Who Were The Pharisees?

“Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?” Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” – Mark 12:13-17.

Most people read the story of the sinful woman in Luke 7 and take it at face value. It is a story of a woman with a past that finds redemption through her act of worship. But, is that the entire story?  Or is she just one element in the story? Is it also the story of Jesus educating and maybe evangelizing a pharisee?

That would not be so far fetched. After all, Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10) People accused Him of being the friend of sinners. And He was, but He wasn’t just a friend of the outcast sinners, the undesirables and the marginalized. He was also the friend of holier-than-thou religious leaders like the pharisee. In fact, on this occasion and others in the gospels, Jesus had conversations with pharisees obviously intending to expose them to the reality of who He was and why He came. In Luke 11:37 we read, “As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table “ Luke 14:1 says, “One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely.”

The other gospels record some of those events as well.  Jesus was committed to presenting the gospel offer to all sinners, whether they were the low or high by society standards. One of the pharisees asked Jesus to dine with him. On the surface, that might seem like a good thing, like he had some personal interest in Jesus, like he was open to Jesus. Well that’s really not the case, as the story makes it very clear. The pharisees had already rendered a verdict on Jesus. 

The scribes and the pharisees had already collectively determined that Jesus was a blasphemer. He was a blasphemer because He forgave sin. And so, He acted as if He was God, forgiving sins. And He had continually defiled Himself by hanging around people the pharisees would never associate with. They were constantly looking for ways to undermine Jesus by finding a way to use His own words to incriminate Himself.   

Jesus was willing to go into the house of a man that He knew was a hypocrite. He knew the man had evil intentions toward Him. He knew the man was going to do everything he could to get some incriminating evidence against Jesus by something that Jesus did or said. He knew he was looking to mount the case for Him. But nonetheless, Jesus, gracious as He always is and coming to seek and to save that which was lost, is willing to expose this wicked, hypocritical pharisee to the power that He has to transform.  And so He entered the pharisee’s house.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does this story tell you about the pharisee?
  2. Have you imagined God would never love you because of something you did in the past?
  3. Do you believe that God loves even the worst person in the world and wants that person to come to Him?
  4. The more we grow in Christ, the more we will see our own sinfulness. Agree or disagree and why? 

The Sinful Woman

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.” – Luke 7:36-38.

We don’t know much about the sinful woman highlighted in Luke 7. We don’t know her name, her age, or her history. We know only that she was bad for a season. To be specific, it is believed she sold her body for money. Because her sinful lifestyle was common knowledge, people whispered about her, eyed her with disdain, and avoided her company. Except Jesus. 

Here’s the story: Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to a large public dinner. Then “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life ” showed up at Simon’s house. (Luke 7:37) She came alone, bearing a “beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume….Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.” (v. 38)

Jesus didn’t pull away, recognizing this heartfelt expression for what it was—worship, pure and holy. Simon the Pharisee had seen enough. He said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” (Luke 7:39). He was unimpressed with Jesus. Jesus knew the man’s thoughts, and so responded with a story about two men in debt to a moneylender. One owed a lot, one owed a little. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?  (Luke 7:42) When Jesus asked Simon, “Which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:42), the Pharisee had no choice but to confess, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” (Luke 7:43). Too right, Simon.

The Lord affirmed the man’s answer, then turned toward the sinful woman, even as He continued speaking to Simon. This is my favorite part. “Look at this woman kneeling here….” (Luke 7:44) Simon saw a sinner, period. He didn’t see her as a person, nor had he noticed or understood her acts of worship for what they were.

But Jesus missed nothing. He saw her. He saw her sordid past, her humble present, and her glorious future. He quickly described all the ways she’d honored him—unlike Simon—then finished with this startling announcement: “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47)

Discussion Questions:

  1. With which person in this story do you most identify, and why?
  2. What might we learn from this story about approaching Jesus?
  3. Why did Jesus let her continue, since by all appearances what she was doing was scandalous?
  4. How is Simon different from the woman? How is she better than he? Who do you think is the worse sinner here, the woman or Simon?

Hitting The Pause Button

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1.

This week I challenged everyone to pause and pray. I am talking about slowing down long enough in our everyday lives, no matter where we are, no matter whom we are with, to seek God’s wisdom when we feel the need for control in our lives. We are in a series called “Shameless: The Bad Girls of the Bible.” While we are talking about Jezebel this week, I would like to highlight the story of another woman in the Bible. The story of Esther and how she paused and trusted God. 

