The Leaders Guide for The Gate Bible Study

 

LESSON NUMBER ONE: Heaven

 

The Gate is a novel by Dann Stouten that explores some of the big questions we all have about God, heaven, relationships, and responsibility. The story begins with an ad for a vacation cottage that catches the eye of a man on the edge of burnout. When he decides to visit the property he finds something very different than he expected. As he walks through the garden gate he unknowingly enters the back door to heaven. What he finds inside are the people and the God that hes loved and lost, and the experience radically changes his faith and his future.

 

The story is fiction, but the questions raised in The Gate are real and relevant. The Bible repeatedly talks about these same issues and in this six week study well be looking at what the Scriptures have to say about:

1.  Heaven

2.  The Trinity

3.  Free Will

4.  Relationships

5.  Angels

6.  Angels (continued)

 

1.  So lets get started. The question in LESSON NUMBER ONE asks;

 What is Heaven Like?

 

According to a recent Gallop poll about 80% of Americans not only believe in heaven, but they also hope to go there someday. But when they were asked to describe it they struggled. Some people talked about angels and harps and clouds and streets of gold, others said that well all wear crowns and white robes and do a lot of singing, still others described it as Gods version of Disney World complete with a magic kingdom and castle.

 

Ask the group, what they think heaven is like?

 

Take a few minutes to list some of their answers on the board. If theyre reluctant to respond you might prime the pump by asking some starter questions like;

      Whos going to be there?

      What will it look like?

      What will we wear?

      Will we work in heaven? etc.

There are no wrong answers. Encourage people to speculate.

 

To begin the teaching again you might say;

The reason that so many people have a hard time describing

the furniture and fixtures of heaven is that its indescribable.

  

The apostle Paul once said that,

 No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined

 what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Cor. 2:9

 

Although there is no Book of Heaven numbered among the sixty six books of the Bible, the Scriptures do have quite a bit to say about it. In fact, the word Heaven appears 644 times in the KJV and 622 times in the NIV.

 

*Note, (Along with the Bible you might want to list some of the more thought

   provoking books about heaven for people to read such as, 90 Minutes

   in Heaven, by Don Piper, Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo, Proof

  of Heaven, by Eben Alexander M. D., The Five People You Meet in

  Heaven, by Mitch Albom, Heaven, by Randy Alcorn, The Chronicles

  of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis, and The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young.)

 

Ask the class, who they think will go to heaven?

 

Once again then list the possibilities on the board.

      Nice people

      All People

      A select group of 144,000

      All those who given their hearts to Christ

 

Ask the class if they can think of any Scripture passages that might be helpful here and list them on the board. Make sure to include;

 

John 3:16

     3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that

 whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

Colossians 3:1-4

     3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things

above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  2Set your minds

         on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is

         now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, appears,

 then you also will appear with him in glory.

 

Whatever Scriptures are listed reinforce the fact that heaven is the place where God lives with his angels and all those whove died in Christ.

 

Ask the class,

      Who they know will be there? Why?

      Who they would be surprised to find there? Why?

      Who they hope will be there? Why?

 

Tell the class that you will be moving from the people to the place and once again ask them;

What they think Heaven will look like?

 

Rev 21:10-25

    21:10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high,

 and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven

from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like

that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a

great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates.

On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.

 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the

south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve

foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the

Lamb.  15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to

measure the city, its gates and its walls.  16 The city was laid out like a

square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and

found it to be 12,000 stadia (1,400 miles) in length, and as wide and high

as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement,

and it was 144 cubits thick. (200 feet) 18 The wall was made of jasper, and

the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.  19 The foundations of the city walls

were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation

was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the

 fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the

ninth  topaz, the tenth turquoise,  the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth

 amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a

single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as

 transparent glass.

 

 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and

 the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to

 shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring

their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there

will be no night there. 

 

What are some of the things you noticed when reading this? Again list some of the answers on the board;

      Crystal Clear Walls

      Streets of Gold

      Gates of Pearl

      Foundations of Precious Stones

      Its size,  a 1,400 Mile Cube (from Grand Rapids Mi to Naples Fl)

      No Temple, No Sun or Moon, and No locks on the Doors

 

Is all this to be taken literally or is God trying to tell us that the things we put such a high price on here on earth will seem insignificant in heaven?

 

Tell the class that were going to move from what heaven looks like to what it will be like. Then read Revelation 21:1-5;

   21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and

         the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  2 I saw

the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from

God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I

heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Look! Gods dwelling place

is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his

people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will

wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning

or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

He who was seated on the throne said, I am making everything new! 

