Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Poll results

Below is a chart showing the results of our poll on lesson commentaries and helps that regularly appear on the web. I don't think too much can be concluded by examining the results, but thank you for participating!

My church is not having Bible study classes the next two weeks, so I'm going to take a break from blogging. May God bless you with a merry Christmas celebration of the birth of Christ and a fun welcoming of the new year!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time person of the year

Click here to download my slides for "Follow Godly Spiritual Leaders".

I'm sorry I posted these too late to be of help to most of you, but maybe you can critique them anyway?

I noticed that ordinary people were named as 'man of the year' by Time Magazine. Thanks for contributing to this blog. We are a very, very small part of what happens on the web, but we are a part, and for that we are thankful!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Diamond level support

Step 4 of “Follow Godly Spiritual Leaders” is based on Ezra 10:1-5. Ezra needed to be encouraged after hearing about the unfaithfulness of the exiles. The people did this by confessing their sin and supporting Ezra as a leader.

Watch this video to see how one member encourages her spiritual leader.

I read a previous post on this blog about Spiritual Leadership. Ask members to send a note of encouragement to a Godly leader that has helped them know God better and they can recognize God at work in their lives.

You could show a picture of a diamond where the facets are clearly visible, and then label the facets with actions members can take that demonstrate support for a leader. The diamond’s value increases when the facets are cut correctly and then polished to perfection. Our support for Godly spiritual leaders can be rated on a scale ranging from a lump of coal (lowest) to a diamond (best).

Thursday, December 14, 2006


In reading Ezra 9:1-2,4 for Step 3 of “Follow Godly Spiritual Leaders”, I was reminded of how our actions negatively impact not only our lives, but also the lives of those around us. For example, Ezra was devastated by the unfaithfulness of the exiles.

Simply put, ungodly behavior devastates the lives of others. Only God is righteous, however. May he have mercy on us and remake us to will and to act according to His good purpose.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Interview a leader

For step 2 of “Follow Godly Spiritual Leaders”, consider interviewing one of your church’s pastors during class in a talk-show, host-guest format. Place a couple of stools in front of members and announce your guest. Both of you should take a seat and appear relaxed. Prepare a list of questions in advance (also share these with him so he’ll be prepared). Spend no more than 15 minutes. A sample list of questions follows. If you have some you’d like to suggest for our consideration, please post them!!

Start by saying, “Thank you [insert name] for agreeing to let us interview you today. As we just read in Ezra 7:8-10, God had his hand on Ezra and Ezra made choices to follow God’s word, and teach it to others. He was called by God as a leader of the people of Judah.”

1. Tell us how you became aware of God’s call on your life.

2. What did you do to prepare yourself for ministry?

3. Could you share with us a particular leader that you admire today and why?

4. May I open it up to members and allow them to ask you a question or two?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Follow Godly Spiritual Leaders

Our church has called a new pastor—Dr. David Flemming. He will start his ministry the first Sunday in January 2007, so this week’s lesson, “Follow Godly Spiritual Leaders” is particularly appropriate for members of Champion Forest Baptist Church. The lesson is taken from the last four chapters of Ezra.

One way to organize your lesson is to start by telling members that you want them to think of possible applications as you present an insightful review of the lesson chapters. Present your review (Have someone in the class help read selected verses, so that other voices are heard aside from yours), which shouldn't take more than half the allotted time for class.

Then apply the scriptures by asking members, “How do these chapters of Ezra apply to us today?” Then, as they are lead, allow members to speak about possible applications. Play off their comments and ask follow up questions. This should create good discussion about the verses as well as how they apply today.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Doing the Lord's Work

Co-teacher Curt tells me, “We are doing the Lord’s work,” and that encourages me. I hope it encourages you. When we teach others what we’ve learned about God and His word, remember the Holy Spirit is the person really in control of learning. Yes, we prepare, make lesson plans, and pray about our classes, but in the end it is God that speaks His word thru the Spirit to the hearts and minds of learners (including us) to draw people to Him. We can have absolute confidence in God on this point. Keep truck’n and may God bless you!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

God given goal

A good example of working with confidence in God is William Wilberforce's “confidence in God's power and purpose to end slavery through his efforts.” Share Wilberforce’s example in Step 4 of “Working with Confidence in God”. A powerful question is this, “What personal mission from God are you endeavoring to complete?” We must have a God-given goal wherein we can work with confidence in God.

Completing it will bring a time of joy. Wilberforce went home to be with God just three days after his four decade long struggle to rid England of slavery. Surely there was a party in heaven that day!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Make your intentions clear

The lesson “Working with Confidence in God” targets strengthening our confidence when serving God. Using Ezra 4:24,5:1-5, Step 3 deals with opposition from Persian rulers when the Jews were rebuilding the temple after the exile. When facing opposition I remind myself of Eph 6:11-13. However, what encourages me most is to remind myself of who I am in Christ.

As I read the material for this step, I thought about the need to make our intentions clear. We face opposition sometimes when our intentions are misunderstood. For example, the Samaritans believed the Jews intended to establish national boundaries in existence prior to the Babylonian captivity. However, the Jews were only rebuilding the temple as Cyrus degreed. Has there been a time when your intentions were unclear, and that misunderstanding lead to opposition of your efforts?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stymied again!

I’ve been curious about what gave rise to the hatred between the Jews and Samaritains (eg. John 4:9). The passage from Ezra 4:4-5, comprising Step 2 of “Working with Confidence in God,” gives insight into the matter—the Smitarians discouraged the Jews and bribed officials to frustrate their rebuilding plans. David Self’s commentary on the lesson offers some needed background to understand the racial hostility between these two groups of people.

The word stymie used to describe an interesting golf shot, but it’s also used to mean hinder, or block accomplishment. How do you relate to people that deliberately stimie your progress? Do you end up hating one another as the Jews and Smaritians did?

Have your good intentions ever been stymied by someone? Has your career been stymied by a particular boss? Do you keep trying or simply quit? Do you seek wisdom from a leader, from Scripture, or simply ‘wing it’? Do you consider good alternatives, or get frustrated?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Let go!

I thought about the phrase "cry Uncle" while I was reading the material for this week's lesson "Working with Confidence in God", which is based on Ezra 4:1-6:22. Perhaps discussing the origin of the term might make an interesting introduction to the lesson? See Please Release Me (scroll down the bottom of the page).

Below a quote taken from a post on Wordwizard Clubhouse.

"The expression variously appears CRY/HOLLER/SAY UNCLE! and is an Americanism which is a request for a concession of defeat – to beg someone to stop, to surrender. UNCLE is the verbal concession the defeated party is require to say before being let go. But no one knows its origin for sure, so all we actually have is educated guesses [however, the journal ‘American Speech’ under Cassell’s and the 1980 quote (see below) is probably the most authoritative]. It first appeared as a schoolyard expression in around 1900 and began to be used figuratively by mid-century.
Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins
UNCLE!: ‘To say’ or ‘cry uncle’ has since the beginning of this century meant ‘to give up, to surrender, to say you’ve had enough.’ Apparently it is of schoolboy origin, at least it is most used by schoolboys when fighting, especially when one has another pinned helplessly on the ground. For about 30 years the cry ‘give’ has been more common in the New York City area, but one still hears the earlier expression. [[From personal experience, I can tell you that in N.Y.C. ‘give’ goes back at least 50 years]]. Why ‘uncle’ was chosen by kids is anybody’s guess; there probably is no good reason unless a defeated boy originally had to curse his uncle, just a s bullies often make their victims curse their mothers and sisters before letting them go. Which is no more than a guess. ‘Cavy!’ a similar expression not heard anymore, is said to date back to Tudor times, a corruption of the Latin ‘peccavi,’ meaning ‘I have sinned, I am wrong.’
Random House Dictionary of America’s Popular Proverb’s and Sayings
SAY UNCLE Surrender! This expression originated in the United States in about 1900. Lexicographer Charles Earl Funk [[of the Funk and Wagnall dynasty]] thinks that the phrase may have some Latin connection. When a Roman boy was in trouble, he cried ‘patrue mi Patruissime’ (‘Uncle my best of uncles’). CRY/HOLLER/YELL is a variant, which is always used figuratively.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang
CRY/HOLLER/SAY UNCLE verb [1910s and still in use]: To beg someone to stop an action, to surrender. [“‘uncle’ in this expression is surely a folk etymology, and the Irish original of the word is ‘anacol’ (‘anacal,’ ‘anacul’) ‘act of protecting; deliverance; mercy, quarter, safety,’ a verbal noun from the Old Irish verb ‘aingid,’ protects.” (from ‘American Speech’ LI, 1976)] [[see 1980 quote below for fuller statement]]"

