Monday, December 31, 2007

God’s purposes trump human pride

Rick Hyde, pastor, First Church of England, Arkansas, comments on “God’s Purposes Trump Human Pride”, which is based on Genesis 11:1-9, 27-32. He relates the account of the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis in the troubled year of 1968. He connects it to the tower builders in Genesis 11. I plan to show a photomontage of various towers and state the name of the builder. (Does anyone know of a list of famous towers, or find a link on the web to a list?)

People today want to “make a name for themselves,” too. See this story. Corporate marketing knows how to appeal to this desire as the “Indian Elephant Tower Builder” commercial illustrates. Ask members if they have a desire to become famous.

Our pastor challenged us yesterday to “do something great in 2008”. He had in mind that regardless of our present circumstances, we can thrive through Christ, who strengthens us. He emphasized our partnership with Christ, and His power in us to meet the challenge of the possibilities that lay before us.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Cynthia Price from Arkansas comments on "God offers new opportunities", the LifeWay lesson for December 30, 2007, which is based on Genesis 8:15-17, 20-22, 9:1-3, 8-13.

Hope you have a great day celebrating the Lord's birth!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lesson plans and questions

You might consider Bob O’Haver’s commentary on the lesson, “Accept God’s Promised Savior.” He has some neat features on his site, like roll-over Bible verse pop-ups. Cool!

Does anyone know what happened to the website for Milo Baptist Church? The URL is no longer valid. It’s odd that a church would allow the validity of its domain name to laspe.

Below are some lesson questions taken from First Baptist Church, Chester, Illinois (I copied them since the link is not sticky). Below those I also copied a few lesson questions from Manchester Baptist Church.

Sunday School Questions for December 23
Accept God's Promised Savior
Lesson Passage John 1:1-18

The holidays can be a very busy time for us. We need to be sure we make time for ourselves and more importantly, make time for God. The lesson today will allow us to see the glory of God by seeing the humanity of Jesus. As we saw in Genesis 1:3; the creation of light dispelled the darkness on the first day of creation and we see today how the light of Jesus pierced through the darkness of sin.

Let's dig in-
Share your name with the class and tell us about a gift you returned and why or a gift you gave that you know was returned.

What reasons can you give for not accepting a gift from someone? How does it make you feel when someone refuses to accept a gift from you?

Does the introduction to John's Gospel remind you of the introduction of any other Book in the Bible?

Verse 1 speaks in a paradox, who can tell us what a paradox is? Who is the "The Word"? What do these opening verses tell us about baby Jesus? Is it difficult to understand that even as an infant, Jesus was already ageless and timeless?

If Jesus were to stand visibly before you today and ask, "Who do you say I am?" how would you answer? Would your response be any different from what these Scriptures teach? How so?
Will someone read verse 5 to us? What does this verse mean to you?

Imagine you are at Christmas dinner at your non-Christian relative's house and the conversation turns to Jesus, how would you explain the Divinity of Jesus to those present?
How would you describe in your own words John the Baptist's messages about himself and about Jesus?

Can we all agree that John the Baptist had the role as Jesus' forerunner to bear testimony to the Deity of Jesus? A definition of a witness is someone who provides facts, not personal opinions. Are you a witness like John the Baptist? Do you convey the truth about Jesus' identity?

How does God provide means today to point people to Jesus? When you hear other Christians witness about Jesus, how do you usually feel? If you are not totally supportive of a fellow believer's testimony what does that say about you? What do you need to do about it?

What is the difference between knowing Christ and knowing about Christ? Honesty Time!- Which describes you best, do you know Him or know about Him?

Are all people, Christian or not, considered to be "children of God"? Those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord are granted the awesome gift of becoming the children of God. What does this mean to you? What does this tell us about the nature of God's gift? What are the privileges and responsibilities of being called a child of God? In your opinion, what is (or would be) the greatest blessing involved in being a child of God?

John 1:14-18 proclaims that Jesus Christ was fully God in human form, the meaning of Incarnation. God made Himself known through Christ. How does this Christmas lesson reinforce your need for Christ? If you have never received Jesus as your personal Savior, what is holding you back? If you have, how will you take greater initiative to tell nonbelievers, even those non-Christian relatives, about who Jesus is and what He has done for you? Let's pray!

From Manchester Baptist Church:

Accept God's Promised Savior

Those who receive Jesus by faith become God's children.
~~John 1:1-18~~

Why is it significant that Jesus participated with the Father in creation? (1:3)
Why did John repeatedly refer to Jesus as light? (1:8-9)
How can we explain that Jesus' own people did not accept Him? (1:11)
How can we witness effectively to persons in our world? (1:15)

Study Questions

What title did John give to Jesus? (1:1)
How could Jesus have participated in creation? (1:3)
What divinely ordained task did John the Baptist fulfill? (1:7)
What do believers in Jesus receive? (1:12)
Who reveals God fully? (1:18)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Grace

Only by God's grace will someone “Accept God’s Promised Savior”. A couple of years ago, we studied Romans, and God’s grace was one of the lesson topics. I mention it as a possible help to your discussion of grace this Sunday. Below are links to each of my lesson posts for “What about God’s Grace?”.

Grace as God’s Ability
Can’t get there from here
Perspective gap
Abundant grace
More about God’s grace
Spotlight grace

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blessings

I enjoy reading each week Dr. Sam Tullock’s commentary on the Exlore the Bible lesson, which this week is “Accept God’s Promised Savior”. I can relate to his writing since he is in the trenches as a teacher, and is not just a hired gun commentator.

You might say, I ‘receive’ his teaching—knowing the source from which it comes, and the humility with which it is offered. I’ve never met Dr. Tullock personally, so I only know him thru his words. However, by receiving his teaching he is a blessing to me.

Jesus’ own people did not receive Him according to John 1:11. Unlike my virtual relationship with Dr. Tullock, they met Jesus personally, observed His behavior, and listened to Him talk. In Jesus, they could see God in action as a man, yet they did not receive Him. They missed a blessing.

Ask members to think of people they receive, and what blessings stem from the relationship. Perhaps reading excerpts from this story will help members recall the blessings they have received.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Using contrast

Proverbs 11:30 came to mind while thinking about Step 3 of “Accept God’s Promised Savior”, LifeWay’s Explore the Bible lesson this week.

The Leader Guide asks for teachers to describe an effective witness. The proverb describes “he who wins souls” as “wise”.

Here are tips for being an effective witness in a courtroom situation. What are the contrasts with being an effective witness for Christ?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Invisible, but present word

I’m reading The Call, by Os Guinness, and on p. 64 he makes a point about the Lord that I think is relevant to the lesson, “Accept God’s Promised Savior”. He says, “Words are the deepest, fullest expression in which God now discloses himself to us, beginning with His calling us, So it is in listening to Him, trusting Him and obeying Him when He calls that we ‘let God be God’ in all His majesty.”

This is key, because as Os points out, God does not reveal Himself to us in pictures, or objects, but in words. The Lord is invisible and inconceivable to our natural senses. Understanding that God reveals Himself to us with words, helps us dig into the Bible to know the Savior. Jesus was the incarnate word, or mind of God.

Of course there is no perfect analogy, but gravity is an invisible power that demands our obedience. It hurts when we fall.

The idea of a trace is a little technical, but it illustrates the notion of an invisible word—a word that’s present in a sentence, but not visible.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Accept God's Promised Savior John 1:1-18

"Accept God's Promised Savior" is the lesson this week, and it is based on John 1:1-18. It's not clear how I can add anything to the passage that can't be appreciated by simply reading it.

Pray for the technical people at http://forum.bible.org. Their site was hacked. Such evil! Pray that the perp will accept God's promised savior, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

PPT slides for "Aspire to Walk With God"

Click to download my Powerpoint slides for “Aspire to Walk With God”, or forward the link to another Explore the Bible teacher that can benefit from them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Are you good at following directions?

Pastor Jim McCullen titles step 4 of “Aspire to walk with God” in his lesson commentary as “Committed To Follow Instructions”, which raises the issue of how good are we at following directions?
How good are you at following directions? Take this test.
Yesterday, driving to Dallas, I noticed a billboard on I-45 that said,

Lost?
—the map is in my book.
—God



P.S. Below are some lesson questions taken from First Baptist Church, Chester, Illinois (I copied them since the link is not sticky).

