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Andrew Sloan

In the World – September 10, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for September 10 here.

WHAT IDENTIFIES AN AMERICAN?

On Tuesday, President Trump announced an executive order rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order that was put in place by President Obama. In doing so, President Trump gave Congress six months to move forward in dealing with children who were brought into the country illegally by their parents. DACA delays deportation actions against such youth. Trump’s action is seen by some as a simple legal matter, reversing an executive order issued by his predecessor. Others view it as a question of what should identify someone as “American.”

WHAT IDENTIFIES A CHILD OF GOD?

God commanded that Abraham and his male progeny be circumcised as a sign that they were in a covenant relationship with God. Circumcision was a physical symbol identifying who was to be considered a member of the Jewish people. However, as is true with many such matters, there is more to one’s identity than a legal code; there is a spiritual component, as well.

  1. What makes a person an American? By your definition, should children of undocumented immigrants be considered to be Americans? Explain.
  2. Do you see any parallel between legal documents for one’s entry to America and circumcision for Abraham and his descendants? Why or why not?
  3. How does the New Testament deal with the matter of circumcision as a sign of one’s relationship with God? See Romans 2:28, 29; Galatians 5:1-6.
  4. What should be the sign of a covenant relationship with God for Christians today? How should we treat “undocumented believers,” those professing believers who do not bear those signs?

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World – September 3, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for September 3 here.

A FLOOD . . .

Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast last weekend as a Category 4 storm, bringing torrential rains that were forecast to total 50 inches in some places. One local official predicted the storm would go down in history as “an 800-year flood” as it moved through Texas and into Louisiana. Federal officials estimated that 30,000 people would need temporary shelter before the storm subsided. The military released water from two reservoirs to prevent even more massive destruction in central Houston, though increasing the risk of flooding in other areas.

 

. . . FOLLOWED BY A PROMISE

The flood in Noah’s time was immeasurably greater than the flood in Texas this past week. It is hard to imagine how Noah and his family coped with their circumstances while the waters rose and then subsided. However, their faithfulness was rewarded with an amazing promise from God: “Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Then God gave the rainbow as a sign of the promise.

 

  1. Do storms such as Harvey come as retribution for human sin? Explain your answer.
  2. Do floods like this one in Texas represent a failure of God to keep his promise? Why or why not?
  3. Why does God still send rainbows even though massive destruction by floods still occur?
  4. Does it ever seem to you that God isn’t keeping his promises to you? Which ones? How do you resolve the matter?
  5. How do God’s promises help you to cope when life sends you “floods”?
  6. How do you show your gratitude to God when he saves you from calamity?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

September 3: The Rainbow (Genesis 8:20-22; 9:8-17)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Have the members of your group answer one or more of the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. What is the worst flood you have experienced?
  2. How have you felt as you tuned into news accounts about the hurricane and flooding in Texas?
  3. Do you know anyone who lives in that area?

Spend time praying for the residents and responders who have been impacted by the storm.

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

From the Standard Lesson Commentary (SLC): The biblical account of the great flood is detailed in giving specifics for the beginning of the flood, the length of time the rain fell, how long the floodwaters covered the earth, and how long it took for the waters to recede. The total amount of time adds up to a little more than a year (Genesis 7:11; 8:14).

Today’s lesson passage picks up right after Noah and his family and all the animals came out of the ark.

Have your group read Genesis 8:20-22 and discuss the following questions.

  1. Why do you think Noah’s first action was to build an altar to the Lord and offer sacrifices on it?
  2. What made this an especially costly sacrifice?

Point out that Noah took only seven pairs of each kind of clean animal. Rather than hold back because of his limited number of animals, Noah freely offered up some of each kind of clean animal in thanksgiving and worship to the Lord.

  1. In what sense should we take the Lord’s response to Noah’s offering literally, and in what sense should we take it figuratively?

From the SLC: The writer (Moses) uses figurative language to describe God’s response to the sacrifice. Since “God is spirit” (John 4:24), we need not assume that God smells things the same way we do or has a literal, physical heart. Nevertheless, we understand such language. The point being made is that God accepts the offering.

  1. What was the good news following the flood? How do we see God’s grace involved?

Genesis 9:1-7 (not in today’s text) begins with God’s instruction for Noah and his family to increase the population. Humanity is to multiply anew over the face of the earth.

Have your group read Genesis 9:8-17 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What covenant does God establish, and who does he make it with?
  2. Who is responsible for keeping this covenant?
  3. How can we reconcile this covenant with the reality of terribly destructive floods, like we just witnessed in Texas?

From the SLC: As important as what the covenant promises is what it does not promise. It does not promise there will never be another flood of any magnitude, nor does it promise that there will never again be loss of life by means of flooding. Floods have occurred many times since the days of Noah. The covenant promises instead not to repeat a flood like the one just experienced. From now on, floods will never be so severe as to leave only eight survivors (1 Peter 3:20).

  1. Why is the rainbow an appropriate sign of this covenant?
  2. In the days following the flood, how do you think Noah and his family felt when a rainstorm moved in? How do you think they felt when the rainstorm was accompanied by a rainbow?
  3. What did the Lord mean when he said, “Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind” (Genesis 9:14, 15)?

From the SLC: We may find it odd that the all-knowing God needs to be reminded of anything. Once again the text uses figurative language. While we need reminders, God does not; but we understand that a reminder is assurance that something important will not be forgotten. God is giving assurance that he will not forget or forsake his covenant. And in that regard the rainbow is a symbol for us as well.

In the World – August 27, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for August 27 here.

A VISION IN THE HEAVENS

On Monday, the “great American eclipse” got the attention of a nation that has been focused for months on political rivalries and racism—prejudices that die hard. However, last weekend, millions of Americans were united in a singular quest: to find a way to view the August 21 eclipse in which the moon’s shadow traced a path from Oregon to South Carolina. For a time, and for at least some of us, the struggles and riots fomented by various prejudices took second place to a vision in the heavens.

 

A VISION FROM HEAVEN

The gloom of moral darkness also cast its shadow across the Roman world. The great eclipse of ethnic and religious prejudice could have prevented the church from extending beyond the Jews. Peter required a vision from heaven to convince him that, in God’s eyes, the barrier between Jews and Gentiles had been removed. God considers none of us “unclean,” and thus we are all equally included in God’s call to become a part of his fellowship through the church.

 

  1. What lesson, if any, do you see in the fact that a solar eclipse “eclipsed” the other earthly concerns of Americans for at least a short time?
  2. Why did it take an eclipse to join us together when the well-being of our nation was not sufficient cause to make us more inclusive in our attitudes?
  3. Likewise, why did it take a dramatic vision for Peter to be more inclusive in his attitudes?
  4. In what matters should the church be inclusive? Are there matters in which the church should be exclusive? If so, explain.
  5. Would some people assume they wouldn’t be welcome in your church? If so, what could be done to change that?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

August 27: Called to Be Inclusive (Acts 10:19-33)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Have the members of your group answer one or more of the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. When you were growing up, what was the “wrong crowd” to associate with? Did you hang out with them at all?
  2. Were you isolated from other racial, ethnic, social, or religious groups? To the extent that you had an integrated upbringing, what was the makeup of the other group(s)?
  3. How much contact do you have with individuals from other racial, ethnic, social, or religious groups today?

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Acts 10:1-18, which isn’t included in the lesson text. Then read some or all of the Lesson Background in the Standard Lesson Commentary (SLC). Then lead your group in a discussion of the following question.

  1. Why do you suppose God gave Peter this vision of unclean animals instead of just telling him what he was up to?

Have your group read Acts 10:19-23a and discuss the following questions.

  1. Who really sent Cornelius’s three messengers?
  2. How did the messengers tie in with Peter’s vision of eating forbidden food?
  3. What mixed feelings did Peter likely have?

Have your group read Acts 10:23b-33 and discuss the following questions.

  1. Why do you think Cornelius responded to Peter’s entrance the way he did?
  2. Why do you think Peter responded the way he did in return?

From the SLC: The surprises continue for Peter as Cornelius, a centurion who is quickly recognizable as such by his attire, falls down in a posture of worship toward the apostle! This is both unexpected and unpleasant for Peter. It is unexpected because if anyone is to show deference toward another in that culture, it would be Peter’s deference toward the Roman centurion. Moreover, Peter knows that worship is to be directed toward God alone (Exodus 20:3; etc.). Therefore Peter cannot allow this false worship to continue. In affirming their common humanity, Peter implies that mortals are not to be worshipped.

  1. How do we see Peter’s mixed feelings churning again in verses 28 and 29?
  2. How would you describe Cornelius’s attitude as he answers Peter?

The verses that follow this week’s lesson passage record Peter’s response. Peter reminded Cornelius and his friends and family that God shows no favoritism but accepts from every nation those who turn to him. Peter talked about Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection, declaring that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins. As Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon those listening. The believers who had come with Peter were astonished, perhaps because they still had some doubts that Gentiles could truly be saved. But Peter, affirming the genuineness of these Gentiles’ faith, ordered that they be baptized.

  1. Why is this story in Acts 10 so important?
  2. What might God be trying to teach us through this passage today?

In the World – August 20, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for August 20 here.

A CLASH OF VISIONS

Charlottesville, Virginia, erupted in violence last week in a clash of visions. The riots came in response to the city’s plans to remove the statue of a Confederate general from a city park. Individuals variously referred to in the media as white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the alt-right gathered to protest the city’s intentions in what was called a “Unite the Right” rally. A large group of counterprotesters also gathered, and soon racial taunts and name-calling turned into a riot. Tragically, a young man drove his car into the crowd of counterdemonstrators, killing one and injuring 19 others.

 

A SINGULAR VISION

The purpose of the vision God gave Ananias was to heal, not to hurt. He was called to heal the blindness of Saul, a man who was committed to destroying the church. Initially Ananias balked, sensing a great risk to himself, but he obeyed the divine call. In so doing, he played a key part in the apostle Paul’s conversion and subsequent preaching that helped to heal the division between Jews and Gentiles.

  1. What purposes do our society’s memorials serve?
  2. Does our worldview as Christians call for viewing those purposes differently? If so, in what way?
  3. Paul was converted from being a violent persecutor to being a peacemaking preacher. How can that transformation inform and inspire us in light of cultural tensions today?
  4. Have you ever experienced God calling you to follow a life-changing vision as Paul did? Explain.
  5. What vision is God giving you now in regard to being an agent of change in our mixed-up, polarized society?

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

August 20: Called to Preach (Acts 9:10-20)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read the background information found in the Standard Lesson Commentary (SLC) marked “Lesson Background: Saul.”

Then have your group read Acts 9:1-9, which isn’t included in the lesson text, and discuss the following question.

  1. What do you suppose Saul was thinking and feeling at this point?

Have your group read Acts 9:10-16 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What two visions does this passage include?
  2. Why was it important that Ananias was designated by name in Saul’s vision?

As the SLC notes, the arrival of a man with that very name would be evidence for the divine source of the vision. And Saul would also be able to inform the owner of the house of the pending arrival of Ananias so that the visitor would not be denied entrance.

  1. How do you think you would feel if you were Ananias?

Note: The SLC points out that the Bible records no other facts about the particular Judas mentioned here. It is very unlikely that he is a Christian, but rather is one of the Jews in the city who expects to receive Saul and support his assignment from the high priest. Ananias, as a Christian of Jewish background, likely knows of “the house of Judas” since the location of the man’s house on an important street is likely an indicator of his prominence and wealth.

  1. What effect would the Lord’s response in verses 15 and 16 have on Ananias?

Have your group read Acts 9:17-20 and discuss the following questions.

  1. Who does Ananias focus on in his message to Saul?
  2. What happened to Saul physically when Ananias prayed for him? What happened to him spiritually?
  3. How did Saul’s heart change in this story?
  4. How did Ananias’s heart change in this story?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four persons for this time of sharing and prayer.

  1. Have you considered some people to be beyond God’s reach? How does this story confront that assumption?
  2. Who do you know who was like the apostle Paul—seemingly beyond reach when they came to Christ?
  3. Who have you found to be intimidating in regard to sharing your faith?
  4. Spend some time praying together for those persons, as well as for others who may seem to be beyond God’s reach.

In the World – August 13, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for August 13 here.

REFUSING TO HEAR

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has been claiming for months that his nation can now deliver nuclear bombs to the US mainland. His increasingly sophisticated missiles indicate his claims may well be correct. Kim has been unresponsive to warnings from the United States and other countries. Last week the UN Security Council unanimously voted to impose sanctions that will likely reduce North Korea’s export revenue by $1 billion a year. In response, Kim threatened that “the US mainland will sink into an unimaginable sea of fire” for “brandishing its nuclear and sanctions clubs.”

