In August we are doing a short series on the mark of a Christian. Homework will be lighter, but the message is one of the most important in all of Scripture.
One of the three top books that changed my life was this one:
I will share excerpts from this little book, though I do recommend it’s a great one for every believer to own, read, underline, and reread.
What is the mark of a Christian to the world?
Schaeffer says “The world cares nothing about doctrine but Jesus did give the mark that would draw the attention of the world…What is it? The love that true Christians show for each other and not just for their own party.”
We are going to look deeply into what Jesus said about this, but then also, get help on how to live this out, for this is a hard saying not in the sense that it is so hard to understand, but in the sense that it is so hard to do.
How do you love the brothers and sisters who are truly challenging?How do you make an effective apology and why must we do it? How do you forgive when there is no apology for great wrongs done?
How can we live out Jesus’ final prayer for us?
This week we will consider when Jesus kept repeating this message.
He said it over and over again when time was running out. He called it “the new commandment.” It was like the old, like the command to love one another, yet now it was also new, for its truth had been seen in Him as He walked the earth.
…that they may be one, just as you Father are in me and I am in you, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…
The final week we will hear Keller’s free sermon on Unity, in which he says, “You don’t make small talk when you know it is the last time you will see someone.”
What messages were left from those who called their loved ones from the flight that was high-jacked on 9/11? Again and again:
I love you so much. Please tell our children how I love them.
I love you. Tell Mom I love her. Take care of her, please.
When my husband was dying, he said important things to each of our five children, expressing love, affirming them, and telling them what mattered most in their individual lives. He told me: “You will fly so free.” I didn’t want to fly without him, but he was endeavoring to give me hope as he could see I was desperate about living without him. “Good-byes” especially permanent ones, may be drenched in the Holy Spirit.
God Hunt Sunday
- How have you experienced the risenness of Christ in your life this week?
Monday-Tuesday: Parting Scenes – Ruth and Naomi
(Do through question 4 on Monday, and complete on Tuesday)
In the opening verses, we find famine and death everywhere and Naomi is devastated. God had commanded His people not to intermarry with Moabites, yet that is where Elimelech moved his family, and where their sons married Moabites. All three died. Naomi is “left without her two sons and her husband.”
When studying friendships in Scripture long ago for my book on The Friendships of Women, I saw how God zoomed His camera in on both greeting scenes and parting scenes. I realized He was showing His sovereignty both in bringing people together for Kingdom purposes and then how, in parting scenes, words that may have been held back came pouring out, again, for Kingdom purposes. These are important scenes on which to meditate. Today, we’ll consider two friendships in the line of the Messiah. What was said and why did it matter? And why should it matter to us?
2. Ruth 1:6-14
A. Where have they been living and where are they going?
B. How can you tell Naomi loves her daughters-in-law according to verse 8?
C. What reason can you discern she has for sending them back to Moab? Why might this be short-sighted eternally? Any parallel today?
D. Describe Naomi’s state of heart according to what you see in verses 11-13.
E. All the names in the book of Ruth are significant. Orpah means “stiff-necked or double-minded.” How does she eventually respond to Naomi’s request?
3. Orpah fades out of the pages of Scripture, but Ruth (a woman friend or companion) is immortalized. Read Ruth 1:15-18.
A. List the promises Ruth made to Naomi in this parting scene that she refused to let happen.
B. Now, consider how God asks us to follow Him, putting nothing before Him. What among Ruth’s many promises might be relevant to us in that regard, and what might it mean?
4. Read Ruth 1:19-22
A. Naomi’s name means “sweet,” so what is the significance of her request in verse 20? What reason does she give and what does this tell you?
B. Another beautiful element in the book of Ruth is that the state of the land parallels the hearts of God’s people. How does the book begin in 1:1? And what hope do you see here in 1:22?
5. God is going to use Ruth to restore Naomi’s faith. The turning point comes after the greeting scene Ruth has with Boaz, her future “kinsman-redeemer” and she comes home with her arms full of grain to Naomi. Read Ruth 2:18-23 and describe:
A. The greeting scene between Ruth and Naomi
B. The change in Naomi
6. If you are not familiar with the book of Ruth, you’ll need to read the rest, but I know most of you are. How did God use the words that flowed out of Ruth’s heart in her “parting scene” (the one that never happened) for Kingdom purposes?
7. Are you one who avoids “good-byes” because they are painful? Why might this be a big mistake?
When I realized how vital parting scenes were to God, I asked Him to allow me to be at the deathbeds of my parents, if I was alive when they died. Within four years I was at the deathbed of my father, then my husband, and then my mother. In all three, vital words were spoken for Kingdom purposes, words never to be forgotten, coming to remembrance when remembrance is sorely needed.
Wed-Thurs: Parting Scenes: David and Jonathan
Go through question 9 for Wednesday and finish Thursday.
David and Jonathan were neither loved nor respected by their families. Jonathan still honored his father, King Saul, but he helped David flee his jealous murderous father in their first parting scene. Sometimes we need boundaries with our biological families, as painful as that is. But God will bring real blood family into our lives, bound by the blood of Christ.
God gave David and Jonathan to one another for Kingdom purposes, as He so often does graciously for us. They were knit together in soul, not in body, as some with a twisted agenda, try to make others believe.
8. Read 1 Samuel 18:1-4
A. What happened just before this famous “greeting scene?” What has Jonathan seen in David’s character?
B. What does Jonathan say and do, and what do you think these actions mean?
9. Saul is jealous of David and tries to kill him. How does Jonathan respond in 1 Samuel 19:4-5? How does this show honor for both father and friend?
Saul’s repentance is temporary and he returns to his pattern. So Jonathan sends David away for his safety. Some of you have faced the same sad situation with friends or family. This should reassure you that there are times, when a pattern is evident, to set boundaries, as long as you forgive from your heart.
10. If the above is true of you, what comments do you have? What helps you forgive even though repentance has not been shown?
11. Read 1 Samuel 20:41-42 and describe the emotion in this first parting scene and how God might have used it for Kingdom purposes.
12. Read 1 Samuel 23:15-18
A. Saul can’t find David, but Jonathan can. Thoughts?
B. What does Jonathan say to David in this final parting scene, and how does God use this for Kingdom purposes?
I always remember a message I heard from a woman speaker on 2 Samuel 9 when David keeps his promise to Jonathan and has his son, Mephibosheth always eat at his table in his kingdom. She said, “David invites the crippled son to always eat at his table for Jonathan’s sake. God invites us, his crippled sons, to always eat at His table for Jesus’ sake.”
Friday: Paul and the Ephesians
Sometimes we must say good-bye for Kingdom purposes. Amy Carmichael described her parting from the one she called “the dear old man,” who was like a father to her when she sailed for India, knowing she would never see him again. She said she could never go through that parting scene again, for it was so painful. Yet we know the promise Jesus gives to those who are willing to do so for Kingdom purposes.
13. Can you release a beloved child to a land far away for Kingdom purposes?
14. Describe a meaningful parting scene in your life if possible. What was it meaningful?
15. Read Acts 20:34-38
A. What are the last things Paul tells his beloved Ephesians? How are you or could you live this out?
B. Describe the parting scene. Why do you think Shakespeare said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow?”
16. Do you see any common threads in these Scriptural parting scenes? If so, what?
Coming Next Week — Parting Scenes of Jesus and why they matter so much to us.
Frank Maddox: Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet
17. Ask the Lord why this lesson matters in your life and share your thoughts and prayers for yourself.