07.5 BSF Matthew Week 7, Day 5

Today’s Scriptures

My Daily Journal:

“Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  This line from Matt 6:34 made me laugh out loud because it is so true and so ridiculously shows my approach to life.  I worry.  I get stressed about the balls I’m dropping, the things I’m leaving undone.  I worry about the things I have forgotten or not done fully.

But it is like looking at the calendar and going, “Oh, a week from Tuesday, hmmmm, it doesn’t look there is going to be enough trouble on that day… I should probably find something to worry about so I can add some much needed stress and trouble to that day.”   I know, ridiculous, right?  But that is what I’m doing when I worry.  And, what does my worry gain – not a single positive thing.  Lot’s of negative things (health, hair, happiness), but nothing positive.

The lessons over the past couple of weeks have been very convicting to me.  Let me use an analogy to explain.  My kids participate in the county fair and take a number of entries, particularly in the foods category.  In the baked goods area there are basically two types of entries, decorated cakes and then things like breads and pies and cookies.  Cake decorating is all about the outside appearance: icing, fondant, piping, decorating.  When a loaf of bread comes in, however, one of the first things the judge does is to take a knife and cut it right down the middle.  They are looking for consistency, doneness, texture, smell, etc.  While I would prefer to be a decorated cake, in God’s judgment, I am a loaf of bread.  The way I live and act among other believers at Church and BSF, how much I pray or listen to Christian radio, all of that is icing.  The pharisees and hypocrites were masters at icing.  We try to use icing to cover up flaws over here and redirect attention over there.  But God slices right down the middle and his expectation is that my faith permeates my life consistently.  If my interactions with co-workers or my family or difficult people (other drivers on the road) doesn’t reflect His mercy and bring honor to Him, then I have opportunity for improvement.  The answer isn’t more icing.  The answer is to continue to ask the Holy Spirit to permeate every minute of my day.  When I hold back things from Him, when I continue to think I need to come up with the answer and/or do it on my own, I show that I don’t trust Him with that part of my life.  That is a ridiculous thing to do.  Am I not more valuable than a bird.  Do I not have more worth to God than a flower in the field.  Put righteousness first, not just at church and bsf, but in everything.

My Answers:

life, what you will eat or drink, about your body, what you will wear

26: birds eat, you are more valuable, 28-30 clothing = flower, 31-33 eat, drink, wear – trust God and put righteousness first and all will be provided 25 is not life more than food, body more than clothes, 27 life: can worry add 1 more hour?

All of them.  Not so much for self but for loved ones.

07.4 BSF Matthew Week 7, Day 4

Today’s Scripture

My Daily Journal:

I wouldn’t call it a treasure, but it is definitely something people hold on to, sometimes even to the grave.  Call it righteous indignation, personal justice, the need to get even, to get back, to set the record straight.  It is ugly, but it is also very, very human.

I know “christians” who have said of a family member, “I will never forgive them.  What they did was beyond forgiveness.”  But Jesus teaches that our forgiveness is conditional.  We are forgiven as we forgive.  And if we do not forgive others, then we will not be forgiven.  We may try to justify it and claim what they did was worse than what we do.  But, I don’t see that covered in these words of our Lord.  Either forgive or forfeit your own forgiveness.  It is another of those “free choices” we get to make.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning their behavior.  It doesn’t even necessarily mean reconciliation.  It simply means that we no longer hold their transgression against them and, I believe, pray that God turn them back to Him.  This is hard.

It brings to mind the book, Amish Grace, How Forgiveness Transcends Tragedy.  If you haven’t read it, here is the synopsis from Amazon:

On Monday morning, October 2, 2006, a gunman entered a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. In front of twenty-five horrified pupils, thirty-two-year-old Charles Roberts ordered the boys and the teacher to leave. After tying the legs of the ten remaining girls, Roberts prepared to shoot them execution style with an automatic rifle and four hundred rounds of ammunition that he brought for the task. The oldest hostage, a thirteen-year-old, begged Roberts to “shoot me first and let the little ones go.” Refusing her offer, he opened fire on all of them, killing five and leaving the others critically wounded. He then shot himself as police stormed the building. His motivation? “I’m angry at God for taking my little daughter,” he told the children before the massacre.

