Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mega barriers and pitfall traps

Now that the Internet is well accepted we have the online Church of Fools—a virtual community of believers. Don’t laugh, if the Lord tarries, the virtual church could be the new emergent church of the future (ha!). How you could apply the admonitions in Romans 14:13-14 in a virtual church setting? Would you criticize someone who “attends” a virtual church?

When Paul wrote Romans 14, there were no megachurches. This Forbes article regards mega churches as mega businesses. If you transported a believer from Paul’s day to one of these megachurches, what new applications of Romans 14:13-14 would he find? What barriers and pitfalls to fellowship would he observe?

Pitfall traps are commonly used in science. What is the equivalent of a pitfall trap in an ailing church fellowship? Look here for some ideas. Is the staff coming and going regularly at your church? Maybe it’s a pitfall trap?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Take it to a new level

In reading up on the recent IMB vote and related issues I liked the commentary from Fide-o's Pack of Poodles and associated wade-ing in post. I’ve added the Fide-O link to the right hand side of this page for easy reference.

With the help of the study questions from Net Bible Institute, yesterday’s lesson went very well. If it dragged anywhere, it was on the discussion about the IMB vote. My sense is that the average SBC person considers issues like the one with IMB by sleeping on it. I have to admit that I’m not much into it either, but regardless of what you think of private prayer language, it is a divisive issue that relates to the lesson “Consider Others”. In spite of the lesson, the infighting wages on.

This week we continue in Romans by taking on verses 14:13-23 and learn to guard not only what we say, but also what we do. I like the courage represented in the old song “No man can hinder me”.

I think I read in Season of Life, by Jeff Marx, that like a carriage (coach) that moves its passengers from one place to another, a sports coach moves his players from a lower level to a higher level of play. So a coach not only guards his actions, but they are purposely planned to move players to a new level. As Christians, we should do likewise to help move others toward a new level of living with Christ as Lord and Savior.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Time for reflection

To conclude the LifeWay lesson “Consider Others”, I’ll use the suggested conclusion offered by a teacher at Hampton Road Baptist Church.

Here are my final PPT slides for Consider Others.

Question: Do you mark in your Bible? Pencil, or Pen?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Playing God

Step 5 of “Considering Others” is based on Romans 14:10-12. Judging is God’s province. However, Christians want to play God and criticize, or look down on other believers. Our responsibility is to love one another. Only God knows the heart of man.

Just how serious is this issue? So great that Paul reminded believers of a coming universal judgment by God. Wow! The LifeWay Leader Guide (p. 99) indicates Paul essentially says, “How dare you?”!

Show a list of the names of local restaurants and ask members to call out the ones they prefer and the ones they dislike. Some people will like some places that others will dislike. Ask, “should we criticize one another over restaurant choices?” Of course not. “Should we look down on someone who likes to eat different foods than we do?” Of course not! It is silly to cause division over choice of restaurants.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Just following my convictions

Step 4 of “Consider Others” is based on Romans 14:5-9. The key phrase is “to the Lord”. Paul is saying that our convictions should be “to the Lord”. How can we tell when someone is acting contrary to that and just following his own wishes?

Good examples of a “convictions controversy” can be found in what’s currently going on in the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board. Marty Duren, a Georgia pastor, has blogged extensively on the issues.

It seems that Marty is saying that IMB is trying to turn matters of personal conviction into doctrine. The two issues concern manner of baptism and use of prayer language.

Secondly, many other tangential issues have come to light (again, it seems that all are matters of personal conviction, not clear Scriptural teachings). For example, is the glue that holds SBC together primarily doctrine, or missions?

I don’t know the relevance of the current row to the local church. I say this since Paul was concerned about unity in the local church. That not withstanding, read thru Marty’s posts and see if you can determine what’s being done is “to the Lord”, or not. How can you tell?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Watch out!

Step 3 of “Consider Others” advises that we avoid criticizing others. Why? Roll a stone and it rolls back on you. Dig a pit for someone else and you’ll fall into it. Criticize someone else and it will backfire, or boomerang on you. When you are critical, you get criticized. You will be resented. So drop a matter before a dispute breaks out (Proverbs 17:14). How do you discern what matters to ignore?

But the deeper idea in Romans 14:3-4 is that God is in charge and if He has accepted someone, we should accept that person, too. Who are we compared to the Lord? Watch out! The shoes of a man with a big head are easy to fill. An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city (Proverbs 18:19). Can you speak the truth in love?

I’ve started preparing the PPT slides I will use this Sunday. Feedback about them from you would be greatly appreciated! The Blogger comment feature is easy to use.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Where do you draw the line?

