Monday, October 31, 2005
Introduction. This week’s LifeWay Explore the Bible lesson “Freed Through Christ” from Romans 7:1-25, aims to help Christians be useful to God (vs 4, “bear fruit to God”).
I’ll use the pictured PPT slide to implement the “flu shot” intro (step 1, pg. 104) suggestion from the LifeWay Adult Leader Guide (see also this commentary). Michelle Malkin reports flu shots may not be that effective.
I’ve already distributed these study questions from bible.org to class members. These lessons on Romans are too important not to encourage members to study anyway we can!
Sunday, October 30, 2005
To help us grow and mature spiritually, Curt didn’t use the tactic of the LifeWay lesson, which was to leverage the fact that Christians are “Given Eternal Life”, but he still accomplished the lesson aim.
Let me ask, “what did you end up emphasizing as you taught your lesson today?” Please share how you taught the passage Romans 6:15-23. Thanks!
Friday, October 28, 2005
In the terminology of the lesson passage: Romans 6:15-23, Paul says in verse 1Corinthians 9:26, that he makes his body his “slave.” Why? So he won’t be disqualified for the prize (an imperishable crown). Ask members to share what tips have helped them personally mature spiritually.
On page 189 of the above book, Swindoll offers two ideas to remember. (1) Know that not one thing happens to us, which has not been filtered thru God’s hands, and (2) everything we endure further prepares us to serve others. A personal tip I offer is to remind myself who I am in Christ, which has helped me grow on several occasions. I experienced real growth after the pain of suffering. Feedback made the difference. [note: if you have some feedback regarding this site, please share it as a comment. Thanks!].
Thursday, October 27, 2005
These nine secrets are crippling sins, and until we suffer pain of exposing their fallacy, we cannot grow in maturity.
1. A secret spirit of pride.
2. Love of human praise.
3. Stirrings of anger and impatience from self-importance.
4. A critical spirit, quick to find fault in others.
5. An un-teachable spirit, stubborn or headstrong.
6. Rationalizing personal sin as “the way I am”.
7. A secret spirit of envy, or jealous disposition.
8. Straining the truth, lying.
9. A spirit of discouragement, disposition of worry, lack of trust in God.
Post up a yearbook photo and ask members to recall the time they were that age. Ask, “We have obviously grown physically, but how have we grown spiritually?” Lead the class to identify and confess personal instances of these sins. Challenge members to grow not only by confession, but also by repentance.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Two other extremes are found in Romans 6:17-19. Paul says we can be slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Like an extreme athlete, observing either of these in real life might leave you in awe or envy. Which is it for you? Paul describes how we can escape our natural state as a slave to sin to become a slave to righteousness. You might show David Colbey’s painting to illustrate these extremes, or use the face on the left with a cross face guard to illustrate a slave to righteousness.
The LifeWay Adult Leaders Guide for this lesson “Given Eternal Life” describes how liberty follows obedience (see Step 3 on page 96). If we step out in faith, God empowers us thru the Holy Spirit to keep us obedient. This keeps us on the path of sanctification. Speaking of keeping, think of the Holy Spirit operating in your life as you read the “Keeper of the Springs” story by Peter Marshall.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
In his commentary on this LifeWay lesson “Given Eternal Life,” based on Romans 6:15-23, Troy Bush notes the Fred Factor. Troy says, “Obedience and liberty may not seem compatible, but in Christ they result in a passion that the world recognizes as extraordinary.”
Fred’s way of living inspires others, whereas this individual was turned off by “street preachers.” By the way I live, do I inspire others or switch them off to the gospel?
Monday, October 24, 2005
Payday is an almost universally understood concept that is easily leveraged. Some board games are available--Hasbro, Parker Brothers’, and L.J Barker (defunct, the goal was to make the most money).
The key verses are 22 and 23. Paul uses “wages” in 23 to imply one “works” at sin, which has an ultimate payday—death. In 22 we can infer that the “wages” of serving God is holiness. Work is a given it seems, but where we choose to put our efforts results in a dramatic difference on payday. Choose holiness (Isaiah 35:8).
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Friday, October 21, 2005
Key to success in this new lifestyle is how to follow the Spirit’s leadership by faith on a moment-by-moment basis? By grace, God’s Spirit is available to lead us, but will we take the responsibility to seek His direction? Will we follow it?
Have the class share examples of instances where they took advantage of God’s grace and asked the Spirit for life direction, received it, and then followed it. Ask, “What advice can you offer to help others do this more often?”
