Friday, September 30, 2005

Try as we may, try as we might

Bob Moore of Hampton Road Baptist Church posted a lesson plan for this week’s Explore the Bible lesson “Are you saved?”. He proposes using a “try to take this pen” exercise to illustrate an attempt at salvation by works. I have to admit, I don’t understand his recommendation. He says to command the volunteer to “Try to take the pen.” But then he later says, “There is not way to try to take the pen.” Hmmmm. Give a command but there is no way to do it?

To follow up after Bob’s suggested exercise, ask the volunteer who tried to take the pen if he or she was ‘right’ in the way they performed the assigned task. I assume they will answer, ‘yes, of course.’ When they do, that really makes the point! We assume we are ‘right,’ and not just in simple exercises like “try to take the pen,” but in the weightier matters of life, such as our conduct and interactions with other people.

After all is said and done, we want to bring our ‘rightness’ to God and have Him accept us based on it. We bring our ‘goodness’ to the Lord and we want Him to judge us ‘right.’ But this is where we go wrong. If we think we are ‘right’ before God because of the way we live life, we are not living by faith. To the Lord, we might say, “It’s me, the one who prays, who reads the Bible, who does the things you command.” Will the ‘law of faith’ justify a person that thinks this way? No, because faith is not used. Works are used instead. As the ditty goes, “try as we may, try as we might; but in God’s sight that won’t make us right.”

The ‘law of faith’ saved Abraham because he brought nothing to God to try and make a case for his own rightness (See comments by J. David Hoke for a more detail on Romans 4:1-15). We have to come to the Lord in the same way—empty handed. The Lord writes our names in the Book of Life, we don’t. Heaven’s entrance doesn’t have a registry that we sign our name upon entry. God has written our name there beforehand.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Do you use PowerPoint?

While on travel one Sunday, I was able to attend Charlotte Baptist Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland, so I’m excited to link to a set of PowerPoint slides that you might want to consider using for this week’s Explore the Bible lesson, “Are you Saved?, or my preferred alternate title: “How do you know your sins are forgiven?”.

On 14/04/2002 in the evening series, ‘Good News for Bad People’, the Reverend Peter Grainger taught 'Father Abraham' from Romans 4:1-25. His slides might be very useful this week. On 07/04/2002 of that same series, Mr. John Percival taught ‘Making bad people good’ from Romans 3:21-31. His slide is good, too. Their whole series on Romans can be fished out of this Google cache page.

Xenos Christian Fellowship also offers PowerPoint slides from the series on Romans by Dennis McCallum. However, these slides are fairly dense and they become the focus of the teaching session.

I prefer to relegate PowerPoint slides to only a supporting roll, which means they should have very few words and they use pictures or graphics. I hesitate to offer an example of what's best, but look thru these slides on Romans and tips on using PowerPoint from ebibleteacher. These slides are not satisfactory to me, but they do illustrate some simplicity. Can you make an alternate suggestion?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The root of the question

In his lesson “Are you saved?” comments, Omar C. GarcĂ­a, Minister of Missions and Evangelism, Kingsland Baptist Church, Katy, Texas posed the follow two questions:

“If God gave a test for being a good person, what grade would you get? What do you think God would consider a passing grade? (see Matt. 5:48)”

Ask class members to listen as you read key elements of Laura’s testimony aloud. Acting for Laura, have them share answers to the questions asked by Omar. What grade would Laura get? Why do you think God would consider giving her a passing grade? Remind the class of what Omar says: “A person receives salvation only by trusting in Jesus Christ.” Would Laura pass?

Ask a class member in advance to be prepared to share his/her testimony at this time. Everyone will listen with great interest.

The lesson title “Are you saved?” invites a simple yes or no answer. It is too easy to fool oneself in this case and miss the root of the question. You may want to re-title the lesson to “How do you know your sins are forgiven?” As an exercise you could ask the class to contrast possible answers to “Are you saved?” verses “How do you know your sins are forgiven?” This would lead to lots of interaction. You could pass out the test shown at the bottom of this link from Charity Baptist’s website.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

How about a smile?