Sunday School Questions for December 16
Aspire to Walk With God
Lesson Passage Genesis 6:9-18, 22

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is how we, as Southern Baptists, reach out to our missionaries across the world. Have you given your Lottie Moon Christmas Offering yet? How would it be, if next Sunday, our class gave our's together? What was that last commandment we studied in Matthew 28:19?


Let's dig into this week's lesson-
Tell the class your name for the sake of those of us with bad memories or for our guests and then tell us how you got to school when you were in the fourth grade.In a week's time, how far do you think you walk? What is the farthest you have ever walked in one day? When you walk, is it easier to walk with a friend or loved one or do you prefer to walk alone?


Would you describe your walk with God as a daily event? As you walk with Him, do you do all the talking or do you allow Him to speak to you? How does that work? Do you ever allow the things of this world to distract you from walking with God?How would you describe Noah? How are you like or different from him? Can we all agree that if we walk with God as Noah did that we can overcome the challenges of our culture and our environment? Do you think our world today is more corrupt or less corrupt than it used to be? Why?What were the names of Noah's three sons? In what ways do you think Noah's integrity and allegiance to God affected his wife and sons? In your opinion, were they likely to have always supported him and his devotion to God?


When you are faced with immorality and corruption is it easy to continue your walk with God? When you have seen someone refuse to participate in the corrupt behavior of others, what do you think of them? What do you think allows them to refuse to participate? Noah followed God's leadership and led a life that met with God's approval. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being highest; how would you rate your own spiritual walk with God?


In Genesis 1:31a, God was pleased with all He had created and now we see God regretting that He had made them. In comparison of these moments in history; what contrast do you see? What does this tell us about the nature of sin?


Can you recall an incident in your childhood when you received a strict penalty from your parents for some wrongdoing? What did you do to cause your parent's grief? At the time, did you feel that they were fair or unjust in their discipline? In retrospect, how do you feel about it now? Are you grateful for their concern now that you are older and wiser? In your mind, was God's treatment of Noah's contemporaries justified or was he too severe? Why?


Would you agree or disagree with this statement; "We are so used to God's mercy that we abuse His grace and then complain that it is not enough when He grants it."? Defend your answer. When we look at all the natural calamities that have occurred recently, is God speaking to us or are they simply "accidents of nature"?Someone read Genesis 6:22. How was Noah able to do what God asked? In your life, how do you respond when God tells you to do something you may not understand or that seems too difficult? So far, what has your faith cost you? Do you walk with hesitation with God because you fear what might lie ahead? How has this lesson on Noah's faith and obedience encouraged you? Let's pray.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Filled with disgust

See comments by Mike Dawson: “Aspire to Walk with God” for an interesting example of a band member “skipping to stay in step.” That’s a practical discipline for sure!

Step 3 is concerned with God’s judgment as recorded in Genesis 6:11-13. The earth was filled with something other than what God intended.

Last week, Frito Lay wrongly filled bags of Lay’s Classic Potato Chips with Lay's Cheddar & Sour Cream Flavored Potato Chips. They made a judgment to recall the 2,460 errant bags.

Ask members if they have ever discovered their garden infested with bugs that kill the flowers, or fire ants that have a painful bite? If so, what did they do about it? My guess is they applied a bug killer to wipe out the infestation. God was disgusted that his creation was filled with other than what He intended.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hire a guide

Step 2 of our lesson, “Aspire to Walk With God,” focuses on Noah’s character as revealed in Genesis 6:9-10. He was righteous and blameless. How so?

Noah didn’t travel alone, but like Enoch, he “walked with God.” His contemporaries did not and they got lost living life.

Liken the idea of “Why hire a guide” with following God’s leadership in life. To help reenforce, the aim of "walking with God", ask members to share about their travel experiences with and without a guide.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Personal Navigator

As I read the background passage, Genesis 5:1-8:14, for this week’s lesson, “Aspire to walk with God”, I kept asking myself what is God’s purpose in communicating this material to me? It might help you to approach some of these difficult narratives with “what purpose” in mind.

For example, what was God’s purpose in providing the genealogy given in chapter 5? Was it to highlight Enoch in contrast to the others mentioned?

Why did God preserve chapter 6 for us? Was it to emphasize the effects of sin on humanity, like the results of a union between believers and unbelievers?

Similarly, why did God tell us in chapters 7&8 about Noah and the judgment of a worldwide flood? How does knowing about Noah’s life help me today?

How are these difficult passages relevant in this day and age to your class members?

God wants believers to live in fellowship with Him by doing what is right. For that, Enoch earned the commendation: “walked with God”.

Mark Rathel’s commentary on the lesson mentions life direction and pace, which made me think about the direction road signs provide in life. I’m also considering using a personal navigator to illustrate that to reach a destination, we need to know a good path, and then stay on that path as we travel (it even talks to us!). In this sense, the Bible is like a personal navigator to a commendation, “walked with God”.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Milo Plan

Folks, Milo Baptist Church posted commentary for "Admit Your Sin Problem", our lesson from Genesis 3 &4 this week.

I've cut and pasted it into this blog entry (below), since their link is not permanent.

BTW, does anyone know what happened to "Bob" at Hampton Road Baptist Church? He used to post wonderful lesson plans, but suddenly stopped about a year ago.

ADMIT YOUR SIN PROBLEM
Gen. 3:1-4:26
KEY VERSE: And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat. Gen. 3:6

All people struggle with temptations and often sin against God.
Paradise did not last long in the garden of Eden. Though God had provided everything the man and woman needed, they fell prey to the serpent's temptation to want more. After dialoguing with the serpent, the woman broke God’s one command by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The man quickly followed his wife's action (Gen. 3:1-6).

Realizing their nakedness, the man and woman fashioned crude coverings from fig leaves and hid from God when He came to walk with them in the garden. Knowing what they had done, God provided the man and woman an opportunity to confess their sin, but they refused to admit their guilt and instead blamed others. God punished the serpent, the woman, and the man by making life for more difficult for each. Adam named his wife Eve because she "was the mother of all living" (3:20. God demonstrated He cared for them by providing the appropriate clothing, but He also sent them out of Eden so they would not eat from the tree of life (3:7-24).

Adam and Eve became the parents of two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain become a farmer like Adam, while Abel became a shepherd. When Cain and Abel worshiped God, God accepted Abel and his offering of firstborn animals but not Cain and his offering of produce. When Cain became angry, God warned Cain not to fall prey to sin. Yet Cain ignored God’s and killed his brother. When God gave Cain the opportunity to confess, Cain, like his parents, refused. God punished Cain, driving him further from Eden; but God also protected him from possible enemies. Cain's line made great contributions to civilization but also maintained a spirit of vengeance (4:1-24).

Eve bore Adam another son whom they named Seth, who then had a son named Enosh. With this new line, the worship of God began again (4:25-26).1.

TEMPTATION LURES US (Gen. 3:1-5)1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the tree of the garden. 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. The first two chapters of Genesis focus on goodness and life. Chapter 3 provides the answer for the question, Why is there evil and death? How can evil be reconciled with God's goodness and the fact that everything originated with Him?

The origin of sin is found in the choice of the man and woman to obey the voice of the serpent rather and the voice of God. The serpent, speaking briefly and only twice, caused the woman to doubt first God’s word (3:1) and then God's goodness (3:4-5).THE SERPENT (GEN. 3:1)

Bible students long have argued over the serpent's identity in Gen. 3. Some Bible students suggest the serpent was symbolic of pagan fertility religions or representative of the forces of evil and chaos that opposed the created order.

Other Bible students believe the serpent symbolized life and wisdom since it was reborn on a regular basis through the shedding of its skin and cleverly survived even without limbs. Still other Bible students state the serpent symbolized humanity's inner desires that lead to sin (Jas. 1:13-14).

None of these views are based on the New Testament, which understands the serpent to be Satan employed the serpent, spoke against God and His command, and thus tempted the man and woman to sin. Even as Satan used Peter to attempt to dissuade Jesus from His mission (Matt. 16:22-23), Satan used the serpent and still uses situations and people today to tempt individuals to question and disobey God.

According to Genesis 3:5, the serpent promised that man and woman would "become like God knowing good and evil." But according to verse 7, all they really came to know was that they were naked.

That Adam and Eve struggled to cover themselves indicates that they felt guilt as a result of their sin.

All people sin and experience alienation from God and, to some degree, alienation from one another.

