Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oh my!

Step 3 of the lesson, “What is your goal in life?” informs believers regarding God’s will for sexual purity (confining sex to marriage of a man and woman). Is this a problem for our class members today? If you believe the statistics, it is. Given the Bible’s clear teaching on this matter, why do you think it is still prevalent in the church? Ignorance of the Word? No fear of the Lord? Lack of spiritual growth? Some members are unbelievers? Impulsive behavior?

Have an honest discussion about this issue in your class, and ask members to help add to the suggestions above. Understanding “why” might lead particular individuals to come to grips with personal sin. Perhaps you should lead the class in praying thru 1 John 1:9.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Forgetting facilitates growth

Step 2 in the lesson, “What is your goal in life?” emphasizes the principle of how believers should live, but it also highlights that a growth process is at work—“do so even more”.

Call this phrase to the attention of class members and then ask, “What does it mean that adult Christians are to ‘do so even more’?” Pause and allow members to answer.

The pause may seem a bit awkward, but asking a question like this forces class members to think beyond simple factual recall. Afterward you can bring out an illustration by reading Philippians 3:12-16. Forgetting facilitates growth. How so?

If you have time, the LifeWay ETB Adult Leader Guide asks the discussion question: “Do Christians have the right to live as we want, since we cannot lose our salvation? Why?” (p. 62). What Bible verses would you cite to support your thinking?

We can discuss answers to these questions here if you post a comment.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What is your goal in life? 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

Joy Ross’s commentary on this week’s lesson from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, “What is your goal in life?” shares her husband’s goal to bring her a brass tea service from Southeast Asia.

To get members thinking about how they approach establishing a life goal, consider introducing the lesson with brief statements illustrating various philosophies of life. Identify the author’s implied goal in life based on their philosophical quote. Goals may include “just trying to live,” “live it up,” or “seeking what’s in it for me”.

What is your philosophy of life? What goal does it translate to?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When others cared for you, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13

The lesson, “When others cared for you,” is based on 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13. This passage reveals the reality of spiritual warfare (see 2:18 and 3:5). Mark Rathel’s lesson commentary makes a point of Paul’s example of discipleship. He notes Satan’s number one strategy is to take advantage of our “busyness”.

Holding a discussion on busyness is one way to introduce the lesson. Certainly all of us have used the “too busy” excuse to care for others at one time or another.

Perhaps a way to start the lesson is to talk about our “list of things to get done.” What fails to make your list?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

To the point

A lesson plan "For Christmas" from Dr. Lucien Coleman was posted on the Riverland Hills Baptist Church site. It's brief, and offers a pointed message. He uses the traditional "nativity scene" as an ice-breaker.

What are your picks for the top 10 Christmas specials that have been broadcast on TV? You could show the list to your class to see if anyone remembers what made them special?

The lesson covers Mary's Song, so you might want to discuss the top 10 Christmas songs (one of many such lists) instead.

If you have a last minute question about the lesson, post a comment. I'll reply, and perhaps others, too!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For Christmas, Luke 1:26-56

Remember, as teachers, we want our Bible lessons to be clear, relevant, interesting, and biblically based.

As an aid toward one of these ends consider building your lesson “For Christmas“ around a video. As an example, I like the Jesus and Santa video. It should help make the message of your lesson clear. The video, What is the Christmas Story should help make the message clear, relevant and interesting. A Christmas Response is based on Luke 1:31, and fits the LifeWay lesson plan, but it could help your lesson be more relevant and interesting.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Last minute help!

A few last minute links for help in teaching 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16:

* Jeff Meyers lesson plan: “When Others Helped You

* Houston’s Second Baptist lesson plan: “Pattern for Persuasion,” by Wallace Henley

* Riverland Hills Baptist Church lesson plan: “WHEN OTHERS HELPED YOU,” by Brian L. Harbour (see p. 2)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Resume lying

Paul was in Corinth when he pinned 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16, the background passage for this week’s lesson, “When Others Helped You”. Had the Thessalonians been “taken for a ride?” Was Paul deceiving them?

Scan 2 Corinthians 10-13, paying attention to the context of 10:7, 10:12, 11:5-6, 12:1, 12:11, 13:3, and 13:5. Notice that Paul is defending himself to the Corinthians. Had he “sold them a bill of goods?” Had he misrepresented himself?

Resume lying is a common practice today. According this article, it’s as high as 50%. To help learners understand the context of 1 Thessalonians, bring up the topic of misrepresenting oneself, and the negative results of lying on a resume.

Monday, December 08, 2008

When Others Helped You, 1 Thess 2:1-16

The first thought I had about teaching this week’s lesson, When Others Helped You, is the great opportunity it presents to recruit a co-teacher from your class. But how difficult is it to find a suitable, qualified Bible teacher?

To get started, briefly outline teacher qualifications and show a list of names of Best Bible Teachers in America (or make up your own list). Ask your class members to select their favorite. This is an alternative to asking members to recall their favorite teacher in school.

Note: over a 100 people downloaded the slides from yesterday’s lesson!

Friday, December 05, 2008

PPT slides for "When You Started Out", 1Thessalonians 1:1-10

Two things:

1. I added the Google Followers gadet to this blog (see right side of page). Please sign up as a Follower. I promise, you will not be spammed! :-)

2. I posted my PowerPoint slides for the lesson, "When You Started Out." The slide notes contain a link to Jeff Meyer's lesson, which I referenced.

May God bless your lesson this week!


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thank God and commend others

In preparing to teach, “When you started out”, I thought of previous members of my class that have moved on to serve in other places. I thank God for enabling their service when we were together. If you’ll suggest a few names, my guess is that your class members can name others, too. Take a moment and pray for the previous members named, and do thank God for them!

If you have time, pass out a few thank you cards to members who volunteer to write a note to the former class members.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

God chooses. We believe.

Do you plan to address the doctrine of election, as does Roger Freeman in his comments on the lesson, “When you started out?”

Dan Wallace says it’s analogous to that of inspiration (see 11). Please also read David Self’s comments (section “Genuine faith”).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Remember when...

To me, Paul wanted to encourage the church at Thessalonica, so he wrote them a letter reminding them of their salvation. As you teach the lesson, “When You Started Out,” make the point of how important it is to encourage others. Then show this picture.

Ask members to say what they think the player on the left is saying to encourage the player on the right (presumably a pitcher). Listen for use of the word “remember”, and if no one uses it, then offer your own version by saying something like, “Hey! Remember when you struck out this same guy in the title game last year? You can do it again! Throw some heat up there. I know you can do it!”. Stirring the memory of their salvation is what Paul did to encourage the Thessalonians.

