Tuesday, February 28, 2006

True worship

Google “true worship” and you get 453,000 search results, but “empty worship” yields only 778. Seems like there are lot’s of opinions on what's “true worship”. How do you define true worship?

In this lesson “Do you rebel?” the LORD called into question the definition of worship as practiced by the Judahites. Step 3 identifies the empty worship practices of the Jews using Isaiah 1:11-15.

In his sermon February 19 on “Authentic Worship,” Voddie Baucham defined true worship using Psalm 96 as a text. Listen to Voddie’s sermon and prepare to lead members to identify empty worship practices of today and contrast these with what should be true worship as defined in the Bible.

Alternatively, put the focus on God in your class by using the Biblical riddle found in this document, which goes on to outline the elements of CHANGE that are causing today’s worship wars. Voddie quoted Bruce H. Leafblad’s definition of authentic worship, which is something like: “True worship happens when we set our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on the Lord, praising Him for who He is and what He’s done.”

Monday, February 27, 2006

Do You Rebel? Isaiah 1:1-4:6

In terms of behavior, where does tradition end and rebellion start? Where is the boundary that marks rebellion when it’s crossed?

Isaiah 1:3-4 holds some clues. The rebellious don’t understand or know the LORD. Having turned their back on Him, they are corrupt evildoers, and they are loaded with guilt. LORD, help us repent from such a condition! If your life is like an arrow shot toward a target, are you on path, or are you headed off on a wild shot?

From Isaiah 1:2, note the rebellious are the LORD’s children, so Isaiah is writing to “sheep” that have rebelled. They can repent and get back on course to obeying GOD.

How can we picture a life that’s gone astray and is traveling on a path away from its intended target? A pinball?

Another idea comes from writing. Many times when I write a paragraph, it has mistakes in it. Reading back over the text, I can usually correct some of the mistakes. However, sometimes I need to read the text out loud. My ear hears mistakes that were missed when I read the text silently to myself. I can see lots of parallels to an errant Christian life.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Driving interest

The PowerPoint slides I'll use Sunday are posted under the name Relate Appropriately.

What was your key interest when you were in the eighth grade? I'm thinking of an interest that really got you excited. One that you told others about and recruited them to get involved. What interest captured your imagination?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Point to God

Step 5 of “Relate Appropriately” is based on Romans 16:25-27, which is one long sentence that closes the letter. Paul’s final point is “to God be glory”. Is that he case when you teach? Jim Elliff asks himself these questions before he teaches. How do you lead class members to give God glory? Lead them to experientially know His power, His wisdom and His authority.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What to give?

The Christians in Rome encouraged others because of their obedience (see Romans 16:19-20). Their obedience brought joy to Paul and he responded in turn by urging them to be discerning in their obedience about what is good and what is evil. He encouraged them further by reminding them of God’s plan regarding Satan. Lastly, he encouraged them by praying that the Lord Jesus would bless them.

Step 4 of “Relate Appropriately”: Paul’s example reminds us also to encourage Christians who excel in some spiritual discipline. Do you urge other Christians to be discerning in their application? Do you encourage them to remember the promises of the God we serve? Do you pray for them? In doing so, remember to use gracious speech. Would you advise comparing them to others? What did Titus observe that encouraged him?

Make a list of spiritual disciplines and ask members what they could give a person to encourage that person to practice the spiritual discipline. For example, give a map of local-park, walking trails to encourage meditating alone with God.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What would be said about you?

Step 3 of “Relate Appropriately” is based on Romans 16:17-18, which does not mention any specific names. Why? Can you name some false prophets today?

From reading the literal translations, it appears that Phoebe occupied an official position in the church at Cenchrea. If we list all the details about Phoebe given in Romans 16:1-2, we discover Paul had only good things to say about her. In Romans 16:17-18, however, he warns against those that use flattering words meant to deceive. Paul listed her first and commended her strongly. What is the difference in a strong commendation and “flattering words” designed to decieve?

Paul instructed the Romans to avoid false prophets. Read Acts 13:8-12 to see how Paul delt with one particular deceiver. If a minister in your church wrote a letter that mentioned you to another church, what would be said about you?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is there someone you would send in your place?

Step 2 of “Relating Appropriately” is based on Romans 16:1-7 and Trey Turner notes that Paul sent Phoebe to Rome when he could not go himself. Ask members to think of people they trust well enough to send in their stead on an important mission? Based on the Scripture passage, how would you describe the relationship between Paul and Phoebe?