 

WANTING TO HEAR

None of us like to be told that we need to change our ways. The result of such an encounter depends heavily on how open we are to change. Unlike North Korea’s leader, the Ethiopian official was ready to heed a message that would change his life. When Philip crossed his path, the Ethiopian actively sought to hear Philip’s advice; and then he incorporated the good news he heard into his behavior.

 

  1. Do threats and sanctions work against leaders like Kim Jong-un? What other options would you suggest?
  2. Are Kim’s reactions typical of a person whose behavior has been challenged? Explain.
  3. When you are challenged about your ideas or behavior, do you wish your typical response would be different? If so, in what way?
  4. In your daily life, how do you find yourself challenging/encouraging others toward positive change?
  5. How do you compare with Philip in your willingness and ability to share the gospel, especially with someone who is different than you?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

August 13: Called to Break Down Barriers (Acts 8:26-39)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Acts 8:26-31 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What do we learn about the Ethiopian official?
  2. What cultural barriers likely separated the Ethiopian and Philip? What common ground did they share?

If the Ethiopian was not a Jew by birth or by later conversion, he was a Gentile “God-fearer” (see Acts 10:2). For more about this man and the cultural barriers separating him and Philip, see the Standard Lesson Commentary note on Acts 8:27b.

  1. Why did the Ethiopian invite Philip to join him in his chariot?

Have your group read Acts 8:32-39 and discuss the following questions.

  1. How did these verses from Isaiah 53 provide a great starting point for Philip to share “the good news about Jesus” (v. 35)?
  2. How do you feel about the eunuch’s immediate baptism? How does this fit with your church’s view and practice of baptism?
  3. How did the story end for Philip? How did it end for the Ethiopian?
  4. How do you see God taking initiative in the story? How do you see Philip taking initiative? What is the relationship between the two?
  5. What lessons can we learn from this story?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four persons for this time of sharing and prayer.

  1. How did you first hear “the good news about Jesus”?
  2. Who has been like Philip in your spiritual journey—helping you discover a new or deeper spiritual life?
  3. What have you found helpful in directing a conversation with someone toward spiritual or biblical topics?
  4. Conclude by praying for God to provide “divine appointments” for you like he did for the Ethiopian and Philip. Pray that you would be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit in the coming days and weeks.

In the World – August 6, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for August 6 here.

CAN THE TESTIMONY BE TRUSTED?

O. J. Simpson was recently granted parole. He was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping nine years ago. Prior to that he gained notoriety for his alleged role in the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman—and his acquittal in the subsequent high-profile trial. Simpson was found culpable in a later civil suit, resulting in a $33.5 million judgment against him. In all of these trials, the testimony was mixed and seemingly contradictory.

 

YES, THE TESTIMONY CAN BE TRUSTED

The first church in Jerusalem had a different kind of testimony problem, yet the question was the same: Can the church be believed in its claim to be a new kind of society—caring for all, with Christ’s love evident to every observer? One way to answer the question is to look at how an individual, organization, or society treats those who are least able to care for themselves. Mixed and contradictory testimony is not acceptable.

 

  1. What factors made O. J. Simpson’s trials so polarizing to the public?
  2. To what extent do you think contradictory testimony affected people’s opinion of the verdicts?
  3. How big of a problem does the church have in regard to its testimony to the world? What are the causes of this problem?
  4. Who are “the least” in our society whom the church should care for?
  5. What is the testimony of your church in this regard? What would you do to improve it?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

August 6: Called to Witness (Acts 6:1-8)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Acts 6:1-8 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What was the source of conflict here in the very first church?

Share the following background information from the Standard Lesson Commentary regarding verse 1:

It is easy to misunderstand the nature of this conflict between the Hellenistic Jews and the Hebraic Jews in Jerusalem. All are of Jewish background. The distinction is that some identify themselves secondarily with the Greek language and culture that predominates outside the borders of Israel, while others identify more with the Hebrew language and culture that predominates within Israel proper.

Jerusalem is a magnet for Jews all over the Roman world, and many come for extended stays. The apostles who grew up in Galilee have at least some ability to speak the Greek language, but they probably identify more with the Hebraic group. A charge of bias on the part of the Hebraic Jews regarding the daily ministration of food to widows therefore lands in their laps.

  1. Why were the apostles (referred to in verse 2 as “the Twelve”) unwilling to meet this need themselves? Do you think they ran the risk of appearing to be “above” such service?
  2. How did the apostles propose to solve the problem, and how was their recommendation received?
  3. What does Luke, the author of Acts, tell us about the seven men chosen for this task?
  4. What role did the apostles play after the seven men were chosen? What does this communicate about the responsibility the seven men were about to accept?
  5. What were the results of this process?
  6. What needs or challenges in the Christian community today parallel those of the first church in Jerusalem? How does your church respond to those needs or challenges? How could it be more effective?
  7. How important is it that Christians serve in some way within their fellowship? Why do you feel that way?
  8. When, if ever, are there times or situations when we should not serve?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four persons for this time of sharing and prayer.

  1. How would you characterize your willingness to serve in Christ’s church?
  2. What do you see as your gifts or niche for service?
  3. Are you concerned about a group of people in your church with a particular background or need? If so, do you think God might be calling you to do something to help?
  4. Pray together regarding each of you using your lives and gifts in service to the Lord and your congregation.

July 30: Amos (Amos 7:10-17)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Before using the discussion questions below, share the following background information from the Standard Lesson Commentary (SLC):

Amos was one of the many prophets whom God raised up during the period of the divided monarchy (931–722 BC) in Old Testament history. His ministry took place during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam in Israel (Amos 1:1). Commentators generally refer to this Jeroboam as Jeroboam II to distinguish him from the Jeroboam who was the first king of northern Israel after the nation divided.

No kings of Israel were considered good or godly. This is an important reason the northern kingdom fell under God’s judgment much sooner than did the southern kingdom of Judah. Prophets like Amos came on the scene to sound the alarm and warn of coming judgment. Amos himself seemed an unlikely candidate for the prophetic task. He was a simple shepherd and fruit farmer from Judah, but God sent him to shepherd his wayward people of Israel.

A major factor in the spiritual decline of northern Israel was the idolatry encouraged by Jeroboam I when he set up golden calves to be worshipped in the towns of Bethel and Dan. He did so to keep residents of the northern kingdom from traveling to Jerusalem, worshipping at the temple, and reaffirming their allegiance to the house of David. Bethel was still quite active as a pagan shrine in Amos’s day, nearly 200 years later. The spiritual danger posed by that center of idolatry, only 11 miles north of Jerusalem, was immense. Amaziah functioned as a “priest” in this context.

Have your group read Amos 7:10-13.

  1. What was the nature of Amos’s “conspiracy” against King Jeroboam?
  2. Why did Amaziah want Amos to leave Israel?
  3. In what way was Amaziah condescending toward Amos in verses 12 and 13?

Point out the following from the SLC: “Seer” was the term commonly used before the designation “prophet” replaced it. The older term reflects how a prophet is empowered by the Lord to “see” what others cannot, whether in a spiritual sense or by means of visions. In Amos’s case, Amaziah seems to use the term seer sarcastically; otherwise he would not demand that Amos stop prophesying in northern Israel.

To “earn your bread” in Judah may imply that Amos will be fed or paid better in his homeland than he currently is in the northern kingdom. Perhaps Amaziah believes that prophets are interested in nothing more than earning a livelihood.

Have your group read Amos 7:14-17.

  1. How did Amos view himself vocationally? How is that relevant in regard to Amaziah’s message?
  2. What qualified Amos to do what he was doing in Israel?
  3. What subtle but significant difference is there between how Amaziah introduces his words in verse 11 and how Amos introduces his words in verses 16 and 17?

Point out the following from the SLC: Amaziah’s quotation of Amos begins with “This is what Amos is saying.” The usual way to preface a prophet’s message is with the phrase “the Lord says” or some variation of it. That is how Amos responds to Amaziah in verses 16 and 17. Amaziah sees nothing authoritative in Amos’s message; he’s just spouting his own words, not the Lord’s.

  1. As a result of rejecting the word of the Lord, what would the consequences be for the people of Israel in general and for Amaziah in particular?

Point out the following from the SLC: The Scriptures provide no record of the fulfillment of this prophecy against Amaziah. Even so, we can be sure it was fulfilled, since it is “the word of the Lord” (v. 16). History records the fate of Israel when it falls to Assyria in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:6).

Note: The SLC doesn’t comment directly on Amos’s prediction that Amaziah’s wife “will become a prostitute.” Apparently she would be forced into prostitution to survive after Amaziah was taken into exile, their children were killed, and their land was confiscated.

  1. What lessons should we take away from this passage of God’s Word?

 

To encourage personal application:

Let’s look back at key Scriptures from the last two months of lessons. Read through the verses and choose one or two characters or statements that resonate with your own life or sense of God’s call. Then share your thoughts with the group.

  • Barak said to [Deborah], “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” — Judges 4:8
  • “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” — Judges 6:15
  • Jephthah said to them, “Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?” — Judges 11:7
  • Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” — Exodus 3:11
  • “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” — Isaiah 6:5
  • “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” — Jeremiah 1:6
  • “Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” — Ezekiel 3:11
  • Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” — Amos 7:14

In the World – July 30, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for July 30 here.

DEATH IN A FOREIGN LAND

Last weekend 10 immigrants died after being locked in a truck that was found in a San Antonio parking lot. The victims were being transported by human traffickers. Many other victims were hospitalized for extreme dehydration and heatstroke. Such events provoke strong debate, with members of the Sanctuary Movement saying the incident is evidence of a need for change in immigration policies, while others say the event calls for stricter law enforcement. Either way, more than a score of people suffered or died in a land not their own.

 

A PREDICTION OF CAPTIVITY AND DEATH

Although Amos denied that he was a prophet, he responded to God’s call and delivered a message of doom for Israel. He proclaimed that both Israel’s king and its people would be taken captive and die in a foreign land. Unlike illegal immigrants who seek a better life in the United States, the Israelites would be transported to a strange land as exiles who were paying with their lives for their idolatry and sinfulness.

 

  1. Where should the blame be placed for the deaths in San Antonio?
  2. What other types of human trafficking are you aware of? How would you solve this problem as it appears in its many guises?
  3. What guidelines does the gospel offer to Christians for determining their attitudes and actions regarding this situation?
  4. What do you think Amos would say to America today?
  5. How might God be calling you to speak to our culture’s evils?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World – July 23, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for July 23 here.

EATING THEIR WORDS

“Eating your words” is an expression used when people have boasted about what they will do but later discover that they are unable to accomplish it. When that happens, those words can have a bitter taste. We see a current example of the phenomenon in Washington. Unfulfilled campaign promises can plague members of either party, but right now it’s the Republicans’ turn. They are finding it difficult to deliver on their preelection boast that they would immediately repeal and replace Obamacare, and they are facing the ire of some of their most ardent supporters.

 

EATING GOD’S WORDS

God’s command to Ezekiel to eat a scroll symbolized the idea of making the word of God an integral part of our being. For the prophet, the scroll tasted as sweet as honey, because he was faithful to the Lord. However, if the people of Israel failed to listen to the words of God, those words would be bitter to them.

 

  1. What is there in our psychological makeup that makes us willing to believe the promises of politicians seeking our votes?
  2. In what areas of life, other than politics, do we see this same phenomenon? Give examples.
  3. In what ways have you found God’s words to be like honey to you?
  4. How can we ensure that others will find our words “as sweet as honey”?
  5. Specifically, what can you do to prevent “eating your words”?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

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Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

July 23: Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:1-11)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Before using the discussion questions below, share the following background information from the Standard Lesson Commentary (SLC):

The prophet Ezekiel was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. Both were living at the time Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC. Ezekiel is introduced as “the priest” (Ezekiel 1:3). And that is what he would have been had it not been for the tragic turn of events in the southern kingdom of Judah. The first stage in these events came in 605 BC, when Daniel and his friends were taken captive to Babylon. Ezekiel’s relocation to Babylon was a part of the second stage of exile; he was among the 10,000 of the elite citizenry taken in 597 BC.

Daniel and other Jews were taken to serve “in the king’s palace” (Daniel 1:4), while Ezekiel found himself in a completely different setting: “among the exiles by the Kebar River” (Ezekiel 1:1). Even so, “the hand of the Lord was on him” (1:3). It was there that the Lord proceeded to call the priest to a task he undoubtedly did not anticipate.

Have your group read Ezekiel 3:1-3.

