Thursday, May 31, 2007

Focus on repentance?

In his commentary on this week’s lesson, Dr. Sam Tullock mentions that Joel is quoted 39 times in the New Testament. Mark Rathel says the meaning of Joel—“Yahweh is God”—summarizes the message of the book. And her lesson commentary, Kathryn Aragon likens repentance—a change in thinking—to that of peeling thru the layers of an onion: both bring tears. Her commentary helps me understand one approach to this lesson is to focus on repentance. While it’s more comfortable to focus on God’s mercy, it may be more necessary to take up the issue of repentance.

Everyone is aware that peeling an onion can cause tears, but can that be used as an illustration to help members understand the nature of true repentance?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Before/after pictures

We are studying Joel 1:15-16, 2:12-13, 18, 25-32 this week in a lesson titled “Appropriate God’s Mercy”. Picking up on yesterday’s post, the fact that anyone survived such a plague of locust is a demonstration in itself of God’s mercy. Moreover, God sent Joel afterwards to explain to the people how to get right with God, which, I think, was an act of mercy.

By way of analogy, it is interesting to parallel our lives with those of Judah back then in a “before and after” picture. The before image is that of lives of plenty, full of pride, that are destroyed by some discipline from God, and the after portrait pictures people with contrite hearts.

Here is a question for you. If you think God warns us today, or disciplines us as He did the people of ancient Judah, do you think God will also send someone afterwards to help us get back on track with Him (as He sent Joel to the people of Judah)? Or do you think that our possession of the Bible and the indwelling Spirit today are sufficient? Do you have an example situation where a person that helped after a disaster was considered a godsend?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Appropriate God's Mercy

How do you plan to create interest in this week’s lesson, “Appropriate God’s Mercy”, which is based on Joel 1-3? A typical idea is to begin with an illustration of some disaster and ask if it can be interpreted as a warning from God. Joel’s prophesy was delivered on the heels of a plague of locust. He interpreted the locusts as a warning about impending judgment on the “Day of the Lord”.

In the past I’ve used Paul Revere’s ride as an example of a warning, and the hearers responded!But the major idea of this lesson seems to revolve around knowing that God is merciful. Maybe we should begin the lesson with an illustration of mercy (everyone survived this crash)? Why?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Presentation slides

Ninety five (95) of you downloaded the PPT slides from last week's lesson. I didn't put together slides for this week's lesson "Maximum Effort is Required", but Dennis McCallum from Xenos offers these slides on 2 Peter 3 that may be helpful.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"I'll be right back"

Regarding the issue of how God accounts for time, the LifeWay commentary notes on page 134 that “We are simply not in a position to make a judgment on this matter.” This reminded me of Rick Warren’s statement, “It’s like trying to explain the Internet to ants. They can’t understand it.”

After reading 2 Peter 3:8-10, for the lesson “Maximum effort is required”, I thought of several ideas for illustrations.

1. Suppose you are in a meeting room with a few peers and your waiting on the boss to attend the meeting, but he is late. Would you wait for him/her? Some peers may want to leave the room, but because you understand your boss as a person, you might say, “He’s coming, let’s be patient.” Likewise, Jesus is coming again. You encourage the others to be patient.

2. Suppose you and a few other acquaintances are waiting for a friend of yours to meet for dinner at a restaurant. Well after the expected arrival time, he/she is still a “no show.” Everyone else is hungry and wants to go on in and eat. You decide to be patient and wait since you know your friend. You are in a position to make a better judgment than one of the others with you, for example, who doesn’t know your friend. That person might say, “I guess they're not coming.” He/she loses patience and argues to go on in and eat. People that don't know Christ will claim that he is not coming.

3. Lastly, you’re walking your dog in the park, and you need to go inside the pavilion for a minute, but your dog is not allowed to enter (he is a dog). You tell him “I’ll be right back,” but he still gets frantic as you attempt to walk away. You go on in anyway and then return to find that your dog is nowhere in sight! He was not capable of understanding that you’d come back soon. It would be like an ant trying to understand the Internet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The lesson “Maximum Effort is Required” from 2 Peter 3 is concerned with how our anticipation of Christ’s return affects our daily living. One way to illustrate anticipation is to take a new bottle of Heinz ketchup with you to class. As you start your lesson, open the bottle cap and hold it upside down as you talk. Believe me, it will take a good while before it comes rolling out! Everyone will watch in anticipation.

As another way to model “anticipation” and its affect on living, modify this anticipation/reaction guide to fit this lesson and have members complete it before and after the lesson.

