Jesus Saves & Grants Full Satisfying Lives

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John 10:1 – 10

10 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

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This parable, or illustration, of Jesus is a good example of how Jesus used the events of every day life to help drive home some deep spiritual truths.  In verses 1-5, Jesus described in very simple terms what life was like for shepherds in the middle east and their sheep in the 1st century.  The listeners are most likely the “blind” Pharisees we read about at the end of chapter nine.

These Pharisees heard this story, and then it says that they did not understand this illustration.  Most likely, due to all their previous encounters with Jesus, the Pharisees knew that Jesus never told “simple” stories, just because they were nice stories.  No, they knew that there was some deeper meaning involved here, and they wanted Jesus to speak clearly as to what meaning He had intended for his audience to get out of this story.

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What is most interesting is that even though Jesus was asked a fairly straight forward question, his response is anything but a clear answer.  He used much of the same figurative language in his response to the Pharisees as He did in the illustration above.  Jesus still used metaphorical language of “sheep”, “gate”, “thieves and robbers”, and then adds “pastures” which suggests that the “sheep” will be well fed and nourished.

We just finished the last chapter where Jesus was basically accusing the Pharisees as being “blind” religious leaders.  This leads right into this story about those who are the “thieves and robbers”.  The leaders believed they were helping the people by imposing all the religious rituals that they thought would “save” them from sin.

Instead, their regulations and rituals kept them further away from a meaningful relationship with God.  And so, what they thought was for the good of the people actually was harmful to the people.  Thus they could be compared to “thieves and robbers” who destroyed true faith in God for the people.

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On the other hand, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, which we will see that more clearly in our next article.  Jesus is the One who truly cares about the people.  He leads them into places of refuge and safety (the sheepfold within the fenced area).  And He will lead them out into “green pastures” (see Psalm 23), where there is an abundant supply of very nourishing food.  Jesus is the source for us as we hunger for spiritual nourishment.  He will meet our spiritual needs.

But note one very peculiar thing here.  Not only is Jesus metaphorically our Good Shepherd, but He is also the Gate, through which all the sheep (which represent us as people) must go in order to find protection and salvation (going in) and find sustenance and nourishment (going out).  Jesus is both the Shepherd of the sheep and the Gate for the sheep.

This should seem a bit odd, that Jesus was referring to himself as both Shepherd and Gate.  And yet, at the same time, it should not be that odd.  For you see, Jesus was both man (formed into a human body) and also God incarnate (the fullness of God living among us).  This seems to be a paradox, but only because the human mind cannot fully grasp the full reality about the nature of God.

And there is one more mixed metaphor that is definitely worth mentioning here as we consider who Jesus was and what He is able to accomplish for all mankind.  Using the picture language again of Jesus being the Gate, it reveals a truth to us that we can only come to God by going through Jesus.  In John 14:6, Jesus said, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

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We know by reading the New Testament that the means by which Jesus was able to save people from sin was to die on a cross to pay the punishment for our sins.  He was the “perfect sacrifice” offered up to God.  But He rose again, and so is still able to act as our mediator between us and God (see 1 Timothy 2:5).  That means that Jesus was and is both the priest who offers up acceptable sacrifice to God, and at the same time is the perfect sacrifice offered to God.

What a great message is contained for us in this passage.  Jesus is both our Sacrifice and our Savior.  He is our Guard and our Guide.  He is our Helper and our Healer.  Wouldn’t you like to get to know Him better and to experience the full life that He can offer?  Please feel free to write back to me if you have any questions about all this.  And may God bless you richly through Christ our Lord.

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Starting Our Mission Experience In PNG

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Our Orientation To Papua New Guinea

Last week I shared a story about a young couple that had just started their missionary experience in East Africa.  I was very happy to hear how well their first six months went in their new country of residence.  They sounded like they got a good start to learning Swahili, making new friends, and beginning their time of ministry over there.

I also shared the fact that things did not go quite so well for us when our family went over in 2006.  One of the things that was taken for granted, both by ourselves and those with whom we would work, was that we would do well very quickly since we had already served as long-term missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

What we all neglected to realize was that there are huge differences between life in PNG and life in Africa.  In PNG, our family lived in a remote jungle village of about 200 people and learned a Papuan language slowly over the first couple of years.  Whereas in Africa, we were in a city of about 200,000 people and had to start communicating in Swahili within the first few days we were there.  That is why an orientation to the mission field is so important.