 

 

Again list some of the characteristics on the board;

      No tears, No Death, No Morning or Crying or Pain of any kind.

Its no wonder that everyone wants to go.

      Everything thats Worn Thin, Used Up, Broke Down, or Rusted Out

will be made new; Including Us.

 

Jesus once said:

 In my fathers house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there To Prepare a Place for You. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me that you also will be where I am. John 14:2-3

 

If Jesus were making heaven to be a place that was custom made to your tastes what would it look like?

      Would there be oceans, cities, rain forests and deserts?

      How about dogs, cats, elephants, and giraffes?

      Would your heaven include, golf, fishing, baseball and shopping malls?

  Take a few minutes and discuss the possibilities.

 

Ask the class to list some of the people in the Bible, who went to heaven and describe how they got there;

      Enoch walked with God and was taken up into heaven. Genesis 5:21

      Elijah rides to heaven in a chariot of fire. 2 Kings 2:11

      Jesus ascends to heaven from the Mount of Olives in a cloud.

Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9

 

Ask the class how we can get to heaven? Write the answers on the board.

 

When Thomas asked Jesus that Question he responded;

  Jn 14:6 Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one

 comes to the Father except through me.

 

People often ask difficult questions about heaven. Recently a woman asked me;

      Would she see her still-born child in heaven?

       If she did, would he be a baby or a grown man?

      How old she would be in heaven?

 

How would you answer those questions? Once again list answers on the board.

 

I said that no one knows for sure, but Thomas Aquinas believed that, like Christ, well all be thirty three in heaven. Old enough to have acquired some wisdom and young enough to do all the things wed like to. I assured her that the Bible said that the dead in Christ shall rise and so I believed that shed meet him some day. Do you agree?

 

This much we do know, in heaven broken bones will be fixed, arthritic fingers will be healed, and warn out hearts will beat strong once again.

For the trumpet will sound, Paul writes, the dead will be raised, and we

will be changed. For the perishable must put on the imperishable, and

what is mortal must put on immortality, then the saying that is written

will come to pass that: Death will be swallowed up in victory.

        1 Cor. 15:53-54

Notice how positive Paul is. He says we Will, and we Must. The details of exactly what heaven will be like remain a mystery for now but the certainty of heaven is a promise from him who never breaks a promise.


This week take a few minutes and ask yourself,

      Who youd like to see the most when you get to heaven?

      Who youd miss the most if they werent there?

 

 

 

LESSON NUMBER TWO: The Trinity

 

Begin the class by asking;

What does God look like?

 

Its a question that children often ask and adults always struggle to answer.

         What did you say when your kids asked that question?

 

Do you remember Michelangelos painting, the Creation of Adam? It covers the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In it God is depicted as a bearded strong man with long flowing gray hair and beard whos extending the index finger of his right hand towards Adams left finger to give him life.

        How many people think God looks like an old man with a gray beard?

 

In his novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C. S. Lewis describes God as a powerful Lion named Aslan. Hes not safe, he says, but hes good.

         How many of you think God is a lion?

 

In William Paul Youngs novel The Shack we meet God in three persons. First there is Papa, The Father figure who turns out to be a large African-American woman. Next there is Jesus, a Middle Eastern man who looks the part. And finally there is Sarayu an Asian woman who glows with a radiant light and she of course is the Holy Spirit. The description of God was both refreshing to some and Blasphemous to others. Ask the class;

      Whos read The Shack?

      What was there reaction?

      How many people think God looks like a husky black woman?

 

So what does God really look like?

 

1.  In The Gate God is depicted in three persons. First there is The Father, who is called Ahbee. The author describes him this way.

                                                           The voice of the man who called to me sounded familiar, like Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird.  It was slow, deliberate, and deep, but the man himself looked more like Paul Newman.  He was tall, lean, and weathered, with steely blue eyes and short, cropped gray hair that receded slightly.  He wore faded blue jeans, white Converse tennis shoes, and a green tee-shirt that said Save the Whales on it. There was the white dust of flour on his shirt, and from the looks of him, I made him out to be the cook.

 

2.  Next we meet The Son who the author calls Josh. He is described with these words:

                  I was expecting to see Ahbee making breakfast but instead, a Middle Eastern man in his thirties walked out smiling. He was wearing cuffed blue jeans, Keen sandals, and a well-worn gray tee-shirt that said Lowes on the pocket.

 

                  Im Josh, he said with a bit of an accent, and he extended his hand, swallowing mine in a crushing grip.  I couldnt help but notice that his calloused hands were scarred and twisted, like hed been in some kind of industrial accident. 

 

                  Sky, he said, it is so good to have you here.

 

                  Once again, I felt at a disadvantage.  Whoever this was, he seemed to know me.

