NEWLETTER BIBLE STUDIES
Sun City Community Church puts out a Newsletter every two months. Pastor Greg Merrill has been writting a short Bible Study for it and now we will be also printing those studies on this page of our website. Enjoy!
Jul/Aug 2019 PREPARE YOUR HEART
When David prayed for the people he said "…prepare their heart unto thee." 1Ch 29:18. Have you ever prayed for God to change your heart, or someone else's heart? In this preparation process, just as a farmer makes changes in the soil before planting anything, or a sculptor makes softening changes in the clay before sculpting it, God makes changes in one's heart for it to be ready to receive Him and His Word, or to do His will. There is no one so exalted in life that they are beyond God's touch. "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water; he (God) turneth it whithersoever he will."
In Jer 18:4 "the vessel…was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it." God was speaking of Israel, but He may as well have been speaking to us as individuals. We are not perfect, and need changes. Jer 18:6 "O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand…" Before a doctor even prepares for surgery, they ask us to prepare by not eating the night before. Before God would use Ezra in the land of Israel, Ezra in the land of Babylonia would prepare his own heart. "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." Ezr 7:10.
With Pharaoh (in Moses' day) God had a hardening effect on his heart. With Hezekiah, many years later, God had a softening effect on his heart. Like Pharaoh, godly King Hezekiah was facing his own problems, and God said he would die. Yet by answered prayer God gave him fifteen more years of life. Though he experienced bitterness (hardship), in Isa 39:15 Hezekiah says "…I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul." Even though he had always lived a good life before God, and could have chose to be angry with God for the troubles he now faced, Hezekiah chose the better way to respond to the hardship God allowed in his life. We can respond to our troubles with hardness of heart, anger and complaining, or we can respond with softness of heart, depending on how we yield to God. Paul said "…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." Php 4:11.
As Pastor Dan has been teaching us from Luke 8, God compares the different types of people's "hearts of receptivity to Him" as different types of "soils" to be planted in.
May our hearts not be fields of neglect that we have not prepared for Him, but may we prepare them for Him to plant seeds that will yield a bountiful crop of the fruit of the Spirit (Ga 5:22, 23), and may we be sculpted into beautiful works of art that are also used in practical ways that God will be pleased with.
May/Jun 2019 OUR LORD JESUS, THE BRANCH
As we study the Bible, we find that Jesus is referred to in several verses as "The Branch."
Read these following verses and picture JESUS as you read "Branch."
Isa 4:2 "In that Day shall the BRANCH of the LORD be glorious and beautiful…"
11:1,2 "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a BRANCH shall grow out of his
roots. And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,…"
Jer 23:5,6 "behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous BRANCH,
and a King (Jesus) shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
…and this is his name…THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (See Phil 3:9)
Jer 33:15 "In those days, and at that time, will I cause the BRANCH of righteousness to grow up unto
David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land."
Zec 3:8b "…for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH."
Zec 6:12b "…Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH, and he shall grow up out of his place
(Heaven), and he shall build the temple of the LORD."
In John 15:5 we Christians can see our relationship to Jesus is like branches, like Father like son.
"I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."
Long before any verse in the Bible was written, God named the constellations and the main stars of those constellations (Ps 147:4). He gave them names that would tell the story of Christ to the world. "As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, WHICH HAVE BEEN SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN:" Lk 1:70. Man didn't exist when the world began (not until the 6th day), but the stars God named existed on the 4th day and possibly before that, with their light hidden. Ps 19:2 & Ro 10:18 tell of them speaking, by way of the meaning of their names, to all the people of the world, of every century, every day and night. In just one of the constellations, The Virgin (Virgo, the first one in God's procession of them across the sky), there is a star whose ancient, God-given name is "Tsemech", Hebrew for "The Branch." Another star is named "Zerah" (The Seed). A number of verses in the Bible refer to Jesus as "The Seed." We have seen how He is referred to as the Branch, and we know that both Mary gave birth to Him while she was a virgin, and that the nation of Israel is also referred to in Scripture as "The Virgin" (Isa 37:22).
Within this constellation (Virgo) is also a small group of stars called "Comah," that ancient star charts pictured as a boy (Jesus) on the lap of the virgin. Not only is there all this Biblical correlation to Jesus in this one constellation of "The Virgin", there is correlation to the various aspects of the life of Christ in the battle between God and the Devil in the rest of the 47 ancient constellations, but space doesn't permit me to share that here. Jesus, the Seed, The Branch; and Isaiah 9:6 says “His name shall be called ‘Wonderful’”.
Mar/Apr 2019 RESURRECTION
When we think of Easter, the one word that always should come to mind is "resurrection". In fact many Christians would rather not say "Happy Easter" but "Happy Resurrection Day". The Bible doesn't just speak of the resurrection of Jesus (in the four gospels and Acts), but the topic of the resurrection can be found in all of the five major TIME PERIODS of Bible history after the first 11 chapters of Genesis, which are "The Law", "The Prophets", "New Testament History" (The four gospels, and the book of Acts), "The Epistles", and "The book of Revelation".