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I am very thankful then for the training that our family got in 1997 at the Pacific Orientation Course up on Nobnob Hill near the town of Madang, Papua New Guinea.  Following their advice, we landed in Madang (after 52 hours of travel) and were immediately whisked off to the training center on the hill.  They believed it was best to go straight to the training center so that we did not “learn any bad habits” by being in the country on our own first.

It was certainly a culture shock for us seeing as we left a frigid Canada behind that February and then came into PNG where it is almost always above 90 F year-round on the coast.  The funniest thing happened though when we first entered PNG at the Port Moresby airport.  Jill saw no reason to keep a winter coat, so she stuffed it under the seat ahead on the plane.  In the customs line, they called her name out (oh no!!) and said, “I think this is your coat, Ma’am.”  🙂

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Once we got to the training center, we had more surprises to adjust to.  Back then, when emails and cell phones were just really beginning to take off, we were told that there would be no communication with family or friends except by letter.  (Really??)  The idea then was that if we were to get posted to a remote area that had no contact with the outside world (except by snail mail), then it was important to start practicing what that would be like while in our orientation course.

The other big challenge for some was that they didn’t even want us to bring any soft drink cans into the center.  (That was hard for Jill who liked Coke so much back then, but more in a minute.)  What was more important, was that they helped introduce us slowly week by week into more of the culture of PNG and the trade language Tok Pisin (a pidginized form of English).

Not only did we learn to speak with the local Papuans, we spent time with some of the families that lived around the center.  We were assigned to one family and we were to visit them once a week and begin developing a relationship with them and learn how the average Papuan lived.  We built fires to cook our food, hiked the jungle trails, and constantly worked at language learning.

The big “test” for all of us at this orientation course was to go live in a village with local people for five weeks.  We lived in thatched roof houses just like they did, built fires to cook on, and lived and worked right alongside of the people.  This was definitely a huge challenge, but after preparing for nine weeks at the center, we felt ready to live just like the Papuans.

Now back to Coke.  I knew what a big thing it was for Jill to have to give up Coke for the 3 1/2 months.  Right in the middle of our village living experience we were going to have our “midway visit and evaluation” by the center directors, which just happened to coincide with our wedding anniversary.

So I had prearranged with the directors to spring a surprise on Jill.  We had a very nice visit with them when they came to our village.  We showed them around.  They talked with the people to see how we were doing.  We had our interview with them.  And then we all relaxed when they said we were doing fine.  Then just before the main director got back in his car, he said to Jill that he had a surprise for her in the car, via my request.  She went over and lo and behold, he pulled out an ICE COLD COKE!!  (I got triple stars in her books for that anniversary surprise.)

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Well, if I haven’t been able to get the main point across yet through my stories, here it is: to be able to enter into a cross-cultural environment and have the most effective ministry possible among the people, you really need to have a good orientation period into the local language and culture.  That is not to say that someone cannot minister to people of another culture without any training.

But to really be effective in reaching the people, we need to learn to “live where they live and walk where they walk”.  And how much better it is if we are carefully trained and eased into that environment.  I pray this article will be of help and encouragement to new and aspiring young missionaries.

What Should We Put Our Faith In?

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John 9:35 – 41

35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he went and found the man. Then Jesus asked, “Do you have faith in the Son of Man?” 36 He replied, “Sir, if you will tell me who he is, I will put my faith in him.” 37 “You have already seen him,” Jesus answered, “and right now he is talking with you.” 38 The man said, “Lord, I put my faith in you!” Then he worshiped Jesus.

39 Jesus told him, “I came to judge the people of this world. I am here to give sight to the blind and to make blind everyone who can see.” 40 When the Pharisees heard Jesus say this, they asked, “Are we blind?” 41 Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you claim to see, you will keep on being guilty.”

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We now reach the climax of the story about  when Jesus healed a man who had been blind since birth.  There have been four stages to this story.  First, there was the healing event as recorded in vv. 1-12.  Next, we see the confusion of the Jewish leaders as they wrestled with the miracle which had been performed on the Jewish Sabbath day.  Some leaders were amazed by the miracle, but others who held tightly to their religious ritualism could not accept the idea that Jesus was a man sent by God.

