“God is Forever Faithful!”

 

“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness,”

Lamentations 3:22-23

There seems to be news every day of more and more people experiencing hardships in their lives. There are stories of loved ones that didn’t return home. There are stories of weather disasters wiping out cities. There are stories of our young people and teenagers struggling. There are stories of corrupt politics; a crippling economy, job layoffs and firings, and more.

You name it and it’s out there. The daily news is littered with the truth of the sorrow that can penetrate into anyone’s life on any given day; stories that cause one to just shake their head and feel the pang of sympathy for those going through. Nobody wants to experience hardships and nobody wants to see anybody else having to suffer with it either.

It is during these times when we have to fight the most to remember the sovereignty of God. When we have to continually pound it into our heads that He is in control and “His compassions fail not.” Life may seem very, very bleak at times but God is still on His throne and “great is Thy faithfulness!”

Going through the hardships and the disappointments of life are hard enough, but when we start attributing the human characteristics of short-comings to a divine God, we rob ourselves of an unfailing assurance.

It’s hard to keep one’s head above water during times of crisis. It is at that time when we need our safety float the most. Then is when we need to remember that God has never failed and He is not about to start failing today. He is forever faithful!

Even in the book of Lamentations after the people went into captivity and Jerusalem became desolate, Jeremiah penned words that still inspire to this generation. They became words that have resonated God’s faithfulness in song; words that recognize that God is still there with His people.

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope,” (Lamentations 3:20), Jeremiah writes. This is a made up mind focused on all that God has done through you and for you; seeing how He has moved in times past in your life. Looking back and remembering the prayers that He has already answered brings to the forefront of your mind all the successes He has allowed you to experience. Let that store up for you an arsenal of truth that fights for you and will declare “He is faithful!”

Don’t measure God faithfulness by your present circumstances.  God never promised the absence of hardship or adversity in our Christian walk. But, what He did promise, in His faithfulness, to be in it all the way with you (Matthew 28:20). Therefore, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised),” Hebrews 10:23.  The pathway we have walked may not have been all peaches and cream, but God was there with us and brought us through to this day because He is faithful.

Text Free Photo Source: Pixabay

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“Our True Image”

In a world where selfies, mainstream personal videos, and profiles dominate it’s easy to surmise that image to most means a great deal.  One’s style and the exterior of self is put on display for the world to like, or not.

But, the true degree of our image goes much deeper.  It’s so easy to look at the clothes, the hair, and the poses and think that’s the sum of a person.  When God crafted us individually and designed us like Him, He saw so much more.  He had a greater vision in mind.

I fear that we have watered down His intention for our purposeful design of a deeper and more spiritually revealing self that personifies His glory before the world and we have settled for the cheaper, mass-produced, mass approved public version.

I believe when God spoke in the beginning that we were made in His image (see Genesis 1:27), He spoke of more than just our facial features, our physique, our height, weight, and so on.  He spoke of our representation of something the boundaries of those outer measurements can’t comprehend.  He spoke of our likeness of Him.  At that point of creation, when it came time for humanity to be put on the earth, God looked to Himself to snap a portrait of who we are truly designed to be.

Now, do I mean that you are supposed to be God sitting on the throne in heaven?  No.  But, what I do mean is we are carriers of so much more.  The portrait of our lives is made to expose and reflect His glory of the greater.  The selfies we have grown accustomed to can’t compare to the true nature we were designed to resemble.

So my question is, why settle for less when your life and mine was made to shine beyond the flash of a lens?  Can we not view our importance and value through the eyes of God instead of view clicks, like buttons, and reactions?  Who or what do we really want our lives to model?

Selfies and having fun with cameras aren’t bad.  I take them myself from time to time.  They just don’t hold the sum of who we really are.  We can make pretty faces, pose, and dress – but, we will never find true happiness and satisfaction in life exchanging our true image for cheaper version this world has to offer.

Therefore, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Matthew 5:16.  Show the world your selfie that’s established in Him.

Verses to ponder:

Colossians 3:10 “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”

Ephesians 4:24 “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Romans 13:14 “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

 

“Enjoy the Ride!”

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One day I found myself in a bit of a quandary.  After dropping one of my daughters off on her college campus I had to make the decision whether I would jump back on the highway or take the back road.  The dilemma: the highway was very congested and moving extremely slow and the back road took longer.  I had to be somewhere in an allotted amount of time and wanted to get there as quickly as possible.

Sending up a silent prayer for wisdom I proceeded back onto the highway only to be caught in practically stand-still traffic.  Quickly I jumped off the first exit and proceeded to take the back road.  Instead of allowing the usual frustration to set in of being sent off course, a thought kept niggling my mind: Enjoy the Ride.  The weather was crisp on that first full day of Fall, a few leaves were beginning to change.  The “rushing to get where I needed to” thought kept trying to invade this peaceful drive, but the thought would come again: Enjoy the Ride.