Here is a Following God’s Will Maze puzzle. To illustrate the idea of “listening and following directions”, have people work it in pairs. One person gives directions—“go left, right, straight, or back”. The other makes the marks on the puzzle to follow the directions.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Also, I’m toying with using the last scene in the movie Fearless in the Introduction to this lesson, or possibly in this step. The movie has a powerful theme where the main character considers himself dead after a plane crash and after saving others in the course of the movie, he asks his wife to save him, which she does in a dramatic way. Very stirring music as well. Emotionally it connects the viewer with the idea of coming alive. Watch it and tell me what you think.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Ask, “Why is the power to live free from sin not just a matter of will power?” In Romans 1:17, Paul said that righteousness from God is from faith to faith—it starts with faith and ends there. We didn’t merit or earn righteousness by individual effort. We should not try to live in Christ by individual effort. Then how can we live successfully?
Turner makes the point that power to overcome sin comes by following the leadership of the Holy Spirit in faith. Recall the point of Philippians 4:13. To learn to live a new life in Christ study verses Romans 8:5-17, Colossians 3:1-4, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, and 2 Corinthians 4:18. See Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. The fruit of righteousness is the result of the new life. Ask members to share personal examples where they have learned to live in Christ by faith.
Time permitting, discuss a selected homework guide question for day THREE.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
You can use the lesson plan from Exciting Bible Study, which offers the idea of dipping a plastic figure of a person and a bowl of water as an object lesson for demonstrating baptism. It might be hard for members to see dipping a figure in water in a large class.
Ask members to recall their own baptism. Some may wish to share their experience with the class along with its meaning. Ask, “In what way are we freed from sin’s mastery as a result of becoming a Christian?” Discuss the homework guide questions for days ONE and TWO.
From a personal perspective, this lesson touches on the crux of the issue of living life as a Christian. We wrestle against a sinful nature knowing that Christ died for our sin and that God considers us righteous. The set up for the material coming in chapter 7 is all too clear.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Paul gives overall instructions for exhibiting this new life in Ephesians 5:21-6:9. John tells us that Christians exhibit love, not fear. Some conversions resulted in dramatic exhibitions of changed lives, but generally, Christians hope to bear fruit to God. Here is an interesting changed life project that might offer some encouraging stories.
Lesson Introduction. Paul changes gears in Romans 6 to address sanctification. Hearing the evidence of the gear change in this video is tangible evidence that a change occurred. Similarly, “a person’s life changes after he/she becomes a Christian. What are some of the evidences of this life change?” Ask the class to recall Bible verses that speak to the changed life of a Christian? (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:20-31, Colossians 2:20-21, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 3:9). Staying in first gear too long promotes engine overheating because of the higher number of engine revolutions. Likewise, Christians that stay in the old life have a problem.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
“When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day’s pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award—yet receives such a gift anyway—that is a good picture of God’s unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God.” Clip-Art Features for Church Newsletters, G.W. Knight, p. 53.
I didn’t deserve to be born in the great state of Texas, but I was. I didn’t deserve to be born to loving parents, but I was. I didn’t deserve to find a caring, faithful wife, but I did. I didn’t deserve to have two wonderful, healthy children, but I do. I didn’t deserve to have a healthy body, but I do. I see God’s grace everywhere I look. Similarly, it’s illustrated on almost every page of the Bible. Note God’s favor to pick Israel, or His selection of Zacchaeus. Have the class name examples of God’s grace demonstrated in their lives. Shine the light on God’s grace in this lesson!
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Since the aim of this lesson is to assist others in knowing more about God’s grace, you might want to put together a simple quiz on grace (see quiz 1 and 2 followed by the answers). But be careful! Quiz 1 states a belief that people can “fall from grace”, which is not possible (see Baptist Statement of Faith and Message).
Here is an alternative grace quiz. These two examples should give you an idea of how to put together a useful quiz that people should enjoy working thru. After people have an opportunity to work the quiz, then call out for volunteers to answer the questions. This way you won’t make any particular person feel uncomfortable.
According to Romans 5:13, before the law, humans were sinful (wrong nature) and coupled with verse 20, the law multiplied sin. How so? The law was a standard that shed light on man’s behavioral sins over an above his sinful nature. Hence the law multiplied sin. In some ways it’s like using a lint remover. No matter how many times I pass a clean remover over my clothing it comes up full of lint. The law reveals sin like the lint remover picks up lint.
