – Children love to learn new and different things. Determine a missionary or country you want the children to learn about. You can find some beginning language phrases through the Internet, bookstore or library. Teach children five or ten words or phrases over a few weeks. This can be the beginning of some exciting learning adventures for children.


Ideas For Teaching Bible Memory

Rev. Daryl Dale of Spiritual Formation Ministries conducted research and demonstrated that in spite of valiant effort on the part of children’s ministry teachers and leaders, that few children retain more than 5 or 6 Bible verses by memory into adolescent years. Further, most adults fare no better than this record and most of the verses they know by memory were learned as a child.

If children are given fewer verses to learn each year and in his Bible memory verse program includes regular ongoing review of previous verses learned, by the time a child completes 6th grade he or she will have committed 56 verses to memory for life.

This system begins at age 4 with only four verses, appropriate to children that age, with only four more added during age 5 or kindergarten. Each quarter all previous quarter verses are reviewed as well ads the new verse for the quarter added. From first through 6th grade children are then only given eight additional verses each year, always with review of previous verses learned.

By sixth grade children in this Bible memory program have fully master memorization of 56 verses.

It is suggested that verses are selected which support and reinforce the 12 areas of spiritual development for children; Bible knowledge, worship, Salvation, missions, church life, devotional life, prayer, Christian service, outreach, missions, Bible memory, stewardship.

When teaching memory verses to children, be sure to select verses that have the desired meaning to teach the intended biblical principle or truth. For unsaved children, use verses that clearly explain God’s Plan of Salvation and then use the Bible memory activity to teach this to the children as they learn the verse.

Bible Memorization Activities:

Walk the Verse: Make a template of a large footprint out of construction paper then make several copies. Write one word of the verse on each footprint and place these in a circle. Use a small piece of rolled masking tape to stick the footprint to the floor or carpet. Have the children “walk the verse” repeating each word as they walk the Bible verse circle.

Bible Memory In Color: Call on children to say the verse by an article of clothing color. Example, “Someone who is wearing anything with red can say the verse.”

Bible Verse Scramble: Place the words of the verse on various construction paper rectangles. Place these face down. On signal, have the player or players turn all cards over and put the verse in the correct order.

Clothesline Bible Verse Scramble: Place each word of the verse on a piece of index stock paper cut to the shape of clothing articles. String a closes line or have two children hold the clothesline and using spring clothespins, attach the verse in scrambled order on the line. On the signal have the player or team unscramble the verse.

All In a Line Bible Verse Scramble: Have the number of children stand in a line, as there are words in the verse. Give each child one card to hold that has one word of the verse printed on with the words facing towards them On signal have the children turn the cards around and have the player or team move the cards to put the verse in the correct order.

Sound Effects Bible Verse: Have children developed a sound effect for each word in the verse. Use drums, tambourines, whistles, a small horn, etc. Have children play one sound effect for each word. Prerecorded sound effects can also be used that might include crashing sounds, thunder, etc.

Ideas For Teaching Christian Service

Pick Up Team: Have children take on a regular, weekly responsibility of checking the sanctuary after each weekend worship service and picking up any left over church bulletins or other papers. This can help children feel they have a needed role in the church and also will help the church custodial staff.

Card Care Club: Encourage children to regularly make and send or give cards to people that are ill, shut in or who need encouragement. A card from a child can have a major impact on an adult. Get a list of people needing contact from the pastor. Consider extending this project to people in the community that might not be attending church. A “We Care” card club can be an effective tool to connect with people in the community.

Community Projects: Consider community helping projects at public parks or other public locations. According to the location in the country seasonal projects might include raking leaves, removing snow, picking up litter, etc. Let the local newspaper know about your project

Community Puppet Programs: Prerecorded puppet skits and programs are some of the easiest projects to do. Put together a kid’s puppet team practices some easy programs and offered these activities to area nursing homes or community activities

Clown Ministry: Children, with good instruction, can do effective and quality clown ministry. There are a number of good resource books on how to develop a clown ministry. Put together a children’s clown group, training them in the basics of clown ministry, and let them provide Christian service for the community. Children can learn easy tricks, juggling, how to tie balloon animals, etc.


Ideas For Teaching Prayer

Christmas Prayer Tree- After the Christmas season keep watch for a small tabletop artificial tree or used a leaf free small tree from your area. Use this tree to have children attach index cards with specific prayer requests along with their name. Ask adults in the church to take a prayer card form the tree and pray for that child and their need during the upcoming week.

Praying Children – Children can have a vital role in the congregational worship experience by occasionally offering the congregational prayer. Children can write out their prayer under adult guidance, or possibly even with the pastor’s assistance and a child can be selected to read/pray their prayer during a worship service. It is important that children are taught the appropriate things to pray for when leading a congregational in prayer. The pastor can help teach children through this project about prayer.

Prayer Reminder Bookmarks – Children can be provided with weekly bookmark reminders of just one or two things to pray about during the upcoming week. Such prayer reminders can help children structure a regular prayer time.

Components of Prayer – Child Evangelism Fellowship has developed a basic prayer system in conjunction with using the thumb and fingers of your hand as a prayer object reminder. The thumb is used to remember to pray for person closest, such as family members. The index fingers for those who point us to God (our minister and church leaders, parents, etc.) The middle finger / the “tall” finger reminds us to pray for people in authority. This can be our government leaders, church leaders, schoolteachers, etc. The ring finger is often considering the weak fingers it is the most difficult finger to lift when a person’s hand is placed on a flat surface. This finger reminds us to pray for people who are weak or sick. The small finger is a reminder to pray for us, always putting you last.

Talk to God Reminder Card: Give children a prayer time assignment of one specific thing to talk to God about between sessions. They also need something physical to take home as a reminder to talk to God. Sometimes a card with the prayer item written and they put a mark on the card each time they talk to God about that prayer need and bring their cards with them to the next session.

Things Made by People Cannot Answer Prayer: Another idea is to have the children paint a prayer stone. You teach them the story of the Golden Calf, and about idols and how some people even today pray to stones (idols made from stone) and things made by people. Just take a regular stone and have children color decorate it. Then you teach them and use verses to remind them that the Living God is NOT made from stone of things that man has made. He is the Living God that made us and who we worship and talk to. Praying to that stone would be useless as it is just a stone and cannot answer prayer.

Prayer Models

Matthew 6:9-13 / Luke 11:2

The Lord’s Prayer

Genesis 18:22-23

Abraham for Sodom

II Samuel 7:18-19

David / Temple

I Kings 3:5-14

Solomon for wisdom

Daniel 9:15-19

Daniel prays

Matthew 6: 9-13

Lord’s Prayer

Ephesians 3:14-21

Paul prays for Ephesians

Written prayers – Have younger children write out prayers for the church worship service and read it.

Prayer Reminders

Prayer wheel

Paper prayer chains

Prayer tree

Prayer table tent

Prayer picture chart

Prayer puzzle

Prayer scrolls

Prayer bracelets

Prayer pictures / photos

Prayer mural

Pocket chart prayer time

Prayers

  • Liturgy responses – Psalm 136
  • Benediction prayers
  • Psalm 19:14
  • Numbers 6:24-26
  • Genesis 31:49
  • II Corinthians 13:14
  • Hebrews 13:20,21
  • Jude 24,25

Prayer Activities

Prayer charades – Have children in teams draw stick figure pictures and team will have 3 minutes to guess the Bible story or scene

  • Luke 23:33-34 Jesus on the cross
  • Acts 9:1-9 Saul on the Damascus road
  • Jonah 1:11-2:1 Jonah thrown overboard
  • Acts 7:54-60 Stephen being stoned
  • Exodus 32:30-35 Moses with the golden calf
  • I Samuel 1:9-167 Hannah praying
  • Acts 16:25-31 Paula and Silas in jail
  • Daniel 67”7-13 Daniel defying the king’s orders
  • Luke 22:39-46 Jesus in the garden
  • I Kings 18:30-38 Elijah before the Baal prophets

Prayer rhymes or poems

Prayer post cards or greeting cards

Prayer theme mobiles i.e. thanksgiving, petition, etc.

Prayed crossword puzzles

Prayer thank-you booklets

Pass it on prayer with a group – each one says one part

Answered prayer chart

People to pray for prayer wheel with spinner

Match a prayer from the Bible game (Prayer with person who prayed it)

Silent prayer as needs are stated

Weekly prayer calendars

Prayer clock – time to pray for certain things during the day

Lord’s Prayer color candles

  • Our father White
  • Who is in heaven Blue
  • Holy is your name Green
  • Your Kingdom come Purple
  • Your will be done in earth as in heaven Brown
  • Give us this day Yellow (bread)
  • Forgive us our sins against others Silver - coins to pay debt
  • Lead us not into sin Black
  • Deliver us from evil Red - Jesus’ sacrifice for us
  • Your is the Kingdom Gold
  • Glory forever Orange

Creative Ways To Encourage Children To Pray

Adopt-A-Leader: I Timothy 2:1-4. Encourage children to adopt one church leader that they can faithfully pray for and have the children send a card to that person to let them know they are being prayed for regularly. This can be once a week or more often.

10 Most Wanted: Have children make a list of 10 people they would most like to come to know Jesus as Savior. Have them regularly payer for that listing.

Prayer Closet: Develop a special area in a child’s room or in class where photos of people that children want to pray for can be displayed. This can become their “prayer closet”

Prayer Heroes: Provide children with biographies and pictures of present day Christian heroes have the faith and biblical heroes (Hebrews 11). Use Ephesians 6:10-18 and develop a knight’s amour costume to encourage children about the qualities of a hero in God’s army.

Five-Finger Hand Prayer Reminder: Have children trace their hand on card stock, cut out the hand and label each finger and the thumb with the following items to remember to pray for:

Thumb-Those closest, family members. Pointer finger – those that point us to Christ. Tall Finger – Those in authority, government and church. Ring Finger- Those that are weak and sick. Little finger- for ourselves – we put ourselves last and before others.

Prayer Tree: Place a real tree, a cut tree of just branches, or make a large wall display of a branched tree cut out from paper. Make leaves out paper and place the names of things and people to pray for on the leaves. Each week have the children take one leaf home to pray for that person or item through the week.

Puzzle Prayer: Make an outline of the child’s community, country or world on paper. Cut the picture intro sections and make a large puzzle. Have children each take a puzzle piece and then find a person with a matching puzzle piece and form prayer partners to pray for specific needs. (Make sure your total pieces are just sufficient for the number of children in the class) When you are finished praying have the children put their pieces together to see the community they have prayed for.

Prayer Journal: Establish prayer stations in the classroom or in the home. At each prayer station and list one or two people or things to pray for. Have children go from station to station and pray for the person of prayer request listed. Children can place their name at that station to show they have prayer for that item.

Praying Children – Children can participate in congregational worship by occasionally offering the congregational prayer. Children can write out their prayer under adult guidance, or possibly even with the pastor’s assistance, and read/pray their prayer during a worship service.

Prayer Calendar: Have children develop a 2-month (8 session) plan for teaching children about prayer and using a variety of prayer ideas. Week 1 has been done for you as an example.

Ideas For International Games

INTRODUCTION: Games are a great way to get to know about other cultures. Introduce your kids to these cultures and talk about them. Make sure that you explain the game, rules, and the reason why you are playing the games. Make it fun, interesting but informative. Challenge your kids to reach others from different nationalities for Christ right now.

Cultural Games

Continents – Big, Big World - Draw continents big enough for groups to stand in. Use chalk on the sidewalk or driveway. Use a big plastic clothe for inside. To play the game tell the children wearing blue to stand on a certain continent. Improvise by asking those who had chips for supper stand on the continents, etc. Or you can children to stand on the continent where a certain missionary is working.

Africa – Stick Race - A double section 2’ ½ “ PVC piping can be used for this game and this makes it easy to travel with for international missions teams. Use two sections per player with a cap on either end of the 2’ PVC pipe section and a ½” cap on each section as well to make 4’ sections.

Everyone playing needs one 4-foot PVC pipe or stick in his or her left hand. Kids stand in a circle about 8 feet apart with one end of stick on the floor. The hold the pipe or stick upright with one finger on top of the pipe or stick. At a given signal the kids move to the right but let go of their stick. The kids move to the next spot in the circle as the game is played and need to catch the next stick before it falls. If the stick falls then the player who did not catch it is out along with the stick. The last one remaining is the winner. This can be done as play-offs with several teams and after the first round the winners of each first round playing all pay for the run-off.

African Mancala Game from recycled egg cartons RULES:

Materials:

  • Cardboard egg carton (dozen size)
  • 2 Tuna cans; washed, rinsed, and dry
  • Craft paints
  • Paintbrush
  • 48 marbles, tiny rocks, beads, beans, etc.

Making the game:

  • Paint the egg carton in the color desired. Let dry.
  • Paint the tuna cans on the outside. Let dry. (If you paint the inside, the paint will chip off as you play the game.)
  • Paint designs on the side of the egg carton and tuna cans if you wish. Let dry.
  • Play your game with a friend or family member.

Object: 2 players compete against each other to collect as many marbles as they can before one of the players clears his side of the egg carton of all its marbles.

Setting up the game: Place the egg carton between the 2 players, lengthwise. The cups closest to you is your side of the board. The Mancala (tuna can) to your right is yours. Place 4 marbles in each of the cups. Choose a player to go first.

Playing the game: The first player picks up all the marbles in one of his cups. The player then starts to the first cup to the right and starts dropping one marble in each. If he reaches the end of his side, he is to drop one marble in his Mancala, then continue around to the other side of the board. He is not, however, to drop a marble in his opponent's Mancala.

If the player places his last marble in his own Mancala, the player gets to play again. Example: If you start the game, a good play may be to choose the cup that is located 4th from the right. You would pick up 4 marbles, dropping one in each cup and ending in your Mancala. This gives you an extra turn.

If the player drops his last marble on his side of the board in an empty cup, he captures all the marbles in his opponent's bin directly across from that bin. All captured marbles, plus the capturing marble, gets put in the player's Mancala.

Players are not allowed to touch marbles in order to count them. If you touch your marbles, you are to play that cup.

Winning the game: The game ends when one player runs out of marbles on his side of the egg carton. When the game ends, the other player gets to take all his stones from his side of the egg carton and place in his own Mancala. Strategy sets in by determining whether it is wiser to go out, or play longer, depending on how many stones are in the opposing player’s cups.

Mongolia - A “SHAGAI” GAME (Can use doggie biscuits for this game) - Mongolian children have favorite games they like to play, just like we do! Because many Mongolians live in the countryside far away from cities, they sometimes play games using “shagai,” which are the cleaned anklebones of sheep. This is one of their favorites. It is somewhat like our game of marbles.

Materials: Divide a number of small dog bone treats into four equal groups. The bones will be the “shagies.” Use paint or ink markers to make each group a different color. The colored bones will represent “sheep”, “goat”, “camel”, or “horse.” (Some small dog treats already come in colors; check local pet or grocery stores)

Instructions: Four children (or teams) each select one bone (dog biscuit) of a different kind of animal to be used as their “shooter.” Have the children scatter the remaining shagies on the ground in a bordered playing area (about 4 feet square). The bones will be the “targets.” Each of the four teams takes turns shooting (flicking) a shag with his finger from outside the border, trying to hit a shagi of the same animal. If they are successful, the shagi is removed and counted as a point for their team. Whichever team ends with the most shagis wins the game.

Russia – Russian Line Tag - Place 5’ of masking tape on the floor. One player is “it”. The rest of the kids are divided into two lines 10’ from the kid who is it. The kid at the end of the line listens for it to say, “Last one runs”. Then the kid at the end of the line runs forward joining hands with the other kid who ran forward before “it” tags one of them. The kid tagged becomes “it”.

Britain or Australia – Force ball - Divide group into two teams. Place masking tape at least 3 yards apart. Each team lines up behind the tape with legs apart toes touching toes of the kid beside them. Using their hands the kids try to hit the ball between the legs of the opposing team to score a point. Players cannot move their feet. The team with the most points wins.

Japan – Crab Race - Two teams of equal number lines up facing the goal. Leader determines the goal. Each player takes a turn leaning backward on all fours to look like a crab. Each player moves to the goal and back like a crab. First team to have all players to the goal and back wins.

Amazonia Rain Forest – The Wolf (a version of tag) - This game is played with 10 to 12 players. On one side of the room use masking tape to mark off a safe house for the sheep. On the other side of the room mark off a safe house for the wolf. The area between is the pasture. One player is the wolf and the rest are the lambs. Lambs move around the pasture area and call out to the wolf “Are you ready Wolf?” The wolf answers “I’m getting ready” or “Here I come!” If he answers “Here I come?” Then the wolf comes into the pasture and the lambs must run back to their home for safety. Tagged lambs go to the wolf’s house. Keep playing until only one lamb is left and then that lamb becomes the wolf and play begins again.

Australia – Aboriginal People - About 10 players stand in a circle around 3 stacked cans. One player throws a large soft ball to knock the cans over. When the cans are knocked over the players run as far as they can away from the circle. The thrower must stack the cans again and then yells “STOP!” The players must freeze. The thrower then tries to hit the nearest player below the waist. The player hit becomes the thrower. However, if the player is not hit then thrower must throw again.

India – Kim’s Game - Rudyard Kipling was an English author who wrote many books and poems about India. In his book entitled “Kim” he talks about a game to train boys in their memory to be sent out on spy missions. Place about 15 articles (regarding missions if possible) on a cloth. Divide the group into 2 or 3 teams. Or it can be done individually. Show them the articles and then cover them. Have the kids write down what they saw. See how many articles they can remember. The team or individual with the most written is the winner.