In the third part of the story, the religious leaders questioned the man intently, to find out for sure that he had in fact been blind to begin with, and then to find out what the man thought concerning Jesus.  At this point, the man boldly proclaimed that Jesus must come from God, for never before had this kind of miracle been done among them.  Only a man of God could do such a thing.

It was at this point that the religious leaders “threw him out of the synagogue”.  Now they didn’t literally throw him out of the building.  What this means is that they were cutting him off, excommunicating him, from ever being able to enter back into the synagogue.  That might not mean much to us today, but for that period back then, it was a huge thing.  Let me explain.

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In the Jewish culture of the 1st century, the synagogue was the very center of a person’s life.  It was a wonderful thing when a Jew was able to travel up to the Temple in Jerusalem for one of the main festivals during any given year.  But week by week, Jews would gather on the Sabbath at the local synagogue to worship God, to hear the Word of God (Old Testament) spoken, and then to hear an explanation or teaching on the passage.

The local synagogue was much more though than just a place to gather for weekly worship.  Young children would be educated in the Torah (the five books of Moses), the other parts of Scripture, as well as practical knowledge for every day living.  The synagogues were the educational system of the Jewish people.

And more than that, every important event in a person’s life would most likely have occurred at one’s local synagogue.  For both boys (Bar Mitzvah) and for girls (Bat Mitzvah) there was a public ceremony celebrating the passage of life from childhood to adulthood.  Later, there would be marriage ceremonies and finally funeral events, and many other social activities that would be held at the local synagogue.

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For this young man to then be excommunicated from the synagogue by the religious leaders was to cut him off from every important social and religious event of life.  He would become both socially and religiously an orphan within the community.  No wonder that Jesus went to see him immediately after he had heard that the leaders had cast him out of the synagogue.

And Jesus’ question then holds much more importance in light of all this.  We don’t know how old this man was, but probably he was a young adult of about 20 years or more.  For all of his life, he had put his faith in the religious Jewish system.  But that system had cast him aside.  Now what was he to do about the spiritual needs of his life.

Jesus then asked him such a crucial question: “Do you have faith in the Son of Man?” (This was Jesus’ favorite title for himself.  It speaks of his humanity and his divinity at the same time.)  When this young man fully realized that Jesus, the Son of Man, was the One who had healed him, he knew that he had found the one person in life in whom he could fully put his trust and faith.

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What about you my friend?  Have you been putting your trust in human rituals and human institutions?  At the end of this whole passage, Jesus said that he came “to judge people”.  Within the context, what this means is that he came to reveal to people where they stood.  The message of the Gospel is that we are all guilty of sin in our lives.  But what do we do about that now that we know that or can “see the truth” of that.

Either we can try to hide from that truth, yet still be found guilty of our sins in God’s eyes?  Or we can own up to them, and come to Jesus, the only One who has the authority and right to forgive sins based on the sacrifice of his life upon the Cross.  The religious leaders would not accept that and will be held accountable for that.  We have the chance though to come to Jesus and put our faith in him like the young man.  Only He can heal our bodies and our souls for all eternity.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please share it and invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Young Missionary Couple Start In East Africa

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The Importance Of Orientation On The Mission Field

Entering into an overseas missionary assignment is not as easy as just getting on a plane and moving into a cross-cultural setting and beginning to minister to the people there.  I suppose you could try doing that.  And I know there have been others that have done this, and perhaps have even done well.  But that is probably the exception, not the rule.

You see, there are so many cultural and linguistic barriers that separate us from other people, that one must carefully get trained and equipped to overcome these barriers before effective ministry can really begin to happen.  Below is an except of a newsletter from a young missionary couple who moved to East Africa back in 2010.  Take a look at what they said, being so newly arrived to Africa, and then read about some of our experiences after that.

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 “This month has flown by. We realized it has now been six months since we arrived here in East Africa. It definitely does not seem that long. Looking back, we can see how we have changed, grown and adapted to our new environment. We can also see the incredible amount of blessings God has showered on us. Here’s just a few of the big ones.

Our language learning time was such a blessing. We made many friends and learned so much about the people and culture. A fantastic house became available and the timing was so perfect that we were able to move into it right after language school. We survived our village living and were able to take away so many insights from that experience. And now, we are working full time and things are going well.”

“Another blessing has been our health. We have not had any sicknesses lately which helps us greatly in accomplishing our work. God has also blessed us in the area of friends. He must have known how much we needed good friends to hang out with and relate to while being in such a different culture, because he gave us an amazing team. It has been so wonderful getting to know them and I really feel like we have made some special bonds.

