Thursday, December 31, 2015


Bible lessons and Teaching tips - Contents.

Teaching tips from Maurice Sweetsur ( ).
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5. Prayer.
6. Hearing from God.
7. The Ten Commandments.
8. John 3.16.
9. Teaching Memory verses.
10. Gospel Illusions.
11. Object Lessons (using natural laws).
12. Lessons involving balloons.
13. Lessons involving fire.
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Maurice Sweetsur
68. God’s love.
67. The Stat of Bethlehem.
66. Helping children to defend their faith.
65. Keeping discipline in your children’s class. 
64. Did God really create the earth in six days?
63. God v. Santa Claus.
62. How many different types of Christians are there?
61. - How old is the earth?
60. - God's Diary.
59 - Understanding Biblical Miracles.
58 - Developing good habits and making good choices.
57 - What do children believe?
56. God's unconditiomal love.
55. Christian Myths.
54. Playing for God's team
53. Discipleship.
52. Getting to know your children.
51. The road of life.
50. The Church.
49. What children need to understand about God.
48. The twelve days of Christmas.
47. Big bang or big mess?
46. The day of rest.
45. Dead to the world.
44. Using Christian songs to teach Biblical truths (Part 2).
44. Using Christian songs to teach Biblical truths.
43. Our amazing earth.
42. Commitment to Christ - Two analogies.
41. Symbols of Christmas.
40. Made in the image of God.
39. Why Christians praise God.
38. The progressive revelation of God.
37. Children are special.
36. Steps to forgiving others.
35. Presenting puppet skits and plays.
34. Religion or Christianity.
33. Our lives are on loan from God.
32. Peer pressure.
31. Teaching children to P.R.A.Y.
30.Teaching Bible stories as real history.
29. Memory verses on cardboard discs.
28. Assurance of salvation.
27. New Life in Christ.
26. Head belief or heart belief?
25. The Ten Commandments.
24. Knowing Jesus or knowing about Jesus?
23. The Good Samaritan.
Teaching John 3.16.
Overcoming discipline problems - by making your lessons fun and exciting.
1. Getting children to pray in public.
2. How we should pray (A lesson from blind Bartimaeus).
3. Ideas for teaching the David and Goliath story.
4. Ideas on teaching about Creation.
5. Developing good habits.
A. Teaching children how to make right choices.
B. Teaching children to be generous givers.
6. Use of Balloon modelling in Children's ministry.
7. Use of Ventriloquism to teach class rules.
8. Leading children to Christ.
9. Noah's ark and the flood.
10. Use of storytelling.
11. What is love?
12. The Lord's prayer.
13, Teaching Memory verses.
14. What's in a name?
15. Telling the C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. story.
16. How God speaks to us.
What do children believe?
17. Ideas for teaching about Zacchaeus.
18. Jesus Understands (Easter).
19. Teaching Bible stories in context.
Creation or Evolution. Does it really matter what we believe?
20. Creation and Evolution.
21. The lost sheep.
22. The lost son.

T.T. 68. God’s love.


An old song entitled “More than yesterday” is about a girl who asks a boy “How much do you love me?” His answer is “I love you more than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.” In other words he was telling the girl that his love for her was increasing every day.


I wondered if God loves us in a similar way. Is His love for us growing stronger every day?


The answer to the question is “No”. The reason is that God already loves us to the maximum extent. He can never love us any more than He does today, or any less than He does today. God may not like some of the things we do, especially if we ignore Him or are nasty to other people, but He will still love us to the maximum because “God is love.”


If anyone asks “How much does God love me?” Point them to the cross.  You cannot love anyone more than giving up your life for them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

T.T. 67. The Star of Bethlehem.

T.T. 67. The Star of Bethlehem.


Matthew’s Gospel records the story of a bright star that led the Magi (wise men) from the East to Bethlehem, where it stopped over the home of Jesus. This story has puzzled readers for centuries because the ”star” is ascribed attributes that other stars do not possess, namely that it was very bright, moved, and then was able to come to a stop.


Some have suggested that the star of Bethlehem might have been a Supernova (an exploding star). These are certainly very bright, but they don’t move or stop. Others have suggested that the “star” might have been a comet. These are also bright and they do move across the sky, but they certainly do not come to a stop. Others have suggested that the star was simply “The Glory of God” and others that it was a pure piece of fiction, written by Matthew to add a supernatural element to the account of Christ’s birth.