The story of Esther reads like a novel and is full of great spiritual lessons. The greatest being that God protects His people. He may not always do it in the way we think He should, but the book of Esther shows that He is in control even when we don’t see Him. An enemy named Haman wanted to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom. He convinced the king to pass a law for genocide of the Jewish race in Persia. Esther who is now queen is asked to speak on behalf of the Jewish people. 

Esther tells the king she has a request. She invites both the king and Haman to her house for a meal and she would tell her request at that time. But during the banquet, Esther was led to pause before sharing her request with the king. She was a woman who was willing to wait on the Lord, even if it didn’t make sense to her at the time. Her trust was firmly planted in God, in His will, and in His timing. She was willing to wait if that was what her Lord was guiding her to do.

And so she waited. “If I have found favor with the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request and do what I ask, please come with Haman tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for you. Then I will explain what this is all about.” (Esther 5:8) Some of us might think she was just putting off the inevitable, and it would have been better for her just to get it over with. But again, we are going to see that God was working behind the scenes and He needed just 24 more hours to add an amazing twist to the plot of this story. Esther was right in line with what God wanted to do, as we will see in the rest of Esther 5 and on into Esther 6.

He does the same for us. When we pause and pray seeking His will, God is working behind the scenes, writing a story that is yet to be revealed. I believe God does some of His best work in the “pauses” of our lives.

Esther probably had a sleepless night, but an amazing turn of events was in the works. In Esther chapters 7 and 8 you can read about how the plot failed and the Jews were saved. We can do what Esther has done. Be faithful to the Word of God. Live in obedience to Him. Get instruction from friends and family who are wise and mature in the Christian faith. Pause and wait when we need to and then pray. Then, and only then, make a decision and go with it, trusting that God will work out all of the details as only He can.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever had a “pause” in your life lead to unforeseen opportunities?
  2. When you “pause” do you pray as well?
  3. Why are we so impatient when waiting for God’s timing?
  4. How can we make “pause and pray” part of our everyday lives? 

Expect Some Delays

“Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’” – Deuteronomy 32:35

In 1 Kings chapter 21, we read the story of Naboth. King Ahab has his summer palace in Jezreel. One day while walking, he sees the vineyard of Naboth and decided he wanted it.

So Ahab went to Naboth and said, “Would you please sell your vineyard to me? If you will not sell your vineyard to me, would you please trade it? I am the king. If you will give me your vineyard I will give you another piece of land here in Israel that is worth much more.” But Naboth was a man of God who followed the law of God. Here is his simple reply to the king: “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.” (1 Kings 21:3)

Naturally the king was humiliated and then became angry. He got into a deep funk. He whined, sulked and even refused to eat. When Jezebel asked why he was so grouchy, he tells her the story. Jezebel is into control so she hatches a diabolical plot. She decides to write a letter in the name of the king and sends it to the elders of the town. The elders do as the queen suggests and Naboth is set up and stoned to death. Jezebel tells the king that the vineyard is now his. King Ahab was pleased.

It appears that the king and queen got away with murder. When you read the story you wonder, “where is God? Where is God when the wicked rise to power? Where is God when a man like Ahab and a woman like Jezebel can get away with murder? Where is God when evil is let loose in the world?”

But that is not the end of the story. Proverbs 15:3 tells us, “The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good.” God had been watching. God is in control and now He is about to act.

God came to his prophet, patted him on the shoulder, and told him to head for Jezreel. ““Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He will be at Naboth’s vineyard in Jezreel, claiming it for himself. Give him this message: ‘This is what the Lord says: Wasn’t it enough that you killed Naboth? Must you rob him, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!” (1 Kings 21: 18-19)

Ahab and Jezebel die just as God had predicted, although Jezebel lives for another 20 years.  There are important takeaways from this story. First, God’s patience will not last forever. He’s not slow in the way some people count slowness. God is patient, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s timing is always perfect. And, because He is in control, I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does Naboth’s response to the king tell you about him? What does the king’s response tell you about him?
  2. Why do we expect God to act immediately? What should our expectations be?
  3. Does control and coveting things go hand in hand?
  4. What application does this story have for our lives today? What gives you contentment? What takes away your contentment?

The Illusion of Control

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55: 8-11. 

There is a great scene in Kung Fu Panda between Master Oogway and Shifu about the illusion of control. Oogway tells Shifu that the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control. Shifu believes there are things we can control using a peach tree as an example: I can control when the fruit will fall, I can control where to plant the seed: that is no illusion. Oogway calmly tells him that no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach. Oogway concludes by saying that you cannot change the nature of a thing.

