Monday, July 30, 2007

Joy, Zechariah 9-14

I doubt you will need much help this week as you prepare to teach the final lesson “Joy” from Zechariah based on verses 9:1-14:21. It encourages readers with the promise of Christ’s first and second coming, which is surely a source of great joy to believers—regardless of their current circumstances.

Zechariah tells us how God brings His plan to an end with the coming of Jesus Christ. I think the best way to teach this lesson is simply tell what Scripture teaches, just tell the story!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Integrity elsewhere

I’ll end making suggestions on teaching the Lifeway lesson, “Integrity” from Zechariah 7 by noting other Bible-based material for teaching integrity. You may want to first cover the verses in Zechariah and then go on to speak about integrity from a more comprehensive standpoint. God bless!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dress code

Last evening my pastor, David Fleming, discussed from the pulpit his personal conviction about why he wears a coat and tie in church services. He wants his dress to reflect his high view of the Lord. In terms of this lesson on “Integrity,” we might say that his clothes are in synch with his heart, mind and actions.

In my class, some members wear ties while others don’t, so dress code could make for an interesting discussion on integrity of worship. For example, an individual could dress in a tuxedo but not worship God with integrity if his mind was on the other side of town contemplating a meeting after church.

I’m not aware of a Bible verse where the Lord gives instructions about wearing a suit and tie for worshipping Him, but it seems “just wrong” for a person to show up to a worship service wearing flip-flops and cutoffs.

I don’t know what your thinking about this is, but discussing a topic like Sunday dress code in your class may help crystallize the issue of worshipping with integrity in the minds of members. On the other hand, dress code may be a non-issue in your class.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

That sounds wrong!

Step 3 of this week’s lesson, “Integrity” examines “how to express integrity?” The LifeWay material describes worshipping with integrity as worshipping God as He instructed.

I thought of illustrating this using a song that’s performed either according to the way it was written, or according to some new interpretation by a particular artist. The level of integrity expressed by the artist depends on how well the performance matches that which the author intended.

For example, we’ve all heard songs performed that don’t sound “right” (sometimes when a current artist performs a classic tune). We hear the rendition and say, “That’s just wrong!”

That’s how I imagine God reacts when we worship Him without integrity.

You can come up with your own song if you choose to use this illustration, but as an example, I offer a guy doing a horrible rendition of a John Lennon classic.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Integrity: Hype vs. Reality

We are studying a lesson titled “Integrity” based on Zechariah 7:1-14. However, integrity is an often-multifaceted word, see the Stanford Encyclopedia entry. How do you define it? In what sense do you think the LifeWay writers use it in the lesson preparation material?

I think they use it to mean, “act with moral purpose”, that is, integrity is concerned with how one lives. Carole Waina’s writing in the LifeWay Extra for this lesson implies that a person without integrity are not what they appear to be, and she uses mystery shoppers as an illustration of people who are not what they appear to be (not to imply that such people are without integrity).

For me, the idea behind the word integrity is that an outward claim does not match an internal reality. You can probably cite many examples of where a claim doesn’t match reality. One example I’ve mentioned before is that of “spot remover”. Typically, I buy it to get rid of a stain, and after trying it, the product fails to live up to the hype.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Integrity, Zechariah 7:1-14

Did yesterday’s lesson go well? Mine did. The class especially liked the “impact wrench” video. Also, the application material I added as an update to the PowerPoint slides was well received.

This week’s lesson “Integrity” focuses on Zechariah 7:1-14. I have not studied Zechariah much, but I’m enjoying studying its intricacies. For example, what do you think motivated the people to come down from Bethel in the first place (7:1-3)? Did they perceive a lack of internal “wholeness”? My guess is they recognized an inconsistency in their motives. Sure, they ask about continuing some fasts they had started during the exile, but God raised questions about their integrity thru Zechariah. Interesting, right?

The Lord knows our inner thoughts and attitudes. We might fool ourselves, but we can’t fool Him. Are you feeling “divided” as a person in some area? You may be experiencing an integrity issue.

I recommend studying Sonshine’s questions for this lesson. They are divided into daily nibbles that can be digested with a reasonably short commitment of time. Answering the questions will help pull you into comprehending the text.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dependence PowerPoint slides: Zechariah 4-6

I’ve posted my “Dependence” PowerPoint slides based on Zechariah 4-6. I encourage you to “play” the slides thru once to get their effect since they look a bit cluttered while in “edit” mode. This should help you see the overall message more clearly.

I think this lesson as presented only touches on relevance. It borders on being a history lesson. As Bible teachers, we must endeavor to be relevant, not just interesting. I’m praying and asking God to show me what areas members need to depend on Holy Spirit. They could be (1) in a witnessing situation, (2) struggling with obedience to a moral command, (3) discouraged in a relationship, (4) defeated by an illness, (5) doubting God’s call to serve, etc. How would you add this discussion into the presentation?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Flying banner message

I'll make this post brief since I am working on my PowerPoint slides. The flying scroll Zechariah saw in Chapter 5 reminds me of a banner message pulled by an airplane. As Mark Rathel mentioned, God's word was not in "book" form back then, but it was available for everyone to read and know! Just as the large print of a flying banner can be seen by all, so the Bible is available today for anyone to read. What is it saying to you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Unexpected result

For teaching the LifeWay lesson “Dependence”, I mentioned yesterday the idea of illustrating the power of the Holy Spirit using a pneumatic wrench (sometimes called an impact wrench). The unexpected result in this video will interject some humor in your lesson.

