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The Irony of Sympathy
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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:6-7 NKJV

I’ve been told the beatitudes are building blocks to a complete conversion. I find it interesting that after we are filled with God’s righteousness, instead of seeing ourselves as holier than others, we become merciful. 

Several nights ago, as I was falling into my bed to go to sleep for the night, I heard a loud crash followed up by a boom! boom! boom! thud! I looked out my window expecting to see another fender bender on the little street outside my home. Instead I saw a broken-down fence and upside-down car on the grass. The man inside the car got out okay. Apparently he made the turn from one residential street to another a little too fast.

Years before I would have thought to myself, what an idiot! How can you have such an accident on a little street, while making a simple maneuver! However that is not what I thought this time. True, he was going too fast, but over the years I have learned the lesson not to make fun of people who make silly mistakes, because just as sure as I do, I will turn around and do something twice as crazy! Instead of making fun of him, or scolding him, the rest of the bystanders and I just made sure he was okay and had what he needed while we waited for help to arrive. 

At UPS John, a seminary student, worked with me as a sorter. He was very mild-mannered and never lost it, even in the most stressfull situations. One day our belt was getting overloaded and I asked the unloaders to wait for us to clear the belt before adding any more packages. They did not listen, and more and more packages overloaded the belt. I became angry and said some things I should not have said. I caught myself and told John I felt bad for reacting that way. He assured me that this was a very stressful job, even more so when the unloaders don’t listen to you. He was right, but I marveled that even though he understood and was sympathetic, he still never lost it. He sympathized with me with his words, but he rebuked me like a slap across the face by simply living out a better example! It wasn’t what he said, it was what he did that showed me there was a better way to live.

My pastor once suggested that it is best to be “liberal” towards others and “conservative” towards ourselves. Hold yourself to a higher standard while cutting those around you a little slack. 

Jesus is our perfect example in constantly forgiving all those around Him.

GoodSalt.com-dmtas0054

GoodSalt.com-dmtas0054

Just like Peter, you don’t have to worry about forgiving your friends too many times. No one will ever sin against you more often than you sin against Jesus, and you will never need to forgive anyone as often as Jesus forgives you. I am going to throw in the oldest cliche of all time, just because it fits so perfectly here. “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” To be Christlike we must hold ourselves to a higher standard, while at the same time forgiving those around us. Jesus is the only One who ever lived a perfect life, and while He did so He sympathized with and encouraged sinners. 

Here are some words to live by.

Often He [Jesus] met those who had drifted under Satan’s control, and who had no power to break from his snare. To such a one, discouraged, sick, tempted, and fallen, Jesus would speak words of tenderest pity, words that were needed and could be understood. Others He met who were fighting a hand-to-hand battle with the adversary of souls. These He encouraged to persevere, assuring them that they would win; for angels of God were on their side, and would give them the victory. Those whom He thus helped were convinced that here was One in whom they could trust with perfect confidence. He would not betray the secrets they poured into His sympathizing ear. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 91-92. 

How ironic that the One who has never sinned would be the most sympathetic and understanding friend a sinner could ever have. 

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She Did So Much For Me, and I Never Got to Thank her.
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In evangelism workshops its almost become a cliche now, 

Jesus…reached the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good. ….. He met them at their daily vocations, and manifested an interest in their secular affairs.-Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 151. 

Jesus Dines With Friends

Image © Darrel Tank from GoodSalt.com

How interested are we really in other people’s good, even when we do not profit from their prosperity?

In my ministry I have been asked to speak at numerous funerals. Before the funeral I like to meet with the family in their home, to get stories and learn more about the deceased. I can know someone all my life and still be surprised by what I learn after they are gone. I will be sitting in the family room, listening to selfless heroic stories about the dearly departed, and it touches my heart so deeply, I get emotional and I think to myself that I too, want to be a selfless loving person. Sometimes, after the visit, when I am not feeling so emotional anymore, I have to remind myself of my resolve. 