When we try to control others, we deceive ourselves. We cannot change people’s natures. We can try but more often than not we will fail. But when we let go of the illusion of control, we set ourselves free. Free to allow others to be themselves. Free from the need to control. Free to be out from under the control of others. And above all, free to let God be in control.

Consider the Israelites for a few moments: The Israelites have just been freed from bondage in Egypt and are on route to land God promised. When they worried about their enemies, God parted the sea to give them victory. When they worried about food, God made manna fall at their feet in the desert. When they worried about water, God caused it to flow from a rock. Yet, despite God’s miraculous provisions again and again, the Israelites’ hearts wavered with fears and doubts again and again, never fully resting in the knowledge that God is in control and will provide.

But lest we think badly of the Israelites, we too have experienced proof of God’s steadfast care and his blessings. I have seen it in good times and in bad. But every once in a while we have the urge to take control away from God, not completely, but on something on our radar screen at the moment.  Or we try to control others so we can get what we want. But that is the illusion of control because God is in control. Isaiah 14:24 reminds us of this fact: ”The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.”  And Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

As long as we believe that we are in control of our lives, we will leave God out of the equation. God wants us to trust in Him and that trust is built up as we release control of our situations into His loving hands.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is God driving your life, or is God in the passenger seat?
  2. In what areas of your life do you find it hard to give God control because you want total control?
  3. The only ability God requires is availability. How does this apply to control?
  4. This week, identify one area of your life that God is not in control of—such as school, sports, eating, computer, or relationships. Pray and give God control in those areas of your life. Come up with tangible steps to follow and ways you can give God control.

Out Of Control

“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.“Proverbs 19:21 .

Charlie Brown’s search for the true meaning of Christmas took him to several friends who all had different ideas about how to turn his attitude around and get the most out of the holiday. Lucy is at her psychiatric booth when Charlie Brown comes up to discuss his problem. What Lucy decides Charlie Brown needs is involvement, better yet, he needs the ability to direct, which means he is the one to tell others what to do. He gets to be in control. The reason this makes sense for Lucy is because for her, life is all about being in control. Lucy loves to be in control. In fact, while Lucy tells Charlie Brown he is going to direct the play, she is the one who decides what part everyone gets. For Lucy it is all about being in control and having things her way and if she doesn’t get her way, she is willing to force the issue.

For many of us, life feels healthy, balanced and good when we are in control and when we get our way. Most of us, if we are honest, want what we want and our need for control may be seen in little things like who gets to hold the remote control or who sets the thermostat at night. Or it can be manifested in larger issues such as how money is spent in the family, or how the kids are raised, etc.

Jezebel was a control freak. She controlled people with her words and her actions. She had an obsessive need to exercise control over others and to take command of any situation. The spirit of control and manipulation as epitomized by Jezebel was almost totally responsible for corrupting an entire nation. 

While most people think that Jezebel was bad those same people think control is good. But when you are in control God isn’t. It is that simple.  So we need to decide every day who’s going to be in control of our life — us or God. There are things in our lives that we want to control. We want to set the rules and be the final arbiter of what is right and wrong. Psalm 46:10 says, “Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth” (GW).

I don’t know what you’re going to face this week. You don’t, either. But God wants you to let go and know that God is in control. Whenever we face out-of-control situations, we tend to go to one of two extremes. For some of you, the more out-of-control your life gets, the harder you try to control it.

But in the midst of it all, the Word of God rings out with this message, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13) God is in control. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does fear of the future and wanting to be in control relate?
  2. What area of your life do you find yourself consistently fearful of what might come or what won’t come? Why do you think it’s hard to let go of control and trust God for your future?
  3. Most of us believe that God’s timing is perfect. What we often mean by this statement is that God’s timing is not our timing. If we were God, we would have acted much earlier. But God is hardly ever early in His timing and He usually waits until things are completely out of control to act. How have you seen God work when things were completely out of control?
  4. What can we do this week to turn control over to God? 

A Refresher on Jezebel

But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” – Revelation 2:20.

Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, King of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31). Jezebel is an evil woman in the Bible as Revelation 2:20 (above) points out. 

Here’s the cliff notes on the story. Queen Jezebel worshiped Baal who was the chief pagan god when the Israelites first came into the promised land. God was already angry about the level of idol worship and witchcraft, and had ordered the prophet Elijah to stand up against them (1 Kings 16: 22-33). Ahab made matters worse by marrying the already forbidden Jezebel in the first place, and began to serve Baal along with her (v 31). It was only a matter of time before she began to kill off God’s prophets and replace them with false prophets. When the pagan prophets met Elijah at Mount Carmel, an amazing thing happened. Elijah had set up two altars…one dedicated to Baal and one dedicated to God. The prophets of Baal called on their god to send down fire and consume their offering. They went to extremes. When Elijah called upon God to send fire down to consume the sacrifice on his altar, fire came down from heaven immediately and consumed the offering. This infuriated Jezebel and she swore to kill Elijah in revenge. Poor old King Ahab sat idly by and let all of this go, although he learned how to manipulate Jezebel to satisfy his own selfish desires as demonstrated in the story of Naboth.(1 Kings 21:1-15).