Monday, December 01, 2008

When You Started Out, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

"When You Started Out" is the title of our lesson this week. It’s taken from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. In addition to your typical reading, I encourage you to read the NetBible translation of 1 Thessalonians because of the translator notes it provides. For example, the translator notes (see the bottom of the page) for verse 1 explains the somewhat blunt greeting in verse 1. The note for verse 3 mentions “Christian virtues in action,” which is helpful. Note 16 points out why verse 8 was translated “message of the Lord” instead of “word from the Lord.” The NetBible site also provides an audio version of the text, and a handy “Discovery Box” that has topical links for “Background and History” and “Names, People and Places”. Included also are links to a “Study Dictionary”, maps, and “Sermon Illustrations.”

This lesson will be taught on Dec 7th, the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which was a world changing event. Because of “Who you are in Christ,” are you “turning the world upside down?”

Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm done

I am thankful for pastors that post their Bible study lesson plans. They are a great help to Southern Baptist adult Bible teachers. For example, Jeff Meyer starts his lesson plan, “When Considering Matters of Life and Death” with an illustration of the instability of the recent financial market.

James Patterson also posted a lesson plan for your consideration, and an Exciting Bible Study lesson plan by David Williams is available for $5.00. It’s worthwhile if you want to explore a change in your approach.

Considering the aim of the lesson, “to help adults acknowledge the security that can be found in God’s salvation,” I thought it might be helpful to consider a previous lesson plan with a similar aim. For example, an old lesson, “Always Trust Christ” from Jeff Meyer begins with an illustration of how a pilot trusts his instruments versus his gut.

Since most of us are pretty full after yesterday’s gorging, it’s probably not wise to start a conversation about “guts,” so I’ll close by calling your attention to Steve Guidry’s post of a Study Guide for this lesson (scroll thru the document to the last page).

Our Thanksgiving table is pretty full, but there's always room for more. If you are aware of other lesson resources for SBC Bible teachers, make a comment and let us know about them.

Take care my friends and may God bless your teaching this week!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Avoid muddying the water

While driving up to Little Rock yesterday to celebrate Thanksgiving, we discussed how to share the gospel with someone. After lots of talking, the most clear, Biblically correct expression emerged as a single question. “Are you trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?”

Avoid “muddying the water”. Use this as you teach the lesson, “When Considering Matters of Life and Death,” by placing two glasses of water on a table. One should hold clear water and the other should be full of muddy water. Ask members which one they think would appeal most to a thirsty person.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving, be open to an opportunity the Lord brings into your life and ask, “Are you trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?” Ask it with an emphasis on the presence tense as David did in his song of praise to the Lord, 2 Samuel 22:1-51.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Trust meter reading

In the background passage 2 Samuel 21-24 for the lesson, “When Considering Matters of Life and Death,” it struck me that David sought the LORD (21:1), sang to the LORD (22:1), and then sinned against the LORD (24:10). David is another proof point of man’s fallibility. Given David’s example, why do we continue to put our hope and trust in men?

Looking at the passage again, I noticed that God answered prayer (21:14), delivered David (22:1), plagued Israel (24:15) because of sin, was grieved (21:16), and again answered prayer (24:25). The passage is another proof point for God’s faithfulness, His integrity, and His salvation. Considering His person, why do we fail to put our trust in the Lord?

The writer of the text seems to encourage us to trust the Lord, who does not fail (compare 2 Sam 22:2-4 to Psa 18:1-3). My alternate title for the lesson might be just that. Trust the Lord, who does not fail. Ask members to examine their “trust meter”.

Monday, November 24, 2008

When Considering Matters of Life and Death

To help focus attention each week on what the key verses teach, co-teacher Curt and I almost always offer an alternate lesson title to what LifeWay suggests. For example, I titled the lesson, “When Tangled in Sin” to a more direct message of “Love God’s Word and Obey It.”

How would you alternately title this week’s lesson, “When Considering Matters of Life and Death?” It’s the last in our series from 2 Samuel, and is based on chapters 21-24.

Mark Rathel named it “David the Worshiper.” Judi Page titled it, “Reflecting on the past.” Sonshine labeled it, “Closing the Life of David.”

To answer this question, I pray for God to help me understand what the background passage teaches. Then I read it, and write a single sentence describing what I think it teaches. Then I work at shortening this sentence to use as few words as possible while retaining the direct message. Please click the comment link below and tell us your alternate title for this week's lesson.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Study Guide

For the lesson, “When Family Bonds Shatter,” Steve Guidry posted an interesting Study Guide (scroll thru the document to the next-to-last page). I say it’s interesting because you could pass out copies of it to your class members and ask them to complete it as you teach the lesson. I think Steve is affiliated with First Baptist, Tyler?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holding a grudge

Jeff Meyer’s lesson plan for “When Family Bonds Shatter” suggests opening with a discussion of famous broken families. To prepare for this consider using examples from the Pope Family Feud, Donovan Family Feud, and the Brown Family Feud. If you’d rather use these as examples in Step 5 of the lesson, then focus on what schemes were used instead.

Karen Conner opens her lesson plan using an example family feud that has a happy ending.

Lastly, regarding “holding a grudge,” I liked this statement: “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I found it in the comment section of this post.

Evidently there is some science as to how holding a grudge affects the heart.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Non-reconciliation, Let me count the ways it cost thee

Dan Kassis, Internet Producer at LifeWay Sunday School sent an email with a special note for teaching the lesson, “When Family Bonds Shatter.” The following caution contained a suggestion for opening the lesson:

“Due to the sensitive nature of this lesson, refrain from offering a light-hearted or amusing icebreaker to begin your class session. Instead: Allow each learner to share one thing about their families - either spouses and children, or the families they grew up in - for which they are thankful to God.”

In step 4 of the lesson on Reconciliation, consider sharing selected elements of the article “The Many Costs of Conflict.” The author outlines the expense of non-reconciliation in four areas: Direct Cost—Fees of lawyers and other professionals; Productivity Cost—The opportunity cost of what those involved would otherwise be producing; Continuity Cost—Loss of ongoing relationships including the "community" they embody; and Emotional Cost—The pain of focusing on and being held hostage by our emotions.

Monday, November 17, 2008

When Family Bonds Shatter, 2 Samuel 13-20

We study 2 Samuel 13-20 this week in a lesson titled, “When Family Bonds Shatter”. LifeWay Extra writer Dana Armstrong suggests an introduction using an article that identifies the top reasons for family conflict during holidays.

Writing for Focus on the Family, Mary J. Yerkes describes three scenarios of unresolved conflict. You might consider opening the lesson using the one involving the mother and daughter in the same church.

When considering the failures in David’s family, Sonshine notes the principle given in 1Co 10:6—These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

PTT Slides for "When Tangled in Sin", 2 Samuel 12

Jeff Meyer starts his lesson, “When Tangled in Sin,” with a discussion of cause-and-effect relationships. He ties this to the choices made by David, and their subsequent positive, or negative results. I like this because it clearly ties personal action and later consequences.