 

                  I am Ahbees son, he said, as if he was reading my thoughts, and he has asked me to spend some time with you today.

 

                  As I looked more carefully at the young man before me, there was definitely a family resemblance. He looked like a younger version of Ahbee, but taller.  His skin was more olive tone, his nose more pronounced, and his eyes were the color of Bakers chocolate. His words and his appearance were inviting.  There was something magnetic about the man, and it made you want to get to know him better.

3.  And finally we meet The Holy Spirit who the author calls Rae. She is described this way:

When I turned around, a slender brunette in her thirties stood on the shore.

 

Ahbee asked me to spend some time with you today, she said. My name is Ru-ah, but you can just call me Rae.

 

Like Josh, Rae bore a family resemblance to Ahbee.  Blonde streaks highlighted her chestnut hair and her freckles spoke to her love of the sun.  Her hair fell to her shoulders and then swept up and back as if the wind had just blown it off her face.  Rae was wearing a sleeveless black blouse that buttoned up the front in a vee, a khaki pencil skirt, and open-toed Dr. Shoals sandals that clomped as she walked out to meet me on the dock.  Her earrings and her eyes were pale green, and both seemed to sparkle in the sunlight.  Even in those sandals, she seemed to dance as she walked.

 

She brushed up beside me, and for a moment I felt a little flush and  awkward.  There was something earthy and yet innocent about her, and I wondered if she knew just how beautiful she was.

 

Notes:

1. In Hebrew the word for father is Abba. In the Lords Prayer Jesus first word is Avinu, our father. While my wife and I were in Israel, I heard a small child call his grandfather Ahbee.

 

2. The word for Jesus is in Hebrew is Yashua. In our English Bibles, its pronounced Joshua or Josh for short.

 

3.  And finally, the word we translate as Spirit is Ruah. It kind of sounds like Rae which was the authors mother, daughter, and granddaughters middle name and when he thinks about heaven he thinks of them.

 Later in the book the main character meets up with an old friend Roz who died years before and he asks him if God really looks like Paul Newman? Roz says,

 

No, but he sure looks like him, doesnt he? 

 

Yeah, I said, and he sounds like Gregory Peck.

 

Ive noticed that too, but when Ive come for supper when other people were staying here, he hasnt always looked like that.  In fact, the last time I was here, he looked like Charlton Heston and he sounded like Morgan Freeman.  I think he slips on the costume that best fits our expectations.  I once heard Paul say that in his travels he was all things to all people so he might save some, and I imagine that its the same way with God.

 

  Do you think God reveals himself in different ways at different times?

 

Lets take a look at what the Bible says about Gods appearance.

 

1.  The Image of God - Genesis 1:26-27

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

 

Ask the class to identify the Characteristics of God found in this passage and list them on the board.

      Hes Plural, or perhaps Trinitarian. Notice that he uses the word, Us

      Adam is made in his Image.

      Male and Female

 

2.  God Walking - Genesis 3:8

8 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 they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

 

Again identify and list the Characteristics:

      Legs, He Walked

        

3.  The Burning Bush - Exodus 3:2

2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.

Characteristics:

      Eternal Fire

 

4.  The Pillar of Fire/Smoke - Exodus 13:21

21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

Characteristics:

      Smoke

      Fire

 

5.  The Whisper - I Kings 19:11-13

11 The Lord said, Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

 

Characteristics:

      A Gentle Whisper


6.  Glowing Metal and Fire
Ezekiel 1:26-28

1:26 Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

 

Characteristics:

      A Man

      From the waist up hot metal

      From the waist down fire

      Surrounded by a rainbow

 

7.  The Mirror Image - John 14:9b 

 Jesus said: Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. 

 

Characteristics:

      The Father looks like Jesus

 

  Ask the class the following question: When Jesus came as a servant was he disguising who God is or was he revealing who God is?

8.  The Lamb with 7 horns - Revelation 5:6

 6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

 

Characteristics:

      A Slain Lamb

      Seven Horns

      Seven Eyes

 

9.  Seven Stars and a Double-Edged Sword - Revelation 1:12-16

 12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

 

Characteristics:

      White Hair

      Eyes like Fire

      Feet of Bronze

      Voice sounds like Rushing Water

      Seven Stars in his Hand

      His Tongue is like a Double-edged Sword

      His Face Shines like the Sun

 

So now that they have some Biblical Foundation again ask;

What does God look like?

