Saturday, July 30, 2005

Hope to find material on the web

LifeWay’s leadership guide, or commentary for the teacher, is not usually found on the web, but in case yours is out of reach, try this link for tomorrow’s lesson on “How to live with hope.” The student commentary is posted at this link.

When I worked as a computer industry analyst, my boss liked to have a one-page summary of a topic. Here is a single page version of this lesson from Decatur Baptist, and another one from Cornerstone Baptist. A web page (longer than 11”) commentary on the lesson was posted by Milo Baptist Church.

Sometimes I forget about the Holman Christian Standard Translation, but here is the lesson passage from Ezekiel 40-48.

A forum exists that gives you have access to a Teacher's Helps Guidesheet/Answers if you sign up, but I have not explored this material.

Friday, July 29, 2005

How can I help you?

At the end of his excellent article, Hope Reborn, Adam Holz offers an exercise that can be used in class. He lists a series of references to Psalms and asks, “What do these psalms reveal about how God satisfies, sustains, and fills those who hope in Him?" Select the ones that speak to you and prepare these on a slide. Work thru these in class with interactive help from learners.

Over the last three months, I’ve learned a lot while blogging about these lessons out of Ezekiel from LifeWay. But, my question is “Does this blog help you?” A fork is useful to facilitate eating, but it’s useless for shovel work in a garden. Is this blog such a useless “fork” in the garden of the World Wide Web?

Blogging is a simple way for me to keep track of what I do in lesson preparation. Before, I simply sent myself daily emails as I prepared for the lesson during the week. Outlook’s Inbox served as my “logging” surface. I maintained a “mail log”, or “mlog”. As a fork used for eating, it served me. But I wondered, "Might there be a greater usefulness for such information"? Hence, this blog was born.

Now I ask you, What help in lesson preparation do you need? What problems do you have in preparing lessons based on LifeWay’s material? Maybe we can find some solutions together?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Transforming despair into hope

Ezekiel had a vision of a future temple filled with God’s Glory in a new city of Jerusalem located in a re-allotted land God had given the Israelites. The vision promised a restoration of exiled Israel to their homeland with the Lord living in their presence.

The hope Ezekiel’s vision engendered encouraged the people of Israel. Belief in God’s promises can transform our despair into hope today, too. Tsunami victims have hope (play video). Families of US soldiers serving in Iraq have hope of their return home alive and well. Fire victims have hope after their home is destroyed.

Any of the above ideas can be used to help us learn how to live in hope of Christ’s return and our coming transformation. Whatever our despair is, God can transform it into hope once we understand His purpose, His plans and His promises.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Picture of hope

When Ezekiel delivered his vision of God’s glory occupying the future temple, it inspired hope for the distraught nation of Israel then in exile. How can we Americans understand the hope they might have felt for national renewal?

First, share this image that paints a picture of hope, to which Americans can relate. For background information see: Image paints picture of hope. Discuss what hope Americans experienced after the 9/11 attacks.

Second, as Christians, we experience a personal hope of day-by-day renewal, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, and we have hope in the promises of God. Our hope is in Christ.

An expression of Christian hope is found in a personal poem: Freedom Realized, Healing Journey Begins. Share this poem with the class and see if they can identify the personal hope it expresses. Ask, “In what ways do we express our confidence?”

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Best seat in the house

The crowd around you settles into their seats. The lights grow dim as your expectation rises. The curtain springs open and your eyes go wide. You have the best seat in the house. You are filled with the hope of a great experience.

Show an example of a seating chart and talk about the best seat in the house. As Christians, we are well positioned to one day see the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39 come true. God will bring judgment on the enemies of His people.

Over the weekend, I read The Ezekiel Option by Joel C. Rosenberg. It’s an exciting read based on prophecy found in Ezekiel. I recommend it as a fictional account of how prophecy might play out in the end times as God judges the enemies of His people.

Monday, July 25, 2005

How to live with hope

Our last lesson in this series out of Ezekiel covers chapters 40 thru 48 with a focus on chapter 43. Hope is possible because God promises to live with His people. Facing east, Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord coming over the Mount of Olives and he fell face down (verses 43:2-3). In Ezekiel’s vision, the glory of the LORD entered the temple (verse 4).