Case in point. When I lived in Texas I started a cleaning business on the side. Nancy was a friend from church. She was a nurse and told a few doctors and nurses about my business, and I was soon cleaning for them. Nancy and I would go to dinner or lunch occasionally, and I offered to pay since she was my best advertiser. She assured me she did not want anything in return. She was just happy to help me out and see me do well.

We were both in our mid 30’s, when one morning I got the shocking news that Nancy had suddenly died during the night. It was quite a shock as we had plans to got to lunch that day. When you are in your mid 30’s and your friends seem healthy, it is very unsettling to hear that the friend with whom you plan to have lunch that day just died! Later as I went to clean for a client Nancy referred to me, the thought struck me, She did so much for me, and I never got to thank her! I realized that on this earth I never would get to thank her by paying her back for her interest in my good. That’s when I told myself, to live a giving life just like her, so that when I am gone, people will say the same about me, he did so much for me, and I never got to thank him.

Only a few days later, the UPS line I was supervising was short-handed. I walked over to another line with a supervisor whom I had helped out several times. I asked him if he could send someone from his line over to help me. He said, “No, I can’t spare anyone right now.” Granted he was right, but at the same time it bothered me because I had often sent him help, but he never seemed to be able to help me. Frustrated I told myself to stop helping him because he never paid me back! Then it dawned on me that I had told myself I wanted to help others so that when I died they could say “I always helped them and they never got a chance to pay me back.” But when the chance actually came, I did not feel that way at all! I had been touched by the selfless love of a caring friend, telling myself that I wanted to be just as loving and giving, but when the rubber met the road I was back to being my same old self again. 

Of course all that happened way back in my 30s’. Jesus never made it past his 30’s on earth, but He was still the perfect example. My friend Nancy never made it past her 30’s, but she left me with an example that even in my 50’s I still struggle to emulate. After being raised in the church all my life, I often sigh and think, 50 years later, shouldn’t I be more like Jesus by now? So many people with not even half the advantages I have had are so far ahead of me. Yet how to grow spiritually is no secret. Jesus went about seeking the good of others, even in their secular affairs. Nancy did the same. The next time someone needs my help, instead of asking myself how they will thank me, I can tell myself, This is my opportunity to be like Jesus. If Jesus helped Nancy, He can also help me to be one who seeks the good of others, even though they may never be able to thank me. 

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A Pot of Soup – and a Pinch of Salt
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Too often in church conversations, we quote Bible verses and Spirit of Prophecy quotations, but we share little about the practical application of those passages in everyday Christian life. By contrast last year’s excellent article by Lars Justinen, “Hot Lunch and Syrian Refugees,” is worth reading as a practical application of what this set of lessons is all about.

Not all of us can do something big. There are times when we need the power of church organization to achieve our goals, but we should not just rely on what the church does. At a personal level we are responsible for sharing and caring for our neighbours, friends, and those that come within our circle of influence. Sometimes it may only be a small thing.

As an illustration, here is what happened to us the other day. I cooked a roastSoup pumpkin and sweet potato soup on Friday for our opening Sabbath meal. (I will post the recipe if enough people ask for it. It is really special, even if I say so myself). I made enough for ourselves and for my daughter and her family. On Friday night we had our soup with crusty bread and really enjoyed it. There was enough left over for us to have a couple more meals from it, and I was looking forward to that. Then on Sabbath morning, Carmel, my wife, went over to the neighbour’s place for something and discovered that the mother was in bed sick and that she was not going to be able to cook her family any food that day. Quick as a wink and without asking me, the big pot of soup was whisked over to our neighbour’s place. It was only a small thing, but it filled a gap in our neighbour’s life. And I get the chance next week to make another pot of special soup.

That is what Christians do. We look after one another, and our neighbours, and our unchurched friends. We do it without expectation of rewards, because it is the right thing to do.

There are so many things that you can do to help. A person in this area had their car blow up on the freeway and they needed to get a new car. One of our church folk lent them a spare car and, knowing that they were a bit short of cash, gave them some money to help towards the purchase of a new one. A teacher, knowing that a family was struggling with medical bills, paid the school fees for the school-aged children in the family for a term, and so on.