Saturday, December 02, 2006

When opportunity comes knocking

I was thinking about how to close this lesson in a meaningful way. Life presents all of us a series of opportunities that we react to based on a number of different factors. What opportunities matter to you? Which ones are too big to turn down? Are there some that you just can’t pass by?

We have friends whose home was destroyed by Katrina. As soon as it was permitted our friends returned to New Orleans to begin rebuilding their home. Just as the Hebrews wanted to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, our friends were eager to rebuild New Orleans and their home.

You can search Google News for stories concerning rebuilding N.O. or a home there and share it with your class. As an aternative, here is a link to a secular article that uses white-water rafting to illustrate aspects of responding to opportunities in life.

The following bar chart shows the usage of this site as determined by Statcounter.com. What happened in October is a bit of a mystery, but in November, returning visitors continued to rise. For this I am thankful! I appreciate all of you who visit here and encourage me. Thanks to all who help make this site a place where Bible teachers can help each other prepare.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Take God's perspective into account

In the Baptist Standard, Howard Anderson’s commentary on “Seizing New Opportunities” includes a pertinent question: Can an opportunity that looks good be contrary to God’s will? Why do I bring this up?

The LifeWay material for Step 4 is based only on Ezra 3:10-11, but another perspective is gained by also considering Ezra 3:12. Some of the older Israelites were saddened at the sight of the new foundation (see also Haggai 2:3). It was like nothing compared to the previous temple. The people who had never seen Solomon’s temple, however, were overjoyed.

Where in your Church do older people see opportunities differently that younger people? The key is to observe their response. We may not be able to pick our circumstances, but we can choose our response. Paul exhorted believers to “Be joyful always” (1 Thes 5:16) because God is in control.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wow! That was fast!

Step 3 of “Seizing New Opportunities” is focused on Ezra 3:1-3. To help members understand just how rapidly the Hebrews seized the opportunity to worship God in their own homeland, I would also read verse Ezra 3:6. They deemed it more important to worship God than to lay the foundation of the temple. Their actions demonstrated their priorities. Look at how fast a gal can stack paper cups. Compare that to how fast you can stack up worship to God when given an opportunity!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Half-full attitude

To learn to respond to a God-given opportunity, which is Step 2 of “Seizing New Opportunities”, we have to first learn to recognize an opportunity when presented to us.

We are numbed by everyday activities and tend to miss what might be happening around us. Since God operates thru the local church, make a list of activities happening in your church. For example, in my church we are anticipating the arrival of a new pastor. That would be an opportunity on my list.

Present your list of ‘what’s happening’ to members and ask them to rate each one with the symbol “half-full”, or “half-empty”. The half-full rating indicates the opportunity is on the way up, whereas, the half-empty rating indicates the opportunity has past its peak and is on the way down. Summarize the ratings verbally, but point out how they indicate one’s attitude. Learning to react positively will help us be open to opportunities as God presents them to us.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tracing God's Hand

I’m excited about studying Ezra since I’m not that familiar with the book. The idea of the first lesson “Seizing New Opportunities” from Ezra 1:1-3:13 is to see God’s hand in the opportunities that come our way in life. You might consider the following idea as you introduce the lesson. Post a regional map where everyone can see it and put your hand on the map and trace the outline of your hand with a marker. Emphasize to members that by studying Ezra we want to learn to recognize God hand in our lives thru the opportunities presented to us. Make the point that only by seizing them can we experience the blessings God intends for us. Done right, you can get everyone expecting to experience the blessings of God at work in their lives. How exciting is that?!

In addition to the study questions by Sonshine linked to above, she also posted a background guide to Ezra that might help you. Send a note to Sonshine and thank her!! The blessing of reading her material is a God given opportunity we should seize today!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Slides for Love One Another

Click here to download the PPT slides I created to use in teaching the lesson "Love One Another".

I pray that your lesson pleases God and that He blesses every member with complete understanding of His will to love one another.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Finishing Hebrews

As the kids piled into the car to leave after the holiday, we shouted last minute exhortations. “Remember to order the carpet. Remember to change your oil and get your tires rotated. Do not neglect your health, so schedule that physical exam.”

As the writer of Hebrews closed his letter, he crammed Hebrews 13 with final exhortations. Love one another. Live pure lives. Imitate and assist leaders. Remember Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever, so his purpose in the life of a believer has not changed.

Step 5 of the lesson “Love One Another” takes its point from Hebrews 13:17-19, which is an exhortation to obey and pray for responsible leaders. The writer of Hebrews closed the book with an inspirational prayer for his readers (Hebrews 13:20-21).

How do you plan to close your lesson? It’s the last lesson in our series on Hebrews. Are you going to summarize the main teaching points of the entire letter? Do you plan to ask people what they have learned by studying the book? How do you plan to end the sentence, “Let me finish by saying…”.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

More to the story

Sam Tullock points out in his commentary on “Love One Another” that the passage Hebrews 13:1-25 addresses a broader range of topics than love. He goes on to say, “Above all, this week’s lesson highlights the centrality of Christ to the life of believers.” Step 4 verses Hebrews 13:12-16 underscore his point. We identify with Christ, “bearing the disgrace he bore,” and through him, continually praise and thank God.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Follow the leader

This week I decided to use the LifeWay Adult Extra material to help with this week’s lesson, entitled “Love One Another.” Step 3 is titled ‘Imitate Leaders’, which brings to mind the kids game, “follow the leader”. The step references Hebrews 13:7-8, which says that leaders spoke “God’s word”.

For fun, play “follow the leader” this way. Ask, a member to say out loud any single verse they know from memory. Afterwards, ask if any member of the class can also say the same verse from memory, and then allow some person to quote the verse. Then ask that person to say a new (single) verse from memory. Again, ask if a member of the class can follow that leader and say the verse. Continue a bit before stopping the game. The game illustrates imitating leaders who speak the Word to us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Simple to say, hard to do

Step 2, based on Hebrews 13:1-6, is titled Love People in the LifeWay Leader Guide for this week’s lesson “Love One Another.” This is easy to say, but hard to do. The Lord gave us a direct command to “love one another” (John 15:12) and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). We may not know what all that means, but we can allow Scripture to guide us to emulate Christ.

Jesus added, “as I have loved you”, so he set the example for us to follow. Hebrews 13:1-6 lists several ways to demonstrate love as does 1 Cor 13:4-7. You might consider using the Adult Extra suggestion for this step, which I like.

An alternative is to put the focus on verse 6.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What's love?

In his commentary on this week’s lesson from Hebrews 13:1-25, “Love One Another,” Mark Rathel points out rather pointedly the wrong teaching that phileo love is a lower level love than agape love. Agape love is “love by choice”, whereas phileo love involves the emotions. God demonstrated both types of love toward humanity.