Sometimes I like to insert humor into a lesson. It causes people to grasp key ideas in a happy way. Given the seriousness of this week’s “Are you saved?” topic from Romans 3 and 4, try to have some fun using a funny or two.

For example, you could tell this story that calls out the apparent 'faith' of two nuns. This could serve as a lead into a discussion of “what is faith?” Or use this comic for the same purpose. Maybe you can show a comic such as this one to introduce your discussion of Romans 3:25-26.

To illustrate the idea of misunderstanding that Paul corrects in Romans 3:31, you could tell this funny: A three-year-old put on his shoes by himself. His mother noticed that the left shoe was on the right foot. She said, “Son, your shoes are on the wrong feet.” He looked up at her with a raised brow and said, “Don't kid me, Mom. They're the only feet I got!” The boy misunderstood what his mother was saying. Some people were misunderstanding Paul’s teaching about faith versus the law. If the “shoe” story is too simple, try the one about Mexican Jews to illustrate misunderstanding.

Lancaster Baptist Church of California posts these messages: the Bible says, “A merry heart is like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22) And in Ecclesiastes 3:4 the word of God tells us that there is a…“Time to weep, and a time to laugh”. A Christian’s joy and laughter also shows the unsaved world that God has done great things for us. “When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:1-2).

Knowing we are saved is surely a time for laughing! If you know of a good funny to use, make a comment and share it with the other teachers who regularly visit this site. Thanks in advance!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Does shuttering up the house make any difference?

“Are you saved?” is the title of this week’s Explore the Bible lesson out of Romans 3:21-4:25. Because of Hurricane Rita, we lost power at our house for a couple of days when a tree fell across a power line (see photo). We didn’t have bible study Sunday morning at the Church either (power was out). What? No Bible study on Sunday morning?
Free Image Hosting by
Troy Bush makes clear that our salvation is not found in reading the Bible, or can it be obtained by saying a particular “sinner’s” prayer. He says, “we sometimes place too much confidence in our means and methods.”

The house in the photo was shuttered up with plywood, but Rita’s winds knocked down a tree that caused damage anyway. Rita teaches us that no amount of preparation by us will save a house from destruction. It might have made us “feel safe” to board up the house, but only by God’s mercy were we spared.

The lesson makes clear that we should trust God for salvation. According to Troy Bush “there are no silver bullets or magical words” in which we can place our confidence.

P.S. Next time a force 3 or above hurricane is bearing down on Houston, we plan to evacuate 4 or 5 days in advance of landfall. Staying put won’t save the house or us and by leaving early we can avoid the stress of preparing for a storm that we can’t control or predict anyway.

Friday, September 23, 2005


Bob Moore of Hampton Road Baptist Church posted a lesson plan for this week’s Explore the Bible lesson “Do you need the gospel?” which uses a mock trial judge who pronounces people innocent or guilty as they enter the classroom.

Ken Barber of CFBC once used this same teaching idea very effectively by dressing the part of a judge. He wore the black gown of a graduate (no cap). He also recruited a local constable to serve as the bailiff. He dressed in uniform (gun and all). These two elements added huge realism to the mock judgments.

I highly recommend you try Bob Moore’s ideas. Everyone will feel totally welcome during the ending scenario he describes. Thanks Bob! Good job.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fear of God

For the Explore the Bible lesson "Do You Need the Gospel," LifeWay’s Adult Leader’s Guide, pg.49, commenting on Romans 3:18, indicates the ‘root problem’ of why all people are sinners is ‘lack of vision.’ That’s because of the truth found in Proverbs 16:6 - “through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.” Paul said, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Proverbs 15:3 says, “The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom”. In 2 Corinthians 5:11, Paul says, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” So Paul knew the fear of the Lord. He experienced His presence on the road to Damascus.

The fear of God is key and Christians should delight in it as Jesus did (see Isaiah 11:10, Messiah would have the fear of the LORD and “he will delight in the fear of the LORD.”). Isaiah 33:6 tells why the fear of the Lord is key: “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.” Proverbs 2:1-6 lays out what we need to do to understand the fear of the Lord.

