Saturday, April 29, 2006

Feeling indecisive?

I'm thinking of concluding the lesson “Worship no other” by listing the several reasons “why we worship only the Lord God” as covered in the lesson.

Tidbit: Researching the effects of collaboration versus non-collaboration on preservice teacher performance, Strang and Howard writes, “Findings suggested that non-collaborative participants were more likely to exhibit a higher level of indecisiveness than collaborating participants. Sustained feedback-rich dialogue with a colleague appeared to supply mutual support in dealing with a decision-making task that offered a high degree of learner choice and a minimum of distinct right-or-wrong answers.” Hmmmm.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Worshipping God is encouraging

Step 5 of “Worship no other” focuses on Isaiah 46:3-5,8-9. Only the Lord can sustain a believer thru difficult times; false gods are inept and worthless when trouble comes. He redeemed us and supports us, and He guides us with His word. It is encouraging to trust in God alone.

The exploration of the word “redeemed” in the Leader Guide (p. 100) clarifies the meaning of redemption to an Israelite. The same idea of freeing a person from a type of “slavery” and providing a fresh start can be applied today (see also Heb 12:1). Focus on wrong attitudes or burdens that enslave people today and discuss ways the Lord works to provide redemption. For example, the Lord can redeem a person:

- from an addiction and give a fresh start (place of service to others)
- an “entitlement attitude” and give a fresh start (a challenging job).
- the “poverty cycle” and give a fresh start (an educational opportunity).
- replace a “can’t do attitude” with an achievement goal
- turn negative emotions into gratitude
- pride to humility
- self-sufficiency to dependence on God
- stereotyping others to loving people
- knowledge to understanding the Living God
- entertainment to education

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Worshipping God relieves burdens

“Worship that burdens” titles Step 4 of lesson “Worship no other”. It’s based on Isaiah 46:1-2, which guides us to understand that worshipping “false gods” only creates a burden. They have no power to save even themselves let alone help us in difficult times.

Contrasted with “Our Burden-Bearing God”, false gods are useless when trouble comes.

Carry a small traveling bag to class and pack it full of possessions from your closet, or personal vanity. Open the bag in front of the class and hold up some of the items and say, “I just love these, but they are useless in helping with the loneliness I feel when I’m traveling and separated from my family. They are just dead weight for me to carry around. Only God gives me hope and assurance.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Worshipping renews commitment

In reading Isaiah 44:21-22 of Step 3 for Explore the Bible lesson “Worship no other,” we discover that to worship God is a return to where we belong, to where He called us as servants. In Him is where we matter, are always remembered, and stand forgiven.

Are you feeling alone and lost? Are you stumbling around to find your way? Are your prayers shallow? The call to return to the Lord God is a general call to everyone, everywhere.

The Lord is faithful to remember His servants. He values what seems worthless. He replaces despair with hope. Duke Medical School finds worship beneficial, or at least a link between religious practice and medicine.

Ronald E. George Jr. at the Fayetteville Baptist Church tells us why we should worship the Lord. Discuss how worshipping the Lord renews our commitment to Him.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Worshipping God is a preventative

Step 2 of “Worship no other” is from Isaiah 44:16-20. “Read the Word for guidance, not just to introduce a subject” (Pastor Tom Elliff). So why worship only the Lord? Doing so prevents spiritual blindness, spiritual foolishness, and spiritual ineptness.

Take some current magazines and have members look for pictures that show what people worship today. [Look for examples of worship of self, fame, wealth, prestige, designer labels, success, materialism, or tolerance.] Define spiritual blindness and discuss ways false ‘gods’ blind people into spiritual foolishness and ineptness. Slides 24 thru 29 offer pictorial helps.

Bottom line: we learn the character of the Lord God by worshipping Him only and He calls us out of darkness and opens our eyes.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Why worship God alone?

Westside Baptist Church, Jacksonville posted their plan for this week’s lesson: “Worship No Other,” which comes from the background passage Isaiah 44:1-48:22, and the focal passage Isaiah 44:16-22; 46:1-5, 8-9. Thanks WBC!

We’ll study the Bible to learn why we should only worship the Lord God. As an alternative for introducing the lesson, read Prans’ story from Troy Bush’s comments on this lesson.

For deeper study of the background passage, Sonshine in the Forum made available her study questions for this lesson. Thanks Sonshine!

If you know of a resource for lesson preparation that you'd recommend, Click the comments link below and leave a message.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Biblical guidance

Step 6 concludes this week’s lesson “Take Comfort in God’s Strength”. Which items on this list of 30 things to do to reduce stress do you think are Biblically based? Have members identify the one they can personally put into practice.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Power to run on

Isaiah 40:27-31 is the text of Step 5 from this week’s lesson “Take Comfort in God’s Strength”. That’s the same text Eric Liddell Preaches at the Church of Scotland in the movie Chariots of Fire. Rent the movie, and play the clip of Liddell’s reading. Remind members that Liddell refused to run on Sunday and was ridiculed for it. Discuss how Liddell depended on God’s strength.