The word love is so misunderstood, especially given its importance—it’s the royal law of Christ (John 13:34, James 2:8, 1 John 4:21). I recommend a healthy discussion to define love. Otherwise, listeners will have their own definition. Anyone care to take a stab at defining it?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Serve, not be served

Step 5, Hebrews 12:17-29: Unlike the ancient Jews who trembled with fear and dared not approach God, the Hebrew Christians could boldly come under a new covenant redeemed by the blood of Christ to worship the living God in the company of others. The writer warned them not to turn away from such an opportunity, but instead be thankful and not presume on an awesome God.

Read Psalm 19:13 and discuss with members what it means to presume on God.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Keep on keep'n on

Step 4 of “Persevere Amid Difficulty” comes from Hebrews 12:12-16, which highlights the obligations of a believer to help others in the race toward Christian maturity and possible dangers to avoid along the way.

We are to strengthen our resolve, remove obstacles for others and avoid getting sidetracked.

One measure of maturity is how quickly you offer help to another Christian that falls into difficulty. To apply verses 12 and 13 show a list of names of people from the Wednesday night prayer service and ask members to consider ways they can help and encourage others in difficulty.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cut and run

Do you see a present, difficult circumstance as discipline from the Lord? If so, take comfort and be not disheartened. Step 3 in this week’s lesson “Persevere Amid Difficulty“ comprises verses Hebrews 12:4-8. We are called to endure hardship as discipline from the Lord, and not grow weary. It’s time to worry if you don’t have any problems!! A child never disciplined never learns self-discipline. Thank God for disciplining us.

Circumstances reveal our character. How do you react in tough times? Do you cut-and-run (quit), or persevere? Our goal is to learn to endure, but how do we teach that?

The writer of Hebrews used positive examples in chapter 11, and the supreme example of Christ going to the cross at the start of chapter 12. You could use ‘negative’ examples, i.e. discuss situations where people do cut-and-run as depicted in the cartoon example.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Be honest about unbelief

What discourages you to the point of “unbelief?” Step 2 of “Persevere Amid Difficulty” considers verses Hebrews 12:1-3, which mentions the “the sin that so easily ensnares”. Read these verses and ask members what tempts them not to believe in today’s world. Have an honest discussion and pray that the Holy Spirit demolishes strongholds, or arguments against the knowledge of God, which leads not to unbelief, but faith in Christ.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Persevere Amid Difficulty, Hebrews 12:1-29

This week’s lesson, “Persevere Amid Difficulty”, is taken from Hebrews 12:1-29. When I think of perseverance I’m reminded of the Biblical phrase “set my face like flint”, which appears in Isaiah 50:7. We are told in Luke 9:51 that Jesus “set his face” to go to Jerusalem.

Daniel also “purposed in his heart”. In your life, have you ever “set your face” to accomplish a goal? Describe what it felt like. What obstacles did you overcome?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

In case your interested...

Click here to download the PPT slides I created to use tomorrow for teaching the lesson "Exhibit Your Faith".

Let me know if PPT material like this is useful to you.

Remain steadfast, eh?

In the last step of “Exhibit Your Faith”, taken from Hebrews 11:17-19,24-26, the writer explained the details of how Abraham and Moses operated in faith. Abraham believed (faith) that God would raise Isaac from the dead, and Moses looked into the future (by faith) to his reward and then chose to suffer disgrace by abandoning Pharaoh’s house.

Each man took actions that demonstrated his faith in the Lord, but get this: neither received what was promised during his earthly life! That’s the point. Don’t miss it.

If nothing else, we should at least remain steadfast and put into action today the Lord’s command to love one another because we know (by faith) that Jesus Christ will return one day. Love's actions reveal our faith like windmill turns demonstrate the wind's presence.

What acts of love for one another can you do today? Take a walk together? Go out to dinner together? Write a note? Give a gift? Pray together? Read God’s Word together?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pictures of faith

Step 4 of “Exhibit Your Faith” focuses on Hebrews 11:13-16. SonShine writes questions about these verses as though she were walking through a Portrait Gallery of Faith. On the walls hang pictures of persistent faith. Abel pictures a faith unto death, being killed by his brother. Enoch pictures a daily faith that walked with God. Noah pictures obedient faith, even in a time of judgment. Abraham pictures covenant faith, a faith grounded in knowing that God cannot lie and will keep His promises.

What picture of faith hangs above your name?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Who knows?

Suppose you declared your intent to walk a high wire strung from the roof of your house to your neighbor’s. Moreover, before you took your first step you declare, “I have faith in God.” How could someone know your action was a demonstration of your trust in God, or simply a foolish act?

Step 3 of “Exhibit Your Faith” is based on Hebrews 11:6-8, which highlights Noah’s faith to build an ark, not knowing what was to come and Abraham’s faith to “go to a place” when he was called, “not knowing where he was going.”

My question is how can other know when we are acting by faith in God? They can’t, but what's key is that God does know! And it pleases Him when we act in faith. Our challenge this week is not to think of ways to impress others with our faith, but to please God by trusting Him. In what ways are you trusting God at the moment?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Evidence of faith

Hebrews 11:1-3 is the focal passage of Step 2 in this week’s lesson “Exhibit Your Faith”. Although people might question the reality of the object of faith, they do not challenge the existence of faith. Faith is real and it gives proof to what is not seen. For example, faith tells us that what we can see is actually made of things we cannot see. We also understand by faith that God created the universe.

However, the question in the lesson is how do we exhibit our faith? What actions do we take that makes our faith apparent? To this end, I like Mark Rathel’s commentary on faith in this week’s issue of Florida Baptist Witness. His tight sentences give us good insight.

In these uncertain times, what is the reality of your faith? It takes action to make your faith visible. To illustrate this, take a small transistor radio to class. Say that radio waves are in the air around us. We know they are there, but they are unseen. It takes action to reveal their presence. Turn on the radio and tune it to a station. Ask members what new action can they take that makes their faith evident .

Monday, November 06, 2006

Who do you look up to?

This week’s LifeWay lesson is taken from Hebrews 11:1-40. It’s called “Exhibit Your Faith”. State that believers demonstrate their faith in God by the actions they take. They look to God and believe even though they don’t experience (can’t see) the full reality of God’s promise.

Bill Gates had a vision of a PC on every desktop. He put his ‘faith’ to work when he founded Microsoft. Richard Stallman had a vision of free software that’s unrestricted like free speech and founded the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation. These two views of the software world were in opposition, but each has been wildly successful (in different ways).

Both of these men had faith in themselves and their ideas, but a Christian has faith in God, which leads to specific actions that are ultimately commendable by the Lord himself. Consider Jim Dobson for example. He had a vision for a ministry to families and founded Focus on the Family.

While Bill Gates and Richard Stallman inspire millions and their achievements are laudable, I admire Dr. Dobson more. The manner in which he lives out his faith makes him a hero to me. Others (non-believers) disparage Dr. Dobson regularly because of his faith. What ‘actions of faith’ does Jim Dobson demonstrate that I would like to see in my life? Good question.

Ask members to name a Christian they admire and have them consider that same question. The answers might surprise you!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I can do all things thru Christ

This week I had some dental work done, which you might say, “I had to endure.” I had confidence in the dentist, so I “suffered patiently,” expecting good results. After an hour in the chair, I was rewarded with what’s soon could be a better looking smile.

I say all this to illustrate Step 4 of “Exercise Confidence,” which is based on Hebrews 10:32-36,39. The writer encouraged the Hebrew Christians to trust God, believe His promise of forgiveness and patiently endure their suffering as they waited for Christ’s return.