In Bible times everything in the night sky was called a star. Although most of them moved only slowly (we now know that stars appear to move because the earth is rotating), some did move relatively quickly. These were called “wandering stars”. We now know that these “wandering stars” are actually other planets which travel around the sun. This movement, coupled with the earth’s rotation, means that they appear to move relatively quickly.


In the 17th century the German astronomer Johannes Kepler worked out the how all the planets move. This means that we can now find out the position of all the planets, viewed from any place on earth, at any time in the past or future. We also know that when two planets appear to come together as viewed from the earth (a conjunction) their brightness is added  together, thus giving the appearance of a very bright star.


A conjunction of two planets thus seems to be a possibility for “the star of Bethlehem”. However, there is still the other problem – how could such a “star” come to a stop? Here again Kepler comes to our aid. Because of each planet’s movement and the earth’s own rotation and travel around the sun, planets can appear to slow down, pause (or stop), and then change direction as they began moving again.


Thus a conjunction appears to be a real possibility for “the star of Bethlehem”, but did such a conjunction happen around the time of Jesus’ birth? It is thought that Jesus was born about 4BC. However, Matthew indicates that when the Magi visited he was in a house and possibly a “toddler”. So we probably need to be looking for a conjunction a few years later than 4BC.


As the Magi came from the East, probably Babylon (modern Iraq), could they have seen a conjunction in the West (Bethlehem)? Yes they could have. Venus is the brightest of the planets and Jupiter the largest. We now know that a conjunction of these planets took place over Bethlehem (as viewed from the East) in 2BC. The exact date on which this occurred is rather interesting – it was on December 25th!


We don’t know the actual date of Jesus’ birth, but there are many different traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th..Many believe, however, that it is too much of a coincidence that the date of our present Christmas happens to be the date on which this conjunction over Bethlehem occurred. Thus, December 25th. 2BC could well be the FIRST Christmas.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Teaching tip 66. Helping children to defend their faith.

T.T. 66. Helping children to defend their faith.


In my teaching tip “What do children believe” (Newsletter 89), I looked at the problem of children from non-Christian homes being taught Biblical truths by their Bible teachers and then having their parents or secular teachers contradicting it.


This problem was brought home to me quite recently. Having completed my “Bible in schools” lesson in a state school, the class teacher returned and was immediately asked by one of the children “Do you believe the Bible?” The teacher’s answer was “No I don’t.” What is that pupil and the others who overheard then supposed to believe?


I have witnessed similar situations a number of times over the years. Once a 6 year old boy was pulled aside by his class teacher to have a “one to one” session with her, at the same time and in the same room as I was teaching the remaining pupils my “Bible” lesson. The boy asked his teacher “What is fiction?”  She replied “Fiction is like myths and religion. It didn’t really happen.” Her comment was clearly heard by myself and all the other children. If she could make comments like that in the presence of the “Bible” teacher, what would she, and others liker, say to the children when no “Bible” teacher is present?


Although there is no “magic” solution to the above problem I believe that, when teaching children from non-Christian backgrounds, we could do five things :-


  1. Pray for the children. Never underestimate the power of prayer and remember that God’s Word as we speak it is far more powerful than any words of human origin.


  1. Encourage the children to always use their minds and think for themselves. Teach the children not to accept any statement as true, simply because someone says it is - even if that person is their Bible teacher! Often, if we really examine a belief, the inconsistencies and falsehoods soon become apparent.


  1. Teach the children that when a person says “I don’t believe in God” or “I don’t believe that God wrote the Bible”, in most cases it is not that the person cannot believe, but rather that they will not believe. To believe in God or a Creator means that we have to admit that He made us, and therefore He owns us. Although He will never force us to do anything we don’t want to do, He has every right to tell us how we should lead our lives. Some people don’t like that idea as they would rather do whatever they want to do. They therefore try to overcome this problem by denying God’s existence, or that the Bible is “God’s word”. However if the unbeliever were challenged as to why they don’t believe, by asking such questions as “Have you checked it out for yourself, have you looked at the evidence?” Or, “Have you actually read the Bible yourself?”, you will probably find that they haven’t.