Ideas For World Awareness Games

Overseas Relay - On two paper plates glue a picture of a Bible. Divide group into two teams. Using masking tape mark a start and then further away a finish line. At the finish line place a globe or world map. The players take the paper plate to the globe or map and put their finger on a country and call out the name. Then say Mark 16:15. They return to the next player who does the same but must point on the map or global to another country. Countries cannot be repeated. The second time round have the players walk backwards. Point out that sometimes there are hindrances to taking the Gospel to other countries.

World Map - World floor puzzle maps are available in most specialty toy stores or on line. Use the floor puzzle map to help children become aware of the different continents, regions and countries of the world.

Two such maps can be used for team seemly contests. The maps can also be linked to supported and/or know international workers serving in various countries.

Game options:

  • Place the names of international workers (missionaries) on the backs of the puzzle pieces with stick on notes in the country puzzle section where they serve. Have children or teams guess the workers name and match it with the country of ministry
  • Link multiple puzzle pieces of the same region with international workers and use the puzzle sections as a prayer activity. Children can pray for workers in the country of the sections they are holding and then add to the floor puzzle assembly.

World Conflict - Divide the group into 3 teams. Name the teams Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists. Draw 3 circles on the floor for each team to stand in. In the center of the room place a big globe ball. Call out the name of two teams. It is up to the team to bring the globe back to their circle without the globe carrier being tagged between the shoulder and the elbow. If the carrier is tagged then the tagger gets 25 points for his team and the tagger then tries to take the ball back to his circle with his team helping him. Talk to the players about the difficulties trying to get the globe and taking it back to their circle. There are difficulties today trying to reach these groups of people with the Gospel because of obstacles.

Steps Ahead - All the players line up at one end of the room behind the line marked with masking tape. Make up questions regarding missions, missionaries and Bible verses. Divide questions into two parts. When players answer questions in the first part correctly they can take 3 shoe long steps. In the second part when players answer questions correctly they can take 3 as big as you can steps. First one to reach to finish line is the winner. Players will learn more about missions and it gives the leader knowledge about what they do not know.

Related Topics: Children, Children's Curriculum, Children's Training Resources, Parent Resources

Bible Storying Series - Teaching The Story Of God Chronologically

Related Media

Part 1: Bible Storying

As Jesus gathered His followers on the hill before He ascended into Heaven, He gave specific last instructions. This is what He said:

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19, 20

Bible storying is a way of learning the story of God in a chronological sequence so that the complete story of God is understood from the very youngest child to the adult. CBS4Kids has developed this chronological approach using 60 basic stories of the Bible and story-based lessons to help listeners and learners gain a solid overview of the story of God.

The world is a unique culture. Many people are primarily oral learners since 80% of the world population is are either illiterate or prefer learning by the oral approach. Also, reading skills for most children do not formulate until age six or older. Preschool children, especially, learn the story of God through what they are told and this information is reflected against what they know, or their worldview, up to that point.

As people of all ages learn that story it is important that the story is told in a chronology or sequence so that they can understand the connections from one biblical event to the next. That chronology, or pattern, defines God and the evolvement of man’s relationship to God through the years. To understand how all those events are chronologically connected, enables children as well as adults to better understand the reasons and meaning for the Gospel and understand the importance of knowing and having a personal relationship with God.

Children, who depend on oral learning at younger ages, are not able to process the story of God in the same way as adults. Nevertheless, the chronology of the story is important as even at a child’s level of understanding it enables them to have a beginning base for understanding who God is and how God wants to relate to them as well as providing a base of learning for future processing and reasoning.

Teaching the story of God is a building block process, each story revealing more and more of God, His nature, His love and His invitation for all people, young and old, to know Him and His Son as Savior of the world.

Spiritual Formation of Children - In any society we know that people often have a worldview or world viewpoint that conflicts with a biblical worldview. The “world” (parents, siblings, friends, extended family, parent(s) may advocate or model life values or principles that conflict with biblical teaching. Without knowledge of God’s principles or standards the child may come to the story encounter with worldview concepts that are inaccurate. In order to teach a biblical worldview, we must know the conflicts, misinformation or non-biblical thinking processes, which are teaching obstacles we will face.

It is essential that we ask ourselves these questions in teaching children the story of God:

  • What is the background of the group we are teaching? What is their worldview and level of life experiences?
  • What is the ability and level of understanding of the learners in our group?
  • What is the ability level of the child to process the story information?
  • What is the ability and maturity level of the child to apply the life principle of the story?
  • What questions can be asked that are appropriate to the listeners level of understanding and life experiences that will enlist thinking and processing commensurate to their abilities to learn?
  • What is the church involvement, cultural or family background of the audience and how does that background impact their ability to understand the biblical principles of the story?

Part 2: Getting Started In Bible Storying!

Intentional Bible storytelling: Telling Bible stories should be approached prayerfully, thoughtfully and with intention, seeking God’s lead to select and tell stories that will meet the spiritual, emotional and mental needs of His people. Know your audience. Know their culture, their background, their family, friends, their living conditions, their education, their life experiences, and then select stories to meet them where they are. This was Jesus – meeting people every day where they were, taking them by the hand and heart and walking with them along the road to discover God though stories.

Being intentional about storytelling: If you could only select 5 chronologically selected stories from the Bible to teach unchurched people about God, what 5 stories would you select and why would you select each one? How would the stories you selected link to each other? Take time to write out your thoughts on this.

Knowing And Telling The Story Of God

We drastically underestimate our ability to memorize, especially in an age when so much information is readily available at our fingertips via the internet, personal electronic devices or even our cell phones. It is no longer necessary to remember lists as we can recall just about any information that we would desire and that information can also be recorded with ease.

But God’s Word reminds us of a truth that has stood the test of time for over 3000 years, “In my heart I store up your words that I might not sin against you.” You cannot store up information if you cannot remember it and recall it, plain and simple.

God intended and intends for us to KNOW His Word, the Bible. We become familiar with the Word of God but we can also store up, and “hide in our hearts” the Word of God by memorizing key verses. And that is exactly why God said “Hide my words in your heart…” Why? He answers that again, “so that you will not sin” or fall into disobedience.

If the passage is somewhat long for full memorization, such as Genesis 1-2:1, consider encouraging and challenging children, youth or adults to tag team tell the passage or story. Each person on the team can just take 2-3 verses and commit those to memory and then present the story exactly the same way – tag teaming the presentation. Even this approach gives an added dramatic touch in presenting of the Scripture and enables many to be included in the presenting.

For young children a tag team can tell the passage or story while puppets act out the story in pantomime, or others can act out the story in pantomime as it is told. Another technique is to present the passage with shadow puppetry, easily constructed with white sheeting material, a background floodlight and silhouette figures and props cut from stock card and glued on thin dowel sticks available from the craft section of a craft or home supply stores.

Older elementary age children, teens and adults can interpret the scripture passage or story using music and stick drama. For information on this technique go to www.saltandlightmin.org

There is no end to the value and excitement of presenting the Word of God in vibrant presentation that makes God’s word truly come alive for the listener.

Bible Storytelling: The key to effective teaching with this approach is to empower others to tell the Bible story rather than teaching the Bible story. In each storytelling session the teacher introduces the story with one of the varieties of storytelling approaches that are offered or using direct telling or reading from Scripture or other storytelling method and then guiding children in retelling the same story. Telling methods can include pantomime, puppetry, chants, rap, music-telling, shadow drama and many other techniques.

Part 3: Bible “Storying”

Everyone needs to know The Story: Everyone not only needs to know the stories of the Bible; they need to know the Story of the Bible. While the Bible contains many stories, there is the larger story of God that is told from Genesis to Revelation and continues being told today for children as well as adults to fully understand what the Bible is telling us about God and they need to understand how each story is important in the total story of God. It is important that that learners understand the “big picture” of the Bible, or the overall story of God that begins in Genesis and has continued up through today.

The uniqueness of the chronological storying approach lies in the method of teaching, reviewing and adding core Bible stories so that learner gains a solid knowledge and foundation on which other stories are later added.

The key of retelling stories: It is important to remember that in this system of teaching, stories are not just told once, but are continually retold with opportunities for the learners to retell stories using any one of several varieties of telling methods each time a story is retold. This approach keeps the stories fresh and captivating as they are told. As people of all ages are taught and given opportunity themselves to retell stories, they are gaining the skills to become tellers themselves of God’s story. This approach is doing exactly what Jesus commanded, “Go and make disciples, teaching them…”

Sample Bible Storying Teaching:

Theme: The Story Of God

Daily Bible story-lessons: This Bible storytelling approach is unique. Each session there is a Bible story lesson, each session only 20 minutes. This takes into account attention span of children and is planned intentionally to keep the daily program moving along. During the Bible story lesson, a story is introduced (5 minutes) and then children, in break out groups, take the story and retell it using one of a variety of storytelling techniques. An alternative is to challenge children to tag team memorize the story passage and present the story as a memorized biblical story presentation. This can be accompanied by pantomime, puppet pantomime or shadow puppetry.

The essential direction is to keep the stories in a chronological sequence so children are always gaining a better knowledge of the big picture of the Bible and the ever-unfolding story of God.

Bible Storytelling

The Storyteller: Every person has a unique way of telling stories and no one method of story presentation is necessarily better. Kids can be great storytellers too. Every day kids, teens and adults tell stories. Everyone is a storyteller. We tell stories about what happened to us in school that day, we tell others stories about our friends and about our parents and maybe even how mean our older brother or sister have been to us. See, we all tell stories and sometimes these stories are funny and sometimes serious.

Each person needs to learn how to develop their natural and unique abilities in telling. If you are new to telling stories you need to learn how to tell so that everyone can learn from those stories. This storytelling workshop with tips, ideas and activities can help you quickly learn as you prepare for telling Bible stories.

Activity: Learning how to make faces that help to tell stories – In break out pairs or by yourself in front of a mirror, have fun with this “Mask of Expression” activity. If in pairs partners should face each other. Place both hands over your face and eyes.

In a group exercise have the leader (if by yourself in front of a mirror) state or think of an expression and emotion such as fear, anger, surprise, happiness, etc. Behind your hands make that expression but keep your hands in place. On the leader’s signal or if by yourself, quickly remove your hands and demonstrate that expression / emotion to your partner or yourself Repeat this for several expressions / emotions.

In storytelling we must communicate the emotions and expressions of the characters in the story. This is done by movement, gestures and facial expression. A good teller needs to develop the freedom and use of expression while telling.

Part 4: Bible Storytelling- Telling “The” Story Of God

For effective group learning of Bible stories, when the story is first introduced; the story can be told in at least two different ways with a break-out follow up discussion time after the telling. The following storytelling techniques can be used to make the telling time an exciting and memorable story learning experience.

First telling: The teller just tells the story with expression. Make sure you know the story. Tell the story without notes. Begin with your Bible in your hand, stating the story title and where in the Bible it is found. Lay your Bible aside and tell the story. When you have completed the story, pick up your Bible and say “That is the story of ___________” and close your Bible

Next telling: This is an important step as this begins to release those hearing the story to feel comfortable participating in a telling experience. In the safety of the large group where everyone is talking at once, and where participants in workshops are in pairs, this exercise reduces inhibitions as there is no pressure. The noise of everyone telling at once helps to break many storytelling barriers and fears.

Have all the members of the workshop break into pairs or 3-5 in a small group. Give them 4-5 minutes where the each in the group or pairs tells the story. Say to the group, “Now, I want you to pair with another person right where you are or gather in groups of 4 or 5 and when I say “Go” tell this same story I just told you to each other and try not to miss any of the story details. Take your time and everyone tells the story.”

Final telling: This is where Bible storying is a fun and exciting time. Now is the time to use any of the following telling ideas and put this into action. Use one of the following telling ideas and try to have all members of each group participate in the telling.

The Storyteller: Every person has a unique way of telling stories and no one method of story presentation is necessarily better. Every day child, teens and adults tell stories. Everyone is a storyteller. We tell stories about what happened to us in any given day or from past experiences, we tell others stories about our friends and about our family, from where we work or form places we have been. We all tell stories and sometimes these stories are funny and sometimes serious.

Each person needs to learn how to develop their natural and unique abilities in telling. If you are new to telling stories you need to learn how to tell so that everyone can learn from those stories.

Preparing The Story

When you are preparing a story to tell others your need to plan and prepare a good beginning. This is what we call the “Hook.” This gets others interested in your story and makes them wonder what is coming next.

Here are a few “hook” ideas that you can use when telling a story or giving others a hint about your story. These hooks can also help those who hear your stories remember them long after you have told the story:

*A piece of cloth- Jesus took a small towel and used that when He washed His disciple’s feet. That small towel can be a reminder of how Jesus served others.

*Rain stick – You can purchase rain sticks that are made from hollow cactus plants and dried beans or rice are placed inside and sealed. When you turn them up and down the seeds fall inside the stick and it sounds like rain. How about the story of Noah? How about using this in telling the story of Jesus in the boat with His disciples?

*A cup – At the Last Supper Jesus had a cup that He passed to the disciples. You can use a clay cup like this or a mug when you tell this story.

*Musical instrument – David played a small harp when King Saul was depressed. Many musical instruments can be used in telling a story that will help the story be remembered.

*Seeds - The parable of The Sower and Seed – As you tell the story hand out seeds or beans

*Brief mime skit – You can team tell and your team members act out the story as you tell it.

*A piece of rope- If you hold a piece of rope that relates to a story, it will keep others interested. What stories could you tell using a rope?

*An illusion – there are some illusions that will hook others into your story. What about an illusion where something “disappears”? What story could you tell and use this for a “hook”?

*A song – Many songs describe Bible stories. Teach a song before you tell or after you tell.

*A candle – Jesus taught about lamps under bushels or baskets, about lamps and many other illustrations. Use a candle for a story “hook”.

*A question – When you start a story, think of a question that will get the listener interested in your story. What question could you ask before you tell the story of Noah?

*A hat – sometimes an interesting hat you wear when you tell stories remind those who hear you that a story is coming when you put on your hat.

*Pantomime - it can be a lot of fun to tell your story in sections with a group acting out the story between sections.

*Visuals- There are many items where a visual will relate to a story that you can show or hold in your hand when you tell. What stories can you tell with these visuals? Rock, leaf, stone, knife, a bird in a cage, ribbons in 12 different colors, a small loaf of bread, a rubber fish, a picture of a donkey?

*A chant – in this workshop you will learn some chants that you can have others say while you tell a story.

Part 5: Presenting The Story:

When you are telling do not be afraid to move around. For example, if you are telling the story of the Good Samaritan, it opens by stating, “There was a man traveling from ……” When you tell this part, turn sideways to your audience and take a few steps to demonstrate the man walking.

Make sure you look at your audience when you are telling. Break your audience into three imaginary sections; left, center and right. As you tell, look at all three sections, looking back and forth so that everyone feels you are telling to them.

  • Develop the story in several parts where you can have emphasis pauses. Most stories have natural sections or “acts”
  • Describe the major sections of the story of Noah
  • Describe the major sections of the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man that his friends brought to Jesus who was teaching in a house,
  • Make sure you know the story point(s) or purpose(s).
  • What does God want us to learn from the story of Moses being found in the river, Joseph being sold to travelers going to Egypt, Jesus in the storm with His disciples?
  • Be able to “see” the characters and the setting in your story and help your audience to “see” the characters and setting as well by your actions, gestures and animated descriptions. Close your eyes and describe what a Bible story character that your leader names. What kind of clothes are they wearing, what is their hair like? How old are they?
  • Plan your story ending – will you finish your story? If you are just telling the story to a friend do you just say, “That’s the end of the story?” or are there some questions you could ask to see if they discover the main lesson of the story?

Story Ending Ideas – Here are some good tips when telling a story.

Leader:

  • Pick up your Bible and close it as you say “And that is the story of __________”
  • At the end of the story, simply say, “And that is the end of the story.”
  • When the story has ended, step back, step aside, sit down, stand up, etc. Make a major change in your position while you were telling the story.

Post Story Learning: Before the story session prepare at least 10 solid discussion starters or questions to get discussion going with your group. If you are telling in a large group, if possible, break up your group into smaller units with leaders and have the leaders and kid’s sit down and explore the story.

In developing questions here is a list of the types of questions and discussion starters you can develop and add your own additional questions:

  • Who were the characters in the story?
  • What do we know about the people groups of the story? The Israelites, the Egyptians, Canaanites, etc
  • What does the story tell us about each of these persons?
  • Where did this story take place? What do we know about this location?
  • What do we know or can we imagine about the story setting?
  • What does each character in the story do and why do you think the character acted in that way?
  • What choices did each character in the story have?
  • What do you think is the history or background of each character in the story?
  • What choices did the characters in the story make?
  • What happened as a result of the character choice decisions?
  • What information does the story tell about each person in the story?
  • What do you think happened to the characters after this story account?
  • Did anything surprise you about this story?
  • What happened before this story took place that might tell us more about the story itself?
  • How did the story character handle the problem or situation?
  • Do you know anyone who is like any characters in the story?
  • Are there any characters in the story that remind you about yourself? Which one and how?
  • What is one thing God is trying to teach through this story?
  • Did anyone have their life changed in this story? Who and what happened?
  • Did God change something He had planned or said He was going to do during this story? If so, what changed?
  • Was there a miracle in this story?
  • What did God teach you through this story?

In leading a story discussion, if someone draws an erroneous conclusion or makes a story statement error, instead of pointing out their error ask a further question that will reveal the error. For example, if a learner states “When Jesus was in the boat crossing the lake with His disciples, Jesus was talking to Peter when a storm started….” Ask the question “What does the Bible say that Jesus was doing when they were crossing the lake?’ and see if someone else makes the correction. It is important to keep the story facts straight.