For example, fill in the guide with seven (7) statements (see below). Members will write an A or D indicating they agree/disagree beside each statement before you teach. Teach the lesson, and then have members respond again (A/D). If the seven statements are intriguing, members will listen and react to your lesson in anticipation of hearing your answer to each of the seven statements. That is, they will “live in anticipation”, which models how Christians should live in view of the imminent return of Christ.

Seven sample statements (or make up your own):

1. The “last days” Peter mentions refers to the final days in the tribulation period leading up to Christ’s return
2. The Bible teaches two different “Second Comings” of Christ (1 Thes 4, Matt 24)
3. Relying on the truth of “all things continue as they have since the beginning”, uniformitarians argue that the present is the key to past
4. The Genesis flood is an example of God’ intervention in human history
5. You didn’t want me to make up all seven did you?
6. You add your statement here
7. and here!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Maximum Effort is Required

Key concepts for illustrations came to mind as I read thru 2 Peter 3 regarding this week’s lesson, “Maximum Effort is Required”. This included how to illustrate a promise kept and slowness.

Here is a news story about a promise kept that might be useful. For the idea of “slowness” (verse 9), I thought about coupling that with verse 8 by using a video containing both slow motion and fast forward footage to illustrate how a day is like 1000 years, or a 1000 years is like a day.

Watching footage in slow motion can be very boring, but it does illustrate how we tend to lose interest in watching for the return of Christ.

Friday, May 18, 2007

PPT slides for 2 Peter 2

In lesson preparation, the moment of truth for me comes when I try to write my outline, or write the final bullet points on my PowerPoint slides. That’s when I knuckle down and try to get it right. My class members will read it, or hear it, and it must be true to the meaning of Scripture as the Spirit intended. Based on prayer for God’s guidance and my simple understanding, please accept my PowerPoint slides for this week’s lesson “Spiritual Error is Rampant.”

Please note, I struggle with how deep to dive into phrases like “who bought them” in 2 Peter 2:1. If it's only briefly mentioned, I neglect an opportunity to explore more deeply what Peter possibly meant. Moreover, I can only teach what I know, but I don’t want to confuse people, or take the lesson down a ‘rabbit trail’, so I made some slide notes to help explain my thinking.

The last thing any of us wants to do is to make errors on this lesson! So please comment if you feel like I'm missing a key point! Thanks in advance!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sifting flour, spam blocking, and plastic

As I made homemade biscuits this morning I thought about the lesson “Spiritual Error is Rampant”, which is based on 2 Peter 2:1-22. I recalled decades ago my mother had to sift the flour when she made biscuits. This removed debris as well as an occasional bug that could be found in flour back in the 50’s. It reminded me that we have to sift the words we hear from Bible teachers, or material we read on the web to make sure it is free from error.

A more modern idea came to mind reading 2 Peter 2:18, where Peter mentions that false teachers lure, or bait people, like fishing, as they appeal to lustful desires and sinful human nature. Today, email spammers “phish” by making an appeal to the same lustful desires and sinful nature. We use spam blockers to arrest such messages before they reach us. In the same way, we must filter Bible teaching and preaching to eliminate erroneous material.

One more idea comes from verse 3, where Peter used the adjective plastos, from which we get our word plastic, to describe the words used by false teachers. Their words are molded like plastic to sound good, but they are deceptive and false. This reminds me of products that are made of plastic and look good, but they don’t last. They eventually are unsatisfying. Can you think of examples of where plastic is used today that really creates a deception? For example, a car bumper made of plastic looks good, but it doesn’t offer any real protection.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Spiritual Error is Rampant” is the lesson title this week, but so is the presence of false teachers. As teachers our goal this week is to (1) help members identify the characteristics of spiritual error, (2) denounce it and (3) uphold the truth.

Writing for Watchman Fellowship Expositor, James Barker identifies Heresies: Then and Now, which is worth reading.

As a former football player, I remember the value of misdirection plays, like the wingback counter (see diagram). The play was very successful against a defense that over pursued. A false teacher successfully uses misdirection to get his overly eager followers to take their eye off the ball (the gospel of Jesus Christ).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Example false teachings today

As we study 2 Peter 2:1-22 this week and the lesson “Spiritual Error is Rampant”, we need to identify examples of spiritual errors today. But Peter addressed teachings that damaged the gospel, not just flawed interpretations of particular passages. How about the question of “Who is Jesus Christ?”—(See the conclusion of the article).

