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Teacher Tips

November 18: Jacob’s Dream (Genesis 28:10-22)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Agreements of Peace” activity sheet here. Make a copy of the activity page for your answer key. Cut the other copy apart on the dotted lines. After all class members have arrived, shuffle the slips of paper and distribute them among the class members. Give your group about five minutes to match a conflict with the agreement that ended it.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Historically, conflicts end with a written agreement of peace. Jacob’s early life was filled with family conflict, but the roots of the battle were much deeper. When Jacob was living on the run, God came down and gave instructions for peace.”

To encourage personal application:

On the board, write Jacob’s vow from Genesis 28:20, 21, interspersed with references to Jesus’ promises to his followers.

If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking (Matthew 28:19, 20) and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear (Matthew 6:23) so that I return safely to my father’s household (Matthew 19:27-29) then the Lord will be my God.

Have volunteers read the cited words of Jesus from Matthew and discuss how they relate to portions of Jacob’s vow. Give class members pen and paper. Using those thoughts have them create a personal agreement of peace between themselves and God.

November 11: Jacob’s Deception (Genesis27:5-10, 18, 19, 21-29)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “It’s a Conspiracy!” quiz here. Make copies for each group of three to five class members. Divide the class into groups and give them fifteen minutes to match deceivers with deceptions. Then reveal the answers. They are: 1=e, 2=n, 3=i, 4=m, 5=g, 6=a, 7=b, 8=l, 9=d, 10=f, 11=h, 12=k, 13=c, 14=j

Conclude by quickly summarizing today’s text—the deception to steal Isaac’s blessing from Esau.

To encourage personal application:

Write this quote on the board: “Half the truth is often a great lie.”—Benjamin Franklin

Wrap up the session by discussing the quote. What do you think it means? Can you give an example of it? When have you been tempted to tell a half-truth rather than the whole truth?

If you have time, follow up by brainstorming ways people deceive one another with their words and actions. Some items on your list may be: white lies, exaggeration, use of abstract language, cover-up, omission of important facts, avoiding a question, etc.  Close in individual prayer in which class members ask God for forgiveness for purposely deceiving others.

November 4: Siblings’ Rivalry (Genesis 25:19-34)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Sibling Match” quiz here. Make copies for every class member. As class members arrive, allow them to work together to complete this very difficult matching exercise. When all have arrived and have had a chance to work on the quiz, share the answers. They are: 1=e, 2=n, 3=i, 4=m, 5=g, 6=a, 7=b, 8=l, 9=d, 10=f, 11=h, 12=k, 13=c, 14=j

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Sometimes two siblings are so different that we do not associate one with another. In extreme cases, some siblings are so different that they have great difficulty in getting along. Jacob and Esau, though twins, could not have been more different from each other.”

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

Divide the class into groups of three to five members each. Give them pen and paper, making sure they have copies of the lesson text. Give them 10–15 minutes to create rap sheets (criminal profiles) of Jacob and Esau. Their profiles should include names, aliases, known associates, known hideouts, and personality descriptions.

The finished products should be similar to these:

JacobAliases: Heel Grabber (the Deceiver), Israel (Struggler); Known Associates:  Isaac (father), Rebekah (mother), Esau (twin brother); Known Hideouts: among the tents; Personality Description:  deceptive, manipulative

EsauAliases: Hairy, Edom (Red); Known Associates:  Isaac (father), Rebekah (mother), Jacob (twin brother); Known Hideouts: open country, hunting grounds; Personality Description:  driven by his appetites

Allow groups to share their profiles. Wrap up the activity by saying, “No, Jacob and Esau were not criminals. But they certainly seem to be unlikely characters to appear in the line of Abraham! Furthermore, their distinct personality traits would have put them at odds with each other.”

October 28: The Marriage of Isaac (Genesis 24:12-21, 61-67)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Read the following news story to the class:

In April of this year, a Georgia woman was arrested for reckless driving. This incident gained national attention when the body camera footage from one of the officers revealed how the choice between arresting Sarah Webb and giving her a ticket was made.

The video revealed that officers Courtney Brown and Kristee Wilson consulted with one another and decided to determine the fate of Webb by flipping a coin. Webb was arrested but did not know about the coin flip until a local reporter discovered the content of the body camera footage and informed her.

Charges against Webb were dropped. Brown and Wilson were placed on administrative leave and later fired after the incident was fully investigated.

Ask class member why they believe it was just that the officers were fired. (They used a random method in making a decision that affected the life of another.) Talk about when a random decision making is appropriate. (For example, choosing a contest winner, deciding which team kicks off in a football game, etc.) Briefly discuss other methods of making consequential decisions.

