Feb. 12, 2023: Faith Rewarded

FOCUS TEXT: John 4:43-54

KEY VERSE: Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is (Jeremiah 17:7).

CENTRAL TRUTH: Great things await those who trust Christ.


I. Faith Challenged (John 4:43-48)

II. Faith Exhibited (John 4:49, 50)

III. Faith Rewarded (John 4:51-54)

2023-02-06T19:07:47+00:00February 6th, 2023|Categories: Front Page, Lesson Highlights, Weekly Lesson Summaries|Tags: , |0 Comments

Christmas: Winter Holiday or Divine Encounter

                                                                                                        Essentials for Christmas

When Nancy and I moved to Ukraine, we knew we were in for a lot of surprises as we learned the culture. But one of the surprises we did not expect was the believers’ questions about how to celebrate Christmas. Each time we would say, “We celebrate Christmas by…” they would respond. “We do that for New Year’s. So what special do you do for Christmas? You see, their culture had created a winter holiday that sounded to them almost identical to Christmas.

So how would you answer? What is the difference between Christmas and a winter holiday? For many people, there is none. Christmas, for them, is a time to spend with family, eat lots of food, enjoy the good life, and maybe get away from the routine to do something you especially wanted to do. In short, exactly what Ukrainians called a winter holiday. For many people – even Christians – that is Christmas. Our culture has influenced us to substitute a man-made festivity for a divinely orchestrated event.

A biblical Christmas does not require beautiful lights, gift exchanges, human relationships, or even vacation time. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of those, but they are not the key elements of Christmas. So what are the essential elements of a biblical Christmas?

The message of Christmas repeatedly occurs throughout the Old Testament, almost like dress rehearsals for the main event. And whenever it does, it seems to me that three significant themes always are involved:
     1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
     2. A reminder of God's Promise.
     3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

There are many narratives in Scripture where those three themes converge to create the spirit of Christmas. I want to mention three of them. I will only give you the outline, so you can enjoy filling in the blanks.

Event #1 – Mt Moriah (Gen 22)
1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
2. A reminder of God's Promise.
3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

Event #2 – The Choice of Ahaz (Isaiah 7-9)
1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
2. A reminder of God's Promise.
3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

Event #3 – Bethlehem (Luke 2; Matthew 2)
1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
2. A reminder of God's Promise.
3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

Come to think of it, those three themes are present in your happiest memories of Christmas.
     a. There was a need/want that seemed impossible.
     b. There was a promise – likely from an earthly parent – that "something good is going to happen"
     c. There was a faith – however child-like – that the problem could be solved.

If we deny or ignore the unsolvable human dilemma we are facing, we will never again have Christmas. If we find our satisfaction in anything other than God's Promise, we will never again have Christmas. If our faith is in our own resources rather than God's provisions, we will never again have Christmas.

The church at Laodicea illustrates the point. They admitted no personal/human dilemma. They said, "We are rich, increased with goods, and have need of nothing." The result was spiritual disease rather than delight in the Promise.

The angel told Joseph, "His name shall be called Immanuel – God with us." The great human dilemma is that humanity is separated from God! God's promise from Eden on is that someday The Promise would come – the separation would end. The challenge for Joseph, and for us, is to believe that Jesus is that Promise. If we fail to join those three elements, all we have left is a winter holiday.

2022-11-22T17:21:41+00:00December 1st, 2022|Categories: Banner Editorial, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

Justified By Faith

Read Romans 5:1-8.

“Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1).

          She shot her boyfriend!  He was beating her up; she feared for her life.  She claimed it was self-defense. Time and again, we justify our decisions and actions, the things we say and the way we respond to what is happening to us.  At times it seemed like a raw reflex; it was spontaneous, but nevertheless, it was what caused us to draw on our resources and what we felt were our strengths.

What about when you turn the other cheek, when you go the extra mile, when you give your cloak as well as your coat, when you use a soft answer in responding to anger, when you endure hardness as a good soldier?  Do you justify those times by your faith in God who gives you grace and strength and wisdom?  The hope we have is because of the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts. Thus our actions and reactions are to be justified by our faith!  As Christians, let us act the way we do because we are who we are through Jesus Christ, our Lord! (Rodney Stearns)

“My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus blood and righteousness;


On Christ, the solid rock I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.”


Justify your faith by living out the Lord Jesus within you!

2020-08-31T18:15:35+00:00September 3rd, 2020|Categories: Opening the Word|Tags: , |0 Comments

Sept 6, 2020: Faith

PRINTED TEXT: 1 John 5:1 15

CENTRAL TRUTH: Faith in God is one of the most important principles in being an overcomer in the Christian life.

OBJECTIVE: By the end of this lesson we should be able to identify ways in which our faith in God should be demonstrated in our daily lives.

I. Victory Through Faith (I John 5:1 5)

II. The Witness of Faith (I John 5:6 12)

III. Assurance Through Faith (I John 5:13 15)

2020-08-31T18:10:18+00:00August 31st, 2020|Categories: Lesson Highlights, Weekly Lesson Summaries|Tags: |0 Comments

February 16, 2020: God’s Word for Today

What prompted this woman to go to such an extreme effort to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment (see Luke 8:48)? What does this example teach us about genuine faith? Is faith something passive? Or does it manifest as something active? Explain the difference between these two different ways of understanding faith.