The story captured the attention of broadcast and print media in the United States and around the world. By Tuesday morning some fifty television crews had clogged the small village of Nickel Mines, staying for five days until the killer and the killed were buried. The blood was barely dry on the schoolhouse floor when Amish parents brought words of forgiveness to the family of the one who had slain their children.

The outside world was incredulous that such forgiveness could be offered so quickly for such a heinous crime. Of the hundreds of media queries that the authors received about the shooting, questions about forgiveness rose to the top. Forgiveness, in fact, eclipsed the tragic story, trumping the violence and arresting the world’s attention.

Within a week of the murders, Amish forgiveness was a central theme in more than 2,400 news stories around the world. The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, NBC Nightly News, CBS Morning News, Larry King Live, Fox News, Oprah, and dozens of other media outlets heralded the forgiving Amish. From the Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates) to Australian television, international media were opining on Amish forgiveness. Three weeks after the shooting, “Amish forgiveness” had appeared in 2,900 news stories worldwide and on 534,000 web sites.

Fresh from the funerals where they had buried their own children, grieving Amish families accounted for half of the seventy-five people who attended the killer’s burial. Roberts’ widow was deeply moved by their presence as Amish families greeted her and her three children. The forgiveness went beyond talk and graveside presence: the Amish also supported a fund for the shooter’s family.

This is the light and salt we are called to be as Christians.  Impossibly difficult? Without God’s help it would be impossible.

My Answers:

money, possessions, friends, minions, praise, name…. None of these last past death.  Time spent teaching is never lost. Time spent loving others in God’s name survives all.

Honor of God, Disciples brought to Him and/or trained.  Love invested in others for His sake.  Light and Salt.

Psalm:Law from your mouth is more precious that silver and gold
Luke:Do not store up riches for yourself on earth, but store up riches in heaven
1 Cor:God’s preparations are greater than anything we have experienced or can imagine
2 Cor:What is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal
Phil:On knowing Christ, everything else is as garbage
1 Pete:inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade

It is their addiction.  What they put above everything else.  Our “talents” are minutes on this earth, given to us to invest.  Spending that time in meaningless self accumulation is not an investment

I serve the Lord.  I seek to reflect His light in all aspects of my life.  I struggle and sin, but I put my trust in Him

Fear.  I know I need to trust in Him unyielding in all aspects of my life, but I fear I am missing something or letting something drop, not living up to expectations, not doing enough

Sin so often begins with where our eyes go.  Eve “saw that it was good”.  What we allow our eyes to see is then in us.  If we fill our senses with Godly things, then Godly things fill our life

07.3 BSF Matthew Week 7, Day 3

Today’s Scriptures

My Daily Journal:

I’m really feeling for the Teaching Leaders this week and their closing prayer.  I’m guessing they will all be short and to the point with no “babbling”. 🙂

But with prayer and giving, I think we need to be careful not to get confused.  The emphasis is not on secrecy, it is on honoring and glorifying God.  Someone can give / donate secretively without it giving glory to God.  Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the secrecy that lessons are missed.  I think it is important for our children to learn the importance of tithing and to know their parents honor God that way.  They is not to bring glory to the parents, it is an example that is set that is in accordance with the scriptures.  I think it is also important that our children and spouses see us study the scriptures and pray.

I also don’t read this passage as an indictment against rote / memorized prayer.  Praying the scriptures can be a very important and meaningful method of praying and one Jesus modeled and taught us to use.  I don’t think chanting something makes it have magical powers.  But I think relying on the comfort of scripture-based prayers, either spoken or in song, can be an important way of conversing with and honoring the Lord.  David seemed to do a lot of this in the Psalms.

I also liked that the Luke passage was brought in.  We are not supposed to beg in prayer, just like we don’t want our children to give us puppy dog eyes and says “please, please, please, please, please…”  That is annoying and not honoring.  But it is appropriate that every time a thought or need ways on our mind and heart we turn that over to God.  If I am have fears or worries about something, I’m to trust God with that every time it comes into my consciousness.  There is nothing wrong with persistence.


