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. 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.


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.

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.
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.
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.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

LifeWay lesson plan for "Always Trust Christ"

If you haven’t noticed, this week I’m into reading various lesson plans posted on the web for Sunday’s lesson, “Always Trust Christ”.

I rarely see it happen, but occasionally I'll find the LifeWay plan for a lesson posted on the web. This week, Anderson Mill Baptist Church in Austin, TX posted the LifeWay lesson plan for “Always Trust Christ”. If you have the LifeWay curriculum, you probably don't need this. Otherwise, it may be helpful to you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Another lesson plan

Another lesson plan for this week’s lesson, “Always Trust Christ”, based on Matthew 8:1-9:34 was posted by J. Meyer from Bayleaf Baptist Church. I copied it below since previous links to his posts have not been persistent in the past.

ALWAYS TRUST CHRIST Matthew 8:1-3, 23-27; 9:1-8
Life Impact — To help adults trust Christ in all situations that we face.
➢ Pilots learn early to trust the artificial horizon on the instrument panel. Countless airplane accidents have taken many lives when pilots trusted “gut feelings” rather than the artificial horizon, a small instrument that indicates whether pilots are flying level. Flying under instrument flight rules in clouds or fault can give the pilot the erroneous feeling that the plane is leaning to one side.
➢ Trusting gauges rather than gut is much like trusting God rather than self. If we take our eyes off God, we can wind up in a disastrous situation.
➢ Giving control to Christ is no easy task, particularly for those who place their faith in him for the first time during adulthood.
Overview: In these two chapters we see Jesus demonstrate his authority. Matthew balances this major theme with the theme of compassion. The three miracles in chapter 8 show Jesus’ willingness to become unclean in order to make others clean. His works of healing and forgiveness were signs that God’s kingdom was dawning.
Verse-by-Verse Comments:
• This was the mountain Jesus climbed to teach the Sermon on the Mount, and these were the large crowds that followed him in 4:23-25 because of his teaching and healing ministry. Now they had all the more reason to follow him, because of the authority he demonstrated through his teaching in chapters 5-7. It was before such an audience that Jesus continued to reveal his authority.
• The mention of the word leprosy made the first-century reader gasp. Leprosy was the AIDS of the ancient world. Everyone was terrified of this disease. Anyone who came in contact with the leper was ritually unclean (Leviticus 13-14) and at risk of his or her life. Lepers were outcasts. They were to stay far away from healthy people and were obligated to warn anyone who might come near (Lev. 13: 45-46). This man’s willingness to approach Jesus and violate acceptable practice was an expression of his faith. His confident words — not necessarily confidence in Jesus’s willingness, but primarily in his ability — further emphasize the man’s faith. “Lord” was used as a title of respect, like “sir.” The leper was conveying respect to Jesus.
• Jesus’ willingness to touch the leper was an expression of his compassion. Matthew went to great lengths to emphasize Jesus’ action. Instead of recording “Jesus touched him,” Matthew used an expanded version: “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” Jesus’ touch was purposeful. He extended himself for the benefit of this man in need.
• When touching an unclean leper, Jesus would normally have become ceremonially defiled himself (Lev. 13-14). Of course, at Jesus’ touch nothing can be defiled. Jesus not only remained clean; he made the unclean clean. Touch in Jesus’ ministry is important throughout Matthew — especially in 8:15; 9:20, 25, 29. Of course, the man’s restoration was a testimony to the power and authority of Jesus the Messiah-King.
• Having filtered the curious and uncommitted from among his disciples by clarifying the price they would pay (8:19-22), Jesus and his disciples got into the boat he had ordered (8:22). Matthew highlighted the leadership of Jesus by his language: “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” Those who followed them if you are willing to pay the price of 8:18-22.
• The Sea of Galilee was well-known for sudden, unpredictable, and violent storms. It is about 13 miles long from north to south, nearly 7 miles wide at its widest, from west to east. To travel from Capernaum (8:5) at the north end of the sea in the region of the Gadarenes (8:28) at the southeast end would have meant crossing the longest distance possible across the lake. Matthew pointed out that waves were sweeping over the boat. The natural reaction of anyone in this situation would be to bail out of the water, so the disciples must have been working feverishly.
• That Jesus managed to sleep at such a time attests to his humanity. He was exhausted from a long day of ministry. Even though the events of Matthew 8-9 are drawn out of chronological order into a thematic pattern, Matthew was showing that the Messiah was constantly ministering with compassion and authority and that he grew tired from his work.
• The disciples were probably angry that Jesus was not contributing to the bailing effort or exercising his power to help save their lives. To these men of little faith (8:26), Jesus was at least another pair of hands to help man the bailing buckets. The fact that they were so amazed and 8:27 suggests that their plea to save us in 8:25 meant they were looking for his participation and possibly his leadership in averting the crisis. But they apparently did not expect him to exercise such incredible supernatural power. It was one thing to heal leprosy, but quite another to control the fury of nature.
• Still the disciples had at least one necessary ingredient for true faith — an awareness of their helplessness. They despaired for their lives: “we are going to drown!” Their cry for Jesus’ help was more desperation than faith that he would actually stop the storm. Clearly, they did not yet have a full grasp of the nature of Messiah’s mission and his unfinished business.