  1. Remind the children that the evidence of a Creator / God is all around them. We only have to look at the sky or the many wonderful living things around us to see this. Our common sense and experience teaches us that nothing can make itself, everything has to have a creator / maker. Although human beings can make many wonderful things, they have to have starting materials to do so. We cannot make anything out of nothing, and we cannot make anything living from anything that is not living. Only God can do those two things.


  1. Emphasise the importance of the Bible. State that Christians believe the Bible is God's Word, and therefore what the Bible says, God says. If a particular belief or idea clearly contradicts what the Bible says, it should be rejected. Ultimately it comes down to who we choose to believe. Do we believe God who was there at the beginning of time, knows everything, is never wrong and cannot lie, or do we believe people who were not there at the beginning, only know a tiny fraction of all there is to know, are often wrong and sometimes lie?

Teaching tip 65. Keeping discipline in your Children's class.

T.T. 65. Keeping discipline in your children’s class.


As every teacher will tell you, it is important to maintain discipline in your children’s class.  Without proper discipline, you will not only get frustrated, but the children won’t learn very much – even those who wish to learn will be distracted by those who don’t.


I discovered many years ago that the best way to maintain discipline was to endeavour to make all my lessons fun and exciting. I wrote an article on this, which I will reproduce below. There are, however, a few children who will still tend to misbehave, no matter how exciting your lesson is. What can we do in this situation?


Unfortunately, children’s teachers are now very much restricted in their discipline options. Even removing a child from your class is now no longer an option in most schools or churches. There are, however, still a number of discipline options we can try out. I have found that one method may work for one group but not for another and vice versa. All methods are based on either the “carrot” or the “stick” approach.


The “Stick” approach.


1. Time out. The familiar “time out” is still a popular method. Most children don’t like being excluded from the rest of the group, so you could ask the unruly child to go and sit in a remote part of the room or, if the children are gathered on the floor, to go and sit at their desk.


A quite effective variation of this method is to ask the unruly child to stand up and remain standing until you ask them to sit down again. The main drawback of this is that some children seem incapable of standing for more than 1 or 2 minutes and will sit down again. In extreme cases a child may refuse to stand up in the first place, and this of course will only cause more problems – Get to know your children.


2. A rebuke. Sometimes a word of rebuke is all that is needed to get a child to improve their behaviour. However, be very carful of how you rebuke a normally well behaved child. They won’t be used to getting told off, so even a mild rebuke may easily upset them. On the other hand some children won’t respond to a rebuke no matter how severe or how often you do it.


3. Exclusion. Most children love to be involved in class activities, for example being chosen to pray, read the Bible, be part of a skit a puppet play, or other special activity. Inform the unruly child that they weren’t considered for this because of their unacceptable behaviour.


4. An unpopular activity. This is a method I have recently started to use with spectacularly good results. If the majority of the class are misbehaved, the following lesson I give them an unpopular activity for the whole of the session, making it clear that I am doing this because of their previous unacceptable behaviour. You could even divide your class, giving the “unpopular” activity only to those who misbehaved, and having a “normal” lesson for those who didn’t.


In my case, I choose the “unpopular” activity to be work (activity) sheets. Most children enjoy working on these – but not for the whole lesson! I have subsequently found that even the mere threat of an unpopular activity has so far been enough to maintain good discipline.


The “Carrot” approach.


Rewards. I am always reluctant to give rewards as a method of improving discipline, but nevertheless it can be quite effective.


1. Tell the children that you will choose the “best behaved” to participate in any special activity.


2. Take along two or three attractive prizes to give out to the “best behaved” at the end of your lesson. I usually use balloon models as they are very popular and relatively inexpensive. Note. Most schools now discourage the giving out of lollies (sweets / candy) to the children.


You may find, however, that even the promise of a reward will not be enough to tempt some children to improve their behaviour. Experience has shown them that they are incapable of being amongst the best behaved, so they don’t bother trying. In this case, you could promise the prizes to the “most improved” rather than the “best”.