Naboth owned a vineyard in Jezreel located near the palace of Ahab. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange, I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.” Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” After Naboth respectfully said no, Ahab sulked and refused to eat (1 Kings 21:1-4) In verses 5-7, Jezebel came in, asked what was wrong and listened attentively as her husband explained his problem. “Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel demanded. “Get up and eat something, and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!” So, she wrote letters in her husband’s name and ordered Naboth to be stoned to death! He was surely killed, and without a shred of guilt, Ahab went down and claimed the vineyard. Afterwards, Elijah prophesied that Ahab and his descendants would be killed and that Jezebel would be eaten by dogs (1 Kings 21:17-24).

Three years after Jezebel had Naboth stoned, Ahab died in battle. His sons died soon thereafter. Elijah’s successor, Elisha appointed Jehu to be his successor, that he may destroy Ahab’s  descendants as a punishment for the way Jezebel had treated God’s people. Then, he ordered Jezebel’s own servants to throw her out of that very window, sprinkle blood on the walls and trample upon her corpse. Later when the servants went to bury her, they found only her skull, feet, and the palms of her hands. Her flesh had been eaten by dogs, just as Elijah had prophesied (2 Kings 9:35-36).

The main lesson from Jezebel’s life is that the deeds of a few can adversely affect a whole nation. Her biggest claim to fame was actually her possession of power through manipulation and control. But God is the one who has the ultimate control. “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are there people in power today that frighten you? If so, why? 
  2. What temptations do Christians face that seek to convince us that we are in control? What fears do some people, including Christians, have about something or someone other than themselves being in control?
  3. How should the fact that God is in control alleviate our fears? What do our fears indicate about our willingness or ability to let God be in control?
  4. What are some ways we can daily relinquish our lives to God’s sovereign control?

Paradise Lost

“Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit. Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste. Brought death into the world, and all our woe. With loss of Eden, till one greater Man, Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat, Sing Heav’nly Muse… – Paradise Lost, John Milton.

The classic book, Paradise Lost, written by John Milton, was published in 1667. Paradise Lost is an epic poem of 12 books based on the biblical story of Satan’s fall from Heaven and Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. The poem is the same story you find in the first pages of Genesis, expanded by Milton into a very long, detailed, narrative poem. Milton’s work should not be understood as biblical fact. But it does delve into the devil extensively. 

There are times when I think we need to learn more about the devil and there are times when I think we need to unlearn things about the devil. That is because some of the things we have learned about Satan come from John Milton’s Paradise Lost or Dante’s Inferno, or some horror movie.

The snake’s presence in the Garden of Eden is the thing that had Adam and Eve begin to doubt themselves and God’s plans for their lives. We know this presence all too well. It’s that voice that whispers into our ear that says we’re not good enough, strong enough, attractive enough, smart enough, that we don’t add up. We need something more than what God can give us. It’s that nagging voice that comes to us to plant doubt into our heads, that seeks to erode our confidence and replace it with self-doubt. That thing in us that always seems to make us question who we are, that tries to strip us of our strength and our sense of self worth, that beats us up and kicks us when we’re down.

There is always a method to Satan’s madness. Satan shows up only at the very end of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. That’s when Jesus is at His weakest and most vulnerable from 40 days of fasting. No water. No food. If Jesus is going to crack, this is the moment—when He might give it all away for just a morsel of bread. If evil ever has a chance to enter our story, it’s when we’re at our worst, when we feel most exposed. The devil whispers to Jesus three times. First, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3) Second, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” (Matthew 4:6) And third, “Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9). We know that voice, the nagging voice that tries to cut our knees out from under us, its words shrink our self-worth. It’s a voice that tries its best to convince us that we don’t deserve better, that we’re all alone, that no one else understands.