After your discussion, lead into Bible study by saying, “There are times in life when we can make random decisions. In those cases, when all options are equal, that may be appropriate. But in other circumstances, people must make crucial choices between options that are not at all equal. The continuation of Abraham’s line required those types of decisions. Let’s see how those involved in that decision behaved.”

To encourage personal application:

Download the “Seeking the Will of God” worksheet here. Make copies for every class member. Distribute the worksheets and briefly review the instructions. Ask class members to use the worksheet as a take-home activity to incorporate into their quiet time next week.

October 21: The Birth of the Promised Son (Genesis18:9-15; 21:1-7)

By | Teacher Tips

Download the “What’s So Funny” quiz here. Make copies for every class member. As class members arrive, have the copies of the quiz on the chairs so that they can begin immediately. Encourage them to work together, not because it is difficult, but because laughter is better shared!

After giving class members time to work, allow them to share their answers. The correct answers are: 1=d, 2=b, 3=g, 4=k, 5=h, 6=l, 7=i, 8=f, 9=j, 10=a, 11=c, 12=e. Then discuss the activity briefly by asking why we, even as children, liked to tell jokes. What are some elements that make a joke funny?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We like to tell jokes because we want to give others joy. Wouldn’t we expect God to feel the same way? Jokes are funny because they have punchlines that are unexpected.  Amid the suffering of a broken world, God told a joke that would give ultimate joy. And it was funny because it was so unexpected. Let’s examine the account of the son who was called “Laughter!”

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

Divide the class into groups of three to five class members each. Give each group pen and paper and assign them to create a diary entry by Sarah based on either Genesis 18:9-15 or Genesis 21:1-7. Each diary entry should have these elements:

  • How Sarah would describe her laughter in this passage with a single word
  • Some thoughts going through Sarah’s mind as she laughed
  • Feeling resulting when others heard Sarah’s laughter

Move among the groups as they work. Help them think through their assignments. Their entries may look like these:

Genesis 18:9-15 laughter—I laughed today. It really wasn’t a good laugh. I think I would call it a skeptical laugh.  It was one of those sneering, bitter laughs that failed to bring warmth but rather a coldness that chilled me to my bones. “What a joke!” I fumed. How could God make such an outrageous promise to someone who has been so deeply disappointed by barrenness? Of course, as soon as my sour chuckle escaped my lips, I was embarrassed by my hostility. When asked if I laughed, I quickly denied it.

Genesis 21:1-7 laughter—I laughed again today. But it was a far different laugh than the one that came from me just nine months earlier. This was not a secret, embarrassed laugh, but one I call my shared laugh. My husband understood my joyous laughter. In fact, Abraham insisted we call the boy Isaac, which means “laughter!” Instead of wallowing in the bitterness of my childless years, I rejoiced in the faithfulness of God who performed an unheard-of miracle! Instead of hiding my laughter, I encouraged others to laugh with me! We now laugh together in the face of any disappointment, sorrow, or pain.  If God could give me a child at my age, could he not wipe away any other challenge people face?

October 14: The Call of Abram (Genesis 10:1; 11:10, 27, 31, 32; 12:1-4)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Family Tree” activity here. Make a copy for each class member. Distribute copies and pens and have class members try to trace back their lineage as far as they can. After five minutes, ask class members to share how many generations back they can trace.

Lead into Bible study saying, “We might be able to trace our ancestry back a few generations. With research, we may be able to go back a few generations more.  But in Genesis we can trace the work of God in a family beginning with the flood and continuing forever!”

To encourage personal application:

Write Galatians 3:7 on the board: “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.”

Briefly discuss how we can continue a family legacy of faith into the next generation. Ask, “Can you think of a time in your family history in which faith in the God of Abraham marked a turning point for your family?”

Distribute paper and pens. Close this session by asking class members to write a short letter to the next generation describing that turning point. Encourage them to follow that example of faith.

October 7: The Righteousness of Noah (Genesis 6:9b-22)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Find a sample family emergency plan template on sites such as these: https://www.redcross.org/content/dam/redcross/atg/PDF_s/Preparedness___Disaster_Recovery/General_Preparedness___Recovery/Home/ARC_Family_Disaster_Plan_Template_r083012.pdf

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/0e3ef555f66e22ab832e284f826c2e9e/FEMA_plan_parent_508_071513.pdf

https://www.ready.marines.mil/Portals/208/Docs/Factsheets/Kit_Plan/FamilyPlanForm.pdf

Make copies of one or more of these plans and distribute one to each class member. Give them a few minutes to review the document. Then discuss it with these questions:

  1. Do you have a family emergency plan? What elements of this plan would you incorporate into your family emergency plan?
  2. Why are such plans helpful? Why might many not take the time to make such a plan?
  3. What other elements would you include in such a plan?