In what ways do we try to hide ourselves from other people? In what ways do we also try to hide from God.11. SIN ALIENATES US (Gen. 3:6-10)6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be sired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made them selves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day; AND Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. 9 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

The focus of the serpent's beguiling speech was subtle: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must have been intended by God to keep knowledge of good and evil from people. But people, created in God's image, need this knowledge to be like Him. By placing the tree off limits, God had declared that the ability and right to know what was good and what was not good for people was something that He had reserved of Himself.

The woman, enticed by the serpent (cp. 2Cor. 11:3), ate of the tree and in turn gave some of its fruit to the man, who ate willingly. In flaunting God's right to know and trying to be wise in their own eyes (3:6), the man and woman decided that they no longer needed God. The ultimate source of evil is not explained in Genesis, two facts are clear: evil did not originate with God, and it is subject to His power and will.

Created to be free and exalted beings, people have the capacity to choose God or to reject Him. Beginning with Adam and because of Adam, all people have chosen to elevate their own desires over the desires of God.111. GOD CONFRONTS US (Gen. 3:11-13, 22-23)11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat....................22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know god and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
Old Testament writers understood the corrupting effect of sin on humanity (Jer. 17:9). But it was the apostle Paul who most clearly set out the doctrine of original sin. Paul noted that sin had entered the world and spread to all people because of the sin of one man (Rom. 5:12). He drew a comparison between Adam-the one who had originally been without sin-and Jesus who-although also without sin-was punished for the sin of Adam (Rom. 5:14-21).

People, created in the image of God, succumbed to the temptation to become even more like God than they already were (3:5). As a result, they would share the dust of the serpent (3:14, 19). But someday the Messiah would come to defeat sin and bring people back into a right relationship with God.

All sinners must face the consequences of their sin, and the primary consequence is separation from God.

We need to recognize all people face temptations to sin against the Lord.

We need to realize all people sin and experience alienation from God and, to some degree, alienation from one another.

Because God holds all people accountable for their sins, we need to admit our sins and confess them honestly to Him.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

That's what I'm talk'n about!

Dave posted his lesson plan today for “Admit Your Sin Problem”. How cool is that!? He’s in good company with his admission about reading this blog, but you have to like the fact that he shared his lesson plan with the rest of us!

It’s an outstanding contribution. Good job, Dave! Thank you!

Is that applause I hear in the audience?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Choose in advance

For this week’s lesson, “Admit Your Sin Problem,” the LifeWay Adult Leader Guide (p.26) asks, “Does awareness we are being tempted help us to resist? Why?” What is your answer to the question?

I believe the answer is yes because awareness should facilitate response. That is, being aware of an issue is surely better than the alternative? Right? One way to help members is to encourage them develop a plan to put into effect when tempted.

Consider playing the Steve Green song, “Guard Your Heart” on “The Mission” CD. Call attention to the lyric:

The human heart is easily swayed
And often betrayed at the hand of emotion
You dare not leave the outcome to chance
You must choose in advance
Or live with the agony
Such needless tragedy

Do you have a plan to put into effect when you are tempted? As the song says, “You dare not leave the outcome to chance”!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The price of sin, the price of grace

Sonshine offers questions to help you prepare for the lesson, “Admit Your Sin Problem”, based on Genesis 3:1-13, 22-23. I always find her remarks helpful, especially understanding "the price of sin, and the price of grace."

Monday, December 03, 2007

"Have you heard...."

To introduce this week’s lesson, “Admit Your Sin Problem”, I recommend opening with a hard-hitting discussion on the sin of gossiping. It plagues the church today, and dealing with it upfront will set a tone for members to better personally apply the lesson passage, Genesis 3:1-4:26.

You can start discussion of the topic by showing a list of gossip columnists, and asking members what these people have in common. As an alternative, share this news story to get members talking about the topic.
It would be instructive to crisply define "gossip" in a way that coincides with understanding it as sin. Anyone care to take a stab at a one-sentence definition? (Hit the comment link below and tell us what you think.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

PowerPoint for "Affirm God's Good Plan" Genesis1-2

Please feel free to download my slides for “Affirm God’s Good Plan”. I placed some notes in the PowerPoint notes section of each slide so that you can follow the sources I used to compile the slides. I plan to show the videos mentioned in the lesson blog this week. Don’t be overwhelmed! You can teach this lesson!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good plans

Milo Baptist Church offers an abbreviated plan for this week’s lesson, “Affirm God’s Good Plan”, our first from the book of Genesis.

Cynthia B. Price, member, Watson Chapel Church of Pine Bluff, also commented on “Affirm God’s Good Plan” in the Arkansas Baptist News. I like her mention of “Health care plans, 401K plans, vacation plans, diet plans, house plans” because she contrasted their design “by humans supposedly to make life better” with God’s best plan for man created “in the beginning”. To help get members thinking about “plans”, you could post up a slide that mentions these various plans and discuss how they are designed to help make life better.

Also, commenting on this lesson, Mike Dawson, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church, Columbia, TN, offers the “ABCDEF” formula for remembering what God did on each day of creation. That might be useful to teach members.

I’m teaching out-of-cycle this week, so I’ll try to post the slides for my plan late Friday. For a laugh, see the photo in this “good plan” for an alternative automobile power source.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In God's image

If you are interested in creating a lesson plan, consider using the teaching ideas in the study questions posted by Sonshine for: “Affirm God’s Good Plan”.

To help make the point of man’s uniqueness in Step 3, consider using the video: “Made in God’s Image” as you cover Genesis 1:26-28.

Another way to do this step is to start by showing a number of pictures of different animals (ostrich, ant eater, etc.). Point out how each is unique in the animal word. Then show a picture of a human family (or of a man and woman), and point out their uniqueness of being created in God’s image. What was God's purpose in making humans in His image?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It’s a God thing!

Step 2 of “Affirm God’s Good Plan” is titled, “Value the Good”, and is based on Genesis 1:1, 31. In reference to creation, it is important to reaffirm “God did it”. Jesus did (Matthew 13:35, John 17:24, Mark 10:6), and so should believers.

Many members want to believe in creation, but the world’s teaching of “big bang” and evolution confuses them. How do you plan to address their confusion? What can you do to encourage believers to accept the Biblical account?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Off to a good start

We kickoff our study of Genesis with a lesson titled “Affirm God’s Good Plan,” based on chapters 1 and 2. What is a “good plan”? How do you evaluate a plan?

Here is an illustrative “good plan” to help you get “off to a good start” on your lesson preparation this week! If you find a good lesson plan idea, consider posting it as a comment on this blog so that other teachers may benefit from it!

As I read thru the lesson material, it occurred to me that members might question their place in God’s plan. They can’t show appreciation in this matter unless they accept God’s creative plan and put their trust in Him. It is exciting to be part of God’s plan!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A tweak, or two

I posted a slightly updated version of my slides for “On Mission”. I only tweaked the wording in few places, so it may not be worth downloading it again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

"On Mission" PowerPoint Slides, Matthew 26-28

I’m posting early since I’m traveling to a location where I will be without Internet access. If I update my slides, it will be late Saturday. I’ll let you know.

Before covering Matthew 28:5-10, consider playing this Land Rover “Breathe” commercial. Ask members what activity they engage in that makes them “feel alive?”

Here is the first draft of my PowerPoint slides for the LifeWay Explore the Bible lesson, “On Mission”.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Inadequate qualifications

Many members feel inadequate to carry out the Great Commission as described in the lesson, “On Mission”. Effective missionary work is an impossible job if attempted in human strength. The ultimate results rest with the Lord.

This article describes what’s needed to accomplish a so-called “impossible job”, that of an art museum director. The desired qualifications simply can’t be found in one person.

How would you describe what’s needed for class members to be effectively involved in missionary efforts?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Have the time of your life

Thinking about Matthew 28:18-20, I want to bring to your attention the Finishers Project, which is a web service designed to help adults get involved in short-term, or permanent mission projects. Consider speaking to your class about it as a means to help members get involved in accomplishing the Great Commission. You do not have to log in, or sign up to view a great deal of what opportunities are available.

Ask members about the origin and meaning of the phrase, “Have the time of your life.” This sounds in opposition to Christian service, but at Finishers.org, it seems that the two can be combined.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The numbers don't lie

Jeff Meyer’s comments regarding “On Mission” mentions the value of a human body, and he asks what price would you place on your own life? To the Roman soldiers that flogged, mocked and crucified Him, Jesus was just another Israelite to put to death. His life mattered little to them.