Story Reminder: Consider using a multi-sensory approach whenever possible considering presentation ideas that relate to:

Hear – See – Smell – Touch – Movement

Part 6: Techniques For Storytelling

Storytelling Idea 1 – Chants: The Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37

Teller: Tell the story of the Good Samaritan. At each time one of the story characters comes to the traveler on the side of the road; have the audience repeat the chant, each time saying the chant. In the story of the Good Samaritan each time the chant is repeated in a weaker and weaker voice response. Teach your audience the chant and motions before you begin telling.

Examples of Audience Chants

The Good Samaritan

Help me! Help me! Help me please!
(raise both hands up and down)

I’ve been beaten and robbed by a bunch of thieves
(beat chest alternating fists)

They took my money (pretend to pull at pockets) and they took my clothes, (pretend to tear away shirt from center of chest with hands)

The Sower and The Seeds

Seeds in my pocket, (hands to pockets) seeds in the air (hand scattering seed)

Seeds on the ground (point to ground)

Seeds everywhere. (sweep hand side to side)

Give the seeds some water (pretend to pour water) and give the seeds some sun,(point to sky)

Teller: Now an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The expert answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But the expert wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him up, and went off, leaving him half dead.

Now by chance a priest was going down that road, (Audience CHANT) but when he saw the injured man he passed by on the other side.

So too a Levite, when he came up to the place and saw him, (Audience CHANT) He too passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, (Audience CHANT) …. and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them.

Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever else you spend, I will repay you when I come back this way.’

Which of these three do you think became a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The expert in religious law said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” So, Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

Storytelling Idea 2 – Character Phrases: Story Example: David And Goliath – I Samuel 17

Divide the audience into three sections. Give the following instructions:

Team 1:When you hear me say “David” Team 1 says” He was young but brave” (and place hand over heart)

Team 2:When you hear me say “Goliath” Team 2 says, “He was a fearless warrior” (and make a fist in the air)

Team 3:When you hear me say “Philistine” Team 3 stand up and shouts, “We fear no one.”

Teller:(Begin telling the story…)

The Philistines drew up their troops for battle. Saul and the Israelites came together on a hill on the other side and prepared their troops ready for battle.

Goliath, a giant nearly ten feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open.

Goliath stood there and called out to the Israelite troops, “Pick your best fighter and pit him against me.”

When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine challenge, they were terrified.

David went to the Israelite camp to bring his brothers food. When he arrived and heard the Goliath challenge, he stepped out and asked, “Why are you afraid of this Philistine?”

Then David took his shepherd’s staff, selected five smooth stones from the brook, put them in his bag and with his sling he approached Goliath and the Philistines.

Goliath saw David come down the hill to the battleground and he called out, “Am I a dog that you come after me with a stick?”

“Come on,” called Goliath, “I will deliver you up to the buzzards.”

David answered, “You come after me with a sword, but I come in the name of the living God. The battle belongs to God.

Goliath started coming. The Philistines yelled. David took off for the front lines running toward Goliath. He reached into his shepherd’s bag, took out a stone, put it in his sling, let it go and hit him square in the middle of his forehead and he crashed to the ground, dead.

And that is how David won the battle over the Philistines – with a sling and stone.

Storytelling Idea 3 – “Freeze” Frame: Parable - The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37

Select players. Develop the story into sections and develop a scene for each section. Pre-train the players of each scene. Have a curtain on a pole that is raised from the floor between each” freeze” scene. An easy freeze frame curtain can be made using ¾” PVC pipe cut in two or three 3’-4’ sections put together (just pressed together so later you can disassemble the pole for transporting) with PVC couplings and using PVC end caps on the pipe at both ends. Assemble the PVC pipe pole then slide the PVC pole through a sheet with the end of the larger sheet hem opened or use a sleeved curtain.

Have two people raise the curtain between scenes as players form each scene. If a curtain is not possible, have the audience close their eyes between scenes as players reset themselves.

The teller tells the story in sections. After each section the curtain is lowered to reveal the scene for only 5 seconds and the players are FROZEN in place - they do not move during the scene.

The curtain is raised and the players get ready for the next scene after the segment is told.

Parable of The Good Samaritan:

The scripture passage section one is read:

Scene 1: 3-4 Players. (The curtain is lowered) Traveler is lying on the floor in “freeze frame” holding his hands up to protect him from the attack and blows of the thieves. The traveler’s expression (slightly turned to the audience) is of great fear and distress. Thieves might have fists raised or a foot in kicking position, etc., with expression of rage and anger. The “thieves” players are in “freeze fame” in the mode of attack on the traveler. (The curtain is raised)

The scripture passage section two is read:

Scene 2: A priest and the traveler player are needed. (The curtain is lowered) Traveler is now lying on the platform with one arm raised in request for help. Priest in “frozen” walking action has passed by the traveler lying on the road. The priest might have scripture rolls in one arm, looking away from the traveler in disgust and the other hand dismissing the injured traveler in a “go away” type of gesture. (The curtain is raised)

The scripture passage section three is read:

Scene 3: Traveler and Levite. (The curtain is lowered) The traveler is in the same position. This time the Levite has walked by with book in hand, also looking away with hand dismissing the traveler’s request for help. (The curtain is raised)

The scripture passage section four is read:

Scene 4: Traveler and Samaritan (Samaritan in tattered clothing) (The curtain is lowered) The Samaritan is kneeling down and attempting to assist the injured traveler to his feet. (The curtain is raised)

The scripture passage section five is read:

Scene 5: Traveler, Samaritan and Innkeeper:(The curtain is lowered) The Samaritan is handing the injured traveler to the care of the innkeeper. (The curtain is raised)

Storytelling Idea 4 – Pantomime: Luke 8:4-15 - The Sower And The Seed

Characters needed (9): Sower, path seed, 2 birds, rock seed, thorn seed, 2 chokers, good soil seed (plus all other players who become the hundredfold grains)

  • Scene 1:Freeze frame – One player
  • Sower sowing seed
  • Scene 2:Freeze frame – Three players
  • Path seed and birds devouring
  • Scene 3:Freeze frame – One player
  • Rock seed that grows some then withers
  • Scene 4:Freeze frame – Three players
  • Thorn seed that grows then gets choked by weeds
  • Scene 5:Freeze frame – One plus all other players
  • Good seed and hundredfold production (all players have hands raised)

Teller:

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from one town after another, He spoke to them in a parable:

Scene 1: A sower went out to sow his seed.

Scene 2: And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled on, and the wild birds devoured it.

Scene 3: Other seed fell on rock, and when it came up, it withered because it had no moisture.

Scene 4: Other seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up with it and choked it.

Scene 5: But other seed fell on good soil and grew, and it produced a hundred times as much grain. (End of freeze frame presentation – curtain held up in place during final story telling)

Teller: As He said this, He called out, “The one who has ears to hear had better listen!”

Then his disciples asked Him what this parable meant.

He said, “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that although they see they may not see, and although they hear they may not understand.

“Now the parable means this:

The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in a time of testing fall away.

As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance.

Note: The Good Samaritan parable can be told as a modern-day story using the role of a pastor, elder, or Sunday school teacher, homeless person, etc.

Storytelling Idea 5 – Exaggerated Story Motion And Expression: Mark 4:35-41 – Jesus And His Disciples In A Storm

Select 6 people from the workshop or 6 children from the group and assign them these characters; Jesus, 6 disciples – Arrange 6 chairs in a boat seat configuration in the center or front of the room. One chair, two behind, two behind, one chair. Now, tell the story in sections and instruct the players to pantomime the story as you tell it and use EXAGGERATED EXPRESSIONS AND MOVEMENT IN SLOWER OR FASTER MOTION AS THEY ACT OUT THE SCENES.

Teller: On that day, when evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake. (Pause)

So, after leaving the crowd, they took him along, just as He was, in the boat, and other boats were with Him. (Pause)

Now a great windstorm developed and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped. (Pause)

But He was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. (Pause)

They woke him up and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” (Pause)

So, He got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Calm down!” (Pause)

Then the wind stopped, and it was dead calm. (Pause)

And He said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still not have faith?” (Pause)

They were overwhelmed by fear and said to one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and sea obey Him!”

Teller: And that is the end of the story of Jesus and His disciples crossing the lake in a storm.

Storytelling Idea 6 – Story Surround: Creation – Genesis 1

This presentation works best in settings of 100 people or less if microphones are not available for all participants or, in larger settings hand-held microphones are required.

Select a story or parable with character speaking or conversation parts or where conversations can be developed. See the Prodigal Son script on the following pages as an example.

Place the characters in the audience in various locations and provide each with script cards to follow.

As the story is presented the narrator can be on the platform and begins the story. When the individual character lines are spoken, the characters in the audience just stand and present that segment of the script from their audience location. Characters do not need to memorize their scripts word for word, they can be familiar with their script section and tell their part and just “act it out”.

Storytelling Idea 7 – Clothes On A Pole: The Prodigal Son – Luke 15: 11-32

In this presentation a clothing item (Inexpensive T Shirts in different colors work well) to represent each story character is put on a pole or rope. The players stand behind their clothing item and read or tell their story part.

Materials:

Clothesline or pole: 4 shirts, one with smudges and dirt

Props: section of newspaper

Narrator:

There was a man who had two sons. One day the younger son came to his father ….

Son 1: Hey dad, I’ve been thinking. I don’t want to wait until you die to get my inheritance.

Father: Hmmmmm…. I am not so sure that is a good idea.

Son 1: How about if you give me my part now. I’d like to make my own way in life

Father: I think it would be better if you would wait until you are older

Son 1: Oh, come on, why should I wait when I could use the money now.

Narrator: Well, the father loved his son so much it just clouded his good sense so he wrote out a check for half of all that he had saved for his two sons and gave his younger son his share. The younger son thanked his father

(father hands son check or money)

Son 1: Wow! Thanks dad…see ya’

Narrator: The son packed his backpack and took off. He arrived in a far away location and instead of building a life for himself and investing his inheritance he began to spend everything he had on wild living. He went to Casinos and spent money; he went to bars and attended wild parties.

Soon all his money was gone. He needed work and was hungry. A farmer gave him a job feeding pigs. The food he gave the pigs even began to look good to him.

Finally, he said to himself

Son 1: What have I done? I have spent all my money and am here living in a barn and feeding slop to pigs. My father’s hired help live better than I do.

I am going back to my father and ask him to forgive me. Maybe he will give me a job with his farm workers and at least I can have a warm place to sleep and food.

Narrator: So, the son went back to his home. While he was coming to his father’s farm one of the farm workers saw him coming and went and told his farther his son was coming down the road.

Father: Quick. get some clean clothes and get my special ring. Get some food out of the freezer and start the oven. My son who was dead is alive again. Let’s have a party

Narrator: When the older brother hears the noise from the party he came into the home and everyone having a great celebration. One of the farm workers told him about his brother coming home and his father having a big party for him. The older son was so mad he would not even attend the party.

His father found out his older son was outside and went out and said to him

Father: Come on in, your brother has come home and we are celebrating.

Son 2: I have been faithful to you all these years, working for you every day. You never had a party for me. But after my brother squandered all you gave him you throw this big party.

Father: Son, everything I have will one day be yours. But we had to celebrate because I thought your brother was gone forever, but he is alive. He was lost and now he is found.

Storytelling Idea 8 – Carpenter’s Ruler: The Wise And Foolish Men – Matthew 7:24

A carpenter’s wood folding ruler can be an exciting and fun way to illustrate a Bible story such as the parable of the house built on a rock

Using a carpenter’s folding wood ruler, there is a center of the ruler where the point of the fold is up. Separate the ruler in half at the bottom center and you will have the roof design which is an inverted “V.”

Then fold down all remaining sections together on each side to form the sides of the house with the roof on top. Tell the story of the house built on the rock. Keep the house design in tact as you fish that section of the house weather the storm

Next take the two outer single sections of the ruler and fold each down as you tell about the foolish man who built his house on the sand. This becomes a two-story house.

As you fish that section of the parable how the house fell down when the storms came, just pull the sections in your hand out straight to form a horizontal line to show the house had fallen.

Next tell the interpretation of the parable as you fold up the ruler.

Many designs can be made with a carpenter’s rule for telling stories. You can make a design of a donkey or other animals, the door frame and window frame of a home for the paralyzed man as well as the mat the friends careered him on (rectangle), the steps going up to the roof, etc.

You can make a tree shape with a folding ruler, a cross, and a box shape for the Ark of the Covenant, a Noah’s ark shape, a gate, etc. Play with the ruler and be creative.

Storytelling Idea 9 – Play Parachute: Disciples In The Storm – Mark 4:35-41

A colorful play parachute can be purchase don line or in children’s toy stores. This can effectively be sued for telling stories.

For this story also have 5-6 or a few more tennis balls. Have the children hold the parachute in a circle and after you being the story you will place the tennis balls in the center. As you tell the story use the following actions reminding the players that you cannot let the tennis balls fall out or fly out of the parachute. An option is to have the participants walk in a circle slowly as you tell.

Story section 1: One day Jesus tells His disciples to get into the boat to cross to the other side of the lake. (Pout the tennis balls in the center)

Story section 2:As they were rowing across the seas were calm and it was a beautiful day. Jesus went to sleep in a pillow (Gently let the parachute go up and down only a few inches)

Story section 3:Soon the winds began to blow and the weaves began to get rough (Now move the parachute up and down more strongly being careful not to let the tennis balls pop out)

Story section 4:The storm got even worse and the waves crashed over the boat and the winds blew stronger and the boat began to break apart. Jesus slept right on through the storm. (Now have the parachute go up and down even more again being careful the tennis balls do not pop out)

Story section 5:The disciples thought they were all going to drown and they all cried out to Jesus, “Jesus, wake up and save us, we are all going to die.” (Keep the parachute going up and down)

Story section 6:Jesus woke up, stood up ands said to the storm, “Peace” and immediately the storm stopped. (Hold the parachute tight so that all movement stops)

Jesus said to the disciples, “Why do you have such little faith?”

The disciples said to one another, ‘He really is the Son of God. Even the winds and waves obey Him.”

Storytelling Idea 10 – Cloth Or Plastic Table Covering Sections: The Israelites Cross The Red Sea- Exodus 14:15-31

For this telling method you will need two sections of either cloth or a plastic table covering, about 9’ long and at least 3’ wide. Use light weight blue cloth or you can cut a blue plastic table covering in half lengthwise.

Use four people as the cloth holders, one at each end of the two sections as the story is told. Select one audience member to be Pharaoh and one to be Moses.

Begin telling the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt. You can add as much background as you want.

If you have a reasonable size group in your audience rot work with (50 or less) divined the remaining audience members into two groups; the Israelites and the Egyptians with Pharaoh leading the one and Moses leading the other.

As you tell the storey have the cloth holders hold the split section side by side at waist height. You new have a 6’ wide by 9’ long cloth or plastic covering frame.

Tell the story and as you tell have the Israelite group move around the room and come to the “Sea” which is at one end of the cloth. When it comes time for them to cross, have the holders step aside so the group can pass through.

Keep telling and have Pharaoh and his army follow and have them enter but not exit the cloth sections. Then finish the story where the sea closes up on Pharaoh and his army and that group can all fall to the floor as if destroyed.

Storytelling Idea 11 – Audience Response: Creation – Genesis 1

Divide the audience into sections. For this example, two sections are used. As you tell the story, when you tell or read “God said,” pause and have one half assigned to say “Listen up!”

When you finish each day with “The …. was the (first) (second) day, etc., and “God said” Have the other half say “It was good!”

Storytelling Idea 12 - Shadow Story Telling: The Nativity – Luke 2: 1-20

This is an easy technique and gives great visual presentation of any Bible story with little preparation and few props. Make a “freeze” frame curtain as described in the previous story example. For this curtain it is not gathered but needs to be stretched across the poll fully extended. You will need two sections of cloth. A 2’ length by about 9’ wide white sheeting section for the top and a 5’ wide by 9’ dark or opaque section for the lower half. The white sheeting on top becomes the “screen” for the shadow storytelling.

At chest height behind the fabric curtain you can use a low-cost clip-on light with a 60-watt bulb other type of flood light. This is fixed in back behind the “puppeteers” so the light shines on the cloth.

For any Bible story go on line and search for silhouette figures or draw and cut out outlines on stock card of the story figures needed, i.e., Jesus, man, woman, tree, boat, animals, etc. Makes sure you use drawings that give a good outline view of the figure as only the silhouette will be seen for the telling.

Attached these silhouette outlines to thin craft dowel sticks available in the craft section at Wal-Mart or other craft stores. These sticks are thin and about 12- 18” long. You can also use wooden kitchen skewers. Use tape to attach them to the sticks.

Select volunteers to be the story puppeteers. As the story is told the appropriate silhouette figures come up from the back or move in from the sides of the curtain in the white section, to the center and “act out” the story as it is told. The silhouette figures must be held close to the white sheeting. The Light in the back will show a dark shadow on the creating for the audience.

Storytelling Idea 13 – Low-Cost Puppets

For any Bible story puppets can be easily be made and at a low cost by using materials from a dollar store. Locate and purchase any kind of utensil that has a longer handle; spatula, large spoon, ladle, dusting brush, toilet brush, backscratcher, plastic flute, etc. Look with Bible storytelling eyes and be creative. These stores usually have a craft section where you can get plastic eyes that can be glued or taped onto items. Also obtain yarn or chenille craft wires that come in a variety of colors.

Take the plastic eyes and look at they item to mentally see where the face is located. Glue on the eyes. You can add a button nose, and then use the chenille wires in groups of 6-10, twist them together tightly in the center, then spread out the wires or twist and curve them to make crazy hair. Attach a section to the top of the items. Yarn can be used into the same way to make hair, a mustache, or beard.