My Answers:

do not keep babbling like pagans, thinking they will be heard for their many words.  God knows what you need before you ask Him.

no babbling.  Trust God and say what needs to be said, period.  But pray each time it comes to mind/heart

More trust and conversation, less begging and whining

God you are holy and above all.  I long for your rule over both heaven and earth.  Fulfill my daily needs, forgive my transgressions but hold me accountable to honor you in my thoughts and actions.  Protect me from temptation and evil and save me from sin

Prayer is a personal conversation with my Lord and King.  I need to be honoring and respectful and trusting and humble.  All is in His power and I need to trust all to Him.

To be persistent but not begging.  To trust Him, but to also clearly and repeatedly ask for His intervention

I talk with God in quiet ways and turn to Him in obedience, but I don’t journal the way I should or set a time of disciplined daily prayer


07.2 BSF Matthew Week 7, Day 2

Today’s Scriptures

My Daily Journal:

Our instruction in the scriptures today reminded me of the Goofus and Gallant cartoons we would read in Highlight Magazine.  The cartoons always featured two young boys with a choice to make and Goofus always made the wrong choice.  The simple message was, don’t be a Goofus.GnG

In this passage, Jesus is speaking to us in the same way.  “You see the Hypocrites (Goofus)?  Don’t do that!”

But the message goes one step further because there is also a “because” in the message.  There is a reward.  Let’s face it, we are all motivated by rewards.  They can be sticks or carrots, i.e., avoidance of negative consequences or desire for receiving positive rewards.  They can be extrinsic or intrinsic, but it is a simple part of being human.  God doesn’t deny that for us, instead He provides it.  Jesus doesn’t say not to be a Goofus just because He says so.  But instead because we are going to miss out on the bigger reward.

There was a game show (I’m not remembering the name so someone might have to help me) where the contestants were allowed to pick between what was behind Door #1 and Door #2.  Door #1 is the things we can see in this world.  If we choose the rewards behind Door #1, we forfeit what is behind Door #2.  You don’t get both.  But here is the deal.  With God as the host, Door #2, the unseen rewards in heaven, is always better.  Always!


My Answers:

“When you”, “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”
“do not… like hypocrites”

they have received their reward in full – reminds me of Goofus and Gallant in Highlights

serve, give, help, but do so humbly and to the honor of God

trust, patience, honor

better than thou attitude.  Christian righteousness. Using religious symbols to further work (fish/cross)

heavenly rewards.  Good gifts of honor and recognition

by accepting worldly recognition, they do so at the forfeiture of heavenly recognition. Door #1

Do things for God’s glory and trust God to honor what honors Him.  Focus on Righteousness

Getting Excited for Matthew

I am really excited to begin our study of Matthew this year.

I had a great summer and participated in a 10 week Precept In and Out study on Revelation Part 1 which covered the letters to the churches.  It was a great study and I’m both excited and nervous about studying the Book of Revelation in BSF in a couple of years.

There are so many new great things in BSF this year.  We had our first leaders’ meeting last weekend and I left very fired up in the spirit.  I don’t want to take away the thunder from your group so I’m trying to keep quiet on the changes, but there is one I have to praise: memory verses.  I’m a children’s leader and in the lower levels we really emphasis putting God’s word in your heart and memory each week.  Every week we have a specific memory verse that ties to our lesson and we spend the last 15 minutes of the night going over fun ways, such as songs, rhythms, pictures, and hand motions to memorize the verse and its address in scripture.  Starting with the new format of Matthew not only is a weekly memory verse front and center in the children’s lesson, but it is now also printed on everyone’s lesson!  I think this is such a great addition and I’m challenging everyone to take 15 minutes in your week and just memorize it.  At the end you will have 30 verses tucked away in your head and heart and you will be amazed at how often you use them in your daily language and discussions.

For the blog, I am making a few changes/improvements as well.  You may have already noticed a new visual theme (thanks WordPress!).  I picked this theme because it has a great mobile view and, as more and more people are doing their study on iPads, Kindle and other mobile devices, this is increasingly important.  It also is very clean and prints well.  I’m still including links to the scriptures, but I’m going to change the order of my posts and put my Daily Journal at the top and my answers to questions below.  With more personal applications questions in the study this year, I want to move the emphasis of writing to application of the Big God Story and less on my particular answer to question 7b.