We are also building relationships with a few nationals. It is slow going because of the language barrier but it is most rewarding to be able to connect on common ground. I pray that God is working through us and our slowly improving Swahili to touch their lives.

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 From even just this short report, it is clear that this couple got off to a good start.  They talk about making good friends with others quickly, and how they developed relationships with the national people there.  It is vital that these things happen in order to be effective in Christian ministry, drawing strength from one’s colleagues, as well as building a common ground of friendship with the local people, using the local language as the bridge into their lives.

Unfortunately, things did not go as well for our family when we went over to East Africa in 2006-07.  There are a number of reasons which all added up against us at that time which I don’t need to go into right here.  But probably the greatest of all the mistakes we made, if we can call it that, was that we did not take the time to be properly oriented into the life, culture and language of that country.

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It had been planned from the beginning for us to attend language school to learn Swahili and learn about the culture of East Africa, just like this young couple mentioned above.  We had three choices of where we could do this: two locations were many hours distant from where our mission office was in a large town, or at a language school just outside that town.

We chose the school near our office, partly because we did not want to uproot our family with two teen sons again in a short period of time.  But also because we knew our office was very short handed at that time and we had come specifically to help relieve the workload and leadership responsibilities.  It had been a long time since the leaders had been back home in America and we came to carry the load while they took a break.

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What ended up happening then, is that we drastically cut short our language and culture learning.  I ended up having the most training with just one month at the language school and one month of informal tutoring.  I got to the point that I could greet people, and I knew enough Swahili to pay our guards who watched over our house and yard, but not a whole lot more.

That had great impact negatively on our ability to build relationships with the African people to whom we had come to minister.  We attended a Swahili church, but understood little and had great difficulty being able to worship God, not knowing what was being spoken.  We ended up falling back on speaking English, which limited who we could speak with.

We do know that God used us to help out our East Africa Branch at that time.  But the stress of language and culture barriers were more than we could handle at that time, and our ministry to nationals was minimal for sure.  So if anyone is reading this who wants to minister to people in a cross-cultural setting, please take the time to learn as much language as possible first.  Then see how God can bless you in that new environment, and use you to be a blessing to the people there.

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Where Does Jesus Come From?

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John 9:24 – 34

24 The leaders called the man back and said, “Swear by God to tell the truth! We know that Jesus is a sinner.” 25 The man replied, “I don’t know if he is a sinner or not. All I know is that I used to be blind, but now I can see!”

26 “What did he do to you?” the Jewish leaders asked. “How did he heal your eyes?” 27 The man answered, “I have already told you once, and you refused to listen. Why do you want me to tell you again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 The leaders insulted the man and said, “You are his follower! We are followers of Moses. 29 We are sure that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where Jesus comes from.”

30 “How strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from. 31 We know that God listens only to people who love and obey him. God doesn’t listen to sinners. 32 And this is the first time in history that anyone has ever given sight to someone born blind. 33 Jesus could not do anything unless he came from God.”

34 The leaders told the man, “You have been a sinner since the day you were born! Do you think you can teach us anything?” Then they said, “You can never come back into any of our meeting places!”

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This passage is the third segment of this story about when Jesus healed the man who had been blind since birth.  It is easy to see that this seriously rattled the religious leaders, the Pharisees.  It was their job to not only teach the Laws of God, as they were handed down by Moses.  But it was also their responsibility to guard the people from false teachings which could draw them away from God.

Thus, there was nothing wrong for them to start out by saying, “Swear by God to tell the truth!”  Now this is not the same as cursing or using profanity.  Rather, just as it was with legal cases, a witness was to testify under oath by the highest authority, namely God Himself, that his testimony that he would give was in fact the truth.

No, the problem here is that the Pharisees had already made a decision in their minds about Jesus, and they tried to force the man to agree with their assessment.  The leaders, who were so upset about Jesus breaking their religious ritual of not working on the Sabbath Day, made the conclusion that such a man must be a sinner, guilty of breaking a law of God.

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The man who had been healed though would not give in to this religious prejudice.  Instead, he simply stated what were obvious facts.  Before, he had been blind.  After Jesus touched him, then he could see.  And based on all the religious knowledge he had, the only possible conclusion for him is that Jesus had to have come from God.  That is, Jesus had to have the blessing of God and the authority of God to perform such a miracle.