• It was significant that Jesus rebuked the disciples before he rebuked the winds and the sea. If Jesus had any uncertainty about the outcome of the situation, he would have calmed the sea first, and then saved the lecture for afterward. By his conscious choice, he spoke while the boat was pitching wildly and the rain and wind were clashing violently, and the boat continued to sink. He knew that this was a teachable moment. We can imagine Jesus lingering in the midst of this violent scene, holding the disciples’ eyes for a moment to let his rebuke settle in, and then getting up from where he had been sleeping to calm the sea.
• Jesus’ rebuke of his disciples was justified because of the many miracles they had already witnessed that attested to his identity and power. But they were slow to catch onto the implications of what they had witnessed. Just as Jesus was surprised by the centurions faith (8:10), he was also disappointed at his own disciples’ lack of faith.
• Jesus literally called his disciples “Little-faith ones,” a single Greek adjective he used at times to rebuke his disciples (6:30; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 12:28). These “Little-faith ones,” like you and me, needed to be adding or supplying to their faith the kind of growth that ensured their greater reward (2 Pet. 1:5-9).
• Matthew did not record the actual words of Jesus used to rebuke the winds and the sea, but the words are not important. What is important is the identity and authority of Jesus over the natural world. Matthew chose wording that heightened his absolute authority over nature. Literally, “a great calm happened.” The word galene, “a calm, “is used only here and in the parallel Gospel passages of Mark 4:39 and Luke 8:24. Jesus proved himself to be the God of all nature, praised as sovereign over the mighty seas in Psalms 65:7; 89:9; 107:23-32.
• Three times in chapters 8-9, observers were amazed at Jesus’ miracles (8:27; 9:8, 33), and the same verb is used to Jesus’ response to the centurions faith (8:10). People in the first century had a much greater respect for the forces of nature than we do today (“even the winds and the sea” revealed the disciples’ awe for nature’s power). This respect for nature’s power is reflected by the numerous Old Testament passages that praise God for his control over them. To see the winds and the sea respond instantly to the word of Jesus was a major contribution to their developing understanding of him.
• “What kind of man is this?” The disciples were trying to pigeonhole Jesus. They were now being forced to add a new category to their mental list. Not only were the Pharisees impacted by Jesus’ actions, but Jesus’ disciples were also getting an education beyond what their tradition had offered them previously.
• Although this story includes a miracle, the central emphasis is on Jesus’s authority to forgive sin, not primarily on the physical healing of the paralytic. Jesus’ claim to have authority to forgive sins was validated by the healing of the paralytic, but also by the surrounding context of the series of miracles recorded in Matthew 8-9.
• Jesus and his disciples retraced the journey they had taken south across the Sea of Galilee (8:23-27). This same time they traveled from the southern tip to the northern tip, to Capernaum, which was now Jesus’ own town, his base of operations since 4:13. Note also that, in crossing the lake, Jesus was honoring the request of the Gentiles in 8:34.
• The men who brought the paralytic to Jesus were the companions of the paralytic. (Matthew chose not to record the extent to which their faith took them; that is, tearing through the roof of the house, as Mark 2:3-4 and Luke 5:18-19 did.) All three Gospel writers note that Jesus saw their faith — not just the faith of the paralytic but the faith of the man’s friends. This is significant today. We must realize that our faith or lack of faith has an impact upon the lives of others.
• Jesus’s words to the paralytic were probably even more surprising to the Jewish listeners and readers of the first century than they are to us today. We expect these words to have something to do with the man’s physical healing, but instead he started talking about the man’s spiritual healing. You might be surprised and puzzled, but the Jewish bystanders, especially the religious leaders (9:3), were shocked and offended. In claiming to do only God can do, Jesus was blaspheming, in their opinion. To blaspheme was to insults God’s name and honor by laying claim to an attribute or action that could be attributed to God alone.
• The most fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith is found in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The Lord is a jealous God, unwilling to “yield [his] glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11). The Jews would have been justified in their condemnation of Jesus, if not for the fact that he was indeed the Messiah-King. His miracles and authoritative teaching had already testified to this fact.
• Jesus’s compassion was evident in his encouraging words, “Take heart,” and in his reference to the man as son (literally, “child”). The man was probably feeling intimidated in the presence of the great teacher and feeling unworthy of the attention, due to the humiliation of his physical condition and the sin in his heart.
• Jesus did not say, “your sins will be forgiven” (future tense), which would amount only to exhortation of hope, looking ahead to God’s future forgiveness. Nor did he say, “your sins have been forgiven” (past tense), separating the forgiveness from this encounter. Jesus confidently used the present tense, “your sins are forgiven.” Jesus was boldly proclaiming his word as a means of forgiveness. This was an incredible claim to deity.
• The scribes’ thoughts about Jesus were “said to themselves,” that is, probably only silent thoughts in their own minds. This sets the stage for our appreciation of Jesus’s insight in 9:4. It also emphasizes the fact that sin is not only what comes out of us, but also what is within our minds and hearts. An attitude can be as much a sin as an action or word. Attitudes will inevitably come out as actions and words. This was already happening at least through the scribes’ nonverbal expression.