Point out the following from the SLC: The designation Son of man occurs over 90 times in the book of Ezekiel, always when the Lord is addressing the prophet. We recognize this phrase as a self-designation of Jesus in the New Testament, a title of messianic significance as it reflects Daniel 7:13, 14. However, the phrase does not appear to have any messianic significance when applied to Ezekiel. Son of man simply draws attention to the humanity and mortality of Ezekiel in contrast with the eternal God who calls him.

  1. What is the significance of the order of events—Ezekiel first eating the scroll and then going and speaking to the people?

Point out the following from the SLC: It is important that Ezekiel first receives the message within himself. Only then is he qualified to carry out the command we see here. God’s Word must become a part of the messenger before the messenger can impart it to others.

  1. What is the significance of the Lord instructing Ezekiel to “fill [his] stomach” with the scroll?

Point out the following from the SLC: The phrasing fill your stomach with it points to the thoroughness with which Ezekiel is to receive God’s message that is written on the scroll.

  1. Just before this passage, Ezekiel described the scroll that was unrolled before him: “On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe” (Ezekiel 2:10). What is the significance of the fact that the scroll tasted “as sweet as honey” (Ezekiel 3:3)?

Point out the following from the SLC: The sweet taste that follows Ezekiel’s eating of the scroll may seem odd since its contents consist only of “lament and mourning and woe.” Most likely the sweetness is linked to Ezekiel’s faithfulness to his appointed task. Even though his message will not be pleasant to hear and the audience will be resistant and hostile, Ezekiel’s fulfillment will come from his faithful delivery of the words given by the one who has called him.

Have your group read Ezekiel 3:4-11.

  1. Why would Ezekiel’s fellow Israelites in exile refuse to listen to him?
  2. How would the Lord enable Ezekiel to deal with their response?
  3. What was Ezekiel responsible for in regard to his call and mission?
  4. What was Ezekiel not responsible for?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four persons for this time of sharing.

  1. Psalm 19:10 says that the Lord’s decrees are “more precious than gold” and “sweeter than honey.” At what season or circumstance of your life has God’s Word been the most “precious” and “sweet” to you?
  2. Most of us eat three meals a day. What have you found most helpful in regularly “feeding” on God’s Word. How are you doing in that regard?
  3. What is the closest you can recall to being in a situation like Ezekiel’s when God seemed to call you to represent him to “hardened” people?
  4. Who might God be calling you to speak to now? How will you handle it if they aren’t willing to listen?

In the World – July 16, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for July 16 here.

WHAT WILL HE SAY?

Thousands of anti-capitalist anarchists descended on Hamburg, Germany when leaders of the G-20 industrialized nations met. They did not come to hear what anyone had to say; they came to create havoc. However, most people wanted to know what Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin would say to each other. Another question was whether President Trump would soften his voice on the US withdrawal from the Paris climate-change agreement.

 

THIS IS WHAT HE WILL SAY

God’s call to Jeremiah left little doubt as to what his message would be. It might seem like an anarchist message to some. God would overthrow established orders and ruling powers—but not for the sake of causing chaos. Jeremiah would speak God’s words in order to restore a reign of godliness. The prophet would be tempted to fear his audience, understandably so in light of the content of the messages God gave him.

 

  1. Why were the media so enthralled with the Trump-Putin face-off and the climate-change issue? Of what concern should those matters be to Christians?
  2. Do you see any value in the protesters’ presence during the G-20 meetings? Why or why not?
  3. Was God’s call to Jeremiah really a call to incite anarchy? Explain.
  4. How much effort should we expend to understand those with whom we disagree?
  5. Do you fear speaking out for God in our post-Christian culture? What would give you more confidence to do so?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

July 16: Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-10)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Ask your group members to share their answer to at least one of the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. When you were a child, what did you really like to do or feel like you were really good at?
  2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  3. When can you recall getting frustrated or upset because you were too young to do something?
  4. What adult encouraged you and helped you grow in confidence?

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Jeremiah 1:4-10.

Before moving to the discussion questions below, share the following: Many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament begin with a phrase like Jeremiah used in verse 4: “The word of the Lord came to me.” We aren’t told how Jeremiah and other prophets received their messages, but it is clear that they were completely confident that the source of the revelation was God.

  1. According to verse 5, when did Jeremiah actually receive his call?
  2. What does this verse contribute to modern debates about when life begins?
  3. What does Jeremiah’s response in verse 6 reveal about how he felt about himself? Who does he remind you of from previous lessons in this quarter?

From the Standard Lesson Commentary: Jeremiah’s initial response to the Lord’s call is as hesitant as Moses’ was (Exodus 3:11, lesson 5). Jeremiah claims a weakness in the area of his speech due to lack of age. One may find it somewhat ironic that Jeremiah is speaking while claiming an inability to speak. But he is likely thinking in terms of lacking the more polished or trained speaking ability that comes with the experience of years.

  1. How would you characterize the tone of the Lord’s reply in verses 7 and 8? What effect do you suppose this had on young Jeremiah?
  2. Who does the action of verse 9 remind you of from a previous lesson in this quarter?

From the Standard Lesson Commentary: The Lord’s action is reminiscent of what happens to Isaiah, only with Isaiah one of the seraphim comes to him and touches his lips with a burning coal taken from an altar (Isaiah 6:5-7, lesson 6). Here it is the Lord who reaches out his hand and touches Jeremiah’s mouth. By adding “I have put my words in your mouth” to this action, the Lord specifically addresses Jeremiah’s earlier objection that he does “not know how to speak” (v. 6).

  1. Which part of the commission in verse 10 do you think Jeremiah was more eager to fulfill?
  2. How would the Lord’s words in verses 7 and 8 help Jeremiah later on?
  3. What young person could you encourage with a similar message—e.g., “You’re not too young. You can do whatever God calls you to do. Don’t be afraid, for the Lord is with you”?

In the World – July 9, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for July 9 here.

CALLING EACH OTHER NAMES

“Liar, liar, pants on fire!” We’re all familiar with this childhood taunt. Unfortunately, that seems to be what political discourse in America has become. It is the nature of partisan debate on many issues. President Trump and his critics have taken up this kind of interchange. Last week the president tweeted harshly about the cohosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show. When the tweets raised a firestorm of protest, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president, essentially saying that when he gets criticized, he replies in kind.

 

CALLED BY GOD

When Isaiah was called by God, the seraphim didn’t shout “Sinner!” And Isaiah didn’t defend himself, as we all tend to do when criticized. Instead, as Isaiah stood in the presence of God, he recognized God’s holiness and admitted his own sinfulness. So it was that when God called him on a mission, Isaiah responded, “At your service!”

 

  1. What remedies would you recommend for the baseness of public discourse in America?
  2. Although we like to blame our leaders for our problems, how do we common citizens contribute to the harshness of public debate?
  3. How should awareness of God’s holiness affect the way we respond to criticism when it is unfair? . . . when it accurately points out our sin?
  4. How do Matthew 5:39 and Colossians 4:6 apply to this situation?
  5. How should God’s call to us as Christians determine the nature of our conversation with others?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

July 9: Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-8)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Isaiah 6:1-8. Before moving to the discussion questions below, share the following background information from the Standard Lesson Commentary (SLC):

The “year that King Uzziah died” (verse 1) was 740 BC. Uzziah had been one of Judah’s more godly kings. But he did not finish well because at one point he defiantly entered the temple to offer incense, an act reserved only for the priests. When he reacted angrily to the priests who confronted him, he was immediately stricken with leprosy and had to be quarantined for the remainder of his life (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).

Some individuals in the Old Testament are privileged to see the Lord or a limited revelation of his glory. The Lord himself determines to what extent and by what means he allows himself to be experienced by humans. Isaiah’s experience of the Lord is likely by means of a vision since the word saw is used.

The manner in which Isaiah sees the Lord is similar to John’s description of one who is “sitting on” a throne (Revelation 4:2). It is difficult to say whether the temple Isaiah sees is the earthly temple of Solomon in Jerusalem or the heavenly temple. Clearly John’s vision in Revelation is one of Heaven (Revelation 4:1, 2). In Isaiah’s case, one should keep in mind how King Uzziah had violated the sanctity of the Jerusalem temple by offering incense when he was unauthorized to do so. Perhaps Isaiah’s vision is of this earthly temple in order to show him (and in turn, the nation of Judah) that the Lord has not departed from the temple.

  1. Deaths of national leaders are accompanied by varying degrees of uncertainty about the future. What effect would Isaiah’s vision have amid these circumstances?

As the SLC notes, such concerns are unnecessary regarding Judah’s future. Judah’s ultimate king is still in control, as Isaiah declares in verse 1.

  1. Read the Scripture passage again aloud, one verse at a time, and discuss this question: Which of Isaiah’s five senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste) do you think were involved in each verse?

Regarding verse 7, the SLC observes that we do not know if Isaiah feels any sting or pain from the red-hot coal that is touched to his lips. If so, it must be temporary, as the words “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” speak not of judgment, but of forgiveness.

  1. In a nutshell, how does Isaiah perceive the Lord in verses 1-4?
  2. How does Isaiah perceive himself in verses 5-8?
  3. How was Isaiah’s attitude and self-understanding able to transition like it did from verse 5 to verse 8?
  4. Name a person you know who, like Isaiah, eagerly responded to God’s call.

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four persons for this time of sharing and prayer.

  1. Share about a time when you especially sensed God’s presence. Did that include, as in Isaiah’s case, an awareness of your sinfulness?
  2. Do you think believers today are as aware of their sinfulness as they should be? Explain.
  3. What does God need to remove from your life or change in your life for you to more eagerly follow him and pursue his calling?
  4. Pray for each other according to what was shared.

In the World – July 2, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for July 2 here.

FIRES THAT CONSUME

A week ago the West was on fire . . . figuratively. A week-long extreme heat wave brought 125 degrees to Death Valley, 122 degrees to Palm Springs, 111 degrees to Burbank, and even 96 degrees to Seattle! Las Vegas and Phoenix also suffered from the intense heat. As this past week began, the heat wave had moved eastward, but literal fire began to consume the West. Seven Western states were being ravaged by more than 20 wildfires that were destroying large areas and forcing thousands of people to flee from their homes.

 

A FIRE THAT DID NOT CONSUME

We don’t know if Moses had ever seen a wildfire, but the fire he saw on “the mountain of God” was stranger than anything he had ever seen. A bush was on fire but was not being consumed. As we would expect, Moses’ curiosity was aroused. Drawing near to the bush, Moses discovered that God was calling him to the greatest challenge of his life. When Moses tried to refuse the call, God promised to give him extraordinary power to accomplish what he was being called to do.

 

  1. Is God speaking to us through extreme weather conditions? If so, what is the message?
  2. Does God still use unusual physical circumstances to call people to serve him? Why or why not?
  3. Did Moses react to the burning bush and to God’s call the way most people would? Explain.
  4. Was Moses’ hesitancy due to insecurity or a lack of faith?
  5. Have you ever been in an unusual situation through which you perceived God to be speaking to you? Explain.

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

July 2: Moses (Exodus 3:1-12)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

This week’s lesson on the call of Moses at the burning bush continues this quarter’s theme of “God’s Urgent Call.” In this light, ask your group members to share their answer to at least one of the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. How many times do you think you’ve seen the 1956 movie classic, The Ten Commandments? What memories do you have of seeing it as a child or young person?
  2. When do you remember being called into the principal’s office or your boss’s office?
  3. What volunteer work or ministry have you done? How were you recruited? How willingly did you volunteer?

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Exodus 3:1-12 and discuss the following questions.

  1. Why do you suppose the Lord chose to appear to Moses from a burning bush that did not burn up?
  2. What effect did this have on Moses?
  3. How effect did Israel’s circumstances have on God?
  4. How does this remind you of the cycles that we learned about in the book of Judges?

In the first lesson in this quarter, the Standard Lesson Commentary notes that the era of the judges—which began after Moses and then Joshua led Israel into the promised land—is focused on Israel’s recurring four-stage cycles. These cycles have been summarized as sin, sorrow (or servitude), supplication, and salvation.

  1. What did God call Moses to do? Based on your knowledge of Moses’ past, how do you imagine you would have felt about that call if you were him?
  2. Do you think Moses was more unsure of himself or of the Lord?
  3. What assurances did God give Moses?
  4. Reflecting on your own life, how has God gotten your attention?
  5. Can you remember an occasion when you felt like you were “standing on holy ground”? What effect has that event had on your relationship with God?

In the World – June 25, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for June 25 here.

NOT AS HE SEEMED

The sexual assault trial of Bill Cosby ended a week ago with a hung jury. From 1984 to 1992, Cosby played the role of lovable Cliff Huxtable, named by TV Guide as the “greatest television dad.” In contrast, the comedian was portrayed by the prosecution in the trial as a sexual predator. Although Cosby has admitted to being an unfaithful husband in real life, he denied the charges against him during the classic “he said, she said” trial.