You know, this story is filled with such irony.  The one who was blind could now see clearly that Jesus was a man of God.  And he challenged these leaders who should have been able to see, but were blind to the truth that was right in front of them.  There was a simple man teaching those who were thought of as the “Teachers” of their society the truth about where Jesus came from.

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As amazing as this story is, with all of its irony, I believe we still have people today who are very much in the dark when it comes to understanding who Jesus really is.  There are many people today that say that Jesus was a good man, and he was a very good teacher.  They consider all the good things Jesus did, and the ethical teachings he taught, but they cannot go further to say that He is “from God”.  Or more importantly, that He is God, the second member of the Trinity.

And yet, if we really look closely at all that Jesus said and did, I believe we cannot hold on to the claim that He was “just a good man, and good teacher”.  In the gospel accounts, Jesus claimed more than once that He would rise from the dead after being crucified on the cross.  (See Mark 8:31; 9:31 and 10:34)  He also made claims of being the Promised Messiah, and that in fact He is God.  (Read carefully John 4:25-26; 5:17-18; and 8:53-59)

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Now if you and I were in a courtroom and heard all the testimony which Jesus gave concerning himself, then we would have to agree with some Christian authors who have said that there are only three choices available to us.  Either Jesus was a lunatic, to believe such grand egocentric ideas that he could rise from the dead and call himself God.  Or he was a liar, who has deceived millions of people over the past two millennium.

Or we have to accept him as Lord, the One who truly has the power to overcome death and is in fact God who has come to live among us.  What we cannot believe is that Jesus was simply a “good man”.  For his claims have to be false, making Him a very bad man.  Or they are true, which makes Him God.  The Pharisees could not see this and accept this.  But the man who once was blind, was now coming to see the truth concerning Jesus and where He came from.  How about you?

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please share it and invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Sunday School In The Jungle

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Transforming Lives In Papua New Guinea

[Editor’s Note:  The following story just arrived in my email Inbox a few days ago, and I wanted to pass it along to my readers right away.  Not only is it fascinating to see how God has used a good friend of mine over the years in a remote area of Papua New Guinea to bring the translated Word of God to the people there, but recently, Martha has been able to help bring Literacy to them as well.

As she has now been able to combine literacy with Scripture translation, via the avenue of the Sunday School program for local villages, slowly but surely a transformation of the people is happening, especially among the children.  Please pray for Martha and the people over there in PNG as you read this story.]

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“Just teach the little kids to pray like you teach your own kids to pray,” I quickly said in response to a question from the leader of another village. In response he said, “My kids don’t pray!  I pray!” His response left me at a bit of a loss and I looked at the couple from another village, who had also come for the Sunday School Teacher Training Course, but they also said, “Our kids don’t pray, we pray.”  

Internally I was thinking, “And these are the people who are supposed to be teaching the kids?” But, externally I said, “This is how we do it here.  I put my hand on the child’s head or shoulder to keep him quiet, and then I tell him to close his eyes and say the exact words that I say.  I say very short sentences like, ‘Big Father, we lift up your name [praise you]. Give us long ears [wisdom]. That is all of my little talk.'”

On Sunday evening when no one had shown up for the Sunday School Course, I had assumed it was cancelled.  No one came on Monday so I worked on translation preparation work and basically didn’t think anything more about the course. Courses normally “lose” people through the week so if you start with “zero”, there is no hope of a course running, but this week was different.”

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“The first leader had started hiking over on Monday, but rain stopped him.  He completed the 4 hour hike on Tuesday morning and said he was ready to start the course.  Teaching one person wasn’t much of an option so I walked to the school to see if two of the teenaged boys would want to attend the course.  

While up there waiting for a school break, the couple hiked in from another village. As they walked by me, the wife said, “My husband just got back yesterday from town, but I got him to come with me today.”  They had hiked over 2 hours to come to the course.  We started that afternoon when the two boys got out of school and then spent another 3 full days going over the material I had prepared.  

A woman from this village joined us on Wednesday and on Thursday, a lady from another distant village happened to come through the village, and decided to join us on Friday.  All of these adults have been Christian leaders in their villages for decades. On Friday morning, I had the teacher trainees explain to the new person each part of the Sunday School routine.  Having them do the “teaching” proved to be a good thing for them and allowed me to give some corrective teaching on parts they had not understood well.”