• We need not assume that Jesus literally read the minds of the scribes. He certainly had the capability to use supernatural mental powers when it was appropriate. At Jesus temporarily gave up the exercise of his divine omissions during his visit to earth (e.g., recalls his surprise at the centurions faith in 8:10). It is not necessary to be a mind reader to know a person’s thoughts under the right circumstances. When a pro-life advocate is in the presence of a pro-choice advocate, a staunch Democrat is a staunch Republican, both know much of what is on the other’s mind. Jesus, the God-man, was an astute student of humankind. He had at least as much insight into people as the wisest and most perceptive people do today. He knew his opponents would be thinking hostile thoughts while he claimed the authority to forgive sins.
• Jesus was justified in declaring the scribes’ thoughts evil. To conclude that Jesus was blaspheming ignored the significance of his authenticating miracles. They had hardened their hearts against God’s truth.
• Having confronted their obstinate disbelief, Jesus prepared them for proof that he had authority to forgive sins and to heal paralysis. Neither spiritual healing nor physical healing is “easier” than the other. But Physical healing is easier to authenticate and spiritual healing, because physical healing happens in the visible realm. Spiritual healing occurs in the invisible spirit realm. If Jesus could prove he had authority to heal physically, he could also prove that he had authority to heal spiritually — to forgive sins.
• Jesus put this reasoning into words: “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He proceeded, with the authority of his word, to reveal a visible truth — that he was able to heal the man’s paralysis.
• The crowd’s reaction was awe and praise to God. There was no mistake that Jesus’ authority came from God. What they praise God for was that he had “given such authority to men.” The crowd apparently so Jesus is a God-ordained prophet, like Elijah or Elisha. They had not yet recognized Jesus’ deity. They had heard the human side of the “Son of Man,” but they had not recognized the divine implications from Daniel 7:13-14.
• God’s glory is the physical, a visible demonstration of his nature and character. To “praise” God is to make them visible to make them known to others. This was what the crowd was doing in their praise. They proclaimed what they had witnessed of God’s nature and character, that he might be made known more fully.
Additional Questions for Discussion:
Matthew 8:1-3 — When You Are Ailing
What did you do the last time you had a virus? How did you feel when the physician said you simply had to weather out the virus? Why does God seem to help sometimes and at other times appear to ignore us?
➢ God hears and answers every prayer, but we do not always understand want to accept the answer he gives.
➢ Jesus demonstrated that no person — absolutely no one — is beyond his love and concern, shown by his concern for the man with the serious skin disease.
How do you respond when you encounter someone with AIDS? How does AIDS compare with leprosy? How does Jesus establish a model for how we are to minister to others?
➢ Although large crowds follow Jesus down the hill after the Sermon on the Mount, the leper demonstrated more than curiosity. He violated religious and ethical standards to approach Jesus.
➢ Ministry should not depend on how others respond to social taboos or myths about diseases. Address the real issues of AIDS, including that you cannot get AIDS merely by touching a person infected with the disease.
➢ Our response to others should not depend on whether there are Christians, but on their needs.
Matthew 8:23-27 — When You Were in Danger
Invite the class members to describe times when they found themselves in dangerous situations. Ask them to brainstorm how to prepare for such dangers.
➢ Some activities can present dangers if we aren’t prepared. For example, snow skiing can be dangerous without the proper clothing, helmet, knowledge of boundaries, and hydration.
➢ Spiritual dangers can arise without proper safeguards as well. Notations have the greatest influence when spiritual defenses are low.
Why did the storm cause so much fear and men who had fished most of their lives? Wouldn’t they have faced storms before? Why was Jesus so calm?
➢ Remind the class of 2004 Indonesian tsunami and ask why the disaster wreaked such devastation and loss of life. Many people were caught without warning.
➢ Matthew used terminology that suggested the storm faced by the apostles was potentially devastating. Their boat could be swamped, and they feared they would die.
Why did the apostles fear the storm so much when Jesus was asleep? How did Jesus react to their fear? How did Jesus react to the storm? Why were the apostles so amazed by Jesus’ power over nature?
➢ “Little faith” emphasized that the disciples demonstrated in adequate faith.
➢ Although the powers of nature can be destructive, all things are still under God’s control.
➢ Jesus is still the anchor onto which we should tie our lives when we faced storms. We can be sure that we will not be abandoned by Christ as we weather our storms.
Matthew 9:1-8 —When You Need Forgiveness
What does “whatever it takes!” mean to you? Where do you draw the line? Are you willing to go beyond “acceptable” behavior to achieve your goal?
➢ Athletes say this is to suggest that they will give 110% to win. Yet some use this statement with wrong motives to suggest that if legal or appropriate means do not achieve their end, then they will do anything to achieve their goals.
➢ Large crowds followed Jesus. Getting a man on a pallet in front of Jesus seemed impossible.
➢ Call attention to the faith of the friends and the lame man. Note that our faith has an influence on others.
➢ Jesus recognized their faith and responded.
Have you ever done something that was right, but people criticized you for your actions? Why? What reactions did you receive?
➢ Encourage the class to share their reactions.
➢ Jesus showed that forgiveness of sins was more important than physical healing. In this he also made clear that he had the authority as the Messiah to forgive sin. ➢ Jesus also knew the hearts of those who charged that he was blaspheming. He knows our hearts as well and can determine whether our actions and influence are based on genuine faith.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Always Trust Christ, Matthew 8:1-9:34