Have the class look up some of the One Word Descriptions of God;

God is Light. 1 John 1:5

God is Love. 1 John 4:8-16

God is Truth. Psalm 117:2

God is Power. Jeremiah 32:17-27

God is Invisible. 1Timothy 1:17      

God is A Spirit. John 4:24

God is Eternal. Psalm 90:2

God is Incomprehensible. Romans 11:33

 

In the fourteenth chapter of Johns gospel Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will come and be with us. 

I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be

 with you forever--  the Spirit of truth. John 14:16-17

Ask the class;

What role does the Holy Spirit play in your lives? Do they feel like She is with you Guiding and Giving Counsel every day of your lives?

 

Biblical References that describe Gods Feminine Characteristics,

      God is like a mother eagle. Deuteronomy 32: 11-12

      God gives birth to his people. Deuteronomy 32:18

      God is a loving mother. Hosea 11:3-4

      God is protective like a mother bear. Hosea 13:8 

      God is in labor. Isaiah 42:14

      God is a nursing mother. Isaiah 49:15

      God is a comforting mother. Isaiah 66:13

      God is the queen of heaven. Jeremiah 44:25

      God is a mother. Psalm 131:2

      God is a mother hen. Luke 13:34

LESSON NUMBER THREE: Free Will

 

Good morning this is the third lesson in our study of some of the themes of The Gate, a novel by Dann Stouten and Todays Focus Question is;

Do you think that life is A Choice or A Chance?

      Is it a matter of Free Will or Gods Will?

      Do we have a Choice or is everything Predetermined in advance?

      Do we decide or has it been decided for us?

 

Most of us would say that its both, and depending on what we learned theologically we tip the teeter-totter towards one or the other. The Reformed tradition with John Calvin leaned towards Predestination while the John Wesley and his followers emphasized the freedom of choice.

 

Write the two words on the board and ask the class which way they lean;

      Free Will/Predestination

 

  Ask the class if they feel differently about Gods involvement in Eternal things and Every Day things?

 

Romans 8:28-30         

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God Foreknew he also Predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also Called; those he called, he also Justified; those he justified, he also Glorified.

 

Who are the those Pauls talking about? Is it singular or plural?

If its singular, then there is tension between our individual Free Will & Predestination.  However if the subject, the those who love him is plural,  God is saying that there is a group of people (The Church) who He knew & predestined to conform to the image of Jesus, then the problem is lessoned.

In Second Peter the Apostle writes,

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand

 slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,

 but everyone to come to repentance" II Peter 3:9

 

And in his first letter to Timothy Paul seems to agree when he writes.

" I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and

thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in

 authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and

holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all

people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

I Timothy 2:3-4

 

If it is Gods desire that everyone comes to repentance then wont he ultimately get what he wants?

 

This is essentially Rob Bells view expressed in his book Love Wins. Why would a loving God arbitrarily decide to send some people to eternal salvation and others to eternal damnation?

 

The answer to the question is one of the following:

1.  Because Hes God, he can do whatever he wants and we cant question his will.

2.  Hes God but doesnt always get what he wants.

3.  Hes God but hes given us the ability to choose.

4.  Hes God and hes predestined his church to reign with him.

 

 

If you put options 3 and 4 together you get something like the following:

God has predestined his church (his chosen people) to constantly be conforming to the likeness of his son Jesus. Anyone who chooses can become a part of Gods chosen people simply by accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. In becoming a member of the predestined group it does not automatically mean that you will prosper or get everything that you want but rather that collectively the group will accomplish what God wants.

 

Revelation 22:12-15

12 Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

 

Clearly to me at least Jesus is saying he wants us to Come but the choice is ours. If youve read Love Wins and you want to read what others might say about this, an excellent book is Erasing Hell by Francis Chan.

 

In Joshua 24:11-15 God says this to the people of Israel,

11"Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanittes, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I Gave Them Into Your Hands. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you, also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. 13 So I Gave You A Land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant. 14"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then Choose For Yourselves This Day Whom You Will Serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." 

 

Once again, did you notice certain things happened because God chose for them to happen. He ordained it and it was accomplished, but other things were left up to the Israelites to decide for themselves. Namely would they worship God or not. It was up to them. God never forces us to serve him. He simply says Choose and of course with choices there are always consequences. 

 

In The Gate the main character, Sky, has to decide if hes going to stay and explore the mystery or return to whats safe and familiar. Initially he decides to leave. As he walks back outside the gate he sees a row of mailboxes and notices that one has his name on it. Inside is an envelope that looks like the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes and it says, You may already be a winner. Inside the envelope he finds a cryptic note that says,

 

The path goes in two directions. One is safe and well-traveled; the other holds the answers that you seek most.  Either way, the choice is yours.

 

Fear and Curiosity play tug-o-war with his soul but eventually he decides to return. As he walks back inside Ahbee says;

Im so glad you decided to come back.