Sometimes plans going awry but being taken off course doesn’t have to be frustrating.  Sometimes I believe it’s God’s way of telling us to enjoy the journey of life a little more.  Schedules are always going to be there but sometimes we have to let go and enjoy the ride.  Give it to God and trust Him to lead you to your destination and sit back and enjoy.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not on thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path,” Proverbs 3:5-6

 

“God can restore and heal the outcast” – Jeremiah 30:17

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People can toss you aside and treat you as unimportant, but God loves you.  He is for the restoration and healing of His people.

“Your Tears Matter to God”

“For the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.” Psalm 6:8

Tears have always gotten God’s attention.  Our God is a compassionate God.  He cares about the struggles we go through in life.  When we mourn, He mourns. When we hurt, He hurts.  When we are upset, He is upset. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” Hebrews 4:15.  In other words, He knows how we feel!

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy,” Psalm 126:5.  It might not feel like it now, but soon the suffering will be over, the pain will dull, and “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away,” Revelation 21:4.  It is only permitted to stay around for a little while. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” Psalm 30:5.

Your tears and the voice they give to your plight have gone up before your heavenly Father.  He lovingly has every one recorded that moistens your eyes and falls from your heart of despair. “Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” Psalm 56:8.

Take confidence today that your sorrow is not dismissed by God.  As with David, He is paying attention to the “voice of your weeping.”  “Your Tears Matter to God!” 

Photo: Pixabay/GoranH

“Return to Me”

“Return UNTO ME… THEN SHALT THOU NOT REMOVE.” Jeremiah 4:1

There is something to be said about being in the safety of the arms of the one you love. It’s a hold that fiercely embraces you, daring one to step between. In it, you not only find love but you feel the truth of all this person’s emotions toward you. You are secured. You are established. Nothing can tear you away from the warmth and protection you feel at this moment.

And yet, as most movies and books go, there comes the drama. In the drama comes the reason for departure. The part of the story that makes you wonder, “Will they ever be united again? Will they ever really know how one another feels?” It’s a typical storyline, but I must admit I never tire of it.

In those stories, not until the two parties separate do they realize just how much they needed the other. All of a sudden, the love they felt for one another reignites and in a desperate attempt to save the relationship, somehow, someway, they run back to the safety of each other’s arms where they can rebuild upon the love that was once felt.

Can I tell you something? God has never fallen out of love with you! As a matter of fact, He has done everything possible to try to keep you safely in His arms where He can take care of you and love on you. Yet, and still, the drama unfolds that leads the heart of man away to run after their own pursuits. What then of the love that God felt for you? It’s still there!

His love has never left just because we did. His love has never stopped embracing even when we didn’t return the embrace. His love has always been on fire for you and me, even when we tried to extinguish it. His love never quits seeking reconciliation because He wants us with Him!

This was the truth that He was trying to get across through the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s job was to relate to the people of Israel God’s undying passion for them. He tried to convince them that the drama of going their own way wasn’t worth it. Life would be so much better if they would stay where love could keep them and care for them. But, unfortunately, as mankind does, they thought they knew what was best. Love was not on their mind at that moment. As most stories play out, they couldn’t see past what they thought they wanted.

Yet, God is still pleading through the mouth of the prophet, “Return to Me.” If this were a movie, after witnessing the passionate plea for one to come back, to stay in my arms forever, there would not be a dry eye in the house. But, this is what God is doing! He is crying out to His people to not turn away, “DON’T GO! COME BACK! PLEASE, COME BACK!”

As the movies go, so did it with Israel. The pleas go unanswered. He has no choice but to let His loved ones go, hoping that one day they will come to their senses and return. To make a long story short, Israel had to be let go for several decades before they would come to truly appreciate the love that God has for them. Don’t let the same be said of us today.

God is still waiting with opened arms. If we have not held on as tightly as we should – return. If some other thing or person has attracted our desires more – return. If we have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of love – return. If we have refused the grace of His embrace – run back and return to those arms of love.

God promises when you wholeheartedly return to Him and put away all that other stuff that is not like Him, “then shalt thou not remove.”   Why? Because now you are safely snuggled where you belong. You are in the place of promise and His promise is this, “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil,” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Faithful, established, and guarded – wow! That’s what He does for the one who stays in His arms of love.

God is crying out. Don’t let those cries go unanswered. Return today!

Photo: Pixabay/Free-Photos

Sunday School Lesson – “A Sheep or a Goat?” Matthew 25:31-46

Photo: Pixabay/Zahaoha

VERSE DISCOVERY: Matthew 25:31-46 (KJV, Public Domain)

Much of our culture is self-seeking and gives evidence to a heart that is far from the heart of God.  And, as time goes by it seems to infect more and more like a disease that won’t be snuffed out.  But snuff it is what God is asking for as we raise for ourselves flags of surrender to be waved in service for Him toward others.  That we give up of us and pour out all for Him; that we show the world a thing or two about true love; true appreciation to a Savior who poured out all for us.