To make the point of how little the world really values a person’s life, consider reading portions of this satirical news story from The Onion. The humor highlights how little a person’s life amounts to if measured according to worldly standards.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On Mission, Matthew 26:1-28:20

Taken from Matthew 26:1-28:20, the lesson this week is titled, “On Mission.” Although it may take too long, consider having members quickly search for something they have forgotten, or something they have not seen before that’s in the background passage. Afterwards, have them volunteer and discuss their observations. This exercise causes members to read the Bible personally, which is a great way to start a lesson. This gets us out of the way and allows for the Holy Spirit to work in individual lives!

I noticed, for example, Jesus said three times, “You have said so” (26:25, 26:64, and 27:11). This was equivalent to Him saying, “Yes, it is true.” In another example, the disciples asked, “Is it I, Lord?” (26:22), whereas Judas asked, “Is it I, Rabbi?” (26:25).

I also plan to cover 26:36-46 since Jesus asked the disciples to “watch with” him (26:38), but they failed to do so. We have all failed the Lord, which causes me to want to lead the class in prayer following these opening exercises. In praying, confess disobedience and ask forgiveness and for commitment to choose to do His will in our lives.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ask them

Merriam-Webster defines relevant as “having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.” I believe all Scripture has relevance for all people, so given that, “Can you speak to how Matthew 25:41-46 is relevant to a believer in the here and now?”.

When you read this passage, your class may want to talk about unbelievers, but the point of the lesson is to encourage believers to get “Involved in Ministry.” In what ways does the above passage motivate members to get involved in ministry? Ask them that question, and see what they say.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

How to make this lesson interesting?

As bible teachers, we are focused on teaching God’s word clearly and accurately, but we also want our lessons to be interesting and relevant. The lesson, “Involved in Ministry” is very relevant, but how do you plan to make it interesting?

Let me invite you to get 'involved in ministry' by sharing your ideas for making this lesson interesting with other teachers. Simply hit the “comments” link below and type away. Now, how hard is that?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Avoid ambiguity

It's imperative that bible lessons be clear, otherwise, misunderstandings about critical doctrines happen. Step 2 of the lesson, “Involved in Ministry” is based on Matthew 25:31-33, and it may NOT be clear to members when this judgment takes place. Also, the basis for the judgment may NOT be clear. It would be a mistake to claim that the sheep go into eternal life because of their works, or ministry, or service. The righteous enter eternal life not because of works of service, but as a result of new birth by God’s grace. The judgment in Matthew 25 separates believers from unbelievers, and the later will experience eternal separation from God in Hell.

However, if you want to discuss it, there is a judgment of rewards, which is based in part on service.

To insert some humor in the lesson and to make your point about understanding the focal passage, either share some of these Church Bulletin Bloopers, or share selected ambiguous English statements from this collection.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Experiencing God's love

The focal passage for “Involved in Ministry” is Matthew 25:31-46. How is your class “involved” when it comes to ministry? Attendance in my class is about 57% of the active membership, and about 34% are involved in class mission projects. You can see that we have need of this lesson!

Harry Leafe defines love as a choice, a steadfast commitment toward the well being of another. John’s question in 1 John 3:14-19, “…how can the love of God be in him?” implies that we can experientially know God’s love if we chose to demonstrate love toward those in need. The presence of this love is an assurance of our salvation (v 19).

By not participating in ministry work, class members forego experiencing God’s love in their life. Assuming they have experienced the new birth of salvation, they may not have grown in fellowship with God. Why?

Understanding the opportunity to experience God’s love in the here and now is one way to encourage Christians to take hold of service opportunities God puts before them. What else would you suggest?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Involved in Ministry, Matthew 25:31-46

My revised lesson yesterday was well received. One divorced person remarked after class, “Our church readily ministers to divorced people, and it was good to emphasize other teachings in those passages.”

Since I have never been divorced, I’m unqualified to comment on the appropriateness of the LifeWay lesson from that perspective. However, as a bible teacher, I was more than happy to teach the importance of edifying the saints thru bible study in Sunday School.

This week we tackle another multiple-chapter lesson, which is based on Matthew 23:1-25:46. A staff member said to me, “We never really grow until we go.” How true that is. We must put faith into action; otherwise, all we have is head knowledge. As a start, I recommend Jeff Meyer’s lesson plan for “Involved in Ministry”, the title of this week’s Explore the Bible lesson from LifeWay.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A place for all to grow, Matthew 19-22 Powerpoint slides

With a theme underscored by “What should church be?”, the lesson title that makes sense to me is something like: “A Place for All to Grow”, or “A Place for Christian Edification”. The church is a place where Christians grow by studying the bible together.

I included four steps, (1) Outgrow Making Simplistic Assumptions, (2) Grow in Heavenly Mindedness, (3) Learn to Count on the Lord, and (4) Practice Faith Through Prayer. This arrangement allows me to discuss most of the elements of the background passage, which I prefer. I hope my PPT slides for this lesson will be useful to those of you who decide to venture beyond the LifeWay lesson, which discusses only Matthew 19.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Edify the saints

The LifeWay question underscoring the theme of Unit 3 is “What Should a Church Be?”. Champion Forest Baptist Church, where I worship, is a local body of baptized believers who have agreed to worship Jesus Christ together, edify believers, evangelize the lost and minister to others.

These points correlate pretty well with the four LifeWay lessons in Unit 3, except their plan omits “edify believers”. A church should be a place where believers grow as disciples. At a minimum this happens through preaching, teaching and committed study of God’s Word. In other words, growth in Christian maturity is NOT automatic, and believers come together for worship, bible study, prayer, and fellowship in order to grow more Christlike.

The background passage this week is Matthew 19:1-22:46, and I think it offers a wonderful opportunity to edify the saints in godly thinking, contrary to that of adopting a worldly viewpoint.

Instead of the title: “A Place for All”, I suggest a lesson title of “Grow in Godly Thinking,” or alternatively, “Abandon Worldly Viewpoints.” I selected key verses that correspond to Jesus’ interactions with the disciples during the period marked in the background passages. These appear below with a first draft of how I would title the lesson steps.

Step 1. Matthew 19:10-15 Challenge first impressions
Step 2. Matthew 19:23-30 Be heavenly minded
Step 3. Matthew 20:1-16 Count on the Lord
Step 4. Matthew 20:20-28 Prepare for persecution
Step 5. Matthew 21:20-22 Seek godly understanding

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind as I put my slides together, but at least I'm settled in the approach I'll take! I’ll post my slides tomorrow, Lord willing. As always, I’d like you to chime in with your suggestions. God bless!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rock and a hard place to be

Dr. Sam Tullock outlines the background passage for the lesson, “A Place for All”. As usual, his insight is a good read. For more detailed commentary I refer you to Dr.Alan Ross’ exposition on Matthew. Click the “next page” link at the bottom of his pages to read from chapter 19:16 to 22:46.

The teacher in me is frustrated with this lesson. It is impossible to cover four chapters of Matthew in a Sunday morning lesson. Many great passages won’t even get a sentence spoken about them much less insightful treatment. Much of Matthew’s gospel will be ignored. Is it satisfactory to simply apologize to members? What am I to do? What do you advise?

Before I post my slides, I’d like to hear from you. If some teacher asked your advice on this, what would you say?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Most valuable asset

A Place for All” is based on Matthew 19:1-15. On Sunday, I’d like not to omit key passages in the background chapters 20, 21, and 22. How to accomplish this is tricky.

The lesson could quickly turn into a survey if too much is included, but deviating from the LifeWay lesson focus potentially short changes members who took time to read the Quarterly in advance. I also don’t want to discount the many hours in prayer that I know this lesson received during preparation at LifeWay.

None of the alternatives are satisfying, but Sunday’s coming, and Lord willing, we must be prepared. What approach are you taking?

I return to Sonshine’s questions again, which focus on the interaction of the rich, young ruler with Jesus. If you take that approach, consider setting it up by asking members to identify their most valuable asset. Reputation? Career? Health?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Discipleship focus

I’m struggling with teaching this week’s lesson, “A Place for All” since the background passage includes so much material. As I mentioned yesterday, a number of the usual commentary sources deviated from the planned LifeWay lesson. I like Sonshine’s questions for this week, which focus on the demands of discipleship.

I hope you are making some headway in your studies this week!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Breaking the rules

Co-teacher Curt did an excellent job yesterday teaching Matthew 18, employing an analogy of the extremes on the rating scale used in many large companies to rank people in an annual personnel review. Curt taught not only the points made by Jesus, but he also highlighted the teaching method used by Jesus.