You can make a family of puppets or a variety of characters. Using the freeze frame curtain the puppets can be used to tell or act out any Bible story.

Storytelling Idea 14 - Storytelling In Living Scripture And Worship Song

There is a never-ending need for children and youth to be included in the corporate worship experience. The challenge is often” how” children and youth can be involved in a meaningful way. Here is an idea where they can be more than observers by having an active and meaningful part of worship.

In most worship services there is a time of Scripture reading or a Scripture passage that is read as part of the message. This idea can help bring Scripture to life and include older elementary age children, youth, adults, or a combination of all ages in an active part of worship presentation. This concept can also be used to illustrate a worship song in “living picture” form. If not in conjunction with the Scripture passage or worship music for a specific worship service, this idea can be incorporated into worship as a related segment of the worship experience.

Jesus used the immediate world around him to illustrate scriptural principles of living. The parables are an excellent example of Jesus using a story to emphasize the scriptural lesson. In addition, Jesus included every day items to illustrate Bible truth. Birds of the air, seeds, trees, wind and water, clouds and flowers, foxes and sheep were all used to visually teach spiritual truth.

With this visual worship idea participants are given the opportunity to both experience worship and be an active part of the worship experience. In addition, this worship form can expand opportunities for children and youth as well as adults to minister to the congregation.

Many scripture passages describe a story segment. The parables are the best known, but there are many accounts in the Bible that bring to mind visual images and lend themselves to this easy drama form. Those images of Bible accounts can be presented to the congregation through what some call “living pictures” and others call “freeze frames.” There are other names of these vignettes or drama scenes.

Many worship songs have words that describe scenes and other visual imagery that can also be incorporated in this worship concept. Older elementary children, teens, adults or a combination of all ages can be used as players in developing this drama presentation as part of scripture presentations and the total worship experience.

First, take the parable, scripture passage or worship song to be used in the planned worship program. Determine if the worship segment lends itself to visual scenes or images that can be portrayed or acted out. Next, determine how many players will be needed to present that passage, parable, or song in multiple scenes. Not every section of the selected passage or song needs to be presented. Usually, 5-8 scenes will suffice. This technique can also be used in seasonal drama presentations or cantatas and eliminate the need for long memorization of scripts or the development of elaborate platform scenes or stage acting skills. If desired, different players can be used for each scene to increase the opportunity for people to be involved.

Once the scenes are determined and the number of players needed and recruited, those involved in the presentation are assigned the parts for each scene planned by the person directing the drama, i.e., worship leader, pastor, etc.

The drama presentation can be made from the platform or from a stage off to the side of the sanctuary in a well-lighted area or spotlighted area.

Players can be dressed in regular clothing, all in black, in costume or in an item of costume such as a hat, cane, crown, shawl, etc.

E-Z Stage Curtain: From you local Home Depot or similar building supply store, obtain an 8’ – 10’ length of 3/4” PVC pipe along with about 6 collar connectors (if you need to have a portable stage curtain) and two end cap pieces. If you need to present your drama in an area where materials need to be transported, and if required, take the pipe and cut it into sections. Even if you are traveling by plane to a location this stage can be made to fit into whatever case you are traveling with. I have used one small wheeled carry-on suitcase (for the airline) for training seminars where this drama technique was demonstrated and where I made my curtain bar out of 4 pieces, each only about 20” long to fit into my resource’s suitcase.

Curtain material. Wal-Mart (is there any other place for cheap cloth off their $1.00 a yard rack?) I found some great curtain material and just made up a plain dark color curtain with a 4” sewn sleeve across the top. First hem the curtain on all sides then fold over one end to make the 4” sleeve and sew. Use the material lengthwise and you can make the curtain 6’ in vertical height which is perfect for most presentations (You need a little more than 6’ panel lengths to have sufficient for the hem.)

The final curtain can be 8’ wide when gathered by making several panels. Most material is 60” wide, so you may need three panels. You will need the bar to be at least 8’ - 8’.6” long when it is assembled. If longer than 7’-8’, the ¾” PVC tends to bend. If you want, add a corresponding color fringe to the curtain or other decoration.

If in your home church, you may not need to cut the bar in lengths. If traveling, once you are on site, assemble the bar with the couplings (do not glue them- you can actually wrap the fittings with one strip of masking tape if you fear they will come apart) put the end cap on both end pieces and slip the bar through the curtain panel sleeves.

Using the Curtain: The curtain is just raised from and lowered to the floor between scenes. To begin, lower the curtain down to the platform or stage floor in font of the area where the players will present the “freeze frame” scenes.

As the story or parable is told, the players (in regular clothing, dressed in black or in costume or costume items) are behind the lowered or raised curtain (the presentation can begin either way). Two “extra” drama assistants are needed on either side to raise and lower the curtain during the presentation. The players get set in place for each scene. Where that scene occurs in the story the side assistants lower the curtain revealing the scene. The “living picture” or “freeze frame” scene is portrayed, the curtain is raised, players change positions to the next scene, the curtain is lowered, scene is revealed, the curtain is raised, etc, and etc.

One Time Rehearsal: The total scripture drama is read or the worship song is played for the players and the determined number of scenes is reviewed. Assigned players are set in place on the platform to act out each designated scene in “frozen” position. For the Good Samaritan parable, scene one might include one player as the traveler, and 2-3 “thieves” players. As each scene is set, the drama director encourages each player to present their part in well-defined or exaggerated “frozen” gestures and facial expressions for the part they are playing in that scene.

Part 7: Storytelling For Missions

As with all mission’s projects, there is the opportunity to raise funds. Below is a fun project which will not only bring about successful fund raising but also will give the children the opportunity to see how God uses their talents to bring this to a successful conclusion.

Advance Planning:

  • Announce in advance that before and after church, there will be a Storytelling for Missions in the church lobby, narthex or vestibule on a designated date.
  • Make up a display for the mission’s project with handout information.
  • Prepare elevated decorated boxes or small platforms for the storytellers
  • Select several capable children to be tellers. Assign different stories from the CBS4kids stories to learn for telling. (www.cbs4kids.org) Have children work with parents or a responsible adult to memorize and dramatize each story.
  • Prior to the Storytelling Day have each practice telling the story to the Children’s Pastor or leader.
  • Find a willing person to prepare a flier explaining: mission plan, purpose, date, needs
  • Plan with pastor(s) date, time and ask for their promotion of event on church website, newsletter, SS classes and from pulpit or platform.
  • Seek parental volunteers to assist in collecting of donations, handing out fliers, helping actors

Day Of Event

  • On the day of the event performers may choose to come appropriately costumed
  • Set up platform for performers
  • Set up table(s) decorated with a donation basket or decorated box clearly marked “Storytelling for Missions”.
  • Have fliers available for congregants to pick up
  • Set a time for performances
  • Involve the congregation by:
  • Having a congregant select a card which names a person or event in biblical history
  • Have a storyteller or tellers tell that Bible story
  • You can have the child tell the story first person in costume as if they were the person (Example: Noah tells his story)
  • Extension idea: Ask the pastor for permission to include one of the children as a “worship presenter” on the day as part of the worship service when the mission’s project is highlighted

Interactive Storytelling:

Including the children is important because:

  • Offers children a way to demonstrate story skills
  • Teaches spiritual truths through drama
  • Reinforces principle that we must provide for the work of the ministry
  • Inclusion of children reinforces the truth of 2 Tim 2:2 “And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.”
  • Elevates the value of children in telling The Story of God as commanded by Moses
  • Deut 6:7-9 “and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.”
  • So that this promise comes true: Ps 78:4 “We will tell the next generation about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, about his strength and the amazing things he has done.”
  • A side benefit is that it is a fun way to raise funds for a missionary or mission’s project.

Related Topics: Children, Children's Curriculum, Children's Training Resources, Parent Resources, Teaching the Bible

3. The Search OF the Savior: Why Jesus Came, Part 1 (Luke 19:1-10)

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In this article, I am continuing my four part series on “Christmas Searches.” The first two sermons were titled “The Search for the Savior” - (1) “The Search of the Wise Men” (Matt. 2:1-12) and (2) “The Search of the Shepherds” (Luke 2:8-10). Now, in the next two sermons in this series, we move to “The Search of the Savior: Why Jesus Came” (Parts 1 and 2). The text for this sermon, “Why Jesus Came, Pt. 1” is Luke 19:1-10.

Our passage is the third of three episodes (vignettes) in a row: (1) The young ruler who was rich (Lk. 18:18-30); (2) The beggar who was blind (Lk. 18:35-43); and (3) The tax collector who was a thief (Lk. 19:1-10).

These three men paint a spiritual picture for us. The rich young ruler is proud of his religion and riches. But there is an emptiness that neither his religion nor his riches could satisfy. Specifically, he yearns for the possession of eternal life – the one possession that his money can’t buy. He sees in Jesus someone who can offer what he wants but, in the end, his riches are more important to him than eternal life. He decides to keep his possessions rather than follow Jesus. He chooses riches on earth over riches in heaven. As a result, Jesus teaches the crowd how extremely difficult it is “for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Lk. 18:24). To make his point Jesus resorts to hyperbole when he says that it’s about as hard for a rich person to enter heaven as it is for “a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (Lk. 18:25), because riches make people feel self-reliant and self-centered – they don’t think that they need God. Their riches have such a grip on their lives that they can’t give them up, not even for eternal life. In response, the people ask Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” (Lk. 18:26). And Jesus says: “The things that are impossible with men are possible with God” (Lk. 18:27).

The blind beggar, by contrast, is dirt poor and helpless, at the bottom of the social scale, a man with absolutely no power whatsoever and no social influence, other than being a nuisance perhaps. He believes that Jesus can give him back his sight and begs Jesus to “have mercy” (Lk. 18:38) on him. Nothing will keep him quiet. Recognizing his cry as an act of faith, Jesus heals him.

So, after the rich man and the poor, beggar man, we come to the thieving tax collector, Zacchaeus, in our passage (Lk. 19:1-10). Zacchaeus is an example of Jesus’ principle that “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Lk. 18:27). Indeed, the overall theme that Luke is emphasizing in these three portraits is that the purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world is to save lost people.

As a tax collector, Zacchaeus collected public taxes or tolls for the Roman Empire. Because of his position, he was a rich man, influential in society, powerful. He is rich precisely because “he was a chief tax collector” (19:2). He misused his power to collect from the people more taxes than they owed, keeping the difference for himself. Thus, he was a rich thief. Though he is powerful he is hated by the people, who were powerless to do anything about his mistreatment of them. That’s why tax collectors were the epitome of corruption in that day.

I think what Luke is trying to tell us in these three vignettes is that it doesn’t matter what your economic status is or your social standing or your religious zeal, everyone needs Jesus as Savior. The rich young ruler knew his spiritual need but wasn’t prepared to pay the price to obtain the solution. The poor, blind beggar knew his spiritual need and he had no economic barriers to hinder him pursuing and obtaining the solution. Though Zacchaeus, the thief, had no economic need, yet he seems to recognize his spiritual need. 3 He was seeking to see who Jesus was but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed into a sycamore tree to see him” (19:3-4). He is so earnest about seeing Jesus that he doesn’t care what others might think about this desperate act.

His desperate desire to see Jesus amidst the crowds reminds me of the time when my wife and lived in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. One time we went to Rideau Hall where the Governor General lives to try to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II. We expected to have to jostle through crowds of people to see her, but to our surprise, hardly anyone was there. And to our delight she drove by within a few feet of us. That was my first and only time to see her, despite having been born and raised in England.

Well, to his great surprise and delight, Zacchaeus not only got to see Jesus, but Jesus stopped and spoke to him. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ 6 So, he hurried down and received Jesus joyfully” (19:5-6).

No sooner had Jesus and Zacchaeus gone to Zacchaeus’ house together, than you can almost hear the murmur go through the crowd: “He’s gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner!” (19:7). In the people’s minds, tax collectors and prostitutes were quintessential sinners, the most despised people in society. Why would anyone go to be a guest with someone like that? In Jesus’ day, tax collectors were despised because of their misuse of power and their utter corruption. Zacchaeus was known as an unscrupulous tax collector, demanding more from the people than they owed to the government, extorting money from people so that he could enrich himself.

Zacchaeus’ activity was not unlike what we might experience today. Many of us here in Canada have received scam phone calls from people pretending to be Canada Revenue Agency, demanding payment for taxes we do not owe. In fact, I know someone who, through such fear and intimidation tactics, was cheated out of $6000. What a shock, then, to find that Zacchaeus not only knew their complaint against him but actually agreed with it.

The true sign of repentance is to change your way of life. “Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold’” (19:8). Zacchaeus spontaneously offers to make recompense to those from whom he had extorted money falsely. Here, then, are the evidences of genuine repentance…

1. Confession. Notice that Zacchaeus acknowledges Jesus as “Lord.” This man, who previously did not bow to anyone, now readily submits to Jesus’ lordship over him. This man, who previously did not take orders from anyone, now willingly obeys Jesus.

2. Humility. Zacchaeus now expresses concern for “the poor.” The lowest level of society with whom he did not previously associate, now becomes his priority. The very people whom he previously despised and defrauded, now become his concern. The same people who hold a special place in Jesus’ heart, now have a place in his heart. And he pledges half of his wealth to improve their plight.

3. Restitution. He will give back his ill-gotten gains. He will not live off the avails of sinful activity nor keep what rightfully belonged to others. Anything that he had taken fraudulently he would “restore fourfold.” Effectively, he imposes on himself a fine for his previous illicit behavior.

This was unheard of from tax collectors. They didn’t submit to anyone. They had no compassion for anyone. They didn’t give to anyone, they just took away. They didn’t confess wrong-doing because they considered themselves to be above the law and everyone else.

Now we come to verse 10 which is the centre of our attention in this sermon. In response to his confession and evidence of genuine repentance, Zacchaeus hears...

I. Jesus’ Glorious Declaration That The Son Of Man Has Come

“Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham’” (19:9). Jesus gives the clear assurance of salvation. “Today!” There is no delay in Jesus’ granting forgiveness to this incorrigible sinner. Jesus did not tell Zacchaeus to do works of penance. He did not tell Zacchaeus that he would review his behavior after a certain length of time to see if he deserved salvation. No, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come this house.” Zacchaeus had already given clear and convincing proof that his heart had been changed, that his conscience had been reached, that genuine repentance had taken place.

You see, God looks right into our hearts. He knows those who are genuine seekers after him. He knows those who are genuinely repentant. He knows your heart. He sees your every action, hears every word, and knows every thought. So, when you turn to him in faith he grants instant salvation. That’s what happened to the thief on the cross. He didn’t have opportunity to do anything to earn salvation. But he called upon Jesus out of his utter need and recognition of his sinfulness, saying to the other thief, 40 Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43 And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”(Lk. 23:40-43).

“Salvation has come to this house,” Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “since he also is a son of Abraham.” What did Jesus mean by this: “He (Zacchaeus) also is a son of Abraham”? Well, in contrast to those who observed what was happening, who accused Jesus of being the “guest of a man who is a sinner” (19:7), who were children of Abraham by birth but not by faith, Zacchaeus, on the other hand, despite his previous conduct, was by birth and now by confession a man of faith, a “son of Abraham.” The old had gone and the new had come.

So, not only does Jesus give Zacchaeus a clear assurance of salvation, but also Jesus gives a clear declaration of his advent: “... for the Son of Man has come” (19:10a). The word “for” indicates Jesus’ explanation of how and why salvation could come to anyone, even a thief, even to someone as far from God as rich, powerful, and corrupt Zacchaeus. Over the course of his ministry, Jesus stated many reasons why he came into the world. He said...

“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:32)

“I have come not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn. 6:38)

“I have come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10)

“For this purpose (the cross) I came to this hour” (Jn. 12:27)

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world, that I should bear witness of the truth” (Jn. 18:37)

“I have come a light into the world that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness” (Jn. 12:46)

“I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (Jn. 12:47)

But surely this statement in Luke 19:10 of why Jesus came into the world outshines them all. “Salvation” is only possible because “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (19:10). The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to save lost people – that’s why “the Son of Man has come.” This is what Christmas is all about - the coming of the Son of Man, whose coming changed world history.

What, then, does this title “Son of Man” mean? “The Son of Man” is the title Jesus used most often in the gospels to refer to himself. Since its meaning is never explained, the title must have been well known and understood.

1. It’s a title that indicates Jesus’ deity. That’s why Jesus called himself “the” Son of Man (a) when He claimed the authority to forgive sins (Lk. 5:24), because only God can do that; (b) when He claimed authority over the Sabbath (Lk. 6:5), because only God is lord of the Sabbath; (c) when He claimed authority over the harvest (Matt. 13:3), because only God as creator is God of the harvest; and (d) when He spoke of the redemptive aspect of his mission in the world (Mk. 10:45), because only God can redeem sinful human beings.

2. It’s a title that identifies Jesus’ humanity. The Son of Man is the incarnate God who in his humanity identifies with the human race (a) by associating with publicans and sinners like Zacchaeus (cf. Lk. 7:34); (b) by being totally accessible by human beings; (c) by experiencing all the things we experience like sadness, weakness, suffering, disappointment, hunger, temptation, and even death.

The Son of Man is the incarnate God who in his lowly humanity demonstrated his love for sinners when He 7 emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8).

3. It’s a title Jesus used to prophesy of his sufferings as in: (a) “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Lk. 9:22); (b) “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men” (Lk. 9:44); (c) “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Lk. 24:7); (d) “‘31 See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.’” (Lk. 18:31-33).

4. It’s a title that connects Jesus to his future coming. The O.T. prophets foretold that the Son of Man was coming, and now the “Son of Man has come.” Prophecy has become reality. Not only has this prophecy about the coming of the Son of Man already been fulfilled at his first coming, but it is yet to be fulfilled at his second coming for the Son of Man is coming again. This time not in lowliness and poverty and rejection but in power and glory: “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk. 21:27).