John writes in Revelation 15:4, “Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy.” Grasping God’s unique holiness leads to fear of the Lord. That comes with great blessing according to Psalm 34:9, “Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.” Do members of your class fear the Lord?

Living in Houston and watching the mass reaction to the approach of hurricane Rita makes me think of Psalm 29. Are we hearing the voice of the Lord? Do we give Him glory? If so, we fear Him and He blesses us.

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
9b And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"
10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
11 The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Creative tension

Want to get the attention of class members and have them hang on to every word of a discussion? Then use creative tension.

Here is one way to do that with this week’s lesson material from LifeWay. In the Step 3 sidebar (page 47) of the Adult Leader Guide, a statement is made “God is fair.” However, Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, minister of evangelism and missions, Troy Bush comments on this lesson in the Florida Baptist Witness and he says, “The truth is God is not fair.” So which is it? Is God fair or not?

Work thru this issue with the class and be prepared to argue both perspectives. Use other verses outside the focal passage to help you decide your position as the Holy Spirit guides you into the truth of the matter!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Made clear by contrast

Trey Turner of Canyon Creek Baptist Church, Temple writes about this week’s explore the Bible lesson in the Baptist Standard. His comments are excellent, especially on Romans 3:5-8, where he makes clear God’s fairness. The gospel is a ‘polished diamond’ indeed! It’s made clear by contrasting two extremes. Thanks Trey!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Illustrating God’s faithfulness using His Word

Pastor James McCullen comments on this week’s Explore the Bible lesson “Do you need the gospel?” based on Romans 3:1-12, 18-20 and he says that “Some Jews did not believe, nor behave correctly, but that does not cancel God's covenant.” In other words, God is faithful to do what He says He will do Israel’s sin notwithstanding. We all need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

The Lord promised Abraham that He would bless all nations through his seed (see Genesis 22:18), and God protected the seed of Abraham through many attempts to corrupt His plan for Messiah.

The promised seed first came in Genesis 3:15, and there would be a “war” between the seed of woman and the seed of the serpent. Satan tried to corrupt the seed of woman in Genesis 6:1-4, but failed. God preserved Noah’s family through the flood and the seed of woman would come from Abraham and from the tribe of Judah in particular (see Genesis 49:10). God was faithful.

The Lord’s word further exemplifies His faithful interest to preserve “a Godly offspring” in Malachi 2:15. The men of Israel wanted to marry foreign women, but God commanded them not to! God was faithful to insure that His promised seed would come through a woman (see Isaiah 7:14).

Later, Jesus Christ was born fulfilling God’s promise of Messiah. God faithfully delivered on His promise to personally provide salvation for all who would trust Him. Thank you Lord for His faithfulness (Psalm 100:5)!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Over prepared

The lesson went very well and many people had completed the homework assignment! Also, there was a rush after class to get a copy of Alfred Ellis offers twelve ways to humility. I’ll send that out by email.

For lack of time I skipped presenting the true story of a “Confrontation in the Teacher’s Lounge”. It was important because it was a practical application of honoring God. This means that I over prepared. Ouch!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Final notes that I use to guide the lesson on Romans 2

Who Needs the Gospel? They Do Too!, Romans 2:1-29, key verses 1-11, 17-21, 23-24

1. (Slide 1) Who did not receive the study guide from Tom Brown? Collect their email addresses. Make study guide intro comments and tie into Curt’s lesson last week. Cover lesson AIMS.

2. Overview chapter 2. Ray Stedman mentions 4 types of people that Paul addressed in Romans 1&2: 1) the wicked that flaunt evil, 2) the self-righteous moralist, 3) the pagan, and 4) the religious devotee (eg. Jew). Read vs 1-4. For what does Paul condemn the self-righteous moralist?

3. On what basis do the self-righteous justify criticizing someone else? Of what does Paul remind them in verses 3&4? What is the difference between discernment and judgment? See study questions 2, 3 &5.