Ask members to share how they have placed themselves into God’s care and received strength from Him. This story of bikers discovering the power of God is interesting if you want to share it as an alternative.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Take comfort in God’s self-sufficiency

Step 4 of “Take Comfort in God’s Strength” is based on Isaiah 40:10-11. The Geneva Bible Study highlights God’s self-sufficiency in this passage. The Lord God is able without help from anyone to establish His kingdom. He will protect the weak, too. Have you relied on His protection, or are you finding comfort in doing 52 things to become self-sufficient?

Have members brainstorm ways we seek protection today. Examples: home or car security system, watch dog, vaccinations, insurance, airbags, sunscreen lotion, storm shelter, etc. Afterwards, ask, "To what extent do you find comfort in these means?" Explain the difference in this 'comfort' compared to that which comes from relying on God's strength.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Strength or weakness?

In the context of human strength or weakness, how do you unpack Isaiah 40:6-8? Step 3 of LifeWay lesson “Take Comfort in God’s Strength” posits “grass and flowers” as “human glory”, and then concludes we need to acknowledge our weakness to experience God (see LifeWay Leader commentary (p. 87)). When it comes to avoiding sin, this weakness could be mistaken as “I just can’t help myself".

As a means of redemption, Peter (1 Peter 1:17-25) thought of grass and flowers as human strength, which withers and falls. We have no power to save ourselves, and Troy Bush states that we wrongly draw comfort from our own means instead of depending on God’s enduring power.

No doubt the Bible teaches, “power is found in weakness,” according to Alistair Begg. But we don’t want to reinforce the notion that this weakness is an excuse to sin, i.e. “I’m only human.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What to say?

Step 2 of “Take Comfort in God’s Strength” urges us to encourage others based on Isaiah’s encouragement of the Israelites in Isaiah 40:1-5. In over 70 situtaions, Peter Hicks offers a number of things to say and do in “What could I say?”. I've used my copy many times. However, you’ll see a number of things NOT to say here (look thru the slides).

Have someone in the class sing Scott Krippayne’s song, “You are still God” acapella. Afterwards, ask why the lyrics are comforting. Ask, what specifically about Isaiah's words made them comforting to the Israelites?

When you’re at your worst, would you rather hear, “Everything is going to be all right”? If so you need, “My Therapy Buddy”.

Monday, April 17, 2006

What have you done?

A common prescription for stressed out and over busy lives is to take ten (10) steps to simplify your life. Instead, this week’s lesson challenges us to “Take Comfort in God’s Strength”. Based on Isaiah 40:1-43:28, Isaiah 40:1-8, 10-11, 27-31, it’s the first lesson under the theme “Find Hope in God’s Greatness”.

Where do you look for help and comfort when you’re stressed to the point of giving up? Go shopping? Eat your favorite food? Veg on the couch? Call a friend? Change jobs? Decide to move? Paul received comfort from God, which overflowed to comfort others.

The Israelites were in Babylonian captivity, and the words of the prophet Isaiah provided comfort. Read the lyrics of “The Gift” from rock band Seethers and ask what does the “singer” of the lyrics want? How would you describe his/her state? Could he/she find comfort in God’s strength?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Share Jesus prayerfully

Chapter 10 of Fay’s book Share Jesus Without Fear quotes Mother Theresa’s business card. Her simple words begin with prayer and end with peace with God. Fay’s point is that we must ask in order to receive (James 4:2). Do you have an unbeliever for whom you are praying?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Share Jesus repeatedly

Chapter 7 of Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay is based on this premise: “We have the responsibility to provide everything the new believer needs in order to grow.” (p. 78). The material in the chapter is great, but what’s your opinion of Fay’s premise?

The ideas in Chapter 9 are excellent for arranging opportunities to ask the five diagnostic questions.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Share Jesus purposely

Chapter 6 of Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay suggests five questions to lead a person to a commitment, or not. After asking, “Are you ready to invite Jesus into your heart?”, Fay suggests silent praying while the person makes a decision. The key is to offer the person an opportunity to make a choice, then be quiet and allow the Holy Spirit to work. If they respond with a yes, then lead them in the sinner’s prayer. If they say no, ask “Why?”.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Share Jesus pointedly

The questions in Chapter 4 of Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay are like “spiritual thermometers” which are used to determine how active God is in a person’s life. The five questions act together to “funnel” a person to the point where you have permission to share God’s Word. Two neat object lesson ideas. Right?