This week’s lesson “A Place for All” will be difficult to teach since the background includes four chapters, Matthew 19:1-22:46. David Self’s commentary tackles all four chapters. Mark Rathel’s commentary: “The Sanctity of Marriage”is limited to the first six verses of chapter 19. Travis Frampton’s comments focus on an application, which he titled, “The Call to be Jesus”.

Jeff Meyer’s lesson plan is more like what LifeWay planned. His question: “When someone eats fruit from their grocery cart without buying it first?” captures the crucial idea of the importance of behavioral norms in society. I recommend reading Jeff’s comments and introducing your lesson with a discussion of his question to get members thinking about “breaking the rules”.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Teaching Insights

LifeWay is offering a new email newsletter called Teaching Insights for the Explore the Bible Lessons. Reproduced below is my first receipt from their list server (if you are interested sign up here).

After reading it, I thought of Ecclesiastes 7:10, which says, "Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions."

Nevertheless, I appreciate their efforts to help us better teach the Bible!

RW
______________________________________________________
Nov. 4: A Caring Community
Many of you are seeing the fall leaves turn and spread their beautiful colors across the landscape. But is there anything more beautiful that a church that is active in expressing love within its membership? That's what this week's lesson is all about.

Look for ways to act in love toward your Sunday School members as November begins.

Blessings,Dan Kassis,
Internet ProducerLifeWay Sunday School

Unit: What Should a Church Be?
Lesson: A Caring CommunityScriptures: Matthew 18:6-7, 10-22

Many of us like to hear stories about the "good old days," when communities were smaller and more closely knit. We yearn for the times of former generations when people didn't lock their doors, kept their car keys in the ignition, and could walk on their streets at any time of night. If a child did something wrong, his mother heard about it before he even got home. Sick people and widows were cared for and looked after. Those in need found themselves fed and warmed by neighbors' love and gifts.

Interesting, isn't it, that this is really a picture of what the church should be? Back in the "good old days," more people went to church regularly, so their communities reflected the church's values. But even though fewer people in our neighborhoods attend church today, we can still pour those values into the people with whom we live, work, and play. This week's lesson reminds us that, as we in the church care for one other, we reflect the love of Jesus to a hurting world.
Give your learners an opportunity to share how the church has come to their aid in the past - even in small ways. Be sure to get to the heart of how these acts of love had spiritual impact. Use these stories to suggest people in your church today who might have similar needs and could benefit from your involvement.

If you feel those in your class are mature enough to handle the conversation correctly, consider allowing one or two learners to share how a church might have mishandled a disciplinary issue in the past. Be sure this discussion does not devolve into gossip or slander. Discuss how this issue should have been handled according to the directives Jesus gave in this lesson's Scripture passages. Consider what might have been the outcome if God's Word had been used as the final authority in this matter. Ask what your class members learned from these situations and how the Lord has helped them to grow as a result.

Consider Peter's question about forgiveness in the context of his eventual denial about knowing Jesus during His appearance before the Sanhedrin. Discuss how Jesus put His own teachings into practice after His resurrection and encounter with Peter by the lake. Ask your learners if there is any sin that has been committed against them that is greater than Peter's denial. Encourage those who still harbor resentment or bitterness toward an offending believer that Jesus' power of forgiveness is with all of them.

As you close this week's lesson, challenge your learners to look for new ways to care for other believers. Tell them to seek the Holy Spirit's direction in this area and ask Him for the courage to obey His movement in their hearts.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Repairing a crack

I once had a pastor who wisely refused any practice of church discipline. He said if he ever started it, he didn’t know where to end it. But church discipline is not the precise topic of Matthew18:15-20, the passage behind Step 4 of the LifeWay lesson “A Caring Community”.

The area of application seems to be focused on resolving disputes between believers. I thought of it as a process for “repairing a crack in a relationship’. How does this compare to the process of “reparing a crack in stucco?” The repair may look like an ‘interstate roadmap’ if too much caulk is used. The photo illustrates my point. Likewise, if done incorrectly a relationship might be worse off after an attempted reconciliation.

Discussion of this passage in the LifeWay Adult Leader Guide is not very satisfying. I never get a sense that the writer feels these verses are applicable in today’s church. What are some specific example situations where they should be put to use? Help!

Members might be better served by focusing your discussion on verses 19-20 since they are misunderstood. I direct you to Jeff Meyer’s commentary for a sound presentation on these two verses.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"no 'count"

Many people have unbiblical notions about angels. This might become an issue in the context of a lesson about caring where angels are mentioned. For Step 3 of “A Caring Community”, this week’s LifeWay lesson from Matthew 18:6-7, 10-22, work in a discussion of the error in this statement made at the funeral of a man named Sonny:

“There is another angel in heaven today watching over you and he's okay. Know that Sonny will always be with you. I will pray for comfort, joy and happiness to return in your life in the days ahead. Sonny was a wonderful testimony to how people should live. Love in Christ.”

ChristianAnswers.net presents a summary of what the Bible teaches about angels that might be handy as you discuss vs 10.

Step 3 reminds believers not to ‘rank’ people. This called to mind the phrase “no ‘count”, which I’ve heard occassionally living in the south. Here are a couple of synonyms for “no ‘count”: "a sorry excuse" and "a lazy no-count, good-for-nothing goldbrick". How can you use these terms and others like them to help members understand the point Jesus was making?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Power of influence

While most of you teachers know this, it never hurts to emphasize that “becoming like a little child,” (Matt 18:3) pictures the new birth of a believer in Jesus, the Christ. Such a person is “born of the Spirit” and is totally dependent on the Lord for salvation. This is contrary to any religious system that promotes a way to heaven by “being good,” or performing works of righteousness. A wrong motive for caring (the topic of this week’s lesson “A Caring Community”) is to believe that acts of caring will merit salvation.

Never underestimate the power of influence you have on those around you. Consider using a quote about influence to help you introduce Step 2 of the lesson.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Caring

How do you plan to introduce this week’s lesson, “A Caring Community”, which is based on Matthew 18:1-35? How about putting together a self-test as exemplified on this page?

Starting yesterday’s lesson on the topic of nicknames was very useful. Some names mentioned were “Buddy”, “Handsome”, and “Lightning Bug”. The room was full of good will as we talked about various member nicknames. The exercise had all of us thinking about the topic of identity, which fit hand in glove with the lesson.

Perhaps you can do a similar thing this week by opening with a question asking members to relate a story they remember about participating in a church service project while growing up, or even as an adult.

Another approach might be to ask members to complete the sentence: “I feel cared about when…?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Matthew 16:13-28 PowerPoint Slides

Here are my PPT slides for teaching the LifeWay lesson, “Centered on Christ”. If you have time, it would be good to add a slide or two on Chapter 17 since it is part of the background passage.

Appreciate it, if you'd post your comments. Your feedback on the content is important!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Paradox

Roman crucifixion not only caused death, but also dishonored the person. For starters, a person was forced to carry his own cross as he was beaten to the site of the crucifixion. Afterwards, instead of receiving a proper burial, the body was allowed to remain on the cross until vultures consumed it. The cross would have symbolized both death and dishonor, so what would be the disciples understanding when Jesus referred to the cross in Matthew 16:24-28?

How can you help members understand the paradox of what Jesus said in verse 25? Try getting them to think about the idea of a paradox.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Do something undexpected

Lesson step 4 in “Centered on Christ” focuses on Jesus’ prophecy of His coming death and resurrection. This is not what the disciples bargained for, so they had difficulty accepting it. Reading Matthew 16:21-23, one can almost hear them shout, “say it aint so!” Jesus quickly cut short their disagreement with His purpose, and helped them focus on what else they didn’t bargain for—discipleship, too, would be costly.

Jesus announced “the unexpected” to His disciples. They wanted a different Messiah that fit their preconceived notions. Are people any different today? What can you do in your class to help members understand just how unexpected Jesus’ prophecy was to the disciples?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

False images

Step 2 of “Centered on Christ” focuses on Matthew 16:13-16. As background preparation for teaching this passage consider reading (or watching) Gates of Hell from the series, That the World May Know. Dr. Vander Laan likens the meeting as a “graduation speech” by Jesus to the disciples. A “commissioning” exercise is an interesting way to introduce this step in the lesson.

Another idea is suggested in the LifeWay Adult Quarterly. Ask, “What are the churches in our community known for?” This should lead to discussing various beliefs about Jesus.