"The Law" is the oldest of these time periods, records how everything began, and is found near the beginning of our Bibles. Though the story of Job is not found in the section of books of the Bible we call "The Law", Job's story took place during this time period, probably some 500 years before Moses, in the time of Abraham, about 2,000 B.C. Regarding the subject of "resurrection" Job writes in Job 19:26 "And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God". So in the first of the five time periods that the Bible can be divided into, we find Job speaking of the resurrection.
In the second time period of "The Prophets", we find the resurrection spoken of by one who was both a prophet and Israel's greatest king, King David. He says in Psalms 16:10b "…neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." The body of Christ (the Holy One) would not decay in a grave, but would be raised from the dead! In this same section of "The Prophets", Daniel also writes on the subject of resurrection when he speaks of how the believing JEWS will be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation Period. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth (in graves) shall awake (rise from the dead)", Dan 12:2. See also Isa 26:19.
In the third time period, "New Testament History", we find that "resurrection of resurrections" in the resurrection of Him that IS "The Resurrection" (Jn 11:25). In Mt 28:6 the angel declares "He is risen.", using what has become a "cry of Easter"! In this same section Jesus also speaks of the resurrection of believers in John 5:28,29a.
"…all that are in the graves shall hear (my) voice, And shall come forth, they that have done good (believers), unto the resurrection of life…"
In the fourth time period of the Bible, "The Epistles", Paul speaks of both the resurrection and the rapture in 1Co 15:51-53 and 1Th 4:13-18. "… We shall not all sleep (die)…we shall all be changed,… the dead shall be raise… the dead in Christ shall rise…we which are alive…shall be caught up…in the clouds…" This is when most of the believers that Jesus was referring to in Jn 5:29a are resurrected, though there will be Tribulation saints (believers) that are resurrected later.
Finally, we come to the fifth time period of Bible history, the Book of Revelation, and this is where we find the account of the fulfillment of what Jesus said in the last part of Jn 5:29 where he said "…and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." This is when the unbelievers are resurrected right before they are to be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment, which is recorded in Rev 20:12. This resurrection of unbelievers of course is not a joyous occasion at all, unlike the resurrection of believers who have all called on and received Jesus as their Savior.
During this "Easter season" may we find ourselves celebrating our inclusion in the death, burial, and resurrection of Him that died in our place, paying for our sins; who rose from the dead, and who will one day raise from the dead all that place their trust in Him as well.
Jan -Feb 2019 HOW IS OUR SPIRIT CLOTHED AFTER DEATH?
How is our spirit clothed after death? 2 Corinthians 5:1 gives us the answer in the phrase "a building of God." This is not a building made or given to us by God.
This house is God Himself. God is not going to give us a house or a mansion or a similar "dwelling place" to live in. He is going to have us live inside Himself. This is not a house made up of wood or stucco. It is made up of God. The building is God Himself. We will be housed in God. Let's look at the verse and then the words that make up the verse.
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
"Earthly" means it is located on earth, not that it is made 'of' earth. This earthly "house," is a physical place of abode, a place we live in and have our home.
Before it speaks of our future house after our death, it speaks of our earthly house, our human, physical body.
"Of," of this tabernacle, made up of, what it is made of; blood, bones, muscles, etc., etc. Some houses are made of wood, stone, or some other material things.
"This tabernacle" (body) is like a tent, a temporary abode of our spirit. People usually camp in tents, but don't permanently live in them. This tabernacle is the corruptible, mortal human body we live in temporarily until our spirit leaves it at death.
"Dissolved" speaks of the processes our dead bodies go through at cremation, or under the sea, or in a casket over time.
"Building of" what the building is made of; not wood or stone, but God Himself. It is not a building made of wood, but a building "of God," not made by God, but the building is God.
"An house" refers to God Himself. It (He) is "not made." Isaiah 43:10b tells us that "God" was not made.
"With hands" Earthly, physical, human homes, are made by human hands, but not God.
"Eternal in the heavens." This is not referring to empty houses having existed forever in the past, or houses that Jesus has been working on, preparing for saints since his resurrection and ascension. These are not houses waiting for people on earth to die and have their spirits come and live in them. No! It is referring to God Himself, eternal in past and future. (See also Psalms 27:4.)
Verse 2 speaks of desiring to be clothed with our "house from heaven". Clothed with God.