The Son of Man is coming again. At that time his coming will be sudden and unexpected, not to save but to judge. “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Lk. 12:40). “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all - so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. (Lk. 17:24-30).

So in Luke’s gospel Jesus is presented as the universal Savior, the Son of God and yet the highly accessible Son of Man. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is “the Son of Man” who feeds the hungry, exalts the humble, reaches out to the disadvantaged, the unlovely, the poor, the outcasts. But he is also the One who condemns the rich and powerful.

As someone else has pointed out, in Luke’s gospel, “the Son of Man” emphasizes that Jesus’ humanity was at the same time ordinary but also extraordinary; it was normal but also abnormal (Ken Carson, “The Son of Man Comes,” Grace Institute for Biblical Leadership, Spring 2008). He was born like any normal human, but his conception was highly abnormal, extraordinary. He was born as an ordinary baby to a poor family in a stable, but the birth announcement was extraordinary, made by angels to astonished but adoring shepherds. He matured like a normal boy but had extraordinary wisdom and knowledge. He was baptized like any other person, but his baptism was accompanied by the audible affirmation of God from heaven. His genealogy goes back to Adam like everyone else, but it goes through king David, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

So, from Luke 1:1 to 4:13, Luke announces the fact of the coming of this extraordinary Son of Man to earth. It is announced by angels, by prophets and prophetesses in the temple, by John the Baptist, and by God the Father himself.

Then from Luke 4:14 to 9:50, Luke describes the purpose of the coming of the Son of Man to earth. The purpose of the coming of the Son of Man was to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to give sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed and downtrodden. That is, He has come to the rejects and outcasts and despised of society, like the lepers (Lk. 5:12) and tax collectors (Lk. 5:29) and women (who figure prominently in the life of Jesus in Luke) and Samaritans (Lk. 9:51-56).

This then is his glorious declaration that “the Son of Man has come.” And then we see…

II. His Glorious Compassion In Seeking Lost Sinners

“ The Son of Man has come, to seek… the lost” (19:10b). This is why the Son of Man has come into the world – to search for lost sinners.

Who are the lost? What does it mean to be spiritually lost? Every human being comes into the world in a lost spiritual condition, with our backs turned against God in rejection of God’s love, with our wills rebelling against God in rejection of God’s law. We come into the world like the rich man – self-sufficient, independent, and self-willed. “For all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). That is our condition by nature (birth) and by practice (behavior). We are “lost” sinners. To be “lost” means to not know where you are, to not know how to return home, to not know which way to turn, to be helpless and hopeless. Perhaps there are some reading this who know you are lost spiritually. Well here’s the good news: “The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.”

That’s the essence of Christmas – the coming of Jesus to search for lost sinners. Jesus seeks “the lost,” like those in Luke 15 – the woman who tirelessly searched for the lost silver coin; the shepherd who tirelessly searched for the lost sheep; the father who tirelessly searched the horizon day after day for a sign of his lost son. Just so, the purpose of the coming of the Son of Man was to search for lost people.

He did not “come to call the righteous” (Lk. 5:32) - those who think they don’t need God; those who do not admit they are lost - but Jesus came to call “sinners to repentance” - those who acknowledge their need of him; those who confess their sins; those who know and admit they are spiritually lost.

Note that no one ever sought after Jesus unless Jesus first sought after them. He initiates the process of salvation. Those who call on the name of the Lord do so precisely because he sought them out and found them. Salvation is all because of his sovereign grace and mercy.

Here we see then Jesus’ glorious declaration that “the Son of Man has come,” his glorious compassion in searching for lost sinners. And thirdly we see…

III. His Glorious Redemption In Saving Lost Sinners

“The Son of Man has come to... save the lost” (19:10c). The Son of Man has come not only to “seek” lost sinners but the Son of Man has also come to “save” lost sinners. What good would a search party be if, upon finding a lost person, they merely informed them they were lost? No, the purpose of searching for lost people is to save them.

Having found those who are lost Jesus does not destroy their lives, but saves them (Lk. 9:56). Jesus does not cast them out, but draws them in (Jn. 6:37). Jesus does not let them perish in their sin, but brings them to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Jesus does not expose their spiritual nakedness, but covers them with robes of righteousness (Isa. 61:10; 2 Cor. 5:21).

That’s why Jesus came – to seek and to save the lost, to bring them home to God, to reconcile them to God through faith in him, to provide a way of escape from the judgement of God. And he did that by paying the penalty for our sin through his death on the cross. God declared that the punishment for sin is death, for, He said, “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). And Jesus died our death, in our place, so that we could escape God’s judgement for our sin. That’s why the Son of Man has come – “to seek and save the lost.”

It all started with Jesus’ birth that ultimately led to his death. By coming into the world, Jesus showed us that He is God, dying and then rising from the dead and ascending back to heaven from where He had come. And now he is waiting for lost souls to accept his offer of mercy.

Final Remarks

That’s the substance of Christmas. That’s why Jesus came. Remember our thesis: The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to save lost people. “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” What a glorious declaration, glorious compassion, and glorious redemption - praise be to God!

That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. That is the essence of the Christmas message. We focus on the circumstances of his birth and we wonder at it, and rightly so. But the wonder of his birth is the precursor to the wonder of his death – the one points forward to the other. When Jesus came to earth and was born as a baby in a cattle shed he knew that his life would end by crucifixion on a cross. And he willingly endured all that so that you and I might be saved from our sins.

If you have not already repented of your sins and turned in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, will you do so today? And if you are a Christian, are you diligently following him, seeking to serve him, waiting for him to come again? May it be so for the glory of God and for your blessing.

Related Topics: Christmas

4. The Search OF the Savior: Why Jesus Came, Part 2 (Gal. 4:4-7)

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Most of us try to organize our lives around a schedule. You schedule appointments, schedule your school work, schedule time with your friends etc. Soon you find that your week is all filled up.

Some people don’t make plans at all. Or, if they do, they don’t stick to them. Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrysler, is reported to have once said: “I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who can’t seem to control their own schedules. Over the years, I’ve had many executives come to me and say with pride, ‘Boy, last year I worked so hard that I didn’t take any vacation.’ It’s actually nothing to be proud of. I always feel like responding, ‘You mean to tell me that you can take responsibility for an $80 million project, and you can’t plan two weeks out of the year to go off with your family and have some fun?’” At this time of year everyone’s schedule seems to be full with Christmas family gatherings to attend, Christmas concerts to enjoy or perhaps be part of.

Sometimes, unscheduled events occur. Cliff Barrows served as Billy Graham’s lifelong associate and crusade song leader. The story is told that in 1945, before he met Billy Graham, Cliff and his fiancée, Billie, had scraped together enough money for a simple wedding and two train tickets to a resort. On arrival, however, they found the hotel shut down. Stranded in an unfamiliar city with little money, they thumbed a ride. A sympathetic driver took them to a grocery store owned by a woman he knew. The newlyweds spent their first night in a room above the store. The next day, when the lady overheard Cliff playing Christian songs on his trombone, she arranged for them to spend the rest of their honeymoon at a friend’s house. Several days later the host invited them to attend a youth rally where a young evangelist was speaking. The song leader that night was sick and Cliff was asked to take charge of the music for the service. The young evangelist, of course, was Billy Graham, and the two became lifelong partners. You can’t schedule such unplanned events.

Sometimes, timing is everything. The plans we make don’t always work out. Unexpected interruptions come up and the timing of our plans has to change. When an unscheduled event occurs, you usually scramble to figure out how you can reorganize your life quickly. Perhaps it’s a health issue, or a death in the family, or a paper at school you forgot was due this week. Or, perhaps it’s the birth of a baby - sometimes babies do what they’re supposed to do and come into the world on time and sometimes they come unexpectedly. Herod hadn’t planned on the Messiah being born. This was certainly an unscheduled event for him and he began to scramble. That’s why he “summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared” (Matt. 2:7). Mary hadn’t planned on Jesus being born that day. But all of sudden, “the time came for her to give birth” (Lk. 2:6).

When things don’t go the way you plan, God’s timing is always the best. He may have plans for you that you know nothing about. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Ecc. 3:1).

We’re going to see today that God’s plan is perfect. All the details are fixed and certain. He made his plan in eternity past and he is carrying it out perfectly. His plan isn’t late, nothing is unscheduled, and it won’t change because it’s a perfect plan, God’s Perfect Christmas Plan.

God’s plan was determined before the world was made and spans throughout the entire history of the human race. His plan was so enormous that we can’t fathom its complexity. Yet, smoothly and surely his plan continues to unfold. Just as surely as his Word is eternally trustworthy so his plan for the human race is coming true. The point of the passage we are studying in this sermon is that the purpose for Jesus’ coming into the world was to fulfill God’s perfect plan.

A perfect plan has three components: (1) The perfect time; (2) The perfect person; (3) The perfect purpose. First, then…

I. God Awaited The Perfect Time

When the fullness of time had come… (4a)

1. The fullness of time was planned from eternity past. God has an eternal calendar, a schedule for human history, a plan concerning human beings and the earth. Throughout human history God has been unfolding his plan for the world. But throughout human history people have ignored God’s plan. They turn a blind eye to his plan and turn their backs on Him. Adam and Eve disregarded God’s plan for their bliss in Eden. The nation of Israel disregarded God’s plan for their blessing in Canaan. So, God has repeatedly warned, cajoled, and pleaded with people to repent, to be reconciled to Him, to trust him.

First, the fullness of time was planned in eternity past. And second…

2. The fullness of time was revealed throughout the O.T. It was revealed in Genesis 3:15, when God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and he offspring: he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” It was revealed through the time of the patriarchs, judges, kings, and O.T. prophets (cf. Heb. 1:2-3). And the years passed until the perfect time came, “the fullness of time,” when God intervened in history to execute his plan of redemption.

So, the “fullness of time” was planned from eternity past. It was revealed throughout the O.T. And third…

3. The fullness of time came when Christ was born. Christ’s birth was “the fullness of time” because it was exactly at the time of our greatest need. Human beings had shown themselves to be utterly incapable and unwilling to keep God’s law. Over thousands of years, the human race had proven that we are sinners in need of a Savior. “While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). Indeed, “At that time, you were separated from Christ … having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).

It was the “fullness of time” because it was exactly according to God’s timetable. That was the time for God to effect his eternal plan of redemption. This was the culminating revelation of God’s plan. This was the apex of his unfolding drama of redemption. This was the zenith of all God’s ways with man. This was the perfect time when God himself was going to intervene in human history by coming to earth. The task was too great for any mere mortal to speak or act on behalf of God – not the prophets nor the kings or judges or patriarchs. So that was the time for God’s one and only Son to be born.

It was the “fullness of time” because it was exactly the right time for God’s plan to be put into action. The time had come to which all redemptive history had pointed. The right moment had come for God to disclose to the world how he would effect his plan of salvation, a plan that he had made known through the prophets, but a plan that the human race had ignored. That’s why, when Christ was born, no one seemed to realize what was happening. The people of Jerusalem and Bethlehem didn’t know, even though their own Scriptures had predicted it long before.

When Christ was born nearly 2000 years ago it was the perfect time for God to initiate his plan of redemption. And the perfect time for God to complete his plan will come again in the future. He acted once at Christ’s first coming and He will act again at Christ’s second coming. At Christ’s first coming, God revealed his grace; at Christ’s second coming, God will reveal his judgment and wrath. There is a limit set for God’s plan of grace. Yes, “God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). And so, God pleads with people today: “Behold, now is the favorable (acceptable) time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). And He warns everyone: “Surely I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20). There is a limit set for God’s plan of grace. The question is: “Are you ready?”

God awaited the perfect time. And…

II. God Appointed The Perfect Person

…God sent forth his Son (4b)

This reminds us of the man in the parable who “planted a vineyard and put a fence around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country.” (Mk. 12:1). First, he sent a servant to receive the fruit if his vineyard, but the servant was beaten by the tenants and sent away empty-handed. Then, he sent another servant who was shamefully treated, stoned, wounded and sent away. Then, he sent another servant who was killed, and many others, some of whom were beaten and some killed. After all that, “He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’” (Mk. 12:1-6).

Jesus, the perfect person, was “born of a woman” (4c). In God’s perfect plan, he sent forth Jesus, his beloved Son, who was “born of a woman.” He did not come the first time in the way he will come the second time. At his second coming he will come in power and great glory. Then, “he will come in the clouds and every eye will see him” (Rev. 1:7). And then every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). But at his first coming, Jesus came in weakness and obscurity, “born of a woman.”

Because he was born of a woman, Jesus was fully human. But Jesus was also fully divine. Though he was fully man, Jesus was no ordinary man. He was no ordinary man because his conception was different than any other - the woman to whom he was born was a virgin. He was not conceived through the natural union of a man and a woman. He was conceived through the Holy Spirit: “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” the angels said to Joseph (Matt. 1:20). His conception guarded his deity. And his conception guarded his holiness – he had no sinful nature. He was fully human and yet perfectly sinless as Scripture attests: God “made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). He was “holy, innocent, unstained, separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). He was “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Thus, Jesus was the God-man. He was fully and perfectly God and fully and perfectly man. He was God “manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). This is a foundational, non-negotiable truth of Christianity (cf. Heb. 2:14). “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

So, Jesus had two natures - human and divine (cf. Phil. 2:6-7). It was necessary for our salvation that the Savior of men should be a perfect man. As John MacArthur puts it: “He had to be God to have the power of Saviour, and He had to be man to have the position of Substitute” (Galatians, 108). The debt of our sins had to be paid and it could only be paid by a sinless, perfect person. This idea is echoed in Cecil Alexander’s old hymn (“There is a Green Hill far away”)…

There was none other good enough to pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.

To satisfy the justice of a holy God, there had to be a perfect sacrifice. And the perfect sacrifice had to be a perfect person. Jesus, the perfect person, was “born of a woman.” And Jesus, the perfect person, was “born under the law” (4d). He was born under the same conditions as those who were finding it impossible to be justified by the law. Like any other person, he had the obligation to obey and be judged by the law. But unlike any other person, he perfectly kept and satisfied the law of God, because he was perfectly sinless.

So, in putting his plan into action, first, God awaited the perfect time. Second, God appointed the perfect person. And notice third…

III. God Achieved The Perfect Purpose

Every plan has to have a purpose, a goal.

God’s purpose was to change our standing before God. And He did this by sending forth his Son “to redeem those who were under the Law” (5a). To redeem something means to buy it back, just as slaves in Bible times were sometimes bought back from slavery. Because Christ was born under the law and perfectly kept the law, he is able to “redeem” all who were born under the law and were held in bondage by it, being unable to keep it themselves. We could not meet the holy demands of God’s law. We stood before God condemned, our mouths were shut. We had no defence before God, no advocate. We were guilty and enslaved with no hope of freedom until “God sent forth his Son” into the world “to redeem those who were under the Law.”

That’s what God revealed to Mary, “You shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). That’s what God revealed to the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11). That’s what God, through Paul, revealed to the people in the synagogue, Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (Acts. 13:38-39).

God sent forth his Son with the express purpose of redeeming us, redeeming us from our sinful flesh. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). If we believe in him, the condemnation of sin in the sacrifice of Christ prevents our personal condemnation. It changes our standing before God. That’s why Jesus came into the world.

By faith in Him, we are redeemed from the curse of the law, bought back from the power of Satan to the power of God, ransomed from death to life. Our standing before God changed. That was God’s purpose, to change our standing before Him. And also…

God’s purpose was to change our status before Him. God sent forth his Son so that we might receive adoption as sons” (5b). That’s a change of status. Adoption in this context doesn’t mean what it does today in our society. In the Greco-Roman culture, a certain time was set when the male child in the family was formally and legally “adopted.” The word used here for adoption literally means “to place as a son.” So, at this pre-appointed time, the male child was placed in the position of a legal son and given all the rights and privileges of that position. This legal ceremony did not make him a member of the family, for he always was a member of the family. Rather, it gave him legal recognition as a son under Roman law.

There are two Greek words that are both rendered simply as “son” in our English translations, but they are, in fact, different. One word refers to a child by natural birth (teknon) and the other refers to the same child who has been legally declared a son in the eyes of the law (huios). Here in Galatians 4:5, Paul uses the term “huios” to describe this legal “adoption as sons” with full rights and privileges.

Paul’s point here is that, as adopted sons (and daughters), we have a new status before God. We who were slaves to the law have been redeemed from its grip and now, as free men and women, we have been adopted into God’s family with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of sons and daughters.

This new status brings with it a family intimacy, the like of which we could never have had with God before. Our status has been changed from slavery under the law to redeemed children adopted into God’s family. And now, because we are God’s children, “God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father’” (6). Notice this beautiful sequence. Not only did God send forth his perfect Son into the world to change our standing before God by redeeming us (marvellous as that is), and to change our status before God by adopting us (marvellous as that is), but also He has sealed our new standing and signified our new status by sending “the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (6a). Thus, we are brought into an entirely new relationship with God, a relationship of intimacy and security that a slave could never have with his master, but which we enjoy with God as his children. Now we know God in an entirely different way. Now we can call God “Abba! Father!” - “Daddy, Father.” Now we are “no longer slaves but sons” [and daughters] (7a). Now we enjoy a paternal intimacy with God of security, warmth, comfort, confidence, affection, joy, peace. We have a brand new relationship with God through Christ. That’s why the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world.