 

Did I have a choice? Sky asked.

Of course, you always have a choice. I simply tried to help you make the right choice, Ahbee answered.

 

Ill bet youre the one who put My Name on that mailbox, arent you? Sky responds.

 

Yes, Ahbee answered, I knew your name before you did, and I also knew you couldnt resist looking inside. 

 

So now you tell me:

If God already knew what he would do, did he ever really have a choice?

 

Later Sky encounters his friend Roz who offers this perspective how we tend to live our lives;

We do most of our living in-between. In-between relationships, in-between jobs, in-between where we were and where were going. And along the way you may have days when you feel like quitting, days when you wonder why God doesnt step in and give you some kind of sign.  Its on those days I want you to remember that Gods not done with you yet. So hang in there, dont give up, make the right choice, the hard choice because God has some amazing things in store for you.

 

Do you believe that God still has specific things he wants you to do before he calls you home?

 

Have the class list some of the things that God might still want us to do:

      Repent of some Sin

      Share your Faith with someone

      Support some Kingdom Cause

      Ask For or Give Forgiveness

      Help or Encourage someone in Need

 

Acts 7:23-30

23 When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?

27 But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

30 After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.

 

How old was Moses when God called him? (80 years old) At the time Moses thought he was finished with him, but he found out that God had other plans. He told Moses that the best was yet to come, that he wanted him to be a part of a great unfolding adventure.

 

Could Moses have said No to God? Can we?

Are you open to the Possibilities God might have in store for you?

 

What if Gods will for your life was less about where you choose to live, or work, or go to school, and more about, Who you are as a person and how your life can be used in his kingdom?

      Would that change the way you make decisions?

      Would it change who you ask for advice?

In The Gate were told that Skys friend Roz was one of those people you could lean on in life when times got tough. Is there someone one you can count on like Roz to be honest with you no matter what? Someone who you can go to when you face difficult choices in your life?

      Who can you lean on when life gets tough?

o  Will they be honest with you no matter what?

      Have you ever thanked them for being there in your life?

      Is there anyone who needs your helping in making a wise choice?

 

In The Gate it says that:

When we stop doing what God made us to do, we get swallowed up by   the Business of life and our goals, dreams, and aspirations evaporate.

 

               Have you been swallowed up by the business of life?

               What Goals, and Dreams do you have for your life?

               Whats keeping you from Accomplishing them?

 

Dann Stouten says that someone once called his house and woke up him and his family up with the following question:

         Pastor, I cant sleep. Im going to buy a new truck tomorrow and I dont

         know if God wants me to buy the red deluxe model or the blue basic

model. Can you help me?

 

Dann told him that he didnt think God had a color preference but if he had to guess he would say that the Lord wanted him to;

      Keep his old truck

      Give the money to the poor

      Only call him with questions like that during office hours.

The next day the man bought the deluxe model and later transferred his membership to another church.

 

What can we learn from this story,

      Danns not very pastoral after midnight.

      Gods Will often involves Sacrifice.

      God Will might not be Our Will.

      Gods Will isnt forced on anyone.

      God has a Purpose and Plan but he allows us to make our own Choices.  

 

Read the following statement to the class:

When our kids are small we teach them to make choices by asking questions,

      Do you want to wear the brown shoes or the black?

      Do you want peanut butter and jelly or bologna and cheese?

      Do you want to play ball or ride your bike?

 

We ask these questions because their opinion matters and because we know that if theyre going to grow up and become healthy adults they have to be able to take responsibility, choose wisely, exercise good judgment, ask clarifying questions, and learn from our mistakes.

 

Why does God give us the Freedom to make Choices? Could it be that he wants us to learn to:

   Take Responsibility

   Make Wise Choices

   Exercise Good Judgment

   Search his Word for Answers

   Talk to him in Prayer

   Learn from our Mistakes

 

Did you ever drop the Bible open hoping to land on the answer to your question? Did it work? We need to read the Bible not for a quick answer today but for an understanding of what Gods will is in the future. The more we know about God the more well know what his Will is in any given situation.

 

I once knew a man who got married even though everyone he knew told him not to because he prayed about it. He said, If you dont want me to do this Lord stop me and God didnt stop him so he knew it was Gods will.

 

Have you ever done that?

 

We want God to give us A Sign, An Ah-ha Moment, A Quick and Easy Answer. But God wants us to talk to him, search the Scriptures daily, make wise choices, exercise good judgment, learn from our mistakes and take responsibility for our lives. When we do that, then were in Gods will.

 

What does the Bible tell us about Gods Will?

