The conversion of Saul of Tarsus

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*****This will be the last article till 9/23*****

From Sinner to Saint – 1 Timothy 1.12-17

A little girl was shopping with her mom. She was impressed by the automatic doors. When she came close to the grocery store, she asked her mom, “Will they open for me?” The door of heaven is open for all who will come to God through Jesus (Revelation 22.17). No one has ever been so immersed in sin that the door will not open for them. The Apostle Paul is a very good example.

Some false teachers in Ephesus were misusing the Law of Moses. The law is good, Paul wrote, if it is used lawfully (1:8-9). In verses 10-11, Paul refers to sound (healthy) teaching that is according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which had been entrusted to Paul.

The law of Moses had defined sin but it did not defeat sin. Paul uses himself as an example in 1:12-17 (he uses “I” or “me” eleven times in this paragraph!) but the focus is on what Christ has done.

PAUL’S BACKGROUND – 1:12-13:
“I was formerly a blasphemer” – Do we like it when bad things are said about us? Paul blasphemed the church, and when he did this, he blasphemed Christ. He was “a persecutor;” -words represent only one way through which Paul persecuted the church. He persecuted also through his actions (Acts 8:3). Also, he was “a violent aggressor.” The Greek word means violent, but it also means “impertinent” or “rude.”

Then he writes, “sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (vs 15). In the eyes of Paul, who would have been least deserving of the sacrifice of Christ, than he? In fact, he uses the present tense (“I am”) with an emphatic pronoun (“myself”). This is hyperbole just as David’s statement is in Psalm 51:5. Have you ever felt that way? Does the door of heaven open for you? Paul found out that the door of heaven opened for him…

PAUL’S MOTIVATION (vs 12):
“Christ Jesus our Lord …has strengthened me.” The power to change comes always from Jesus. If we want to live for Jesus, we can do this only through Jesus. But, Jesus had a plan for Saul of Tarsus…

“because He considered me faithful” Although Paul was a blasphemer and a persecutor, God saw something better in Paul.

“and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” – If the mercy of God is the Atlantic Ocean, the grace of God is the Pacific Ocean. Observe the way in which Paul accentuates the grace of God – “was more than abundant.” This is a compound word, a practice that Paul uses quite a lot – “a super-overflowing of abundance” of grace (cf. Rom. 5:20). In the end, we all need the grace of God.

PAUL’S FUTURE (vs 16-17):
Why did Christ show his patience in Paul? Not only for Paul but “as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” Paul is an example of a sinner whom Christ came to save – he is an example that no one can commit any sin which can not be forgiven. Jesus saved Paul so that he would be an example for us – there is not any sin which cannot be forgiven.

That is the message Paul would share with our modern world, burdened as it is under the unforgiving weight of sin.

–Paul Holland

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Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice

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Spouse Abuse and Implicit Laws

The Baltimore Ravens fired Ray Rice, their running back. Ray was a second-round draft pick back in 2008 out of Rutgers. The NFL also gave him an indefinite suspension when new video surfaced from an elevator in an Atlantic City hotel showing that the 5’ 8”, 220-pound man gave his fiancé a left blow to the face.

The Bible does not explicitly condemn spouse abuse. It does explicitly condemn homosexuality: Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10.

The Bible does condemn spouse abuse implicitly. It implicitly condemns spouse abuse in Matthew 7:12 – “Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” Or Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger… be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Or Ephesians 5:25 – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Or Ephesians 5:28-29 – “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.”

Or 1 Peter 3:7 – “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

Write this down. If the Bible does not teach implicitly, if the Bible does not bind implicitly, then there is no Scripture that forbids spouse abuse! “It doesn’t say not to!” Yet, I believe all of us with common sense can see that the Bible does teach (and bind) implicitly.

I’ve prayed for Ray Rice, that he will practice self-control. I pray that his (now) wife, Janay Palmer, will not tolerate that behavior in him anymore. If he has trouble controlling his anger, they have a hard life ahead of them.