About 500 years later, Jesus came from the east over the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Jesus came to serve God as a sacrificial lamb—that is, to die for the sins of the people. However, the people knew His miracle working power and they shouted Hosanna (Mark 11:9), wanting Jesus to deliver them politically from the Romans. Their “wants” didn’t match His Godly purpose. To be at cross-purposes with God is to live without real hope.

Jesus is coming again one day in power with the holy angels (Revelation 1:7). People today want not to be judged. They want fairness and tolerance, but again, people's ungodly “wants” will mismatch God’s purpose. They will be surprised. Christians, however, live in the hope of a bodily resurrection, and rapture (1 Corinthians 15:42-54). We have hope if our “wants” match God’s purpose.

With all this in mind, I am thinking about using an illustration of “matching and not matching” to kick off the lesson. Let me know if you have a good idea along these lines.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Receiving an encouraging word

This week's lesson on “How live in a threatening world” is summarized by the idea of Israel getting a word of encouragement from God through the prophet Ezekiel. Brad Shockley’s lesson commentary puts it this way,

“This week’s lesson is a message of encouragement for the rebellious people of Israel that extends into and intertwines with the last days. It’s also a word of encouragement to us.”

This caused me to search for an illustration of good news being delivered. I came across the Mass Moments project and selected an entry that could be used to illustrate a great moment in history when good news was delivered. Angelina Grimke addressed the legislature in February, 1838:

“in 1838 a woman addressed a legislative body for the first time in American history. An overflow crowd gathered at the State House in Boston as Angelina Grimke, daughter of a South Carolina slave owner, presented anti-slavery petitions signed by 20,000 Massachusetts women.”

Imagine the hope and encouragement this news was to slaves at the time. It foreshadowed the eventual abolition of slavery. The Israelites were captives in ancient Babylon at the time of Ezekiel’s message and surely it brought hope to them as it does to us today.

Note: you can play the radio moment from your PC, or read it to the class. Make a slide with Angelina’s likeness on it to use as a visual at the same time.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Threatening interpretations

Driving with my teenage nephew yesterday, he noticed a yellow warning sign indicating that a church was ahead. He lamented, “Wow! That’s sad. Citizens are warned about the presence of a church. What has the world come to?” His interpretation is nothing compared to the threats Christians in Iraq face.

How do you read the chapters of Ezekiel associated with this lesson on “How to live in a threatening world”? Do you find it threatening that the events in these passages (1) may have already happened, (2) are yet to happen, or (3) are symbolic of what continually happens to people that belong to the living God? Dr. Sam Tullock, Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Wylie, Texas, and a professor in the History Department at Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas writes about these possible interpretations in his lesson commentary.

My daughter recently found out that she may be included as part of a work force reduction in the company where she works. The threat to her well-being is real, but I know that God has a plan for her life and I trust Him to work thru the situation for her good. Regardless of when the events portrayed in Ezekiel 38-39 happen, these scriptures reveal that God has a plan and that He is faithful.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

God reveals Himself in our trials

What Joanne Farro says about praying for trouble makes a lot of sense. Read her story to the class and ask them to identify from it the benefits of going through a trial. God uses life situations to teach us about Himself. After trials, our love and compassion increases, our prayer time becomes effective and our ability to relate to those who are experiencing problems in life increases. We become ready servants able to minister to others.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Living ready

What really threatens you today? Is it a terrorist attack, or is it becoming a victim of a local thief? Do you fret over the world environment, or do you worry more about catching a head cold from your fellow bus passengers? Maybe it’s the culture that threatens you—today’s values of tolerance, fairness and pluralism, or rather is it a failing hard drive on your PC that wipes out all your valuable data?

Threats abound both big and small. It could be a possible nuclear attack from an out-of-control Russian missile down, or a false accusation made against you that causes you to lose your job. We voice concern over the threats we see and understand, but what about the threats we do not understand?