We can quote all the texts we like about being Christ-like, following the urging of the Holy Spirit and praying that God will lead us to those in need, but if we don’t move out from the safety of our church, we will not make a difference to the world around us. If there is one thing that we should take away from this set of lessons is that it is our responsibility to share and care with unselfish love.

Our church will be at its most effect witness when we as individuals care for our community.

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Is the Role of the Church in the Community Just to Baptize People?
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For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…. 1 Corinthians 1:17 NKJV

Does the church have to baptize every member of the community in order to serve its purpose? Is it possible God has some people cross our paths just because they need to be loved, regardless if they join our church or not? 

Years before ever becoming, or thinking about becoming a Bible Worker myself, I found myself on a church softball team, captained by the new local Bible Worker. I failed to eat breakfast before running off to play. In the middle of the game, I began to get dizzy and lightheaded. My team was up to bat when I pretty much blacked out. I was sitting right next to the Bible Worker and told him, as the batter was striking out, “I am blacking out. I can’t even see anything right now.”

His reply? He threw my mitt in my lap and said, “That’s the third out. Let’s go take the field!” Not exactly the reply I was expecting. Needless to say, I did not go out onto the field. I managed to get myself to a nearby building where I got a drink and laid down. I had heard people who had been studying with this Bible Worker say how wonderful he was. I guess already having been baptized, I was not a potential “notch on his belt,” So he was not that wonderful to me. He never even missed me when I failed to come back to the game. 

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GoodSalt.com-pcmas0004

At that point in my life, I was not really that familiar with the Bible Worker concept. Therefore I had never really considered becoming one, but on my way home that day, I remember thinking to myself, that if I ever did become a Bible Worker, I would not be like that one! I also told myself that if I genuinely care about people who are about to be baptized, then I would genuinely care about people who will never be baptized. Even though I was not a Bible Worker at that point, I told myself, that as a Christian as well as being theologically sound, I also want to be relationally sound. I decided to be a genuine caring friend not matter what position I ever have in church. 

Ironically I did become a Bible Worker, and when I was studying with a man in the first district I had been assigned, he finally showed up to church with his 14-year-old step-daughter. She had never been to any church. I went to the parents of teenage girls and told them that a young girl is here who has never been to church. Please have your daughters greet and befriend her. One parent who had two teen girls shrugged her shoulders and said, “My daughters already have friends.” I could not believe what I heard. The girls did not befriend her. Her step-father eventually went to another nearby Adventist church where he got baptized. I don’t know what happened to his step-daughter.

Later in another district, I was studying with a war veteran who needed a ride to the veteran’s hospital one day. Wanting to connect him with members of my church, I called several retired members and asked them to give this worthy veteran a ride. One person told me they were unavailable because, “That’s the day I water my garden.” And that was the most legitimate excuse! Not only did this veteran never come to my church, but that was also the end of our Bible studies. Do you blame him?

After studying with me a few months, a young married couple were baptized and joined my church of mostly older people. One of the elders never reached out to this young couple until he heard them say something in Sabbath School that was not theologically correct. So he took it upon himself to call them later in the day, to “reach out” and tell them that they were wrong! That was the only contact he had with them, and it was not long before they were out of the church. How long would you stay in a church where people only call to tell you that you are wrong?

In Texas I studied with a teenage boy whom I will call Scott. He found a ride to church every Sabbath, as no one else in his family came to church. Shortly after his baptism he moved to Tampa Florida. We had a going-away party for him, and I wrote in his card, “Bible Workers come and go, but friends are forever.” I did not think that much about it. Eight years later I moved to Tampa Florida. I had talked with him a few times after his move. One day, shortly after moving to Tampa, I ran across his name in my address book, and the address “Tampa Florida” jumped out at me. I called the number, only to find out that he was in jail. I arranged a visit. Not exactly the reunion I had planned with a former Bible student. We were glad to see each other and had a lot to talk about since our last visit. He explained to me what had been going on with him lately and how ended up in jail. Towards the end of our visit, he told me, “When I moved away, you wrote in my card, ‘Bible Workers come and go but friends are forever.’ I never forgot what you wrote, and now that you have come to see me after all those years, even though I am in jail, shows me you meant what you said.” Then I realized even more, that being relational is just as important as being theologically sound. I realized too, that even though he had been baptized eight years ago, my work with him was not over. Scott needed a “forever friend.” I am glad God moved me across the country to where I could reach out to him.