Chapter 5 conveys the idea that we must allow the Bible to speak for itself. Trust the Holy Spirit to work in the life of the reader. Fay suggests a simple strategy, have the person, “Read a Scripture verse aloud,” and then ask, “What does this mean to you?” In case you get an unsatisfactory response, do not personally defend or explain the Word, simply ask the person to “Read it again.” When you get the right response, move to the next verse in the series he suggests.

His statement that our big thick Bible looks like a “cannon” to non-believers made me laugh. He recommends using a “Derringer”, a smaller Bible such as the one printed by Broadman & Holman.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Share Jesus wisely

Today I read chapters 2 thru 4 of Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay. Sharing the gospel is an imperative (Matt 28:19-20). According to the Institute of American Church Growth established by Win Arn, showed that 75-90% of new believers come to Christ thru a friend or acquaintance who explains the good news on a 1-1 basis. To further motivate avoiding the sin of silence, he shares the fact that unbelievers must hear the gospel an average of 7.6 times.

Fay’s five diagnostic questions are smart. The approach is wise. Ask someone, “do you have any spiritual beliefs?” and if they push back in any way, back off. The Holy Spirit has not yet prepared the person. In other words, the entire diagnostic process is designed for the presenter to mainly listen to the person and follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership. I’m praying God will give me opportunity to it out this week.

Monday, April 10, 2006

This week

The roll play exercise in yesterday’s lesson worked well to draw out advice for dealing with burdens from different perspectives. “Say nothing” popped up as a potential response in both cases, which fit with the material in Isaiah 32-33. How did your class receive the lesson “Do you take your burdens to the Lord?”

Yesterday’s pulpit message from pastor Tom Elliff was outstanding. He works with the IMB to mentor missionaries, and spoke on the imperative of being with Jesus as a key component of experiencing the Lordship of Christ. He used a powerful illustration of a carpenter using a “handy” tool to do a job to make the point that Christ uses a believer who is nearby even though that person may not be the most prepared or “best” choice.

CFBC will not have Bible study this coming Sunday to make way for the large influx of people that come for Easter, so I won’t be blogging on the lesson LifeWay inserted for April 16, “Do you share the good news?” Instead, this week I’m reading Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay (with Linda Evans Shepherd), which has the same lesson goal. A summary of the material in the book can be found here.

If some of you have read or also reading Fay’s book, please tell me what you think about it. Start by reading chapter 1 and Appendix 5, which covers Bill Fay’s testimony. His statement that “if God wants to change a life, He can do it” brought tears to my eyes. That’s so, because God changed my life on June 28, 1959 and has continued to do so since. When did you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A few other notes

Oh, lest I forget, material for this week’s lesson from Wedgwood Baptist Church asks, “Why should we pray about our situation when God already knows the details?” Anyone dare to take a guess?

David Self of FBC, Houston, summarized this week’s lesson by saying,
1. God would send a savior to purge the world of sin and establish His righteousness.
2. Those who walk by faith in the Savior will find complete security in His kingdom.
3. God hears our prayers and answers them.
4. Rejecting God involves judgment.

How did you summarize it?

In case you’re interested, SBC pastor Steve McCoy’s Missional Baptist Blog has a post about blogging in the SBC.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Faced with insurmountable odds?

To conclude this week’s lesson “Do you take your burdens to the Lord?”, I encourage you to read the lesson comments by Troy Bush, Lori Clendinning and James Adair. Troy reminds us of what Hezekiah did not do, while Lori provides a great lesson overview and helps us understand how some see prayer only as “a crutch for the weak.”

James Adair provides a different perspective on the background passage that helps us dive deeper into Isaiah. I added a PPT slide just to cover the extra detail he offers. Ask if you need my help to capture and play the two video clips referenced in the PPT slides I plan to use Sunday.

Note: As teachers, as much as we want to, we are powerless to change the minds and hearts of class members. Like Hezekiah, let me urge you to take this particular burden to the Lord. Acknowledge who He is and the circumstances of your class and ask the Lord to be glorified in the deliverance He provides.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Does God defend His name today?

Step 4 of “Do you take your burdens to the Lord?” focuses on the reason why God acted in response to Hezekiah’s prayer. The key verses are Isaiah 37:33-36.

The LifeWay Leader Guide makes the point that the Assyrian king Sennacherib blasphemed God (see p. 70). Does God defend His name today when blasphemy occurs?

For example, the DaVinci Code book has 40 million copies in print and a Hollywood movie is coming this spring. Like the Assyrians who attacked Judah’s faith in God, the book asserts that Jesus is simply a married man and not God. Will God defend His name in this case? What do you think about the movie from just the trailer?

How are you preparing to take advantage of the film's release? Do you have a recommended site to help turn the tables and make it an opportunity to share the true story of Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Roll that scroll out before the Lord

“Do you take your burdens to the Lord?” lesson Step 3 zeros in on Hezekiah’s prayer to the Living God in Isaiah 37:14-20. How does studying the details of his prayer motivate you to pray about a particular issue in your life right now?