How would members in your class receive a person like Phoebe? Name some ways your class would assist her if a person sent like Phoebe visited the class.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Last words

Chapter 16 is the text of our last lesson from Romans. In his commentary on the lesson, “Relate Appropriately”, Troy Bush writes about “last words,” but he also makes several remarks about Bible teachers. For instance, he says:

“We need to remember that teachers in our churches play a significant role. Confirming their significance, James writes, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment.” Teachers, please listen to these words.”

I admire the disciplined, weekly training of leaders in Bible Study Fellowship.

Have members make a short list of names of people from a church they attended that have moved to a distant city and joined a church there. Have them assume they are writing a letter to that church. What comment would they place beside each name in their list? Have a few members share about the people on their list and use it as a springboard to introduce the lesson.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Coffee shop

This past year, I’ve had a running discussion with a friend about putting feet to our talk of being missional. Both of us used to participate in Evangelism Explosion until the Church ended its involvement. Knocking on neighbors’ doors at night became unacceptable. Also, the two diagnostic questions seem contrived if you are in a conversation with a stranger talking about the weather, or some current event.

One idea we talked about is to send evangelism teams to local coffee shops (easily 10 within 5 miles of the church), and then meet afterwards to share results. A blog of the activities would be maintained so that people we met would have a means of following up with us.

A coffee shop team would purchase a cup from the local shop and endeavor to engage others in conversation that would lead to sharing the gospel. It may take several visits to develop the friendship needed, or with the appropriate diagnostic questions we might be able to share Jesus Christ on the first meeting.

I was thinking of conversation starters like “Hi. I’m Ronnie Ward from Champion Forest Church up the street. We were wondering what your opinion is of …?” The blank could be filled in by any number of ideas. What would you suggest we use to fill in the blank?

Don't be shy. Click the comment link and tell me what you think!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Acceptable service

Step 6 concludes lesson “Send the Light” and is based on Romans 15:31-32. Paul asked the Roman Christians to pray that Paul’s service would be acceptable to the Jerusalem Christians. Hmmm? What concern does Paul have and what is his desire?

The Amplified’s rendering of the prayer in verse 31b is “that my mission of relief to Jerusalem may be acceptable and graciously received by the saints”. This indicates Paul was also concerned that the gift would be acceptable. I suppose he was concerned that the Jerusalem Christians would find the gift lacking, or short of their expectations. Maybe they would take the offering for granted?

The Message paraphrase states verse 31b as “Pray also that my relief offering to the Jerusalem Christians will be accepted in the spirit in which it is given.” So the nature of the Jerusalem Christians’ acceptance also concerns Paul—would the gift be received in the spirit that it was offered?

The New Living Translation writes verse 31b as “Pray also that the Christians there will be willing to accept the donation I am bringing them.” The insight here is that the Jerusalem Christians might not be willing to accept a gift brought by Paul.

My suggestion is to cover verse 31b from multiple translations and paraphrases and discuss the meaning of “acceptable service” with the class. Ask members to discuss their experience with concerns about the acceptability of some gifts they have offered. For example, they may think their tithe is too small and not acceptable to the church. Ask God in prayer to teach each person His will concerning the verse.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Prayer clears the way

Step 5 of Lifeway’s lesson, “Send the Light” highlights verse 32 in Romans 15:28-29,32. Paul asks for prayer, which could be paraphrased as “Pray for God to clear the way, so that by His will, I'll be able to come see you.”

These verses in Romans remind me of James 4:13-15. Paul practiced what James taught. He wanted to visit Rome on the way to Spain, but he knew there would be obstacles such as the non-believing Jews in Jerusalem. Paul wanted prayer to God offered regarding his concerns.

What concerns do you have regarding missionary work? Are you praying for God to clear the way?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Give and go

Step 4 of the lesson, “Send the Light” makes the point that churches should send Christians with necessary support to do missionary work. It’s based on Paul’s hope expressed in Romans 15:24b-25.

This might be a good place to review the map locations of key points in Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. It will help members picture the geographic relationship Corinth, Jerusalem, Rome, and Spain. Clearly, giving must accompany sending a missionary. Here is a good review of why the Cooperative Program makes sense.

Travel is a necessary part of missionary work and financial support of missionaries is required. Based on prices from Global Tours, How much would it cost to repeat Paul’s trip today? How many days do you think Paul was out on the third journey?