As a Christian my goal goes way beyond seeing people get baptized. My goal is to see them in heaven. That means being a forever friend to those who are preparing for baptism and to those who have already been baptized, as well as to those who I may never see get baptized.

Some people think they can’t give Bible studies, but if I can, anybody can. Even so, what a teenage girl needed in a church long ago was not just Bible studies, but a friend. A veteran just needed a ride to the hospital. A young couple needed someone from the church to call them just to say hello, instead of just to tell them they were wrong. A young man sitting in jail needed to know someone still cared, even though he was less than perfect.

That morning on the ball field, I needed a friend. I needed someone who cared for me regardless if I was someone about to be baptized or not. I needed what every other person needs, and that is a forever friend. Do the people in your community know that regardless if they ever get baptized or not, that they can find forever friends at your church? 

How will people know that God loves them if those professing His name do not demonstrate His love? 

May we all determine to let the love of God shine through us in whatever situation we find ourselves. 

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Friday: Further Thought – Jesus Ministered to Their Needs
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Read Deuteronomy 15:11, Job 29:11-17, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 19:17, Acts 3:6, James 1:27-2:5; Ellen G. White, “Pioneering in Australia,” pp. 327-338, in Welfare Ministry. Paul, like Jesus, was involved in meeting the expressed needs of people. We can see this, for example, in the famous story of Paul at Mars Hill in Athens. In Acts 17:23, Paul, provoked by the idolatry that he saw in the city, engaged in lively discussions with the local intelligentsia and anyone in the marketplace who would talk with him.

Paul and the Unknown God

Image © Kim Justinen from GoodSalt.com

He became aware of their needs and issues. He discovered that they had an unknown-God-shaped hole in their lives and that they needed to know the true God and to stop worshiping useless idols. He then began to preach in the synagogue, where both Jews and “Gentile worshipers” (Acts 17:17, NKJV) were. In other words, he took advantage of the opportunity he had and reached out with the gospel. Paul sought to meet them where they were, as we can see by how he talked to the people when at the synagogue and in the street. The masses believed in some kind of deity, because they had built an altar to “the unknown God” (Acts 17:23). Working from that premise, Paul sought to point them to the God “ ‘whom you worship without knowing’ ” (Acts 17:23, NKJV). He even later quoted one of their own poets, who happened to have written something true: “ ‘ “We are also His offspring” ’ ” (Acts 17:28, NKJV). Starting from where the people were, he wanted to lead them away from their idols to the living God and Jesus, raised from the dead. In short, assessing the needs of those whom he wanted to reach, Paul then tried to help fulfill those needs.

Discussion Questions:

  1. “He who taught the people the way to secure peace and happiness was just as thoughtful of their temporal necessities as of their spiritual need.” – Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 365. What important message is given to us here in regard to why we should minister to the needs of others?
  2. Why do we, when thinking about outreach, have to be careful not to forget what our ultimate goal is? What is that ultimate goal? Give reasons for your answer.
  3. How can we learn to view some interruptions not as annoyances but as sacred opportunities for ministry? How does Galatians 2:20 help us in this area?
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Jesus Ministered to Needs – Teaching Plan
Michael Fracker

Key Thought: Effectual ministry today must follow Christ’s example and care for the whole person – physically, mentally, and spiritually..

Jesus Ministered to Their Needs – August 27, 2016

1. Have a volunteer read Mark 2:8-12

Jesus with People

a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. What was going on below the surface in regards to this man?
c. Personal Application : What’s the purpose of Jesus healing people rather than preaching the gospel? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your elderly female relatives states: “When you think about outreach, what is your ultimate goal? Is physical and mental healing part of that goal of outreach?” How would you respond to your relative?