Allow time for the class to pray at this point. Members should be encouraged to pray about a specific burden they have.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Confidence in who has control?

Step 2 of “Do you take your burdens to the Lord?” focuses on the news Hezekiah hears in Isaiah 37:10-12. Life measures out burdens daily that should bring us to our knees. Even in the smallest matters we are really powerless. Instead we think we’re different and that we can fight alone against any problem and succeed in our strength. We believe we are in control of our destiny. We choose to ignore the existence of a Sovereign God who is working to woo us to acknowledge and trust Him. Eventually, our burdens overwhelm us. Either we succumb to life’s pressures, make a deal with the world and its ways, and become like everyone else, or we take our burdens to the Lord. Which is it for you?

The aim of this step is to help members identify their life concerns/burdens (no matter how small or how large). How do you plan to do this? Is asking a question sufficient?

You could ask members to brainstorm potential problems that trouble OTHER people instead of identifying THEIR own issues. If you’ll note on a marker board member suggestions as they call them out, you’ll make a long list. Generalize their responses as you note them on the board. Write as many as time allows since writing down an answer communicates how much you value their input!

Then make it personal by asking member to locate and confidentially note what burdens they are facing at this point. Read God’s promise to help (Isaiah 41:13).

Monday, April 03, 2006

Do what?

“Do you take your burdens to the Lord?” is the next to last lesson in the unit Trust the Living God. It is based on Isaiah 32:1-39:8, but focuses on Isaiah 37:10-12,14-20,33-37. Study questions for the lesson series from Isaiah are posted on courtesy of “sonshine”. Thanks sonshine, your willingness to share with other teachers is inspiring. I’ve already forwarded the questions to my class!

Use roll play to introduce the lesson. Divide your class into two groups and have one group roll play a Christian brother that advocates actions based on a belief that God is in control, and have the other group roll play an unbelieving sister that advocates actions believing that God doesn’t exist, or doesn’t care, or is too busy. Read the story that follows and note member responses as you ask each group to call out their answers separately.

Afterwards, you pick three suggestions you believe to offer the most promise. Ask, can you think of an associated Bible verse for these suggestions? If they can't, that's okay. The purpose is to cause members to start thinking of equating God's Word with solutions to problems in life.

Lastly, ask members to consider what worries they have personally. Tell them this lesson will help them decide to take their problems to the Lord in prayer.

Story to read:

Joe doesn’t like his job, but at the same time, he’s afraid he might lose it. “The boss is unfair!”, he says. But that’s not the case. Joe often blames others when a situation doesn’t go his way. His failure to be financially responsibility has ruined his credit, and to make matters worse he’s drinking often now. Joe can be a fun, energetic guy, but he’s headed into depression. He never attends church or a Bible study. As his brother (or sister) how would you advise Joe?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Blog update

Wade Liberator sent an email announcing this blog to his contact list and readership jumped well over that of the previous couple of months. Thanks Wade!!!

Unique monthly visitors rose from just under 300 a couple of months ago to 569 this month with an average 3 page views per visit. 156 are repeat visitors, up almost 2x. An average of 10 repeat visitors come each day. Two-thirds viewed the “current” lesson while the remaining third viewed archived lessons.

Visitors came from 34 different states and 9 countries. 165 visitors found the site through GOOGLE, MSN, or YAHOO using search terms such as “lifeway”, the lesson title, or the Bible passage. As a ministry, I praise the Lord that the blog is building audience, but it is not without issues.

For example, unlike missional Baptist blog, or, this blog garners very few comments from readers (using the comment feature of Blogger), which is puzzling. Do any of you have suggestions for making this site more interactive?

Lastly, I’ve sent inquiry email to the LifeWay Leader Guide writer for Isaiah to invite him to be a “guest blogger” for a week, but received no response. Perhaps some of you readers who are teachers would like to guest blog some week? Email me.


P.S. The Encouragers Class that I co-teach averages attendance of 50 to 60 members per week.

Meme: What is your average class attendance?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Identifying errors of ways

Thank God for those who rightly divide the Word of truth and point out to us the error of our ways!

To conclude the lesson, ask members to respond to the question, “Do you live according to God’s truth?” Marvin Nail says that honestly the answer is sadly “No.” He adds, “we do so as long as it does not cramp our lifestyle.”

Is there some element of your lifestyle that is causing you to ignore the reality of God’s truth? Maybe it’s our tendency to turn to God only in times of trouble? Identify what it causes you to trust in rather than placing your faith in God. Is the ultimate end of this lifestyle element disaster? God offers peace and security in its place.

Meme: Recall the last time you put a member to sleep while teaching a lesson. What did you change to prevent it from happening again?