To illustrate abundant grace, post up a picture of an empty cross with a wastebasket below it, or set a real cross on a table, again with a wastebasket below it. Hand out a clean paper towel to each learner. Say, Christ died to take away the sin of the world—yours and mine. Through grace He gives us righteousness that wipes away all sin. Have them pass the paper towel over their whole body in a wiping motion. Then ask each person as they leave the room to place his or her paper towel in the wastebasket to illustrate that their sins are gone and they are clean before God. Lead them in prayer thanking God for His abundant grace—that is, giving each one of us what we do not deserve—forgiveness and acceptance.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Imagine you are looking into the mirrored side of a two-way mirror. Who do you see? If you see a ‘basically good person’, Troy Bush, writing in the Florida Baptist Witness says, “Grace becomes a kind act by our God, but it loses its extraordinary character….all we need is a bit of help from a friendly God.” But what if you see yourself as God sees you?
Imagine God looking at you through the other side of the two-way mirror. Who does He see? According to Romans 5:6, He sees you as completely helpless, and not just someone who needs a “little assistance.” Granting righteousness to you by grace is now seen as “an unexplainable act of justice and love.” Is there a gap in how you view yourself verses how God’s views you? If so, there is a gap in your experience with God’s grace.
Furthermore, Troy clarifies a subtle point about our experience with grace. Suppose you both see yourself as completely helpless and you understand that Christ died for your sins. If you fall into this category, then do you see yourself as deserving justification? Well, “The gift is not like the trespass” (Romans 5:15). The gift of righteousness is not bestowed automatically as is a sinful nature. Righteousness must be given. God’s gift (grace) is undeserved! We do not merit His favor.
What is your experience with God’s grace? Is there a separation in how you view grace and how God views it? Can you sing Amazing Grace all out?
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Following are definitions of grace offered by Rogma, which also offers commentary with homework on Romans 5:12-21.
“Grace is the unhindered, wonderful and immeasurable love of God, poured out upon us in an infinite variety of ways without limit. Not according to what we deserve but according to His limitless heart of love. Grace is the free, unmerited favor of God in Christ Jesus. FREE – it must be exercised or bestowed without the possibility of anything being offered in exchange. Otherwise, it would simply be barter or an exchange (Romans 11:6). UNMERITED – God’s grace is poured out upon us in utter disregard of the extent of our sins. No one has any merit to offer God in payment for His grace. To recognize merit is to nullify grace.”
But Paul says is Romans 5:20, “grace increased,” but in what manner does it increase? God does not change, or “increase”, but grace is from God and it increases, like a “reckoning”, or a “consideration”, or is it like a “help” or an “enabling”? The former is on the part of God, and the later has an effect in man. Moreover, it’s not the “gift” referred to by Paul in Romans 5:15, since that gift is clearly righteousness (see Romans 5:17).
Also, Romans 5:21 makes clear that grace “reigns” to bring “eternal life”. Men are subject to the rule of “grace and life” in contrast to the rule of “sin and death.” The rule of sin (our wrongness) and death came thru Adam and increased (see Romans 5:20). Sin and death comes from man. By contrast, the rule of grace and life came thru Jesus Christ and increased (Romans 5:15). Grace and life comes from God.
According to Romans 3:24 we are justified by grace (from God) and by faith (Romans 3:28), which is also from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our justification comes from God entirely and completely. Jesus Christ suffered death and separation from God to make righteousness possible. By the grace of God those who believe by faith that Christ died in their place are justified.
Clearly then, grace is from God and is needed by us. Regardless of how we define it—God’s favor, or kindness, or goodness, or love, it teaches us that God is absolutely amazing. We cannot grasp a nature like His that changes not and is not bound by time, but yet somehow can consider unrighteous, finite men as righteous before Him. Thank you Jesus for your vicarious death and resurrected life!
Monday, October 10, 2005
The LifeWay Adult Leader Guide really only explains grace as “an undeserved benefit” (p. 79). The LifeWay Adult Commentary goes further by noting, “God’s grace is the kindness by which God bestows favors even on the undeserving and grants to sinners the pardon of their offenses and invites them to accept eternal salvation through Christ” (p.75). Does this mean grace is the same as God’s kindness?
On his blog, Joe Kennedy quotes James Richards defining grace in “Grace: The Power to Change” (p. 22) as “Grace is God's ability working in man, making him able to do what he cannot do in his own ability”. He emphasizes “God’s ability”. Impact Church offers an individual drama Missing Grace that you might want to order and use to introduce your lesson as a frst step.
Or, it might be instructive to have members read the focal verses that use the word grace and substitute “God’s ability” or simply “Ability” (with a capital A) in place of grace as they read. Ask, “What do we learn about God by reading the verses in this way?” Joe offers the additional verses John 1:14, 1:16-17 to read. Prepare these on a slide with “Ability” substituted for grace to see how the new reading makes sense, and if so, what can learn about Jesus as a result?