I live in a large city with lots of churches. Some are known for their music, their Christmas programs, their pastor, their doctrines, etc. But which ones are known for exalting the Creator, the God-man, Jesus, the Anointed of God. Read 1 John 2:18-27 and ask members to identify the “false images” of Jesus Christ presented in the world today.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Questions of identity

This week we are studying the LifeWay Explore the Bible lesson, “Centered on Christ”, which is based on Matthew 16:13-17:27.

A few years ago, I was teaching a bible study on Monday nights. I passed out 3x5 cards and asked attendees to write two questions they’d like to ask God. I was humbled by the nature and depth of the questions as I later reviewed them for clues to help me better prepare and teach to the real needs of the class. The attendees were hungry to know about Jesus Christ, and what it meant to live as a Christian. That following Wednesday night, I showed my pastor the cards (they were anonymous), and he read the questions. Afterwards he said, “I only wish I could spend time answering questions like this. For example, I spent today dealing with the question on which side of the platform the piano should sit.”

Consider starting this lesson by having members silently read the focal passage, Matthew 16:13-28, and write one question they personally have for Jesus. Tell them not to sign their name, or otherwise indicate their identity on the card. You don’t have to collect the cards, but the exercise is designed to get members thinking about Jesus, and questions they have for Him.

Jeff Meyer’s comments stimulate another idea for starting the lesson. Ask members to tell their nickname when they were in school, or at work today. Ask them to say how they got it. This should get people talking and to start thinking about the idea of how a person is identified. The lesson will take up the issue of the identity of Jesus as perceived by those around Him.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The spread of false teaching about Jesus

For the lesson, “Practice Genuine Purity” how can you illustrate the spread of yeast if you choose to cover the background passage in Matthew 16? Jesus said false teaching by the Pharisees spreads like yeast used in bread (Matt 16:12). Illustrate the danger of false teaching (particularly what is said about Jesus) using the example of how a virus spreads from one person to another. Perhaps use the story of the flu pandemic of 1918 as a backdrop.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Target Fixation

In Matthew 15:14, Jesus explained that the Pharisees were “blind guides.” In Matthew 23:24, He told them directly they were “blind guides.” They majored on the minor, and missed the big picture.

Read about target fixation, which motorcycle riders’ experience, as well as others. Think of how to use this to illustrate the mistake made by the Pharisees.

Writing for the Baptist Standard, Travis Frampton’s comments on this week’s lesson, “Practice Genuine Purity”. He mentions how misinterpreting the Bible can lead to wrong conclusions and wrong behavior. Ask members if they can think of such a verse. Can you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Playing by your own rules

To illustrate how the Pharisees placed their oral traditions above the Law, ask members to name a favorite game they play in their home. This should get people talking. Follow up by asking them what rules they use to play the game. Do they make them up, or do they use the “official” game rules?

We play Mexican Train since it is a fun game that anyone can play. However, we don’t play by the official rules having learned the game from a couple who used rules they made up. We are not unique. After playing the game in various homes over the last few years, I’ve noticed that everyone seems to “play by their own rules”.

The Pharisees used their own rules (oral traditions) and rejected God’s Law. Jesus described their traditions as “rules taught by men.” They were sinful because they rejected God’s best for them.

Now, think about the “game of life.” Ask members to privately consider what command of God they regularly reject in order to live life according to their own rules? This is sinful rebellion.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Unvarnished truth, or Self-portrait

Last Sunday’s lesson was interesting on a number of fronts—the parables, the “seed” object lesson, analogy of the “power of observation” for levity, and the idea of steganography to help make the point that understanding spiritual truth is not a matter of intellect. It was fun to study the lesson and teach it.

This week’s lesson, “Practice Genuine Purity” from Matthew 13:54-16:12 may present a greater personal challenge, however. It ask questions such as “Are You Dishonest?”, “Are You Blind?”, and “Are You Defiled?”.

Also, I’ve sometimes wondered if the Pharisees were just strong willed and ignorant, but passages like this help me see their intransigence as true hypocrisy. They knowingly practiced sinful behavior according to Mark Rathel, while outwardly maintaining an air of self-righteousness.

It may be interesting to start this lesson with ‘how people see themselves.” If you will, what is their “self-portrait?” For example, ask members how many are content with their driver’s license, or passport photo. Many will take exception to it. Why? I suppose it doesn’t present a picture that’s flattering? Assuming the picture is valid, however, it means that how they appear in their imagination doesn’t match how they really appear.

To practice genuine purity we must move from how we want to appear to how we actually appear to God. He knows the unvarnished truth.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

PPT Slides for Be Patient With Others

I’m excited about this lesson, and have updated my PPTslides for “Be Patient With Others.” I plan to sing Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee before the lesson. I also plan to pas out seeds (representing the Word of God), and have members consider the different types of soils described in the parable of the sower. I’d be interested to hear how your lesson goes tomorrow, so stop by and leave a comment if you have time. God bless!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Patience please!

I’m short on time today, but I uploaded a draft of my PPT slides for this week’s lesson, “Be Patient With Others”. Lord willing, I’ll post an improved version tomorrow. You’ll know this when I post on Saturday. Patience please! :-).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Understanding

To understand according to Thomas Edison requires one to “stand under”. Applied to understanding spiritual teaching, a receptive person must “stand under” Jesus. Unwilling to do so, the religious leaders and the majority of the people in Jesus day couldn't grasp the meaning of His parables. In a sense, Jesus was talking in code.

Believers understood the truth He was speaking, but hardhearted unbelievers couldn’t see it. Using intellect alone, they could not see the hidden messages of the parables. Like a steganographer, Jesus hid His teachings about the Kingdom of God in plain sight by making them part of simple “word picture”, that is, a parable.

Are you making progress preparing this week’s lesson, “Be patient with others”? Bible teachers need the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. Our own intellectual skills are insufficient. Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.”

Pray that your Bible lesson will be clear, interesting and relevant to your class members. Pray that they “get it”, and that it’s meaning is not lost on them. What does it mean to say that you understand the parables in Matthew 13?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Looking but not seeing

Consider taking a baggie full of safflower seed to class. Pass it around and have members take some seed and place it in their hand. As you teach about the Parable of the Sower have members consider (“pay attention to”) the seed they hold. What do they see? What do they understand? Can they perceive God’s sovereignty? Do they understand His grace? Have them look carefully at the seed for heavenly meaning.

If the seed they hold were scattered on the ground, four possibilities occur. By God’s grace, some of the seed will sprout and produce a hundred fold. Praise God! But by His sovereign will some of the seed will not so much as germinate. Other seed will germinate, but quickly die. Lastly, some seed will germinate and sprout, but become stunted in growth and not be productive. God is awesome!

Jesus preached that people should repent. Those that do will perceive and know God and they will repent even more. God gives grace. However, those that do not repent will have even their ability to do so taken from them. God is sovereign.

To illustrate “looking but not seeing”, you could select some of the questions from this Power of Observation Quiz (a little tedious to get, but there are some useful ones in there!), and have fun with them in the class.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Be patient with others, Matthew 13

Co-teacher Curt did a good job yesterday of stimulating interaction in the class by asking questions. Using Matthew 11 and 12, he reviewed the different reactions to Jesus exhibited by John, others who believed, the religious leaders, who hated Him, and the majority of people that rejected Him as messiah. The contrast in acceptance or rejection of Jesus was made clear. Great interaction happened when Curt asked the class to fast forward and describe how people likewise respond to Jesus today.

Mark Rathel’s commentary on this week’s lesson, “Be Patient With Others”, picks up on the contrast in reactions to Jesus to explain the meaning of the parables given in Matthew 13:1-53. The people expected Messiah to bring judgment and establish His kingdom in a way that would restore glory to Israel. That didn’t happen.

Given the wrong assumptions derived thru inaccurate teaching, Jesus taught a set of parables to explain the true nature of the kingdom of Heaven. But He also chose this manner of teaching to force the people to think about what He was saying, and dialogue about it (and not be simply spoon fed). People grow by facing up to challenges. Believers will grow in understanding as they seek to grasp the central teachings of these parables.

The parable of the weeds offers a clear teaching about future judgment and reward in the kingdom. But it also offers us insight about patience. How have your actions in the past been guided by your wrong assessment of the future? In other words, you faced a choice, made some assumptions about the future, and then made a wrong choice based on what turned out to be incorrect assumptions? Did you pull weeds when you shouldn’t have?

Likewise, what decisions are you making today based on assumptions about the future that may or may not be correct?