For Step 2 of the LifeWay lesson “Consider Others”, use a 5-point rating scale of “never critical, rarely critical, sometimes critical, often critical, always critical” and ask “How would you rate your attitude about the convictions of others?” Also ask, “How would others rate your attitude about the convictions of others?” We learn to consider others in a library, but what about other believers in church?

The LifeWay Leader Guide asks (pg. 94), “On which issues do you find yourself being critical rather than considerate of other believers? Some suggestions: chronic late comers; people bringing a water bottle, or cup of Starbucks into the worship center; inert people that never say a word; divisive people; believers who lack discernment, or incorrectly apply the Scriptures; believers who criticize traditional holiday themes such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. A church bulletin says “Please consider others by ending all conversations as you are seated.” Does that require the strong in faith to become weak, or the weak in faith to become strong?

An exercise you might try is to have members trace the outline of their hand on a piece of paper and compare it to others around them. Say, “Assume your hand represents your convictions. Are any two hands the same?” Of course not, but we accept each other as Paul advises us to do in Romans 14:1-2.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Drinking, dancing, dressing

You could use creative tension to start the unit “Live in Unity”. The first lesson is “Consider Others” from Romans 14:1-12. Troy Bush makes it clear that the discussion is about matters where “weakness of faith” is in question, not open rebellion. For example, the Bible is very clear on teaching sexual purity, but not so clear on social drinking (not drunkenness), celebratory dancing, and customary dress. I’d like to know what you think? Do you agree, or not?

To live in impurity is rebellion, but to socially drink, dance in celebration or customarily dress differently than other Christians involves conviction. To illustrate, I recently attended a wedding between two Christians. I was tempted to judge the drinking, dancing and manner of dress by the hosts, but decided breaking fellowship was the wrong course of action. I said nothing since their action did not impact their Christian witness. What would the Holy Spirit have you do?

Start the lesson by introducing controversial topics such as manner of wedding celebration, working hard to “get ahead”, organizational membership, style of music, work on Sunday, going into debt, etc. While opinions may differ, “Should Christian unity be sacrificed because of these differences?” What to do? Answer: “Consider Others”.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Meme next door

Use the comment link to answer:

1. How much time do you have to teach on Sunday? 15, 30, 45 minutes?

2. What Bible translation do you use?

3. Do you use an overhead projector, a computer projector, or no projector?

4. Is your class interactive, or do you primarily lecture?

5. Do you know the names of your neighbors on each side of where you live? Yes? No?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Power to be a Godly neighbor

To conclude this lesson “Live as a Godly Neighbor”, summarize the teachings of Romans 13:1-10,12b-14 as the Leader Guide suggests (p. 90). But I suggest taking time to make the point that we cannot escape the deeds of darkness on our own without the light of Christ. We all struggle with personal sin as we are tempted by the world around us, and the armor (shield) of the light of Christ is our only consistent and effective defense. Invite members to enter into personal faith and belief in the power of Christ Jesus to change any individual into a Godly neighbor. Lead in a time of prayer.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Learn by example, mistake, or reading about it

Step 4 of LifeWay’s Leader Guide summarizes Romans 13:12b-14 as “Exhibit High Morals” in the context of the lesson “Live as a Godly Neighbor”. The so-called emerging church focus on narrative has led some adherents to conclude that Biblical morality is secondary to its narrative revelation of God. They say the Bible has been turned into a rulebook to the detriment of its relationship story between God and man. If you read Romans 13:12b-14 alone and out of context does the Bible sound like a rulebook to you? If so, what other passages would you include in your reading to make sure that the narrative story of God relating to man is not lost?

The Leader Guide suggests changing a dirty, worn shirt for a clean shirt as an object lesson. You could change a dirty, soiled shirt on a doll instead. Psychologists say that a child at age 2 can learn to put clothes on, so how long does it take for a Christian to learn to put on Christ?

Can you recall a lesson you learned from making a mistake?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How to rate your neighbor

I ran across a McCall’s magazine article “Whatever Happened to Neighbors?” published in September 1968. It could have been written today. To prepare for Step 3 (Rom. 13:8-10) of the lesson “Live as a Godly Neighbor”, read the article and list the factors leading to a decline in neighboring. The LifeWay Leader Guide summarizes this step as “Treat Others Right”. Contrast the commands and truth found in Romans 13:8-10 with the contents of the article and decide how a lack of neighboring leads to not treating others right.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How are we doing?

According to the LifeWay outline the main point in Step 2 (Rom. 13:1-7) of the lesson “Live as a Godly Neighbor” is to be a good citizen. Knowing that God instituted all government to control evil, we either submit out of fear of its wrath, or remain in good conscience by being obedient. So good citizens vote, pay taxes, obeys the laws, respects government officials and even honors them. Sounds good, but using these requirements, how would you rate yourself as a citizen?