Sunday, October 09, 2005
This would have encouraged members to complete future homework assignments, but I blew it. Next time I’ll try to remember to do this.
Even though I had tested playing it from PowerPoint many times, I had problems during class showing the golf swing demo where a player tries to obey numerous rules in order to achieve a perfect swing (even then we may hit a bad shot!). This illustrates the the foolishness of legalism. However, when the class ended, I quickly got the demo working and showed it to the majority of the class members anyway. It was a hit!
I point out this problem because it is difficult to be the “technical A/V” person and “teach the lesson” at the same time! The issue was simple to solve once my mind was clear of the pressure to teach the lesson. Argh!
In spite of these problems (and a few others), the lesson was well received. We’ll have to wait and see how God uses it in individual lives over the coming weeks.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Friday, October 07, 2005
Step 8. We can rejoice that we are reconciled to God. He is our friend and vice versa. Ask the class if they have ever reconciled with a former enemy? Let them share examples. For me, I was once at odds with a co-worker named Steve. Our disagreement over company strategy was so profound that it lead to a poor working relationship. After praying about it, I met with Steve to reconcile and took a Peace Pipe as a gift to “open the door”. We became fast friends afterwards. Think of someone you need to reconcile with and take action this week to do so.
Step 9. Summarize with the thought that we can rejoice in the benefits we have from reconciliation with God. Here is a list I gathered from Romans 5:1-11: peace with God, access to God, hope of glory, patience, Godly character, divine optimism, rejoicing when afflicted, rejoicing in the presence of God in our lives, knowledge of truth, spared from God’s wrath, and God’s love.
Ask, “Suppose someone placed a 3-inch piece of scaffolding across the Plaza of the Americas building and offered you $50,000 for walking across, over the ice rink some 75 stories below? How about $100,000? How about $1,000,000 or even $5,000,000? Despite the fact that most of us could use an extra $5,000,000 (or even $50,000, for that matter), the vast majority of us would turn down all the offers. At least in my case, no amount of money would tempt me to do such a feat. But suppose that someone told you that terrorists held your children, grandchildren, husband or wife, sibling, or parents, and the only chance you had to save your loved one was to walk across from one side of the Plaza of the Americas to the other to save them? Wow, now that is a different scenario!” Say, “Paul tells us something even more amazing. Some people would be willing to risk their lives (or even sacrifice them) to save a loved one or, in a very extreme case, a very good person (Mother Teresa, Billie Graham, Abraham Lincoln, etc.). But Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us while we were yet sinners! While we hated Him and were in open rebellion against Him.”
Step 6. Make the points above, then have the class read Romans 5:6-11. Note that any act of righteousness on our part just ends in itself. It’s only a deed and has no transforming power. Works cannot transform us into a ‘righteousness’ that’s acceptable to God. On the other hand, once Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is accepted by faith, then God declares us righteous. Hostilities between us cease. Amazingly, we are at peace with God since Jesus was sacrificed as an atonement, but there’s more! Jesus was raised from the dead and He now lives. Yippee! We are continuously at peace with God. Through Christ we are continuously being saved (delivered from sin) as we live. The ultimate proof that God loves sinners is that Christ died for us.
Step 7. Say, “We are totally secure because of what God has done, is now doing, and will do.” I can demonstrate my security in Him in numerous ways. Take teaching adults the Bible, for example. Sure, I study a lot, have access to great commentaries, and can present a logical sequence of ideas. But these I do not depend on. Instead like Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:4, I depend on God the Holy Spirit to do His work in the minds and hearts of each learner (me included). In preparing and teaching, I am simply doing the Lord’s work. The results are up to God. Personally I am secure and do not serve out of fear or obligation, but freedom and love. Having said all this, let me ask this question. In what ways do you demonstrate that you are secure in Christ?
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Step 3. Read Romans 5:2b-5 to identify in what we can rejoice. Knowing we are righteous before God makes me want to sing Amazing Love. Take time and do it.
Step 4. Paul says that we rejoice in our afflictions since we grow in patience, Godly character and “divine optimism that God will take care of us” (LifeWay Adult Leaders Guide (p. 66) discussion on hope). This hope (certain knowing that God will do what He has promised) develops the character trait of self control (see 2 Peter 1:6-7), the first component of “proven character.” Illustrate “proven character” using the Bruce heart stress test as an example. A doctor purposely stresses the heart in order to expose any defect in its own blood supply. When we pass a stress test we have an indication that our heart is acceptable. This gives us hope (although not certain hope because there can be false positive test results—hey, it’s not a perfect illustration!).