How does the sports play “give and go” relate to Paul’s strategy as a missionary? First, he ‘gives’ to the Christians in Rome a letter. Then he ‘goes’ toward Spain and as he passes thru Rome, the Christians there give him support and encouragement. Do you think Paul made it to Spain?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Getting the Word out

Step 3 of “Send the Light” is based on Romans 15:20,22-24a, which raises the issue of “What was Paul’s missionary strategy?” Strategy is simply a long-term plan for action that leads to success. Paul’s strategy was to take the gospel to those who had not heard of Christ Jesus. This advantaged him over others that chose to cultivate “someone else’s foundation.”

LifeWay offers a resource to use in planning a church strategy. Quite different from Paul’s strategy, many churches have taken the strategic decision to simply expand capacity and become a mega church.

The emergent church has taken the strategic decision to emphasize intentional evangelical living while creating a controversy about how ‘church’ should be conducted.

Biblically, within an overall church strategy, individuals can have a personal strategy and Bible Study classes can have a group strategy. Do you know your church’s strategy for “getting the Word out?” What is your personal strategy? What is the strategy of your Bible Study group?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Decision steps to action

Trey Turner mentions the relatively new word “missional”. From the perspective of an individual Christian, can you explain the difference between traditional mission methods and the new missional approach?

Would you give up your Super Bowl seat to go on a mission trip? For Step 2 of “Send the Light” based on Romans 15:14-33, read key elements of this story and ask members to reason about the decision steps that lead to the actions to carry out the mission trip instead of going to the Super Bowl. At what points would class members not concur and therefore not go on the trip?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stay or go?

If you need a laugh, here is a film on church growth, which I found at fide-o.

I’ve been reading the Finishers Project site, and it seems like a perfect place for Christians to find missionary opportunities. What opportunities sound interesting to you?

To take part in some missionary effort I’d have to overcome the inertia of leaving a comfortable life, the fear of change, and the loss of fellowship from my current service. It’s one thing to accent to my responsibility to do mission work, and another to actually carry it out. What do you struggle with when it comes to taking part in missionary work?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lesson lesson

My “Glorify God” lesson had mixed impact. The Scripture puzzle was too complex and the examples I selected for the “subject/verb” disagreements were too difficult. While many people told me afterwards that the lesson made them think, I was disappointed that the puzzle was the focus of people’s thoughts rather than the Scripture passage. All the material should reinforce the Scripture passage, not detract from it. Sorry, my mistake.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

We will glorify the King of Kings...

You can download the slides I put together for Glorify God. Do you have a favorite song that fits with this lesson?

One of my favorite hymns is We Will Glorify by Twila Paris. I carry the lyrics in my wallet.

We will glorify the King of kings
We will glorify the Lamb
We will glorify the Lord of lords
Who is the great I AM

Lord Jehovah reigns in majesty
We will bow before His throne
We will worship Him in righteousness
We will worship Him alone

He is Lord of heaven, Lord of earth
He is Lord of all who live
He is Lord above the universe
All praise to Him we give

Hallelujah to the King of kings
Hallelujah to the Lamb
Hallelujah to the Lord of Lords
Who is the great I AM

Friday, February 10, 2006

Explosion of hope

Romans 15:13 is the basis for Step 5 of the lesson “Glorify God”, which is summarized in the LifeWay Leader Guide as “Expressing Hope”. Paul prays for happiness (joy) and peace to replace disagreement. He also prays for an overflow of hope. What does he mean by “hope”? How can “overflow” be illustrated? How does an “overflow of hope” result in actions and attitudes that cause others to glorify God?

Calvin and Hobbes were filled with hope by a new snowfall. Life was filled with possibilities. The writer of the Hampton Road Supplemental Teaching Plan makes the point that we can live our lives doing the things that we love to do, but sometimes we need to do things for others when we really don’t want to.

These situations demand that we depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to fill us with hope, peace and joy. Is the Spirit prompting you at this time to do something for someone else? Doing it will bring glory to God and fill you with hope!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

How do you see others?

Step 4 of “Glorify God” is all about accepting others. Why? It results in praising God. See Romans 15:7-12. How would you make the point that acceptance leads to God’s praise?

Christians are diverse if in no other way than in the choices they make, but does God want us to simply “swallow” our differences and pretend to be happy with one another? No. He wants us to receive one another as Christ received us.

Have members roll up a sheet of paper into a tube and look around the room through it. How well do they see others with the tube and without the tube? Perspective matters! Remind members that people have many differences, ideas, opinions, and alternatives as to what works for them.

Ask members to privately rate their perspective from 1 (least) to 5 (most) on: “How accepting are you of others? How respectful is your speech toward others? How well do you resolve issues with others? How much do you engage in gossip about others?