This new status not only brings with it a family intimacy but also…

This new status brings with it a family inheritance. Because of Christ’s redemption and our adoption into God’s family, we have become heirs of all that his children are entitled to inherit. If we are sons and daughters of God, “then (we are) heirs of God through Christ” (7b). We are brought into the family inheritance. As it says in Rom. 8:17, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” When we become part of God’s family through “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24) we receive the family inheritance. God has appointed his Son the heir of all things (Heb. 1:2) and now through faith in Him, all that is Christ’s by right is ours by inheritance because we are God’s adopted children (cf. Col. 1:16).

What, then, is the nature of our inheritance? Our inheritance is that we have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5). Or, as Eph. 1:11-14 puts it, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Final Remarks

What we see in this passage is that God’s Perfect Christmas Plan is at its core the plan of redemption. And if you trust him, you can be a part of his redeemed family. This is why Jesus came into the world, to be our Saviour and to bring us into this new relationship with God, our Father. To implement his plan (1) God awaited the perfect time; (2) God appointed the perfect person; and (3) God achieved the perfect purpose.

I can’t think of any better Christmas plan than that. The timing was perfect, the person was perfect, and the purpose was perfect. As a result the unsolved riddle of the previous 400 years before Christ is solved. The unsolved riddle was: “How can a man be just with God?” Now the solution is clear: “God sent forth his Son... to redeem (us).”

Remember our theme statement: The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to fulfill God’s perfect plan. The question today is: Have you received the redemption that has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you ready to meet Him? Don’t let other plans hold you back so that you miss him when he comes again. Many things in our lives can distract us from what’s important.

During World War II, General Douglas MacArthur called one of his Army engineers and asked, “How long would it take to throw a bridge across this river?” The man immediately responded: “Three days, sir.” Gen. MacArthur snapped back, “Good. Have your draftsmen make drawings right away.” Three days later Gen. MacArthur sent for the engineer and asked how the bridge was coming along. The engineer reported, “It’s all ready. You can send your troops across right now if you don’t have to wait for the plans. They aren’t done yet.” What was important was getting across the river, not drawing the plans. Don’t wait until some other time to make your own plan to meet God. What’s important is to follow God’s plan. What’s important is being ready now, to get across the river, if you will. If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready to meet him? Don’t think that you have to stop doing this or start doing that first. Don’t say you plan to attend to it when you’re older. Don’t say you’ll think about it after you’ve sown your wild oats, after you get married, or when the kids are grown up.

Are you ready for the second coming of Christ in accordance with God’s perfect plan? Have you made peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ? The One for whom there was no room in the inn will one day declare: Come, for everything is now ready” (Lk. 14:17). Are you ready? There is still room in God’s house but it is filling fast. Soon the last soul will be saved and the door will be shut (Lk. 13:25). For those of us who have made peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, this reminder of why Jesus came - God’s perfect plan through Christ - should warm our hearts, fill us with hope, renew our commitment, cause us to watch and be ready, for the coming of the Lord draws near.

Related Topics: Christmas

Happy New Year: Past, Present, and Future Perspectives

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Related Topics: New Year's

Q. Does debt affect giving in modern times in light of the Israelite tithe and slaves?

Answer

Dear ******,

I think you and I are essentially on the same page.

With regard to your first question, the Scriptures (e.g. Leviticus 25) do not specifically address the matter of a Jewish slave/hired man and tithing. But if you stop and think about it, the goal is for him to pay off his master. I don’t think he has any personal assets of his own, which would be the basis for his tithing. His land will be returned to him on the year of Jubilee. Interestingly, if he borrows money from a fellow-Jew he cannot be charged interest (25:37). I would thus assume that one who has no assets would not be subject to the tithe.

In our world today, I would have to regretfully take note of the prosperity preachers, who seem to prey on the poor, promising them wealth if they “send in their check.” The gullible get even more deeply in debt because they think that giving (when they don’t have the money to spare) will pay them back all that they gave and more. If these prosperity preachers were correct, such giving would make sense, but sadly they only make the poor poorer.

I think we would do well to recall that God distinguished between those with means from those with limited means when it came to sacrifices:

6 “‘When the days of her purification are completed for a son or for a daughter, she must bring a one year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering to the entrance of the Meeting Tent, to the priest. 7 The priest is to present it before the LORD and make atonement on her behalf, and she will be clean from her flow of blood. This is the law of the one who bears a child, for the male or the female child. 8 If she cannot afford a sheep, then she must take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering, and the priest is to make atonement on her behalf, and she will be clean’” (Leviticus 12:6-8).

In the New Testament, Paul makes it clear that even when one has purposed to give, he or she is not obligated to give what they do not have:

10 So here is my opinion on this matter: It is to your advantage, since you made a good start last year both in your giving and your desire to give, 11 to finish what you started, so that just as you wanted to do it eagerly, you can also complete it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is present, the gift itself is acceptable according to whatever one has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not say this so there would be relief for others and suffering for you, but as a matter of equality. 14 At the present time, your abundance will meet their need, so that one day their abundance may also meet your need, and thus there may be equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little” (2 Corinthians 8:10-15, NET).

I am not in favor of credit card giving. In addition, I fear that many Christians don’t look for opportunities to give because they are so deeply in debt. Once out of debt, a savings account for meeting needs will certainly prepare a person to give, and it will make him or her much more attentive to needs the needs of others.

It seems to me that Paul’s ideal is for saints to save up in order to have the means to give.

1 With regard to the collection for the saints, please follow the directions that I gave to the churches of Galatia: 2 On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside some income and save it to the extent that God has blessed you, so that a collection will not have to be made when I come. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will send those whom you approve with letters of explanation to carry your gift to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).

I also take note of Paul’s words here:

20 We did this as a precaution so that no one should blame us in regard to this generous gift we are administering. 21 For we are concerned about what is right not only before the Lord but also before men (2 Corinthians 8:20-21).

I realize that here Paul is speaking in reference to the way collected monies will be delivered and distributed. Nevertheless, I believe the principle stated has a broader application. I believe that unbelieving men would hardly approve of debtors failing to meet their commitments, so that they can give to the Lord. The One who “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” is not running in the red, and thus desperately in need of our gifts.

I would add one last thing as an aside, based upon my early days as a seminary student. It was my experience that those with lesser means were more alert regarding the needs of others than were those who possessed greater assets. (There were a few exceptions, but very few.) As an elder in a generous church (regarding the needs of others) for many years, I have also observed that some of those who were generously ministered to later became generous givers for the needs of others.

I hope this helps,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Cultural Issues, Finance, Tithing

4. A Lasting Legacy: Choosing A Wife For Isaac (Gen. 24:1-67)

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One of the most important decisions anyone ever makes in life, aside from choosing to trust Christ as our Savior, is the lifetime commitment to a spouse. People today use all kinds of different methods for finding a spouse. Some use online dating services. Others meet their spouses at church or at work or some type of social gathering.

It’s one thing to meet someone who might become your spouse, but quite another thing to actually choose that person to be your spouse. What criteria do you use? How do you compare the person to your criteria? How do you know if what you see is what you will get? Some people are quite clinical about their criteria for an ideal spouse, their evaluation of a potential spouse, and their final commitment to a spouse. In his book, “Abraham, The Lord Will Provide,” Ed Dobson cites an advertisement that appeared in a major metropolitan newspaper:

“Christian, blond, blue eyes, 5’ 2”, 100 pounds, professional female, no dependents, wishes to meet Protestant Christian, professional man in 30’s with a college degree who has compassion for animals and people, loves nature, exercise and physical fitness (no team sports), music, church, and home life. Desires non-smoker, non-drinker, slender 5’7” to 6’, lots of head hair, intelligent, honest, trustworthy, sense of humor, excellent communicator of feelings, very sensitive, gentle, affectionate, giving, encouraging and helpful to others, no temper or ego problems, secure within and financially, health conscious, neat and clean, extremely considerate and dependable. I believe in old-fashioned moral values. If you do and are interested in a possible Christian commitment, write to the following box. Please include recent color photo and address.”

Whether this advertisement produced a spouse who could live up to all those requirements I don’t know. But it illustrates just how complicated and stressful finding a spouse can be. No wonder so many young people today are nervous about making a commitment in marriage. It is not only a daunting task in itself, but they are surrounded by a society that takes marriage vows lightly, pursues divorce readily, and gives seemingly little consideration to the effect all this has on themselves (spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and financially) and on their children, if they have any. As a result we are seeing many young people who, seemingly, aren’t much interested in getting married and so many marriage and family break-ups.

We are continuing our study of the series: “Abraham, his faith and failures.” In this expository sermon, our biblical passage is Genesis 24:1-67, in which Abraham initiates the search for, and is successful in securing, a wife for Isaac, the son that God promised him in his old age. This account gives us many principles for navigating the difficult terrain of decision-making - discerning and acting on the will of God – in any circumstance but here specifically as it relates to finding, identifying, and marrying the spouse of God’s choosing. The first principle we learn is that…

I. When You Make Decisions, Exercise Spiritual Discernment (24:1-4)

“Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.’” (24:1-4).

If you have read my previous article on Abraham (Gen. 21:8-21), you will remember that my comments on Genesis 21:21 relate to what we are about to study in chapter 24. Abraham had been called by God out of Ur of the Chaldeans (Mesopotamia) to the land of Canaan, the country which God promised to him and his descendants. Abraham was a god-fearing man but, under pressure from his wife to produce a son and heir, entered into an illicit sexual relationship with his wife’s maid, Hagar. Thus he not only entered into a relationship that was contrary to God’s moral principles for marriage (i.e. the exclusive and monogamous union of one man and one woman for life), but he showed reckless disregard for any spiritual or cultural discernment. By contrast, when Hagar chose a wife for her son, Ishmael, she chose an Egyptian (Gen. 21:21). In so doing, she demonstrated a far greater spiritual and cultural discernment than that of Abraham and Sarah. Hagar selected a wife for her son from her own people, someone of the same race and religion.

It seems that by the time of our passage (Gen. 24), Abraham has learned from that prior experience, because now, when he authorizes his servant to search for a wife for Isaac, he gives the servant explicit instructions to not take a wife for his son, Isaac, from the daughters of the Canaanites (the foreign people among whom they lived), but to go to Abraham’s birth country and family to find a wife for Isaac. Evidently, Abraham now knew by sad experience that if Isaac married a pagan Canaanite woman they would be spiritually, morally, and culturally incompatible. He saw what was going on around him amongst the Canaanite women, their worldly lifestyles and pagan ideas with no respect for, understanding of, or relationship with the God of Abraham, the one true living God.

Abraham had learned the principle that your spouse must be spiritually compatible with you. The first and most basic application of this principle is that, if you are a Christian, you must marry another Christian. Don’t even think about pursuing a relationship with a non-Christian – it will only lead to unhappiness or complete disaster. Inevitably, when a Christian marries a non-Christian, the non-Christian influence eventually draws the Christian away from the Lord. It’s a basic principle that water always finds its own level.

And, by the way, this principle applies to other “unions” as well, like business partnerships. A business partnership effectively unites you with someone else whose moral and spiritual commitments will impact you over and over again – their integrity, their sexual morality, their marriage etc. They are not submissive to the principles and authority of Scripture. The old axiom is true: oil and water do not mix. Or, to cite the apostle Paul,

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14).

The second basic application of this principle is to make sure that you are compatible as to your spiritual convictions. Even if your potential spouse is a Christian does not mean that you will be compatible with them on matters of spiritual convictions about Scriptural truths, Biblical interpretation, denominational affiliation, and practical Christian living. If you have radically different positions on these matters, you need to clear these up before you marry this person. Disagreements of this type can cause major disharmony in the marriage relationship and in how you bring up your children. As Ed Dobson puts it: “Building a healthy marriage means total agreement on the absolutes, understanding on the convictions, and tolerance on the preferences” (Abraham: The Lord Will Provide, 170).

So important is this principle of decision-making in the selection of a marriage partner that Abraham made his servant enter into a binding covenant with him to obey this instruction by placing his hand under his thigh and swearing “by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth” (24:3a). This was not something to be taken lightly. Abraham’s word was crystal clear. His servant must not under any circumstances “take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac” (24:3b-4).

So, this leaves the question hanging in the air: If Abraham forbade Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman, then where could he find a suitable and compatible wife? The answer was in Mesopotamia, Abraham’s birth country where some of his family still lived. Evidently, Abraham was confident that there was a woman there who would be suitable for Isaac. More specifically, he had confidence that a suitable woman within his own family would be found. We aren’t told why Abraham had this conviction, but perhaps his own testimony to them when he obeyed God selflessly and took that long journey to Canaan had convinced them to also believe in and worship Abraham’s God. So that’s where he instructs his servant to go on this mission to find a bride for Isaac.

So, the first principle we learn is that when you make decisions, exercise spiritual discernment. Second…

II. When You Make Decisions, Don’t Disobey God To Achieve Your Own Purposes (24:5-9)

The servant has a “what if” question.

“The servant said to him, ‘Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?’” (24:5).

In other words, what if I find someone, but she refuses to come with me to Canaan? What then? Should I take your son to Mesopotamia to try to find someone himself.

“Abraham said to him, ‘See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.’ So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.” (24:6-9).

Three things Abraham was convinced and adamant about. First, that Isaac marry someone of the same spiritual and cultural heritage as Abraham himself. Second, that if the woman that the servant chose was not willing to make the trek from Mesopotamia to Canaan, under no circumstances was the servant to take Isaac to Mesopotamia. Abraham would be true to God above all else. God had led him from Mesopotamia to Canaan and no one was authorized to reverse that. Under no circumstance would Abraham doubt what God had promised (Gen. 12:1-3) or contradict what God had done in leading him to Canaan. There was to be no going back to Mesopotamia. Third, Abraham was convinced that God would not fail him now or change His mind. The servant need not worry about this potential failure to bring back a wife for Isaac. No, the God who brought him from there to Canaan and who promised this land to him and his descendants would “send his angel before you.” His confidence was fully and solely in God!

That finalized the matter. If in the unlikely event that the servant did not find a wife for Isaac among Abraham’s family in Mesopotamia, then Abraham loosed the servant from the oath he had taken, but you must not take my son back there.”

So, the first principle in this passage is that when you make decisions, exercise spiritual discernment. Second, when you make decisions, don’t disobey God to achieve your own purposes. And third…

III. When You Make Decisions, Seek And Trust God’s Direction And Provision (24:10-53)

“Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water” (24:10-11).

The faithful servant began the long journey northward, through Syria, across the Euphrates river to Mesopotamia. This was by no means a random search but rather a specific task with a specific goal.

Immediately upon arriving at his destination (the city of Nahor), the servant prayed for God’s direction. After all, how was he to know how to go about his search or indeed whom to select? So, he sets his situation plainly before the Lord. And he said, ‘O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham’”(24:12).

The nature of the servant’s prayer is so instructive. First, notice how he addresses God: “Lord, God of my master Abraham.” He acknowledges God as the Lord, the sovereign ruler of the universe, and, specifically, “the God of my master Abraham.” This journey and search were all on behalf of and in the name of Abraham, his master. That’s who he served and he never lost sight of that. Second, notice the direction that he seeks from God:

Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master’” (24:13-14).

This is a big “ask,” isn’t it? To expect God to indicate to him whom he should choose to be Isaac’s wife by bringing that specific woman to that specific well at that specific time, who would respond to the servant’s request to provide him a drink and, furthermore, who would voluntarily offer to water his camels also. This was a big and bold prayer.

Estimates vary as to how much water a camel can drink, depending on its environment, thirst level, and exertion. But most estimates seem to range between 20 and 30 gallons. And the servant had ten of them! This would have been a huge commitment by the woman. Surely, such a response by such a diligent, kind, hard-working woman would make a good wife for Isaac.

Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, ‘Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.’ She said, ‘Drink, my lord.’ And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, ‘I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.’ So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels” (24:15-20).

Isn’t that amazing? The servant’s prayer was answered before he had finished praying and the answer met and exceeded everything he had asked for (cf. Isa. 65:24). First, Rebekah was a close relative of Abraham, exactly what Abraham had requested. Second, she was “very attractive” and morally pure. Third, she responded to the servant’s request exactly as he had prayed, with no objections or excuses. So, the servant gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not” (24:21). Was this the one or should he continue looking? Though the servant was bold in his prayer request, he was by no means presumptuous. He would not get ahead of the Lord. Convinced that this was the one, he offered her a gift for her faithful and willing service to him and his camels (24:22) and inquired of her,

“‘Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?’ She said to him, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.’ She added, ‘We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night’” (24:23-25).

Now the servant learns about her family. She is the granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother - just the family connection that Abraham had asked for. And, in God’s providence, she evidently trusts the servant sufficiently to offer him accommodation. No wonder that “The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.’ Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things” (24:26-28). Everything is unfolding as Abraham had requested and as the servant had prayed. This is no chance meeting or coincidence. This is of the Lord who is honoring his master’s faith.

Quickly, the servant is received into Rebekah’s household. Her brother, Laban, welcomes the servant and his men into their home where they are extended great hospitality. The camels are fed and housed, and he and his men are provided with water to wash up after their long journey. But when he is offered food, he refuses to eat until he can relay to the household the purpose of his journey, which is his top priority (24:29-33). And so he narrates all that had led him up to that moment (24:34-48), and what a compelling account it is, concluding with a demand for Laban’s (Rebekah’s brother) and Bethuel’s (her father) answer:

“‘Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” How could they refuse? “Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, ‘The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken’” (24:49-51).

In response to all that God had done in bringing him safely on this long journey and in answering his prayers more than he could ask or think, once more the servant bowed himself to the earth before the Lord. And the servant brought out jewelry of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments” (24:52-53). This was indeed a moment of celebration for all God’s goodness, faithfulness, and provision.

What a lesson this is for us when we make decisions or undertake tasks. In this case, the principle is that when you make decision, seek and trust God’s direction and provision. This principle applies to all facets of the Christian life, doesn’t it? Prayer and trust in God are fundamental to decision-making and living the Christian life in general. We must grasp this truth that God answers prayer.

