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?

Friday, July 04, 2008

PPT slides for Peter: Openness from Acts 9:32-11:18

You might want to read Jeff Meyer’s commentary on “Peter: Openness”. In addition to the Lifeway material, I used his commentary to help prepare my PPT slides. I’ll continue to tweak them before finalizing them tomorrow evening. Happy Independence Day!

I noticed that the questions posted by Chester, Ill First Baptist (see below) started the lesson with the idea of “changing your routine”, which is not a bad idea.

-Share your name with the class and tell us one thing that you do daily as a part of your routine.
-Has anyone ever told you that you need to change your routine? Have you ever felt that it was time to do just that? Is it good to learn new things? Explain your answer.
-Do you have a spiritual routine? Is reading a few verses daily, praying at meals and bedtime, and sitting in a pew on Sunday morning part of your spiritual routine? Is this kind of routine enough for you? Would you like to have more?
-True or false? It is good to form spiritual habits but it is bad when those habits become meaningless.
-We all have our comfort zones, how do you react when you find yourself removed from yours? Has God ever stretched you and pulled you from your area of comfort? How did that feel?
-Circumcised...uncircumcised...what is our first lesson passage really about? Why do you think God wanted us to know about this incident in His Word? Why do you think Peter felt it was important to share this story with the circumcised believers?
-Would you agree that Peter was open to new truth? Do you show a willingness to be open to God's message, even if it involves something entirely new to you?
-Peter was criticized when he went to the home of the Gentile. Have you ever experienced criticism for breaking from accepted religious traditions? What did you think was so important that you did so?
-Who was Scripture written for? Is there any part of God's Word that is not important? Why do we often accept only the part of God's Word which supports our own beliefs rather than other teachings we don't like?
-The Jewish Christians had become rather smug about their beliefs. Peter showed them that the Gentile could become a fellow believer. Is there a group of people we look down our noses at today?
-The last verses of our lesson are called the turning point for missions and the church; why do you think this is so?
-There are many churches of people who worship differently from us and their method of presenting the Gospel varies greatly from ours. Why doesn't one presentation work for everyone? Is our way better than theirs?
-Is there a difference between being baptized in water and being baptized with the Holy Spirit? Has the Holy Spirit been trying to pull you from your spiritual box? Could it be that it is time for you to stretch your spiritual life past the talk and begin taking action? Will you visit the local food pantry and see if you can help? Will you share your Jesus with someone twenty years younger than you? Will you share your Jesus with someone twenty years older than you? Will you seek God's will and purpose for the next chapter of your life? Let's pray!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rooftop revelation

Reading the lesson, “Peter: Openness”, creates some questions for me. Am I in opposition to God’s work in the lives of others around me? Members of the “circumcision group” were opposing God’s will to deliver Gentiles.

How about this one: When was I last silenced by God’s handiwork? Some members of the circumcision group were silenced (Acts 11:18) when Peter told them how the Holy Spirit was given to Gentile believers.

Can you recall any “rooftop experiences” in your life? I remember once being on the roof of my parents’ home doing some repair work, when it came to me how I could buy a car that I wanted. Not in the same ballpark as Peter’s vision though.

Read this story of a Rooftop Revelation and decide if it can be used in your lesson. The story has many positive elements related to our lesson, but it also has a clear error that makes it questionable. However, you may be able to turn its error into a key point relevant to the lesson.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Site Update, first half 2008

I’ve not posted an update on traffic to this site since the close of 2007. I thought it appropriate to post the update below for the first six months of 2008. Again, doing a “year over year” comparison by month for January thru June, shows that the site is basically doubling in page loads, number of unique visitors, and number of returning users.

First Half Year: →→→ 2007 2008
Page loads: →→→→→ 3998 6667
Unique visitors: →→→1572 2981
First time visitors: →→ 891 1787
Returning visitors: →→ 681 1194

This increase is humbling and I thank you for continuing to find this site useful. As, I’ve mentioned before, however, the lack of interactivity is puzzling. I’d be open to hear (actually, love to hear) any ideas you have for making the site more interactive, where we can learn more from each other, or how to improve the utility of the site. Be specific. Say what works, and what doesn’t!

Appreciate it,


Teachable spirit

The lesson, “Peter: Openness” stresses receptivity to new ways of thinking. These new insights, or truths come thru Bible study, sermons, hymns, prayer, etc.

A concern I have about the lesson is that members don’t misunderstand it to imply that Christians should be open to New Age thinking, post-modern philosophy, or any other anti-biblical worldview.

Rolling around in my head is the idea that we should all have a teachable spirit. Another article on “teachable spirit” uses a sailboat illustration, which I might use. Here is a quote:

“I have heard the setting of the sail on a sailboat is called the “attitude” of the sail. The same wind can cause a sailboat to go in different directions. It is the attitude of a teachable spirit that will enable us to go in a right direction.”