Writing to Mississippi Baptists, Ginger M. Caughman’s commentary on the lesson that David’s temptation came during a period of idleness, which reminded me of the admonition, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

I posted a draft of my PowerPoint slides for Sunday. At church last night, a friend told me about another teacher's use of PowerPoint, which I liked. To make better use of class time, the class coordinator and prayer leader puts announcements and prayer requests (submitted ahead of time) on slides. The slides begin with a clock count down against a fast-paced music background, which encourages members to take a seat. Pretty cool!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's sin?

2 Samuel 12:9 indicates David despised the word of God. The aim of the lesson, “When Tangled in Sin,” is to help class members confess their sin. Through the law we become conscious of sin (Romans 3:20b). While not exhaustive, Jesus named a number of sins in Mark 7:21-22, and Paul made a list in Galatians 5:19-21.

My point is to use the Word to help members recognize their sin. Articles like this one indicate the need is great! Here is a clip from the article:

A new survey by Ellison Research in Phoenix finds 87% of U.S. adults believe in the existence of sin, which is defined as "something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective."

Topping the list are adultery (81%) and racism (74%).

But other sins no longer draw majority condemnation. Premarital sex? Only 45% call it sin. Gambling? Just 30% say it's sinful.

"A lot of this is relative. We tend to view sin not as God views it, but how we view it," says Ellison president Ron Sellers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blind to seven deadly sins

In “When Tangled in Sin,” Mark Rathel parallels the “invitation for judgment” of Nathan’s parable told to King David and that of the parables told by Jesus. He mentions our propensity to judge the sins of others more harshly than we judge our own, and he hit home, when he noted, “An individual with an intention to sin can always find a rationalization for sin.” For example, see 1 Samuel 15:24. Saul confessed his sin, but also justified it.

Step 2 of the lesson encourages us to confront our sin. We all have physical blind spots, and this article mentions how we are “blind to our own sin.” The article also discusses Seven Deadly Sins(about a fourth of the way down the page). I’m thinking of mentioning these sins in my discussion to help members confront their sin.

Monday, November 10, 2008

When Tangled in Sin, 2 Samuel 9:1-12:31

Writing in the Texas Baptist Standard, Louis Johnson’s commentary on this week’s lesson, “When Tangled in Sin” emphasizes that repentance is a choice. He notes that we all agree we are sinners until we are individually confronted with a specific sin, then we blame others, or justify our actions.

The heart of this lesson is to help adults confess their sin to God and receive forgiveness. Read Psalm 32:3-5. Consider starting the lesson by asking members to discuss this quote:

"Guilt on the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal."
British Bishop, Robert South

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Death of a vision

Brad Shockley’s illustration of a moving bull’s-eye contrasted with God’s fixed standard is very appropriate for use in teaching the lesson, “When Assessing One’s Lifework.”

Sam Tullock’s commentary encourages those who feel “put on the shelf.” Reading it, I thought of how David's idea of a "dream home" for the Ark came to an end. His vision died when God intervened.

You might share this story of the “death of a vision,” and ask members to discuss how God has intervened in their life plans.

Monday, November 03, 2008

When Assessing One’s Lifework, 2 Samuel 5-8

Michael posted a comment noting that Second Baptist of Houston publishes a lesson plan for Explore the Bible teachers. This week’s lesson, “When Assessing One’s Lifework” should captivate member interest since we all wonder at times whether or not our lives are in line with God’s purposes. The lesson is based on 2 Samuel 5-8.

The text indicates that “progressive success (from the Lord’s perspective)” is the result of God’s blessing. As a servant of the Lord, David’s life successes were designed by the Lord as a blessing to all Israel.

Correspondingly, you might ask, how has your service to the Lord been a blessing to His church. For example, do you have a track record of successfully serving the Lord? Has He blessed you in teaching, administration, giving, etc.?

God gave David a period of rest, but David found it dissatisfying. He wanted to build a lavish home for the Ark of the Covenant, but the Lord intervened. Applying this to your life, you might ask, when has God intervened in my life? Did my failure in some endeavor imply a lack of the Lord’s blessing?

Can 20-20 hindsight serve as a guide for future action? Mark Rathel figures there is no such thing as a self-made man. What are your "secrets to success"?

I'm still trying to understand what application of this particular text is correct for Christians. Have you successfully figured it out?

Friday, October 31, 2008

PPT slides for "When Responding to Loss", 2 Samuel

Two principles suggested by Sonshine help to crystallize the lesson, “When Responding to Loss.” The first, “Lamenting and Memorializing of others in death is a godly trait” fits with the LifeWay topic. The second, “God is dishonored by presumptuous sins. Avenging is God’s work, not man’s” underscores the opportunity for broader application of the background passage, 2 Samuel 1:1-4:12.

I’ve posted the PPT slides which I plan to use Sunday (Lord willing). Be sure and “play” the slides, otherwise you’ll miss some of the text. May God bless your preparation this week, and thanks to all the commentators and others who published lesson preparation helps this week! They are such a blessing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beware of man's selfish ambition

The lesson, “When Responding to Loss” is aimed at those who will suffer loss, which includes all of us. It is not intended for those surrounding a person who suffers loss.

As part of the background passage, it’s instructive to compare how David responded to the loss of Saul and Jonathan with his response to the loss of Abner (2 Sam 3:28-39) and Ish-Bosheth (2 Sam 4:9-12). Furthermore, contrast Joab’s murder of Abner (2 Sam 3:22-26) in response to his having legitimately killed Joab’s brother in battle (2 Sam 2:18-23).

Mark Rathel’s commentary doesn’t stick to the “responding to loss” topic. Instead he takes the passage 2 Samuel 1-4 more for the spiritual principles it teaches.

You also might consider Bob Deffinbaugh’s “black hat and white hat” approach (See the section titled 'What we can learn from Joab and Abner'). I think it could be made to work with all four chapters (2 Sam 1-4) with an alternate title of "Beware of man's selfish ambition".

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Inappropriate Twitter

Proverbs 26:27 is true. What Saul wanted to happen to David (die in battle against the Philistines) happened to Saul. David’s greatness is illustrated in how he deals with the loss of Saul and Jonathan. His sincerity provides us insight “When Responding to Loss.”

Each week, I always watch how God orchestrates events in my life to help me prepare to teach His Word. For example, we received news today that the son-n-law of a friend lost his battle with cancer. I’m thankful to be studying this lesson. What’s happening in your life this week to help you prepare?

Writing about 2 Samuel 1:1-27, Bob Deffinbaugh advises against the pop-psychology adage to “get it all out” by saying everything that is true should not be told. For example, David’s lament regarding Saul wasn't a tell-all of what David knew to be true about Saul.