 

EXACTLY AS THEY SAID

When the angel told Manoah’s wife that their child was to be a Nazirite, they agreed to raise him according to that command. Their words were followed up by parental actions congruent with their promise. What they said was what they did. Unfortunately, Bill Cosby’s show-business portrayal of a good father did not mesh with the flawed person he was in real life.

 

  1. We may have opinions about the Cosby trial verdict, but is it appropriate to make judgments about his guilt or innocence (as many are doing) when we did not hear the evidence personally? Why or why not?
  2. How could Cosby play the role of Cliff Huxtable in good conscience when his personal life as husband and father did not measure up?
  3. If Cosby was otherwise a good father in real life, do his admitted serial infidelities diminish his stature as a father?
  4. Is Cosby different than the rest of us when it comes to having proverbial skeletons in the closet? Explain.
  5. What place, if any, do “vows” like Samson’s mother made have in parenting today?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

June 25: Samson (Judges 13:1-7, 24, 25)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Judges 13:1-7 and discuss the following questions.

  1. In the first lesson in this quarter, the Standard Lesson Commentary notes that the book of Judges is focused on Israel’s recurring four-stage cycles, which have been summarized as sin, sorrow (or servitude), supplication, and salvation. How do we see the first two stages playing out here?
  2. Why do you think the Israelites kept falling back into sin?
  3. How do we see a promise of the fourth stage?
  4. What do you make of the fact that the third stage—supplication (or repentance)—isn’t mentioned?
  5. What does it mean to be a “Nazirite”?

The word Nazirite means “consecrated,” dedicated,” or “separated.” Numbers 6 stipulates that those who make the Nazirite vow must not drink wine or other fermented drinks, must not eat or drink anything that comes from a grapevine, must not cut their hair, and must not go near a dead body—even an immediate family member. Numbers 6:8 states the purpose of these prohibitions: “Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.”

To be aware of the portion of Judges 13 not covered in this lesson, read the first two paragraphs of the Standard Lesson Commentary notes on verse 24. Then have your group read Judges 13:24, 25 and discuss the following questions.

  1. How do we see God keeping and fulfilling his word?
  2. How would you explain the phrase “the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him (Samson)”?
  3. How do you think Samson felt about being a life-long Nazirite?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four persons for this time of sharing and prayer.

  1. What steps do you take to separate yourself from the ways of the world and set yourself apart for the Lord?
  2. If you are a parent, how have you worked at that process (or plan to do so) in relation to your children?
  3. In what way is the Spirit of the Lord “stirring” in your heart and life?

In the World – June 18, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for June 18 here.

LOYALTY, LEAKS, AND . . .

Former FBI director James Comey, who was fired by President Trump, testified in a highly anticipated congressional hearing last week. He claimed the president demanded loyalty from him in January, during their first meeting. Comey said he promised “honesty” instead. Comey also alleged Trump requested, during a private meeting in the Oval Office in February, that he drop investigations into former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s interactions with the Russians. Characterizing Trump as a liar, Comey admitted that his mistrust led him to ask a friend to leak information about their conversations.

 

. . . LEADERSHIP

Jephthah mistrusted the leaders of Gilead. His half-brothers had driven him from his home in Gilead because Jephthah’s mother, a prostitute, was not their mother; and Jephthah considered the elders complicit in this indignity (see Judges 11:7). Now these leaders were pleading with him to lead the Israelites into battle against the Ammonites. Jephthah challenged their fickleness and agreed to become their head only if they would vow their loyalty to him before the Lord.

 

  1. How do we determine truth and falsehood in what is happening in Washington these days?
  2. How would you rank political loyalty versus honesty? Why?
  3. Give examples of how these values might compete. Give an example of a life situation in which loyalty and honesty should be complementary.
  4. Was Jephthah justified to insist on loyalty from the leaders of Gilead? Why or why not?
  5. Is it appropriate to demand loyalty from people during serious negotiations today? In what ways do we do this?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

June 18: Jephthah (Judges 11:4-11, 29-31)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read or summarize all but the last paragraph of the Standard Lesson Commentary (SLC) Lesson Background to understand the contents of the book of Judges between Gideon (last week’s lesson) and Jephthah (today’s lesson).

Have your group read Judges 11:1-3 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What positive information do we learn about Jephthah and his background?
  2. What negative information do we learn about Jephthah and his background?

Have your group read Judges 11:4-7 and discuss the following questions.

  1. Why do you suppose Jephthah went from social outcast to commander candidate in the eyes of the leaders of his hometown? Does that say more about Jephthah or the bind the leaders were in?
  2. What accusations do Jephthah’s questions convey?

Have your group read Judges 11:8-11 and discuss the following questions.

  1. How do the elders sweeten the deal in their negotiations with Jephthah?
  2. How do both Jephthah and the elders invoke the Lord as they reach an agreement?
  3. How do we see Jephthah’s support base expanding?

In Judges 11:12-28 (not in today’s lesson text), Jephthah attempts to engage in diplomacy with the Ammonite king. But the king wasn’t interested in a peaceful solution.

Have your group read Judges 11:29-31 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What positive note do we see as Jephthah begins recruiting an army and advancing against the Ammonites?
  2. What negative (and unnecessary) note do we see?

Read the SLC commentary on verse 31 for a discussion of the nature of Jephthah’s vow as well as a concluding reflection about Jephthah’s legacy.

 

To encourage personal application:

Since today is Father’s Day, spend some time praying for the men in your group and in your congregation—particularly those who are fathers.

While Jephthah cannot be emulated for his example as a father, we can pray that the Spirit of the Lord would come on these men, as was the case with Jephthah (Judges 11:29).

In the World – June 11, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for June 11 here.

FRUSTRATION

Last Saturday night, Britain suffered a third Islamist attack in three months when terrorists drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then stabbed many victims in the nearby restaurant district. Seven were killed and dozens wounded. Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister, gave a strongly worded response. However, government efforts to restrict incitements to terror have been frustrated by free-speech impediments in British courts, creating a sense of impotence in dealing with such threats.

 

IMPOTENCE

Gideon may have felt a similar sense of impotence when called to deliver Israel from the Midianites. He found a number of excuses to resist God’s call: God’s current actions in Israel’s behalf weren’t as bold as they had been in the past, Gideon was from a weak clan, he was least in his family, he needed a divine sign, etc.

 

  1. How can a society which values privacy and the freedoms of speech, association, and religion protect itself from those who abuse those freedoms to destroy that society?
  2. Should temporary security measures such as those used in wartime be put in force to protect us today? Why or why not?
  3. Have you ever felt, as Gideon did, that God isn’t working in behalf of his people as he used to? Explain.
  4. Have you ever felt you were inadequate for what God called you to do? How did you deal with such feelings?
  5. When we are unsure of God’s will for us, should we seek signs? Why or why not?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

June 11: Gideon (Judges 6:11-18)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read or summarize the Standard Lesson Commentary (SLC) Lesson Background to understand the first 10 verses of Judges 6, which are not included in the printed passage.

Have your group read Judges 6:11-13 and discuss the following questions.

  1. Why was Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress, a confined area excavated from rock?
  2. How do you suppose Gideon felt about this stranger’s greeting?

Note: Consult the SLC note on verse 11a regarding the identity of “the angel of the Lord.” It certainly appears at this point that Gideon assumes this to be a typical human being.

  1. How would you characterize Gideon’s response to the stranger?
  2. What aspect of Israel’s spiritual life and condition did Gideon overlook?

Have your group read Judges 6:14-18 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What reassurances does the Lord give Gideon?
  2. How do you see fear affecting Gideon’s responses to the stranger? Do you see some evidence of faith as well?
  3. How can you relate to possessing a mixture of fear and faith?
  4. Where do we draw the line between being fearful and being realistic?
  5. When, if ever, is it appropriate for Christians today to ask God for a confirming sign?

Note: Consider reading the SLC commentary on verse 18 to review the rest of Gideon’s amazing story.

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four persons for this time of sharing and prayer.

  1. Read Judges 6:13 again. If you’re honest, how prone are you to having a similar perspective during hard times?
  2. Read Judges 6:15 again. In what way, or in what arena, do you feel inadequate, weak, or “the least”?
  3. Pray for each other according to what was shared.

Read the following to your class as a blessing and commission:

  • The Lord . . . said, “Go in the strength you have . . .” (Judges 6:14)
  • The Lord answered, “I will be with you . . .” (Judges 6:16)

In the World – June 4, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for June 4 here.

ONE ASCENDANT WOMAN

In Europe a week ago, President Trump attended a NATO summit and a G-7 meeting of economic leaders. Historically, America’s president has been the leader at such meetings, but things changed this time. Angela Merkel, Germany’s “iron chancellor,” emerged from these meetings as the apparent new leader based on her fearless public criticism of Trump’s stated positions on climate change, trade, Russia, and NATO. Some might see irony in the fact that Merkel, a woman, had gained ascendancy—at least in the eyes of European delegates—over a strong-willed American president.

 

TWO VICTORIOUS WOMEN

Deborah was the only female among Israel’s judges. She delivered the news to Barak that God had chosen him to the lead the Israelites in their fight against Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army. Barak’s unwillingness to go into battle against the Canaanites unless Deborah was at his side called out a demonstration of her toughness. She warned Barak that even though the Israelites would win, the honor of victory would go to a woman. We find out later that this woman would be Jael, who killed an exhausted Sisera while he was asleep.

 

  1. In politics, does it matter whether men or women are in leadership? Why or why not?
  2. What character traits make a good leader, whether male or female?
  3. Do you think God chose Deborah to be judge because no competent men were available, or for other reasons? Explain.
  4. There seems to be some irony in Deborah’s response to Barak. Do you suppose she enjoyed it? Would it have been right for her to do so?
  5. What principles from this biblical incident, if any, can we apply to leadership in today’s world?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

 

June 4: Deborah and Barak (Judges 4:1-10)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

This week’s lesson represents the first of four studies from the book of Judges. (The traditional term “judges” actually refers to the leaders God raised up to deliver the Israelites from their enemies.) In this light, ask your group members to share their answer to at least one of the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. When you were in high school or college, who was the BMOC (Big Man on Campus)? Who was the most popular or influential female?
  2. Apart from the Bible, name one man and one woman you admire for their leadership or example.
  3. What qualities do you look for in a spiritual leader? What qualities do you look for in a political leader? Are there significant differences in your standards and expectations? Why or why not?

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Judges 4:1-3 and discuss the following questions.

  1. Deborah was the third of Israel’s major “judges,” or leaders. A man named Ehud was the second judge. What effect did Ehud have on the Israelites?
  2. How were the Canaanites able to sustain their oppression of the Israelites?
  3. The Standard Lesson Commentary notes, in its lesson background, that the book of Judges is focused on Israel’s recurring four-stage cycles, which have been summarized as sin, sorrow (or servitude), supplication, and salvation. How do we see the first three stages playing out here?

Have your group read Judges 4:4-7 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What leadership roles did Deborah fulfill?
  2. In the midst of a male-oriented society, why do you suppose God chose a woman to lead Israel? How do you suppose the Israelites felt about it?

Have your group read Judges 4:8-10 and discuss the following questions.

  1. Why do you suppose Barak refused to lead the Israelites into battle if Deborah didn’t go with him?

Note: The Standard Lesson Commentary points out that various reasons have been suggested for why Barak said this. Deborah’s reply clearly seems to be a rebuke for Barak’s lack of trust in the Lord. Nevertheless, Barak did obey the call to lead the Israelites into battle, and Hebrews 11:32 includes him among those in the Old Testament who exemplified great faith.

  1. What would Barak’s hesitation cost him?

Note: The battle plan that God gave Deborah was to draw Sisera into a trap. The armies engaged along the Kishon River, where the Canaanites’ chariots should have been free to maneuver. But God would fight for his people via storm and flood (see Judges 5:19-21). Sisera fled on foot to some people he assumed would give him refuge. But after a woman named Jael invited Sisera into her tent and he fell fast asleep, Jael drove a tent peg through his head—thus fulfilling Deborah’s words that “the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman” (Judges 4:9).

  1. What woman has God used to call forth the best in you?

In the World – May 28, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for May 28 here.

A QUESTION OF VALUE

Jean-Michel Basquiat was once a graffiti painter. Now his work is celebrated by art collectors. On May 18, Basquiat’s graffiti-like painting of a skull, titled “Untitled,” brought $110.5 million at auction. The purchaser, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, beat out three other bidders. Last year Maezawa paid $57.3 million for another Basquiat work, also titled “Untitled,” in which the artist portrayed himself as a horned devil. About last week’s auction, one art collector gushed, “It’s a really historical moment.” However, many people outside the rarified air of the art connoisseur’s world find Basquiat’s work less remarkable.