Commenting on this lesson Cyndi Grace asks, “What is it that you are fearing or uneasy about? Are you about to give up? Are you at the end of your rope? Where does your faith need strengthening?” Be encouraged by this passage to faithfully persevere knowing that God is with you.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The sin of unbelief

The LifeWay Leader Guide for Step 3 of “Exercise Confidence” from Hebrews 10:26-31 is a little confusing. It says the passage “likely” applied to believers, but then the commentary seems to focus on a non-believer who thinks he is saved.

To me, verse 29 indicates the passage is written to believers given the phrase “which he was sanctified.” That’s a saved person.

I’m wondering what sin the writer has in mind given the context? The Hebrew believers were turning back to Judaism, or abandoning the disciplines of their Christian faith. What sin in this context would deserve such a strong warning?

To clarify what sin the writer has in mind, I put the warnings given in Hebrews together in one statement as follows:

Do not drift away (Heb 2:1)
By unbelief that hardens your heart (Heb 3:12-14)
But God willing, go on to maturity, (Heb 6:1-3)
Because there is no more sacrifice for sin (Heb 10:26)
And there is no escape from judgment and loss of blessing (Heb 12:25)

So it seems that the sin of unbelief that hardens a heart is what the inspired writer is addressing. He has in mind a believer who is in danger of a hardened heart due to unbelief. The continual practice, or on-going sin of unbelief leads to harden heart and judgment.

Does this make sense? If so, how can we illustrate the heart-hardening nature of unbelief? I’m thinking of a “hardening catalyst”, or “hardening agent” mixed in a compound causes it to turn rock hard (as in some epoxies).

A more appropriate illustration might be to describe the way cholesterol (unbelief) leads to Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Love, the most excellent way

Regarding “Exercise Confidence”, the inspired writer reaches a summary point noting in verses 19-21 of Hebrews 10, the main points of his previous argument: (1) we have confident access to God, (2) we have the promise of eternal forgiveness thru Christ’s sacrifice, and (3) we have none other than Jesus Christ as our High Priest.

In light of these three main points, he gives three exhortations in verses 22-25 of Hebrews 10. These are (A) instead of pulling away, move close to from God and Christ because of our confidence that God keep his promise made in the new covenant, (B) consider ways to live in the more excellent way of love (1 Cor 13) and good works (Eph 2:10), and (C) continue meeting together in church.

My preference is to present the above, then focus the conversation on (B) and do what the writer urges us to do—consider ways to practice living in love and doing good works as a result of that love. Remember, love is a character quality, so we must grow in the maturity of our character in that regard.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Exercise Confidence

As we start this week on the lesson, “Exercise Confidence” from Hebrews 10:19-39, I want to mention that preparation is not always a smooth process for me.

I start by reading the material, but for some reason, the main teaching points don’t stick with me. I may end the week with these same points I read at first, but I seem to go thru a process of considering other ideas before finally settling on “my lesson.”

Sometimes I start off very sure about a passage thinking it will be easy to teach. Then as the week progresses my confidence wanes. Visions of how I will present a passage rush thru my mind at first, but later seem inappropriate for some good reason. Eventually, I knuckle down and get very focused on the passage, and try to answer the question “what does this passage say to us today?”

I’m looking forward to exercising confidence this week as I prepare, but the process is an up and down, back and forth journey for me. I’m curious about what works for you?

Friday, October 27, 2006

The promise

Step 5 of "Show Gratitude" focuses on the promise of the new covenant as given in Hebrews 10:17-18. Those in covenant relationship with Jesus Christ are forgiven. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. God does not lie. Hence, don't let the devil, or some big-haired, fast talking 'preacher' put doubts into your mind. That's where the battle takes place, so be renewed by the transforming of your mind in the matter of forgiveness of sin. We will be eternally grateful to God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Sprit!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Clean as a whistle

Using Hebrews 10:11-16, Step 4 of the lesson, “Show Gratitude” calls out our perfection and sanctification (see verse 14). My first thought was to illustrate this by cleaning some dirty pennies in preparation for placing them in a collection, but you may have to use some chemicals in the classroom (dip in dirty and it comes out shinny clean like the TV ad). Does “washed in the blood of Christ” work or is that going too far with this analogy?

A different take on these same verses is to focus on the meaningless repetition of the priestly sacrifice and apply the principle to our use of repetitive prayer (see Matt 6:7). You can have a discussion with members regarding repetitive prayer phrases they hear today.

You could present the origin of the term “Clean as a whistle,” an alteration of the original “Clear as a whistle” phrase. Ask, “What’s so clean about whistles?” Make the comparison that Christians are completely clean and pure because of Christ’s sacrifice even though we may appear only whistle clean here on Earth. Washed in the blood of Christ we are totally righteous before God! Wow!!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Step 3 of “Show Gratitude” is based on Hebrews 10:8-10. The depth of Jesus’ willingness to do God’s will, His commitment to performing the work of the cross, and His heart attitude toward God the Father struck me as I read this passage. Sacrifices under the old covenant were ineffectual, but doing the will of God from the heart brought salvation—Jesus died once for all. In other words, we can praise God for Christ’s sacrifice, which brought forgiveness under the new covenant, but we can also praise Jesus for submitting to suffering as an act of love for God. He willing did what God wanted. God in turn accepted the sacrifice as full payment for our (my) sin, thus sanctifying all who would believe.

Contrast Hebrews10:9b with Mark 14:35-36 and think about Jesus’ prayer. Lead members to see the depth of Christ’s agony in submitting to do the will of the Father. Lead them in a prayer of gratitude for His follow thru and the wonderful consequences for us as a result.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Picture this

Taken from Hebrews 10:1-4, Step 2 of “Show Gratitude” spotlights the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse a guilty conscience. Under the new covenant, which we studied last week, we learned that God, who does not lie, promised forgiveness to believers. Praise God for such a guarantee! We can ‘take that promise to the bank’ for sure. The new covenant was established with the blood of Christ when he sacrificed himself, one for all, and once for all.

The LifeWay commentary helps us picture this using a stained shirt (p.93). If someone wants me to describe this in more detail, post a comment and I’ll respond.

As an illustration of the old sacrificial system foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ show a photograph, for example, of a class member. Ask the class to tell what the picture informs them about the class member. They will name a few items, but the details they point out will be incomplete. Then have the REAL class member stand up in front of the class and make the point of how the presence of the real person obsoletes the need for a photograph. Having the real person is more satisfying than a mere photo.

Lastly, you might want to consider the promotion that an upcoming concert gets in advance. Producers show video clips, play song excerpts, and describe what will happen at the event. However, all these simply foreshadow the reality of the actual concert when it does take place. When it does, the reality replaces, or makes obsolete, the old promotional material. In addition, prior to the event, the old promotional material was never satisfying. Right? The clips weren’t long enough, or right song parts weren’t played, etc. However, when the real event does happen everyone who attends is completely satisfied. Similarly, what the old sacrificial system only pictured and could not satisfy was revealed in the superior sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Thank God for His promise of forgiveness through Christ Jesus!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Show gratitude

Yesterday, I was again reminded of how important it is to be clear when we teach the Scriptures. I was prepared to teach the lesson “Tell the Truth” as outlined in the LifeWay quarterly, however, the following situation occurred early in the class.

I ask members to describe the Mosaic covenant, and with some help, they generally described the agreement made between God and the Israelites in Exodus 19. Moreover, they were quick to point out that the Israelites failed to obey the Law. Hence, the covenant was broken. Then I read Luke 22:20 and asked them to describe the new covenant Jesus instituted with His death. I received lots of answers, but only one was specifically on point.

It dawned on me at that moment (Holy Spirit’s leading) to make sure that every member could clearly state the promise of the new covenant. I essentially chunked the Lifeway lesson I had planned and focused on one basic teaching—what is the new covenant. We contrasted the old and new covenants as outlined in the iLumina Bible, which was very helpful.