Here in this story we see how God works in the world. He providentially marks out our way forward, often without any intercession on our part. But God delights to lead us forward by way of prayer and we should delight in this privilege and opportunity. I know that often the answers to our prayers are not as explicit or as timely as in this story, but, nonetheless, the principle remains. Many times, I think, God answers our prayers and we don’t recognize or like the answer. Sometimes God’s answers are clear and detailed. Other times they may not be so obvious to us. Perhaps in those instances God is saying “no” or “wait.”

The fourth principle we learn from this passage is that…

IV. When You Make Decisions, Don’t Be Dissuaded Or Discouraged By Hindrances (24:54-61)

As soon as the servant and his men arose the next morning, they immediately made preparations to leave. Their work there was done. But Rebekah’s “brother and her mother said, ‘Let the young woman remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go’” (24:55). Clearly, they were standing in the way of the servant’s work. You could argue, I suppose, that this was just a natural response by family members, especially Rebekah’s mother who would not want to see her daughter leave for a far off destination. Isn’t that often the case? Family members often hinder people responding to the work of God in their lives – “at least ten days” they said. Notice that they did not say “ten days” but “at least ten days.” This was open-ended and could go on for a long time, maybe even indefinitely.

But the servant was focussed and adamant, saying to them,

“‘Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.’ They said, ‘Let us call the young woman and ask her.’ And they called Rebekah and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will go.’ So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, ‘Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!’ Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way” (24:56-61).

Rebekah shows unquestioning obedience to the evident will of God. She didn’t hesitate, saying “I will go.”

Neither the servant nor Rebekah herself were discouraged or dissuaded by the hindrances of others. She could have easily said, “Let’s wait for at least ten days before we go. After all, it will be along time until I see my family again.” But neither family ties nor separation by distance would hinder her. She could have asked for a delay in leaving by questioning the servant’s story. How did she know that what he said was true? A delay would give time to check his story out. She might have had a hundred other objections to the servant’s demand to leave right away. But she didn’t. She knew intuitively that he had told the truth and that this was the will of God for her life.

What a lesson for us when confronted with making tough decisions. How good and happy it is when we can clearly see the direction and provision of God and when we voluntarily and unhinderedly say, “I will go.” How many missionaries have had to face this same kind of decision and have willingly and readily responded, “I will go.” How many young women have faced this same challenge in a marriage proposal which would separate them from friends and family. “‘Will you go with this man?’” they ask her. Unhesitatingly she replies: “‘I will go.’”

The final principle from this passage is that…

V. When You Make Decisions, Rejoice In The Prospects Of What God Has Done (24:62-67)

We come to the final scene in this unfolding drama. The servant has done his job. Rebekah has responded appropriately. Isaac is expectantly waiting. “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming” (24:24:63). His heart must surely have gone pitter-patter when he saw the caravan approaching. He must have had a thousand questions at that moment: “Did the servant find him a wife in accordance with his father’s instructions? What does she look like? What kind of personality does she have? Will we be compatible?” Evidently Isaac was looking for their return from the far country. “And behold, the camels were coming.” This was the moment of the big reveal to find out what God had in store for him.

At the same time as Isaac lifted up his eyes and saw the camel caravan approaching, Rebekah too “lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, ‘Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant said, ‘It is my master’” (24:64-65a). I think when she asked the question, “Who is that man?” she must have known in her heart who he was, for even before the servant answered, she had “dismounted from her camel.” And when the servant said, “It is my master,” she “took her veil and covered herself” (24:65b). This is an act of reverence and humility. The one who was found by the servant is bowing before the one who sought her.

“And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done” (24:66). When Isaac heard the servant’s story, he was convinced that this was the woman for him. God had guided and provided through the entire process and without hesitation, “Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (24:67). What a lovely touch. Isaac was “comforted after his mother’s death.” Rebekah was not Sarah but she filled that void as good wives do. He would no longer be alone. Rebekah would be his comfort and companion.

Final Remarks

So, there you have five abiding principles for decision-making in the Christian life:

1. When you make decisions, exercise spiritual discernment (24:1-9)

2. When you make decisions, don’t disobey God to achieve your own purposes (24:5-9)

3. When you make decisions, seek and trust God’s direction and provision (24:10-53)

4. When you make decisions, don’t be dissuaded or discouraged by hindrances (24:54-60)

5. When you make decisions, rejoice in the prospects of what God has done (24:62-67)

Of course, the N.T. perspective here is the beautiful illustration of God the Father sending his Servant, the Holy Spirit, into the world to seek and secure a bride for his one and only beloved Son.

Notice that the servant always obeyed Abraham’s will to the letter and never brought attention to or spoke about himself. Everything he did and said was in submission to and in honor of his master. His sole purpose was to carry out the will of his master in seeking a spouse for his master’s son. Thus it is with the Holy Spirit. God sent him into the world to draw sinners to the Savior. And in carrying out his work here, he does not speak of himself. In John’s gospel, Jesus taught his disciples extensively about the Holy Spirit, his nature and function. Concerning the Holy Spirit Jesus said:

1. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (Jn. 16:13)

2. “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (Jn. 14:26)

3. “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me (Jn. 15:26)

4. “When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn. 16:8).

Notice that before Rebekah responded to the servant’s invitation to accompany him back to marry Isaac, Isaac himself had already offered himself as a willing sacrifice to God on the Mount of Moriah (Gen. 22). And God had raised him from that place of death to await his bride, who would be found and brought to him by the servant. This is the work of redemption played out in living color here in the O.T. A wonderful illustration of all that God would subsequently do through his beloved Son, whose sacrifice at the cross made atonement for the sins of all who believe, whom the Servant, the Holy Spirit, would draw to the Savior, granting them new life in Christ.

Once Rebekah’s decision was made known, the servant and their entourage set out on the long return journey to Isaac’s home. The servant knew the way and made every provision for Rebekah. She was not left to her own devices nor to worry about how it was all going to work out. No, she was confident and content in the servant’s care and provision. This is how it works in the Christian life too. When you trust Christ as your Savior, the Holy Spirit makes every provision for you. He guides you when you don’t know the way. He encourages you when you feel discouraged. He teaches you when you don’t understand. He comforts you when you feel alone.

All of this we see epitomized and beautifully illustrated in the nature and function of Abraham’s servant. His work is to honor and magnify his master and his master’s son. Thus it is with the Holy Spirit who came to seek out and win over those who become the bride of his Mater’s beloved Son. Some have wondered about how the Holy Spirit carries out his work. How does He convince and draw people to Christ? Not by forcing them. He does not, so to speak, hold a gun to their head. They do not decide to trust Christ out of any outside pressure. Rather, the Holy Spirit opens up their understanding to believe the truth of God’s word about his Son and salvation, such that they willingly believe and obey. This might be the result of hearing the testimony of a Christian friend, or reading a tract or the Bible that someone gives you. It may come about through overhearing a conversation or attending a church service where the gospel is explained. The Holy Spirit takes these ordinary activities and opens up your heart and mind to the truth and draws you to Christ in faith.

What a picture that God has given us so that we can better understand the work of God in redemption, and the person and work of the Holy Spirit in particular, which is illustrated in the work of Abraham’s servant. The message of the servant touched Rebekah’s heart such that when asked if she would go with “this man” she unhesitatingly replied, “I will go” (24:58).

Related Topics: Character Study, Christian Life, Marriage

5. Abraham’s Epitaph (Genesis 25:1-11)

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How do you envision the end of your life? Living life to the full, right to the end? Using your gifts for God until your final breath? Or, fading into the sunset with nothing much to show for it?

What will be your perspective when you near the end of your life? “I’ve raised my children, worked hard, now I’m entitled to some peace and quiet” – preoccupied with your entitlement? Or, “I’m past it, out of touch, incapable of contributing, no use to anyone anymore” – absorbed with helplessness? Or, “My life is over and all I’m waiting for is to die” – obsessed with hopelessness?

What will others say about you when you’re gone? He lived his life well for God? Or, he lived for self? Or, she was fully devoted to serving God? Or, she was preoccupied with things?

What will be written on your tombstone, your epitaph? An epitaph is something by which a person, time, or event is remembered. It’s an inscription on a tombstone, words written or spoken in memory of a person who has died. So, how will others remember you? What words would they use to sum up your life?

Before commenting on the following verses, please note the interesting literary structure which the writer has chosen in bracketing Abraham’s death between the genealogies of his two concubines - Keturah (25:2-4) and Hagar (25:12-18) – which are then followed by the genealogy of Isaac in 25:19f.

Genesis 25:1-11 constitute the closing testimony of Abraham’s life and death, which testimony teaches us many invaluable lessons about how to end our lives well. Notice the first biblical lesson that…

I. Godly Parents Do Not Always Have Godly Children (25:1-4)

We’ve met Hagar before (Gen. 16:1-16 and 21:8-21) and now we are introduced to Keturah. “Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah” (25:1). Like many O.T. men of faith, Abraham had more than one wife. Multiple wives were often taken to produce children. But this practice was contrary to the will of God for marriage, that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24-25). This practice was an accommodation of cultural standards that were contrary to God’s standard. It conflicted with God’s intent for marriage, just as divorce did (Matt. 19:8).

The questions that are sometimes raised concerning Keturah are: (1) “What was Keturah’s status? (2) When did she become Abraham’s wife? (3) Was she Abraham’s wife or concubine? Or, was she his concubine who became his wife after Sarah died?”

Concubines were sometimes referred to as “wives” (cf. Hagar in 16:3; Bilhah in 35:22 and 30:4), as is Keturah (Gen. 25:1), although they did not have equal status alongside an actual wife. In some respects they were treated as slaves, being kept and provided for by the man and being considered the property of the man.

It appears that Keturah probably began as Abraham’s concubine and that, after Sarah’s death (Gen. 23:2), she became his wife (Gen. 25:1), although we cannot say this definitively since we need to remember that Genesis does not always record its genealogies in literary or chronological order. For example, even though Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah at age 40 is recorded in Genesis 25:20, and the twins were born 20 years later as recorded in Genesis 25:26, yet both these events took place before Abraham’s death, which is recorded earlier in Genesis 25:8. However, that said, if Keturah was Abraham’s concubine (1 Chron. 1:32) prior to Sarah’s death and became his wife after Sarah died, this would quite adequately explain the two different descriptions of her status – concubine and wife. It should be noted, however, that she never enjoyed the same status as Sarah, which perhaps would explain why her sons received gifts from Abraham (Gen. 25:6) but did not share in the inheritance with Isaac.

Other than her name, the only thing we really know about Keturah are the names of the six sons, seven grandsons, and three great-grandsons she bore to Abraham (25:2-4). We know little else but the names of these descendants of Abraham. What we do know is that Abraham sent them “eastward to the east country” (25:6b), probably to Syria or Arabia (cf. Ishmael’s children, Gen. 25:18) where they became the progenitors of six Arabian tribes (cf. 1 Chron. 1:32-33). We also know that the descendants of Midian (the Midianites) became staunch enemies of Israel.

It’s sad, isn’t it, that a godly, faithful man like Abraham should produce descendants who turned out to be so ungodly and so opposed to God’s people. But I suppose what we learn from this is that godly parents can raise their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) but they cannot control how they turn out spiritually. For that we must entrust our children to God’s sovereign care and control.

So, the first biblical lesson that this account of the end of Abraham’s life teaches us that godly parents do not always have godly children. The second lesson is that…

II. Godly Parents Leave Invaluable Lessons For Us (25:5-11)

The first invaluable lesson that we learn from the life of Abraham is…

1. How To Plan Wisely (25:5-6)

Abraham had not always acted responsibly, as we have seen, for example, in earlier studies of Genesis 16 and 21 in his relationship and dealings with Hagar. But at the end of his life, he made responsible and wise provision for his children, provisions that he made voluntarily and not out of obligation.

Because Isaac alone was the son of promise, he was Abraham’s sole heir and inherited all his father’s assets. Thus, Abraham “gave all that he had to Isaac” (25:5). His estate would not be divided up between various children because Isaac was the sole and rightful God-appointed heir, the son of God’s promise.

This is a lovely illustration of Christ’s inheritance, whom God “appointed the heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). And how much more precious is it to know that, as God’s children by faith, we also are heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17).

I assume that Isaac’s inheritance of his father’s estate took place upon Abraham’s death, since the text specifically states that to his other children, the children of his concubines, he gave gifts while he was alive: “But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country” (25:6). Giving gifts to the children of Keturah was an act of pure goodwill, as there was no requirement for Abraham to give anything to sons of concubines. They were his biological children, but not children “of promise.” Just as Abraham sent Ishmael away in order that he would not participate in, or interfere with, Isaac’s inheritance (21:10), so he also sends all the sons of his concubines away. And just as he gave provisions to Ishmael when he sent him away (21:14), so he gave gifts to all the sons of his concubines when he sent them away.

Notice the wisdom and forethought that Abraham must have put into the plans for the disposition of his estate pursuant to his death. He not only secured the succession of the covenant through Isaac as his heir (and subsequently Jacob), but he also safeguarded Isaac from any opposition of the children of Keturah (1) by giving them gifts while he was alive (that was the extent of their participation in his wealth); and (2) by sending them “eastward to the east country,” far away from causing Isaac any trouble.

In all of Abraham’s dealings with and provision for his children, we can learn good, practical lessons about responsible parenting and responsible financial planning prior to our death. First, we learn that parents lay up for their children, not vice versa. For, as the apostle Paul says, “children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children” (2 Cor. 12:14).

Second, at our death we must not leave a mess for our children to clean up. While it is not possible to prevent your children from fighting over your estate, at least you can do your part by spelling out in writing what is to happen to it upon your death – i.e. by way of a will. It’s sad, isn’t it, how many families are torn apart by disputes over the division of an estate? Money often changes people’s thinking and behavior. No wonder that 1 Timothy 6:10 says, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Third, as God prospers you, use your assets wisely for God’s work, for your family, and for those in need. May we make this a lifelong pursuit to be joyful and generous in blessing others and honoring the Lord with “the first fruits of all your produce” (Prov. 3:9; cf. 2 Cor. 8-9). Let us exemplify generosity now and to the next generation.

Fourth, leave a legacy that will impact your children and grandchildren after you’re gone – not just financial, but how you lived your life. This was the overriding legacy of Abraham’s life - not his wealth, but his faithfulness to God.

So, Abraham teaches us how to plan wisely. And he teaches us…

2. How To Be Remembered Well (25:7-8)

“These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years” (25:7). His biblical biography doesn’t start until he was 75 years old and covers the next 100 years of his life, during which he experienced God in a most personal and dynamic way. Let’s quickly review Abraham’s biblical biography.

Abraham believed God’s promise that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:3) and he obeyed God’s instruction to uproot his wife, Sarah, and his entire household from their home in Ur of the Chaldeans in Mesopotamia and go to a new home in the promised land of Canaan (12:1-9). When a famine came, he and Sarah journeyed to Egypt, where, because Sarah was “a woman of beautiful appearance” (12:11, 14), he feared the possibility that Pharaoh might kill him in order that he could take Sarah as his wife. So, he lied and said she was his sister. He and his nephew Lot parted company because their livestock and possessions were of such abundance that they needed separate properties (13:6). Lot chose the well-watered plains of the Jordan Valley, settling in Sodom, while Abraham settled in the land of Canaan. When four kings made war with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and captured Lot and his possessions, Abraham rescued them (14:1-16). After this, God repeated his promise to Abraham that he would have descendants in number like the stars of heaven, even though he was still, at that time, childless. And Abraham “believed the Lord and he counted it to him as righteousness” (15:5-6).

But no child was forthcoming from Sarah, so Sarah devised a scheme that, instead of waiting for God to fulfill his promise of a son and heir, they would produce their own son through Sarah’s maid, Hagar (16:1-4). But the result of this self-willed scheme was disastrous. Ultimately, Abraham had to send Hagar and her son, Ishmael, away in order to bring peace to his household (21:8-21). Finally, Isaac, the son of God’s promise, was born and no sooner had he become a young man than God called upon Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in order to test Abraham’s loyalty to God (22:1-19). He passed the test with flying colors.

Finally, in his old age and undoubtedly wanting to preserve their family lineage as God had promised, Abraham sent his servant back to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac. The servant was successful in his search and brought Rebekah, who “became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (24:67).

That is a quick summary of Abraham’s long and full life. With his affairs in order and a full and varied life behind him, Abraham’s life ended well. It seems as though the Spirit of God can’t repeat enough the fulness and the blessedness of Abraham’s life, the man who “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God” (James 2:23). And so the final epitaph and benediction on this good and godly man reads: “7 These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life. 8 Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years and was gathered to his people” (25:7-8). Notice and analyze well this fourfold, repetitive tribute to Abraham…

First, Abraham’s life in retrospect. “These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years” (25:7). A life, no matter how long it may be, is made up of days. And Abraham’s days were varied, full of adventure, failures and faith. Let us learn to walk with God, as Abraham did, to be aware of God’s constant provision, protection, and guidance, and to seek to please God every single day.

Second, Abraham’s death recorded. “Abraham breathed his last and died” (25:8a). It seems from the way this is worded, that his end was not a long, drawn-out battle, as it is for some. He simply slipped peacefully and quietly into the presence of God. There is no hint of any bitterness over life’s hard experiences and lessons, no apparent regrets over bad decisions and behavior, no struggle with guilt, but a life at peace with God. His life ended in full communion with God, despite all the ups and downs, just as we would expect a “friend of God” to die. He died in faith and at peace with God.