The Bible tells us, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works…” (Titus 2:7).  It’s time for a new pattern to be laid.  The foundation of self must dissipate, and new groundwork needs to be found on who He is the head of our life and all that He has already done.  It’s time to show the world a different lifestyle.

The Bible assures us, “That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life,” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).  In that, we see that our service toward one another matters and what we do or do not do for others on behalf of our Lord  – the impact of it can even show up in our eternal reward or eternal punishment.

In this lesson, Jesus teaches the difference between the two.  He shows His disciples the difference of being classified as a sheep or a goat.

 When the Son of Man Comes

Matthew 25:31-33 “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left

Today’s lesson is known to be a part of The Olivet Discourse which begins at Matthew 24:1. Throughout this “discourse,” Jesus is telling or prophesying of times to come.  He even foretold of the destruction of the temple which would occur in A.D. 70 (see Matthew 24:1-2).

I absolutely love how this portion of the discourse begins with the word “when.”  Not “if,” but “when.”  And the “when” that is being referenced is the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is coming back!  Point blank.  And, one’s eternity is measured by how they lived on earth.

A large part of biblical preaching and teaching is focusing on and preparing people for the return of Christ that they might reign with Him when He comes.

When some look down through the pages of history, they don’t see the chain of events that ushered in the plan of salvation for mankind.  They believe or don’t believe based off what they see with their natural eyes and their short-sighted minds and/or ideas. They don’t see the promise of the good to come that God has already laid up for our futures. They don’t see the fulfilling prophecies that brought God’s kingdom closer to man.  When they look down through history all they see is a normal course of events.  They don’t see this beautiful, epic love story where God tries to woo mankind back to Himself.

But, rest assured, there is a future after this and Jesus says “when” the time comes, this is what’s going to happen.  The events that He speaks of are truths that are still unfolding.  We haven’t seen it all yet, but it’s coming.

The Bible reassures us, “For the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness,” (2 Peter 3:9a).  We are also told, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry,” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Know this, every word of God, for good or bad, for happy or sad, for those who believe or for those who don’t believe, will come to pass!  For right now He is withholding His hand of judgment so that as many people as possible can be saved.  For us and everyone out there, there is hope for salvation.  God’s waiting won’t add to the demise of people as in the.  Rather, His “longsuffering” is because He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9b).  Will all come and accept a relationship with God through Jesus Christ?  No.  But God loves mankind so much that He wants to get as many people as possible out of the waters of sin that seek to drown them for all eternity.

And, although He has held off, eventually, judgment will come.  2 Peter 3:10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…”

Here, in this lesson, we see we have a King, and the King is coming back.  A time of judgment takes place; a division from those who believe and those who don’t believe; from those who are considered righteous and those who are called cursed: the sheep and the goats, if you will.

“When” this takes place, our lesson tells us “the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.”  Daniel paints a very similar picture to the one Jesus is describing.  He writes, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.  And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,” (Daniel 7:13-14).    

Here, we see Jesus obtained His dominion and declaring His reign in these verses and was found sitting “upon the throne of his glory.”  Have you ever read a story when a king rides up in battle with his armies, obtains the victory and sits down on the throne declaring his rule?  This is the picture that comes to my mind when I read this verse.  Jesus, the King of all kings, comes with His entourage of angels; His armies of heavenly hosts and sits in His place of honor where He will rule and reign forever into eternity.

He is that prophesied “righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth,” (Jeremiah 23:5; emphasis mine); and here it can be said, “Let the judging commence.”

“Before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.”  When He does return, as already stated, a judgment will commence, and this judgment should be taken seriously for in it those living for Christ will be blessed and those who are not shall be condemned.

Here, He is gathering “all nations,” meaning no one on the face of this earth will be exempt from this judgment.  Everyone will be examined, and everyone will be separated “as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” according to how He classifies them.  Psalm 4:3 lets us know, “That the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself…”

We see here, those who are classified as being “sheep” are placed “on his right hand.”  Repeatedly in the Bible, we see the phrase “at the right hand” is used.  For example, in the Old Testament, God said, “Fear not… I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness,” (Isaiah 41:10; emphasis mine).  And, in the New Testament Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” (emphasis mine).

The “right hand” is a special place.  It gives the idea that those on the right are in a more honored and favored position than others.

The opposite occurred for those who are considered “goats” for they were placed “on the left.”  In the following verses, we will really see the impact of what being in those opposite positions means.

To the Sheep He Says…

Matthew 25:34-40 “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

First, the “King” addresses those “on his right hand.”  With that, He calls them, “Blessed of my Father” and pronounces that they will “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

In John 14:3 Jesus stated before His death, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”  Here, we see the “King” has come back as promised and is now speaking directly to those have become inheritors of that prepared kingdom; to those that He is receiving to Himself.