2. Have a volunteer read Acts 9:36-42.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. What kind of things did Dorcas do to meet people’s needs, especially the believers and widows?
c. Personal Application : Do you have a Dorcas in your church who sees the needs of others and works to serve those needs as the main focus of their life? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your friends states, “Is working at the Dorcas Center once a week or two for a few hours, or at a soup kitchen once a week for a few hours a week the modern equivalent of Dorcas?” How would you respond to your friend?

3. Have a volunteer read Luke 14:25-30

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. What is Jesus saying here about commitment and planning?
c. Personal Application: What are some ways that your church can organize and plan beforehand on how you can reach your community? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your neighbors states, “What are the main needs in your community? Is your church ministering to those needs or to the needs of the church members?” How would you respond to your neighbor?

4. Have a volunteer read Mark 5:37-43.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. How can we be more aware of the needs of those who may be lonely, depressed, or discouraged?
c. Personal Application : What kind of comfort and support can we give those who have lost a loved one? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing  virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.”Ministry of Healing, p. 148).

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Thursday: The Church at Work
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“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Prov. 16:3, NIV).

Once your church has a clear vision of how it can minister to the community, it is important to develop a plan whereby all church departments can work together in order to make this vision a reality. Even though you may not consider yourself a “leader” in your church, you can contribute. Also, it is good for all church members to understand this process, for this is about your church’s mission to your community.

People Looking at Large Map

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Ideally, a church strategic plan should be based on input from at least three sources: (1) input from biblical and Spirit of Prophecy principles; (2) knowledge of community needs; and (3) input from the congregation. Some churches have collected input from the congregation by holding brainstorming sessions during which all church members are invited to share their ideas and dreams for outreach and for improving their church within.

Read Luke 14:25-35. What does this passage have to do with commitment and the planning it takes to fulfill your church’s mission?

As you think about the process required to meet your community’s needs effectively, you might think: this takes too much commitment and time.We’d prefer to take shortcuts. The two parables warn us against taking the responsibilities of mission and discipleship lightly. They remind us that analysis and planning for our mission are essential. It’s a matter of good stewardship. The flavor of the salt in Luke 14:34 represents devotion. Without this our service, our discipleship, is useless and meaningless. We need fervent and faithful devotion to our Lord, and if we have that, fervent and faithful devotion to ministry will follow.

What are ways that you can do more to work with your church in organizing and planning beforehand how you can reach out to your community?
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A Tribute to Our Community Service Volunteers
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How special are the men and women working in our community services centers around the world? Well consider this: Nowhere in the Bible do I read of a high priest being raised from the dead, or a pastor or head elder. But I do read this: 

GoodSalt.com-prcas4941

GoodSalt.com-prcas4941


At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. Acts 9:36-41 NKJV

I remember when I was a boy, Seventh-day Adventist Churches named their community services centers after Dorcas, and they were called Dorcas buildings. Like Dorcas, community services volunteers demonstrate to the community the love and compassion of Jesus today. Through community services centers we see a practical demonstration of the very essence of Who God is. By feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and providing practical services for the community, this is the one branch of the church the community would most obviously miss if the church were to disappear. 

I know we are not saved by works. I realize many a hard worker has died at an early age. Still, I wonder if Dorcas was such a wise steward of her time and blessed so many people in the community, demonstrating the nature of God, that God felt it necessary to extend her life? High priests, apostles, pastors and head elders have never been raised from the dead yet, but God raised a humble community services center worker back to life. That tells me community services workers have a very special place in God’s heart and in my heart too! Thank you to all of you who minister to the community at your local Seventh-day Adventist Community Service Centers! 

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Wednesday: Dorcas in Joppa
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Read Acts 9:36-42. What did Dorcas do in Joppa when she discovered the needs around her? In Acts 9:41 what does the phrase “the believers, especially the widows” (NIV) imply?

Dorcas With the Children

Image © Kim Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Dorcas was a disciple of action. “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha” (Acts 9:36, NIV). Can it be said, “In [the name of your city] there are disciples named [name of your congregation]” who are “full of good works and charitable deeds” (Acts 9:36, NKJV)?