I get to work with Level 1 this year, 1st and 2nd grade, and I am very excited.  The faith these young children have and their openness to diving deep into the Word of God always impresses and humbles me.  When God provides the instructors, our Children’s Administrator said we might split and form 2 Level 1 classes.  I know many BSF classes are struggling to fill all levels of their children’s program but it is so exciting to think we have so many Dads wanting to bring their young children that we may need 2 classes.  Praise the Lord.

I’m asking for more dialog this year on this blog, more comments, more questions, more sharing.  We are not trying to duplicate a BSF class, that is not the point.  But God is big and His church is big and we can learn from each other in many ways and through shared experiences.  Thanks for being part of the journey with us.

BSF Genesis: Week 5, Lecture

Life is hard.  Ever since Adam and Eve choose sin, it has tried to jump out and harm us and attack us and draw us away from God over and over and over again.

The bible doesn’t teach us that if we follow God everything is smooth sailing.  Just the opposite.  God tells us to hold on.  But God allows us to choose what we hold on to.

In our lesson tonight we learn about Cain.  Cain decided to hold on to himself.  As we read the verses you can almost see him standing there, pouting with his arms crossed tightly across his chest.  Shut off, defiant, clinging only to himself.

What a dumb thing to hold onto when things get tough.  God says that he is our rock and foundation.  God invites us to let go and cling to him.  God says he never loses a member of his flock.

But let’s look at Cain and what he clings to and how that works for him.

In our first section we are introduced to Cain and Abel.  Cain was a farmer and Abel was a rancher or shepherd.  They were brothers and Cain was the first born son of Adam and Eve.  We don’t know how old they were when our story picks up, but we know people lived for a long time in those days, hundreds of years, but we are brought into the story at a critical point – a point where Cain and Abel brought an offering to the Lord.

We see that both brought a portion of the product of their labor.  But it is also clear that the manner in which they brought it and the nature of the offering were different.  Cain brought “some”.  Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.

A key difference is in what they were willing to give up or sacrifice to God.  When Abel brought the best of what he had, first, he had to recognize that it was the best.  Second, he had to be willing to sacrifice it, to give it up.  In so doing, he opened the door for God to give him something even greater than what he had produced that had been his best.  And we see that God poured out his favor on Abel AND on his offering.

But that isn’t what happened with Cain.  Cain gave.  He may have given more than Abel, we don’t know.  His offering may have been worth more on the grain market, but there isn’t any indication that he gave the best.  It says he gave “Some”, but it does not say that he gave the best of what he produced.  Meaning, he held onto to that.  He kept what he considered to be best on his own little trophy case, rather than clearing room for the type of trophy God wanted him to have.

What happened?  Cain became very angry and downcast.  Pay attention to that last part.  If you are downcast, where is your focus?  Is it up and to God?  Is it forward and positive?  Remember what happened when Eve filled her vision with the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Look at where Cain has his eyes.

God doesn’t need our stuff.  We need to let go.  God teaches us how to do this in his word and by his example.  What did He give?  In addition to everything that exists in the physical universe, He also gave His only Son.  Jesus is the only acceptable sacrifice.

  • What are you doing in “half-hearted faith”?
  • Where do you need to give 100% of your heart?
  • What have you earned or achieved that you are having a hard time removing from your life because “it is so great”?

In our next section, we see that Cain’s actions soon follow his eyes.  But, it is important to realize it did not have to be this way.  God loved Cain so much that he sat down and talked to him, one-on-one (maybe three on one with the whole trinity thing, but you get the point).  God offers him a do-over.  God warns him about the door he is so focused on, the one that follows his downcast gaze, i.e., the door that leads further down.  God tells him, sin is crouching at that door.  You have the power to rule over it, don’t let it pounce on you.  Now, if something is crouching right outside your door waiting to pounce, how are you going to keep it from pouncing on you?  Duh! Use a different door.  God is holding open the door back to him, but…

Soon, Cain commits premeditated murder.  He lures his brother out into a field and whacks him (in the literal sense).  It’s done.  The first recorded death of a human and it is committed by another human.

