Friday, August 31, 2007

frankincense and myrrh

How Stuff Works explains frankincense and myrrh as sap originating from particular trees. Mixing them with other elements such as spices, for example, makes incense. Do babies have a sense of smell? Jesus is the God-man, who can certainly smell. What is the aroma of our worship of Him?

Consider carrying a spray room freshener with an orange, or lavender scent to class. Before class, spray the freshener around the classroom, and see if members notice when they enter. Later, this will help them better understand your discussion of frankincense and myrrh and their meaning. Surely frankincense would be a familiar smell to Jesus having smelled its aroma since it was used in temple worship, and myrrh would remind Him of His coming sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Expected, but unexpected value

I had a meeting this week with an individual whom I did business with for years over the phone, but had never met. There were some expectations on my part before the meeting, but when he arrived for lunch we had a great time catching up and making plans. Unexpectedly, the value of the meeting was even better than I had hoped for. Likewise, the birth of Jesus was expected, but unexpected value resulted when He came.

Mark Rathel’s commentary on this week’s lesson, “God’s Unique Son” gives a clear picture of both Jesus as Messiah and as God’s Son, but he highlights ways in which Jesus was unique. What an unexpected value He is!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

God's Unique Son

Pastor Jim McCullen’s comments on this week’s lesson from Matthew 1:18-2:3,7-11, highlights the contrast in the real worship intentions of King Herod and the actual worship conducted by the wise kings who met “God’s Unique Son”. We should make those distinctions clear to members in our classes by asking, “What are our real intentions when we come to worship Jesus Christ?”

Saturday, August 25, 2007

PowerPoint(PPT) for "Worship Appropriately" from Malachi

I posted the final version of my PPT slides for this week’s LifeWay lesson from Malachi. I undated the slide on New Testament Giving and tweaked the points on a number of other slides. I appreciate the study questions offered by Sonshine for “Worship Appropriately”.

Sorry to put you thru versioning of all the slides this week, but it is hard for me to get things right the very first time! Preparing this lesson has not been the most difficult part of preparation, but preparing the heart of the teacher was very difficult! May God also prepare the hearts of members this Sunday as we teach His Word.

Friday, August 24, 2007

PowerPoint(PPT) for "Worship Appropriately" from Malachi

Okay, I posted the second draft of my PPT slides for “Worship Appropriately” (copied over the previous draft). I added a few more slides and improved the comments on the “notes” portion of some slides.

I’m getting more comfortable with the section on tithing, although I still want to hone the presentation a bit more in that area. Stay tuned!

Please let me know if see something that would be an improvement to the slides!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

PowerPoint(PPT) for "Worship Appropriately" from Malachi

I’ve posted a draft of my PPT slides for “Worship Appropriately,” based on Malachi 2:17-4:6. I’m unsettled on how much to discuss the tithing issue. Houston FBC’s David Self’s commentary takes a traditional view of tithing. Dr. Sam Tullock’s commentary on this lesson avoids the tithing issue altogether and only poses a question to stimulate discussion. Hmmm? I inserted a slide on New Testament giving, but it includes only summary points. See the notes sections of the slides for other references.

Well, if you can improve the slides, please post a note so the rest of us can take advantage of your insight. May God bless each of you as you are lead by His Spirit to teach this Sunday.

I’ll close with a quote from Proverbs that you may want to think about as you prepare. Proverbs 22:19 "So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tithing testimonies

About 30 years ago I remember being asked to give a “tithing testimony” in the local church we attended. It went something like this: “Members were encouraged to complete commitment cards as the offering plate was being passed one Sunday. I hurriedly converted from my monthly salary to the form’s requested "weekly amount".

"Driving home, my wife and I discussed the amount and we realized I had made a $400 error. I promised more than I could give! I quickly called my Sunday School teacher and asked for his advice. What should we do? Retrieve the pledge card and re-work it? Just pray about it? Or simply ignore it?

"It was a serious matter to us and so we began to pray. About a week later I received an unexpected consulting request that yielded an additional $4000 in income that year, which exactly covered the $400 short fall in our pledge.”

How long has it been since you heard a “tithing testimony” in church? I haven’t heard one in at least two decades. Is that just my experience? If not, why do you think such testimonies are no longer used?

I don’t agree with the comments on tithing in Billie Friel’s commentary on “Worship Appropriately.” Harry Leafe offers a better commentary on New Testament Giving.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hmmm ... How to approach teaching Malachi 3?