Lead into Bible study by, “Disasters happen. It seems wise to identify possible threats and to look for ways to respond to them. God told Noah of an impending disaster and what to do about it.”

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

Download the “Noah—Chief Safety Officer” activity here. Make copies for each group of three to five students. Distribute these copies and give groups about 15 minutes to complete the activity according to the printed instructions.

The expected answers are:

  • Refuse to become complacent due to the apathy of others (v. 9b).
  • Prepare your children for what is to come, not just yourself (v. 10).
  • Be listening to reliable authority for early warnings (vv. 11-13).
  • Use materials that will withstand the expected disaster (v. 14).
  • Think big! Make sure that your supplies are more than adequate for what is to come (vv. 15, 16).
  • Expect the worst (v. 17).
  • Understand the statutes that will govern rebuilding (v. 18; see also 9:1-1).
  • Know how the recovery will be sustained and prepare accordingly (vv. 19, 20).
  • Prepare for expected shortages of supplies after the disaster passes (vv. 21-22).

September 30: God Confronts Sin (Genesis 3:8-17, 20-24)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download “The Big Problem” puzzle here. Make copies for every class member. Give each class member a copy and access to a pen. Allow class members to work together to find the words in the grid and reveal the hidden message. That message is, “Sin corrupts everything every time.”

Read through the lesson text together, a paragraph at a time. Have class members point out how the sin of Adam and Eve corrupted specific aspects of the perfectly good world God created.

To encourage personal application:

Write these four headings across the top of the board:

Person vs. God         Person vs. Person         Person vs. Self         Person vs. Nature

Say, “All stories in books, movies or television, or in real life deal with one or more of these four conflicts. Let’s name some conflicts that would fit under each category.”

As class members brainstorm, place their responses under one of these four categories. Point out how each conflict relates in some way to conflicts first noted in our lesson text.

To close the class session, have class members prayerfully consider an example of one of those conflicts in their lives. Allow a time of silent, individual prayer in which class members confess personal sin and ask God for strength and direction in resolving these conflicts.

September 23: God Creates the Family (Genesis 2:18-24; 4:1, 2)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, write these four headings across the top of the board:

TV shows      Songs             Companies/Organizations            Familiar Phrases

When all have arrived, divide the class into groups of three to five members each, giving each pen and paper. Give groups five minutes to list items that fit each heading that use the word “family.” (For example, “The Addams Family [TV show], “We Are Family” [song], Family Dollar [company], family reunion, family values [phrases].)

After time has expired, have groups share their lists. Write each item under the appropriate heading on the board. Lead into Bible study by saying, “It is clear that the idea of family is a common one in our world today. But what does the Bible say about family?”

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

Download the “Surprising or Expected?” worksheet here. Make copies for all group members.

Distribute the worksheet, making sure each class member has a pen or pencil. Give class members about five minutes to look at these events in Genesis 2:18-24; 4:1, 2 and mark each one as either expected (E) or surprising (S) to them. Stress that there are no right or wrong answers, but they should be ready to give a reason for each response.

After members have had a chance to complete the worksheet, go over each story element, allowing class members to talk about their reactions to it.

September 16: God Creates People (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:4-7)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Determining Value” activity here. Make a copy for each group of three to five class members.

Begin class by dividing the class into groups of three to five members each. Give each group a copy of the activity page and five minutes to select one item from each lot that would have the greatest total value. Determine the winning group with this list of values from Goodwill Industries:

LOT 1: Desktop Computer ($150), Dining Room Set ($75), Standard Sofa ($75), Patio Set ($50), Dresser ($25), Recliner ($20)

LOT 2: Business Suit ($12), Bike ($10), Coat/Jacket ($8), Small Appliance ($8), 6 Piece Dish Set ($6)

LOT 3: Stereo ($10), Computer Desk ($10), Microwave ($10), Dress ($7), Shoes ($6), Jeans ($6)

LOT 4: Framed Art Work ($4), Figurine ($3), Video Game ($3), Pot/Pan ($2), DVD/CD ($2), Book ($1)

Lead into Bible study by saying: “When estimating the value of donated items, we need to guess how much others might pay for them. When it comes to human beings, however, our worth has been set by God in creation, not by an estimated market value.”