Lead the class in prayer and ask God to lead us to accept others as Christ accepts each of us.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Are you the subject or the verb?

The LifeWay Leader Guide labels Step 3 of the lesson “Glorify God” as “Getting Along” (sound familiar?). It’s based on Romans 15:5-6, which reads like a prayer for Christians to come into agreement so as to glorify God together.

Paul also wrote about divisions over leadership styles (1 Corinthians 1:11-13). Control issues cause most church conflicts. J. David Hoke tells the story about a guy who can’t get along even with himself. Maybe you can think of other examples, but are you currently not in harmony with another Christian in your church? Is it mutual?

Subject and verb disagreement is an outlaw that writers catch to eliminate syntactically incorrect sentences. To illustrate “come into agreement”, I’m thinking of showing example sentences that contain subject and verb disagreements and having the class correct the errors (creates glorious English!). If needed, you can garner more examples from the exercises on this page.

I may stretch the illustration by asking members if they personally are a subject (needs action), or a verb (action oriented) with respect to some current disagreement. If so, what needs to change in order to achieve agreement? How would this agreement magnify God?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Scripture puzzle

The focal verses Romans 15:1-4 for Step 2 of “Glorify God” notes the example of Jesus to serve others. Paul says to follow his example in pleasing others, just as he followed the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1). To me, the key point of Romans 15:1-4 is that we should have hope in what seems like a hopeless situation. After all, we can't change someone else can we? So we should demonstrate endurance and be encouraged by the Scriptures, which give hope. What verse has recently encouraged you? How are you demonstrating endurance right now? In what way are you hopeful as a result?

Jesus made the point (see Mark 9:38-39) that we should not forbid someone practicing Christianity just because that person is not one of us. Jesus also taught, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Trey Turner’s comments on “Glorify God” begin with the question, “Is there such a thing as Christian ambition?”. He answers by saying we should be ambitious to glorify God by serving others.

Because it gets the class into the Scriptures, I like the Adult Leader Guide recommendation to use pack item 22 (pg. 146) in Step 2, but it is difficult for me because I teach a large class. What to do? What to do?

To achieve the same effect, I’m thinking of putting together a word search puzzle, or perhaps a simple crossword puzzle covering Romans 15:1-13 that the class can work as a group. I’ll fill in spaces as they call out answers to the clue words (verses). Below are the answer words followed by "clues" with a 60x60 puzzle.

endure bear with
others please
yourself love your neighbors as
hope Scriptures give
unity we have one body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God
one glorify God together as
praise welcoming and accepting each other leads to
Jesus merciful servant
peace God grants
joy God gives
trust God of hope fills as we

Monday, February 06, 2006

Caring people

The goal of a Christian is to glorify God in all that he or she does (1 Corinthians 10:31). How we accomplish this is the focus of this week’s lesson “Glorify God”, which is based on Romans 15:1-13. The Study Questions from NetBibleInstitute might be helpful, especially if you get them out to members today.

We bring glory to God, or not, by our actions and attitudes. Why are Southern Baptists on a campaign to demonstrate that we are a “caring people”? We’ve produced at least one TV ad and published, “How we make a difference”. SBC Outpost fielded comments on the ad (mainly the posts are by pastors at SBC churches).

You might want to introduce the lesson by showing the ad and asking members their opinion about the image of Southern Baptists? Ask, “Are we known as a group of people that glorify God?” If not, “What are the key issues and what do we need to change in order to become known as people that glorify God?”

The goal is to start discussion with thea “big picture” and then have members apply Paul’s teaching personally as the lesson progresses.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Site update

Thought I'd share with you some key insights regarding blogging on LifeWay Explore the Bible lessons the past eight months. Starting last May, the site now has almost 300 monthly visitors who view about 1,000 pages per month. The site ended January with 82 regular, returning monthly users and 37 weekly users. These individuals are anonymous for the most part (unless they identify themselves). Regular users (as opposed to visitors) make multiple visits to the site each month and spend time reading multiple pages. The highest number of visitors comes each Saturday although there is good traffic everyday except Sunday. The site is "syndicated" and currently has 11 subscribers.

Visitors mostly come from Texas, North Carolina, Michigan, Georgia, Virginia, Missouri, Florida, California, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina, Illinois, New York, Indiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Washington. The site has incoming links from 5 other sites, but visitors find the site primarily through a search engine (eg. MSN, YAHOO, GOOGLE). The site has no connection with the LifeWay organization.