Third, Abraham’s life reviewed. He died “at a good old age, an old man and full of years” (25:8b). He died in perfect accord with God’s promise, having received the abundance of God’s blessing. God’s promise was: “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age” (Gen. 15:15). And God’s blessing is indicated in the phrase, “full of years,” which literally and simply reads: “full” – i.e. “satisfied” or “contented.” Thus, his life was not only long in length but “full” in satisfaction and contentedness. How we should long to do the same, to die full of the blessings of God and satisfied in Him.

Fourth, Abraham’s soul reunited. He “was gathered to his people” (25:8c). This probably refers to his reunion with his predeceased loved ones, which reunion takes place immediately upon death, when the soul is separated from the body. Thus, here in the O.T. we have the truth revealed that human beings, despite being mortal and corruptible, have immortal souls that continue on after death.

So, Abraham teaches us how to plan wisely, how to be remembered well, and…

3. How To Be Buried Honorably (25:9-11)

Abraham was buried honorably in two ways. Firstly, Abraham was buried honorably by his two sons. Isaac and Ishmael, whom we last saw in conflict and separation (21:1-17), were reunited in the burial of their father (25:9-10). It’s lovely to see families come together at a time of loss, to set aside their differences and unite at a time when they most need togetherness. Isaac and Ishmael honored their father by reuniting at his burial. Notice that only the sons of Sarah were involved (not the sons of Keturah), Ishmael being considered Sarah’s son by a surrogate mother, Hagar.

Secondly, Abraham was buried honorably at his burial site. The cave of Machpelah was purchased by Abraham on the occasion of Sarah’s death as a family burial plot (Gen. 23:1-20). This was the first acquisition of property in the promised land by Abraham. Abraham made sure that he and his descendants would have a permanent burial place. This is an act of faith that God would fulfill his promise to give them this land. Hence, his careful negotiations and insistence that he own the property by buying it from Ephron the son of Zohar (23:8-16). Abraham would not agree with any of the options offered to him: (1) to borrow a burial place from the sons of Heth (23:3-6); and (2) to accept a burial place as a gift from Ephron the Hittite (23:7-11). Rather, he insisted that he buy the property at the market price and own it by a deed with a detailed description (23:12-16). Not until the deal was concluded to his satisfaction did Abraham bury Sarah in the cave of Machpelah.

“After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi” (25:11). Isaac now becomes the recipient of God’s covenant blessing to his father, Abraham, the blessing of the God who “lives and sees me” (Gen. 16:7-14). God is faithful and true; He keeps his word. He intervenes in our lives to deliver us from trouble, to correct us when we stray, and to give us renewed hope.

Final Remarks

Even though Abraham’s life was dotted with failures, nonetheless, he is included in the Hebrews hall of faith as one who “obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). That’s a life of faith well-lived for God. When he was already 75 years old, he obeyed God’s call to leave his home in Mesopotamia and go to the land of Canaan, a land he had never visited, knew nothing about, and didn’t even know how to get there (Gen. 12:1-4). That’s obedience and faith. And that’s what marked the entirety of Abraham’s life. That’s the testimony (epitaph) of his life.

So, what will your descendants write on your epitaph, in your memory? What will they say at your funeral? How will history record your life and death? That you lived a full, rich life for God? That you used all your gifts and abilities to bless your family and God’s people? That you left behind an example of how to live a life of faith that all who come behind you will seek to emulate?

How are you using (or going to use) your time at the end of your life, your “retirement” years? For self and pleasure? Or in activities that have spiritual and eternal consequences and benefits? Will you be known as a man or woman of faith who was gathered to your people?

Let us learn and take courage from the life of Abraham. After living for 175 years, a life with failures amidst incredible faith, at the end of his life Abraham’s epitaph reads: “He died at a good old age, an old man, and full of years” (Gen. 25:8).

Perhaps you are tormented over failures in your life, the memory of which keeps coming back to haunt you. Well, remember that while you can’t erase your memory nor the consequences of your actions, nonetheless you can be fully forgiven.

Sometimes, I think that those memories of failures that keep recurring are stimulated by our lack of acceptance and understanding of God’s full and complete forgiveness. Sometimes I think we are just unable (or unwilling) to accept and grasp the extent of God’s grace. We need to take God at his word, which says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). We may not be able to forget the past, but God can and does: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34).

So, let us keep short accounts with God, confessing our sins every day so that nothing hinders our full fellowship with Him. Let us enjoy the peace of knowing our sins (past, present, and future) are forgiven because of Christ’s death on the cross. And let us strive to live for the glory of God by faith, for the God “who saved us and called us to a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9) also strengthens us with power through his Spirit (Eph. 3:16), thus enabling us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Eph. 4:1; cf. Col. 1:10). Take courage in these great and precious promises and press on for the glory of God until Jesus comes again or until He calls you home to heaven.

Related Topics: Character of God, Christian Life

Q. What does the Bible say to the church, and to the individual Christian, about the role of politics in the church?

Our church is experiencing a great deal of polarization, and even heated debate, over matters of politics. What does the Bible say to the church, and to the individual Christian, about the role of politics in the church?

Answer

You have asked a very important question regarding the political tensions and conflict which exist not only in our country, but also in our churches. There may well be other verses and principles to consider, but here are those which have come to mind. (I am relatively confident that what I write here may not be well received by some Christians.)

First and foremost, the Bible is our highest authority, and always takes precedence over any other documents, including our national constitution, as wise and as wonderful as it may be.

In recent days especially I have frequently heard Christians appealing to our national constitution as the basis for their actions and demands. Our constitution has much to say about our rights; the Bible has much to say about our responsibilities, and about giving up our rights for the sake of the gospel (see Philippians 2; Romans 14 and 15). Whenever and if ever the Bible and the Constitution are in conflict, the Bible wins.

Second, this world is not our home; heaven is:

13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16, NAU; emphasis mine).

13 These all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth. 14 For those who speak in such a way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 In fact, if they had been thinking of the land that they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16, NET).

Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul (1 Peter 2:11).

Third, in this world we will have persecution.

…and some of that will be brought about by human governments:

“Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name” (Matthew 24:9).

“You must watch out for yourselves. You will be handed over to councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them” (Mark 13:9).

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage – I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

6 Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. 7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).

21 After they had proclaimed the good news in that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch. 22 They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions” (Acts 14:21-22).

Fourth, God raises up kings, and puts them down, and for different purposes.

He changes times and seasons, deposing some kings and establishing others. He gives wisdom to the wise; he imparts knowledge to those with understanding (Daniel 2:21; see also 4:17, 32; 7:25; Psalm 75:6-7).

God raises up some kings (like Pharaoh) to demonstrate His great power:

14 For this time I will send all my plagues on your very self and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with plague, and you would have been destroyed from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have caused you to stand: to show you my strength, and so that my name may be declared in all the earth (Exodus 9:14-16).

God may raise up ungodly rulers to discipline His wayward people:

47 “Because you have not served the LORD your God joyfully and wholeheartedly with the abundance of everything you have, 48 instead in hunger, thirst, nakedness, and poverty you will serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you. They will place an iron yoke on your neck until they have destroyed you (Deuteronomy 28:47-48).

God may raise up kings in order to carry out His promises to His people:

“Who commissions Cyrus, the one I appointed as shepherd to carry out all my wishes and to decree concerning Jerusalem, ‘She will be rebuilt,’ and concerning the temple, ‘It will be reconstructed’” (Isaiah 44:28).

1 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order to fulfill the LORD'S message spoken through Jeremiah, the LORD stirred the mind of King Cyrus of Persia. He disseminated a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom, announcing in a written edict the following: 2 “Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: ‘The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has instructed me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah’” (Ezra 1:1-2).

Fifth, Satan also seeks to carry out his work through men, including political leaders.

When one reads the Book of Daniel, Isaiah 14, and Ezekiel 28, we see that behind what is occurring here on earth, there can be a satanic and fallen angel counterpart. Satan has a certain degree of influence and control over this world, and thus we should expect him to seek to achieve his purposes through political means. This is not to suggest that Satan is free to carry out his purposes without God’s permission and ultimate control, so that the outcome always furthers God’s purposes (as we see, for instance, in the Book of Job).

Sixth, pride seems to be a principal cause of failure in kings (and spiritual leaders, too).

Nebuchadnezzar is a classic example of pride (see Daniel 4), along with the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14), and the prince of Tyre (Ezekiel 28). In effect, they begin to attribute to themselves that which belongs only to God. The results can be devastating:

18 At daybreak there was great consternation among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 When Herod had searched for him and did not find him, he questioned the guards and commanded that they be led away to execution. Then Herod went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. 20 Now Herod was having an angry quarrel with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they joined together and presented themselves before him. And after convincing Blastus, the king's personal assistant, to help them, they asked for peace, because their country's food supply was provided by the king's country. 21 On a day determined in advance, Herod put on his royal robes, sat down on the judgment seat, and made a speech to them. 22 But the crowd began to shout, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!" 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck Herod down because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:18-23).

Seventh, the command to honor political authorities, and to submit to them as God’s agency is clear, and is not contingent upon any particular political form or philosophy.

(Democracy is almost unknown in history. In the days of Jesus and the apostles, authoritarian dictatorships were the norm, as is often the case today).

1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (Romans 13:1-7).

1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men (Titus 3:1-2).

In light of 1 Peter 2:18-25, it seems apparent that Peter’s command (above) to obey human governments would include those that are oppressive.

Eighth, there are some exceptions to this command to submit to ruling authorities, but they are few and far between.

(see Daniel and his friends in Daniel (chapters 3 and 6), and Peter and John in Acts 4:17-20). But in these instances of disobedience, believers were commanded to obey human government in a way that it would require them to disobey a clear command of God.

Ninth, like it or not, the Bible does not advocate or require a democratic form of government.

This is evident in the Old Testament when God gave His law to Israel and later established a government under the rule of a king. Can you imagine governance by a majority vote as Israel’s form of government? Would Israel have passed through the Red Sea by a majority vote? The ideal government is that of a benevolent dictator, the dictatorial rule of a righteous, merciful, and faithful Good Shepherd (see Ezekiel 34; Psalm 2; John 10:11-18).

Tenth, God’s leadership style is vastly different from that of men:

25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

Eleventh, the Book of Proverbs is written largely by a king (Solomon), who instructs future leaders how to rule:

1 The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him: 2 What, O my son? And what, O son of my womb? And what, O son of my vows? 3 Do not give your strength to women, Or your ways to that which destroys kings. 4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire strong drink, 5 For they will drink and forget what is decreed, And pervert the rights of all the afflicted. 6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to him whose life is bitter. 7 Let him drink and forget his poverty And remember his trouble no more. 8 Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all the unfortunate. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy (Proverbs 31:1-9).

Note that political philosophy is not emphasized here; character is. The same can be found in the qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Twelfth, the Bible does not advocate seeking to change political regimes In our Lord’s day, neither Jesus nor any of the apostles sought to overturn or to change even a corrupt government.

My son, fear the LORD and the king; Do not associate with those who are given to change (Proverbs 24:21, NAU).

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm" (John 18:36).

Thirteenth, a particular political philosophy is not prescribed or required in the Bible, but is rather a matter of personal conviction.

In Romans 14 and 15 Paul teaches believers that convictions are personal. Though they can be strongly held, they are not to be a source of division and debate, which undermines unity. Thus, these matters are not be debated, but are to be kept to oneself.

That is not to suggest that the Bible has nothing to say about what godly leadership looks like, and perhaps its political implications. The Book of Proverbs has much to say on this subject.

One more thing on this subject. I in no way am seeking to discourage concerned Christians from participating in the American political process, either as a candidate, or as a supporter. I would encourage all to vote, rather than to refuse to exercise their freedom and responsibility as a citizen of this country. Engaging in the political process allows one to express their biblical beliefs and convictions.

Fourteenth, according to Proverbs, what gives a person standing before kings and rulers is their skill and wisdom.

This was the case with Joseph in Egypt, and with Daniel in Babylon.

Do you see a person skilled in his work? He will take his position before kings; he will not take his position before obscure people (Proverbs 22:29).

It is especially noteworthy that Daniel’s influence and standing with kings spanned many years, and several administrations.

Fifteenth, one would do well to give serious thought to these words in Proverbs:

21 Fear the LORD, my child, as well as the king, and do not associate with rebels [literally those who are given to change], 22 for suddenly their destruction will overtake them, and who knows the ruinous judgment both the LORD and the king can bring? (Proverbs 24:21-22).

Sixteenth, I believe that a Christian in America today should see our political environment (as wonderful as it is) as exceptional, rather than as the norm.

Throughout the history of the world, exceedingly few Christians have had the luxury of living in a democracy, which protects the rights of Christians, and gives the degree of freedom we experience today (and claim as our right). Let us not think our situation to be the norm, because it is the exception. Indeed, a number of Scriptures dealing with ruling authorities speak in reference to a king (see Acts 9:15; 12:12; 25:13; 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Peter 2:13, 17).

Seventeenth, I take Jesus' warning seriously, as He speaks of the dangers of the last days, and particularly that of being deceived by false messiahs:

As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these things are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name. 10 Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will appear and deceive many” (Matthew 24:3-11).

In the last days, before the return of our Lord, Jesus told us that things are going to go from bad to worse. The first thing Jesus says to His disciples, who have asked Him to tell them when the kingdom will come, is to be careful that they are not deceived. Why is this such a great danger that Jesus makes His warning so emphatic? I think it is because when things get really bad (and they will), Christians will want a deliverer to rescue them, and, as a result, there will be many political “false messiahs” who will claim to fill that role. But the Messiah won’t come until after all these painful and unpleasant things take place. And when He does come, there will be no doubt that it is He. No earthly political leader is the Messiah. Therefore, let us not look to earthly leaders to save us. Let us look to Christ:

7 When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, he gave this message to Shemaiah: “They have humbled themselves, so I will not destroy them. I will deliver them soon. My anger will not be unleashed against Jerusalem through Shishak. 8 Yet they will become his subjects, so they can experience how serving me differs from serving the surrounding nations” (2 Chronicles 12:7-8).

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

It might serve us well to conclude with the testimony of one of the most powerful kings that ever lived:

29 After twelve months, he happened to be walking around on the battlements of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king uttered these words: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?” 31 While these words were still on the king's lips, a voice came down from heaven: “It is hereby announced to you, King Nebuchadnezzar, that your kingdom has been removed from you! 32 You will be driven from human society, and you will live with the wild animals. You will be fed grass like oxen, and seven periods of time will pass by for you before you understand that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever he wishes.” 33 Now in that very moment this pronouncement about Nebuchadnezzar came true. He was driven from human society, he ate grass like oxen, and his body became damp with the dew of the sky, until his hair became long like an eagle's feathers, and his nails like a bird's claws. 34 But at the end of the appointed time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven, and my sanity returned to me. I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever. For his authority is an everlasting authority, and his kingdom extends from one generation to the next. 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he wishes with the army of heaven and with those who inhabit the earth. No one slaps his hand and says to him, ‘What have you done?’ 36 At that time my sanity returned to me. I was restored to the honor of my kingdom, and my splendor returned to me. My ministers and my nobles were seeking me out, and I was reinstated over my kingdom. I became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, for all his deeds are right and his ways are just. He is able to bring down those who live in pride” (Daniel:29-37).

Therefore, let us not put our trust in men, but in God:

1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live!
I will sing praises to my God as long as I exist!
3 Do not trust in princes, or in human beings, who cannot deliver!
4 Their life's breath departs, they return to the ground; on that day their plans die.
5 How blessed is the one whose helper is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them,
who remains forever faithful,
7 vindicates the oppressed, and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD releases the imprisoned.
8 The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD lifts up all who are bent over.
The LORD loves the godly.
9 The LORD protects those residing outside their native land;
he lifts up the fatherless and the widow, but he opposes the wicked.
10 The LORD rules forever, your God, O Zion, throughout the generations to come!
Praise the LORD! (Psalm 146:1-10)

Related Topics: Christian Life, Cultural Issues, Ecclesiology (The Church), Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry

Ephesians

These 24 messages were originally preached in 1998 and 1999 at Crossroads Christian Fellowship in Kau'i, Hawaii.

Each of the messages preached in Ephesians have the PDF Message (in thorough outline style), as well as PDF Outlines for the listeners (one with blanks and one filled in).

The video version of twenty-two messages may also be viewed here.

 

1. Introduction to Ephesians (Ephesians 1:1-2)

2. Loved, Chosen and Accepted (Ephesians 1:3-6)

3. Appointed for His Glory (Ephesians 1:7-12)

4. Signed, Sealed and Delivered (Ephesians 1:13-14)

5. The Prayer of a Disciplemaker (Ephesians 1:15-23)

6. Back from the Dead (Ephesians 2:1-10)

7. Outsiders No More (Ephesians 2:11-22)

8. The Mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:1-12)

9. Rooted and Established In Love (Ephesians 3:14-21)

10. Living Up to Our Calling (Ephesians 4:1-6)

11. Different Gifts -- One Body (Ephesians 4:7-16)

12. Out With the Old -- In With the New (Ephesians 4:17-24)

13. New Clothes for a New Life (Ephesians 4:25-32)

14. Be Imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1-2)

15. Live as Children of Light (Ephesians 5:3-20)

16. Submission?! (Ephesians 5:21)

17. You Want Me To WHAT?! (Ephesians 5:22-24)

18. Becoming A Christ-Like Husband (Ephesians 5:25-33)

19. The Battle of the Sexes (Genesis 3:16; 4:7)

20. Parenting: God's Way (Ephesians 6:1-4)

21. Your Work Matters To God (Ephesians 6:5-9)

22. Standing Strong – Part I (Ephesians 6:10-13)

23. Standing Strong - Part II (Ephesians 6:14-15)

24. Standing Strong - Part III (Ephesians 6:16-24)

Related Topics: Christian Life

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