To encourage personal application:

Work with the class to brainstorm a list of controversial social issues of the day. This list would probably include: social justice, abortion, caring for the disabled, drug abuse, homelessness, etc.

When a list has been compiled, discuss how our thinking about the issue would change if our first consideration would be that each person is a creation in God’s own image.

September 9: God Creates Light and Life (Genesis 1:14-25)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Double Puzzles” worksheet here. Make a copy for each class member. Distribute the worksheets, asking class members to complete them according to the printed instructions on the worksheet. Allow them to work individually, in pairs, or in small groups. Give them about ten minutes to complete the puzzles.

Here are the answers:

Genesis 1:14-20

SUN, STARS, SIGN, DAYS, YEARS, LIGHT

God filled the heavens with timekeepers to give life patterns of REGULARITY.

 

Genesis 1:21-23

SEA, BIRDS, WINGS, KIND, CREATURE

God filled the skies and seas with life that was ABUNDANT.

 

Genesis 1:24, 25

WILD, EVERY, CREATURE, ANIMAL, CRAWL

God filled the earth with life with great VARIETY.

 

To encourage personal application:

Attach three blank poster boards to the walls using reusable adhesive. With watercolor markers, on the top of each poster write one of the three main points of the text discovered in the preceding activity:

Genesis 1:14-20—God filled the heavens with timekeepers to give life patterns of REGULARITY.

Genesis 1:21-23—God filled the skies and seas with life that was ABUNDANT.

 Genesis 1:24, 25—God filled the earth with life with great VARIETY.

Have watercolor markers at each poster. Ask class members to go to each poster and write a one-sentence prayer and a quick sketch inspired by that portion of the text.

 

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September 2: God Creates Heavens and Earth (Genesis 1:1-13)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Who? What? When?” activity here. Make copies for every three to five class members. Cut these apart on the dotted lines and place each set of pieces in separate envelopes. Make sure that you retain one copy as your answer key.

Divide the class into groups of three to five members each. Give them a few minutes to pair each “what” (a well-known corporation) with the “who, what, and where” of its founding. After groups are finished, reveal the answers.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We are interested in learning how something began. Whether it be a business empire, a scientific breakthrough, or a fictional character, we like their origin stories. Let’s look at the greatest of all origin stories today.”

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

Say, “The first verses of Genesis 1 tell about the beginning of the universe. But these verses also reveal that this world was created with our needs in mind. Let’s explore this further.”

Divide the class into these three groups, giving each group pen and paper. Ask each group to list the importance of each item in its assigned created pair to human survival. Ask them to be prepared to explain how each item complements the other. Some suggested responses are found in italics. Use these to help participants get started as needed.

Day and Night Group (Read Genesis 1:1-5.)

Day provides light for the work day. Night provides darkness for rest. Working together they help measure time for us. Without light, work would be difficult. Without darkness, sleep would be difficult.

Land and Seas Group (Read Genesis 1:6-10.)

Land provides a firm foundation on which to build our homes and grow our food. Seas (and other bodies of water) provide storehouses of water necessary for life and dwelling for water dwellers. Waterways also provide efficient routes for transporting goods. Working together they provide boundaries between land masses and nations.

Fruit and Seed Group (Read Genesis 1:11-13.)

Fruit (and vegetables) provide food for people and animals. Seeds provide a way to grow more fruit. Working together they help provide a constant supply of food for people and animals.

August 26: Practicing Justice (Colossians 3:5-17)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Something Went Wrong” quiz here. As class members arrive, allow them to work on it individually or cooperatively. When all have arrived and have had a few minutes to complete the exercise, reveal the correct matches. Those answers are: 1=c, 2=g, 3=h, 4=f, 5=j, 6=a, 7=d, 8=i, 9=b, 10=e.

Lead into Bible study by saying, ““We sense there is much wrong with the world. But how can we make a difference when problems seem overwhelming? How can we make things better rather than worse? Paul tells us how to be a true agent of change in our world.”

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

Divide the class into three groups. Give each group paper, pens, and one of these research assignments:

Clean Off! (Colossians 3:5-9). Read the text and create imaginary cleaning products to remove the negative qualities listed in these verses.

Dress Up! (Colossians 3:10-14). Read the text and create imaginary items of clothing to display the positive qualities listed in these verses.

Tune In! (Colossians 3:15-17). Read the text and create imaginary TV programs to broadcast the elements of our Christian message listed in these verses.

Give groups about fifteen minutes to work. Encourage imaginative responses. Here are a few suggested responses, though there are many, many more:

Clean Off group—Impurity Purifier, Lust Remover, Greed-B-Gone, Malice Makeover, Rage-Away, Word Whitener, etc.