Below is a lesson plan for this week’s lesson, “Always Trust Christ”, based on Matthew 8:1-9:34. See “Sunday School Questions” link from First Baptist Church, Chester, Illinois. I copied it since the link does not appear to be persistent.

Always Trust Christ

Lesson Passage Matthew 8:1-9:34

1. Please state your name and will one or two of you share briefly the biggest challenge you have faced in your life.
2. Do you always trust Jesus Christ in all the situations you face? Why or why not?
3. In the background of our lesson, Jesus healed people. Does He heal people today? Do you know of anyone He has healed? How can this be explained?
4. Why is God always found in "the foxholes of life"? Why do we wait to seek God's help in difficult situations only after we have looked everywhere else?
5. In the first lesson passage, what disease did the man probably have? What potential risks were involved in Jesus' touching the man as He healed him?
6. How concerned would you be if the Pastor asked you to go with him and pray with a man who was dying from AIDS?
7. How much faith did the man possess as he approached Jesus? Think of someone you know or have known with a life-threatening illness, if physical healing doesn't or didn't happen, does that mean that the sick person's faith and trust was inadequate? Defend your answer.
8. What is it that gives you faith to trust Christ with physical problems and sufferings?
9. In some situations we must trust God to help us cope with our sufferings; how do you feel His presence during those times?
10. Here is the question of the there a situation right now in your life that you know Jesus could help you with but you aren't sure He will? What is keeping you from trusting Him?
11. How many of us have seen a storm blow up quickly? How scared were the disciples in verses 23 to 27? To what cause did Jesus attribute their fear?
12. What is the most common response of believers in a time of danger? Why?
13. What storms of life frighten you the most?
14. Do you always trust Jesus to help you in situations that involve risk or danger? If not, why not? If so, how do you know you can trust Him completely?
15. Would someone like to briefly describe a time when you, like the disciples, were awestruck by Christ's awesome, divine power?
16. The account of the paralytic and his friends is also found in Mark and Luke. How do you think the paralyzed man felt about being carried around in his condition?
17.Which do you think was the greatest action of Jesus for the paralytic man: healing his legs or forgiving his sins?
18. Where do you see yourself in this story at the present time? What do you need the most
from Jesus? How difficult is it to trust that Jesus will take care of you?
19. Trusting Jesus opens the door to a daily trust relationship with Him. In what ways is your daily relationship with Jesus Christ sweet?
20. As we close in prayer, let's pray we will be alert for situations, problems, or fears that activate our need to trust Jesus.