Many people came up afterwards to tell me how much they appreciated the clarity of the lesson. They never sensed that I changed horses midstream. Most of the lesson I intended to teach ended up on the “cutting room floor” and what remained turned out to be very clear.

In hindsight, the LikeWay lesson as outlined included too much material and would have been impossible to cover, except only in a “drive by fashion”. I like the fact that this week’s lesson Show Gratitude, from Hebrews 10:1-4,8-18, doesn’t try to cover as much material.

Let me end this post by saying that it’s more important that members firmly grasp basic teachings such as the old verses new covenants than it is to only conceptually grasp a broad range of topics, which last week’s lesson certainly presented good opportunity to do. And even as we teach, be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in the classroom!

What was your experience in the classroom on Sunday?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Live life to the full!

Last evening we saw the play “Outward Bound”, which makes the point that we all face judgment after we die. After realizing they are dead and on a ship headed to a place of judgment, the fictitious characters grapple with how to deal with, or manage their upcoming meeting with an ‘examiner’. The hard-hearted businessman, the uppity socialite, the priest, the drunk, and the chambermaid all struggled with and plotted how that conversation might go.

The scene reminds me of Hebrews 9:27, which is covered in Step 3 of our lesson this week—“Tell the Truth”. The play offered insights into a judgment scene that were a bit unnerving at times. It leads one to ask, what will I say when that day comes in my life?

The play also makes the point that how we live life is just as important as how we face judgment after death. Christ allowed himself to be sacrificed on a cross and experience an indescribable suffering and separation from God the Father and the Holy Spirit so that we can live life to the full.

The LifeWay quarterly material suggests using a credit card as an illustration of how we incur debt that must be paid later in full. Marvelously, Jesus paid our sin debt by his once-for-all sacrifice. Praise God!

To carry the credit card illustration further, note that just as we immediately enjoy the benefits of a credit card purchase, we also today can immediately enjoy the blessings of an abundant life offered in Christ as a result of His sacrifice!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Barriers removed

On Step 3 of the “Tell the Truth”, our lesson from Hebrews 8:6b-9:10, I’m working to mentally grasp the argument concerning Jesus’ superior priesthood, but I’m overwhelmed with all the background details (covenants, priestly duties, temple worship, etc). Whew! To distill all that down to a few key points so that members can articulate the writer's argument is a key barrier to cross!

Speaking of barriers, under the old covenant, I cannot imagine the hurdles an individual Jew faced if he wanted to individually worship the Living God. God is interested in personal relationship and under the new covenant the barriers that once existed are now gone. As I read these verses I think about the obstacles removed when Christ established a new covenant.

What is a simple way to illustrate the removal of barriers? Members might relate to passage of the American’s with Disabilities Act, which called for the removal of physical barriers for handicapped citizens. Any other ideas?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Now you’re talking!

Step 2 of “Tell the Truth” concentrates on Hebrews 8:1-2,6a, which makes the point that Jesus is the kind of priest we need because he finished His work (sat down), occupies a position of power and authority (at the right of God), and makes intersession for us where God really is (true tabernacle). In short, His ministry is superior. Why look elsewhere?

Before you can argue the superiority of Jesus’ ministry you need to be convinced of it yourself. What does the writer of Hebrews say that is compelling to you?

Questions to myself:

The writer of Hebrews knew a lot about the Levitical priesthood and was able to contrast it with the priesthood of Jesus. In the case of other religious systems, how knowledgeable about them must I be before I can claim the superiority of Jesus’ ministry?

If the writer of Hebrews practiced the “live and let live” philosophy of today’s world, he would not have written to the Hebrews in the first place (out of ‘respect’ for their religion). After all, it was their personal choice to turn back to Judaism. Right? Moreover, if I don’t believe there are negative consequences for the choices others make, then who cares if someone, for example, decides to worship a cow, self flagellate, or achieve some higher state?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tell the Truth

Based on two chapters of Hebrews, this week’s lesson “Tell the Truth” presents a lot of ground to cover. I will try to narrow my focus on just the key points that help members articulate the argument the writer of Hebrews makes in Hebrews 8:1-9:28. My first take is that the writer is emphasizing a “new way” over an ineffective previous system. The Hebrew Christians wanted to return to their former religious system, which was powerless. God instituted a new covenant and a “new way” in Christ.

In our society we are constantly bombarded with new ways to do just about everything. Google news “new way” and you’ll see what I mean. When you hear of a new way of doing something, what is your first response? How do you react when you learn there is a new way to approach something that sounds too good to be true? How do you think the Hebrew Christians might have reacted when the writer of Hebrews spelled out for them the new way in Christ and its superiority over the priestly system they to which they wanted to return?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Perfect = mature

To close this lesson on “Live in Hope,” I want to tie back to last week’s lesson “Determine to Mature.” That is, encourage members to apply the certain hope of Jesus’ superior priesthood to enabling Christians to grow in maturity, which was the issue the Hebrew Christians faced.

After reading about and studying the overall context of 7:19 (see 6:1 and 6:3), the idea of perfection referring to maturity seems admissible. The LifeWay Bible Commentary on Hebrews is silent (p 77), while the Adult Leader Guide (p 77) clearly interprets perfection as referring to salvation, not maturity. On the other hand, Dwight Pentecost’s A Faith that Endures (p 124) understands perfection as referring to maturity. Without being dogmatic about it, I think I can mention both ideas and then focus on the maturity aspect.

In my rush, I forgot to publish last month's traffic and visitor update. It follows below. God is good!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Secure hope

Step 4 of “Live in Hope” highlights the secure nature of the hope God has set before us: Jesus’ priesthood is forever (see verse 28 in the passage Hebrews 7:23-28). He declared by oath that our redeemer Jesus Christ, who lives forever, continuously performs the priestly duty of interceding for us (prays for our protection, our sanctification, and our unity with each other and Him). God cannot change His mind. He does not lie.

There is no greater security than the hope God offers in Jesus Christ. Our hold (belief that God does not lie) on this hope (Jesus Christ) is like an unbreakable chained tied to an immoveable anchor. Taking off on yesterday’s “bent can” illustration, we select the 'perfect' can because we trust it, whereas who knows what we’ll get if we rely on a damaged can.

I may use the illustration of a tent stake since I tent camp. The stake is below ground and I can’t see it work, but in a high wind, it does its job of keeping the tent secure.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Damaged goods

Step 3 of “Live in Hope” draws its point from Hebrews 7:15-22, skipping the first 14 verses of Hebrews 7. We’ve all seen a grocery store place damaged items on sale. The items are marred in some way and consumers simply won’t buy them at full price even though the contents are still okay. To illustrate the main idea in Step 3, let members choose from a set of sample items (some of which are damaged) and see which ones they select. Afterwards, ask, "when it comes to choosing between the hope offered in Christ verses that offered by some other means, why would you settle for damaged goods?"

Does this illustration make sense to you?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why should we be patient?

The Lord’s will for us is to live under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and by practice train our senses to distinguish good and evil. God allows our maturity to be tested and our failure can bring disappointment. Living out the Word of God in our lives will bring maturity, but it is discouraging when we move backwards like the Hebrew Christians. Do you ever get impatient and frustrated at your lack of progress toward spiritual maturity? If so, take heart in what the writer of Hebrews has to say.

Believers have faith in Christ, but we need the patience of Abraham mentioned in Hebrews 6:15-20, the focal verses for Step 2 of this week’s lesson “Live in Hope”. We can have patience for the same reason Abraham did. God cannot lie! What He has promised is true already and “set before us” for the taking.