Ask members to name what they’ve found to be inappropriate at a funeral. An example is illustrated in the story, “Colorado Newspaper Twitters Three-Year Old’s Funeral.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When Responding to Loss, 2 Samuel 1:1-4:12

Peter Hicks offers a number of things to say and do in his book, “What could I say?”. Concerning the topic of “loss”, he offers specific advice on what to say and what not to say when facing abortion, bereavement, divorce, illness, miscarriage, trauma, and unemployment.

These are particularly helful for very practical Christain response to loss. I've used my copy many times. I pulled it off the shelf and reviewed it as I started preparing to teach this week’s lesson, “When Responding to Loss”, based on 2 Samuel 1:1-4:12.

Most of us want to avoid saying something inappropriate in the case of bereavement. Would you recommend joining a “grief and loss” group to someone suffering loss?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Handy learner handout

Mark Cimijotti posted a lesson plan for “Conform to God’s Agenda” that includes a two-page learner handout. Cool! Mark is a single-adult teacher at Carmel Baptist Church.

Given their potential influence and usefulness, I’m still wondering why more teachers and church leaders don’t publish their own Internet version of a weekly lesson plan?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Helpfulness of a lesson plan?

I won’t post PPT slides this week, but thankfully Jeff Meyer at Bayleaf Baptist published a lesson plan for teaching “Conform to God’s Agenda”. My perception is that plans like his are helpful (vs commentary) because they are trustworthy, concise and make it is easy to incorporate key points into your own lesson plan. Am I right about this?

Thus, it seems that publishing a lesson plan has the potential to be very influential among the teachers in a given congregation. Assuming this I wonder why more pastors and ministers of education don’t publish their own Internet version of a weekly lesson plan? Any ideas?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Confession of sin

For the lesson, “Conform to God’s Agenda,” it’s interesting to compare Saul’s reaction to David in 1 Samuel 24:17-19 to David’s reaction to Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:13. Constant confession of sin is a mark of godly character (Step 4). To demonstrate how times have changed, read how Spurgeon illustrated his sermon in 1865 in the case of Dr. Pritchard and Constance Kent.

Commenting on this lesson from 1 Samuel (p. 8), Dr. W. B. Tolar, distinguished professor of biblical backgrounds, emeritus, of Southwestern Seminary, notes the following applications of the text for this lesson:

1. David had many fine characteristics and one of them was the respect he held for legitimate leaders.
2. David showed his high character by refusing to assassinate King Saul and make himself king immediately.
3. We Christians would do well to learn to control our ambitions so that we honor God as we treat others in a Godly fashion.
4. All Christians need to learn to operate by God’s timing and not by our own selfish ambitions.
5. God’s ways are best and God’s timing is always best!

No matter who wins the current election for President, Americans will be tested on his first, second and third points.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Filled with the Spirit

At a bible study last night, which I attended, the teacher, Dr. Harry Leafe, linked the Holy Spirit’s control and influence in our lives with Paul’s admonition to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Col 3:16. That is, as we live life and make decisions moment-by-moment, the Holy Spirit uses our knowledge of the word of Christ to influence us to do God’s will. The choice to follow His influence is ours to make. I could relate this to our lesson, “Conform to God’s Agenda.”

An illustration came to mind from of my camping experiences. Exiting the tent one night to go to the restroom, the rocky trail traveled in a zigzag fashion downhill, and the night darkness was pitch black. I used a flashlight, and pointed it down since I could only see the trail illuminated in the circle of light from the flashlight.

Have you ever used God’s Word as a flashlight in a dark world and depended on the Holy Spirit to influence your thought processes toward God’s agenda (Psa 119:105)? David did when he was in the cave and avoided killing Saul, which was the easy way out of his situation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Conform to God’s Agenda, 1 Samuel 24-31

Today it seems we often just leave God out of our fast-paced lives rather than “Conform to God’s Agenda,” the title of our lesson this week, which is based on 1 Samuel 24:1-31:13 (1 Chron 10:1-12). As Rathel’s commentary notes, it’s instructive for us to read Psalm 57 and 142 to gain insight into David’s thinking as he fled from Saul.

I like how Louis Johnson, North Park Baptist Church, Abilene, defines God’s agenda in his commentary on the lesson—“we work toward God’s goals, limit ourselves to God’s methods, and operate according to God’s timetable.” I encourage you to read the article to see how David adhered to God’s agenda when he was falsely accused.

How do you respond to false accusation (see Adult Leader Guide, p. 89)? I also recommend adapting the True/False quiz in my previous post on Unjust Suffering for use in your lesson.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

PPT slides for "Cultivate Godly Friendships", 1 Sam 18-23

The lesson, “Cultivate Godly Friendships” encourages believers to cultivate godly friendships. The writer of the article, “True friends are with us through thick and thin” suggests enduring friendships “just happen in a relationship”, and are not planned.

The article, “How to Determine Who Your true Friends Are”, categorizes friends as “fair-weather”, “know-it-all”, and real and simple friends. Another approach mentioned in the article is to liken friends to parts of a tree. Fair-weather friends are like leaves that drop off as the seasons change, and real friends are like tree roots that bring aid when you need it and add to your life.

I posted a draft of my PPT slides for “Cultivate Godly Friendships”. Hopefully they can help you prepare your lesson. As always, feel free to suggest changes as comments (see Comment Link below).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Take a bullet for

In studying to teach the lesson, “Cultivate Godly Friendships,” I noticed that there are 172 uses of the word friend in the NIV translation of the bible. I wanted to see what friends do for each in the bible (I may make a slide summarizing these). One that we all remember of course is Jesus declaration in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

I once responded to a request to contribute to a review of fellow manager’s employee by saying, “I’d take a bullet for him.” Secret Service agents would take a bullet to protect the President. That’s their job.

Most people would take a bullet for their spouses, parents, siblings, friends, and perhaps a pet. Who would you take a bullet for?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Godly friendships

Marc Reeves, makes a stab at defining godly friendship in his commentary on the lesson, “Cultivate Godly Friendships.” I learned to value proactive teaming at work, so I particularly liked the part, “It is a friendship that is looking out for what is best for the other person.”

First Baptist Church, Chester, Illinois posted their question based lesson plan, which I reproduced below (their link is not sticky). I liked the question, “When is the last time you made a new friend?”