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“On Wednesday and Thursday we had periodically gathered kids from the village to allow the teachers to teach the lesson that they had just learned.  Then on Friday we “hid” away from the kids in my house and had some serious study time.  They chose a final lesson to teach, prepared their parts and then I went to collect the students.  

I wish I could have recorded the shouts of joy from all the kids when they heard that they were going to have another Sunday School lesson.  They came running from all directions and yelled to their friends to join them. At the end of a fun lesson, the older leader said to the other teachers, “Now don’t you expect it to be like that back in our own villages.  It won’t be. These kids have had years of Sunday School. It won’t go well for us.”  

My first thought was “What a negative thing to say,” but it probably was the truth.  I did, however, encourage them and said, “When we started things here, kids didn’t know anything about the Bible either, but look at them now.” Praise God for Sunday School and for kids who learn so quickly.”

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“Praise God for my sister-in-law, who years ago picked out the lessons to go with our translated material, bought the pictures and reproducible coloring pictures, organized them all and sent them over with all kinds of other helpful supplies such as crayons.  We have been using the materials here for years because I could teach without a written lesson plan, but this year, three more villages will be able to use the beautiful pictures that caught the interest of the adults as well as the kids.

I did have to laugh though when one of the teachers thought a camel was a donkey.  They don’t have those kinds of critters here.  Pray that I can write even better lesson plans for the lessons from Genesis and Exodus. Currently the teachers only have 13 lessons about Jesus’ birth and about his death and resurrection.

What Should We Say About Jesus?

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John 9:13 – 23

13 Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, 14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. 15 The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

17 Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?” The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.” 18 The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”

20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind,21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue.23 That’s why they said, “He is old enough. Ask him.”

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Imagine what it what it would have been like for this young man who had been blind from birth to suddenly be able to see again.  We do not know exactly how old he was, but according to verse 21, he was no longer a child.  In fact, the Greek here implies that he was a young man for he was “of age” or “mature” now.

What happened to this young man was stunning to say the least.  And it left the Pharisees in a huge quandary.  How could they explain what happened?  What were they to do?  What were they to say about this man, Jesus?  Some said that Jesus was not from God, for He broke the Sabbath law handed done by God prohibitting work on the Sabbath day.  Yet others were unsure that such a miracle could be done by anyone unless God were with him.

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For us who live two millennia later and in another culture, it is difficult to see why the Pharisees had such a difficult time with this miracle that Jesus did.  I think it would be good then for to consider the historical and religious background of the whole situation.  To start with, we need to look at the regulations regarding the Sabbath which God spoke to Moses upon Mount Sinai.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  Exodus 20:8-11

Most people are familiar with the “Ten Commandments” that God gave to Moses and the Israelite people.  Keeping the Sabbath holy for the Lord is Law #4.  The intent of this law was that God’s people (and all household members, servants and animals) would rest from their work (a practical issue) and set aside time to worship their Creator God (a theological issue).  All of this was good.

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But the Jewish people seemed to always get it backwards somehow.  In the Old Testament period, from the time of Moses until the time of the Exile hundreds of years later, the people couldn’t get the idea straight that God was their one and only God and King (theocratic monarchy).  And because of their polytheism (worshiping multiple gods), the LORD God sent them into Exile to disciple them for this sin.

Amazingly, when the Jews came back less than a century later, they were from that point on a completely monotheistic people.  The problem is they were so fanatical about their desire not to offend God, that they created hundreds of laws to regulate every day living and created ritualistic legalism, and forgot the importance of having a living and dynamic relationship with God.

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And so the control of the Pharisees became almost tyrannical in nature, even though they really believed they were helping the people to be in right relationship with God.  When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, they could not see the miracle (or the Man behind the miracle) because of their over inflated importance of keeping their “religious rituals” intact.

You know, there is an important application for us here for today.  When you get to the real root of the practices of the Pharisees, they believed that it was utterly important what you did in order to be acceptable in God’s sight.  And we have this tendency among people today.  It is still believed that “if I am a good person and do the right things, then I will be accepted by God and will enter Heaven.”

My friend, there is so much more to faith than rules and regulations.  Ultimately, all of us will also have to decide what we will do with Jesus and what we will say about Him.  Follow along in the next two Bible study articles on John 9 to see the progression of faith in this young man and learn from him.  My prayer is that you will see Jesus for who He really is.

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