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to grasp and hold on to this hope: Jesus has already entered God’s presence and as our High Priest, His sacrifice enables us to enter God’s presence in heaven. What a glorious day that will be! Our spiritual maturity will come, God willing, with patient endurance.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Live in Hope

The background passage for this week’s lesson “Live in Hope” is Hebrews 6:13-7:28. The Hebrew Christians were not mature and needed milk instead of solid food. In this passage, the writer hands them a “spiritual turkey leg” to chew on as he discusses the priesthood of Jesus and Melchizedek. He certainly left behind the elementary teachings and moved on to more mature matters about Christ!!

If you search Google news using the phrase “live in hope” you’ll notice right away that it’s used as an idiom, i.e. as a peculiar way to express an optimistic outlook. Make you a top ten list from the examples. Start by asking members to: Complete the sentence “I live in hope for _________________,” then show your list. Introduce the lesson noting that we live in hope because of Jesus’ priesthood.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Determine to grow in maturity

This lesson “Determine to Mature” closes with Hebrews 6:9-12. Verse 9 is an encouraging word since the writer expresses his confidence in the Hebrew Christians.

Verse 10 is clear evidence that salvation is not the focus of chapter 6 since the writer more than anyone understands salvation is by faith, not works. However, Christians do work in service to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-16). The writer wants them to be diligent as they were in the beginning, and not become lazy in their service to Christ.

We all have stories of receiving generally bad customer service at some time or another. Remind members of this and ask, “What is the cause of such poor service?” After listening and noting their responses, make the comparison that God wants Christians to bear “fruit” and not “thorns.”

Christians are not to be lazy and uncaring, but to be diligent and faithful so as to grow in maturity. You might want to show a picture of a puzzle and ask members, “What’s missing that would help you determine to grow in maturity?”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

And the results are...?

Step 3 tackles verses 6:1-8 in Hebrews with a focus on warning immature believers of their need to grow beyond basic teachings about Jesus Christ. They need to “Determine to Mature”, or risk losing earthly blessings, or heavenly rewards (see this post also).

It’s interesting to note that these Fan’s Pay No Attention to Warnings. The question is will we heed the warning we read in Hebrews 6:4-6?

Verses 7-8 illustrate that “consuming” God’s blessing has two outcomes—one is good, the other is evil. Ask members to consider the results of God’s manifold blessings in their lives today. Are the results good, or evil?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Determine to Mature

This week’s lesson, “Determine to Mature” speaks personally to all of us since God’s will for us is to grow in maturity (cf. Eph 4:11-16). We need maturity to properly deal with the focal verses in chapter 6.

Step 2 of the lesson starts with Hebrews 5:11-14. I’m amazed at the relationship between the writer of Hebrews and his immature Christian Hebrew readers. Mind you they were adults, but he had the freedom to speak very bluntly to them as children: “you have become slow to understand.” (see also v12).

Can you imagine saying that to adults today? Feeling insulted, most would up and leave after an insinuation let alone such a direct statement. He said the Hebrew Christians “have become slow” implying they are regressing. That it, these Christians were once quick learners and grew fast, but now they are going backwards.

To illustrate this regression, J. Dwight Pentecost in his book “A Faith That Endures” likens the Hebrew Christians to adults that have put on children clothes. Maybe we could show a photo of an adult dressed as a child and ask what’s wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Due to unforeseen demands on my time, I will be unable to post again this week. Please take advantage of all the links on the right side of the page to very helpful lesson commentaries.

God bless all of you, and don't start any fights while I'm out!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Speak freely

Step 2 of “Seek Forgiveness” is taken from Hebrews 4:14-16. Boldness implies confidence. A Christian can approach God in confidence to seek mercy and grace. David Self quotes from the Believer’s Study Bible (formerly The Criswell Study Bible) commentary that “The word ‘boldly' is a translation of a word that means ‘free utterance.'”

I picture that we are able to speak freely before the Lord in prayer. We normally have to ask for permission to speak freely in our society, or at work. Search Google News for instances of “speak freely” and select a story that you can use to make the point Christians do not have to ask Jesus for permission to speak freely. He has commanded us to express in prayer any need that we have, particularly for mercy and grace.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Seek Forgiveness

The focal passage for this week’s lesson “Seek Forgiveness” is Hebrews 4:14-5:10. In reading Hebrews it’s critical to keep in mind the circumstances of the original readers. The Hebrew Christians suffered not only at the hands of their fellow Jews for having accepted Christ, but they were also oppressed under Roman rule.

Hebrews 4:16 is particularly important to the lesson since it says, “Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.”

Given all the needs that these believers must have had, the writer highlighted the receipt of mercy and grace as helps. Wow!?

Think about starting the class with a discussion of what the possible needs of the Hebrew Christians might have been. Paul had even taken up an offering for them because of their poverty. Afterwards, ask members to consider what difference mercy and grace might make in the lives of the Hebrew Christians, and then in their own lives since we are all needy, too.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ilustrations added

Remember that “Be Obedient” has a great Scriptural opening matched with a great Scriptural ending. Today, I went back to each of the previous posts for this lesson and added a comment with several suggested illustrations. Hope this helps!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Focus on rest, or work?

The LifeWay Adult Leader guide and the Explore the Bible Adult Commentary for Step 4 of “Be Obedient” offer succinct and relevant insight into Hebrews 4:8-13. Below I’ve inserted in square brackets my understanding of this passage, which I think exhorts Christians above all else to enter God’s rest. To get started on this passage, you might want to say to members, “The world system offers a false rest. What is the false rest offered by the world? In what way does the world exhort us (along with unbelievers) to enter its false rest?”

8For if Joshua had given them rest [they didn’t experience rest even though they later entered the promised land, otherwise], God would not have spoken later about another day [in Psalm 95:7]. 9There remains [to be had], then, a Sabbath-rest [the Christian experience with Christ who daily carries our burdens] for the people of God; 10for anyone who enters God's rest [not ceasing activity, but celebrating completeness while serving Christ] also rests from his own work [nothing can be added to Christ’s finished work of salvation], just as God did from his [nothing to be added to creation]. 11Let us [believers], therefore, make every effort [to actively lay aside everything that hinders] to enter that rest [actively trusting Christ daily, or being satisfied with Christ], so that no one will fall [into disbelief] by following their example of disobedience [the world offers a false rest, but spiritual maturity comes by way of obedience to God daily, as we live moment by moment]. 12For [lest we think we can fool God by hiding our true intentions and beliefs] the word of God is living and active [“It’s alive!”]. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart [no place where we can hide wrong motives, or thoughts] 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account [a Christian’s works will be judged].

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Home at last!

Step 3 of “Be Obedient” zeros in on the various meanings of “rest” in Hebrews 4:1-7. As a physical analogy, I liken God’s promised rest to that state of arriving home after a trip. At home, I’m joyfully where I want to be, where I belong and where I’m safe. It is a blessing from God to be enjoyed Today! We enter God’s rest today when we trust Him and are obedient to His will for us.

You might ask members, “Have you ever been away on a long trip and just wanted to be back home? Why?”

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Step 2 of “Be Obedient” is based on Hebrews 3:16-19. Scripturally, this picks up immediately after last week’s lesson, so I think I will introduce this lesson using a summary from last week. That way we can get right into the Scripture. I understand the idea of “disobeyed” to mean they refused to believe God. They willfully chose not to believe.

Hebrews 3:16-19 is addressed to Jewish Christians. Now, there might have been people among them who had never experienced salvation, but I think the writer of Hebrews is addressing the believers and not a specific subset. Hence, it seems that a Christian can proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, but also experience doubt, or unbelief. Thirty years had passed since Jesus ascended, and the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem had suffered greatly as a result of professing Jesus as the Messiah. They might have doubted His promised second coming? Or as some have suggested, they wanted to improve relations with their non-believing Jewish kinsmen, who no doubt had ostracized believers.