The “believers” are Christian church members; “the widows” may include church members as well as those who were not members. Dorcas likely served both. Your “Joppa” should be outside and inside your church. Consistent caring for those inside your church is also a powerful evangelistic strategy (see Acts 2:42-47). People outside can then say, “See how those Seventh-day Adventists love and care for one another!”

Read John 13:34-35 and John 15:12. What is the same message in all three texts, and why is that so important for us as a church to follow? Why, though, can it sometimes be so hard to follow?

When planning to serve people outside your church, you should consider what style, or approach, you will use.

Amy Sherman describes three styles a church can use in serving its community: (1) Settler style focuses on meeting the needs of the community around your church. The woman with the HIV/AIDS ministry chose her nearby community as her “Joppa.” (2) The gardenerstyle means developing ministry ties with neighborhoods outside your church’s immediate area, as gardeners view their gardens as an extension of their homes. Sometimes several churches partner to operate a community service center outside of each of their communities. In one city, several churches ran a health food store-out of which a new church started. (3) The shepherd style is serving one targeted population rather than a specific geographic neighborhood.-Adapted from Ronald J. Sider et al., Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2002), p. 146.

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HopeSS: Jesus Ministered to Their Needs
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You can view an in-depth discussion of “Jesus Ministered to Their Needs” in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below.

Hope Sabbath School

Hope Sabbath School

You can download the video, the MP3 audio, and the lesson outline from the HopeTV Sabbath School Site. You might also want to bookmark the HopeSS YouTube Channel. Click Here to Watch.

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Tuesday: The Deeper Needs
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Jesus, as the Lord, knew more about the people than they knew about themselves. There are many accounts in the Gospels where Jesus showed that He not only knew what people were thinking at the present (see Mark 2:8)-He knew their histories as well (John 4:18).

Read Psalm 139:1-13. What is the Word of God telling us here?

Woman Thinking About Her Family

Image © Jack Pardue from GoodSalt.com

As we saw yesterday, Jesus knew the needs of the people, and it was to those needs that He ministered. In fact, He knew even needs that went below the surface. This reality is seen in the story of the paralytic. Though it was obvious, on the surface, that he needed physical healing, there was something deeper there, which is why even before telling him to take up his bed and walk, Jesus said, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” (Mark 2:5).

Read Mark 2:1-12. What was going on below the surface in regard to this man? In what ways might this deeper need be a problem for all whom we seek to minister to?

Jesus knew the issue here was more than physical. “Yet it was not physical restoration he desired so much as relief from the burden of sin. If he could see Jesus, and receive the assurance of forgiveness and peace with Heaven, he would be content to live or die, according to God’s will.” – Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 267.

Of course we are not going to be able to get below the surface as Jesus did. Yet we can be sure that whomever we are ministering to, they are sin-damaged creatures. That is, whatever the other surface needs, they are also in need of grace, of assurance, of the knowledge that there is a God who loves them, who died for them, and who wants only the best for them.

Think about how much you crave the assurance of salvation and of the knowledge that God loves you. How can you help others experience that same assurance and love?
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Jesus Ministered to Their Needs – Discussion Starters
Joyce Griffith