Their service gave proof/evidence of the faith they claimed they possessed causing them to think outside of the box of their own little world into that of others who have needs.  But let us remember, we are not saved by our works, but our works prove to whom we belong.  “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” (James 2:17; read vss. 14-18).

Jesus gave the reason they were in their favored position: on a human level, they acted as He would in their care and concern for the “brethren.”  To do this means their faith was put into action, and that manifested itself through service, despite the cost to their personal being.

In another portion of Scripture Jesus said, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.  If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour,” (John 12: 25-26; emphasis mine).  Here, we see them receiving that honor as the “blessed of my Father.”

Basically, payday has come, if you want to call it that.  Just as in a natural job, so it is in the spirit.  Those who work good works will be rewarded.  That’s why Hebrews 13:16 tells us, “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”  God is pleased when we offer our lives in service and the doing of good works.  Colossians 3:23-24 supports this by telling us, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (emphasis mine).  There is a reward at the end of the services we offer on behalf of the Lord.

The “sheep” know what it is to put their faith into action and make a difference in the world around them.  Faith is not silent.  Faith is full of action.  Faith is alive.  Faith is shared through works to testify of its genuineness and sincerity.  Faith does more than move mountains; if it is lived out in the lives of the men and women of God, it can move hearts toward salvation!

When one is living a life of faith people should be able to look at their life, their actions, as signs of accreditation that we belong to God.  They should be able to tell by how we operate and carry ourselves through our display of service, that we live what we talk.

James, in his book, wrote, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:15-16).

James saw the emptiness in just words alone.  Speaking “peace” without lifting a finger to physically help satisfy the present need, to him it was not true faith.  True faith believes and then allows that belief to be put to work.  True faith has heavenly aspirations that work out to show good on earth.  So, he asked, “What doth it profit” without it?  What is each of us doing now that is benefiting his fellow man and the kingdom of heaven?

Words without supplying to the physical, emotional or spiritual comfort of another in distress are what these two verses speak of.  But, all too often, how many times have we heard or spoken of what should be done to help others without putting in some work to help society move toward that goal?

Jesus gave props to those who stepped in to help others.  James mentioned two issues that Jesus also stated: naked and food, giving further verification of the call to help one another in need.

Jesus said to those who helped the “hungred… thirsty… stranger… naked… sick… prisoner,” it was as if they were helping Him.  Their care for their fellow man matters in the eyes of heaven.  They supplied for and filled needs wherever it showed up and were blessed because of it.

The “sheep” didn’t understand when they ever saw Jesus in the needs described and gave aide to Him.  But, “the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 

Treat people like you would treat Jesus.  Wow!

Again, let us remember, we are not saved by works: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Rather, works give proof to the living faith on the inside: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” (James 2:17).

To the Goats He Says…

Matthew 25:41-46 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

Now it’s time to turn our attention to those on the “left;” “the goats.”  These are spoken to and receive the opposite of the sheep because what they did, or in this case, did not do, was the opposite.

Instead of a reward of inheritance of a prepared kingdom, they were condemned to “everlasting punishment;” a place of “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”   Instead of being called “blessed” and “righteous,” they were marked as being “cursed.”

Jesus presented the same scenarios to the left residents that He did to those on the right and in each instance the words “no” or “not” stands out.  They were given the same chances and opportunities to help and make a difference, but they refused.  This is contrary to kingdom living.  That’s not who Jesus is or what He’s all about.  Them that want to be where He is should be as He is.

Does this remind us of somebody?  Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31).  Both the “goats” and the “rich man” had the opportunity to help but were not moved with compassion to do so.  Both received the same end.  Here, we already stated above what the goats received.  In the case of the rich man the Bible tells us, “In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…” (Luke 16:23).

To reiterate the blessings of those who choose to selflessly serve others, Jesus affirms that the righteous will go “into life eternal.”  Awesome!

How one treats and serves people, or not, has an everlasting impact, for reward or punishment.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – A Sheep or a Goat

Suggested  Activities:

Draw the Scene: A Sheep or a Goat Draw the Scene

Activity Sheet: A Sheep or a Goat Activity Sheet

Memory Verse: A Sheep or a Goat Memory Verse

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – A Sheep or a Goat

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – A Sheep or a Goat

Word Search: A Sheep or a Goat Word Search  Answers: A Sheep or a Goat Word Search Answers

Crossword: A Sheep or a Goat Crossword  Answers: A Sheep or a Goat Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: A Sheep or a Goat Word Scramble  Answers: A Sheep or a Goat Word Scramble Answers

“Unto the Least of These” (Many activities including some for group participation and coloring page for younger students.  Enjoy!)

“The Sheep and Goats Coloring Page” (Older students)

“The Parable of the Sheep (and the Goats)” (Games, activities and even self-portraits with a twist.  A lovely idea.  Enjoy!)