-Let's begin class by sharing our names and telling the class the name of your childhood friend.
-What is the nicest thing a friend has ever done for you?
-When is the last time you made a new friend?
-What does it mean in a Christian's life to have godly friendships? What qualities attract you to other Christians who become your close friends?
-Have you ever seen a friend excel in something you also were striving to achieve? How did that make you feel?
-Jonathan was a logical choice to follow his father, King Saul, to the throne, how do you think he felt about David?
-How did Jonathan describe his relationship with David?
-Have you ever openly or privately promised your best friend something? Did you keep your promise? Have you been promised something by your friend? Did they keep their promise?
-Why do you think Jonathan gave his robe and other gifts to David? How do you think Jonathan came to handle this situation so spiritually?
-Have ever had the opportunity to defend a friend? Briefly, what was the situation?
-Jonathan took a huge risk in defending David to his father, could you have done the same?
-Can defending a friend prove to be costly to you? Is the friendship worth the cost? Would your friend do the same for you? How can you be sure?
-What role does God play in establishing friendships in your life? Is God in all your friendships?
-Take a close look at 1Samuel 20:8; what two favors did David ask of Jonathan?
Look at verses 12 & 13; David literally put his life in Jonathan's hands. What did Jonathan have to lose by keeping his covenant with David?
-Of the three men in this lesson, Saul, Jonathan, & David, who do you identify with the most? Why?
-The scriptures say that Jonathan encouraged David; how can you encourage a friend in their faith?
-When you offer your support and encouragement to a friend is it like laying down your life for them? If not, should it be?-As we close in prayer, let's go around the room and say the first name of your best friend, lift that friend up to God in a simple one sentence prayer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cultivate Godly Friendships, 1 Samuel 18:1-23:28

Because of the lengthy background passage, I will construct a map and summary slide of the six chapters from 1 Samuel 18:1-23:28 to use in this week’s lesson, “Cultivate Godly Friendships.” I may structure it as a contrast of actions between Saul’s insecurity and David’s security in the Lord, which is an alternate application from the same Scriptures.

Because I’ve noticed a difference in the way men express friendship compared to how women express friendship, I may introduce the lesson using some ideas from the article, “Men, Women, and Friendship.” Some key points include the following:

1. intimacy is crucial to friendship
2. men express intimacy by helping each other
3. men express friendship side-to-side doing things together
4. men’s conversation is not about themselves
5. women share information about themselves face-to-face

6. women support each other conversationally

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Most and least likely to succeed

I was troubled in two areas after reading 1 Samuel 16-17. First, the Bible attributes God as the source of an evil spirit that tormented Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). How do you plan to comment on this in your lesson?

Second, 1 Samuel 17:55,56,58 notes that Saul asked about David’s father even though he had considerable experience with David’s father in 1 Samuel 16:18-21. What do you make of Saul’s condition that allows such a lapse?

Sam Tullock’s commentary on Embrace God’s Perspective brought to mind the notion of “least expected” in God’s selection of David as King. Consider using your high school annual to discuss the person voted “most likely” to succeed and the “least likely”. Class members will probably have some examples of their own to share after you jog their memory.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Embracing God's Perspective, 1 Samuel 16-17

Hi everyone! It is good to be back. Thanks for your patience, and I appreciate the kind notes some of you posted.

To introduce the lesson, “Embrace God’s Perspective” from 1 Samuel 16:1-17:58, consider using a Termeshpere (select one, and then click and drag to look around). Note the perspective of the termesphere, which were painted by Dick Termes.

Also, I made a previous post, “Take God's perspective into account” that may be helpful as you prepare to teach this week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ike update

Tommy and others, thanks for your prayers.

We had little damage from Ike even though the eye passed over us. God is good!

Currently, we have no power, phone service, or Internet service, and do not expect it for sometime.

I'm making this entry using a friend's service.

I plan to resume blogging the week of Oct 6th.

Thank you for your understanding!

May God bless your preparation!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

We don't like IKE!

This is my last blog entry for the lesson, “Serving the LORD Faithfully.” We are preparing for hurricane Ike here in Houston. Appreciate your prayers!

However, take a look at the lesson plan from Jeff Meyer of Bayleaf Baptist, as well as some lesson notes from Mark Cimijotti of Carmel Baptist Church.

God bless,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Called into service

Mark Rathel’s comments about the lesson, “Serving the LORD Faithfully”, are more in line with my reading of 1 Samuel 2:12-4:1a. He puts the focus on God’s activity—intentions to end Eli’s family of priests, judge Israel by His silence, and prepare Samuel for ministry. He goes on to point out the lessons of listening to God.

The LORD called Samuel into His service. What is your understanding of Christians being called into vocational service today? This may be an opportunity for you to teach on that point.

A key question to ask members in your class (and mine) is based on Luke 2:52, 1 Sam 2:26, and 1 Sam 3:19. How is the Lord preparing and calling you to serve Him?

P.S. First Baptist Church, Chester, Illinois offers a lesson plan based on asking questions.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Serving the LORD Faithfully, 1 Samuel 3:1-10,15-4:1a

Our second lesson from 1 Samuel, verses 2:12-4:1a, is titled, “Serving the LORD Faithfully”. The focus is a contrast between Samuel’s faithful service and the unfaithful service of Eli’s two wicked sons. It seems to me that the text emphasizes the faithfulness of the LORD. He is the one who faithfully “keeps on keeping on” by calling Samuel to replace Eli’s corrupt, priestly line.

I’m sure Eli’s sons had excuses for their despicable behavior. Look at this page of excuses to see if you can find something to help you kick off this lesson with a discussion of excuses we make. I like the Ten Most Used Excuses at the bottom of the page.

Friday, September 05, 2008

PowerPoint for "Declaring the LORD's Grace" 1 Sam 1:1-2:11

Previously, I blogged and posted a set of slides to teach the lesson, “Do You Have Peace With God?” based on Romans 5:1-11. These may help you prepare to teach Step 4 of this week’s lesson, “Declaring the LORD’s Grace”.

The key point is that Hannah found peace in her relationship with the LORD, and then followed thru on her vow to present Samuel to the LORD.

I’ve posted my PowerPoint slides for teaching Declaring the LORD's Grace. Modify them and make them your own, but you may want to “play” the slides first to get a feel for how the lesson will flow. May God bless your class and you as you teach this lesson!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Desperate measures

In preparing to teach Step 3 of “Declaring the LORD’s Grace”, I read an article titled, “Should We Make Vows Today?”. Verses 1 Samuel 1:9-18 make clear how desperate Hannah was. Some of your class members may be in desperate situations today. They may consider making vows, or desperate measures. What should you teach them? This article by Tom Wright might help you.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

View Master Perspective

To prepare for Step 2 of “Declaring the LORD’s Grace” read Brad Shockley’s lesson commentary. He quotes Ecclesiastes 1:9 to indicate the relevance of the lessons from 1 & 2 Samuel. In discussing God’s providence, he notes that God is blameless (Psalm 18:30), perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), and infinitely wise (Isaiah 40:28). His tri-fold description made me think of how we used to use a “view master” toy to see picturesque scenes in 3D. Without the viewer, however, the pictures were nothing but quirky, unclear images outlined in red or green.