 

A QUESTION OF VALUES

Jonah’s anger about God’s refusal to destroy Nineveh reflects a self-centeredness that prevented him from rejoicing in the work God was doing. He placed greater value on his own desire to see his message of divine retribution come true than he did on the 120,000 citizens of Nineveh whom God wanted to save.

 

  1. How might a person rationalize spending $110.5 million on a painting when there are so many worthy and needy causes in the world?
  2. Assuming you had the money, how would you spend $110.5 million?
  3. At a much lower level of expenditure, what questions come to your mind about the values we Christians express by our purchases?
  4. God questioned Jonah’s values on the basis of compassionate concern for others. How does that speak to our values?
  5. Does our response to current social issues ever mirror Jonah’s expression of self-centeredness? Explain and give examples.

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

May 28: Pervasive Love (Jonah 4)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Jonah 4:1-4 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What does the word “this” in verse 1 refer to?
  2. How does Jonah’s anger and his prayer connect to the story in chapter 1?
  3. How does Jonah’s prayer here compare to his prayer in chapter 2?
  4. How had God shown mercy to the Ninevites?
  5. How had God shown mercy to Jonah?

Have your group read Jonah 4:5-11 and discuss the following questions.

  1. What three things did God “provide”? If you were Jonah, how would you have felt about God’s “provision”?
  2. How is the dialog in verse 9 similar to the dialog earlier in the chapter?
  3. What lesson was God trying to teach Jonah through these events?
  4. How did Jonah’s attitude toward the Ninevites compare to God’s attitude toward them?
  5. How can you relate to Jonah’s desire to limit God’s mercy to others? To whom might God be calling you to show mercy?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four people for the following time of sharing and prayer.

  1. How do you typically express anger?
  2. Specifically, what do you do when you feel angry or frustrated with God?
  3. How could you grow in these areas?
  4. How has God spoken to you or challenged you through these four lessons from the book of Jonah? In prayer, commit to a plan of action in this regard.

In the World – May 21, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for May 21 here.

THREATENING DESTRUCTION . . .

North Korea’s capricious leader, Kim Jong Un, engaged in saber rattling again this week. Kim boasted North Korea’s apparently successful missile test Sunday proves that his backward nation can now deliver “a large scale heavy nuclear warhead” and that the US mainland is in its “sighting range for strike.” Kim has long sought international recognition through military power rather than by more positive means such as developing economic strength to benefit his impoverished people.

 

. . . BUT PROMISING SALVATION

God threatened Nineveh with destruction, but not to boost his own fragile ego. Instead, God’s message through Jonah was intended to save the city’s residents by persuading them to turn from their sinful ways. Thus, the divine threat was a means of making the Ninevites aware of their need for salvation. Unlike so many human leaders, the king of Nineveh used his position to bring spiritual prosperity to his people.

 

  1. What differences do you see between Kim Jong Un and the king of Nineveh?
  2. What causes political leaders to put personal prestige ahead of the welfare of their people?
  3. Why are Christian leaders sometimes subject to similar temptations?
  4. The people of Nineveh needed threats of punishment before they would repent. Is this a universal human condition? Explain.
  5. How can we keep ourselves from needing to be threatened with punishment before we repent of sin?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

May 21: Forgiving Love (Jonah 3)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read Jonah 3:1-4 and discuss the following questions.

  1. How long do you think it took Jonah to decide to obey the word of the Lord?
  2. How do you think Jonah felt as he traveled to Nineveh?
  3. How would you describe Jonah’s message? Does it include any hope?

Have your group read Jonah 3:5-10 and discuss the following questions.

  1. How would you describe the response of the king of Nineveh (who was almost surely the powerful king of the entire nation of Assyria) to Jonah’s message?
  2. How would you describe the king’s proclamation to the people?
  3. How do you think Jonah felt about the Ninevites’ response to his message?
  4. What would account for their response?
  5. What would account for God’s response in return?
  6. What lessons does this story teach us about God’s character and will—and about our participation in his plans?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four people for the following time of sharing and prayer.

  1. How can you relate to Jonah—being given a second chance by God? How did you respond to that second chance?
  2. How can you relate to the Ninevites—sincerely responding to God’s warning?
  3. Where or what is your “Nineveh” right now—a calling from God that requires your response?

Close with a time of prayer. Thank God for giving us second (and third) chances. Commit yourself to responding to his warnings and saying yes to his callings.

In the World – May 14, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for May 14 here.

KIDNAPPED AND HOPELESS

It was three years ago that Boko Haram, the extremely violent ISIS-related terrorist group, kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Nigeria. Some of the students escaped soon after they were kidnapped, and others have escaped or been released in the past year. Last Sunday, 82 of the girls were traded for five terrorist commanders, leaving 113 still missing. In what seems like a hopeless situation, Boko Haram has abducted thousands of people in the last few years, using them as sex slaves, human bombs, or bargaining chips in negotiations.

 

DESPERATE, BUT HOPEFUL

Jonah was also in a hopeless situation, all because of his refusal to answer God’s call. Sinking in the Mediterranean Sea, Jonah felt as if he was “deep in the realm of the dead.” But he cried out to God in hope of being saved, trusting that once again he would be able to praise God in his temple.

 

  1. What are the pros and cons of trading hostages for terrorists?
  2. How did Jonah’s desperate situation differ from that of the girls abducted by Boko Haram?
  3. How did Jonah’s failure to obey God mesh with his expression of hope that God would save him? In what ways are we like Jonah?
  4. What other apparently hopeless “hostage” situations exist in our modern world? Are you aware of any ministries committed to setting such people free?
  5. Are you acquainted personally with someone who was set free from some form of bondage? How did trust in God figure into their escape?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

May 14: Preserving Love (Jonah 2)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Have your group read all of Jonah 2 and then discuss the following questions.

  1. What is the significance of the fact that Jonah prayed from inside the huge fish?

Point out that Jonah 2:1-9 represents the prayer of thanksgiving that Jonah composed after he was delivered from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

  1. How did Jonah recall and describe his situation after the sailors threw him overboard?
  2. What did Jonah do in response? Identify the phrases that signify that response.

Verse 2: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help.”

Verse 7: “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you.”

 

  1. What did God do in response? Identify the phrases that signify that response.

Verse 2: “. . . he answered me. . . . you listened to my cry.”

Verse 6: “But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.”

 

  1. What lessons did Jonah learn through this ordeal?
  2. How does verse 8 show that Jonah still has the heart of a prophet?
  3. Although Jonah didn’t drown, how safe and secure would you say he is now?
  4. Despite his current dilemma, identify the phrases that demonstrate Jonah’s confidence and assurance.

Verse 4: “I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.”

Verse 9: “But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

 

  1. Why did the fish vomit Jonah onto dry land?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four persons for this time of sharing and prayer.

  1. When have you been in a situation like Jonah’s—in deep distress amid circumstances in which you felt helpless?
  2. What were your prayers like?
  3. What should our prayers be like when we face seemingly hopeless circumstances?
  4. What challenge are you facing now in which you need to call to the Lord—with hope?

Take turns doing that, and then lift each other up in prayer.

May 7: Sustaining Love (Jonah 1:7-17)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

This week’s lesson represents the first of four studies from the book of Jonah. Ask your group members to share their answer to at least one of the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. What are some of your earliest memories of learning about the story of Jonah (and similar Bible stories)—e.g., from your parents, Sunday school flannelgraph, Bible school stories, reading the Bible as a new believer?
  2. If you could visit anywhere or cruise anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  3. When have you been traveling and gotten caught in a bad storm?

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Although today’s lesson doesn’t begin till Jonah 1:7, have your group read all of Jonah 1 and then discuss the following questions.

The book of Jonah opens with God calling his prophet to go and proclaim the word of the Lord to the great city of Nineveh. Most of us know the story well: Jonah “ran away from the Lord” (1:3) and headed in the opposite direction. What may not be as clear in our memories, though, is that Nineveh was the seat of power of Israel’s worst enemy, Assyria—a nation dreaded and despised for its aggression and brutality.

  1. How do you think you would feel if you were Jonah and God asked you to go and preach in Nineveh?
  2. How did the Lord respond to Jonah’s decision?
  3. How did the sailors respond to the storm?
  4. Why do you suppose Jonah’s answer in verse 9 terrified the sailors?
  5. How did Jonah respond to the storm?
  6. What redemptive results came from this story? For the sailors? For Jonah?
  7. In your relationship with the Lord, would you say that you are running away from God, running back to God, or running next to God?
  8. What most often holds you back from obeying what God wants you to do?

In the World – April 30, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for April 30 here.

DISTORTED LOVE

On March 13, Tad Cummins, a 50-year-old school teacher, and Elizabeth Thomas, his 15-year-old former student, disappeared from Culleoka, Tennessee. There had been reports of a romantic relationship between them, and they apparently fled as the investigation into the affair developed. The pair’s location was unknown for five weeks, but they were finally found in an isolated cabin in northern California. Police were able to arrest Cummins without resistance. Elizabeth was safe and has been returned to her family, while Cummins faces several state and federal criminal charges.

 

SELFLESS LOVE

We humans find numerous ways to twist life circumstances so that our relationships become distorted into something outside of God’s will for us. Jesus spoke of how thieves try to steal the sheep, as opposed to the good shepherd who loves them and cares for them. Jesus does this even to the point of giving his life for them, as opposed to using them for selfish purposes, like a thief would.

 

  1. What can society do to prevent the kind of situation that developed between Tad Cummins and his student?
  2. What should the consequences be for Cummins?
  3. How can Christians be God’s agents in bringing healing to people like Cummins, Elizabeth Thomas, and their families?
  4. How can we avoid fooling ourselves into thinking our sins are OK?
  5. If you have experienced others trying to use you, can you express how Christ has cared for you in spite of your experience?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2017 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

April 30: Protecting Love (John 10:1-15)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read John 10:1-6 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How does Jesus describe the difference between the way the shepherd enters the sheep pen and the way others enter it?
  2. How does Jesus describe the difference between the way the sheep respond to the shepherd and the way the sheep respond to others?

Read John 10:7-10 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What new metaphor does Jesus introduce? What does each metaphor in this passage communicate about Jesus?
  2. How does Jesus’ character and motives differ from the thief’s?

Read John 10:11-15 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How does Jesus’ character and motives differ from the hired hand’s?
  2. From what you know about the Pharisees and other Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ day, how do they fit Jesus’ characterization of a thief or hired hand?
  3. With what selfless action does Jesus associate the good shepherd—twice?
  4. What does it mean that Jesus knows his sheep and his sheep know him?
  5. What relationship is that intimacy patterned after?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four people for the following time of sharing and prayer.

  1. What “voices” or messages, other than the good shepherd’s, call out to you? How do you discern between the two?
  2. What difference does it make when you choose to listen to Christ?
  3. How do you “tune your ear” to focus on Christ’s voice? What do you feel challenged to do differently?

Close with a time of prayer. Thank Christ for being the good shepherd and the gate for the sheep; and commit yourself to becoming more familiar with his voice, listening to him, and following him.

In the World – April 23, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for April 23 here.

AN UNEXPECTED GIFT

Cayla Chandara moved from California to Hawaii to go to college. But then the 21-year-old dropped out and took on two waitress jobs to pay down her student loans before hopefully returning to school. Recently she served a friendly couple from Australia who were interested in hearing about her life and future dreams. Their bill was $200. After they left, Cayla discovered they gave her a $400 tip! The couple had mentioned where they were staying, so Cayla left a thank-you letter for them at the hotel’s front desk. The next evening, the tourists returned to the restaurant and gave Cayla $10,000 to pay off her loans and help her get back into college. Cayla said, “They have truly changed my life, not only financially but in the way I look at things.”

 

AN UNDESERVED GIFT

We occasionally hear about someone who donates a kidney or a portion of their liver to keep some worthy person alive. We don’t expect people to risk their lives for an undeserving person. But that’s what Jesus did for us—the godly died for the ungodly! In the process, he made us right with God, something we could not accomplish by ourselves.