“Sheep or Goats?” (Activities, group ideas, and more.  Enjoy!)

“Game: Sheep and Goats”

“Parable of the Sheep and the Goats Coloring Page”

“Retelling the Story of the Sheep and Goat with Felt” (What an interesting way to tell this popular story for little ones to understand and enjoy.)

“Sheep Storytime” (Here is a cute, little adorable, stand alone sheep that your students can make to accompany this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“How to Draw a Goat” (Though we really want to focus on being sheep, your older students may enjoy to learn how to draw a goat, step by step.  This could be a great reminder of what not to be.  Enjoy!)

“I Can Follow Jesus by Helping Others Coloring Sheet”

“The Spiritual Discipline of Serving”

 

“Joy to the World – He Came!”

 

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.” (Isaac Watts)

Christmastime, as they say, is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmastime often brings with it sweet thoughts and times of reminiscing with loved ones over the years past.  There’s a celebration of joy in the atmosphere that isn’t felt as prominently during other times of the year.

But, I’m here to tell you that Christmastime is so much more than an emotional response to a holiday and family.  It’s more than the gathering of sweet fellowship and food.

Christmastime is a declaration of all God has wanted to do for mankind since the time He created him.  It’s the time we celebrate God’s love on display in holy determination to have that relationship with man that He so desired.

Christmastime is a celebration of the healing.  There was a rift that was torn by sin between God and man – now it comes together in an era of reconciliation and peace.

Isaiah prophesies of the means by which God ushers this in.  He said, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6).  This is the very foundation of the Christmas story.  Matthew picks it up and tells us in the New Testament,” And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins,” (1:21). Mankind had fallen short of the glory of God, but this little baby had an assignment on His life to save people from their sins!

The Christmas story tells us that He is the fulfilled prophesy that states, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14). We see that come to pass in Matthew 1:23 which states He shall be called “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Down forty-two generations He traveled (Matthew 1:1-17) to be with us. That’s why the carols ring out, “Veiled in flesh the God-head see; Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel,” (Hark! The Harold Angels Sing – Charles Wesley). He was that “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14).

That’s why Luke lets us know, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end,” (Luke 1:32-33).

This is what the Christmas story is all about. Joy to the world – He came!

The Bible declares, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn,” (Luke 2:7). He was shunned by the world with no one to care other than Mary and Joseph. Nonetheless, He came!

The angels proclaimed that night, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:11). The deliverance of all mankind made His way into the world. God’s plan of salvation broke through the flesh of humanity to rescue in the Spirit.

Joy to the world – He came!

God incarnate manifested Himself in the humility of man. He stepped off His throne in glory to dwell with a sinner like me. He pulled off His royal attire to associate with the filthy dregs of this life.

Joy to the world – He came!

Christmastime we celebrate His birth; we rejoice in His coming. But, that’s not the end of the Christmas story.

He came once so that He could come back again.  The first time He came He was encapsulated in His mother’s womb, riding on a donkey toward Bethlehem to be born. But, the true end of the Christmas story is the next time you see Him, He won’t be that same baby from the womb riding with His mama on a donkey.  He’ll be standing in the air riding the clouds of heaven.

The first time He came He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. The next time you see Him, He will stand before you as the King who broke free from the grave clothes that tried to bind Him, gaining the victory over the grave; gaining the victory over sin and death.

The first time He came only a few lowly shepherds and a few little wise men came to honor Him and pay tribute to the miracle that occurred on that night. The next time you see Him, “Every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2:10-11).  That same baby they ignored.  That same baby they refused to find room for, their mouths are going to open and declare that HE IS LORD!

We celebrate the Christmas story as the ultimate gift of God’s love toward humanity. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).

But, the Christmas story is more than the celebration that He came. It stands as a reminder every year that if He came once as He said He would, then He’s coming back – just like He said He would!

We love this time of year. There’s no greater feeling than the fellowship and gifts of love shared.  But, once the gifts are unwrapped and once the food is eaten and people return to their homes; let the Christmas story remind you, the King came once, and the King will return once again.

Pope Francis is quoted as saying, “God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.”

In preparation of His return, I must ask, “Have you received His gift?”

Joy to the World – He came. And, He’s coming back again. That’s the true end of the Christmas story.

Have a Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!

Photo: Pixabay/Annalise1988

Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus’ Birth” Luke 2:8-20

Photo: Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 2:8-20 (KJV, Public Domain)

Is there any time of the year that’s more special or rings with more sentiments than Christmas?  It stands out as iconic since the days of our youth.  It’s a time of year that’s separated from the rest.  Despite one’s belief, there is always a different feeling in the atmosphere during this time of the year.  People seem to be kinder and more patient with one another.  Many feel charitable and look at his fellow man with a more compassionate heart during this season.  This time of the year; this moment of celebration affects all.