Mark Rathel notes in his commentary on “Worship Appropriately,” that Malachi wrote to urge a discouraged, unrepentant and “unloving people” to rightly judge between good and evil, to give appropriately to the LORD, to encourage others by highlighting God’s nature (revealed in His names), and to have hope in the coming “Day of the Lord.”

From the same Scripture passage, Malachi 2:17-4:6, Kathryn Aragon takes a more interesting approach in her lesson commentary, “Worship Appropriately.” She connects people’s attitudes today to those of whom Malachi wrote. She notes our desire for immediate results, but our need to rely on God, who has a different plan. She mentions the necessity of patience on our part, and an action plan to focus on the Lord and His truth.

You can build your lesson around either of these commentaries, but I think taking Kathryn’s approach is potentially more interesting and relevant as long as you make the connections clear and keep it Bible based.

A blurb about Kathryn from the Texas Baptist Standard website:
Kathryn Aragon, writer of the Explore the Bible Series, is a freelance writer and creative consultant with 15 years of experience writing ministry-related articles and training materials. She is Creative Director in Duncanville’s First Baptist Church’s media ministry, as well as Banner Director of the banner ministry. Kathryn writes curriculum, press releases, magazine articles, and marketing materials. She also does graphic arts and web design for churches and small businesses.

Mark Rathel is an Associate Professor of Theology at Baptist College of Florida.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Worship Appropriately

Today, in a medical center, I watched as a nurse carefully prepared a patient for a surgical procedure. A number of key steps were taken in advance to insure that the procedure was successful, which it was. Essentially, questions about medical history, multiple diagnostic tests, a last minute ECG, and cleaning of the surgical site were all conducted to make sure the patient was completely ready for the surgery. All the preparation was appropriate.

As I watched, I thought about this week’s lesson topic, Worship Appropriately, based on Malachi 2:17-4:6. Just as the medical professionals worked to appropriately prepare the patient for surgery, Malachi described how Messiah would cleanse the Jewish people to worship the LORD with righteousness, which is entirely appropriate.

The Lord’s refinement was like cleansing lye, which was used in Old Testament purification rites. When I was a kid, my dad would clean the tarnish off coins using a paste he made from scratch. Unfortunately, I don’t know the recipe. Otherwise, turning a dirty penny into a shinny one might be a cool illustration of cleansing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Bible says "to share"

This picture of a man sharing his umbrella with his wife illustrates idea behind the custom referred to in Malachi 2:16. He is holding the umbrella and she is under his care.

Pray for all the teachers this week teaching “Live Honorably”. Because of the prevalence of divorce in our society, I think it will be a difficult lesson to teach.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Going back on your word

One way to “Live honorably” is not to break faith, or “go back on your word”, whether at work, or in a marriage relationship. Google that phrase and lots of examples pop up, such as the recent Survivor example where Dreamz Went Back on His Word to Yao-Man. In the show Finale, the player named Boo addressed the issue with Dreamz.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Illustrating breaking an agreement

As usual, SonShine developed study questions for this week’s Explore the Bible lesson, which comes from Malachi 2. To Live Honorably, we must be covenant keepers just as the Lord is a covenant keeper.

What is the impact of breaking, or “not keeping” our agreements (covenants)? You can site statistics on divorce rates, spousal abuse, or speak anecdotally about the impact on our Christian witness.

Another graphic way of illustrating how devastating breaking an agreement can be is to present a disaster such as the Frank Slide. People working in and around the Frank mountain operated with an understanding that it would keep its "agreement" to stand tall. When “that agreement” was broken, the mountain fell, and 70 people lost their lives. That’s the way it is when we break our agreements. The results are devastating.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Live Honorably, Malachi 2:1-16

Based on Malachi 2, LifeWay titled this week’s lesson “Live Honorably”. The Israelites were in covenant relationship with God. Christians are in a new covenant relationship established by Jesus Christ. The question is what old covenant teaching in Malachi 2 is relevant to new covenant Christians? Plenty.

I urge you to read the LifeWay Extra for this lesson written by Carole Waina. She has obviously put a lot of thought into teaching this lesson.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Love vs hate

I plan to carry two apples to class to illustrate God’s choice between Jacob and Esau. I will ask a member to chose an apple from the pair when covering Malachi 1:2-3. Most likely the person will chose an apple based on appearance, etc. (illustrating how we judge based on appearance). As humans, we tend to make the apple the issue.