Are you happy pulling weeds? Ask members what favorite thing they’d rather be doing than pulling weeds?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Word power

A comment on Matthew 10:13 found on page 61 of the LifeWay Explore the Bible Adult Lesson Guide for last week’s lesson peaked my interest. The comment noted, “Your peace should come upon it relies on the Hebrew conception of the spoken word as, what we may call, a unit of energy. When spoken, a word makes something happen. Thus, when God created the world, He spoke. By hospitably receiving the missionaries, the household would benefit from this desire for their welfare. If not, the spoken word of greeting would have no effect and would return to the missionary.”

This article on Biblical Hebrew notes a similar idea. A spoken word contains “power to fulfill.” Have you ever thought about words as having energy, or power to cause action?

That God’s “word does not return to Him void” (Isaiah 55:11) makes even more sense when we understand that a spoken word has muscle to it.

This can be illustrated using a couple of flashlights, one with fresh batteries, and the other with weaker batteries. Shine each flashlight on a sheet of black construction paper. One flashlight might shine brighter than the other, illustrating their respective ‘power’. If each flashlight was a ‘word’, then its power is determined by how well it illuminates the paper (the result of the word if it was spoken). Facinating!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Spoken word

Watching Ken Burn’s, “The War” on PBS this week made me think about the power of the spoken word. Roosevelt made speeches that moved Americans. Churchill word’s encouraged and comforted millions of Britons.

On the other hand, Hilter’s rants incited the German people to go to war. He wrote about the spoken word, in Mein Kampf, chapter 6, “Our first meetings were distinguished by the fact that there were tables covered with leaflets, papers, and pamphlets of every kind. But we relied principally on the spoken word. And, in fact, this is the only means capable of producing really great revolutions, which can be explained on general psychological grounds.”

Read quotes about the spoken word to remind members of the importance of “Watching your words.”

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Talking back

In studying Matthew 12:22-27 for the lesson, “Watch your words”, the phrase, “who are you to say...” came to mind. The crowd around Jesus speculated out loud, whereas the Pharisees spoke in judgment.

We talk back to spouses, parents, managers, teachers, etc. out of pride, or ego, even when we are ignorant on some matter. Our selfish ambition has few limits except when we live in conscious fellowship with the Lord, reverencing Him. How do we “talk back” to God today? Do we tell Him what to do? Do we question His methods? Do we criticize His purposes?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Finding rest

Since his comments were so helpful last week, I point again to Jeff Myer’s comments on this week’s lesson, “Watch Your Words” from Matthew 12:22-37. The Israelites were to rest and recuperate on the Sabbath, but in observing it, they became legalistic. That is, they obeyed a set of do’s and don’ts, in which they elevated only themselves. Their legalistic thinking and behavior robbed them of God’s very purpose to find rest. How is our own wrong thinking and behavior today robbing us of fellowship with God? Study 1 John 2:3-6, and keep in mind that the apostle is writing to Christians, not unbelievers.

Start by asking members how or where they find rest in our hectic culture today? Here is one set of suggestions to help start your discussion. Try using this photo, too.

Regarding last week’s Skype conference-call poll, 15 of us indicated an interest in participating in a 30-minute call on the Saturdays that I post my slides (usually every other week with some exceptions). Eight of us are okay using the free PC-to-PC call service offered by Skype. For the seven preferring to use a regular phone, I’m open to suggestion on how to pull that off. It can be done thru Skype for a fee, or it can be accomplished using a traditional conference call service, which also costs money to arrange. Anybody want to sponsor such a conference call?

For those willing to use the Skype service, we should plan our first call on Saturday, October 13. For the 6 of you that don’t have Skype installed, you need to sign up at http://www.skype.com/. If you have Skype working, send me an email at: ronnieward [at] yahoo.com, and give me a couple of options for call times on Saturday (10/13/07). We’ll dialogue off-line to get on each other’s Skype contact list, and to finalize a call time that Saturday that works best for the 8 of us.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Site update preparing "Watch Your Words"

I’ve taken down the Skype conference call poll, and I’ll post the results tomorrow.

Today, however, as we start preparing for “Watch Your Words”, taken from Matthew 11:1-12:50, I want to give an update on the usage of this site.

Cameron posted a comment suggesting that the increase in site usage could be attributed to studying O.T. versus N.T. lessons. That is, teachers need more help preparing O.T. lessons, so traffic increased last summer over last spring.

He may be right, but looking at the chart below from http://www.statcounter.com/, I don’t think we can conclude that from the traffic on this site. The monthly visitors and returning users increased again in September (studying the N.T.) over August, when our lessons were from Malachi.

Moving on, I also want to compare traffic growth on this site year over year. Returning users in September 2006 numbered 511. That increased to 1,126 in September 2007 (more than 2x growth).

Unique visitors increased from 1,188 in September 2006 to 3,163 in September 2007 (just under 3x growth).

These stats are humbling. God continues to bless usage of this site even though I have very few clues as to why.

Friday, September 28, 2007

PowerPoint Slides for "Take Part in Missions", Matthew 9-10

Here is a link to my PowerPoint slides for the lesson, “Take Part In Missions”. Thanks to Jeff Meyer, Minister of Education at Bayleaf Baptist for his helpful comments this week.

As always, please leave a comment if you have a suggestion about the lesson. We all gain from interaction with each other. To quote a verse from this lesson, “freely give what you have received.” Thanks in advance!

P.S. If you haven't done so, please take a minute and answer the poll on the right side of the page!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Training to get in the game

Once again, Sam Tullock’s commentary on the weekly LifeWay’s Explore the Bible lesson is clear, biblically based, interesting and relevant. I highly recommend reading it, especially his comments on the central teachings of the background passage Matthew 9:35-38; 10:5-14,26-31.
I also like Jeff Meyer’s lesson plan for “Take Part in Missions”. Among a set of well-organized questions, he analogizes being sent on mission with that of a coach inserting a player into a game in organized sports. He highlights the importance of training, for which the disciples were sent on their first mission trip.

What training did you have for your first mission trip? Here is a set of commercially available training helps. You could use a collage of these to stimulate the notion of training for a first mission trip as a way to help members understand the instructions Jesus gave the disciples.

Thanks to those who are taking the poll on the right side of the page!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ideal buddy on a mission trip

Contrary to the approach mentioned by Travis Frampton (discussed yesterday), the LifeWay Adult Extra for “Take part in missions” starts off with an International Mission focus. Oh, well.

A couple of the commentaries highlight elements about the disciples. Mark Rathel notes the pairings of the disciples’ names in Matthew 10:1-4 actually indicates the pairs in which they were sent. David Self’s commentary highlights the character qualities of each of the disciples.

Who would be your ideal mission trip buddy? Scuba diving is one activity that should always be performed with a buddy. Read about elements of an ideal scuba diving buddy and think about how you can stimulate a discussion with class members to cause them to think about who they would want to buddy up with on a future mission trip.


Thanks to all of you who are answering the poll questions! I appreciate it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wrong first thought

Travis Frampton makes the point that missions needs to happen right in our own homes, and in our churches. Studying Matthew 9:35-38; 10:5-14,26-31, notice that Jesus went first into the Jewish synagogues, then in verse 36, Jesus saw, and then he felt. In verse 37, he spoke about prayer to send out workers, and then in 10:5, he sent the disciples out to the lost sheep of Israel.

Jesus’ prayer request was for the Lord of the harvest to send people out to “Take part in missions”. Genuine missionaries see the needs of, and have compassion for the lost, particularly those in our own families, our friends, work associates, and those that worship with us.

This wasn’t my first thought on missions. How about you? What is the first thought of your class members when they hear the word missions? Asking this question might be a good way to start this lesson. It would set up the discussion of our need to first follow Jesus, and walk in the light as he is in the light.

Don’t forget to answer the poll question (see right side of this page). Thanks!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Take Part in Missions--poll question

I want to take a poll this week to get your opinion on an idea a friend suggested. The nut of the idea is this: On the weeks when I post PPT slides for the lesson, hold a 30-minute conference call on Saturday to discuss how to present the lesson. Also, answer any last minute questions regarding the lesson.

Assuming some of you would want to take part in such a conference call, I would need to schedule it, sign-up participants, and then at the appointed time, conduct the call.

To do this we’d need to use a free Internet, phone-conferencing service. http://www.skype.com/ offers a free PC-to-PC voice conferencing service for up to 9 people at once. To participate, you’d have to install Skype on your PC (free download), sign up for Skype ID (free), have Skype running at the scheduled time, and initiate a call into the conference at the appointed time.