Will we be in a heavenly mansion distinct from God, and not God himself? No. We will be in a "house" that is God? Do other verses speak about being "in God"? See Jn 6:56; 14:20; 15:5; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1; Eph 1:1,4-7; Phi 1:1; Col 1:2; 2:7,10. When Jesus says "In my Father's house are many 'dwelling places/mansions', He is not speaking specifically of Heaven being our house, but of God Himself (in Heaven) being our house, Jn 14:2. In the same verse Jesus says He is going to prepare a place for us. He doesn't say He is going to Heaven and preparing a mansion, a place with walls and furniture. No. He is going to the cross to prepare the way by dying and providing the payment for our sins. He is not preparing the place we will live in, which is God Himself, but preparing the way for us to be accepted by God through our sins being paid for. There are "many dwelling places" (Jesus says), for there is space for many people to live, all in God. God wants to be so close to us that He ordained that He would be in us and we in Him. This is how Jn 14:10,11 can say that God the Father and God the Son live in each other. Ps 71:3a says "Be thou (God Himself) my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort:..." Ps 90:1 "LORD, thou (God Himself) hast been our dwelling place..."
There are a number of verses that may not be teaching of this EXACT idea of literally living in God once we no longer are living in our physical body, but give us an idea that we live and will live IN God 1 Co 1:30. "But of him are ye in (inside) Christ Jesus. Ro 13:14, "but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ." Now having looked at 2Co 5:1 in this way, look at Psalms 91:1-2 and see if it seems more meaningful. Read your Bible again and see if other verses don't start to jump out at you.
Nov/Dec 2018 THANKSGIVING FOR GOD’S CHRISTMAS GIFT
Our first 10 months of each year can find us facing many news stories of trials around the world, if not trials in our own lives. These stories can sometimes overwhelm us, and don’t usually stop after the 10th month. But each year we always have two months to end our year with, where we can find some relief from the secular part of our lives, including worldly news, to concentrate even more on the spiritual side of our lives. The 11th month brings us “Thanksgiving,” a national holiday in which we can remember the many blessings that God has brought our country, as well as the rest of the world through the centuries. The 12th month brings us Christmas, in which to contemplate the most precious gift of “the Christ Child,” who came to earth to die for our sins, offering us eternal life instead of eternal condemnation. In possession of this gift of eternal life, all temporary trials of this world should fade in comparison. Paul wrote in Romans 8:18 “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” In this modern age, we have access to, and are surrounded and bombarded with, news stories every day; news which is more negative than positive. On the other hand we have access to “the good news,” the Word of God, in which we can counter the bad news of the world by hearing of God’s great love for us. O that we would read our Bible as much as we listen to the secular news on the TV and Internet.
Our year ends with one other holiday, which is New Year’s Eve. While the worldly minded (Ro 6:6) may think of staying up till midnight to “see the new year in” with partying, the spiritually minded might think of all that God has given us in this year to be thankful for, and all the potential that the upcoming year has for us in our near future. New Year’s is usually a time of hopeful expectancy; hoping that the new year will bring good things, and that it will hopefully be better than the previous year. A message that I would like to include in this Bible study is that age old message to dedicate this year to a time of more ”personal Bible study,” studying for yourself at home, not just listening to Bible studies and sermons prepared by others in the church.
As this page of the newsletter is suppose to be a “Bible study”, not just a “message” with some Bible verses tucked in; I would like to briefly consider Psalm 100: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness, come before his presence with singing. Know ye, that the Lord he is God; It is he that hath made us and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.”
As Psalm 100 was written in Israel’s ancient history, it’s call to give thanks to God predates our call in the USA to give thanks to God by some 3,000 years. At thanksgiving time in the USA, scriptures are often read. Some scriptures often read at Christmas time are Matthew 1:23; Micah 5:2; Haggai 2:7; much of Luke 2; and others like Isaiah 6:7 which says “For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
As there is so much political division in our country right now, it would serve us well to remember that Christ will someday come again in the flesh to visibly head the government of this world; and to rein in righteousness, bringing peace and unity to the world for 1,000 years (Rev 20:1-7). Even that time period will come to an end when Satan is loosed and allowed to lead a revolution against Christ, that He will quickly and powerfully defeat. The rebels will be imprisoned forever in a lake of fire (Rev 20:15), while the followers of Christ will enjoy peace and glory for the rest of eternity. As we contemplate the peace and glory that awaits us, might we live each day among a world of people that may know nothing about this peace, who know not the Prince of Peace, and who do not have the power to conduct themselves in peace toward their fellow men. May we conduct ourselves in peace before them, manifest peace in our hearts and lives, be that “light of the world” Christ would have us to be (Matt 5:14) and allow Him to use us to draw people to His releasing power from sin, anger, discontent, hopelessness, and all the other negative aspects of a life without Him, so that they too might be able to experience the eternal blessing of peace.