I pray that God’s human creation will realize that homosexuality is explicitly condemned in Scripture just as surely as spouse abuse is condemned implicitly.

–Paul Holalnd

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Free sermons on Isaiah 40

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The Secret to Soaring – Isaiah 40:27-31

In Isaiah 40:31, followers of God are pictured as eagles. Graceful, majestic eagles which arrest our attention and make us stand in awe of them. How can we soar like an eagle? Let’s study Isaiah’s passage, chapter 40.

THE MESSENGER OF COMFORT – 40:1-5:
God calls on the Israelites to comfort one another. It is a 2nd person plural imperative. Comfort one another! Comfort my people, God tells them. In the middle of this eminent threat from Babylon, God wants Israel to know there is comfort in His presence.

Speak kindly (literally, “speak to the heart”) to Jerusalem, or the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Speak kindly to Jerusalem because her iniquity has been removed and she has been disciplined for her sins – even double for her sins.

One secret to soaring is finding comfort from God in the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus Christ.

THE ETERNAL VERSUS THE TRANSIENT – 40:6-8:
It does not take long or take much to remind you and me that we are fragile. Our egos are fragile. Our emotions can be fragile. Our finances, our health and well-being are fragile. It does not take much to wipe us out and send us to our knees.

In these next few verses, Isaiah (God) points out that God’s message is permanent, enduring, irrevocable, and established. Flesh is like grass. It is fragile and is consumed over time.

But the word of God stands forever. If the word of God lives forever, then he who obeys the will of God abides forever.

Another secret to soaring is walking in step with the word of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:25).

THE MISSION OF THE EVANGELIST – 40:9-11:
Observe in this paragraph that Isaiah (God) calls on Israel to be evangelistic. Call out loudly to the cities of Judah – “Behold! Your God!”

In verse 10, Isaiah calls our attention to two aspects of God: His power and His desire to reward those who diligently follow Him.

Then in verse 11, Isaiah reminds Jerusalem of another aspect of God – His kindness and tenderness.

How do you soar? You depend on and remind yourself of the nature of God. Behold! Your God!

WE CAN SOAR LIKE EAGLES – 40:27-31:
In verses 27-29, Isaiah gives his fellow countrymen a mild rebuke for their belief and/or actions that suggest that God cannot or does not care to help them in their problems.

In verse 29, Isaiah goes on to say that God gives strength to the weary. God does not change.

Finally, in verses 30-31 we get to our text. Young men, regardless how strong and healthy they are, grow weary and get tired. Vigorous young men can stumble badly and fall.

But, for those who wait on the Lord… This is a participle showing that they are presently doing it. This “wait” comes from a Hebrew word that originally meant “twist” as in a cord. Then it came to mean tension that comes by enduring and then it came to mean waiting, in the sense of depending on the Lord.

Soaring like an eagle is no secret. Find forgiveness from God through Christ. Walk in step with the Spirit. Depend on the nature of God – He is Everlasting, Lord, and Creator.

–Paul Holland

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The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization

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The Victory of Reason

A few years ago, I introduced you to a book by Vishal Mangalwadi, titled The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. He is the one who introduced me to sociologist Dr. Rodney Stark and his writings. Six years before Mangalwadi wrote his book, Stark wrote one titled The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success.

Alchemy was an old “science” which believed it was possible to turn base metals into gold. Many civilizations practiced alchemy. But it only turned into the more scientific study of chemistry in Europe. Why? Europe, for years, also had an almost exclusive handle on the use of chimneys, glasses, clocks, and musical notations. Why?

Why did capitalism rise in Europe? Although, as Stark shows, capitalism existed long before 1776, why was The Wealth of Nations explicated by a Scotchman? Stark explores the answers to these questions and more in this study, The Victory of Reason.

His studied answer is: Christianity. “Christianity alone [of all world religions, p.h.] embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth” (x). He goes on to write: “But from early days, the church fathers taught that reason was the supreme gift from God and the means to progressively increase their understanding of scripture and revelation. Consequently, Christianity was oriented to the future, while the other major religions asserted the superiority of the past” (emph. in orig.).