One of the more interesting books I’ve encountered on this is Hurtling Toward Oblivion: A logical Argument for the End of the Age, by Richard Swenson. As one reviewer says, “If you are a Christian, I think you will find this a fascinating and uplifting book with some very practical applications on how to live in the here and now.” That’s the point of this lesson from Ezekiel 38 and 39, “How to Live in a Threatening World.” The book's encouraging message is to "live ready" and you might want to get a copy and read it before teaching Sunday’s lesson. Otherwise, Swenson summarizes the book in two pages, but it omits the charts, which are very informative.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Make a promise

Today, as I think about this lesson on “how to live as redeemed people,” we should promise to follow the One who made a promise for good and then kept it. The Lord made a promise to send Messiah and Jesus Christ came. He deserves to be followed because of what He has done and what He will do.

Will you renew your promise to follow Jesus Christ today? Have each person complete the form below and place it in their Bible. Pray for individual strength and courage to keep it.

Name: __________________ Date: __________________

As a follower of Jesus Christ... My personal promise is:



My signature

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Follow the leader

Ray Stedman's sermon Follow the Leader is a classic. All people were made to follow some master, but not in a compulsory manner. We can choose to follow Jesus Christ, or choose to follow some other master. The shepherd promised by the Lord in Ezekiel 34:23-24 is an allusion to the Messiah. Christians believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah. As redeemed people, to live in the fullness of God’s presence, Christians must follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Brian Kluth outlines how Christians should follow Christ. Share these with your class. Ask what else based on Scripture would they add to this summary, or what's included that's inappropriate (hint: Jesus is merciful and joyful, too. Shouldn't we follow Him in this regard, too?). What else?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Judging sheep

Ezekiel 34:17-22 says that God will judge between one sheep and another. I’m not a rancher, so I looked on the web and found the criteria for judging sheep at the Royal Adelaide Show in Australia. Read thru these criteria in front of the class and ask them to call out criteria that strike them as interesting or outstanding in some way. Note these on a marker board as they are called out. Afterwards, read the passage in Ezekiel 34:17-22 and ask the class to identify criteria the Lord will use to judge between sheep. Note these on the board as well. Contrast the two lists and note the criteria man uses for judging verses that which the Lord uses.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Spiritual Leadership

What are the characteristics of a good spiritual leader? Blackaby answers this in his book, Spiritual Leadership. On page 19, he points out that while a leader must competently answer a call with character, he must demonstrate results. What are those results? He says on page 20, “Spiritual leadership is moving people on to God’s agenda.” Compare this with the actions of God's shepherd in Ezekiel 34.

Also, Blackably says on page 24 that “Jesus did not develop a plan nor did he cast a vision. He sought His Father’s will.” On page 71, he says, “The role of spiritual leaders is to not dream up dreams for God but to be the vanguard for their people in understanding God’s revelation.”

The key to spiritual leadership, according to Blackaby, is to encourage followers to grow in relationship with the Lord. Christians will demonstrate compassion and consideration when they see God at work in their Adult Bible Fellowship. They’ll want to “get in” on God’s work, but as leaders, we must continually help our class to see how God is working among us. Blackably says on page 130, that leaders “teach their people how to know him [God] better…how to recognize God’s voice…”

We need to teach people to how to recognize God’s agenda for their lives as we study Ezekiel 34. In light of this, what is God leading you to emphasize this week?

Monday, July 11, 2005


My tent camping in Colorado last week ended in a head cold, so I may not be thinking too well. As I looked over the material available to teach this week's Explore the Bible lesson entitled "How to Live As Redeemed People", it occurred to me that WedgWood's Weekly Study Guide could be used as a homework assignment for your class.

Consider forwarding it to your class by email. Ask them to print it (2 pages) and to work thru each of its daily exercises (Monday--Friday). If your class is like mine, some members will really get into this and will enjoy the challenge of the brief assignments. Of course some will not, but by sending homework to be done on a daily basis, you are demonstrating the point of the lesson--the Lord shepherds us on a daily basis as we submit to His leadership.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Believe warnings from the Holy Spirit

Ricky Smith was in grade school when he noticed a dime lying beside the telephone. He picked it up and put in his pocket. Trouble is the telephone was in his next-door neighbor’s house and the dime didn’t belong to Ricky. He learned how easy it is to steal from others.