As a variation, I sometimes take to the class a larger number of prizes (say five or six) I place them on my left and explain that I will be giving them to the “most deserved” children at the lesson conclusion – as long as there are still any prizes remaining on my left. Explain that if any child misbehaves, I will take one of the prizes and place it on my right.  Explain that all prizes remaining on my left will be given away. Those on my right will be taken home with me.


Even if there is an improvement in discipline as the children see their potential prize pile being reduced, or if they plead with you to still give all the prizes away, don’t be tempted to do so. It is important for the children to understand that you will always keep your promises, whether “good” or “bad”.




Overcoming discipline problems by making your lessons fun and exciting.


( First published on my Teaching tip blog ).

There has been much written about how best to discipline 'problem' classes. I certainly don't profess to be an expert on the subject, but I would like to share my own experience in the hope that it will be a help to you.

When I first started teaching Bible classes, I had my share of discipline problems, especially from the older boys. I soon realised, however, that many children were causing trouble simply because they were bored with my lessons!

I therefore determined to make my lessons more fun and exciting. I believe that this is something we must all do, otherwise many of the children - even if they don't actually misbehave - will simply "turn off." Fortunately, there are many ways we can do this. Here are a few suggestions.

Tell familiar stories from unusual angles, to keep the children guessing. e.g. The Good Samaritan from the point of view of the donkey, Daniel, from a lion's viewpoint, Jonah, as seen by the large fish, David and Goliath from the Giant's perspective. (Don't mention the Giant's name till the end - to keep your class wondering!). etc etc.

If your class is well behaved, use skits involving the children - most Bible stories can be adapted to be told in this way. If your class cannot be trusted to do this properly, use puppet skits. I record the skit beforehand, and get children to operate the puppets. Check out for an extensive array of skits.

Use ventriloquism. You don't need a special dummy. A hand puppet will do. And you don't have to be expert. If you use good material, the children will love it, and won't mind if they see your mouth moving a little.

Teach memory verses in lots of different ways. The number is only limited by your own imagination.

Review your teaching with quizzes. Noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) is a popular way to do this.

Dress up as a Bible character, and tell his/her story with a monologue. Nebuchadnezzar, telling about the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, and the cripple who was brought to Jesus by his four friends, have worked well for me.

Use lots of object lessons to illustrate your teaching points. Better still, use illusions, which are essentially object lessons with "special effects." Many illusions are very easy to do, but will still baffle your class. Two excellent sources of illusions are and (which also has an excellent range of ventriloquism skits). Also, many illusions, especially those involving paper cutting or ropes, cost nothing to do.

Result ? I can now say that I rarely have any discipline problems. I don't think this is because my present classes have generally better behaved children in them, but rather because I am now better able to keep their attention.

I am not saying that we should abandon our programs so as to keep the children entertained, but if they are not happy, they won't learn much anyway and will be put off the church in later years. We can still teach our programs, but we should all be continually searching for more interesting and exciting ways to do it. We owe this both to our children and to the Lord.

Friday, September 19, 2014

T.T. 63. God v. Santa Claus.

T.T. 63. God v. Santa Claus.


God is a good and generous God who wants the very best for us. However, it is important to teach children that He is NOT like a Santa Claus.


Some people seem to think that God is like a Santa Claus. They only seem to talk to Him when they want something from Him. Their prayers are usually selfish, such as “Give me.” “Help me.” Give my mum this.” “Help my dad do that.”


Although there is a place for such prayers, we need to remember that God does not exist to serve us. Rather, we exist to serve Him.


The best type of prayers are when we place God at the centre of them, such as :-


“Here I am. How can I serve You today?”

“How can I serve you more effectively?”

“How can I show your love to others?”

“Help me to know you better.”

“Help me to love you more.”




If our attitude is right and our greatest desire is to please God, He will bless us and take care of all our needs.

T.T. 64. Did God really create the earth in six days>

T.T. 64. Did God really create the earth in six days?


When I first read in the Bible that God created the earth in six days and then rested on the seventh, I was shocked. I thought “Why did He take so long, and why did He then take a rest for a day?


For most of my life I was an atheist, but once I started believing in God then, by definition, I understood that He was all powerful and could do absolutely anything instantly, and would never need to rest.