      Gods Will often involves Sacrifice

      Gods Will might not be Our Will

      God never Forces his Will on anyone

      God has a Purpose and Plan but he allows us to make our own Choices 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LESSON NUMBER FOUR: Relationships/How They Shape Our Lives

 

In Genesis.. God says Its not good for a man to be alone.

      Do you agree with that statement? Why?

      Who do you know whos lonely?

 

I think one of the things that God is saying here is that we all need to have relationships with people that were invested in and who are invested in us. It can be with our parents, our children, our spouse, our siblings, our really close friends and especially with God, but relationships matter. They shape and mold us into who we are.

 

Ask the class;

  Who do you think has made the Biggest Impression on your life?

      Was it, A Parent, A Teacher, A Coach, A Coworker, A Friend?

      Was it what they said or what they did that modeled life for you?

      Where do you turn today for Answers and Advice?

      Would they be honest with you, no matter what?

 

In the book of Exodus it says..

         Honor your father and your mother that you may live a long life on the

         land the Lord your God gives you. Exodus 20:12

      Were your parents there for you?

      Are you there for your children?

 

In The Gate one of the characters we meet is named Roz. Were told that he was one of those people that you could lean on in life when times got tough.

      Who do you lean on when times are tough?

      Who leans on you?

 

In the third chapter of the book of Exodus we catch up with Moses in the Mountains of Midian. Time has had its way with him. He is now eighty years old and it felt like God had abandoned him. As the story unfolds we discover that it was just the opposite. God had been preparing him for this moment and from within the burning bush he calls to him and invites Moses on an unimaginable adventure. It would turn out to be both, the greatest challenge, and the greatest accomplishment of Moses life and his decision to follow Gods lead would change the course of history.

 

In The Gate Roz tells Sky that, Gods not done with him yet. What he means is that, like Moses, God still has things he wants him to do.

      Do you believe that Gods still not done with you yet?

      Are you living that way?

      Make a list of the things you might try to do if you knew that God would be with you every step of the way.

 

Dann Stouten says that when we stop doing what God made us to do, we get swallowed up by the busyness of life, and our goals, dreams, and aspirations evaporate.

      Have you been swallowed up by the busyness of life?

      Make a list of the goals and dreams you still have for your life and then ask yourself, Whats keeping me from going out after them?

 

In The Gate were told that Grandpa Hunt was a talented man, but his attitude got in the way of him getting ahead in life. Eventually, he gave up on himself and his abilities. Eventually bitterness had its way with his heart and for the rest of his life he felt like God had given him a raw deal.

      How do you feel?

      Have you ever felt like giving up?

      Do you think that our attitude towards life is often a self-fulfilling prophecy?

      Who might you be able to talk to about your problems, your abilities, and your attitude?

 

In The Gate, the Holy Spirit tells Sky that we all want eternal life, but too often we choose to waste the life we have.

      Do you know someone whos wasting their life?

      How are you wasting time in your life?

      Whose life are you investing in?

 

In Johns gospel Jesus says,

    "A New Command ..I Give TO You: Love One Another. JN 13:34

 

Jesus also tells us;

         To love the lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love

 our neighbors like we love ourselves.

 

The Bible says that only two things are eternal, our relationship with God and our relationships with each other. So if we want to invest in something eternal, we need to invest our time in people.

 

One of the ways The Gate challenges us to invest in the things that matter is to Draw the Circles.

1.  In the center circle there is only room for you and God.

      How is your Relationship with God right now?

Contentment starts here in the center circle. This is the place where we have to be most honest and most vulnerable in our lives.

2.  In the second circle there is only room for a handful of people who matter most in your life at the moment. The people you pray for every night. Your spouse, your kids, and your parents. Make a list of these people.

      Hows your Relationship with them right now?

 

3.  The third circle is the circle of trust. It includes your closest friends. The people you know you could count on in a crunch. If there was a crisis in your life these people would surely know about it and be praying about it.

      Hows your Relationship with the people in the third circle?

 

4.  The fourth circle is the Circle of Influence. These are people you work with, go to school with, or come in contact with on a regular basis.

      Evaluate your Relationships in this circle?

 

5.  Next is the Occasional Circle. These are people you have a relationship with but its more casual. Your contact with them is limited or sporadic. They may be people you care deeply about but you dont see them often enough to really be close.

      Again look at your Relationship with people in this circle?

 

Relationships change. People move in and out of our circles. Your best friend today may not be your best friend in a few years. And the circles just keep going out but we can only be in a relationship with so many people at one time. You may have 500 friends on Face Book but in a crisis you could only count on a few of them to help.  