Many are very familiar with the backdrop of this lesson.   Caesar Augustus had issued a decree for all the world to be taxed (Luke 2:1).  From there, families were to report to the place of their lineage to be accounted for.  Lineage played a key role in so many aspects of the Bible.  Even when it came time to “tax,” people had to line up and file in at the place of their birth or where their family hailed from.  One’s bloodline, one’s tribe were factors in their inheritance, land rights and so on.  These are matters that those who seek to tax would be greatly interested in.

Augustus thought in and of himself that he was responsible for sending families back to their “own city;” back to the place where their ancestors were from. When, in actuality, God was using him to line up everything according to His holy prophecies that were spoken through the years.  This is why, though to our eye’s times may seem troubling and hard to understand, yet we never know what God is doing behind the scenes.  The people may not understand the need to be forced into travel to undergo taxing, but God was lining them up for their greatest deliverance yet!

Joseph and Mary were not exempt and were forced, despite being far along in her pregnancy, to travel the approximately 90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to participate in the taxing process.

While she was there it became time for her to deliver her firstborn child.  Luke 2:6-7 states, “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

It is here we pick up in today’s lesson where the role of the shepherds came into play.  They show us the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is not just a passing event.  Rather, it is a reason to stop and celebrate God and give Him all the glory that is due to His holy name.

Angelic Announcement to the Shepherds

Luke 2:8-9 “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”

“Shepherds” were considered some of the lowest of people during the Bible era.  Men who spent their time with animals roaming the fields to find pasture for their flocks.  Yet, on this night they were the first chosen to hear of this good news.  They were elevated above kings to receive the birth announcement of the King of kings.

Can you imagine being in that field on that night then suddenly light shining from what seems to nowhere appear with a glorious siting of “the angel of the Lord?”  In an era of no electricity, with only the light from the fire they sat around (if they were lucky enough to have one), an illumination of greater proportion appeared and made them “sore afraid.”  I think it’s safe to say, if it were me, I would have been just as “afraid” as they were.  It’s not an everyday occurrence to see the power of the Lord manifested in the siting of one of His “angels.” Who knows why he was here.  “Angels” have been long known as messengers from the Lord and here this one appears with the greatest revelation of all time; one that the “shepherds” are privileged to hear first.

Luke 2:10-12 “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

In an effort to alleviate any trepidation the shepherds were feeling with encountering God’s angel, he spoke to them words that were meant to bring comfort and assurance.  He said, “Fear not” (a greeting that is meant to calm).

The appearance of these heavenly messengers can be a little much to take in.  When the one angel sat upon the stone that was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb the Bible tells us, “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men,” (Matthew 28:3-4).  One would need a certain measure of comfort in the presence of these awesome creatures.

“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.”  Here, the lowliest of the low; the shepherds that others despise and reject as not being noteworthy, receive the good news that “shall be to all people;” themselves included.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  The message is, that long-awaited day has finally arrived!  The Jews felt the oppression of enemies for years.  They have listened to the prophecies passed down from generation to generation that spoke, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” (Is. 9:6).  He that was spoken of has arrived in this lowly place, to a lowly people, to save them and be their Messiah.

The news could not get any better than this.  I imagine eyes misting over and a lonely tear streaking down the weather-worn cheek of these men to whom the angel spoke.  Oh, the joy of it all on that holy night!

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  So that no misrepresentation and no doubt can reside in the mind of these shepherds, the angel described in great detail who and what they should expect to find.  Just as our introduction described is how they would find this blessed “babe” when they came upon Him.  Surely, with the scene matching up with the description given upon their arrival to see the “babe” they would absolutely know that He is their “Saviour.”

Luke 2:13-14 “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

As if the appearance of one angel with an awesome message wasn’t enough to seal the deal of belief with these shepherds, “a multitude of the heavenly host” appeared.  It was as if heaven could not hold back its rejoicing over the birth of the Savior.  Heaven peaked through into the earthly realm and these shepherds got to see them “get their praise on” as we would call it today.

They were saying, “Glory to God in the highest!”  I don’t think the words do the moment justice.  Yes, they were ascribing “glory to God” but I believe there was a tingling in the atmosphere that can’t be replicated with words.  I believe there was a charge of elation mixed with the power of God’s presence radiating through these “heavenly host” that can’t be described.  A time and place like no other that only these lowly shepherds got to witness on this holy night.  Awesome!

“And on earth peace.”  Sin has destroyed humanity’s “peace” with God.  The beloved creature that He formed and placed in the Garden of Eden; that He loved and treasured as His own, was now corrupt and subject to perish without holy intervention.  Romans 5:12 tells us, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”  Because of that, “peace” and reconciliation needed to be restored.

Romans 5:18 encourages us and says, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”  “Gifts” are major for most this time of the year.  But, on this holy night, God gave the best “free gift” that would annihilate the effects of sin that destroyed the “peace” He intended for His creation.  Now, the “heavenly host” are rejoicing because they know the significance of this birth for all of humanity and the “earth.”  Through the “free gift” of His Son, God is showing the ultimate “good will toward men.”