4. (Slide 2) Present the list one entry at a time. Do people really use these excuses? Answer--YES. Paul makes the point in Romans 2:3, that ‘self-righteous judges’ do the same things. Are we like this? Do we judge the “excuser’s”? Should we excuse our behavior, but call attention to that of others?

5. Fairness is one of the core values of today’s culture of tolerance. It teaches us to not judge. Jesus commanded us in Matt 7:1, “Do not judge”, but He also said in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” Should we ever judge? See 1Cor 5:12-13 and 2 Thes. 3:14.

6. In Verse 5, Paul says a self-righteous moralist is stubborn and refuses to change. Read 5-7. On what basis will God judge the self-righteous?—by their works, to which they will give personal testimony.

7. According to Romans 2:7-10, for those who accept Christ, eternal life, glory, honor and peace lie ahead, and for those who reject Him--God’s anger and wrath, and trouble and calamity await them.

8. What do we learn of God’s character in vs. 11? God does not show favoritism. However the so-called judges operated from an assumed-righteous mindset.

9. Read edited down “Confrontation in the teacher’s lounge”. Divide class to Describe Larry. Describe Janet. Describe Carol. What impact was Larry’s behavior having on Carol? On Janet? What did Janet do that honored God? What did Larry do that honored God?” Apply: How can we honor God today?

10. Verses 12-14 discuss the pagan, the 3rd type of person addressed by Paul in Romans 1&2. On what basis will God judge the pagan? They are guilty because of (1) what is written on their hearts, (2) what their conscience witnesses against them, and (3) what they have kept secret. Missionaries share the gospel to those God has enabled to receive it. By accepting the gospel, they are saved.

11. Now, regarding the religious devotees. Read 17-24 with “since” in place of “if”. How would you summarize these verses? What the ‘religious’ boasted in would not save them from God’s judgment. True followers worship and serve the Lord, and are not just ‘religious’ in name only.

12. A philosophy called nominalism describes people who have nothing in common but name only. Show Slide 3 and ask how so-called Christians might boast today. Other verses: 1 Peter 2:12, 15-17, 20b, 23b. What are “blind spots”? Ask if our position is theologically motivated or simply political?

13. What’s Paul’s charge to the religious Jew in verses 28-29? True Jews have their hearts circumcised by the Holy Spirit. They are justified by faith apart from the Law. See Romans 3:27 Where is boast? It is excluded [on the principle of faith since we are justified by faith apart from the Law.].

14. Is God pricking your heart today to avoid being judgmental? To honor Him by valuing others? We can humble ourselves. Discuss Slide 4 with the class and ask them to individually select one that the Holy Spirit is especially speaking to them about through this lesson and challenge them to do it this week.

15. Only God can help us to see judgmentalism as evil. Pray that God changes us to honor Him by valuing others.

Blind spots

Chuck Cummings ( of Cummings & Houston, LLP advised business leaders to learn from the criticism of others. This is key to growth since it helps one see (1) blind spots, (2) learn to handle criticism, (3) learn to forgive and not hold grudges, (4) put the needs of others ahead of those of oneself.

In learning to handle criticism we grow skills in (a) listening, (b) questioning and clarification, (c) discernment, (d) decision making, (e) expressing gratefulness.

What “blind spots” do Christians have today? How has God’s name been blasphemed because of Christians? In times past the Crusades and racism where confused by the Church with other motives. Writing In God’s Name, Michael Horton, asks a gut check question: Is it theological or political? He explores possible blind spots in the Church regarding the issues of abortion, homosexual rights and public display of the Ten Commandments.

To wrap up preparing to teach “Who Needs the Gospel? They Do Too!”, out of Romans 2:1-29, let me say that this lesson has helped me to become aware of my own judgmental behavior. I have asked God to forgive me and I have changed my mind to see just how evil judgmentalism is. I pray that the Lord will strengthen me and help me to Christ-like love and kindness!

Friday, September 16, 2005

No humility

No Excuse, no escape, no favoritism, no superiority together imply “no humility.” Having no humility (being prideful) dishonors God, to say the least. The bottom line of this lesson “Who Needs the Gospel? They Do Too!” from Romans 2:1-29 is that if we want to honor God, we have to be humble. How do we become humble?