The material substances for progress and great civilizations existed in various other countries, in various other continents, among various other religions around the world – China, Islam, India, Byzantium, Rome, and Greece. Stark argues that Europe’s (and subsequently, America’s) premier advance in civilization is due to the “Christian commitment to rational theology” (xiii).

This emphasis on rational thinking and logic is, indeed, quite biblical. The word “grow” is found 19 times in the New Testament (ESV). “Know” or a variant, 436 times. “Mind,” 83 times. The Bible was written to our minds and God calls on us to use our minds, to love Him with all of our mind (Matt. 22:37). There is nothing God calls on us to believe that is irrational. Nor is there anything God calls on us to believe blindly or through some leap in the dark type of faith. The virgin birth is not irrational. We believe it, regardless of its singularity, based on the existence and nature of God and the existence and nature of the Bible which reveals it. It is neither a blind faith nor an unsupported faith.

The very last paragraph of Stark’s book is a quotation from a Chinese scholar from a book titled, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power (2003) by David Aikman. This Chinese scholar said:

“One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this” (pg 235; pg. 5 in orig.).

Three final thoughts. Rather than “exporting” democracy – or making the world “safe for democracy” – how about we export Christianity? Rather than turning our economy into one like China’s (centralized, command and control), how about we turn China’s into a Christian culture? Finally, once again, neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party is going to save America if we quit preaching the Gospel.

–Paul Holland

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Sermons about perseverance

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Perseverance. “Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” It seems that the normal course of things in life is for enjoyable events to go fast and bad events to go slowly. How can we get through the bad events in life? You have to persevere. You have to stick with it.

The book of Hebrews focuses on the idea of perseverance. Hebrews 10:16-25 encourages us to persevere in our faith.

THE MOTIVATION OF OUR PERSEVERANCE – FORGIVENESS (10:16-18):
The Hebrew writer quotes from the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34) to the effect that God planned to establish a covenant with His people that would provide forgiveness of sins. Since we are living under that covenant today, the covenant of Jesus Christ, we do not need other, perpetual, sacrifices for sin.
When our sins are forgiven in Christ, we know that we can stand before God and that we are avoiding the horrors of hell.

THE SPHERE OF OUR PERSEVERANCE – CHRIST JESUS (10:19-22):
The “and so” at the beginning of verse 19 points back to what he has said before. We have forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ. Then, he sets out two items that are important to remember in order for us to persevere.

Item #1 – (vs 19) “Since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…”

Item #2 – (vs 21) “and since we have a great priest over the house of God.” Turn to 7:26-28 to see what type of high priest we have.

So, our “sphere” of perseverance is Jesus Christ. We can enter the presence of God through the blood of Jesus Christ who is our great high priest. To do that, we need:

1. A sincere heart
2. Full assurance of faith
3. Our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
4. Our hearts are sprinkled with the blood of Christ when our bodies are washed with pure water, which is a reference to baptism (Romans 6:1-7; Eph. 5:26).

THE CALL TO PERSEVERANCE – HOLD FAST (10:23):
The call here is to hold tightly to the confession of your hope in Christ, without wavering, just as Abraham kept his confidence in God, without wavering. How can we do that? Because, He who called us is faithful (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

THE ATMOSPHERE OF PERSEVERANCE – THE CHURCH (10:24-25):
God does not call us to be “Lone Rangers.” Not even “Batman and Robin.” There is not just one of us. There’s not just two of us. It’s really a family, a spiritual family. That’s what the church is and Christ calls on us to be in the middle of the family, involved with each other, in each other’s lives.

So, the key verb here in this sentence is “Let us consider” one another. Then, there are reasons for this “considering:” for the stimulating of love and stimulating of good works. While we are considering one another we should not be neglecting the gathering-together of ourselves.

Rather than neglecting the gathering-together of ourselves, we should be comforting, exhorting, and encouraging one another. That’s the atmosphere of perseverance. It is much easier to keep the faith, to remain faithful, when we are in the middle of other people who have the same goal and the same desires.