How do you rate others? Here is one take on how residents rate business citizenship. Being genuine is important. This applies on an individual level, too. While many of us rate well performing the requirements Paul described, our attitude in doing so is not stellar.

The LifeWay Leader Guide asks some good questions (see pages 86 and 87). In which of the requirements Paul lists do we need to experience heart change? For example, do we genuinely honor all government officials? If we learn that we do not, can we readily change and start doing so?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Live as a Godly Neighbor (Rom. 13:1-10,12b-14)

To prepare, there is lot’s to read every week besides the lesson passage from the Bible. Right? What do you read? What have you read lately that really made a difference in the way you live as a citizen, neighbor, or resident?

Read this article and listen for how University Temple church defines “Good neighbor”? Based on the article, what actions have they taken that are not only good, but also godly? How do you define “good neighbor”? Is it the traditional “one neighbor helping another”?

Drivers of Boom Cars are NOT good neighbors by design. I’ve heard a few on our local streets that I’d like to smash. Is that desire an indicator that I need this lesson? What other neighbor peeves come to your mind?

Saturday, January 14, 2006


The Hampton Road lesson plan (link content changes each week—sorry) for “Live in Respect” suggests leading off the lesson by playing the opening scene of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. I think you can play this preview and get a better effect. Discuss how the preview relates to aging, the elderly, and friendship.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Step 5 of “Live in Respect” is based on 1 Timothy 5:1-2 and some intriguing questions come to mind. How would you describe your relationship with people 15-20 years older than you? Is it God-honoring? Do you seek relationships with older people, or not? Why? Focus on the Family materials for help with older family members are very useful. The article “Don’t act your age” offers some great maxims.

Timothy was “in the ministry”, so he had a stake in the success of his local congregation. But even if God does not call us as “ministers”, we have a stake in the success of the local church. We are all called to serve using the gifts with which He has blessed us. Do you view yourself as a stakeholder in the success of your church’s ministry to older adults?

P.S. If you are interested, an alternative to AARP is NASCON.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Respect decisions of the elderly

Step 4 of “Live in Respect” is tough. Based on 2 Samuel 19:37-39, David seemed to readily accept Barzillai’s decision to return to his own city. However, it’s not so easy for us to accept decision making (especially in some key areas) of elderly people in our lives. Why is that?

What does research say about decision making of the elderly compared to younger people? Here is a quote from the conclusion (p.11) of the paper Aging and Decision Making:

“We conducted four sets of experiments using 50 high functioning neurologically healthy older subjects (average age 82) and 51 healthy students (average age 20). …The general conclusion is that the [decision making] performance of the two groups of subjects is remarkably similar. …The distribution of responses shows that older individuals more frequently respond that they are completely certain (100%) or completely unsure (50%) than do the younger subjects. These results support the view that older individuals have more accurate beliefs about their knowledge and its limitations.”

Okay, so they are no worse in decision making than young people, but how should we respond when they make unwise decisions, such as participate in gambling, or driving well beyond their reaction time abilities? Here is video highlighting the problem of gambling among the elderly.

The LifeWay Adult Extra has an interesting quote by General Douglas MacArthur, which I won’t repeat here. Also, the LifeWay quarterly (p. 79) asks an interesting question regarding end-of-life decisions. I find it difficult to discuss these issues with my Mother, for example. Do you also have a problem talking to your parents about some of their decisions? Maybe I could write her and put my concerns in a letter? What do you recommend?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Step 3 of the lesson “Live in Respect” is based on 2 Samuel 19:31-36. David demonstrated care for his 80-year-old friend. Read and discuss the verses, but also read and discuss the following article: Many 'reluctant to care for old'.

One way we can demonstrate care for the elderly is participate as a class in the Adopt a Nursing Home program. Read about participation of the Pilot Club of Longview, or the Dogwood Ladies of Jacksonville.

If your class does not want to accept the challenge of Adoption, how about simply setting a goal to visit a local nursing home as a class. My guess is that the visitors will be the ones most blessed! Brainstorm with members what activities to engage in with the elderly. What to talk about, or not?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fear the Lord; He is God

Step 2 of this week’s lesson “Live in Respect” is based on Leviticus 19:32. Recent comments related to coach Joe Paterno being an old man give ample illustrations of how the elderly are dishonored in our society. Evidently the problem is not just in the USA, but disrespect of the elderly exists in third world countries, too.

On the flip side, this humorous reminder to respect the elderly is interesting. So is Miss Abigail’s advice on Manners with Old People. You won’t have a problem listing specific ways to honor older people. The issue is that most of us won’t take the time to do so. Why is that? Better we should take Solomon’s wisdom: “… Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).