 

One of the ways to evaluate whos in which circle is to ask yourself how often do you: 

a)   Talk with them?           

b)   Listen to them?

c)   Pray with and for them?

d)   Vacation with them?

e)   Write to them to let them know whats going on in your life?

 

When is the last time you spent some time with the oldest person in your family?

      Take the time to go visit them and ask them what they remember about growing up. You might be surprised at what youd learn.

      Ask them what they regret in life and what theyd do different if they had the chance to live life over again.

      Is there someone in your family who needs you to be their advocate?

      Who should you make the time to visit before their time runs out?

      Who in your family would you be surprised to find in heaven? Why?

      Have you ever talked to them about how you feel?

 

In The Gate one of the characters says that;

         People who hurt people, were once hurt by people themselves.

      Do you agree with that statement?

      Is there someone in your family who has treated others badly?

      What might help the hurting people you know get over their pain?

 

If you have been physically or emotionally abused, or taken advantage of by the people you love, you need to tell someone you can trust and ask them to help you put an end to it now.

 

A wise person once said that pain will either make you bitter or better.

      Describe a painful time in your life?

      What has the pain done to you?

      What has your pain done to the people around you?

 

 

It is written in the book of Hebrews, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

 

      Sit down and make a list of all the witnesses whove influenced your life.

      Ask yourself, when you were a learner, who let you tag along?

      Now that youre a teacher, who do you allow to tag along?

 

Jesus tells a parable about those who helped people in need and those who didnt, and he ends it with these words:  I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers youve done it unto me.

Matthew 25:40

 

      Who do you know that might fit that description?

      If they are in the first few circles of your life, have you been embarrassed by the way they act or the way you acted around them?

      Have you made a promise to look after someone in your life?  Are you keeping your promise?  You?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LESSON NUMBER FIVE: Angels

 

Todays Focus Question is, What do Angels look like?

 

The word Angel appears over 270 times in the English Bible. In Greek the word is aggelos .. (aggelos) or messenger..and it appears 165 times in the New Testament. In Hebrew its kalam.. (malak) which also means messenger and it is found 108 times in the Old Testament.

 

Sometimes people ask me, Do people become angels when they die?

      How would you answer that question?

 

Finish this sentence with me;

      Every time a bell rings.. (An Angel gets his wings.)

Its from an old black & white movie entitled , Its a Wonderful Life, but the question for today is this. Is it good theology?

 

In Hebrews the writer gives us a sneak peak of what waits for believers.

Hebrews 12:22-23

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, and  to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 

 

What does the text tell us we can expect to see in heaven? List on the board.

      The New Jerusalem

      A Myriad of Angels

      The Church of the 1st Born.. (The Church Militant. Those on Earth)

      God the Judge of All

      The Spirits of the Righteous made Perfect (The Church Triumphant or those whove been made perfect by going to heaven)

      Notice that the angels and the Spirits of the Righteous are two different groups.

 

 

In Scripture there seems to be a rank or a Hierarchy to the Angels we meet. There are Archangels, Seraphim, and Cherubim.

 

 Archangel

The word archangel or chief angel is only found twice in scripture.

 

1st Thessalonians 4:16

16For the Lord himself, will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Notice that its archangel singular not plural. This leads many scholars to assume that its describing an individual not a class of angels. 

 

Jude 1:9

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, The Lord rebuke you!

 

Once again the text says the archangel not an archangel. Despite these two references many still believe that the word archangel is a term describing a whole class of angels. They would site Gabriel as an example. Were told that he also has special status among the angels. He is Gods messenger to Daniel, Zechariah, and Mary. (Daniel 8:15-17, 9:21-23, Luke 1:8-20, 1:26-38) In each of these cases the 1st thing the angel said was, Do not be afraid.

 

      What do you think was scary about angels?

 

According to the Book of Tobit which is one of the extracanonical books of the Apocrypha used by the Roman Catholic Church, there is another archangel by the name of Raphael.

 

 

 

Historically, according to Jewish tradition, there are seven archangels.

 

Michael - Who is Like God

Gabriel - God is my Strength

Raphael - God Heals

Uriel -  God is Light or God is Fire

Raguel - God is a friend

Saraqael -  God is Just

Remiel -  God is Mercy or Hope

 

Another Archangel named in the Scriptures is Lucifer which means morning star . This was the original name for Satan.

 

Isaiah 14:12-15

12 How you have fallen from heaven,
   morning star, (O Lucifer) son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
    you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart,
    I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
    above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
    to the depths of the pit.

 

 

 

Elsewhere in Scripture Satan is also called:

      The Adversary

      The Accuser

      The Dragon

      The Serpent

      The Father of Lies

      The Lord of the Flies

      The Prince of this World

 

We get a brief description of what happened at Satans rebellion in the book of Revelation and there were told that he wasnt alone.