Hasting to See the Babe

Luke 2:15-17 “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”

“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass.”  After the angels disappeared, the shepherds wasted no time in making up their mind to see “this thing which is come to pass.”  “Come to pass” means it has already happened.  They were speaking in terms of belief.  They hadn’t seen the “babe” as of yet, but through the words and rejoicing of the angels they believed that “which the Lord hath made known.”

What an awesome revelation both literally and nonliterally!  God showed up and showed out and sent His message, the birth announcement of His Son, to a field whose occupants seemed to the rest of the world counted unworthy.  With their newfound knowledge, they wasted no time in seeing with their own eyes that which was revealed to them so much so that the Bible tells us “they came with haste.”  Excitement propelled them forward and they “found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe” just as it was spoken to them.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”  They may have been the lowliest in the eyes of society.  They may have been counted out of many cliques and circles, but these dirt covered, smelled like the field and animals’ men became the first evangelist of the Lord Jesus Christ.  God had revealed something awesome to them.  Then, they saw the manifestation of it with their own eyes.  Their hearts were then burdened to make it “known abroad,” the same revelation that they received “concerning this child.”

Mary’s Pondering Heart

Luke 2:18-20 “And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

“All they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”  The reaction of the people that heard the message of the shepherds was reactions of “wonder.”  They were simply amazed and in awe over the shepherds and the message they carried.  I believe that this type of “wonder” didn’t have any questioning to it.  Rather, they were just completely taken aback over the news and the excitement of the shepherds.

How a message is delivered also bears an impact on how the message is received by the hearers and judging by the enthusiasm of these lowly shepherds on that night, many had to be filled with total astonishment.  If the news could be believed, then the greatest miracle to ever be imposed on mankind has finally taken place; an extraordinary event like no other.  No wonder the shepherds couldn’t help but tell and express all they witnessed on this night.  The people had to see and feel that this news was a remarkable and outstanding experience.

“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”  A mother’s heart works differently toward her child.  She’s the one to whom the angel showed up out of the blue one day and delivered the message that she would carry the Son of God in her own womb.  She’s the one who dealt with being ostracized and mistreated by those who thought the worse of her.  She’s the one that bore the babe in her womb for nine months dealing with all that comes with it.  She’s the one who lay up in a stable, if you will, and pushed forth this new, special life into the world.  Now, these shepherds show up and declare the glorious.  They show up and pay special attention and respect to her Son.  She holds in all in her “heart” and mind.

Surely, during this time her mind had to travel back to the day Gabriel approached her and told her, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God,” (Luke 1:35).  Thinking back to then and comparing the scene unfolding before her now must have given her pause to stop and consider all that has transpired (compare Luke 2:51).

What must have been going through her mind at the time, one can only imagine.  But, there in her “heart,” she held it all.  The moments; the memories; the miracle that she has been a part of – there in her “heart,” the wonder of it all rests.

“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”  The “shepherds,” who were previously known for their care of the flocks, were now known for their praise.  When a miracle occurs on this level one can’t help but let a praise flow from their innermost being.  It should be a natural occurrence that when God blesses you to see a manifestation of His promise come to pass, praise should issue forth like an unstoppable river flow.

They “heard and seen” some amazing things on this night.  Things that many will never ever get to experience; things we can only read about and have faith in – they were eyewitnesses to it all!  They, with their own eyes and ears, physically saw our Lord Jesus Christ as a babe lying in a manger.  How AWESOME is that?!  The revelation given to them of the angel assured them that this was no ordinary babe.  The King of all heaven and earth lay before them.  They can’t keep that praise in!  They glorify God!  God is worthy!

They didn’t “return” the same way they left.  What they witnessed was too extraordinary to go back to life as usual.  They now had a praise that would not stop; one that had to be expressed to the fullest that God get the glory He deserves over this magnificent event.  Hallelujah!!!

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Jesus’ Birth

Suggested Activities:

Christmas Object Lesson: The Angels Appear to the Shepherds (video with a great idea for making angels appear as noted in the “Prepare” portion of the lesson)

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – My favorite part of the Christmas Story

Kid’s Journal Page: Kids Journal Page – My favorite part of the Christmas story

Draw the Scene: Jesus’ Birth Draw the Scene

Wordsearch: Jesus’ Birth Wordsearch  Answers: Jesus’ Birth Wordsearch Answers

Crossword: Jesus’ Birth Crossword  Answers: Jesus’ Birth Crossword Answers

Memory Verse: Jesus’ Birth Memory Verse

Baby Jesus Best Gift Craft: BABY JESUS GIFT CRAFT_2 (This craft will remind students of God’s best gift He gave us in Jesus Christ.  Enjoy!) – Use this PDF link for accurate printing. Simply print out, color, and cut.  Cut construction paper in half.  Glue tab for gift box and attach.  Next, glue baby Jesus under the gift box and close.  Last, attach the “God’s Best Gift!” label with glue.  And, there you have it.  When students open the “gift box” they can view God’s best gift: Jesus Christ. 