Sep/Oct 2018 SCCC Newsletter CONSIDER YOUR THOUGHTS (Part 2 of 2)
Ungodly thoughts will come into our minds from various sources, but we are to be on guard against them and "cast them down," not continue to think on them, but on thoughts that God would have us think. We see categories of what God would have us think upon when we read in Phi 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." So when we have these ungodly thoughts, let us follow the admonition of 2Co 10:5. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
Sometimes our thoughts have to do with how we think we compare to other Christians. Ro 12:3 says "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
Phi 2:3 "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." We are not to be among the "number" of people that compare themselves with others so as to think themselves better than them. "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves (speak well of themselves): but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." 2 Co 10:12.
So when we start thinking too highly of ourselves let us remember Pro 27:2. "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."
God doesn't just speak to the nation of Israel, or to the church, or to favored individuals through history, or to those dedicated Christians we look up to; but God speaks to the entire population of the earth when He says in Jer 6:19 "Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people (wayward, ancient Israel), even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not listened to my words, nor to my law, but rejected it." See how important it is to live by God's Word. God speaks to the entire world saying he will bring "evil" (judgment) upon those that ignore His Word. So as we consider our own opinions of ourselves, and our thoughts in general, let's remember the old adage "Garbage in, garbage out." Let us guard our minds against the garbage in the dumpsters of most TV programs, of many Internet websites, of many movies, books, and magazines, and of so many other areas that want to fill our minds with ungodliness, rather than godliness. God will have us give an account one day, on the diet we let our minds feast upon, and how we have used our bodies and spirits in this world, Romans 14:12; 1 Co 6:19,20. Let us live for His glory, think good thoughts, and one day give a "good" account.
July/Aug 2018 SCCC Newsletter CONSIDER YOUR THOUGHTS (Part 1 of 2)
As the original draft for this particular Bible Study in our church newsletter was way too long, I am going to break it up to be put into the next four newsletters, and trust
that these will stand on their own, rather than all together as just one study. As we live out the rest of our lives on earth, we should remember that we are in a continual, spiritual warfare, and that the battle is for the minds and souls of people. In this battle, we that are already Christians, need to remember that there is still a battle between good and evil for our own attention, and for the thoughts of our minds. It is our mind, and our will, that controls what we continue to think on, and what we do and say. Dt 30:19 says "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing, and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:" Just as the Israelites where given a choice between life and death, blessing and cursing, we can make our own choice about what we think upon. Instead of letting the various medias of the world dominate our thoughts, let us meditate upon what God has communicated to us in His written Word, and thus may we think upon the things God would have us think upon, Phil 4:8.
Meditation has to do with "focused thinking" that takes conscious aim at a subject. Eastern meditation has to do with one trying to "empty" their mind, with detaching one's self from the things around them, and grasping "nothing." Unfortunately a lot of our university students today have "mastered" this kind of "non-thinking." "Biblical" meditation is just the opposite. Biblical meditation has to do with thinking about God's Word; with detaching from sin and the sinful philosophy of the world system, and grasping "God." "Be still, and know that I am God:" Ps 46:10. "My soul shall be satisfied…when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches." Ps 63:5,6. "I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways." Ps 119:15. Josh 1:8 "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. 1Ti 4:15 "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all." Ps 119:99 "I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies (God's words) are my meditation." In Mk 12:30 Jesus adds the word "mind" to His quote of Dt 6:5 when He says "and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." When there are 58 verses in the Bible on meditation, let us not be negligent to give time to this contemplation upon God's written Word.
May/June 2018 SCCC Newsletter I'VE GOT A SECRET
There once was a TV show called "I've Got a Secret". A guest would whisper an interesting fact/secret about themselves to the host of the show, and then a panel of four would ask questions and try to guess what the secret was.
The writer of the Biblical Book of Zephaniah also "had a secret." It was the meaning of his name, which meant "The Lord is my Secret". But Zephaniah is not the only one with a secret, for all Christians have the LORD as well, and He should be the secret to why we have peace in the midst of a world of turmoil.
A well known song of the past says
"It is no secret what God can do. What He's done for others He'll do for you.
With arms wide open, He'll pardon you. It is no secret what God can do."
According to Philippians 4:6-8 we are not to be worrying about anything, but thankfully bringing our troubles to God, and resting in the peace that He will provide because of our trust in Him. Some have sought for security in personal relationships, in getting a good job, and in building up finances, among other things, but the Christian's security is to be in the LORD.
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Ps 91:1.
Being under the shadow of the Almighty, though I walk through the valley of (even) the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, Ps 23:6.
Finally, the Bible says "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God…" Dt 29:29,
but Ps 25:18 also says "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant."
Because the unbelieving people of the world do not generally seek God or read His Word, God's plans for them remains a secret to them; but God is willing to share that secret with all who will trust in Him. The Lord would have people seek and discover the wonderful "secrets" that are revealed in His written Word. May we fully utilize those "secrets" of God we have discovered already, seek to discover and utilize more, and share these wonderful blessings from God with others as well, for these are not secrets meant to be kept secret, but to share.