So how can we get a view master perspective of God’s providence? This step emphasizes “ways” to acknowledge (or see) God’s sovereignty. To acknowledge variously means to accept, to admit, to recognize, to appreciate, to take notice, etc. Try putting these words on a slide, or marker board and asking members to describe situations that taught them to accept, admit, recognize, appreciate, or take notice of God’s sovereignty in their lives.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


The Lord provided Samuel as a ‘stabilizer’ in the chaotic period when the Israelites transitioned from a band of tribes to a monarchy. To introduce the notion of a stabilizer for the lesson, “Declaring the LORD’s Grace” consider using the illustration of an airplane's horizontal or vertical stabilizers.

This illustration has a lot of legs to it. For example, you can liken air turbalance acting on an airplane to issues that create instability in the lives of Christians. Stabilizers act on an airplane to keep it traveling in the right direction, and God acts on Christians faced with turbulances in their lives to keep them on the right path--one of maturing to become more like Christ Jesus.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Declaring the LORD’s Grace, 1Samuel 1:1-2:11

Our lesson this week is titled, “Declaring the LORD’s Grace”. It’s from 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11. I was impressed to begin my preparation to teach this week by studying my previous posts on grace, which can be found just by searching this site using the search term: grace (see upper left corner for the search window).

For example, below is a list of previous posts from a lesson about grace called, “What about God’s Grace?”, which we studied three years ago from Romans.

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

As I recall, I liked the last one in the list because it offers a word picture that helped me shine a spotlight on God’s grace.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

PPT slides for "Rome: Facing Limitations", Acts 27-28

In the context of Paul’s long imprisonment at Caesarea and Rome, Sam Tullock’s comments on the lesson mention that “life has many prisons”. I’ll use this to help stimulate discussion with class members.

I’ve posted my PPT slides for “Rome:Facing Limitations”. If you ‘play’ the slides and step thru the presentation you can get a feel for how I plan to interact with the class.

Feel free to post a link to your final lesson plan as a comment here. I'm sure it will help other teachers prepare. Remember--not all classes are on the same schedule. Some are behind the planned schedule. I know this since more than a third of the total downloads of my PPT slides happen in the weeks following the original presentation date.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Step 2 of the lesson, “Rome: Facing Limitations” suggests that Christians creatively make new acquaintances with whom they can share the gospel. I thought about the lyric, “Like to get to know you” by Spanky and Our Gang.

Marketers want to get to know you for business reasons, but increasing use of automation tends to make an impersonal world.

Paul called a meeting with the Jewish leaders in Rome. He may not have known them personally, but you can bet he knew them as a group—their concerns, interests and desires. You might say, he was “group-wise”.

What “group” do you know well? Or, what group is your church successfully reaching at this time? For example, my class had five visiting couples last Sunday. I’d like to get to know this group!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rome: Facing Limitations, Acts 27:1-28:31

Our final lesson from Acts is “Rome: Facing Limitations”, and it’s based on Acts 27:1-28:31. The word, “limitations” immediately reminded me of the Dirty Harry line, “A man’s got to know his limitations” in the movie Magnum Force. Paul seemed to not know any limitation when it came to sharing the gospel.

Bob Deffinbaugh’s commentary on Acts 28 is interesting because he asks a key question, “What is its message for us?” He concludes, rather interestingly, “It is about the advance of the gospel.” I urge you to read Bob’s comments since they helped me set a context for the lesson focus selected by Lifeway.

To start the lesson with the idea of advancing despite limitations, consider sharing the story of Ed McGuire, author of “The Little Light Bulb”.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Backhanded Compliment

Festus interrupted Paul in Acts 26:22-25, the focal passage for Step 3 of the Lifeway lesson plan for “Caesarea: Facing Secular People”. The material notes (pg. 134) that Festus paid Paul a left-handed compliment, otherwise known as a backhanded compliment. Use a few example, backhanded compliments to introduce this step (lot’s of examples on the web). Ask members if they’ve ever been interrupted while speaking. Ask how did they respond.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Don't call me

The Lifeway Leader Guide for Step 2 of the lesson, “Caesarea: Facing Secular People”, (pg 132) describes Felix’s attitude toward Paul as: “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”

To introduce the Step, ask members if they have placed their phone numbers on the national “do not call” list? Show this poll result for “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” Ask members what was the real motive behind Felix’s statement in Acts 24:25.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Caesarea: Facing Secular People, Acts 23:23-26:32

Last Sunday, co-teacher Curt picked up on current Olympics news and used Michael Phelps as an example of discipline. He succeeded in getting the class talking (interested in what he had to say). Then he likened this to Paul and the courage and discipline he possessed to go to Jerusalem even when he knew there would be trouble.

Sonshine’s study questions for this week’s lesson, “Caesarea: Facing Secular People,” leads with essentially the same idea (disciplined athlete) using Paul’s own words (see 2 Tim 4:7-8). You can create a lesson plan based on her questions, I think.

As I read the background passages, the word ‘curious’ came to mind. The Roman commander was curious as to why the Jews accused Paul (Acts 23:28). King Agrippa was curious to hear Paul (Acts 25:22).

How did Paul create curiosity? His listeners wanted to learn something they didn’t already know. So what was the 'news' Paul presented in Acts 24:10-21, Acts 25:10-11, and Acts 26?

Print media creates curiosity with interest grabbing headlines. Audio media uses sound bytes to create curiosity. Video media uses video clips. This suggests one way to begin this lesson is to put together a collage of attention grabbing headlines from this week’s news, and present your selections to get people interested. In addition, make up your own lesson headline for Acts 23:23-26:32 and present it to create curiosity about the lesson. Be creative!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wrong assumptions: "Jerusalem: Facing Criticism"

Criticism sometimes happens as a result of making wrong assumptions. Discuss a few examples of making wrong assumptions with your class. Then ask members to identify possible wrong assumptions (or jumps to conclusions) that can be found in the focal passage for the lesson (Acts 21:17-29, 39).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Criticism quotes

While teaching the focal passages for Jerusalem: Facing Criticism, ask members if (and how) they seek to avoid criticism? Read Elbert Hubbard’s quote: To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. Ask members if his statement is true.

Bob Deffinbaugh’s commentary on Acts 21:17-22:19 notes that Paul’s mention of his vision to take the gospel to the Gentiles triggered an angry lynch-mob action. Paul certainly didn’t seek to avoid criticism.

In the context of the lesson, ask members to discuss the truth of this quote by Winston Churchill: Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. Ask members to consider how criticism is necessary in their lives at the moment.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jerusalem: Facing Criticism, Acts 20:1-23:22, 21:17-29, 39

I’ve discussed criticism before in a post about Blind Spots, which may be helpful in teaching this week’s lesson, “Jerusalem: Facing Criticism”. Paul faced unfair and untrue criticism in Acts 21:17-29, 39. How did he handle it? How do you handle criticism?