 

  1. What do you think prompted the couple to give these gifts to Cayla, a person they had just met?
  2. Are you aware of other stories like this?
  3. Have you ever been moved to offer a generous gift to a deserving person? What moved you to do so?
  4. Have you ever refused even a small donation to someone you felt was “unworthy” of your help? Does Jesus’ gift make it more difficult to justify such a decision?
  5. How has Christ’s gift changed the way you approach life?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

April 23: Reconciling Love (Romans 5:6-11; 8:31-39)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read Romans 5:6-11 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How does Paul describe humanity’s condition before Jesus died for us?
  2. How does Paul describe the effects of Christ’s death upon believers?
  3. What motivated God to rescue us?
  4. How would you explain to someone who had never heard about Jesus what it means to be “justified by his blood” and “reconciled to God through his death”?

Read Romans 8:31-39 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How has God demonstrated that he is “for us”?
  2. What protects us from any “charge,” or accusation of guilt, being brought against us?
  3. What is the closest you have come to feeling separated from God’s love?
  4. What got you through that time?

 

To encourage personal application:

Consider dividing into groups of three or four people for the following time of sharing and prayer.

  • Right now do you feel more like a “conqueror” (Romans 8:37) or someone who has been conquered?
  • Share one struggle in your life for which those in your group can pray.
  • These passages highlight God’s work on our behalf, as well as the love that motivates God’s actions. After praying for one another according to what was shared, conclude by thanking God both for his work and for his love.

In the World – April 16, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for April 16 here.

SEVERELY DESTROYED . . .

Early on April 4, bombs bearing poisonous gas fell on Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, killing dozens of civilians. US intelligence determined the planes involved flew from a Syrian government airbase. Two days later, US warships in the Mediterranean fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the base. Initial reports from the Pentagon asserted that 58 of the 59 missiles “severely degraded or destroyed” their intended targets. But the Kremlin contended that only 23 of the missiles reached the base. Within a couple of days the Syrian government, which claims not to even use chemical weapons, said it had resumed using the airbase.

 

. . . BUT ALIVE AGAIN!

Jewish and Roman authorities thought they had destroyed Jesus and dealt a death blow to the movement he had started. The evidence three days later, however, showed they were wrong. The tomb the authorities had made as secure as they knew how (Matthew 27:65) was empty. No body was found because Jesus was alive and observed by many witnesses. The heartbreak of the disciples had turned to inexpressible joy.

 

  1. Do conflicting accounts of events like the attack on the Syrian airbase cause you to be skeptical about the reliability of news reports? Why or why not?
  2. Whether Gospel accounts or current news reports, what factors go into your decision to believe them or not?
  3. Critics of Christianity deny the truthfulness of the “news reports” in the Gospels about Jesus’ resurrection. How would you respond to their skepticism?
  4. Have you ever discussed your faith in the resurrected Christ with a nonbeliever? What discussion points did you use? What was the result?
  5. What does Peter’s encouragement in 1 Peter 1:3-9 suggest about how we can witness to a culture that no longer believes in objective truth?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

April 16: Victorious Love (John 20:1-10; 1 Peter 1:3-9)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin your meeting by having group members answer one or more of the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. What Easter traditions stand out to you from your childhood—e.g., from your family, church, or school?
  2. What Easter traditions have been most meaningful to you in your adult years?
  3. How do you plan to spend Easter Sunday today?

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read John 20:1-10 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What brought Mary Magdalene to the tomb early that morning?
  2. How did she respond to what she saw?
  3. How did Peter and John respond to what they saw?
  4. What do we know that they didn’t know?

Read 1 Peter 1:3-9 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. According to Peter, what part does Christ’s resurrection play in a believer’s life?
  2. What are the present benefits? What are the future benefits?
  3. When, and how, have you experienced the reality of “suffering grief in all kinds of trials” with the result that your faith was refined and strengthened?
  4. On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate the level of joy in your life produced by your belief in Jesus Christ? (0 = absolutely no joy; 10 = “inexpressible and glorious joy”)
  5. How might the story and consequences of Jesus’ resurrection help raise your level of joy a notch or two?

In the World – April 9, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for April 9 here.

FINDING NEW LIFE

Every spring for more than three-quarters of a century, March Madness has struck America. College-basketball fever infects the nation for a few weeks, as 68 teams enter into a single-elimination tournament. Last year the University of North Carolina lost the championship game to Villanova. Ever since then the Tar Heels talked about “redemption.” Monday night North Carolina found new life, beating Gonzaga for the 2017 crown. It was only the fourth time a team has won the national championship after losing the title game the previous year.

 

GIVEN NEW LIFE

Sports fans live for “next year,” hoping their team will experience a championship “rebirth.” Sometimes the difference is found in a team’s spirit. However, winning such a prize comes to only one team each year. The glory of the gospel is that the number of “winners” is limited only by the unwillingness of individuals to accept God’s gift of new life. Nicodemus, focusing on the flesh, had difficulty understanding this. Jesus redirected his attention to the realm of the Spirit.

 

  1. Can the church learn anything from March Madness in regard to creating excitement about the gospel? Explain.
  2. What dangers do you see in trying to learn from the secular world?
  3. Do you get as excited about your faith as you do about your other interests in life? If so, explain your passion.
  4. If not, how might Jesus’ teaching about the new birth be the remedy?
  5. What does “being born of the Spirit” mean in your life?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

April 9: Saving Love (John 3:1-16)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

  1. Why do you suppose Nicodemus came to Jesus at night?
  2. Why do you suppose Jesus was so blunt with Nicodemus?
  3. The phrase “born again” can also be translated “born from above.” How would you explain each of those phrases to a child or non-Christian?
  4. What is the significance of Jesus’ reference to the wind?
  5. How does Jesus seem to interpret Nicodemus’s lack of understanding?
  6. What bold claims does Jesus make about himself in verses 13-15?
  7. Read Numbers 21:4-9. How does Jesus apply that story here?
  8. What does a person have to do to receive eternal life?

 

To encourage personal application:

  1. This story begins with Nicodemus revealing what drew him to Jesus. What first drew you to Jesus?
  2. When would you say you were “born again”? How has your life changed as a result?
  3. When do you recall hearing or memorizing John 3:16?
  4. Who would you like to help grasp the eternal significance of that verse?

In the World – April 2, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for April 2 here.

SUDDEN DEATH

Last Wednesday Americans Kurt and Mellissa Cochran were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in London, walking on the Westminster Bridge, when a terrorist drove his car into them. Kurt and one other person were killed on the bridge before the assailant drove to the Parliament grounds, where he killed a policeman with a knife. The attacker was shot and killed by police, but not before he injured 50 other victims. ISIS has claimed that one of their “soldiers” was the assassin, and several suspected accomplices have been arrested.

 

ABIDING COMFORT

When unexpected evil suddenly strikes us, we are challenged to discover whether the resources of our faith can withstand the blow. Christians needing comfort often read Psalm 23 in such situations. This passage of Scripture is among those most commonly read at funeral services. A significant reason for the psalm’s popularity is the psalmist David’s claim to have no fear of evil, even when he was walking through life’s darkest valleys.

 

  1. How do you react when you hear that another Islamic terrorist has struck innocent victims far from the Middle East?
  2. Should we react differently than what you just expressed? Why? If so, in what way?
  3. How does David’s promise of God’s care in Psalm 23 help you live in an age when terror of more than one kind can strike at any moment?
  4. What does it mean to you that God prepares a feast for you in the presence of your enemies?
  5. Share with the group how Psalm 23 has brought you peace during a difficult time in your life.

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2: Shepherding Love (Psalm 23)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

In the ancient world, including Israel, a shepherd was a common metaphor for kings. David, the shepherd-king, was uniquely qualified to compose Psalm 23.

Read Psalm 23:1-3: The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

  • What blessing or benefit is communicated through the theme of this metaphor?

Many answers might be given, including provision, guidance, and renewal. Perhaps an overarching theme is the blessing or benefit of security in the Lord.

 

Read Psalm 23:4: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

  • What blessing or benefit is communicated through the theme of this metaphor?

The theme here seems to be the blessing or benefit of the Lord’s protection and peace in perilous circumstances.

 

Read Psalm 23:5: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

  • What blessing or benefit is communicated through the theme of this metaphor?

The Standard Lesson Commentary points out that the last two verses of the psalm seem to switch from the metaphor of shepherd to the metaphor of host. The theme here seems to be the blessing or benefit of being an honored guest at the Lord’s banquet table.

 

Read Psalm 23:6: Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

  • What blessing or benefit is communicated through the theme of this metaphor?

The theme here seems to be the blessing or benefit of David’s confidence in the Lord’s love—and consequently David’s confidence in his own future.

 

To encourage personal application:

  1. What verse, metaphor, or theme of Psalm 23 has been meaningful or important to you in the past—and why?
  2. What verse, metaphor, or theme of Psalm 23 do you need to experience or cling to now—and why?
  3. How can others in the group lift you up in prayer to the Lord, our Shepherd-King, in this regard?

In the World – March 26, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for March 26 here.

A PASSIONATE DEBATE

Conservative justice Antonin Scalia’s death last year left the US Supreme Court divided 4-4 on many issues. This week, the Senate passionately debated the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the court. Many see the Senate hearings as a battle for the spirit of the nation. The dream of conservatives is that a court with the 49-year-old Justice Gorsuch on it would bring more traditional rulings for decades to come. Liberals have visions of a court more attuned to what they might call the spirit of our times.

 

A PROPHETIC CALL

The prophet Joel lived in and prophesied to the nation of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, during a time when the country was devastated by a locust plague. He viewed Judah as a nation whose supreme judge was God and whose national spirit was formed and guided by the Spirit of God. The Lord promised to restore Judah to a place of honor among the nations and to make Jerusalem a place of deliverance and salvation.

 

  1. Why do both sides of the Senate view the stakes of the Gorsuch nomination to be so high?
  2. Is it better for the Supreme Court to “tilt” to the left or the right? On what issues and why?
  3. Regardless of which direction the court moves, do you see a need for America’s spirit to be restored to what it was in a previous era? Explain.
  4. Does Joel’s call to return to the Lord (Joel 2:13) speak to us today? If not, why not? If so, how?
  5. Does Joel’s promise that Judah would not be an object of scorn (Joel 2:19) offer you hope for the Christian faith to be more highly regarded in our nation? Why or why not?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

March 26: Restoring Love (Joel 2:12, 13, 18, 19, 28-32)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read the last two paragraphs of the Lesson Background on page 259 of the Standard Lesson Commentary to help understand the context of the book of Joel, particularly the locust plague that had devastated Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

Read Joel 2:12, 13 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What response to this crisis does the Lord, through Joel, call for from the people?
  2. To what extent do you think God still desires people to turn to him “with fasting and weeping and mourning” today?
  3. What do we learn about the nature of God in these verses? What effect would these descriptions have on the people of Judah?

Read Joel 2:18, 19 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How do you react to the notion that the Lord is “jealous”? How does that compare to a human being who is jealous?
  2. What promises does God make to the people of Judah who choose to return to him? Can we lay claim to similar promises when we turn to God?

Read Joel 2:28-32 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How do you suppose these words struck Joel’s fellow Israelites when they heard them?
  2. Read Acts 2:1-4, 14-21. How does Peter, centuries later, connect Joel’s prophecy to what was happening then?
  3. How was the world impacted when God poured out his Spirit on the day of Pentecost? How do you see God’s Spirit working in believers’ lives today?
  4. What exactly does it mean for a person to “call on the name of the Lord”?

 

To encourage personal application:

Read Joel 2:12, 13 again.

  1. What is the closest you have come to experiencing corporate repentance and renewal?
  2. How eager are you to experience that now?

Read Joel 2:18, 19 again.

  1. In what way can you personally relate to the Lord’s jealousy, pity, and blessings?

Read Joel 2:28-32 again.

  1. What promise or image from this passage do you want to claim for yourself, your family, your church, or your community?

Conclude your time together by praying according to what was shared.

In the World – March 19, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for March 19 here.

THE COST OF HEALTH CARE

One of President Trump’s campaign promises is currently being tested by Congress as it struggles over a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. The debate is largely along partisan lines, but Republicans are far from united about what the outcome should be. The challenge seems overwhelming: What can be pruned from the ACA to save the government money while still providing a reasonable and fair level of medical care for citizens without costing them more than they can personally afford?

 

THE COST OF LOVE

At the heart of the ACA-replacement debate is the question of whether the government should pay (or at least subsidize) the cost of health insurance for all its citizens. Obeying Jesus’ words to “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12) is difficult enough for us individually. How much more difficult to do this as a society, especially when it demands sacrifice by some to benefit others!