What endeavor have you tried lately without the Holy Spirit? For example, when we teach a class, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives as the Bible is studied. Clever PowerPoint slides, cute illustrations, or other methods won’t win the day, but the Holy Spirit never disappoints. Spend time praying now for the Holy Spirit to move members hearts and minds in unexpected ways as you teach this Sunday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"pneuma powered"

Dependence” on the Holy Spirit, the topic of this week’s LifeWay lesson from Zechariah 4, is often talked about, but in practical terms, how do we about doing that?

I’m sure you’ve seen an illustration of dependence, or trust, using a chair. Intellectually we believe a chair will support us, but we don’t demonstrate dependence until we sit down in it. We believe in the Holy Spirit, but we don’t demonstrate trust in the Spirit until we learn to rely on Him.

Zerubbabel was admonished by Zechariah to depend on the pneuma, or Holy Spirit to rebuild the temple. Instead of using a self-powered tool, such as a lug wrench, Mike Barres suggests we use a pneumatic tool to illustrate reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit. Using such a pneumatic tool, even the slightest among us would be able to remove lug nuts from a wheel. As Christians, we should be "pneuma powered".

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dependence based on Zechariah 4

Howdy! Well, I made it back from last week’s trip to Alaska. That state is an awesome display of the beauty of God’s creation. Like a lampstand, it is a testimony to dark minds that refuse to see God.

I missed studying LifeWay’s first message from Zechariah, but I’m looking forward to this week’s lesson titled “Dependence” based on Zechariah 4. It spotlights our need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. Some graphics of the visions of Zechariah may help you prepare slides.

Speaking of dependence, I have to say that without an Internet connection I’m an idiot! How much do you rely on it? Try going without for a week. The next time you have a need to know something, try finding an answer without using the Internet. You’ll quickly discover how dependent you are on tools like Google and Yahoo, for example.

How dependent are we on technology? We simply cannot live anywhere near our current standard without it. Similarly, we can ask about our reliance on the Holy Spirit to lead godly lives. How much of the God’s revelation would we know without the Holy Spirit? How much would we believe, or trust without His work in our lives? Would we make even the slightest commitment to Christ without the Holy Spirit?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Site traffic update

Today, I offer an update on site traffic to this blog.

Looking at the chart created by, there was a significant jump in all the statistics for the month of June. Wow! Thanks for spreading the word!

June was the first month ever for returning users to exceed 900, which was up by over 200 users. Visitors also increased to over 2100, which is the most we've ever had, too.

Thank you!

I appreciate each one of you,
P.S. I will not post all next week since I am traveling and will not have Internet access :-(

Thursday, July 05, 2007

PPT lesson helps for Haggai

For the Haggai lesson on “Commitment”, I located a few PowerPoint slide decks that are biblically sound enough that I feel comfortable recommending them to you. If nothing else they offer some formatting and presentation ideas, but I think they all offer solid messages.

Rebuilding the House” from Ron Jacobs offers a detailed background, setting up a lesson from Haggai with an application for individual believers to rebuild their lives with God.

Stay The Course” from Dave Gschwend of Hillside Evangelical Free Church also offers a handout for members (since it is a sermon).

Haggai (part 1)”, “Haggai (part 2)”, “Haggai (part 3)”, and “Haggai (part 4)”, from pastor Hugh Crowder of Lakeland Bible Church, offers an in-depth presentation on Haggai, which I recommend.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Getting starting is the hardest part

Step 3 of this week’s lesson “Commitment” is based on Haggai 1:12-15. The Lord motivated the leaders and the people and they began work on His house (the temple).

This video from a commercial (be warned it’s off color somewhat at the end) illustrates how we all need to be motivated. Ask members to recall a time they had to be motivated by someone in authority (a relative, a football coach, a teacher, a policeman, etc.).

Happy 4th!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Commitment -- Haggai

Studying the prophet Haggai this week, the LifeWay Explore the Bible lesson makes application of his words in a lesson entitled, “Commitment”. Haggai admonished the Jews to rebuild God’s temple, which they neglected for 16 years after Samarian opposition.

I was reminded immediately of Paul’s words in 1 Cor 3:16-17, 6:19 admonishing the Corinthian Christians that they are God’s temple, and the Holy Spirit dwells there. What is your priority to build the house of God? Have you neglected it?

For those of you who remember, LifeWay had another lesson titled “Commitment” on 10/13/02, based on John 6:1-71, with focal passages 6:41-47, 60-69, and key verses 6:67-68. I’ve posted my lesson outline , which has the illustrations I used in teaching that lesson on commitment.

BTW, the Andes Mints were a big hit in class last Sunday! I think people understood the importance of Humility as the key ingredient to life with Christ. I likened it to the mint oil used to flavor Andes Mints.