Step 5. My own afflictions have helped me to identify with Christ’s sufferings. In this I rejoice. Ask, “How have you rejoiced as a result of an affliction in your life?” Application: Echoing Paul, Peter says that exercising knowledge develops Self Control, which is self restraint. Ask, “As a result of experientially knowing Christ by faith, how are you demonstrating restraint in your life?” Avoiding careless words, established discipline of continuous learning to maintain skills, stay clear of addictive substances, practicing steps to develop humility, delaying gratification, in as much as possible avoiding temptations, managing anger, maintaining an exercise discipline. Ken Taylor of Community Fellowship Church reminds us that self-control is a matter of training not trying (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Step 0. [computer people start counting at zero :-)] Introduce the lesson by tying into Curt’s golf swing analogy last week and begin using a quote from Martin Luther. He said, “It is impossible for a man to be a Christian without having Christ; and if he has Christ, he has at the same time all that is in Christ. What gives peace to the conscience is, that by faith our sins are no more ours, but Christ's, upon whom God has laid them all; and that, on the other hand, all Christ's righteousness is ours, to whom God has given it.” Need a suitable PPT background for needy people looking at good news...
Step 1. In what, or where, or how do people find peace in today’s world? If you are fearful, worry filled, frustrated, arguing with others, in turmoil and generally can’t rest at night, you are not at peace. Peace of mind can be found in many of life’s arenas (Virtual credit cards, Drug Prescriptions, Disaster preparedness, Estate planning and will preparation, Child care, Health insurance, Home security, etc.), but suppose all these areas are completely taken care of, but you still have no peace? Then what?
Step 2. Comprehensive lasting peace of mind can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Capture and play one of these testimonial videos (I like Jamie's). Discuss how she obtained peace of mind? How was it reflected in her life?
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Being that it’s October and pumpkins are in the stores, maybe we should try Pumpkin Evangelism to illustrate the smile God puts on a the face of a Christian?
Effectively praying in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is one way to demonstrate the peace we have as a Christian, but this goofball way is self-focused and all about feelings--lots of feelings.
In my prayer time, I read from Proverbs and the gospels. The Lord is speaking to me about becoming more of a servant (see Mark 9:35) as a way to demonstrate the security I have as believer. But it’s not about what I do as much is it’s about what I become. Have you read “Improving Your Serve” by Chuck Swindoll? Developing the heart of a servant is not an easy thing for me.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Believers have a sense of security as a result of salvation. This week’s lesson “Do you have peace with God?” aims to help us demonstrate this security.
In reading the lesson passage, Romans 5:1-11, we can decipher many scriptural truths, but our outward demonstration is made clear in three verses, all of which indicate that we should rejoice—show great joy, or exult.
These instances are:
1. Rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:2b).
2. Rejoicing when we are troubled and suffering (Rom. 5:3).
3. And rejoicing in God (Rom. 5:11).
What God does demonstrate? His love for us! (Rom. 5:8). But how to we encourage application of the truth of Scripture so that it transforms us into people that rejoice, rejoice, rejoice? Well, we could copy Charles Wesley and sing, Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing!
Sunday, October 02, 2005
My co-teacher Curt taught the lesson “Are you saved?” today and did an excellent job. First he overviewed the beginning three lessons since we missed last Sunday. Then he covered the meaty material in chapter 3 of Romans followed with the example of Abraham in Romans 4.
Curt used the “golf swing” as an illustration of a complex task that has a simple goal—hit the ball (download and try the 'polygonviewer.exe'). The golf swing is amazingly complex and he made the point that a perfect swing cannot be achieved on every stroke. There are so many little points to remember such as grip, stance, alignment, rotation, down swing, follow through, etc. so as to make it impossible to put them all into practice every swing. It’s like trying to achieve salvation thru a legalistic system. It is just not possible.
Sometimes players hit a crummy shot and exclaim, “But I did everything perfect!” That’s like bringing a wrong attitude to the Lord and saying “Look at what all I did.” It’s not faith that is exercised in this case.
Anyway, I think you get the main idea! Curt did an excellent job of creating an interactive session with many members of Encouragers participating in the discussion. Thanks Curt!
Saturday, October 01, 2005
In Series II he preached these messages: But Now (Romans 3:21-31), The Father Of Faith (Romans 4:1-12) and The Faith Of Our Father (Romans 4:13-25).
I highly recommend that you read Ray's messages since they are inspirational and provide great insights that can be shared with your class as you present this week’s LifeWay lesson, “Are you Saved?”.