Persevere faithfully in Christ, remaining active in the church. Ultimate salvation will be yours.

–Paul Holland

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What the Bible says about marriage

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Marriage

1) Men have come up with all kinds of beliefs about marriage, even to the point of trying to forbid it.
2) In our day and time society seems to have become quite confused about marriage.
3) Men question where marriage has come from, who started it, and who should determine the rules for it.
4) READ Heb. 13:4.
5) According to Gen. 2, God created humanity and then joined Adam and Eve together.
6) Jesus – Mt. 19:6 – “what God has joined together.”
7) God created marriage because it is “good” for humanity.
i) Gen. 2:18 says it is not “good” for man to be “alone.”
ii) 1 Cor. 7 shows that a single state can be the best choice in some circumstances.
8) When a person is thinking about getting married, he or she should begin to carefully consider some things.
a) Deut. 7:3– READ
b) Deut. 7:4 – READ
9) The worst thing a child of God can do with his or her life is “turn away from God.”
10) God told the Hebrews a heathen spouse could turn them to some other way and god.

MARRIAGE IS A DIVINE INSTITUTION AND GOD’S WORD TELLS US TO BE CAREFUL WHEN IT COMES TO PARTICIPATING IN THIS UNION.

1) We must use great care because God’s plan for marriage has a long “duration.”
2) God intended marriage to be for life.
i) Mt. 19:5 says a man is to “cleave” to his wife.
ii) Jesus said (same verse) a man and woman are to become “one flesh.”
iii) Two people are to become “one” (Mt. 19:6).
iv) GOD joins a male and female together and they are not to be separated (Mt. 19:6).
v) The “one flesh” arrangement described by Jesus is the closest type of relationship.

3) Marriage is an intimate relationship and an exclusive arrangement.
4) It is a physical union, an emotional union, an intellectual union, and a spiritual relationship.
5) God intended for children to come from marriage (Gen. 1:28), but what has our society done?
6) The idea of a “home” has been so damaged many have no concept of what God intended for it to be.
7) The home is to be a place where a woman (wife) is loved by a man.
i) Paul said “husbands love you wives” (Eph. 5:25).
ii) Children, Eph. 6:4.
8) Wives are to help their husbands (Gen. 2:18).
9) They are to be in “subjection” to their husbands (1 Pet. 3:1-2).

10) God’s plan is always the best way, and this is certainly true when it comes to marriage.
11) Going back to the Bible is what we need.
12) Will we turn to the Bible for help on the subject of marriage plus everything else?

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When did time begin?

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Series: IN THE BEGINNING, GOD Discussion Guide #1 –  Dan Williams
Lesson: “In The Beginning, God”
Texts: Genesis 1:1, Acts 17:16-31
Aim: to introduce the series, and to reflect on the nature of the one true God.

ICEBREAKER QUESTION #1: Welcome to our group! And thanks to __________ for being our hosts. Each week we will begin our conversation by going around the circle and telling our name, and as we introduce ourselves we will also answer an “Ice-Breaker Question.” Today we have two “Ice Breaker Questions.” Here is the first one: Suppose you win an all-expense-paid vacation trip to either New York City or Washington, D.C. They are both prominent cities and popular destinations, but you can only pick one. Which one would you choose, and why? I’ll begin: my name is _________, and the city I would choose is …..…

ICEBREAKER QUESTION #2: On September 11, 2001, you would not have wanted to be in either of those cities! Do you remember where you were on that day, and what you were doing when you first heard the news that New York and Washington were under attack? I’ll begin: my name is ___________, and on September 11 of 2001 I was…….…

Each week the “Ice-Breaker Question” is the only question we will ALL be asked to answer. The rest of our questions are for the whole group, so feel free to speak up whenever you have something to share!

DISCUSSION QUESTION: What would you say are some of the ways our nation has changed as a result of those awful attacks back in 2001?