God can humble us (the painful route), or we can humble ourselves. Alfred Ellis offers twelve ways to humility (see link for more details). Discuss these with the class and ask members to individually (and privately) select the one that the Holy Spirit is speaking to them most about through this lesson and challenge them do it this week.

1. Routinely confess your sin to God. (Luke 18:9-14)
2. Acknowledge your sin to others. (James 3:2, James 5:16)
3. Take wrong patiently. (1 Peter 3:8-17)
4. Actively submit to authority…the good and the bad! (1 Peter 2:18)
5. Receive correction and feedback from others graciously. (Proverbs 10:17, 12:1)
6. Accept a lowly place. (Proverbs 25:6,7
7. Purposely associate with people of lower state than you. (Luke 7:36-39)
8. Choose to serve others. (Philippians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:5, Matthew 23:11)
9. Be quick to forgive. (Matthew 18: 21-35)
10. Cultivate a grateful heart. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
11. Purpose to speak well of others. (Ephesians 4:31-32) 12. Treat pride as a condition that always necessitates embracing the cross. (Luke 9:23)

Thursday, September 15, 2005


A philosophy called nominalism describes people who have nothing in common but their name. Paul said in Romans 2:28-29 that people labeled as Jews were essentially Jewish in name only. A true Jew worships and serves the Lord, and is not just a Jew in name only.

These people (Romans 2:17-20) assumed they were exempt from God’s judgment simply because they were Jewish. In fact they were prideful about (1) being Jewish, (2) possessed the Law, (3) God was on their side, (4) knew His will, (5) understood what was essential, (6) being educated by and about God, (7) being qualified to be leaders, (8) were guides to the lesser people, (9) a light in darkness, and (10) teachers of the ignorant. These attitudes lead to blasphemy of God’s name by others not called Jews (Romans 2:24).

How do people labeled as Christians view themselves relative to the unsaved? As a result is God’s name blasphemed today by those not called Christians? Life Bible Fellowship Church’s pastor Tim Peck offers In Name Only an excellent sermon with good examples on these questions.

The student study guide for this week’s lesson offered by at Romans 2:1-29 paraphrases Romans 2:17-20 with Christian phrases (see day 4, question 14). Read this to the class and ask how Christians might self-righteously boast today.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Judging the excuses of others

Ten reasons why people skip going to church from the Mother of All Excuses site:

129. I skipped Church so the Deacons wouldn't ask me to help them with Collection.
122. There is too much praying going on.
103. I must mow the yard, or I have to wash the car.
91. Nobody notices when I'm gone anyway.
81. They're always asking me for more of my money.
65. Pastors can't forgive sins.
41. I don't understand what's goin' on anyway.
37. I don't do nothing bad, so I'm goin' to heaven anyway.
27. I work lots of overtime.... so I'm too tired to worship God.
12. There are too many hypocrites in church.

Humorously, read thru the list presenting one at a time. After everyone agrees that people use these excuses, make the point Paul makes in Romans 2:3. In other words, it is so easy to judge others (be critical about their motives, or character), but the reality is we all do the same things (or have done the same thing).

Should we excuse our sinful behavior, but call attention to that of others? Check out the Explore the Bible Adult EXTRA! from LifeWay for a similar exercise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Honoring God

Consider the true story of a “Confrontation in the Teacher’s Lounge”. Pass out copies of this story to class members. Ask them to read the story and to identify ways that God was honored.

After they read the story, ask questions or for information such as, “Describe Larry. Describe Janet. Describe Carol. What impact was Larry’s behavior having on carol? On Janet? How was Janet at fault? What did Janet do that honored God? What did Larry do that honored God?”

Ask you class for examples of situations in their life where God was ultimately honored, rather than blasphemed.

Monday, September 12, 2005

And one other thing

Paul is on a roll in verses Romans 1:29-32 listing 21 reasons for God’s judgment of mankind. Then he goes on to chapter 2:1 and brings up another reason, passing judgment (in a critical spirit). Man’s judgment of others is hypocritical and based on human standards, but God’s judgment rests on truth (Romans 2:2). Man's judgments are usually unfair, rash, inappropriate, ungrounded and unfavorable.