Site users leave very few comments. This implies that the material does not invite dialogue, or that teachers are not interested in discussing lesson preparation. For example, a "political" blog will garner heavy commenting as people share their opinions. A "cultural blog" on some current event will garner several comments per entry. However, a blog on Bible lesson preparation attracts an audience with practically no interest in dialogue. If this is a fact of life, then it may be more appropriate to team with other teachers to maintain the site. I’m praying for God to give me wisdom about this.

Awareness of the site remains low in my opinion. Ideally, it would be great if there was some way to create awareness among Baptist teachers in an efficient manner, but I know of no way to do this. One person suggested creating an email chain announcing the site. Any suggestions to improve the blog would also be welcomed! Without interaction and feedback, site changes are little more than stabs in the dark.

The blog reflects what I normally go thru in terms of lesson preparation. It is only extra work in the sense that the material must be formalized for blogging (as opposed to just sending myself a note thru email for later use in final lesson preparation).

I think of the blog as a virtual “teacher’s meeting” on lesson preparation. The goal is to suggest teaching ideas as opposed to providing a detailed lesson plan.

Thanks to all who use the site!


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Proverb meme

Which proverb most applies to the lesson “Guard Your Actions”? Why?

1. Prov. 14:13--Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
2. Prov. 14:23--Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
3. Prov. 13:3--He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
4. Prov. 16:17--The highway of the upright avoids evil; he who guards his way guards his life.
5. Prov. 22:5--In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.

Friday, February 03, 2006

From a distance

In concluding his remarks on this lesson “Guard Your Actions”, I admire Dr. Sam Tullock for stating that he “may not always fall in the category of the ‘stronger brother.’” We all can admit to that, I think. The most mature believers in terms of years of service to Christ may be the weakest of believers when it comes to understanding and applying Christian liberty. Are you quick to second-guess the actions of others? What barriers do you erect that separates you from other Christians? Are these barriers matters of Christian liberty? Has God ever changed your mind about another Christian so that you now love that person as a brother or sister in Christ? What did you do to seek harmony in the relationship?

I’ve second guessed others at times, or declared the unacceptability of their public actions. I decided with little real information that the person angered me as a Christian (eg, a supposedly Christian lawyer, judge, reporter, politician, businessperson, teacher, etc.). Knowing them only from a distance, I held firm to an attitude of dislike. However, as God allowed me to get to know these people through personal contact, I realized the wrongness of my predisposition. In the context of this lesson, my attitude was the barrier I erected and it separated me from other Christians. Does this make sense to you? Close the lesson by having each member pray silently for another member in the class.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Be part of the solution

Step 4 of this week’s lesson “Guard Your Actions” is summarized “Seek Positive Results” in the LifeWay Leader Guide. That keys on the first verse in Romans 14:19-23, which says, “19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” (NLT). Eric Taylor calls this altruism, which is an interesting word. Are you altruistic? I suppose being so implies one that for the sake of others is humble, forgoes rights and privileges, not argumentative and peaceful. Hmmm.

94% of pastors think positive results can result from conflict. Control issues are 85% of all sources of conflict in the church. Trey Turner notes “Christians can get embroiled in arguments about who is right and who is wrong just as any one else can.” Can you recall the last time you were involved in a “whose right, whose wrong” argument? How did it end? Based on Romans 14:19, what should you have done? You may be involved in such an argument now. If so, are you wiser and stronger now such that you can apply Romans 14:19 and achieve harmony? You may think it will get better on its own, but in prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to intervene now.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Danged if you do, and danged if you don’t

Step 3 of the lesson “Guard Your Actions” is focused on Romans 14:15-18, and the more clear rendering of these verses, I think, is given in the New Living Translation Romans 14:15-18. Verse 16 is tricky because it’s easy to miss the idea that we do have influence over whether others speak evil of us, or not. We exercise this power by controlling our actions. For example, in faith, you may believe social drinking is acceptable, but if practicing it brings harm to another person, you could be danged for causing their harm. You earn a bad name when you could have avoided it. The best habit then is not to drink (both publicly and privately—so as not to be hypocritical).

We can avoid earning a bad name by controlling our actions. That is a reasonable sacrifice to earn a good name before God and men, but some people (non-Christians, or Christians who drink socially) are likely to criticize you for NOT drinking alcohol in their presence. Why? When you abstain, you set yourself apart. Others see this separation as you assuming some moral high ground. This makes them feel inferior. To reduce your stature, they slander you. But we desire a good name before God and man (Romans 14:18), and if we must choose one over the other, we choose God.

The—garret* is a good source of Christian news items, and if you look around you can find some example applications of Romans 14:15-18 in today’s Christian world.