Why then did God take six days to create the earth, rather than doing it in a split second? I believe that it was to set us an example of how we should organise our lives. He has designed us in such a way that we can work (or study) for six days without any harm coming to our bodies or minds – provided we make it a habit to take a rest, or break, from our normal activities one day in every seven. That is the reason we have a seven day week.


In the past some countries, such as France and Russia, have tried to abolish the seven day week in favour of a shorter or longer week. But they have all had to revert back to the seven day week. Any other system just does not work.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

T.T. 62 - How many types of Christians are there?

T.T. 62 - How many types of Christians are there?

The answer is ONE. You need to understand what a Christian really is. If you ask most people what a Christian is, they will probably reply something like "A person who goes to church", or, "A person who prays a lot and reads the Bible", or, "A person who does lots of good deeds and is always kind to others". All these things are good, but none of them make a person a Christian. Rather, these are some of the things that Christians do - because they already are Christians! Real Christians do these things because they can't help themselves. They are "natural" to them because Jesus has changed them on the insides, and given them a God-given desire to do these things, which is simply an outward expression of their new love for both God and other people.

Of course non-Christians can also do some or all of the above things, but that doesn't make them Christians. Some people do these things to try and please God - because they don't understand that God's forgiveness and acceptance can never be earned, no matter how 'good' they are, or how hard they try. Others do these things to try and impress people, so that they will think well of them, or be good to them in return.

One of the best ways of understanding what a real Christian really is, is to consider the three words :- CHRIST IN PERSON. When you condense these words into one, you are left with CHRISTIAN.


In other words, a Christian is a person in whom Jesus Christ is living. And He can only live in you if you invite Him to do so asking Him to forgive your sins (wrongdoing) and to come and take charge of your life.

I understand why somebody could ask the above question. There are thousands of different religions in the world, the followers of some of the best known being the Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews. Even among the Christian faith, there are many different Denominations or types of church. It can all be rather confusing to the outsider.

The first thing to realise is that Christianity is not a religion. In fact, it is the opposite of religion. Religion is all about us trying to please God, to reach Him by doing good works. On the other hand, Christianity is all about God coming down to us as Jesus and meeting us where we are. All we are required to realise that it is impossible to please God by our own good deeds and to accept what Jesus has done for us on the cross. It is the difference between trying and trusting. (See Figure below).
No matter how hard we try, we can never reach God by our good deeds.

There are two radical differences between all religions and Christianity.

1. Religions teach that our only way to God and Heaven is through our own Good works.
2. Religions deny that Jesus is God. (Many believe that Jesus was a good man or a Prophet, but they deny His divinity).

At the centre of the Christian faith is the belief that Jesus is God, and that we can ony reach God and Heaven through Him (see John 14.6).

Different Christian churches.

There are three different types of Christian churches. They differ because of what they have as their FINAL AUTHORITY for what they believe and consequently the way they live.

1. The Roman Catholics.

Roman Catholics have as their final authority their church leaders, in other words the declarations of their Popes, past and present. They believe that the Pope is God's spokesman on earth, and that therefore what the Pope says is what God says. Also, as God is infallible, so must be the Pope's declarations.

The problem arises when one Pope may contradict what a former Pope had declared, or what is taught in the Bible.

2. The Liberal churches.

This group have as their final authority human reason. They respect the Bible and what various church leaders have said, but if this is against what their mind tells them is true, they reject it. For example, they may deny most of the miracles recorded in the Bible such as the bodily resurrection of Christ and attempt to explain them away. Unfortunately, if you remove the miraculous from the Bible, you are just left with a few interesting stories and some good moral teaching.

3. The Evangelical churches.

The Bible is their final authority. They use their human reason, and they appoint leaders, but when these contradict the Bible, they submit to the authority of the latter, believing that it is the inspired and infallible Word of God.

Even among the Evangelical group of churches, there are many different denominations, and variations in what they believe and teach. However, many of these differences are 'minor doctrines' and ultimately not important to our salvation. Such 'minor doctrines' include Water Baptism - i.e. the Baptism of infants or 'Believers', the present day operation of the gifts of the Spirit, the method of Church government, the role of women in the church and the correct interpretation of the 'End Times'.

