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.