Other Suggested Activities:

Jesus Is the Reason for the Season:

“Jesus is the Reason for the Season Crafts” (I particularly like the “Faith Bracelet” and the “Jesus Christmas Necklace crafts on this page.  It takes you away from the ordinary ornament and nativity crafts (which will never go out of style🙂 )that we usually see this time of year and gives us something fresh to do.  Enjoy!)

“Christmas Piñata” (What a wonderful way to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.  Enjoy!)

“Emmanuel Crafts for Kids” (All I can say is, “Easy!”  Enjoy!)

“Several Games and Object Lessons for Christmas” (If you are looking for unique ways to hit home this very familiar lesson, then this is for you.  Check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.  Enjoy!)

Cute Nativity Scenes:  Each one was chosen for their uniqueness.  Browse through and find one suitable to your needs.  Enjoy!

“Bee Crafty Kids – Nativity” (Using black construction paper as the backdrop this easy to put together nativity scene craft can be adaptable to most students.  Make it as easy or as hard as you like it.  I like this one just the way it is.  Enjoy!)

“Hope and a Nativity Craft” (Popsicle sticks, paper and crayons are all you need to put together this simple nativity scene.  This time of the year we can run low on funds and time and this is a great answer for most teachers in both of these areas.  Enjoy!)

“Easy Nativity Craft” (The name says it all 🙂  Enjoy!)

“Nativity Crafts for Kids from Recyclables”

Shepherd Crafts:

“Candy Cane Shepherd” (Wow, an activity with a Christmas treat!  Enjoy!)

“Shepherd and Sheep Toilet Paper Roll Craft” (This is easy and can I tell, they have printables!  Yeah!  Enjoy!)

“Shepherd and Angel Craft” (Super easy especially for your youngest students.  Enjoy!)

Christmas Coloring Pages for Luke 2:

“The Birth of Jesus Coloring Page”

“The Birth of Jesus (Older Students) Coloring Page”

“Angel and Shepherds Rejoice (Older Students) Coloring Page”

“Don’t Miss Christmas Coloring and Activities”

 

“Be Happy!”

“Rejoice evermore,” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

“. . . Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” Psalm 144:15

 Happiness.  Some say it’s overrated.  I tend to disagree.  The Bible speaks over and over again about being blessed, happy, joyful, glad and rejoicing.  With so many different ways of saying it, I believe the Lord has made His point.  He wants His people to be absolutely elated in who they are –  His child!

Too often, we as Christians are waiting for conditions to be right before we choose to be happy about it.  That’s contrary to the Word of God.  Many times when we see words synonymous with being happy in the Bible, there is usually a counterweight of circumstances which doesn’t seem favorable or applicable to happiness.  Take the Beatitudes for instance:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is reward in heaven . . .”

                                                                        (Matthew 5:3-12).

What the Lord Jesus Christ did was point out numerous circumstances of life that would normally account for not being happy.  But, by putting a statement of happiness in the front of it, He was relating that one doesn’t have to wait for the tides to turn in your favor to declare that blessedness.  The Beatitudes are about going through the storms of life even when the waves seem adverse and still seeing the promise of heaven at work.  Even when it feels overwhelming, to the point of feeling totally surrounded by trouble.  Jesus said happiness can still be found during those times.

How?  “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven.”  I WILL NOT trivialize anyone’s hardships in life.  There are some unimaginable things that people have to face every day that hurt; that disappoint.  Situations that seem to do all they can to strip away one’s faith.  Our Lord is not denying the hurt, but what He is saying is there is still a reason to be joyful.

It would be totally unrealistic for one to tell another not to be upset over a wrong committed.  Yet, we have a deeper revelation that beyond this mess there is a reward.  Oh yeah, this stuff here stinks.  But, over there – AWESOME!

We may go through trials and tribulations like anybody else, but one thing we have as opposed to them is the comforting presence of our Heavenly Father.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” (Ps. 23:4).  How can one not feel a measure of joy and comfort at words spoken such as these?

It just makes me feel that no matter what I am going through, I can “Rejoice evermore,” because, He is there.  He knows.  He comforts me.   He’s thinking about me.  He hears my prayers.  He sees the tears I shed.  I can feel His presence bottling every one of those tears up, working to wipe them away.  I may cry, but I can also rejoice because I have a true, living God who loves me and cares for me.

Not just words of rhetoric but words of substance.  Words that make me happy in spite of it all!  Today, I choose to be happy because I am in Him, and He is in me.  “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” (Ps. 30:5).  The tears may cloud over my eyes and fall down my cheeks, but eventually, it has to move and make room for the happiness I have in Him.  I am blessed.

Photo: Pixabay/Free-Photos