DISCUSSION QUESTION: When over 1000 Americans were surveyed ten years later about the impact of 9/11 on their life, 78% said the attacks caused them to appreciate their friends and family more. In addition, more than two out of every five said the attacks increased their faith. Why do you suppose that is? How might that terrible catastrophe actually cause some people to have more faith? [Source: AARP Bulletin, September 2011, page 4]

DISCUSSION QUESTION: One of the things we have learned from that event is that a person’s concept of God makes a huge difference. After all, the terrorists who attacked our nation on 9-11 were acting in the name of their god. In your opinion, in what ways is the terrorists’ concept of Allah different from the nature of the God you discover in your Bible?

Our concepts of God are crucial because they have a major influence in shaping how we think and live. The Bible exists to accurately reveal Him to us. In this series we will review the first three chapters of Genesis to learn about God and to answer some of life’s most fundamental questions.

TURN TO the book of Genesis, to the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Bible.
READ Verse 1. DISCUSSION QUESTION: The opening sentence of the Bible is breathtaking in its simplicity, majesty, and scope! By itself, however, this first verse raises more questions than it answers: it introduces God, but it doesn’t describe or explain Him. When you try to comprehend the nature of our Almighty God, is there anything that puzzles you? What are some of the questions YOU have about God?

TURN to the book of Acts (fifth book in the New Testament), Chapter 17. The apostle Paul once visited Athens, one of the most prominent cities of the first century, where he found himself in the position of explaining the one true God to people who didn’t know anything about Him.

READ Verses 16-18 DISCUSSION QUESTION: Why do you suppose Paul was so distressed when he saw that the city of Athens was filled with idols? What might have upset him the most about that sight?

READ Verses 19-23 LEADER’S INSIGHT: The Aeropagus (pronounced ehr ih AHP uh gus), or “Mars Hill,” was the central meeting place for the leaders of Athens. The city of Athens had a reputation for being filled with shrines and temples dedicated to the pagan gods, many of them covered with gold and precious stones. In his speech that follows Paul will explain six characteristics of the one true God.

READ Verse 24 The very first characteristic of the God described in the Bible is that He created the universe. DISCUSSION QUESTION: When you reflect on the nature of creation, and the universe that God made, what is the one thing that amazes you the most?

READ Verses 24-25 The second characteristic of the true God is that He is SPIRITUAL in nature, and not PHYSICAL (Note the repeated references to “not……hands”). DISCUSSION QUESTION: Jesus said in John 4:24 that “God is spirit.” We will return to this concept later on, but what does it mean to YOU to say that God is SPIRITUAL in nature?

READ Verse 25 The third characteristic of the true God is that He sustains the universe. DISCUSSION QUESTION: God didn’t just start the earth spinning and then walk away: He continues to keep it going. Suppose you were teaching a group of first- and second-graders, and you wanted them to understand that God still sustains the world He made. What are some of the things in nature you would use in order to demonstrate that God is still active?

READ Verses 26-27 The fourth characteristic of the God of the Bible is that He is the Ruler of ALL nations. DISCUSSION QUESTION: Verse 27 contains a crucial insight into our relationship with God: one reason He placed every nation and race of people on this earth is so that they would “seek Him.” Why do you feel God wanted us to “reach out for Him”? Why might it be important to God that WE seek and find HIM?

READ Verses 28-29 The fifth characteristic of God is that He is the Father of all human beings. LEADER’S INSIGHT: Paul’s argument goes like this: If we are God’s children and are made in His image, then it is ridiculous to imagine that WE can create an image of HIM!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. Why do you suppose peoples of all cultures and throughout all ages have tried to create material images of God? 2. Idolatry is consistently condemned in the Bible, but why? Why is it so wrong to make a physical representation of God?

READ Verses 30-31 The final characteristic of the true God is that He will one day be the Judge of all the earth. DISCUSSION QUESTION: In what ways could the knowledge that we will all be judged by God at the end of time make a difference in the way people think and live in the here and now?

SUMMARY STATEMENT: Our conceptions of God have a huge impact on the way we think and the way we live. Throughout this series from the first three chapters of Genesis we will learn more about God’s nature and at the same time address some of the most fundamental questions of life.