Life is messy and complicated. There is no way to undo our mistakes. The good news is God knows all that. He was one of us. He has lived this life. He knows what it feels like to undergo these things, to be tested. He even knows what it’s like to die, and to die the most humiliating of deaths: death on a cross. But because of Jesus’ death on the cross, paradise was not lost for those who trust in Him.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think the devil opposes God’s work in our lives? In what ways have you noticed the devil’s opposition to God’s work in your life?
  2. Read John 10:10. What are the descriptive terms Jesus uses to describe the devil? What can the devil steal, kill, and destroy in your life?
  3. Read John 8:44. How would you define “the father of lies”? What does that phrase mean to you? How can we accurately identify common lies of the devil in our lives?
  4. Read 2 Corinthians 10:5. Based upon this Scripture, how should we “fight back” against the lies of the devil?

Coming To Terms With It

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21.

In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller talks about how most people spend their lives trying to make their heart’s fondest dreams come true. Isn’t that what life is all about, “the pursuit of happiness”? We search endlessly for ways to acquire the things we desire, and we are willing to sacrifice much to achieve them. Or, as we were talking about on Sunday, the “it” in our lives. 

In the book, Tim says the following: “The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life. An idol is something we cannot live without.”

So what is the “it” or “counterfeit god” in your life? The “it” is the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side. It is the thought that we are not content with where we are at in life and the circumstances that God allows to come into our lives. We want more, for more expensive cars and vacations, for that lottery ticket that might give us a big jackpot. We also are looking for better and more favorable circumstances. The “it” or “counterfeit god” keeps us from being satisfied with what life brings our way and with God’s sovereign purpose for our daily lives.

What is contentment anyway? Philippians 4:11:12 gives the answer:”Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”  Hebrews 13:4 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Everyone is searching for contentment but few actually find it. Paul says that in any and every circumstance he has learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I have learned the secret of being content. This idea is directly opposed to how we are conditioned and trained to go after contentment, to search for the “it” which will make us happy. 

Instead of changing our circumstances God changes our hearts so that we can be content in the midst of changing circumstances.

Contentment then does not depend on outward circumstances but rather upon an inward mindset. Contentment is worked from the inside out. The secret to contentment is not in a change of circumstances but a change of heart, a heart fixed on Jesus. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is there an “it” or “counterfeit god” in your life?
  2. What gives you contentment? What takes away your contentment?
  3. What can we tell about the kind of relationship people have with God by their level of contentment?
  4. What can you do this week to learn to be more content?

Marriage Made In Heaven

“Then the man said, This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” – Genesis 2:23.

We just finished the Ideal Family series.  There’s the ideal family and then there’s reality. There’s a gap and it’s one that’s not exactly expected to be filled. When it comes to family, what does the “ideal” family look like? Well, there is Adam and Eve.

If ever a marriage was ideal, it was Adam and Eve’s. If ever a marriage was made in heaven, it was Adam and Eve’s. It was perfectly planned and perfectly performed by a perfect God. First God made Adam in His image (Genesis 1:27). He was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually perfect.

And what about Eve? “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:21-22). Adam must have been in love at first sight when he saw Eve. She was God’s creative genius at its best, unblemished grace and beauty, fashioned by the hand of God Himself. And like Adam, she was made in God’s image. She ended his loneliness. She was just exactly what he needed. 

Their home was located in Eden. “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (Genesis 2:8). Eden was a luscious green paradise, blanketed with every beautiful and edible growing thing (Genesis 2: 9-10). Side by side they lived and labored in perfect harmony, sharing a sense of mutual interdependence, enjoying a freedom of communion and communication. There was no sin in them. There was no strife between them. They were at peace with God, at peace with themselves, and at peace with each other. This was truly the perfect marriage. This was paradise. But obviously, something happened and the ideal became all too real.

Everything changed with the entrance of sin. The subtle tempter questioned the Word of God and the goodness of God. Satan’s methods have not changed much through the centuries. We know them well—the doubts, the distortions, the denials. Yet we too fall prey to them. We can identify with Eve in her moment of weakness. We know what it is to yield to temptation. When Adam and Eve yielded to temptation there were devastating consequences for both of them and the serpent. (Genesis 3: 14-19)

This would be the saddest story ever told were it not for a Savior born so many year later. Speaking to Satan he said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15). God promised that the seed of the woman, a child born into the human race, would destroy the works of the devil. This is the first biblical prophecy of the coming Redeemer. Jesus died for the sins of the world. His perfect blood covers the sins of every human being who will accept Him as Lord and Savior. He offers to forgive us freely and restore us to His favor. And He makes available to us His strength to help us live above temptation.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we learn from this ideal marriage?
  2. In what ways can Satan use temptation to undermine marriages and families?
  3. What can husbands and wives do to help keep from blaming their problems on each other as Adam and Eve did?
  4. Is the issue of eternal salvation firmly settled in your mind? If not, is there any good reason why you should not settle it right now?