Friday, September 14, 2007

PowerPoint "Strive for Godly Perfection", Matthew chapters 5-7

In an earlier post this week, I suggested playing a video of Nadia Comaneci ( To play it offline from your PC, download it (and save it as a “.FLV” file) from Youtube using the website:

My PowerPoint slides for “Strive for Godly Perfection” are posted for you to use as you wish. Break a leg! By the way, since we have such a long background passage, you might want to insert a few more “transition” slides. For example, slides could be inserted to summarize 5:1-19, 27-37, and chapters 6 and 7. Have fun!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

All week long

I started this week with a negative interaction with a bank service representative over a fee charged to my account. I felt taken advantage of, so it has not been easy to let go of the conversation. I keep asking myself what does God wants me to learn from Matthew 4:17-7:29 that applies to the phone call with the bank?

The conversation was very civil at a verbal level, but the attitudes underneath the words felt hostile.

Ask members to think about interactions they had with people this past week. Were there any negative encounters? How were these used to help members prepare to hear this lesson, “Strive for Godly Perfection”?

To give you a head’s up, I’m on track to post my slides this week, Lord willing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Battle plan

Oswald Chambers has an interesting take on the Sermon on the Mount. “Never look for justice, but never cease to give it.” Its message is not “Do your duty”, but rather, “Do what is not your duty.” That’s “Striving for Godly Perfection” all right!

What’s your attitude about “going the second mile”? Do you anticipate a grace filled relationship, or harbor “I’ll show ‘em” thoughts? Jesus’ “battle plan” for his disciples was so total 180 that it is hard to fathom. Consider contrasting a modern battle plan for dealing with difficult people verses what Jesus wants His disciples to do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Structured Programming

As explained by Mark Rathel, the Pharisees developed a set of rules and regulations, which were oral traditions, to prevent their breaking the Mosiac Law. The resulting righteousness was a “religious righteousness” achieved by keeping traditions. They misunderstood that “genuine righteousness” could only be obtained by the grace of God.

For the lesson, "Strive for Godly Perfection," I was thinking about illustrating this using some ideas from Computer Science. Since its inception, the task of developing useful, bug-free, computer software has been very difficult (like attaining rightness before God by human effort is impossible). For example, it’s estimated that Windows Vista operating system has nearly 50 million lines of code with a development team numbering over three thousand people. Yet on its release, the product was known to contain to a number of bugs, or operating anomalies. Developing bug-free software is a very illusive goal.

Computer Science has developed a number of techniques to improve the chances for a software project to produce bug-free code. For example, in the late 70’s a concept of “Structured Programming” (SP) was promoted as the “right way” to develop software. Associated with it, were a number of detailed recommendations, or programming guidelines for developers to follow (like the rules and regulations of the Pharisees). Whether or not a developer took these suggestions could be easily determined by reading his/her code (external behavior could be observed).

Experienced programmers did not always appreciate SP, but nevertheless, many adopted its “go to-less” programming style, which lead to some pretty code. They kept the rules and regulations as an external behavior, but their ability to produce perfect code remained unchanged.

Despite the invention of SP and many other software engineering techniques, developing perfect code is still only a dream (as the Vista example illustrates).

For people, however, genuine righteousness before God can be obtained by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who died as a sacrifice for sin.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Strive for Godly Perfection, Matthew 4:17-7:29

The LifeWay lesson material for Matthew is focused on basic questions concerning Christian behavior. Yesterday, I took an approach of asking members lot’s of questions, and in turn, encouraged them to ask questions. Our discussion was lively and informative. My worries about controlling the dialogue were unfounded. As usual, the Holy Spirit guided our speech to a positive result. Praise the Lord!

Also, this week’s lesson, “Strive for Godly Perfection,” from Matthew 4:17-7:29, answers basic questions about Christian behavior. Our highest goal is to maintain grace-filled relationships that invite people to Christ.

My first thought was to illustrate this lesson with a brief video of Nadia Comaneci scoring a perfect 10 in the 1976 Olympic games. Most of us can’t relate to the training regimen and disciple of such world-class athletes.