 

  1. Is legislating universal health care a possible, appropriate, or reasonable way for a nation to “love” its citizens?
  2. Should Jesus’ command to love others have any effect on the way Christians think about societal issues such as health care? Why or why not?
  3. What personal challenges do you face in regard to loving others?
  4. Jesus speaks of the pruning activity of our loving heavenly Father. In what way have you seen this at work in your life?
  5. How does knowledge of Jesus’ love for you “make your joy complete” (John 15:11)?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

March 19: Matchless Love (John 15:1-17)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read John 15:1-8 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What do we learn here about God the Father and God the Son and their roles?
  2. What objective do the Father and Son have in regard to human beings?
  3. What does it mean to you to “remain in the vine” (v. 4)?
  4. What do we learn here about prayer?

Read John 15:9-17 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What do we learn here about God the Father and God the Son and their roles?
  2. What objective do the Father and Son have in regard to human beings?
  3. Why do you think it is so important to Jesus that his followers love each other?
  4. What do you think Jesus means by “fruit that will last” (v. 16)?

 

To encourage personal application:

Decide whether to stay together or divide into small groups to discuss the following questions.

  1. Can a “branch” have an intimate relationship with the “vine” without having an intimate relationship with fellow “branches”? Why or why not?
  2. Which relationship comes easier for you?
  3. What is the difference between a “servant” and a “friend”? Which one more aptly describes your relationship with Jesus?
  4. How are you planning to move to more of a “friendship” relationship with Jesus?

March 12: Great Love (Ephesians 2:1-10)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How does Paul depict the “before” and “after” realities of a Christian’s life . . .
  • in terms of heart condition?
  • in terms of example and influence?
  • in terms of driving force and motivation?
  • in terms of future destiny?
  1. What is God’s role in this process?
  2. What is our role in this process?
  3. How do good works fit in?
  4. What do we learn in this passage about our adversary, the devil?
  5. What do you think it means that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (v. 6)?
  6. In light of the fact that God’s love is the theme of this quarter, what does this passage add to your understanding and appreciation of that love?

 

To encourage personal application:

Decide whether to stay together or divide into small groups to discuss the following questions.

  1. How has your life changed since you became a Christian?
  2. How does it make you feel to hear that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (v. 10)?
  3. What good works do you think God has planned for you to do?

Encourage participants to close with prayers based on this passage. For example: Praise God for his great love, mercy, and grace—by which God delivered us both from our sins and from his just judgment. Thank God for his gift of salvation and commit yourselves to respond with a lifestyle of good works.

 

 

In the World – March 12, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for March 12 here.

IT’S THE LAW . . .

President Trump announced a new executive order regarding Middle Eastern and African immigrants on Monday. The White House insisted that the new ban was country-based, not religion-based. On another immigration front, national policy regarding immigrants already in the country illegally remains a point of contention. Critics of the administration continue to call for looser immigration policies. Overall, the issue seems to be whether immigration policy should be strictly a matter of law or whether some grace should be extended in individual cases regarding deportation decisions.

 

. . . BUT SHOULD GRACE BE EXTENDED?

Law versus grace is an age-old issue. Jesus’ opponents criticized him for not keeping the Jewish law, even though he said he had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Today’s text makes it plain that trying to achieve salvation by works—i.e., by keeping the law—only brings death, because none of us (unlike Jesus) can do that successfully. The glory of the gospel is that God’s grace through Christ brings us from spiritual death to everlasting life.

 

  1. Should immigration policy be strictly a matter of law? Why or why not?
  2. Should grace have any role in enforcement decisions? If so, in what situations? If not, why not?
  3. Do passages such as Leviticus 19:34 and Luke 10:25-37 apply to this issue? Explain.
  4. In what ways do our transgressions and sins make us “dead”?
  5. What should the effects of God’s grace be in our lives?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World – March 5, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for March 5 here.

HATEFUL ACTIONS

On Monday, 20 Jewish community centers and schools in 12 states received bomb threats, for a total of 89 this year. The day before, about 100 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were knocked over. A week before that, more than 150 headstones were toppled in a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis. In the latter case, a Muslim activist group initiated a crowdfunding campaign that raised $55,000. In January, a mosque in Texas burned, and Americans contributed more than a million dollars to repair it.

 

LOVING ATTITUDES

The human race finds the command to love one another difficult to obey. Desecration of religious sites and cemeteries is one of the most hateful ways this fact is demonstrated. Such attacks have caused Jewish and Muslim communities in the United States to express increasing fear in recent months. On the other hand, John says loving others is the way we know that we live in Christ and he lives in us. And God’s perfect love casts out fear.

 

  1. Why do you think we are seeing an outbreak of threats and actions against Jewish and Muslim sites?
  2. Are the contributions to repair the damaged sites an indication of a basic goodness in Americans? Why or why not?
  3. How can we love people who hold to a religion in which some adherents have proved to be a violent threat to our way of life? Explain.
  4. If you discovered that Christians had desecrated the cemeteries and mosque, what would be your attitude toward those persons?
  5. What helps you love people whom you find unlikeable?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

March 5: Perfect Love (1 John 4:7-19)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Point out that this week launches a new quarter in which every lesson pertains to God’s love. Tapping in to the topic of love, begin your meeting by having group members answer one or more of the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. Who was your first crush?
  2. What do you know about your parents’ “love story”?
  3. If you are married, share something interesting or humorous about your courtship or love story.

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read 1 John 4:7-12 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What does it mean to be “born of God”?
  2. What is the evidence of that reality?
  3. What does it mean that Jesus is “an atoning sacrifice for our sins”?

Read 1 John 4:13-16a and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What additional evidence is noted here regarding a person’s being “born of God”?
  2. What must happen for God to live in a person?
  3. What does that acknowledgment really involve?
  4. How do we see the Trinity in action in the verses up to this point in the passage?

Read 1 John 4:16b-19 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What picture does John paint about love and about fear?
  2. When have you felt motivated to love God and/or others because of gratitude for God’s love for you?
  3. When has God’s perfect love cast out your fear—particularly your fear of his judgment?

February 26: Christ Creates Holy Living (Galatians 5:18–6:10)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read Galatians 5:18-26 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How would you explain to a new Christian (or a non-Christian) what it means to be “led by the Spirit,” “live by the Spirit,” “keep in step with the Spirit,” etc.?
  2. What is the difference between Paul’s description of right living here and the legalism he denounced earlier in Galatians?
  3. If “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (v. 24), why do many (if not all) Christians struggle with ungodly desires?

Read Galatians 6:1-6 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What connection do you see between “the fruit of the Spirit” and Galatians 6:1-5?
  2. Without sharing names, have you seen this process done correctly—that is, when someone “caught in a sin” was gently restored? Have you seen this process done incorrectly, or not done at all?

Read Galatians 6:7-10 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. As you reflect on your life, when have you experienced the consequences of “reaping what you sow”?
  2. In what way is doing good to others draining? In what way is it energizing?
  3. How do you get rejuvenated when you start to become “weary in doing good”?

 

To encourage personal application:

Divide into groups of two to four people—men with men and women with women—to discuss the following questions.

  1. Which of “the acts of the flesh” (listed in Galatians 5:19-21 or otherwise) do you struggle with most? What can you do “keep in step with the Spirit” in this area of your life?
  2. Which aspect of “the fruit of the Spirit” do you most desire to grow in? How would you like to put that quality to use in your life?

Have the small groups close by praying for one another according to what was shared.

In the World – February 26, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for February 26 here.

DECAY . . .

A decaying national infrastructure is in the news. In California, the problems at Oroville Dam recently caught the public’s attention. Water in Flint, Michigan has been polluted for years with lead, E. coli, and dangerous levels of many chemicals. Texas roads, dams, flood control, and drinking water get a D or D– grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. So it goes around the country. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that an investment of $3.6 trillion will be needed by 2020 to rectify the situation. Many say Americans have been selfishly spending money for years to make ourselves comfortable, though unwilling to allocate funds to keep us safe and well.

 

. . . AND GROWTH

Paul’s instructions to the Galatians emphasize the fruit of the Spirit—character traits that are directed to enriching the lives of others first and ourselves incidentally. The apostle warns us that we eventually “get what’s coming to us,” as the old saying goes. The principle seems to apply to societies as well as individuals.

 

  1. Do you think America’s infrastructure problems prove that “we reap what we sow,” to use Paul’s terminology? Explain.
  2. Beyond that, to what extent do you think the nation’s social problems are the result of “the acts of the flesh,” to use another of Paul’s phrases?
  3. Is reluctance to tax ourselves for the common good an indication of national selfishness?
  4. What have you found in your own life to be the benefit of cultivating the fruit of the Spirit? Give some specific examples.

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World – February 19, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for February 19 here.

WHEN THE LAW IS GOOD . . .

Law enforcement authorities ordered more than 180,000 people in northern California to evacuate several towns last Sunday night. Some people did not evacuate, thinking they could save themselves. Authorities feared that the 770-feet high Oroville dam—the tallest in the country—was in danger of failing due to recent heavy rains. The main spillway had already been damaged, and Sunday the reservoir reached its capacity and overflowed the emergency spillway. That’s when authorities used the power of the law to force the evacuation. If the dam had failed, their order could have possibly saved countless lives.

 

. . . AND WHEN IT ISN’T

In Galatia, Christians had found spiritual freedom by trusting in the grace of God. Later, many of them were persuaded to retreat from faith. They began to trust in the law’s commandments and their own ability to fulfill those commandments as the means to gain God’s favor and love. Paul reminded them that the law could not save them and neither could they save themselves.

 

  1. Are the edicts of civil law always good? Is religious “law” always bad? What exceptions can you cite?
  2. What parallels do you see between people’s refusal to obey the evacuation orders and some Christians’ rejection of the gospel?
  3. Why did the Galatians turn back from the gospel to the law?
  4. In what ways are Christians tempted to do the same today? Give examples.
  5. Do you struggle with this issue in your spiritual life? Explain.

 

—Charles R. Boatman

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

 

February 19: Freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1-17)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin your meeting by having group members answer one or more of the following ice-breaker questions.

  • When you were a kid, what game(s) did you like to play that involved some kind of “jail” from which you needed to be “set free”? How about since then?
  • Have you ever participated in a fundraiser that involved getting thrown into “jail” and needing to be “set free”?
  • How do you handle it when someone cuts in on you while you are driving or waiting in line?

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read Galatians 5:1-6 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. Why was Paul so concerned about circumcision? Is circumcision wrong in every instance?
  2. Was Paul saying that following the law and following Christ are mutually exclusive? Explain your answer.

Read Galatians 5:7-12 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How would you describe the Galatians’ spiritual journey?
  2. How would you describe Paul’s attitude toward the teachers who had influenced the Galatians?

Read Galatians 5:13-17 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What kind of “freedom” was Paul not advocating?
  2. What are the keys to living in true freedom?
  3. How can we reconcile Paul’s exhortations to “serve one another humbly in love” (v. 13) and “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 14) with his own attitude toward the teachers who had influenced the Galatians?
  4. Are you more prone to be enslaved by legalism or by “indulging the flesh” (v. 13)?

February 12: New Birth Brings Freedom (Galatians 4:8-20)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read Galatians 4:8-11 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What was happening with the new believers in Galatia that caused the apostle Paul such consternation?
  2. What is wrong with “observing special days and months and seasons and years” (v. 10)?

Read Galatians 4:12-16 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How does Paul describe the relationship he developed with the Galatians when he first visited them?
  2. How was Paul feeling about his relationship with the Galatians now?

Read Galatians 4:17-20 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How does Paul describe the Judaizers who were influencing the Galatians? What effect were they having on Paul’s relationship with the Galatians?
  2. What is the difference between “good zeal” and “bad zeal”?
  3. What barriers affect your allegiance to the gospel?

 

To encourage personal application:

Lead your group in a discussion of the following questions.

  1. A friend says, “I follow Jesus, not rules.” How do you respond?
  2. Reflecting on Paul’s relationship with the Galatians, who carries a zealous concern for your spiritual life and condition?
  3. On the other hand, who do you care for in that way? How could you express your concern in more practical and effective ways?

In the World – February 12, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for February 12 here.

FAKE NEWS

“Fake news” has become a hot topic recently. We’ve heard politicians and journalists charge others with promoting “alternative facts.” Of course, that concept has been with us for a long time. We called it propaganda in the Cold War era. In recent years, postmodern thinking has called into question whether anything is really “true.” The validity of Christian teaching is now widely questioned, and America has been inundated by the advocacy of “alternative lifestyles.”

 

REAL NEWS

The new Christians in Galatia had heard “real news” when the apostle Paul visited them. Literally, it was good news—the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, they later began to listen to—and believe—fake news. False teachers beguiled them into forsaking their freedom in Christ for a return to the slavery of adhering to the Old Testament law.