It’s interesting that by taking a Gentile Christian offering to the (poor) Jerusalem church, Paul was practicing the ministry of reconciliation. Yet, just the opposite happened. Paul ended up in prison, and that Church failed to bring people together in unity under Christ.

Perhaps a way to start this lesson is to talk about failures at home, at work, or in church. Then ask members what criticisms were leveled as a result. Or to take up the background passage in more detail, ask members to list criticisms that could be leveled against the Jerusalem church and its failure to reconcile with Gentiles, and how its leadership advised Paul to handle his critics.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Lesson plans

I’m not posting PPT slides this week, but check out the following lesson plans for teaching for “Ephesus: Facing Religious People”:

Jay Hancock, Carmel Baptist
Jeff Meyer, Bayleaf Baptist
Russ Rosser, Carmel Baptist

Why do I mention these? They are more or less, “lesson plans” versus commentary. For commentaries on the background passage of Acts 18:23 - 19:41, see the right side of this page.

Jeff leads off with a question about being a tutor.
Jay Hancock begins with the idea of passing down family recipes.
Russ Rosser just begins.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Passing down recipes

Dwayne McCrary, editor of the LifeWay Extra, created a Facebook group for Extra’s readers. I think it is a good idea, and joined it. Get a Facebook account and pile on!

To teach the lesson, “Ephesus: Facing Religious People”, make the point that Paul wrote the following letters while on his 3rd missionary journey: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. The act of writing down the truth helped others avoid making errors in the faith (see also 2 Peter 1:15).

One way to “Teach what’s needed” is to write it down so that others can read the truth. Have you written down your beliefs about Jesus Christ so that others may know what you believe? That’s one way you can help others who have an incomplete understanding of who Jesus is.

Ask class members if they pass down recipes in their family. Ask why? Make the analogy of passing down written beliefs about Christianity to help future family members avoid errors in the faith!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Annointed handkerchief

Mike Womack’s commentary for teaching, “Ephesus: Facing Religious People”, notes that the “handkerchiefs and aprons” (v 12) are not “healing paraphernalia”. He points to Luke 8:43-48, where Jesus told a healed woman, who had touched his cloak, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” We wouldn’t fall for a “anointed red prayer handkerchief” today would we?

Given today’s philosophy about food supplements many members probably ingest a number of pills daily believing they have curative or preventative powers. I don’t know if you’d want to get into meddling, however.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Ephesus-Facing Religious People, Acts 18:23-19:41

Given the “question lesson plan”, members were very interactive as I taught yesterday’s lesson, “Athens: Facing Questions”. It was a welcome change from the rut I’ve been in lately. I added a slide suggested by a last-minute email from Lifeway referencing questions Jesus asked in Mark. It was a great way to warm up the class to answering questions presented in the lesson.

This week’s lesson, "Ephesus: Facing Religious People" is a challenge to teach, I think, but co-teacher Curt is in the saddle this week, so I’m studying it just to keep up.

Dr. Jim’s commentary on the lesson starts with this question, “On Saturday Morning if two people knock on your door; will it be Baptists from the nearby church? Sadly it will likely be some religious people from one of the cults.”

This lead me to think of discerning fakes as in knock-off, copy-cat, or look-alike products.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

PPT slides for Athens: Facing Questions, Acts 16-18

Jeff Meyer’s lesson plan for “Athens: Facing Questions” points to the Lifeway Extra suggestion of using a recent survey indicating some believers think all religions lead to salvation. He also links to a couple of charts from the North American Mission Board comparing Historic Christianity to other world religions as well as various cults. Check out his comments.

I’ve posted my PPT slides for the lesson. If you “play” the slides, you’ll see that I decided to take a “question” approach to presenting the Scriptures (sort of keying off the lesson title). In other words, instead of teaching specific points about each lesson passage, I will present the passage and then ask members questions, which lead to the points I want to teach.

Just thought I’d try something different since I feel like I was in a rut this past Sunday. If you take this approach, watch your time to make sure the discussions don’t prevent you from covering the focal passages. Have fun!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Answers to life's questions

Athens: Facing Questions” by Donald Raney, First Baptist Church, Petersburg, makes the point that “life is full of questions”. We have an insatiable need to know, to get answers to our questions.

I feel helpless without web access. A popular site on the web for answering questions is How Stuff Works. Or we may use Google/Yahoo/Msn to help us answer our questions.

How do your members get life’s questions answered today? Call in radio programs? A favorite blog? A forum?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Origin of the alter of the unknown god

I’ve never heard it before, but Bob Deffinbaugh’s commentary on Acts 17:15-34 recounts a shortened version ( 3 paragraphs) of the story of the origin of the “alter to the unknown god”.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Athens: Facing Questions, Acts 16:1-18:22

This week we pick up the pace and study three chapters, Acts 16:1-18:22, in a lesson titled, “Athens-Facing Questions”. It focuses on a few key verses, Acts 17:16-19, 22-31.

In his lesson commentary, Mark Rathel asserts that today’s religious pluralism opens the door for believers to share the uniqueness of Christ.

Personalized license plates must be unique. Scroll down this page and see examples of the uniqueness of some personalized plates. Consider doing an exercise where members construct the letters and numbers for a license plate that answers questions asked in this lesson. Eg, "Who God isn't?"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday's sermon

Our pastor, David Fleming, preached Sunday on Conflict in the church. Take time to listen to his sermon, "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" if you are teaching on church conflict.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

This just in...

Dan Kassis, Internet Producer from LifeWay Sunday School, sent an email yesterday suggesting “an idea to begin your class session: Ask two learners to agree to take opposing sides in a spontaneous debate about one of any number of ‘trivial’ matters - which cola is the best, what team will win the championship, or something similar. Allow each person to state his or her case. Then give time for each person to refute the other's arguments. Take a vote from the other learners to decide the winner.”

Also, I made a few slide tweeks on my PPT for the lesson "Jerusalem: Facing Conflict".

Friday, July 25, 2008

PPT slides for Jerusalem: Facing Conflict, Acts 15

I’ve uploaded my PPT slides for teaching “Jerusalem: Facing Conflict” based on Acts 15. I also included a slide on the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas, which is not covered in the LifeWay material. I’m sure I’ll whittle a little more on the slides between now and Sunday, and if you have any thoughts about them, please post a comment.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Personal exercise

Jerusalem: Facing Conflict” by Jeff Meyers offers a simple exercise that I think could be very useful in getting members to think about the lesson on a personal level, which I may use at the start of the lesson. The following is his suggestion:

Rank the following as your top concern to least concern when you are in a disagreement:

___ your own opinion

___ respecting others’ opinions

___ coming out on top

___ obeying the Scripture

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

From Reformation to denominationalism

Mike Womack’s commentary on the lesson, “Jerusalem: Facing Conflict” mentions the Reformation and its fight against a doctrine of salvation by “faith + works” as a parallel to the erroneous doctrine of salvation advocated by the Judiasers in Acts 15.