This week we are studying, “Who Needs the Gospel? They Do Too!”, out of Romans 2:1-29. Today’s culture advocates "tolerance" and one of its core values is fairness. The culture teaches us not to judge. Here is one support of that perspective. But in what sense can judgment by Christians be Biblical? This perspective is given here (note the study questions offered). See also 1Cor 2:15, 5:12. Both perspectives are treated here. What do you think?

A daily student study guide for this week’s lesson is available from at Romans 2:1-29. I’m going to send it to my class. Some will enjoy working thru it this week.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Fine lesson!

My co-teacher Curt did an excellent job today in teaching today's lesson. How? He got the class involved. People read from the Word, they asked deep questions and volunteered great points as Curt taught Paul’s contrast between Romans 1:16-17 and Romans 1:18-32.

Some of the questions people asked were: What’s the difference between God’s wrath and His discipline? Why do even the most primitive human tribes build and worship idols? If people know God only thru creation, can we know that God will reveal Jesus Christ to them?

People called out ways in which either nature or circumstance has made clear the existence of God. They cited God’s promises for to reveal Himself that can be found in the Word. They read from passages to explain other passages. They described what hell might be like.

All in all, it was an inspiring, interactive lesson. It was one that encouraged us to live by faith, and to reach out to others in love. We were emboldened to tell our personal witness regarding Christ to a lost world.

Thanks Curt! What connected well in your lesson today?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Getting the gospel out to those who need it

My friend, Greg, and I have been discussing the so-called emergent church and its methods for reaching people who are steeped in today’s world values. He prefers the approach described in Voddie Baucham’s "The Ever-Loving Truth". In an email, Greg summarizes Baucham’s teaching by saying,

“He asserts that a post modern culture won't respond to traditional explanations of the Gospel such as EE and four spiritual laws because those only work when someone has a Christian world view--they connect the dots for that person. A person who rejects propositional truth does not think with the requisite Biblical presuppositions. However, unlike the Emergents, Mr. Baucham argues that the message, which is fundamental in nature, must turn more fundamental. That is to say a pre-evangelical message is required. This pre-evangelical message destroys the false worldview and prepares one to see the proper Biblical worldview. Listening to him describe the pre-evangelical message, I was strongly reminded of the book "The Evidence Demands A Verdict". By systematically eliminating arguments which support relativism with respect to God, Jesus and salvation, it moves the person to the doorstep where the fundamental Gospel message can be received.”

Which approach do you think is most effective for your class to use in getting the gospel message to those who need it? What is the best way to present and discuss this information with your class?

P.S. Focus on the Family is in production on its Truth Project, which will provide materials for small group settings to reach those who need the gospel. Their site statistically summarizes moral issues of today that fit pretty well with the descriptions Paul used in Romans 1:21-32. Use these stats when discussing these verses. You can also play the videos on the main page while connected to the Internet, and then set your browser to work offline and re-play the videos for the class using a computer projector.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Who needs the gospel? We do!

Backing up to Romans 1:15 (NIV), it caught my attention that Paul said he was “eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.” In other words, he wanted to preach the gospel to people that were already Christians. Why? He was writing to believers, so why did he say he wanted them to hear the gospel?

Bob Deffinbaugh suggests the following reasons:

(1) The gospel is never understood as fully by the Christian as it could and should be. We can never hear the gospel too often. We can never understand it too well.

(2) The gospel is constantly being distorted. In our own sin, we are inclined to distort it, both in its application to ourselves, and in our representation of it to others. The gospel as defined in Romans is a standard, against which we must constantly measure our own concept of the gospel. Romans is the perfect standard; ours is the imperfect.

(3) The gospel is not only that truth by which we are saved and that truth by which others are saved as we bear witness, it is also that truth which is the standard for our daily lives. Paul said to the Colossians, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6).