I would suggest, however, that there are six 'Major doctrines' that Evangelical churches have in common, and around which they can have true unity. These are:-

1.The Divinity of Christ.
2. The substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross for our sins.
3. The bodily resurrection of Jesus.
4. Our need to be 'Born Again'.
5. God accepts us on the basis of our faith in Jesus alone.
6. The Bible, as first given, is the divine and infallible 'Word of God'.

We should remember, however, that true Christians can be found in all these three types of churches. The type of church you attend doesn't determine whether you are a Christian or not. A true Christian (CHRIST IN PERSON) is simply someone with Christ living within them, because He has been invited to do so.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

T.T. 61 - How old is the earth?

T.T. 61 - How old is the earth?

The only way that anyone could know the age of the earth would be if they were present when it was being formed. As only the Creator Himself was present, He is the only one who could tell you when He made it. Although the Bible doesn't tell us exactly when the earth was created, by a careful reading of its recorded events and time spans between them, we can conclude that the earth is about 6,000 years old. It may possibly be slightly older than this, but not by much.

Contrary to what some people believe, Science cannot tell us how old the earth is This is because scientific experiments can only be performed in the present, and not the past. Therefore, as no human was present when the earth was first formed, we cannot look to any human to give us a definitive answer.

There are, however, numerous ways in which people can try to estimate the age of the earth. (For a more detailed revue, see the Creation Ministries International web site).These estimates vary from just a few thousand years (which are close to the age derived from the Biblical record) to about five billion years! However, all these methods depend upon many assumptions, mainly that the change processes that we can presently observe happening on the earth having always occurred at the same rate. No-one can know this.

The fact that different methods of estimating the earth's age, and indeed different scientific laboratories using the same method, come up with very different answers, suggest that conditions on the earth have not always been the same and demonstrate how unreliable such findings are.

Which earth age-estimation methods a person chooses to believe will depend on their world view. Biblical Christians will obviously accept the "young earth" estimates, whereas Evolutionists will choose to accept the "old earth" estimates. That is because for evolution to be even remotely possible it would require aeons of time for all the necessary changes to take place as we evolved from chemicals to a living single cell, and then into man, not to mention all the many different life forms we find today.

Most of these methods actually conclude that the earth is "young", usually giving values of between about 5,000 to 1 million years. The only earth age-estimation methods that give answers of billions of years are the radiometric dating methods in which the rate at which one type of chemical element is changed into another is measured. For example, if we know that element A in the earth is slowly changing to element B, then by measuring the present rate of change, and the amount of A and B presently in the sample, we can calculate how long the process has been occurring, and thus how long ago it was first formed. However, apart from assuming that the rate of change has always been constant, we need to assume that there was no "B" present at the beginning, and also that no "B" was leached out of the sample over the supposed billions of years that this was taking place. This no-one can possibly know!

Does it really matter whether we believe that the earth is "young" or "old"?

I believe it does because if we doubt the accuracy of the very first part of the Bible, what justification have we foe believing other parts of it, such as when it talks about the resurrection of Jesus and the means of obtaining eternal life through Him?

T.T. 60 - God's Diary.