What examples can you cite?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spiritual Error is Rampant

This week we are studying 2 Peter 2:1-22, which makes clear that Spiritual error is rampant. Google the phrase, “Toronto Blessing” and you’ll see a number of example videos posted where people imitate animals and sound out animal noises supposedly as part of a worship service. Adult members may be shocked to see such goofball antics, but it represents just the tip of the iceberg of false teaching in the church today.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The past (God's Word) is the key to today

While on a Grand Canyon trip last year, I heard Dr. Andrew Snelling deliver a message based on 2 Peter. As a geologist, he described a basic uniformitarian mantra “The present is the key to the past.” He made the point that when people deliberately forget God’s word, it’s a spiritual issue, not a scientific issue.

As I read 2 Peter 1:12-21, verse 19 tells me that the key to today is the past! That is, God’s word written so long ago is a trustworthy source of light today. We only have to read the Word to understand the times we are living in.

You might consider using a flashlight as an object lesson at this point and liken it to God’s word. You’d have to turn off the lights in the room, and use the flashlight to illustrate how it can illuminate a dark place.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sticky notes

This week we are studying 2 Peter 1:12-21, where we are reminded that “God’s Word is Essential”.

Post-it-Notes are a top selling office product used to help remind people of things they need to remember. At the beginning of the lesson, pass out sticky notes to members in your class while telling the story of how sticky notes were invented.

An objective of this lesson is to get members to remember to study God’s word each day. They can write Post-It-Notes during the lesson to help them remember to do this and place them as reminders at home, in their cars, and at work!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Slides for "Growth is Intentional"

I failed to post my PPT slides before teaching "Growth is Intentional" from 2 Peter 1, but I think some of you will still find them useful, so click here to download them.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Fertilize for growth

Spiritual “Growth is intentional” and so you need some fertilizer. Right? According to these PPT slides by Mark Hatfield, the ideal “Savior’s Fertilizer” is found in 2 Peter 1:1-11.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Up the Down Escalator

While studying our lesson “Growth is Intentional”, I read about the need for balance in our lives between legalism and complacency (see footnotes 1 and 9).

As teachers we must guard against false teaching and depend on the Holy Spirit to guide our class members and us into the truth. Has the Spirit lead you to understand Peter’s main point in 1 Peter 1:1-11?

The “Therefore” in verse 10 makes it key. Christians can be sure, or confident in their salvation. God has given us everything (v. 3) to escape corruption so that we won’t fall away and regress in our faith, for example, like believers did in Hebrews 5:11-13. Rather than digress and fall victim to false teaching we can grow more Christ-like by consistently applying Bible teaching about Jesus Christ to our lives.

To me, living in the world is somewhat akin to walking up a down escalator. The Spirit leads us to move upward in maturity, but the world forces us down if we cease to consistently apply Godly teaching in our lives. If we stop growing, the world will put us right back where we started (in terms of Christian maturity).

If you don't like the idea of walking up a down escalator, consider instead the idea of walking uphill to summit a mountain peak as illustrated in the photo.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Lucky, or what?

We are learning this week that “Growth is Intentional” from 2 Peter 1:1-11. Peter mentions perseverance in verse 6, which brings to mind the adage that “practice makes perfect”, not luck.

I remember an offensive drill that ball carriers practiced to help them learn not to fumble. A running back ran with the football on a narrow path between two lines of defenders who forearmed, shoved, and otherwise tried to force him to give up the ball. He would enter the shoot on one end and the defenders would knock him around as he made his way to the other end, hopefully still carrying the football.

Like a running back that learns to hold on to the ball in trying times, a Christian perseveres in the faith during life’s trials. We learn to do this by practicing the dicipline of prayer, living in personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and regular fellowship with other Christians.

This article discusses the role of “luck” verses “hard work and determination” in the success of a basketball team. From a Christian perspective, there is no such thing as luck because the Bible teaches that God is in control.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Regarding this week’s lesson: “Growth is Intentional”, hard and fast accountability is key to successfully completing one’s responsibilities (see “accountable measures” in point 6 of this article). Lack of accountability permits lack of follow through on our commitments. For example, read the paragraph that mentions, “follow through” in this story about Washington Mayor Fenty. Notice the complaint that he loses interest in projects (and doesn’t dig into details). Those closest to him chose not to hold him accountable.

What means of accountability have you established for yourself in order to help you keep your spiritual commitments? For example, members could use their Bible study attendance record as an accountability measure, or some accountability questionnaire. Progressive members can try using accountability buddy.