Tuesday, June 06, 2006

God's Most Important Law, Love

This may be the last of the saved(!) Release Time lessons I'd kept over these many years, so I'm wondering what'll be next on this blog?

Mark 12:28-31

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" 29 Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Luke 10:27

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

Because God loves us and wants the very best for us, he has given us laws, rules and guidelines to help us live our lives I the best way. A long time ago, long before Jesus came to live among us, God gave commandments, or laws to his people. God also began showing them in special ways through some of his leaders how he wants people to live.

A lot of times we get confused about the right way to do something. The people in Jesus' day also got confused. Some very sincere people had the idea that God's way was too simple, so they added hundreds of rules of their own to God's rule. Following these human-made rules became so important and difficult that they forgot God's most basic commandment: to love God, your neighbor – or other people – and yourself.

So that everybody, everywhere, could live their lives together according to God's way, God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to teach and show all of us how to live. Because of Jesus' birth and life among us as one of us, his death on the cross of Good Friday and God's raising Christ to new life on Easter Sunday morn, we can be forgiven if we break God's law. When we are forgiven for doing something wrong, it means we can make a brand new beginning.

As we read the Gospels and learn about Jesus' life, we see and read about God's most important law or commandment of love, which is kindness in action and attitude. Jesus showed us that:
  1. Love has nothing to do with how we may feel at that moment;
  2. Love means we try our best to see the other person and his/her needs clearly;
  3. When we love, we sometimes have to forget about what we want;
  4. When we love, we help bring about God's reign or rule on earth. We also show other people what God's love is like, and help bring them closer to him.
Let's talk about:
  1. How does God want us to act toward each other?
  2. What one word tells us God's most important commandment?
  3. Why does God want us to treat each other this way?
  4. Who showed us how to do this commandment?
  5. Name some ways we can love each other.
Draw a picture that shows people helping, listening, being friends—showing each other God's love in some way.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Free in God's Kingdom

This may be the very last Release Time lesson, but at any rate, it's among the last. I love the Cosmic Christ of Colossians! In some texts indisputably by him, Paul of Tarsus is so into the Servant Jesus, while this deutero-Paul guy(?) presents us with the Pantocratur. Talk about phenomenally evocative imagery! In some ways this lesson is almost trivial, but again the longish scripture passage became an opportunity for words and Word to resonate.


• Strong

• Power

• Rescue

• darkness

• free

• Death

• redemption

• forgiven

• kingdom

• image

• created

• visible

• dwell

• reconcile

• peace

Colossians 1:11-20

11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers--all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

What does it mean to be free? Can you think of a time you couldn't do what you wanted? Couldn't go where you wanted? Couldn't dress the way you wanted to dress? In some ways you weren't free at those times.

God tells all of us in his Word, the Bible, that we need to know him in his Son, Jesus Christ, if we really want to be really free!!! The Bible tells us that as long as we do, say, or think unkind and unloving things we are not living like people who know Jesus and are followers of Jesus. The Bible tells us that when we act unloving and unkind we are unfree because we're not acting in the way that God says is best for us and for those around us. If we don't try our very best to treat each other with kindness and love, people will be afraid and unsure of what's going to happen to them. They'll want to protect and defend themselves, which will give them little time for caring about others. Can we live together and trust one another in that kind of world?
  • How do followers of Jesus act?
  • Are we following Jesus?
  • How do we act in different situations? Give some examples.
Jesus showed us how to live in this world so everyone is free because they've learned to live together in kindness and love. Jesus also gave us another very important kind of freedom; he gave us forgiveness of all our sin. Because we are forgiven, everything we've ever done wrong in the past is completely wiped out. It's as if we'd never done it, so we can live our lives right here and right now without even thinking about those parts of the past we'd just as soon forget.

Jesus gave us forgiveness by dying on the cross for us on Good Friday and by being raised from the dead to new life for us on Easter Sunday. In Jesus Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection God's plan for us to live close to him and to each other was fulfilled, or completed. Because of Jesus' death and resurrection we are free from the past mistakes and sins that separate us from one another.

When God forgives us and makes us free, we also become part of God's family, or Kingdom, the Reign or Rule of God here on earth.
  • What is a Kingdom?
  • Who is the Ruler or King in God's Kingdom?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

New Life in Jesus Christ

Another Release Time offering; I know it's a l-o-n-g passage from Romans, but I figured it was worth it so the kids could begin to become familiar with the text.
Romans 8:1-11

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 Since the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

  • Did you ever do something a teacher, parent or someone else in authority told you not to do? What was it? Why did you do it? Did that person find out about it? What happened? How did you feel?
  • Did you ever do something against one of God's commandments? Why? What happened? How did you feel?
Because God loves us and wants the best for us, he gave us Commandments or guidelines for living. The Bible reading from Paul's letter to the church at Rome calls the commandments the law. Sin, or separation from God and others, happens whenever we disobey God's law. Whenever we sin, for us to be made righteous, or right again in God's sight, we need to be forgiven. In addition, God's holiness demands punishment for any sin or wrongdoing.

Because God loves us, God did what we couldn't do for ourselves; God came into this world in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a perfect life, and took the punishment for our sin. Jesus died on the cross on the day we now call Good Friday to bear the punishment for everything that separates us from God and to forgive us, so we could live reunited with God, one another and all creation. On the first Easter Sunday, God raised Jesus from the dead to a brand new life. Jesus died on the cross so our sin and the cost of sin would be wiped out; he rose from the dead so that we could be right again in God's sight. Because God raised Jesus from death to new life, each one of us can have that new Easter life; no longer are separated from God and from one another, but we have been reunited or reconciled with God, our neighbors and all creation.
  • What does it mean to be forgiven? (Hint: think of the word "give.")
When we believe that God loves us and wants to give us new life in his son, Jesus Christ, we become members of God's own family, the church. In Romans, Paul says we begin living "in Christ." We begin living as God wants us to live.
  • How does God want us to live? Why?
When we believe God has forgiven us and given us new life in Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection, God's Holy Spirit comes to live in us. The Holy Spirit helps us obey God's commandments. The Holy Spirit also helps us receive God's free gift of forgiveness and new life we need whenever we disobey and sin.
  • What does it mean to you to be forgiven?
  • Do you believe God loves you and forgives you?