T.T. 60 - God's Diary.
Diaries can be very useful. We can use them to record things we have done that we might like to remember, or as a way to remind us of future important dates like birthdays or holidays. We would all agree, however, that some events in our lives are more important than others. I think that is also true for God. I think that if He had a diary, six events would stand out as being the most important of all in his relationship with us. By talking about these, we can give a summary of the entire Bible message.
As you talk about each event, you could show a simple 6-page book, entitled "God's Diary, each page having the name of that particular event written on it.
1. Creation. In the beginning God spoke and the earth was formed. (You could illustrate this with a thumb tip (Object Lesson 77, Newsletter 89). The earth was perfect, and people were God's greatest creations made in His own image and for friendship with him. But the very first people disobeyed God, and that act resulted in sin coming into the world and spoiling it all.
2. God became a man. God still loved the people of the world, and so He became a man Himself. We called him Jesus. By doing this, God was able to more fully reveal his nature to us and demonstrate how passionately He loves us. While Jesus was here on earth, he was totally human. For example, he could only be in one place at a time and got tired, hungry, thirsty, etc, just like us. He was still God, but left his divine (Godly) qualities behind in heaven. Jesus did heal the sick and perform miracles, but through the power of the Holy Spirit (See Newsletter 80 - "Can Christians perform miracles?). 
3.He died for us. Jesus didn't die of a disease, accident or old age. No. He died as our Substitute. He allowed Himself to be crucified by wicked men so that He could pay the price for our sins by being punished instead of us. (You could illustrate this by telling the story of the Judge and his friend "A free pardon", Newsletter 41).
4. He rose again. On the third day, Jesus rose victorious from the dead, demonstrating that He had beaten the power of death, sin, sickness and every form of evil. The good news is, He didn't do it for himself. He did it for us, and invites us to share in His victory.
The difference between Christianity and other religions is that our Leader is alive! Moslems or Buddhists, for example, could take you to the graves of their leaders and tell you that great or good as they were, their bones ore now rotting away under the ground. On the other hand, Christians could take you to a cave just outside Jerusalem and say "Our leader, Jesus died and his body was placed in that cave. But He is not there now. He rose from the dead and is alive for evermore!"
5. He returned to heaven. Six weeks after he rose from the dead, Jesus returned to heaven. That's where he is now, praying for us and preparing a home for us. However, He still works through His followers to carry on his work of defeating evil and making this earth perfect once more. The good news is that in this war against evil, WE WIN - because the decisive battle has already been fought and won by Jesus when He rose from the dead.
6. He is coming back again. This is the only one of the six major events in "God's Diary" that is still to happen. But as God knows the future and always keeps His promises, it is just as certain to take place as the first five. One day, Jesus will return to earth for all his followers. He will instantly change us by giving us a new spiritual, everlasting, body that will never get hungry, thirsty, tired, sick, etc. And then He will take us to be with Him in heaven for ever. What a wonderful future we have to look forward to!
Expiry date.
Just as our diaries have an expiry date on them (Usually December 31st.), so does God's. One day, God will say "Time up" and the world as we know it will come to an end. That is why it is so important to make sure that we are trusting in Jesus, and to tell others that God offers them a free pardon and eternal life through Jesus Christ. (You could conclude the lesson by telling the story of George Wilson, and how a free pardon must be accepted, Newsletter 36).

Monday, December 30, 2013

T.T. 59 - Understanding Biblical Miracles.

T.T. 59 - Understanding Biblical Miracles.

One thing that puzzles me is how some people say they believe in God, but then go on to say that they don't believe in some of the Biblical miracles because they are "impossible". As most of my readers will know, I was an atheist for most of my life. However, when I did start believing in God, it naturally followed that I believed in His miraculous acts. After all, by definition, God can do anything.

To me, the most significant verse in the Bible is the very first one "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1 v.1). You either believe that or you don't. If you do believe it, it is easy to believe the rest of the Bible.

All the Biblical miracles have been criticised by skeptics, but it appears to me that in most cases they haven't actually read the Biblical texts for themselves. Rather, they have just heard an erroneous version of the Bible story and criticised that.

When giving people a "reason for the hope we have within us" , firstly it is important to know what the Bible actually says. By knowing this, it will be much easier to refute critics. Secondly, we need a clear understanding of how God usually works in performing His miraculous acts. For His first miraculous act (Creation), God spoke, and the Universe came into being. However, for nearly every recorded miraculous act since then, we note that God uses material that is already present. Here are a few examples:-

Noah's flood. God could have chosen to create new water to achieve this. But instead He almost certainly used existing water from the canopy that He had put around the earth on Day 2 of the creation week, and water trapped under the surface of the earth.

Crossing of the Red Sea. God could have levitated the Israelites so that they could walked across above the sea. Instead He used air to cause a wind to blow the waters apart and produce a land bridge for the Israelites to cross over (See below).

Feeding the 5,000. Jesus could have created new fish and bread to feed the crowd. Instead He chose to multiply existing fish and bread that was willingly given to him.

Note. God still works in the same ways today. For example, I believe He can heal people without the involvement of His creation, human or otherwise. However, His usual method is to use the skill of people such as Surgeons and Doctors, together with drugs or medicines made from existing sources, all in combination with our body's inbuilt defence and repair mechanisms. 

We will now look at three Biblical miracles more closely.