God didn’t do that. He simply made a choice to accomplish with whom to accomplish His purpose. He favored Jacob and didn’t favor Esau. See the LifeWay Leader Guide discussion on p. 118 for a discussion of love vs. hate. As I understand it, the Hebrew does no refer to an absolute love for Jacob and an absolute hate of Esau. Instead, the Hebrew simply indicates a favoring one individual and not the other not based on God's purpose (not that one was better than the other in some way or another).

Friday, August 10, 2007

Love Wholeheartedly, Malachi 1:1-14, PowerPoint

I've posted the first draft of my PPT slides for the LifeWay lesson "Love Wholeheartedly", which is based on Malachi 1:1-14.

I'm considering whether or not we'll have class time to accomodate a slide on the names of God. If I make a substantive change like that, I'll post a new version and let you know.

Of course it goes almost without saying, but if you make any changes or additions to the slides, post a comment here so everyone else can benefit from your insight! Thanks!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

New Covenant sacrifices

The lesson “Love Wholeheartedly” is wrapped up with Malachi 1:13-14. Jews sacrificed animals as sin offerings (also thank offerings), but in the hum drum of everyday duties, they lost their high view of the LORD. The priests grew weary of making sacrifices day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. Their work became a burden, and they developed poor attitudes and adopted deceitful practices.

New Testament Christians no longer make sacrifices for sin since Christ paid that price once for all (every believer's past, present and future sins—see Hebrews 7:27). Scripture does teach, however, that Christians are to make sacrifices—see Romans 12:1, Philippians 4:18, Hebrews 13:15, Hebrews 13:16, and 1 Peter 2:5.

As you end preparation for your lesson, consider the idea of teaching the sacrifices that can be offered by Christians as worship to God, and then challenge members to pursue these wholeheartedly out of love.

P.S. For those of you interested, I'll try to post my slides tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Weighty, or weightless?

Step 2 of the LifeWay Explore the Bible lesson this week focuses on Malachi 1:6-12. To “Love Wholeheartedly” (note: Kathryn Aragon’s mention of the “love bug”) we must honor the Lord.

Interestingly, the word honor as explained in the LifeWay Adult Commentary suggests a weightiness that God has to us as we live life. Just how weighty is God to you? Is He weightless in your life, or is He an eight hundred pound gorilla, so to speak, that commands your respect? Is He a person that you honor by the way you worship Him?

Note: We are not under the Mosaic covenant, or legal system like the people to whom Malachi wrote. Nevertheless, God is interested in us honoring Him in worship today. What N.T. verses would you site to make this point? What sacrifices does the Lord command of us? Can you site specific N.T. verses to support your answer? Were the priests, who are mentioned in Mal. 1:7-8, willfully wrong, negligent, or simply lackadaisical about God’s requirements on them and the people? In what ways are we inattentive about honoring God today?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Short memory

Malachi describes what matters most to God, but ancient Israel was self-centered (as are people today).

It seems that we humans, in spite of our intelligence, suffer from an easily caught disease of ingratitude. Regardless of how much God blesses, it seems that we shortly forget it, and turn to complaining and whining. With respect to the Lord, we quickly forget Him and adopt an attitude of "What have you done for me lately?" as can be illustrated here and by this article. How would illustrate the short memory we humans have?

The LifeWay lesson “Love Wholeheartedly” is based on Malachi, chapter 1. On my PowerPoint slides, I will highlight the “assertion”, the “question”, the “defense”, and the “proof” to help members understand how to read Malachi’s style of writing. The idea is pictured in the slide below.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Love Wholeheartedly, Malachi 1:1-14

This week begins a three-week study of Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets. The first lesson is “Love Wholeheartedly”, which teaches us what matters to God.

It matters to Him for us to know that He loves us, and it matters to God that we honor Him. The lesson is about what matters to the Lord. We want to make it about what matters to us.

This has me thinking about opening the lesson with an illustration of “It’s what matters!” as seen by people in the world today. For example, a cyclist in the Tour de France prologue suffered some setbacks, "But I've got the yellow jersey, it's what matters." This jersey signifies that he is the overall leader.

Have any of you heard of a game called “It’s What Matters!”? It might serve as an opening if I can figure out how the game works.