The Epistle of James has a lot to say about faith, especially in chapter 2. James summarizes his teaching on faith in 2:18 where he says, "shew me they faith without works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." James seems to be answering the question posed in our lesson by saying that genuine faith is active - that to say we have faith and not act on the basis of that faith is a contradiction. When I describe myself as a "believer in Christ," I am saying that my faith in Christ is the organizing principle of my life. But even then, faith is not passive. Faith in God is a constant source of spiritual motivation - a force that compels the Christian to action that demonstrates faith. James seems to be saying that if we are not acting on our faith, we likely do not have any. (Gordon Snider)

2020-02-10T15:01:54+00:00February 14th, 2020|Categories: God's Word for Today|Tags: , |0 Comments

What Was Sarah Like?

Do a page in your character notebook for Sarah.
Sarah was an active woman who laughed in disbelief, believed the impossible, and then laughed in happiness.
Sarah appears to have been a peppery, lively, animated, practical, and strong-willed woman. See Genesis 21:10 and Genesis 16:6. Can a person like that be used by God? List her character traits with examples from her life to prove your point.
Why was Sarah able to believe God for the impossible?

2018-06-08T09:00:43+00:00June 8th, 2018|Categories: Teacher Helps|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Sarah: Faith for the Impossible

Focus Text: Genesis 18:10-14; 21:1-8; Hebrews 11:11, 12
Central Truth: We can believe God for the miraculous.
Objective: By the end of this lesson my students should be able to list areas in their lives in which they need more faith.

Lesson Outline:

I. A Promise Given (Gen. 18:10-14)
II. A Promise Fulfilled (Gen. 21:1-8)
III. A Promise Believed (Heb. 11:11, 12)
2018-06-04T09:00:33+00:00June 4th, 2018|Categories: Lesson Highlights|Tags: , , |0 Comments

The Walk of Faith

Read 2 Corinthians 4:8-11
“For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (v. 11).
The inseparable law of the Christian life is — “No Cross, No Crown.” Today‘s Scripture highlights the paradoxes we can expect when we walk by faith. We are:

Sore pressed at every point, but not hemmed in;
At our wit’s end, but never our hope’s end;
Persecuted by men, but never abandoned by God;
Knocked down, but not knocked out.

This walk of faith, despite life’s adversities, makes us more than conquerors through Christ. We are strengthened with divine courage, knowing that if we share the life of Christ, we must also share His suffering.
The location chosen for the great Hoover Dam comprised a vast area of desert. In its construction, inevitably there were those who lost their lives. At the completion of the project, a tablet was placed in the wall of the dam which bore the names of the ninety-six workers who had perished, with this inscription below it: “These died that the desert might rejoice and blossom as a rose.“ Today, the reservoir created by the 726 feet tall structure supplies water to farms, businesses, and millions of people in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico.
How could Paul go through what he did? He knew his afflictions were not in vain; they were to bring others to God. Walking by faith, whatever the risks or cost, enables us to do and endure all things for Christ’s sake. Trials do not disappear, but God gives overcoming grace.

“Faith makes things possible, not easy” (Unknown).

This devotional is the Wednesday, November 8, 2017 entry of Opening the Word.

2017-11-08T08:09:25+00:00November 8th, 2017|Categories: Opening the Word|Tags: |0 Comments

The Importance of Faith

Lesson 11 - November 12, 2017
Focus Text: Genesis 22:1-13
Central Truth: Our faith in God is demonstrated by our obedience to His will.
Objective: By the end of this lesson my students should be able to identify why faith must result in action.
Lesson Outline:

  1. The Command Received (Genesis 22:1-2)
  2. The Command Respected (Genesis 22:3-10)
  3. The Command Rescinded (Genesis 22:11-19)
2017-11-06T08:41:13+00:00November 6th, 2017|Categories: Weekly Lesson Summaries|Tags: |0 Comments

The Persistence of Faith

Read Matthew 15:21-28
"But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us." (v. 23).
The story was told of a great Christian statesman of a previous generation. As a youth, he attended a Christian school, but his rebellious attitude kept him in trouble. Time and again he was brought to school authorities and was often on the verge of expulsion. A teacher in that Christian school had taken this young man to his heart. As often as the boy was in trouble, the teacher interceded to the administration on the boy’s behalf. Eventually, the boy was saved and went on to become a missionary statesman who served his generation well.
Many years later, the missionary statesman preached in a camp meeting I attended. At the close of the service, I responded to the invitation, telling God I would do whatever He wanted me to do. During those minutes at the altar, God called me to preach.
What if they had sent that young man away? My life and many others lives might have been very different. What if we send people away from Jesus? Instead, let us do everything we can to point people to Jesus. He can and will make a difference in their lives. Our faith and theirs will make a difference. (Mark Avery)

Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring the wand’ring ones to Jesus.
Alexcenah Thomas (Public Domain)

Don’t send people away from Jesus; bring them to Him.

This devotional is the Thursday, October 6, 2016 entry of Opening the Word.

2016-10-12T09:00:00+00:00October 12th, 2016|Categories: Opening the Word|Tags: |0 Comments


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