 

Revelation 12:7-9

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

 

Notice the phrase, The Dragon and His Angels. Satan was not alone. Its estimated that up to a third of the angels rebelled with Him. We now call these fallen angels demons and in scripture were told again and again that they raise havoc in our world. But they will ultimately be punished.

 

Jude 1:6

 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 

 

Speaking of this verse in his Commentary on Jude John Calvin says;

John Calvin

For wherever they go, (the fallen angels) they drag with them their own chains, and remain involved in darkness. Their extreme punishment is in the meantime, deferred until the great day comes.

 

Jesus gives us a short but telling description of what waits for Satan and those who have fallen at the end of his parable of the Sheep and the Goats.

 

Matthew 25:41

41 Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LESSON NUMBER SIX: Angels (continued)

Todays Focus Question is, What do Angels look like?

 

Seraphim

The word literally means Burning Ones. In the book of Numbers and in Deuteronomy we find serpents called seraphim. The only place the angelic form of Seraphim are mentioned in scripture is in the book of Isaiah.

 

Numbers 21:6-8

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us. So Moses prayed for the people.The Lord said to Moses, Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.

 

Deuteronomy 8:15

15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock.

 

In the NIV the translators use the words venomous snakes but in Hebrew it reads Seraphim Nahash.. myprc cehn or  firey serpent. Note the word Nahash can also mean, Whisperer which is a play on words in the temptation account.

 

Isaiah 6:1-3

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
         the whole earth is full of his glory.

 

List their characteristics on the board

      Six Wings

      Two cover their Faces

      Two cover their Feet

      Two are used to fly

 

 Cherubim..

When you say the word Cherub or its plural Cherubim most people think of the cute pudgy little baby-like creatures in the Charmin commercials. But thats not how the Bible describes them! The 1st time we read about Cherubim is when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden.

 

Genesis 3:24

24 After he drove the man (Adam) out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

Do you think the Charmin cherubs would have kept Adam out of Eden?

 

Later in the book of Ezekiel the prophet describes them.

Ezekiel 1:5-10

5 In appearance their form was that of a man, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, 9 and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. 10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle.

 

Ask the class to describe the physical characteristics of the Living Creatures and list their on the board.

      Form of a Man

      Four Faces (a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle)

      Four Wings

      Feet of a Calf

In the tenth chapter Ezekiel calls these Living Creatures the Cherubim.

 

In Exodus were given a description of the Arc of the Covenant and it says that it was adorned with images of The Cherubim.

 

Exodus 25:17-20

17 Make an atonement cover (A Mercy Seat) of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 

Where do angels come from?

The Psalms tell us that like us the angels are created beings.

 

Psalm 148:1-5

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for at his command they were created.

 

When we try to figure out when they were created it gets a little more complicated. Our 1st clue is found in Genesis.

 

Genesis 1:1

1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

In the 38th chapter of Job God is talking to Job about some of the events of creation and he says the angels were there singing for joy.

Job 38:4-7

4Where were you when I laid the earths foundation?
Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

 

In the book of Revelation, Seraphim and Cherubim seem to merge into a supernatural being that has characteristics of both.

Revelation 4:6-8

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty

who was, and is, and is to come.

 

In The Gate, the gate keeper is Michael DeAngelo and hes described this way.

Before I could say anything, Michael came walking through the gate and caught me by surprise. His presence seemed to fill my space, so I took a step back. He was tall and thick and athletically built, with longish black hair that flowed back from his widows peak, like Tom Hanks in the movie DaVinci Code.  There was a whisper of gray in his sideburns as well as his neatly trimmed mustache and goatee.

 

What do you think of the Authors description?

 

How many angels are there?

In the 2nd book of Kings, the King of Syria sends his entire army to capture the prophet Elisha and when his servant stepped out of his tent and saw the size of the enemy he was terrified.

 

II Kings 15:17

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.16 "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them. 17 And Elisha prayed, Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see. Then the Lord opened the servants eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

 

Were not given a specific number but we know the angels outnumber the entire Syrian army.

 

Matthew 26:53

53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

 

A Roman legion had 6,000 men so if we multiply that times 12 we come up with 72,000 angels that were at Jesus disposal.

 

Daniel 7:10

Thousands upon thousands (of Angels) attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

 

Revelation 5:11

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.

 

Ten thousand times ten thousand is 100 million. The word in English we translate as ten thousand is a myriad and literally it is an undefinable infinitely great number. A number thats so great its beyond our ability to comprehend. According to Revelation the angels number is that times itself.

 

What is Gods role and purpose for the Angels?