As we consider others that need to hear the gospel in this week’s lesson entitled “Who Needs The Gospel? They Do!”, let’s not forget to consider ourselves. Present the above suggestions to your class and ask (1) how do we misunderstand the gospel?, (2) distort it?, (3) apply it daily as a plumb line for conduct in our lives?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Writing in the Baptist Standard, Trey Turner of Canyon Creek Baptist Church, Temple comments on “Who Needs The Gospel? They Do!” saying this passage (Romans 1:18-32) is “the clearest condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible.”

This surfaced the strong feelings I have against homosexual acts—“wrong” doesn’t begin to describe my aversion. My first reaction is to “Feel”. I first react to the wrongness of homosexual acts with negative feelings and it is a small step to transfer that attitude to the person doing it. So then I take some action, for example, such as saying something I regret once I think about it. Not “thinking” first, I follow the FAT path to an unhappy experience.

But a friend, Dale Graham, taught a ditty once that goes like this: Think, Act, Feel, not Feel, Act, Think. To illustrate, he kept saying “Trains Are Fun” to get TAF into my head. He used a little model train with an engine and two cars labeled with T, A, F. As he talked he rearranged the cars to underscore his message. Here is a page discussing TAF, but it is not written from a Christian perspective.

When confronted with an emotion-arousing situation, Dale taught that I should Think, Act, Feel and not Feel, Act, Think. To apply this to the lesson, people who practice homosexual acts need to hear the gospel. But the only way I can ever hope to share my testimony with them is to think first, act second, and feel later. Otherwise, I will miss an opportunity to witness by following my negative feelings rather than what should be an attitude (or predisposition) to love people as Christ does.

Teach the TAF principle to your class!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Suppression of the truth

The 9/11-anniversary lesson is entitled “Who Needs The Gospel? They Do!” is based on Romans 1:18-32. Pastor James McCullen of Liberty Baptist Church commenting on the lesson asks, “Did you ever think about unrighteousness suppressing the truth?”

This got me to thinking about how to illustrate the idea of truth suppression. To suppress is to “keep from being revealed, or deliberately exclude”.

A great illustration of suppression of the truth is found in the movie “The Insider,” where tobacco company executives testify that smoking is not addictive. Download and play an excerpt from the movie from Jeffery Wigand’s page, or make PowerPoint slides of the “still” shots from the movie that can be found on the page.

Read the background material on the page as well as the key statement about “inventing fiction than face the truth”. Ask the class to describe how this example relates to “unrighteousness suppressing the truth.”

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What worked and what didn't

Using key points from the introduction of Ray Stedman's sermon based on Romans 1:1-17 worked well to establish the importance of studying Romans. The unexpected use of "Stop! In the name of love,” grabbed people’s attention.

Great interaction followed on points 2 thru 4 (see early blog yesterday), but step 5 was daunting given the time available. Instead, people identified the one action that if taken would indicate placing importance on the gospel. Of course, the top choice was sharing one’s faith with home fellowships coming in second. Using Scripture to make decisions was also mentioned.

The remainder of the lesson was executed as described. Because of the tie into Katrina, the challenge to take action this week to show the importance of the gospel was readily accepted.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Final notes that I use to guide the lesson

“What do you think of the gospel?” Romans 1:1-17. We express our confidence in the gospel by the importance we give it in our lives—this lesson helps us discover ways to show its importance

1. “Stop putting myself first and start believing in the power of the gospel”, reminds me of the 60’s song, “Stop! In the name of love”. Stop running away and start showing the confidence you have in the gospel. Play the song and show the chorus lyrics on a slide.

2. In the tragedy of Katrina, how have people demonstrated what’s important to them? People that stayed in New Orleans, Evacuees, Media people, Politicians, Activists, Volunteers, Rescuers, Policemen, Military, Employers, You [Allow discussion].

3. What actions have you seen from others that demonstrate how they view the gospel? Answers: prayer, statements of faith in God, thankful to God, praise to God [Permit sharing].

4. Read Romans 1:1-5. Are we also apostles? What did Paul believe about Jesus? See Rom 1:8-15. What actions of Paul demonstrated that he had confidence in the gospel?