However, Jesus commanded believers to “Be perfect” (Matt 5:48). Like Nicodemus, I find myself asking, “How can this be?” (John 3:9). Let’s dig in and see what God’s Word teaches us!

P.S. If you can’t show a video of Nadia’s performance, then fall back to reading excerpts about it from a published article.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

PowerPoint(PPT) for "God's Sinless Son" from Matthew

The notes on my PowerPoint slides for the lesson "God's Sinless Son" can be summarized as follows:

1. I want to encourage members to ask questions.
2. Public commitment is somewhat like that of a flying trapeze artist.
3. The "quick fix" mentality in our culture encourages us to "give in" when we tempted.
4. We want to be famous, but God wants us to know who we are in Christ.
5. "Showing out" (illustrated by a motorcycle jump) is contrary to who God has called us to be.

Don't just look thru the slides in "edit" mode, but "play" them to get a feel for how they will appear to members.

If you have any comments or questions on the slide contents, don't hesitate to let us hear your thoughts!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Proof texting

The Devil illustrates “proof texting” in Matthew 4:5-7, where he quoted a verse from Psalm 91 out of context to make a point which he believes, but is false. Jesus rightly quotes Deut 6:16. Take an opportunity to note that Jesus chose to highlight God’s greatness. Another example of proof texting is to justify binge drinking by quoting 1 Tim 5:23: “use a little wine because of your stomach”.

You might give a few other examples. However, it might create a very interesting discussion to ask class members to share a verse which they think is often quoted out of context. You'll discover what members already know about proof texting.

I’ll try to post my lesson slides by Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quick fix

A “quick fix” mentality pervades our culture. In the wilderness, the Devil offered Jesus a “quick fix” solution for His legitimate need to eat (see Matt 4:1-4). “God’s Sinless Son” resisted the temptation to use His power selfishly and relied on God instead. What is our best solution to a legitimate, personal need? What does God’s Word say about our need?

The Christian’s life is a continuous test. God has revealed Himself and His will for believers in the Bible, which is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training (see 2 Tim 3:16).

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Public commitment

Step 2 of the LifeWay material for our lesson “God’s Sinless Son” emphasizes that John’s baptism made public Jesus’ inner commitment to God (see Matt. 3:13-17). Jesus resisted temptation partly because He was committed to the Father and committed to live according to the Father’s will.

How important is making a commitment public to one’s subsequent follow thru? Consider sharing the experiment described in this article and point out who remained the most committed.

Urge members who have not been baptized to make a commitment to do so. Discuss Christian baptism as a symbol of one’s commitment to God.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Questions, questions, questions

This week’s lesson, “God’s Sinless Son,” is taken from Matthew 3:1-4:11. As I read the verses, I was reminded of some initial questions I had when I first read them years ago.

Why was Jesus baptized? Was Jesus really tempted? What was the relationship between Jesus and John? How was John’s baptism different from that of a Christian? Can I repent of the same sin more than once?

I think it’s important to re-ask even basic questions members may have about Jesus’ baptism and temptation, and especially those from one not well versed in Scripture. People appreciate honest answers to their questions. Growth happens as a result.

Travis Frampton’s commentary on the lesson outlines the predicament of the Jewish people at the time John came. He also offers good questions, too. Interestingly, the Israelites were oblivious to their sinful nature both prior to their exile and at the time of John’s coming. They were deceived.

Surely we are no less human today than they were then, so I wonder in what way are we deceived today? Questions, questions, questions….I suggest that you begin preparation this week by making a list of questions that you will use to start your lesson. Putting up such a list at the beginning is bound to create interest in what you have to say. Sonshine again offers a set of study questions for this lesson that may help you form your own list.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ready, set, go!

Great lesson questions are posted each week on the forum on the LifeWay Explore the Bible lessons.

An idea to show that Jesus is God’s Unique Son is to take ten (10) minutes and have class members identify as many claims as they can about Jesus made by Matthew. Divide them into groups and have them compete with each other to see who can identify the most. Have them write on a marker board or tear sheet of paper as they work. Remember, neatness counts! If you can’t read it then it doesn’t count! Ready set go…

1:1 Son of David, Son of Abraham
1:18 conceived by the Holy Spirit
2:2 called ‘king of the Jews’ by wise men
2:11 worshipped by wise men
2:13 miraculously protected
2:23 fulfilled what was said thru the prophets
3:17 identified as God’s Son from heaven…