By the way, how do you define an old person? It used to be anyone over 30. Now it’s anyone 20 years older than me. If you need evidence that we want to hang on to our youth, look at these cosmetic surgery stats from 2003 when 8.3 million procedures were performed.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Live in respect

This week’s LifeWay lesson “Live in Respect” teaches us to demonstrate sanctity for human life by showing respect to older people. The lesson is based on several Old and New Testament verses, but other religions and cultures also teach respect for elders. So the challenge is to understand that we are not only to respect elders, but why from God’s perspective. For example, Confucianism teaches respect for elders because they build bridges to the traditions of the past, but for what Godly reasons should Christians respect elders?

Six Flags uses and old guy “Mr. Six” to advertise its theme parks. It’s counterintuitive. Old people don’t have fun; therefore Mr. Six gets your attention. Ad success.

How else does modern society stereotype older people? Make a list on a marker board as members call out examples.

–complaining, confused, cranky, feeble, forgetful, senile, poor drivers, slow, incompetent, disabled, vulnerable, humorless

+ accomplished, active, alert, dignified, distinguished, knowledgeable, successful, wise

Ask what does the word “respect” mean? See if you can complete an acrostic using the letters r-e-s-p-e-c-t in each line.

•R- regard, right
•E- esteem, encourage
•S- supporting, helpful
•P- polite, patience
•E- express admiration
•C- caring, courteous
•T- thoughtful, tolerant

Friday, January 06, 2006

Well, to be honest…

Step 5 of “Live in Love” is based on Romans 12:17-21. Holman CSB translates verse 17 as “try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes.” Does this mean we should try to please everyone? Rick Warren says 'no' in his piece “How to please everyone”. For a humorous treatment of how to please everyone, read this piece by Dennis Crawford.

In the divided culture of today, what is honorable (honest) in everyone’s eyes? How have you seen honesty demonstrated in the church? At work? Elsewhere? Was it demonstrated ‘in love’? A humorous comic highlights the difference. Do you use the phrase “to be honest…” in your speech? Why? Is honesty always the best policy? I like the photo of the “Honest Cheaters” used car dealer. Lastly, you could discuss why Abe Lincoln was called “Honest Abe.”

Ask class members to phrase an epitaph they would like written on their tombstone based on any verse from Romans 12:9-21.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

That’s what I’m talk’n about

Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 that the mind of Christian should be renewed. For step 4 of the lesson “Live in Love”, emphasize that Paul offers in verses 12:14-16 clear examples of what he meant by being transformed.

How has your thinking been transformed when it comes to pride, cursing, or gloating? Developing a mindset of humility, or the practice of blessing an enemy, or expressing empathy truly demonstrates the transformation of ugliness (evil) into beauty (able to discern the perfect will of God in daily living).

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Puzzle time

For step 3, which is based on Romans 12:10-13, try using a crossword puzzle maker to create a puzzle that members can work after reading the designated verses. You’ll need to create a word and clue list. For example, the word honor could have respect as its clue. The final puzzle should have no more than 7 words to make it short and sweet.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sticking to the good

Step 1 of this week’s lesson focuses on Romans 12:9 and teaches love must be genuine. Science explains religious beliefs as springing from innate dualism present at birth, which is extrapolated to societal altruism in adulthood. Romans 1:19 explains the first idea, and Romans 12:9 explains the second. Expressing hypocritical love is an exercise of Darwinian selfishness, but genuine love springs from a personal relationship with the Living God, whose love for us surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:14-21). Do you know “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is?”

Super glue yourself to the Word of God. I’d use only the first panel of this cartoon on a PPT slide and discuss examples of where super glue (or any kind of glue) came to the rescue. Afterwards, ask members to explain how love is promoted by sticking to what’s good.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Promoting love

To prepare for this week’s LifeWay lesson “Live in Love” based on Romans 12:9-21, I reviewed the context set in Romans 11 (see “Concern of God” lessons ending on December 17th with Magnetic Group). Since God is patient and loving, it only makes sense that to please God, Christians should become living sacrifices and be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

A renewed mind humbly sees the world from God’s perspective and as a result, patiently loves others. This week’s focus is to teach living to please God by learning to live in love of others.

As Americans, we value knowledge, which we know can lead to pride, elitism, and condescension. We take the risk, however, since education generally leads to greater success in society. We fund public education, provide for advanced college degrees and pay for expert advice.

On the other hand, Jesus taught the greatest command is to love God, and the second to love others. So I asked, what have we done to promote ‘living in love’ in our society? If love of God and others is to be highly valued, we surely must provide for teaching and practicing it. Right? Ask members how are we doing that in our society? Try not to focus on how we are NOT doing it! That’s an easier discussion.