5. Put up a list of ten possible actions that if taken illustrate some level of importance of the gospel in a Christian’s life. Work with the class to prioritize the five (5) most important actions on the list. [The purpose of this exercise is to think in depth about our priorities.]

6. Taking action is mandatory if we want others to know the importance of the gospel. What changes could we make in our lives to show that the gospel is important? Discuss.

7. What’s really important in life? Show Zig Ziglar’s answer [pared down] to this question from The Health Colonel. Based on Romans 1:1-15, ask the class to identify how Paul might modify Zig’s list. [The purpose of this is to get the class to analyze the Scriptures.]

8. State that we demonstrate the importance of the gospel when we pass it on to others. Illustrate by telling Jan’s example of passing on the good news—a Wal-Mart deal. Ask others to share, too. Read the testimony of Otis Jefferson and ask the class to identify from it what actions he regularly takes that demonstrate how much he values dialysis and the work of the National Kidney Foundation. [Illustrates actions taken based on beliefs.]

9. Read Romans 1:16-17 and ask why Paul was positively confident about the gospel? He knew it held the power of God to restore relationships lost to Him (Romans 1:16). Ask if anyone wants to share about a time they were ashamed of the gospel.

10. Show confidence statements [see blog] on a slide and ask which ones build confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Challenge people to think of one action they can take this week that shows the importance of the gospel in their lives.

11. Close in prayer asking God to bless the survivors of Katrina thru actions of Christains that clearly demonstrate the imporatnce of the gospel.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Confidence, not shame

My confidence was sinking in the flood of misery from New Orleans as I watched or read the major news outlets. Every bit of unhappiness, gloom, or doubt they heard, they quickly shared. So I turn off the TV and pitched out the local newspaper.

Today, I volunteered at a local Red Cross shelter, and while I helped evacuees, I talked and listened to their stories. In the conversations, I heard what they thought of the future. It was filled with hope and confidence. They were unsure of what might happen tomorrow, but they were confident their lives would be restored in the future. Most thanked God and placed their faith in Him. It was encouraging and uplifting to help them.

As I worked along side fellow Americans today and I was not ashamed. I believe we will succeed in helping to rebuild the lives of those devastated by Katrina. Similarly, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew it held the power of God to restore relationships lost to Him (Romans 1:16). America holds the power to restore the lives of evacuees.

Put these statements on a slide and read them with your class. Which ones build confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

- I can volunteer to help as opposed to just giving money
- I will be safe because the people are needy
- I love Jesus Christ and He loves people and so will I after meeting them
- I want to make a difference using the resources God has given me
- I will enjoy talking to people that I am helping
- I will be so proud of myself for sharing the love of Christ with others
- Others will follow my example of obedience
- Thousands of other people are helping and I can too
- I can take the time to do this
- Lives will get easier because of efforts to represent Christ
- Others are there to support and help me when I need it
- I will be stronger as a result of sharing the gospel I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Go help

Paul answered, “What do you think of the gospel?” in Romans 1:1-17, which is this week’s Explore the Bible lesson, by making clear that he was not ashamed of it. He also prayed that he’d succeed in going to Rome to minister/serve there. I hope we are not ashamed today to go offer help where it is desperately needed.

Yesterday, our church staff was not ashamed to go to a local hotel full of evacuees from New Orleans and offer help in the name of Christ. After receiving help many attended last evening’s prayer service and shared their story. Most are grateful and desperately want to communicate with loved ones that are unaccounted for after the chaos and destruction created by hurricane Katrina.

If you want to help your class understand what they can do to help victims of this disaster, here are a few suggestions.

1. American Red Cross 281-885-4563, or national 866-438-4636. They need new blow up air mattresses, new bed sheets, and bottled water.

2. Victim Relief 214-275-9900 to volunteer

3. Texas Baptist Men 800-558-8263

4. Salvation Army 800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)

5. Harris County Citizen’s Corp 713-755-4077

6. North American Mission Board

Go help because you love people in the name of Christ, out of obedience to His wishes and because you want to be a good steward of the resources He has given you.