Scroll down on this page to see an interesting timeline of the beginning of various denominations.

See Bob Deffinbaugh’s article, “When division becomes multiplication” for a larger discussion of conflict in the church, which includes Acts 15:36-41.

P.S. This is a revised post to correct an error noted by a reader

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What went wrong?

David Self’s commentary divides the material for teaching, “Jerusalem: Facing Conflict” into these steps: Recognizing the Problem (1), Presenting the Issues (2), James’ Clarification (3), and Reaching a Consensus (4).

I like his summary applications: Avoid doctrinal error, God’s truth leads to unity, and our mission is the Great Commission. I’ll use these as alternate titles for the lesson.

In the early ‘90s, I read the book, Getting to Yes, by Fisher, Ury, and Patton as part of management training on negotiating a good outcome for my employer. The negotiation process had to include effective communication, and build up the relationship between the parties.

A good outcome must be better than the BATNA (pronounced Bat-nah) of the parties involved while satisfying their interests. It must be legitimate and include commitments that are realistic and operational.

All of these elements can be seen in the background passage, Acts 15:1-35. Particularly, Peter did not forget to include God’s interests (see verses 7-11). The place fell silent, and when Paul and Barnabas spoke (v12), they kept the same high level of interest by relating God’s involvement (from which we can deduce His interests). James continues the focus on God’s interests when he relates the Scriptures, or God’s Word (v16-).

Here is an example of where God was left out of the debate. Work with members to identify what elements of negotiation went wrong between the two parties in the example cited.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jerusalem: Facing Conflict, Acts 15:1-35

This week’s lesson is “Jerusalem: Facing Conflict” and is based on Acts 15:1-35.

After the IBM PC was introduced in 1981, it became the Company’s “Billion Dollar Baby”. Because of its market success, IBM’s Boca Raton PC group was later ‘reigned in’ and forced to introduce products made according to IBM’s traditional success factors—proprietary designs. Ultimately this decision killed the IBM PC business, which was later sold to Lenovo, a Chinese company.

Christianity began as a sect of Judiasm and experienced hyper growth. Gentiles became believers, and the Church in Jerusalem faced a choice. Should Gentile believers be forced to continue the practices of Judiasm in order to be saved (as if keeping the Mosiac Laws could actually result in eternal salvation)? Fortunately, the apostles and elders in the Church made the right decision, and Christianity continued to grow as God willed.

If anyone from Lifeway reads this site, I pray they would bother to help the rest of us understand why a lesson on resolving conflict from Acts 15, omits Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement over John Mark (Acts 15:36-41). Surely there is a good explanation, but it escapes me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

PPT slides for Galatia: Facing Troubles, Acts 13&14

The ‘trouble’ of Christians being misunderstood is made clear is short this video. I plan to use it with my PPT slides to teach the lesson, “Galatia: Facing Troubles” (Jeff Meyers plan).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Importance of follow up

The LifeWay Adult Commentary on Acts (p.83) for the lesson, “Galatia: Facing Trouble” pictures how Paul and Barnabas chose not to travel back to Syrian Antioch by using the word beeline. It notes that they retraced their steps. I pictured their path back as though they followed a breadcrumb trail.

The key idea to illustrate however is the Commentary’s mention of the importance of regular follow up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is a mule in your way?

John Mark left Barnabas and Paul to return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). He missed the opportunity of being part of what God did in the lives of people in Pisidan Antioch. Maybe he lacked commitment?

In the lesson, “Galatia: Facing Troubles”, David Self’s commentary suggests, “commitment overcomes obstacles.” What obstacle did John Mark face? An article on “How to Overcome Obstacles” pictures them as mules to go around.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Galatia: Facing Troubles, Acts 14:1-4,11-15a,18-23

I enjoyed teaching the lesson about Barnabas last week. It had lot’s of elements to it—the geography of the Mediterranean, the history of the Herods, God’s making of a missionary minded church in Syrian Antioch, and the personal challenge to have a positive impact on everyone we meet.

This week’s lesson, “Galatia: Facing Troubles” is no less interesting. It takes up Acts 13:1-14:28, which covers Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey. The LifeWay Extra has an interesting approach to starting this lesson—one based on political polls and candidate rejection. I’ll think about it, but I'll hold my options open to consider other suggestions that occur during this week of preparation.

For example, tumbling around in my head is the idea of missing out on the excitement of a God given opportunity because of some fear, or opposition. Maybe you’ve already got your lesson Intro figured out? If so, post it here for the rest of us to consider.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Positive influence

To open the lesson, “Barnabas: Encouragement”, I plan to use a slide picturing Chik-fil-A and ask: What is their corporate purpose? According to the Company website, under Corporate Information, its purpose is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

I like that “positive influence” part. What do they do that positively impacts millions of customers? Answers to this question can lead into a "half-full/half-empty" discussion suggested by Jeff Meyer.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Share a personal story

I mentioned in my first post this week that hopefully all of us have a personal story of encouragement we can share, or that we can invite members to share. To get this started in your class, read this story from Terry Fortner, pastor, Zion Hill Church of Cabot, AR.

Don't just stop with the stories that are shared. Asked members the next level questions, such as, "how does encouragement impact our lives and the lives of others?" Material in this article on encouragement might be useful.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Something old, something new

LifeWay’s Extra for the lesson, “Barnabas: Encouragement” suggests 8 simple ways to encourage others. It goes on to make the point that Christians have an obligation to encourage others.

Mark Rathel’s lesson commentary picks up on ‘Barnabas’ as a nickname and asks: What nickname would other Christians give you? I’ve used the nickname idea before very successfully (it was suggested by Jeff Meyer at Bayleaf Baptist).

Consider nominating someone for a service award as a means of encouragement. For example, Kenneth and Debra Walker were nominated for and received the Jefferson Award here in Houston. To locate an appropriate award, you may have to scour your local community, or check appropriate organizations and affiliations to which the target person belongs.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Barnabas: Encouragement, Acts 11:19-12:25

In last Sunday’s lesson, I asked members a question: Who would eat the food of a culture that was foreign to them? That hit home. Most people said, “no way”, and reacted negatively. This surfaced a lack of openness on their part, and paved the way for the point of the lesson.

This week we are studying, “Barnabas: Encouragement” based on Acts 11:19-12:25. Clearly, Barnabas had the gift of encouragement (see Romans 12:6-8).

As I read the background verses, it grabbed my attention that Barnabas went to look for Paul to bring him in on the work God was doing in Antioch. Barnabas invited Paul into a positive, growing endeavor at the Antioch church. Can you think of a positive, personal experience with referral recruiting?