This reminds me of times as a parent when my kids would willing disobey me in order to go along with their friends on some matter. They didn’t deny that I was their father, but they didn’t believe me when I asked them to behave in a particular way either. My way would have put them in conflict with their friends. They just didn’t believe my plan for them was the better way. What did they lose as a result? They missed receiving my blessing in that instance because of their unbelief.

I’ll noodle more on an illustration of unbelief, but I’m thinking about using the example of a PC user who is experiencing problems with his PC, but he refuses to listen to the advice of the manufacturer's service technician. He still a customer, but will miss out on the blessing of a PC that works well.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Be Obedient

We learned last week that to “Remain True” is to persevere in our faith. Dr. Robert Sloan asked “How to know that you are a Christian?” He preached from Romans 5:1-11, and summarized with three tests: (1) the doctrinal test—i.e. do we believe in a resurrected Jesus Christ? (2) A moral direction test—i.e. while everyone sins, Christians should be putting to death the deeds of the body, ridding themselves of habitual sin, and growing in the fruits of the Spirit. (3) A perseverance test—i.e. confess that Jesus is Lord and hold on to that confession in spite of doubts that come. His last point coincided well with the lesson.

Based on Hebrews 3:16-4:13, this week’s lesson “Be Obedient,” emphasizes obedience to the Lord. I’m tired from reading about the possible interpretations of “rest” in Chapter 3 and 4, including those in the quarterly LifeWay Leader Guide, and Explore the Bible Lesson Commentary.

I’m still thinking about how to open the lesson. Suggestions please!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hum it on in there!

To end “Remain True” you might want to remind members of 3 John 1:5. We demonstrate our faith when we serve one another. Ask, "What are you doing as a service to others in the name of Christ?"

For a visual illustration of remaining true, consider the flight path of a baseball. Explain why a knuckle ball moves around as it travels toward home plate. Not even the pitcher knows where it will end up. Contrast that with the reason a fast ball typically flies straight and true.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tell me once...

Harry Leafe points out in his book Running to Win (pg.41) that a believer deceived by the philosophies of this world can only be freed by God after careful administration of the Word (2 Tim 2:24-26). At what point does a believer cross into enemy territory and become captive?

The warning in Hebrews 3:12-15 is for doubting believers dangerously close to entering enemy territory. They are warned not to become hardened by sin's deception and become captives. Step 4 of "Remain True" advocates rededication to God rather than capitualtion to the enemy Satan.

What's at stake if one becomes deceived? Life as a prisoner, unable to do the works God prepared in advance in this life and subsequate loss of heavenly rewards (notice I didn't say salvation).

Obviously, the ancestors of the Hebrews had a negative reputation for hardening their hearts toward God. Ask members "How they want to be remembered?" My sense is that we Christians fail to take God seriously when it comes to impacting our priorities on Sunday, much less those during the week. Present the average attandance in your class as compared to the total membership. At what point do our priorities get so out of wack that we become dangerously close to being taken captive by the enemy?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Heed warnings

Step 3 of “Remain True” is taken from Hebrews 3:7-11, which reminds readers of their ancestors past failure to heed the Holy Spirit (can you name the place of that memorable event?). He warns them, essentially saying “Don’t do like your ancestors!”, who rejected God. An entire generation was lost, except for Joshua and Caleb.

The warning was not casual. The Hebrews were steeped in their history and culture and should have understood the deep implication of forsaking Jesus, God's Son, and turning back to their former ways. Also, this warning came from a respected messenger, one whom the audience knew (Heb 13:18-19).

A concerned parent, Brenda Nitchen, warned her daughter, but tragedy was the result. Ask members what warnings the Holy Spirit is speaking to Christians today?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Don't settle for less

In carefully reading Hebrews 3:1-6 associated with Step 2 of “Remain True”, the writer again emphasizes that Jesus is God (v1—consider Jesus, v4—the One who built everything is God, i.e. Jesus is God). He restates that Jesus is God to underscore that His faithfulness is superior over that of Moses, for example, in the matter of attending His household. In v6, he adds that the readers are part of the Son’s household if they hold on, which is a better deal than turning back to Judaism (i.e. Moses).

Hold up a couple of (fake) tickets to say a local football game. Say, “Does anyone want these tickets?” (Maybe someone will say yes.) Say, “There’s a catch, however, the tickets are only good for the pre-game warm up. You have to leave when the game starts.”

This silly illustration is contrived to emphasize that Jesus is the “main attraction.” Don’t settle for a warm up act!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remain true--right way, wrong way

This week’s lesson is called “Remain True” and it’s based on Hebrews 3:1-15. I found this Wycliffe Easy English version of Hebrews and pass it along since the “Jewishness” embedded in Hebrews can be a bit daunting. I also liked these questions for chapter 3 (from the same site) because of their simplicity.

The writer of Hebrews 3 used positive and negative examples to make his point (a negative illustrates a mistake or the wrong way to live). Think about introducing this lesson with a list of both right and wrong way examples, say of driving a car.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

My outline


Introduction: Hebrews was written as an exhortation (Heb 13:22) to Christians who formerly practiced Judaism (knew the OT), and because of persecution, suffering, and lack of spiritual growth (Heb 5:12), they wanted to return to their old ways of honoring an earthly high priest (a human), and offering animal sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. Hebrews is an exhortation to Christians concerning the elementary truths of Christianity accompanied by warnings, for example, not to drift away (Heb 2:1-4). We should growth in maturity by studying it.

Questions :
-“What are some things that stress us out?” (note comments on the board).
-“What is particularly stressing you out at this moment?” (answer to themselves)
-“Where do you turn to find relief?” (the world system?)
-We’ve heard of this person Jesus. Who is he? Can he help us out?

-Heb 1 makes it clear that Jesus is God’s Son, ie. Jesus is fully God (quick review)
-Heb 2:5-18 establishes that Jesus was also fully human. As God/man, he was perfect and he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin.
-Read 2:5-9. Psalm 8 is about man. In what ways have men have failed to rule over creation?
-The writer of Hebrews asserts that Psalm 8 is true for Jesus! Jesus was a man!
-Chp 2:1 notes the problem of people not listening. Are you a good listener? If not, the primary reason is: (See blog answers). Mark Twain’s remark “not learning.”
-Read 2:10-13 and pay particular attention to the verbs. (See blog). Note remarks on the board. -Why does suffering lead to perfection (growing)? What do these verbs (actions) tell us about Jesus? He relates to us as a human!
-Share a story about a brother that came to your rescue. Others?
-As if the writer of Hebrews wanted to make it perfectly clear that Jesus was human, read 2:14-16.
-Read Heb 2:17-18, which are the key verses. Jesus has satisfied God’s wrath and as a human who was both tempted and suffered, he is able to make intercession for us at all times. So whatever is troubling us today, we can go to Jesus with it.

-Returning to the question asked at the start of the lesson regarding “What is stressing you out today?”, what have you learned about Jesus that qualifies him as someone to trust?
-Tommy Nelson in his book The Big Picture tells the story about making it thru his grandmother’s funeral as a boy by comforting himself with the fact that his hero Johnny Unitas had suffered thru the funeral of his grandmother.
-Heb 1:3 says Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, and Heb 7:25 says, he is able to save us to the uttermost (completely) because he is always living!
-We should not abandon Christ for some worldly human idea, or seek solutions to our deepest needs using inferior things of this world.

-We grow in maturity by trusting Christ. Try teaching this lesson with the help of Jesus to someone you know who is suffering.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Be clear

One challenge we have as Bible teachers is to be clear, otherwise members can miss the point of the passage under study. What leads to clarity? Start with a concise notion and stay on point during the lesson as elaboration, application and discussion progresses.