Please take a moment and select a response on the poll posted on the right side of this page.

This is a mission idea for me, and in fits into this week’s lesson, “Take Part in Missions”, which is based on Matthew 9:35-38; 10:5-14,26-31. What mission idea can you lead your class to discuss this week?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Make your lesson interesting!

I’ll close this week with a reference to Exciting Bible Study lesson plans by David Williams. He charges $5.00 for his lessons, but they're worthwhile if you want to explore a change in your approach.

Sometimes, I feel like my lesson delivery is in a rut. It is difficult to hold member interest in that case. If you're feeling that way, download David’s lesson for "Always Trust Christ" as a change and give it a go!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Milo plan

Milo Baptist Church in Ratliff, OK posted a lesson plan for “Always Trust Christ.” It has an outline like the LifeWay plan, but it takes a less expository approach.

I also copied the post since the link above is not persistent.

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
9/23/2007

ALWAYS TRUST CHRIST Matt. 8:1-9:34
KEY VERSE: And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. Matt. 8:26
The story is told about a man named Jerry and that he had only asked for two things his whole life: health and protection for his family. "God has always been faithful."
Now, however, Jerry was waiting on a diagnosis that did not look good. His faith had been dependent on a condition that might not be sustained forever. People get sick. Family members have accidents.
This lesson is designed for people who are facing or will face challenging circumstances such as sickness, accident, or a spiritual crisis. It focuses on situations in which Jesus helped people through various crises.
This section of Matthew contains multiple stories of Jesus' power over various challenges in life. That Jesus surmounted them all invites us to trust Him in all circumstances.
After recording the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chronicled three miracles of healing that demonstrated slightly different aspects of Jesus' power. The cleansing of the leper demonstrated Jesus' power over one of the worst maladies of the day.
The healing of the centurion's servant showed Jesus did not need to be physically present to heal. At Capernaum, Jesus cast out demons, thus demonstrating His sovereign power over evil.
A scribe's claim he would follow Jesus wherever He went became the occasion to illustrate the true nature of discipleship. Jesus described conditions that were very difficult and not always subject to miraculous deliverance. True discipleship is defined by trust in Jesus, no matter what the circumstances may be.
The next two miracles, the stilling of the storm and the two men possessed by multiple demons, illustrate Jesus' power over nature itself and over the most extensive and entrenched evil.
Forgiveness of sin is God's work. Thus when Jesus demonstrated He had the ability to forgive the paralytic, in addition to having the ability to heal, He made a highly significant claim. This claim brought the charge of blasphemy against Him that would eventually lead to His crucifixion.
The call of Matthew the tax collector and the fellowship with tax collectors and sinners illustrates Jesus' openness to all people. He wants to help all kinds of people; therefore all kinds of people can come to Him.
The question of fasting illustrates the newness of Jesus' ministry and the joy associated with Him. The healing of the young girl, the woman with an issue of blood , and the blind men again demonstrate Jesus' compassion for people in difficult situations.
The final narrative in this section, that of driving out of the demon, was a further occasion for condemnation by the Pharisees. They accused Jesus of being in league with Satan and their opposition became more firm and deadly.

1. WHEN YOU ARE AILING (Matt. 8:1-3)
1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshiped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Leprosy was a devastating illness. In the first century, many forms of skin lesions might have been considered leprosy. The descriptions are so broad that today we know some of the diseases may not have been what we call leprosy. That some people recovered indicates they were not suffering from actual leprosy, for short of a cure from God, no one recovered.
The man in this narrative had not recovered, leading us to assume he had the worst form of the disease. Caused by the tuberculosis bacteria, leprosy leads to a numbing of the extremities and gross, ulcerated deformations.
Fingers, toes, even an entire foot or hand might be lost to the progressive disease. Over a period of 10 years or more, victims of leprosy would die a piece at a time. Their physical suffering would have been extreme.
Worse was the social and religious impact of the disease. The significance of the distinction of clean and unclean is difficult for us to grasp today, but in that society it was of utmost importance. The Jewish people thought being unclean meant one was to be separated from God's people and would be rejected by God.
According to Levitical regulations, a leper had to announce his condition, by crying out "Unclean! Unclean!." A leper was forced to live outside the village, often in a leper colony. To touch a leper, or even be near one, rendered another person unclean. Next to a dead body, a leper was the most unclean object in that society. Indeed, the leper was considered a dead man.
When the leper came and begged Jesus to heal him, Jesus reached out and touched him, even though his skin was covered with the dread disease.
Sin is also an incurable disease-and we all have it Only Christ's healing touch can miraculously take away our sins and restore us to real living. But first, just like the leper, we must realize our inability to cure ourselves and ask for Christ’s saving help.
The law required a healed leper to be examined by the priest. Jesus wanted this man to give his story firsthand to the priest to prove that his leprosy was completely gone so he could be restored to his community.

11. WHEN YOU ARE IN DANGER (Matt. 8: 23-27)
23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And His disciples came to him, and awake him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

The Sea of Galilee is an unusual body of water. It is relatively small (13 miles long, 7 miles wide). But it is 150 feet deep, and the shoreline is 680 feet below sea level. Sudden storms can appear over the surrounding mountains with little warning, stirring the water into violent 20 foot waves, The disciples had not foolishly set out in a storm. They had been caught without warning, and their danger was great.
For the word storm, Matthew actually used the Greek word that also means "earthquake." This storm was violent and dangerous. The boat would have easily been lost in the troughs of seas, which might run as high as 20-30 feet.
In the middle of this chaos, Jesus was sleeping. Complete trust in God leads to calm certainty. The disciples looked at the waves and feared for their lives. Jesus looked to the Father and rested. Whose example are you more likely to follow?
Jesus demonstrated power over the destructive forces of nature, which were under the devil’s sway. Such a Person is worthy of worship. Even the winds obey him.
We often encounter storms in our life, when we feel God can't or won't work. When we truly understand who God is, however, we will realize that he controls both the storms of nature and the storm of the troubled heart. Jesus' power that calmed this storm can also help us deal with the problems we face. Jesus is willing to help if only we ask him. We should never discount his power even in terrible trials.

111. WHEN WE NEED FORGIVENESS (Matt. 9:1-8)
1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. 2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arise, and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power to men.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, which is about midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean. Obviously no boat could have taken Him there.
Instead, this town was Capernaum, on the northwest shore of the sea. The Gospel of Mark clearly identifies this town as the location of this miracle. Capernaum was home to several disciples and apparently served as a home base of Jesus during His ministry around this sea.
After Jesus returned to Capernaum, a group of men brought a paralytic to Jesus for healing. Surprisingly, Jesus declared the man's sins forgiven. Apparently, Jesus had decided that such forgiveness was necessary before the paralytic could be healed. In response to the faith of those who brought this man, Jesus both forgave the man’s sins and healed him. The crowd was amazed at Jesus, with a combination of terror and awe, and they gave glory to God for what He had done.
This miracle caused people to give glory to God because He had delegated such authority to Jesus. His works of healing and forgiving were signs that God’s kingdom was dawning.
We can say that we love God or others, but if we are not taking practical steps to demonstrate that love, our words are empty and meaningless. How well do your actions back up what you say? Jesus action showed that his words were true, he had the power to forgive as well as to heal.
FORGIVENESS OF SIN (Matt 9:1)
Sin is a spiritual barrier between God and humanity preventing the relationship God desires with us. He is holy and cannot receive to Himself that which is unholy. His solution is to forgive sins through the sacrifice of His Son. In both Old and New Testaments one of the words for "forgiveness" literally means "the bearing away of sins." God, through Jesus' sacrifice, takes away our sins when we turn to Him in faith. Forgiveness of sin remains our foremost need, but it is often accepted and then forgotten-as we concern ourselves with other needs such as physical health and protection from danger. While these needs are legitimate, we must always be thankful for forgiveness and the fact that it enables our relationship to God.
SON OF MAN
Matthew uses this term to express the deity of Jesus, the unique Son of God. His references point to some aspect of Jesus' earthly ministry, such as His authority to forgive sins and to interpret the meaning of the Sabbath. Three categories of "Son of Man" sayings in the Gospels are generally recognized: (1) those that present Him in His earthly role, (2) those that highlight His suffering, and (3) those that point to His glory. The background for this title is likely Dan. 7:13-14.