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Survey Says New Testament Christianity is Needed Now More than Ever

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Is the glass half empty or half full? I, for one, am the kind of person who tends to see the glass as half full. Do you? An American Religious Identification Survey was published a few years ago. It instills fear and trepidation in some and glee and giddiness in others. The percentage of Americans who claim no religion at all has nearly doubled in twenty years, from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2009. That “none” category is now the third-highest religious group.

As Christianity is commonly viewed, America is still a “Christian” nation. Seventy-six percent of Americans still claim some “brand” of Christianity. But they seem to be more interested in the “don’t know” or “generic” category than in one of the “organized religion” categories. And that “none” category does not mean they are all atheists.

The percentage of Muslims in America has doubled – from 0.3% to 0.6%. Eastern religions, like Buddhism, have more than doubled – from 0.4% to 0.9%. New movements like the pagan Wicca movement have quadrupled from 0.8% to 1.2%.

Initially, the thing that strikes me is that we have work to do! New Testament Christianity is needed now more than ever. If you were a shoe-salesman and went to Africa where they went barefooted, wouldn’t you say to yourself – “This is great! My clientele is unlimited!” An American culture which is adrift in agnosticism and religious confusion means we will be quite occupied, busy evangelizing as God desires.

A second matter is that we need to be prepared to defend the faith. If/when these different religions move next door, we need to know how to evangelize them: agnosticism, atheism, Buddhism, Islam, Wicca. At one time, it was enough to know the errors of Catholicism and Protestant denominationalism. Those are still here but our evangelistic audience is now much wider.

Third, a tiny foot-note in the USA Today article which drew my attention to the ARIS study notes that the “Protestant Denomination” category (distinct from the “Mainline Protestant” group) includes churches of Christ, among others. That group grew from 2.6% to 3.1%. That category and the “Pentecostal/Charismatic” group (3.2% to 3.5%) are the only two “Christian” categories that saw a growth. That means many, many, people are still interested in Christianity!

Yes, there is cause for concern in this increasingly pluralistic society. But that cause also shows that we have work to do. We have the solution – the Gospel. We, too, must be about our Father’s business. To the work! To the work!

–Paul Holland

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How are we made in God’s image?

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IN THE BEGINNING, GOD Discussion Guide
Lesson: “What Do We Learn From The Animals?”
Texts: Genesis 1:1-2:3, Job 39:1-8, 19-22
Aim: to emphasize we have a special relationship with God because we are made in His image.

ICEBREAKER QUESTION: Our God created an amazing variety of creatures in this world. If you were visiting a zoo or aquarium, what is the ONE ANIMAL or FISH that you would make sure to see? As we go around the circle and tell our name, would you also please share with the group what would be your FAVORITE CREATURE at the zoo or aquarium? I’ll begin: my name is _________, and when I’m at the zoo or aquarium I always enjoy watching the _______,

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Now that we’re at the zoo in our imaginations, let’s look around. What would you say is: 1. The cutest animal? 2. The funniest looking? 3. The most frightening creature? 4. The strongest? 5. The most intelligent?

DISCUSSION QUESTION: There are 278 zoos and 78 aquariums in the United States, and each year they receive more than 150 million visitors. Why do you suppose humans derive so much enjoyment from looking at the animals? (After all, the animals don’t pay to look at US!)

We understand that God made the animals, but did you realize he takes great pride and pleasure in his handiwork? TURN to the book of Job (in the middle of your Old Testament), Chapter 39.

READ Verses 1-8, then Verses 19-22 DISCUSSION QUESTION: In Chapters 38 through 41 the Lord takes Job on a tour of nature and points with satisfaction to many different animals he created, including lions, ravens, mountain goats, deer, wild donkeys, the mighty ox, and a magnificent stallion. What do you suppose God wants Job to learn from looking at the animals? And, what are some of the lessons WE can learn today from considering the creatures God has made?