However, since the writer of Hebrews quotes the Old Testament frequently, the main point can get muddled as we dig around to explain and understand the quotes, their context, and why they are used.

For example, read Hebrews 2:5-18 and then ask yourself, “What is the central idea and the main application?” Here is my summary: Jesus made purification for our sins and he is completely able to help us in every way.

In light of this, to conclude the lesson, ask members, “What’s stressing you out at the moment?” (You might even start with this question and then come back to it at the end.) Pray that the Holy Spirit will illumine the hearts and minds of class members regarding Jesus Christ and that they will put their faith in him and find comfort concerning a matter that's troubling them.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What I need

Step 4 of the LifeWay lesson “Have Faith” skips Hebrews 2:14-15, and focuses only on Hebrews 2:16-18. Dr. Sam Tullock’s commentary on the lesson, mentions the skipped verses.

In my reading of these verses, Jesus had to be fully human (only as a human could he be an acceptable stand-in to suffer judgment in place of sinful humans), and that he had to die (God’s just punishment for sin). Moreover, in dying he defeated the very power Satan holds over humans—the fear of death. In other words, if Satan had had power (fear of death) over Jesus, Jesus would not have died. But thanks to God, Jesus had no fear of judgment from God after death and so he died. In doing so, he destroyed Satan’s power over humans (our fear of God's judgment when we die). That’s something we all need and we appropriate it by faith when God calls us to receive the righteousness offered in Jesus Christ.

But I’m confused since verse 15 implies the opposite of Romans 3:18 where Paul said, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Anyone want to help me out of what surely is wrong thinking?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Who can help

Moving ahead to Hebrews 2:10-13, Step 3 of the lesson “Have Faith” is titled by David Self as “Jesus Identification With Humanity” as opposed to the LifeWay’s Leader Guide “Who can help,” which is correct, but sort of pat. What is your understanding of these verses?

The verbs in the passage highlight the main point to me. Specifically, v10: God made and brings; v11: Jesus makes and calls; v12: Jesus said, declares and praises; and v13: Jesus said, he puts and he is. Because he makes us thoroughly righteous, he is not ashamed, but able to call us brothers; together we are children firmly established in God’s family! The salvation Jesus provides is so amazing! The passage is about Jesus—who is he, what he has done, is doing, and will do.

I’m thinking of asking members to share favorite stories about an older brother. With even more enthusiasm, Jesus will present us to God. If you see a news story this week about an "older brother" that might be appropriate to share with the class, let me know!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Where we are

Hebrews 2:5-9 is the focal passage for Step 2 of “Have Faith,” the title of this week’s LifeWay Explore the Bible lesson. Hebrews 2:1 highlighted the primary problem of the Jewish Christian recipients of the “book” of Hebrews. They weren’t very good listeners, which is supported by research for people in general. Hence, Hebrews 3:1 calls the reader to think about Jesus. It’s difficult to have faith in someone you don’t know!

Ask members which answer they would choose for themselves to the follow question:
The primary reason I am not a good listener is:

1. I don’t understand what is being said
2. I conclude my response while pretending to listen
3. I am distracted with my own thoughts
4. I don’t like to look people in the eye

Mark Twain made a good observation, “If you are talking, you aren’t learning.” I include verse 9 in this step because the main point of this passage is to see Jesus. Ask members to read the passage and tell you what it says about Jesus. Note their remarks on a marker board to underscore that what they say is important (you are writing it down in front of everyone)!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Have Faith

With a simple web search, I located an online copy of The Exciting Bible Study lesson "Have Faith" based on Hebrews 2:5-18, which is the LifeWay Explore the Bible lesson this week with the same title. Imagine that. Does David Williams, the author of the Exciting Bible Study helps, have early access to LifeWay materials? Just curious.

Co-teacher Curt did an outstanding job today of introducing Hebrews and leading our first lesson in this series. Thanks Curt!

Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Site stats are increasing

With August 2006 behind us, I thought I'd give an update on this blog. The chart below is from Statcounter and it shows a general “up” trend for monthly traffic on this site. This includes page views, new visitors and returning visitors.

I’m overjoyed that returning visitors increased again over previous months. It is trending up nicely. Teachers are voting with their “clicks” about the utility of the site. Thanks everyone, especially the Lord for causing the increase! (1 Corinthians 3:6).

As we dig into Hebrews this fall, I’m praying God will grow us together to better glorify Him. Thank you Lord for being our God and for blessing us through this fellowship with you and each other. Amen.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Studying the Bible makes a difference

To conclude this week’s lesson, you might want to illustrate that “studying” does improve knowledge. I like to sketch, and in learning to do so, I discovered how hard it is to draw what I see verses what my mind wants to “fill in” on its own. It’s amazing how many details the mind filters out when we only glance at a scene, a person, or a place.

To illustrate this, try showing a “spot the difference” cartoon. Eventually, members will call out all the differences, but only after they “study” the cartoons in detail. In the same way, God desires to reveal details about Jesus Christ to us through the Bible, but we have to study it to find those details as the Holy Spirit reveals them to us.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Missing the boat

LifeWay lesson “Pay Attention” takes its point in Step 4 from Hebrews 2:1-4. What illustration would you recommend to help apathetic people not miss out on the blessing offered in Jesus Christ?

In Noah’s day, I can imagine a crowd floundering outside the arc as they saw the giant boat drift away. Only when it was too late did they recognize the truth it represented. Neither should we apathetically stand by today and watch Jesus Christ drift away.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More than meets the eye

Step 3 of “Pay Attention” is based on Hebrews 1:4-8,14. See also Psalm 2:7,12, Eph 1:21 and Psalm 103:20. In Bible study I’ve learned over the years the importance Jewish people place on the name of an individual. The name of a person is the essential character of the person.

In verse 4, the writer of wanted to help readers understand the incomparable Jesus Christ, so he chose to contrast the name God gave to Jesus to that of angels. In their minds the light bulb would go on at such a contrast. According to Philippians 2:9-11, everyone will appreciate the supremacy of the name of Jesus.

The Hebrews were turning away from their faith, or at least being presumptuous about their relationship with Jesus. So the writer asked them to look at the Scriptures that give testimony to the position and nature of Jesus Christ.

Ask members, when they last studied the Scriptures to know more of Jesus Christ that they might better glorify God in their lives.

To illustrate this point, put up a picture rich in detail for a few moments and then ask members to tell you what they see. Put the picture back up for a brief time and ask what else do they see. Do this one more time. Each step you’ll get greater and greater detail about the picture named. Say, this illustrates how we can know more about Jesus Christ as he is revealed to us in Scripture.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Listen up

Step 2 of “Pay Attention” pertains to Hebrews 1:1-3, where the supremancy of God’s Son, Jesus Christ is exclaimed. Considering how to get attention, the writer of Hebrews declared vital news to his listeners. He wanted to capture their attention. He did it by asserting central truths about Jesus Christ.

To get attention, he challenged the audience’s understanding of who is Jesus Christ. In Share Jesus Without Fear, one of the diagnostic questions is “To you, who is Jesus?” It's a tool, like a thermometer, that not only gets the hearer’s attention, but it assertains their core belief about Jesus.

To get your class members to “listen up”, you could hold up a thermometer and say, “let’s take your temp” and you’ll get everyone’s attention. Say, in effect, this is how the book of Hebrews starts. The writer wanted to get the attention of the readers.

Alternatively, if you want to start similar to Hebrews, pick some member of the class and discuss with him a detail of his life not known to the class. Start your class by saying, “We all know so-in-so as [state the well known facts such as father, lawyer, teacher, etc], but in talking with him before class I found out that in the past he was [state the new detail such president of an industry association, member of Who’s Who in America, etc.]. After this, state this was how the writer of Hebrews started his epistle. He wanted to get his readers to Listen Up!