 

  1. To what extent does our culture’s acceptance of the postmodern “your truth” and “my truth” notion plays into the fake news issue?
  2. If real truth does not exist, how does this affect our faith in Christ?
  3. How should Christians confront our culture’s denial of ultimate truth?
  4. Tell the group about a conversation you’ve had with someone regarding whether the teachings of Christianity are true. What were their objections? What was the result of the conversation?
  5. How does the legalism the Galatians fell into show itself among Christians today?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World – February 5, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for February 5 here.

SHARPLY DIVIDED!

Two marches took place in Washington recently. The unifying theme of the Women’s March on January 21 seemed to be opposition to newly inaugurated President Trump. It also touted a multitude of causes spread over a wide spectrum of concerns, including climate change, immigration, LGBT rights, and “women’s health issues.” The last topic was also addressed by the March for Life on January 27. Some in the conservative media called this “the real women’s march,” as it was “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.”

 

TOTALLY UNITED?

The two marches demonstrate the distinct difference between the way we function in secular society and how God expects us to function in the church of Jesus Christ. Secular society is rife with division over many issues, but Christ calls us to recognize that all believers stand on level ground before the cross, with neither ethnic, social, nor gender discrimination taking place. The question for us is whether we are living up to the divine call!

 

  1. Do competing marches, such as those in Washington recently, serve a valid function in America? Explain.
  2. To what extent is the church contributing to unity between races? In what ways does the church fail?
  3. Is our modern social-class system an appropriate lens through which to view the “neither slave nor free” concept? Explain.
  4. How has your church handled the “neither male nor female” issue in terms of leadership and service roles?
  5. How can Christians experience unity in Christ if we disagree on these significant issues?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

February 5: Re-Created to Live in Harmony (Galatians 3:26–4:7)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read Galatians 3:26-29 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What effect does becoming a follower of Jesus have on a person’s relationship with God?
  2. What effect does becoming a follower of Jesus have on a person’s social status?
  3. How does the gospel break down barriers between various kinds of people?
  4. What does it mean that we, as Christians, are “Abraham’s seed” and “heirs according to the promise”?

Read Galatians 4:1-7 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. According to Paul’s metaphor for spiritual realities, what are the differences between an underage heir, a slave, and an adult son?
  2. What is significant about the fact that Jesus was “born of a woman” and “born under the law”?
  3. What does it mean to you that you can call God “Father”?

 

To encourage personal application:

Lead your class in a discussion of the following questions.

  1. What kind of people are you tempted to write off as hopeless in terms of following Jesus?
  2. When have you witnessed the power of Christ breaking down walls of prejudice or disharmony?
  3. How has being a follower of Christ impacted your attitude toward people different than you? How could you grow more in that area?

In the World – January 29, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for January 29 here.

DIVIDED PERSPECTIVES

Last week we saw once again how divided America is. Although throngs of people converged on Washington to witness Donald Trump’s inauguration (the size of the crowd eliciting its own controversy), large demonstrations followed the inauguration. It was estimated that hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Washington, New York, Chicago, and other cities. Demonstrations also took place in over 600 cities around the world. Behind the anxiety is distrust of the new administration and fear of how unknown policies will affect trade, human rights, the economy, immigration, and other matters. On the other hand, many Americans are happy to see change taking place.

 

UNDIVIDED PRAISE

The psalmist draws a picture of unity when he speaks of creation’s praise for God. Not only the created “things,” but humans of every age and classification, join in this undivided praise of God. The reason behind this outpouring of adulation is that God is consistently good in his governing of the universe. We may safely trust both his wisdom and his power, something we can never be sure of regarding any human authority figure or force.

 

  1. What do you think is the most significant reason for the strong reactions in so many places against the inauguration of President Trump?
  2. Do you think the psalmist overstates the case for all of creation offering undivided praise to God? Why or why not?
  3. How would you answer people who contend that God isn’t good and offer examples of what they think proves it?
  4. How do you make sure that you are consistently praising God?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

January 29: Praise God with All Creation (Psalm 148)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read Psalm 148 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. Who (or what) is called to praise the Lord?
  2. How can angels praise God?
  3. How can creation praise God?
  4. How can storms praise God?
  5. How can human beings praise God? Does that involve more than our words?
  6. Why, according to the psalmist, should we praise the name of the Lord?
  7. Given the wonders of creation, why don’t more people give praise to the Creator?

 

To encourage personal application:

Lead your class in a discussion of the following questions.

  1. What are your personal take-aways from studying the Psalms this month—for instance, in regard to creation or in regard to praise and worship?
  2. How does thanking and praising God affect your attitude and outlook?
  3. What can you do to offer God praise regardless of your circumstances or feelings?

Close with a time of giving God thanks and praise, communicating to him that you want to be people “close to his heart” (Psalm 148:14).

In the World – January 22, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for January 22 here.

CONTINUING CRITICISM

Donald J. Trump became the 45th president of the United States on Friday. One week earlier, a media feud developed between Trump and Congressman John Lewis. Lewis called Trump’s election “illegitimate,” and Trump fired back a tweet that was harshly critical of the longtime Georgia congressman. In the aftermath, a growing number of Democratic members of Congress vowed to join Lewis in protesting Trump’s election by not attending the inaugural ceremonies. The animosity of the election campaign is continuing as the new administration takes office.

 

CEASELESS PRAISE

What is happening in Washington stands in stark contrast to what Psalm 104 says of God’s reign over the universe. Without contradiction, God’s creation speaks with ceaseless praise of his greatness. The heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the creatures speak of God’s power.

 

  1. What do you see as your Christian responsibility regarding the divisive attitudes displayed in Washington and around the country at this time?
  2. Have you been able to develop a more charitable attitude toward the candidate(s) you voted against? If so, how?
  3. How are you praying for the new president (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1, 2)? How are you praying for his critics?
  4. How does creation express praise to God?
  5. Why do you think humans so often fail to do the same?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

January 22: Praise God the Creator (Psalm 104:1-4, 24-30)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin your class by encouraging the participants to answer the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. What was your favorite animal when you were growing up? Why?
  2. How much do you like going to zoos, aquariums, oceanariums, etc.? How often do you go?

 

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read Psalm 104:1-4 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How does God make known the fact that he is “very great”?
  2. In what sense does creation do God’s bidding?

Read Psalm 104:24-26 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. In addition to his greatness, what other attribute of God does creation reveal?
  2. How does the sea illustrate God’s attributes?

Read Psalm 104:27-30 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. In what specific way does the Lord provide for all creatures?
  2. What is the creatures’ greatest fear?
  3. What does creation communicate to you, personally, about God?

 

January 15: Praise God the Provider (Psalm 65)

By Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:

Read Psalm 65:1-7 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What examples of God’s provision does the psalmist mention in these verses?
  2. Specifically, how does God demonstrate that he is Savior? How does he demonstrate that he is Creator?
  3. What would it mean to “come near to live in God’s courts” (v. 4)?

Read Psalm 65:8-13 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What examples of God’s provision does the psalmist mention in these verses?
  2. If the first half of the psalm exalts God as Savior and Creator, how does this half of the psalm lift him up as Sustainer?
  3. How does the psalmist personify creation—i.e., present nature with human attributes? What effect does (or should) that have on us?
  4. How did Jesus, in his teaching, confirm that God is our Provider?

 

To encourage personal application:

Lead your class in a discussion of the following questions.

  1. How easy is it for you to take God’s provision for granted?
  2. Do those who have little—or a lot—tend to fall into that mindset? Why?

Consider breaking into small groups or pairs for this concluding activity.

  1. In what area of your life do you need God’s provision?
  2. Read Psalm 65 again silently. How does it speak to that need?

Pray for each other’s situation. Then close with prayers of thanksgiving for God’s provision in the past and for his promise to be faithful in the future.

In the World – January 15, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for January 15 here.

WATER BRINGS SADNESS

Perhaps in the form of torrential rains or blizzard-like snow conditions, the first week of January brought challenging, wet weather to most of the United States. In the drought-stricken West, multiple storms filled recently empty reservoirs to overflowing. California’s famous Pioneer Cabin sequoia tree—believed to be 1,000 years old (and having a car-sized hole carved through it in the 1880s)—fell because of the rain. In the South, severe flooding spread from Texas to Florida. Meanwhile, the North and East experienced heavy snowfall that blocked roads and caused numerous multivehicle crashes.

 

WATER BRINGS GLADNESS

The psalmist speaks of God as the source of water that does us good: enriching the land, bringing forth a bounty that blesses us and causes us to sing joyfully. The fact that some of the water with which the earth abounds at the present brings suffering and sadness may sometimes cause us to question the way God works through the natural forces he has put in place.

 

  1. In response to destructive natural phenomena like we have seen recently, how would you answer the question, “Why does God allow such things to happen?”
  2. Are such events really “acts of God,” as they are sometimes called? Explain.
  3. Have you ever experienced loss through a flood, blizzard, or another weather event? How did your faith help you cope with the situation?
  4. Should we praise God for tragic events? Why or why not?
  5. Would you prefer to phrase question 4 differently? If so, how does that help you deal with difficult circumstances?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World – January 8, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for January 8 here.

A NEW YEAR

A week ago today, we celebrated the beginning of a new year. Most people found the year past was—as usual—a combination of good and bad circumstances and experiences. In hope of making their lives better, many people start the new year by making resolutions . . . and soon after breaking them! Surveys show that the most common broken resolutions include efforts to 1) lose weight and get fit, 2) quit smoking, 3) learn something new, 4) eat healthier and diet, 5) get out of debt and save money, 6) spend more time with family, 7) travel to new places, 8) be less stressed, 9) volunteer, and 10) drink less.

 

A NEW SONG

Psalm 96 provides a different focus for us. Rather than urging us to resolve to work at improving ourselves, it commands us to “sing to the Lord a new song.” That is, self-improvement starts with having a new attitude toward God: praising—and obeying—the one who gives us salvation. Without turning to God, our own efforts to be better people will achieve limited success.

 

  1. What do you think causes most New Year’s resolutions to be abandoned?
  2. Do you make such resolutions? With what kind of resolutions have you found the most success?
  3. What spiritual resolutions do you think Christians should make?
  4. How does praising God fit into your self-improvement agenda?
  5. This year, if you were to focus on one new praise to offer to God daily, what would it be?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.

January 8: Praise God with a New Song (Psalm 96)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin your class by encouraging the participants to answer the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. What was your favorite kind of music when you were a teenager or young adult?
  2. What is your favorite kind of music now? Do you have a favorite new song?
  3. How do you feel about singing new songs in church?

 

 

To encourage personal application:

Encourage your class members to answer the following questions.

  1. What do you sense that God is saying or doing in your life as we enter this new year? How can you “sing,” or express, praise and gratitude back to him?
  2. Psalm 96:5 says that “all the gods of the nations are idols.” And Psalm 96:10 proclaims that “the Lord reigns.” Who or what, besides the Lord, do you sometimes allow to reign in your life?

Say something like this to the group:

“Psalm 96 assures us that God is worthy of our praise and devotion. Since we are still in the first week of a new year, this is a great time to commit ourselves to God’s reign in our hearts and lives. Let’s spend some time in silent reflection and prayer.”

After a few minutes, close with a prayer acknowledging and praising the Lord as the one and only God of the universe and each of your lives.

In the World – January 1, 2017

By "In the World"

Download In the World for January 1 here.

THE POWER OF PEOPLE’S WORDS

The year just completed provided numerous examples of the power of words. In 2016, political campaigns from local to national demonstrated how words can stir people to support a candidate they dislike (or perhaps vote for a different candidate whom they dislike less). In some states, words persuaded the electorate to legalize the use of marijuana, either recreationally or for medicinal purposes. Across the nation, words incited violence against various ethnic groups and against law enforcement officers. In short, we saw how words can be used to divide and destroy.

 

THE POWER OF GOD’S WORDS

On the other hand, as we read in Psalm 33, God demonstrated the positive, creative power of words when he spoke the universe into being. From the stars that fill the highest heavens to the creatures in the deepest seas, God spoke, and they came into existence. What is more, he has given to us the privilege—and the command—to speak his praise and create good with the words we speak!

 

  1. From all the reports you saw and heard in 2016, what words demonstrated the greatest power to divide our nation? . . . to unite us?
  2. From your personal experience last year, give examples of words that either hurt or healed. What were the circumstances, and what were the results?
  3. How would you compare the creative power of God’s words with the power of our words to either create or destroy?
  4. How can Christians “speak peace” to a divided and warring world?
  5. What changes in your speech will you be making in 2017? Have you made resolutions to that effect?

 

—Charles R. Boatman

 

http://www.standardlesson.com/downloads

Copyright © 2016 by Standard Publishing, Part of the David C. Cook Family. All rights reserved.

Each download is for the use of one church only.