  1. What an Example! The opening note for our lesson this week describes a heart-lifting example of a woman believer in Africa being a minister for her community stricken by AIDS. Do reports like this stir you? Make you wish you could send a few thousand dollars to further this work? Or, go there yourself? Or can we at least pray earnestly for valiant workers like this?
  2. Interruption for Ministry.  Have you ever observed a minister or gospel worker Cross and wheelchairwho was upset because someone interrupted him–or her? Is it polite and proper to interrupt others? How should we as Christians respond when we’re busy and someone interrupts us to lay a burden on us? How did the good Samaritan respond to a huge interruption in his day? How can we learn to be willing to be interrupted to help someone else? 
  3. How Can I Help You? Did the friends of Jesus have good intentions in dealing with Bartimaeus, the blind beggar? How did Jesus respond to this man in need? What about the man by the pool of Bethesda? Is there a lesson here for us? What was the obvious question Jesus asked when he saw the man almost motionless by the pool? What was the man’s response? and How did Jesus respond?
  4. The Deeper Needs.  Do you derive peace or anguish knowing that God knows your every thought? Would being able to read the minds or others strengthen your ability to be helpful to them? Which was more important to Jesus in his encounter with the paralytic than hie physical need? Since you and I cannot read the mind of those who seek our help, how should we be respond to these people?
  5. Dorcas in Joppa. What do we learn from Dorcas about the purpose of being kind to fellow believers? What about people outside the fellowship? Does your church have a special ministry for the elderly, the infirm, or the destitute in your community? Should it? Would you like to start up a new friendship ministry to help your church’s neighbors in need? What’s keeping you from doing that?
  6. The Church at Work.  Why is it important for our efforts on behalf of neighbors and community members to be associated with the church? (Or is it?) Does your church’s influence in your community need more boosting to make it obvious and helpful? If we are totally committed to reach out, what support will we find from Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy? How can you encourage participation from members to open new ministries in your neighborhood for those in need? 

 

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Monday: How Can I Help You?
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Read Mark 10:46-52 and John 5:1-9. In both cases, Jesus asked questions. Why would He do that?

Notice, in both cases, that Jesus asked what they wanted, even though it was obvious what they wanted. And even if it weren’t, Jesus would have known what those needs were anyway.

Man's Ear

Image © Rolf Jansson from GoodSalt.com

However, by asking these questions, Jesus showed the men respect. He showed that He was listening to them and by listening that He cared about what they were struggling with. In how many cases do people, perhaps more than anything else, simply want someone just to talk to, someone who will listen to them. Sometimes just being able to talk about one’s struggles can help a person feel better.

Consider for a moment how you would feel if you entered a doctor’s office and the doctor took one glance at you, wrote out a prescription, and sent you on your way. Surely you would doubt whether this person really knew what you needed. You might say, “The doctor didn’t ask me how I feel or listen to my heart or check my blood pressure or . . .” One of the cardinal rules of medical practice is “Diagnose before you treat.”

The same concept applies to medical missionary work, which is focused on the well-being of people and meeting their wholistic needs. Too many churches think they already know, or they guess at what needs to be done to serve others in their community. When we put forth the effort of talking to people about their needs or the needs of the community, it lets them know we care, and it informs us how we can serve in ways that will be appreciated. Also, we will make new friends.

“ ‘Remember that you can break down the severest opposition by taking a personal interest in the people whom you meet. Christ took a personal interest in men and women while He lived on this earth. Wherever He went He was a medical missionary. We are to go about doing good, even as He did. We are instructed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the sorrowing.’ ” – Ellen G. White,Welfare Ministry, p. 162.

Most of us have no problem expressing our opinions. How can we learn to be better listeners?
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Sunday: Interruption for Ministry
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Jesus steps off the boat on the shore near Capernaum. (See Mark 5:1-43.) His disciples are still reeling from the harrowing encounter with the demon-possessed man in Decapolis. As usual, a crowd is there to meet Him.

The Interruption

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Eager to get His attention, individuals in the throng jostle to be near Jesus. Immediately He is asked for help, this time by a ruler of a synagogue.

Read Mark 5:22-43. While Jesus was on His way to minister to the needs of this ruler of a synagogue, what interrupted Him, and how did He respond to the interruption? More important, what lessons should we take from the story for ourselves about how we react when interrupted for ministry?

Let’s face it, none of us likes interruptions, do we? We are busy, we have things to do, places to go, jobs to get done. We set goals for ourselves and want to meet those goals, sometimes within a certain time frame as well. Interruptions can get in the way.

That’s why, if someone comes with a need or with a request for help, it can be annoying if the time isn’t convenient. Sometimes you just can’t drop whatever you are doing. At the same time, how often could we drop what we are doing and help but don’t because we simply don’t want to?