So God immediately rains down condemnation on Cain, right?  Actually, no.  God’s first action is to offer Cain an opportunity to confess and repent.  “Where is your brother, Abel?”

But Cain doesn’t confess or repent.  He doesn’t fall down and cry out to God.  He keeps going right through that door.  He follows murder with lies and denial and condescension.  “I don’t know.”  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God cries out to him to listen and see what he has done.  To recognize his action and change; to see the consequences and curse that he has brought onto himself from the very land that he relies on for a living as a farmer.

But, Cain chooses to close the door.  In verse 14 Cain says to God.  I will be hidden from your presence. Click.

  • What more could God have done to bring Cain back to him?  All he had to do was repent.  But lying and denying are like going the wrong way down the one way street that is supposed to lead back to God.  Should it be any wonder to us if we get hit by a bus?
  • What are you lying about or denying?
  • What are you trying to keep hidden in your life from God?  How is that working out?
  • Where do you complain that what you face is “too much” or “too hard” while at the same time contributing to making it even more, harder and worse?

Our third section gives us insight into the life of Cain.  Clearly, God still saw him, even if he chose not to see God (it is written down in the bible, right).

We see God continued to provide.  He gave gifts of music and carpentry and architecture and craftsmanship and arts.  And what did Cain’s children do?  They denied God.

Look at verses 17-24.  What’s not mentioned?  God.  I looked back starting in Genesis 1:1 and would encourage you to as well.  This is the longest number of verses so far with no mention of God.  In Genesis 1 it is hard to go a single verse without God.  But here, we go multiple generations.  What is the focus?  On accomplishments, on talents, on celebrity and commerce.  Add in a best dressed list and this could be daytime TV.

Not only is there no mention of God, but they quickly take the things that come from God and twist them and misuse them.  Think about it?  How did Cain get married?  Not just where did he find a wife, but actually, who married them?  How did they enter into a holy covenant without God?  Is it any wonder then that a few generations down that sacrament gets stretched further?  Why not marry 2 wives?  Why not kill someone and claim 11 times the protection for it that God offered to Cain?  Why not sing about it?  Wives… I’ve killed a man….

But what will all of this bring them?  All of these accomplishments without faith?  I don’t want to jump ahead, but come back and you learn about how they end up “all wet.”

  • What accomplishment are you holding onto as being yours instead of God’s?
  • Where do you focus on the performer or celebrity instead of the divine who gave the talent?
  • Are you spending your time reading People or reading God?

BSF Genesis: Week 4, Day 4

Today’s Scriptures


a. They realized they were naked

b.  They hid because they were afraid because they realized they were naked

a. The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it — Absolutely not

The serpent deceived me, and I ate.

Adam and Eve – all of mankind bears the responsibility to this day, outside of the saving act of Jesus, who bore that responsibility on the cross for those who believe.

Sin changes my perspective, as it did theirs. I’m also convicted by their denial of responsibility because I do that as well.

My Daily Journal:

Sin changes our perspective.  It changes not only what we see but also how we see it.  The verse says, “then the eyes of both of them were opened.”  We tend to assign positive traits to open eyes, but that is only accurate in positive situations.  Open eyes around a welding torch results in permanent loss of vision.  Open eyes in a sand or dust storm results in pain and suffering.  Strongs dictionary explains that one use of the word open that appears in this verse is “to enable to see things, which otherwise are hidden from the eyes of mortals.”  There are things we are not supposed to see, things that are better that we don’t see and things that we will only see in heaven.  Having our eyes shielded in not a bad thing, any more than sunglasses or safety goggles are bad things.  Because, as we see from Adam and Eve having our eyes open when our focus is not on God streams in things that fill our heart with fear.

This brings up my other observation about perspective.  Because of their ability to see shame and nakedness and fear, that is where their eyes and heart went.  In the process, they missed out on the amazing beauty hidden in these verses.  Take out all of the stuff about sin, nakedness, shame, fear, and blame from these verses and what you are left with is the following: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?””  Can you even picture the beauty of that scene?  But it was totally missed.

Finally, a nugget that I didn’t realize before, but that I think will help with day 5 of our lesson this week.  In verse 7 it says, Then the eyes of both of them were opened.  I didn’t recognize, before, that this came onto them simultaneously.