1. The parting of the Red Sea.

Skeptics have scoffed at the idea of a wind being strong enough to part a deep sea. But what does the Bible say actually happened?

"Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided." (Exodus 14:21).

According to this clear text, the means God used to achieve his end (goal) of the Red Sea parting was a powerful air current flowing for many hours. It’s well known in physics and chemistry that one can often trade intensity of an effect (heat, electrical current, and in this case air flow) for time. Because of the long time frame, less intensity was needed. This would keep the wind bearable for the people on the ground.
Modern science has caught up with the Bible, since recent experiments suggest that a long and strong wind could indeed have formed a land bridge:
Now computer simulations show that a stiff wind blowing from the east for 12 hours could have given the Israelites a land bridge that allowed them to escape Egypt over 3000 years ago.
The 5-kilometre width of the cleared mud flats might have offered enough space for a few hundred thousand Israelites to cross, but against winds raging at 100 kilometres per hour, they probably would have needed most of their 4-hour window to walk the 3 or 4-kilometres to the opposite shore.
2. Jonah swallowed by a large fish.
Most children believe that the Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. However a correct translation of the Bible reveals that it was a "large fish."
Critics have questioned whether a whale or other sea creature, such as a shark, could have had jaws large enough to swallow a whole man, and whether a man could actually survive such an experience. In response, defenders of this Biblical miracle have produced samples of sharks' jaws showing that they could be large enough, and have even cited historical stories about one or two fishermen who have actually survived such an experience!
Interesting as all this is, it is really missing the point. What does the Bible actually say?
"And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah". (1:17).

The words imply either a special act of creation, or of modification of an existing sea creature to accommodate Jonah safely. Thus, while there are a number of both living and extinct large sea creatures that could swallow a man whole, the text says that God 'appointed’ or ‘prepared’ the great sea creature. The important point is that God was completely in control.

3. The long day.

One of the most tremendous miracles recorded in the Bible is the long day described in Joshua 10 vs.11-14. It is stated that the Lord fought for Israel in their battle against the Amorites by two related miracles. 1. Causing the sun to stand still in the middle of the sky for about a whole day to give the Israelites time to defeat their enemies completely before they could escape and regroup under cover of darkness. 2. Sending a devastating hailstorm to slay large numbers of the enemy.

Since the sun and the moon both "stood still" for an extra day it seems clear that the earth stopped rotating on its axis and the moon also stopped its rotation around the earth.

Critics have pointed out that if the earth suddenly stopped rotating everything on the earth would be violently dislocated and probably destroyed. However, the Bible does not suggest that the stoppage was sudden. If a car travelling at a high speed is instantaneously stopped great damage ensues to its occupants, but if it gradually slows to a halt, they feel no disturbance.

It is true that if the earth did slow down, the circulation of the atmosphere would be drastically affected, since it is largely controlled by the earth's rotation. This fact may well account for the tremendous hailstorm that accompanied the miracle.

There are evidences that the land surfaces may indeed have been greatly disturbed at this time. A vision by the prophet Habakkuk reflects back on the time that 'the sun and moon stood still' when there were great disturbances on the earth. (Habakkuk 3 vs. 6-11).

Obviously, such a miracle would have affected the whole earth but, as with the case of Noah's flood, it is significant that suggestions of a long day (or long night in the Americas) are indeed noted in the mythologies of many peoples from various parts of the earth at that tine (about 1400 B.C.) For example, many of the American Indian tribes have a legend about the theft of the sun for one day.

Note. God could also have brought about the 'Long Day' phenomenon by two other methods. 1.  Some form of refraction (bending) of the light from the sun and the moon. According to this view, God miraculously caused the sunlight and moonlight to continue in Canaan for ‘about a whole day’. 2.  A wobble in the direction of the Earth’s axis of rotation. For a more detailed analysis, check out the "Creation Ministries International" web site.


We need to be able to answer two questions:- Can God perform miracles? and Did God perform a particular miracle?

The answer to the first is given in Genesis, Chapter1. A God that can speak the Universe into existence can to absolutely anything. People who don't believe that God can perform miracles certainly don't believe in the God of the Bible.

Secondly, as with the miracle of the long day, a careful analysis would show that each Biblical miracle is supported by both adequate theological justification and by adequate historical evidence.