Last week we talked about the evidence for God in the natural world. In this lesson we will consider God’s handiwork in all of creation, including the animals. TURN to Genesis, Chapter 1.

We will take the time to read the entire account of the creation. As we do, be watching for two things: first, watch for PATTERNS that you can identify in this description of creation; and second, think about the basic LESSONS it teaches us about God.

READ from Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 2:3. DISCUSSION QUESTION: As we went through the passage, did you notice any PATTERNS in the account of creation?

Possible Answers: There were six days of creation and a seventh day of rest; God spoke everything into being; Every act of creation met with God’s approval (“it was good”); God gives everything a NAME: It moves from the natural world to living beings; Creation moves from DISORDER to ORDER, from EMPTINESS to being FILLED; Verse 2 says the earth was “shapeless and empty,” so creation came in two sets of three: three days of SHAPING the world (separating light from darkness, separating water from sky, separating sea from dry land) and three days of FILLING the creation (filling the sky with lights, filling the sea and sky with birds and fish; filling the land with animals and humans).

LEADER’S INSIGHT: In The Message of Creation, David Wilkerson suggests there is a hidden pattern in the story. In the Bible the number seven is associated with completion and perfection. Not only are there seven days, but each day had seven elements (God said, God’s command, Fulfillment of God’s command, Description of his creation, God’s approval, God named, Day number). The Hebrew text also contains numerous multiples of seven: there are 7 words in verse 1; 14 in verse 2; the “earth” appears 21 times; “God” 35 times; etc.

DISCUSSION QUESTION: As you reflect on this passage, what would you say are some of the essential LESSONS this story teaches us? For example, if you were preparing a Bible class presentation on Genesis 1, what are some of the basic points you would make?

Possible Answers: God existed before the world was here; He is the only Creator – there is no other; His power is awesome; What God “says” something, it will happen!; There is order and design in the universe; Creation seems to occur in a hierarchy, with humans as the crowning act of creation; We have responsibility over the world; If God rested one day a week, then so should we (READ Exodus 20:8-11)!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. People in the ancient world often worshiped the elements of nature, such as the sun, moon, and stars. What might THEY learn from reading this passage?

2. People in the ancient world aren’t the only ones with a mistaken attitude towards the created world. There are still “nature worshippers” today. In your opinion, what would be a sign that someone has gone to a spiritually unhealthy extreme in their attitude towards nature?

DISCUSSION QUESTION: Worshipping the earth is one false extreme; selfishly abusing it is the opposite extreme. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is THE LORD’S, and everything in it.” Genesis 1:28 tells us that, just as we are entrusted with the stewardship of our money, we are entrusted with the stewardship of God’s world. In your opinion, what is the most important thing we need to do in order to be responsible stewards of God’s creation?

RE-READ Verses 24-26 of Chapter 1. DISCUSSION QUESTION: Human beings are made on the sixth day, the same day the land animals are made. We were designed by the same Creator, and made on the same day of creation, so you would expect humans and animals to have some similarities. Can you identify some of the things humans have IN COMMON with the animals?

Possible Answers: We are both provided food by God (Verses 29-30: see Psalm 104:10-29); Both dwell on the land (Verse 24); Both are made from the dust (cf. Genesis 2:7); Both are commanded to reproduce (v. 22, 28); Both have survival instincts, care for their young, and are capable of experiencing suffering.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. Humans are told to “rule over” the other living creatures. What are some of the ways that animals benefit us? How do they enrich our lives?

2. Proverbs 12:10 says “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.” If you have ever cared for farm animals, or have taken care of a pet, what are some of the lessons you learned from that experience?

DISCUSSION QUESTION: In the creation account, man is superior to the animals, and God is superior to man. So, do you think God looks at US the way WE look at the animals? Why, or why not?

SUMMARY STATEMENT: The account of creation in Genesis 1 teaches that all life comes from God. When we consider the wonderful diversity of animals God made, and the pride He takes in His creation, we are not only reminded of His power but also of our own responsibility to be good stewards of the earth, and of the animals, He has given us.

–Dan Williams

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