In high school, Ricky entered the science fair and two expensive electronic components were part of his exhibit. After the judging ended, he left his entry in the exhibit hall overnight. He went to collect his entry the next day and the two components were missing. Someone had stolen them. The theft made Ricky angry. Why did the Lord allow this happen in Ricky’s life?

Ricky was a new Christian, but he had not repented of stealing. Perhaps having the two components stolen from his exhibit was a lesson from the Holy Spirit to teach Ricky the pain of having something stolen from him? If so, he would need to recognize the warning, repent from stealing, and believe God’s promise to forgive. In doing so, Ricky would learn to be obedient to God’s commandments.

Do you think Ricky learned his lesson? If not, he would steal again—maybe in revenge, and pay the consequences of further judgment from the Lord. If he did learn his lesson, he would not steal again. He would change his mind and understand the pain it causes victims. He would claim the Lord’s promise to forgive and grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Discuss this story with your class and ask them to comment on the question of the Holy Spirit possibly warning Ricky. Ask if anyone would be willing to share a warning from the Holy Spirit experienced in their own life.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Illustration of repentance

Bill Upchurch preached last Wednesday evening at our church and gave an excellent example of repentance—changing of one’s mind, heart and direction regarding some desire. He told the story of changing his mind about camping using his pop-up camper. Bill wanted camping to be a family activity and bought a pop-up camper. However, each camping trip turned into a mini-disaster. Bill described a near drowning of his wife, injuries to his son, and near loss due to a river’s flooding. Eventually, he was humbled and “changed directions” regarding use of that camper that he so dearly wanted to use. He changed his mind and sold it for a pittance. He got rid of that camper. He asked if we had a “camper” that we needed to repent of in our life? Do you?

The Bible is full of stories of repentance—e.g. Zacchaeus, prodigal son, and Saul of Tarsus. In Ezekiel 33:11, the Lord commanded people to “Turn! Turn from their evil ways!” To illustrate repentance, perhaps you can use Bill’s illustration of changing his mind about his camper, or use an example from your own life.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The necessity of responding to a warning

This Paul Revere link is a flash presentation of the patriot’s famous ride where he warned colonist of the approaching British troops. First, watch it from the browser on your portable PC, and then replay it using a projector to your class without an Internet connection by selecting File->Work Offline.

As they watch, have learners listen for ways in which the people responded to Revere’s warning. Discuss their observations after the movie. Ask, “What would have happened had the people failed to respond?” Answer: Simply put, we’d still be a British colony.

The lesson “How to be Redeemed” this week from Ezekiel 33 teaches that the Lord calls sinners to repentance and promises to redeem all who repent. People must respond. Like Paul Revere, Ezekiel acted as a watchman, except the stakes were higher in Ezekiel's case. Complete your introduction of the lesson with a lesson outline: Respond to God’s Warning, Believe God’s Promise, Obey God’s Word.

Have a happy time celebrating the birth of our great nation!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Breaking thru defense shields

The LORD sent Ezekiel to prophesy His judgment of the nations surrounding defunct Israel and Judah. Imagine with me for a moment. Ezekiel shows up with nothing in hand and tells the rulers and peoples of these various nations here is what the Lord God is going to do with you. He had nothing but his appearance to use to break thru the personal defense shields of his audience.

How can we reach thru the personal defense shields of our audience, which is steeped in the cultural values of today, to tell them the Living God of the Bible will hold them accountable for not seeking Him, not loving their neighbors, not having His values, and not living in humility? Like Ezekiel, if you could only use your appearance, how could you teach the truth of this lesson? Begin your lesson by showing a blow up of your driver’s license picture? Maybe not…

What might work is to show the image of a painting of Ezekiel prophesying and discuss how the truth of God’s word is illustrated in the painting. In other words, the painting will attract the eyeballs and perhaps its grim nature will break thru the defense shield of the audience so they will be open to hearing the truth found in the lesson.