Yet often the greatest opportunities to minister to people’s needs come through interruptions. Most of us try to avoid interruptions, and get upset when our plans are derailed. As we look at the ministry of Jesus, we notice that some of the needs that He cared for came as interruptions, to which He lovingly responded. If we think about it, many opportunities we get for ministry come in the form of interruptions. We have already looked at the story of the good Samaritan. Who knows where he was going and what he was going to do when he got there? But he stopped anyway to minister.

Talk about an interruption!

When was the last time someone interrupted you with a need and a request for help? How did you respond?
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Sabbath: Jesus Ministered to Their Needs
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Read for This Week’s Study: Mark 5:22-43, Mark 10:46-52, John 5:1-9, Ps. 139:1-13, Mark 2:1-12, Acts 9:36-42.

Memory Text: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35, NIV).

Jesus with People

Jesus with People

A retired Seventh-day Adventist woman in an African country did not wish to stop ministering in retirement. Her community needed healing because of the ravages of HIV/AIDS. The most urgent need was that AIDS orphans didn’t have adequate nutrition. In 2002, she and her church started feeding the children in the community a solid meal six days a week. They started with 50 children and, as of 2012, were serving 300 children per day. That led them to start a preschool, and now 45 of those children are attending. Other services include distributing clothing from ADRA, sharing vegetables and maize from a garden that they maintain, and taking care of the sick. They started a skills-development program for women, who teach one another skills that helped them earn a living. This demonstration of the love of Jesus spawned a new church. There were five members in the beginning and, as of 2012, 160 were attending. God provided means for building an orphanage and a new church building in 2012. What a powerful and practical example of how meeting the needs of the community is so important for Christians.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 27.
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Friday: Further Thought – Jesus Showed Sympathy
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Read Deuteronomy 24:10-22, Jonah 3:1-10, Malachi 3:17, Matthew 15:32-38, Mark 6:34-44, Galatians 6:2Hebrews 10:32-34. Read Ellen G. White, “Be Sympathetic to All Men,” p. 189, and “Thoughtful of Others,” p. 193, in My Life Today; “The Privilege of Prayer,” p. 93, in Steps to Christ; “This Is Pure Religion” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan,” chapters 4 and 5, in Welfare Ministry.

Little Girl Brings Flowers to Elderly Woman

Image © Mary Rumford from GoodSalt.com

A few families during a holiday got together and with their small children made packages of food and toiletries to give out to the many homeless in their city. After working for a few hours, they got into their cars, went to the city center, and, in about a half hour, distributed the goods. They then went off to a museum and, afterward, out to dinner. As they were walking back to the cars, one of them said, “I’m glad we did this. But do you realize that by now most of those whom we fed are probably hungry again?” No question, there are so many people out there who need comfort, sympathy, and help that it can seem overwhelming, almost to the point where one could think: What’s the sense of doing anything? We can barely make a dent! Numerous problems exist with that line of thinking, however. First, if everyone thought that way, no one would help anyone and the needs, as terrible as they are, would be even worse. On the other hand, if everyone who could help others would, then the needs, as terrible as they are, wouldn’t be as bad. Second, we have never been told in the Bible that human pain, suffering, and evil would be eliminated this side of heaven. In fact, we have been told the opposite. Even Jesus, when here, didn’t end all human suffering. He did what He could. We too are to do the same: bring comfort, sympathy, and help to those whom we can.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can your church be made into a safe, healing place for the brokenhearted?
  2. Discuss in class the following quote: “Many wonder why God doesn’t act. God wonders why so many of His people don’t care.”-Dwight Nelson, Pursuing the Passion of Jesus (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2005). Do you even agree with the premise of the challenge? If so, what can we do to change?
  3. Look at this quote from Ellen G. White: “Kindly words simply spoken, little attentions simply bestowed, will sweep away the clouds of temptation and doubt that gather over the soul. The true heart expression of Christlike sympathy, given in simplicity, has power to open the door of hearts that need the simple, delicate touch of the Spirit of Christ.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 30. What should this tell us about the incredible power for good that kindness and sympathy can have as we reach out to help the grieving?
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