Dress Up group—humility hoody, gloves of gentleness, grudge-proof glasses, patience poncho, love overalls, etc.

Tune In group—Peace Patrol, Gratitude Game, Wise Guys Hour, Dwell Richly, Music of the Heart, etc.

Allow groups to share and explain their lists. Comment as necessary, referring to the Scripture commentary as needed.

August 19: Loving and Just Behaviors (Romans 12:9-21)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Keep It Short” worksheet here. Make copies for every class member and distribute them. Divide the class into groups of three to five class members each, asking them to work together to complete this challenging exercise.

Move among groups to help them. Refer to the Scripture commentary and our attempt at this same exercise as needed.

To Fellow-Christians (vv. 10-13)

(v. 10) Consistent selflessness

(v. 11) Passionate faithfulness

(v. 12) Holy optimism

(v. 13) Persistent generosity

———DEVOTED——–

 

To the World (vv. 14-16)

(v. 14) Respond kindly

(v. 15) Be sympathetic

(v. 16) Practice humility

———BLESSING——–

 

To Enemies (vv. 17-20)

(v. 17) Do right

(v. 18) Coexist peacefully

(v. 19) Discard grudges

(v. 20) Meet needs

———FORGIVING——–

After giving groups ten to fifteen minutes, have them share their work.

To encourage personal application:

On the left side of the board write the word NICE and on the far-right side of the board, write the word GOOD. Ask class members to try to change NICE to GOOD by changing one letter at a time, making sure that a new word is formed each time. One solution is:

nice>niNe>FiNe>FiND>FOND>FOOD>GOOD

Ask a class member with a smart phone to look up definitions of both words. They should find something like these:

Nice—pleasing; agreeable; delightful

Good—morally excellent; virtuous; righteous

Help the class discuss the difference between the two words that we often use interchangeably. Nice is what is pleasing to others, while good is that which meets God’s moral standards. (Sometimes certain behaviors are both, but not always.) How can the qualities listed in today’s text help us “cling to what is good?” Which of the good behaviors Paul listed do they need to improve on?

August 12: Global Economic Justice (2 Corinthians 8:7-15)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Read the following list of statements about a noted philanthropist one at a time. After reading each one, allow class members to guess this person’s name. The clues should get progressively more and more obvious.

At this date, he has given about $30 billion to charitable causes.

He launched the “Giving Pledge” campaign and recruited nearly 100 other billionaires to pledge at least half of their fortunes to charity.

One of his basic dreams is to help fund the eradication of polio and malaria around the world.

With his wife, he founded the largest philanthropic organization in the world.

He is best known as the co-founder of Microsoft®.

After reading all the clues, reveal that all the statements describe billionaire Bill Gates. Lead into Bible study by saying, “When we think of generous people, we often think of people like this—those who have millions of dollars to give away. But must one be a billionaire to be generous? Let’s learn what Paul wrote about true generosity.”

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

Download the “Straight Talk” activity here. Make copies for every class member. Divide the class into pairs, and have them work together to complete the exercise according to the printed instructions.

After pairs have had about ten minutes to work, have them share their reconstructed paraphrases. We would expect the paraphrase to read like this:

You think you are super Christians? Then show it by super generosity! Let’s see how generous you are by comparing your giving with that of those who have far less than you do. After all, isn’t the essence of our faith that Jesus gave up everything for us?

Last year, you made some big promises about your giving. Now it is time to put up or shut up. Don’t tell me you are broke. Just give what you can.

We are not trying to bleed you dry. We just want you to be generous with what you have. Who knows? Those you help today may be the ones who will help you out tomorrow. Isn’t it a basic economic principle that God gives us exactly what we need exactly when we need it?

August 5: God’s Justice (Romans 2:1-12)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Hypocri-scenes” activity  here. Make copies for each class member. As class members arrive, hand out the worksheets and ask pairs of class members to prepare to act one out.

After all class members have arrived, allow a few of the role plays to be presented. Lead into Bible study by saying, “It is easy to expect more of others than we expect from ourselves. Paul points out how dangerous such an attitude is when passing judgment on others.”

To encourage personal application:

Quickly brainstorm a list of actions or attitudes of others that class members find irritating. Write them on the board as they are called out. Some examples could be: people who ask stupid questions, know-it-alls, nosy people, people who talk on a cell phone in a public place, people with bad table manners, people who interrupt when you are having a conversation with someone else, etc.

Close by passing a few hand mirrors around. Ask class members to look in a mirror and ask God to help them be aware of attitudes and actions of their own that irritate or hurt others.  Remind them that those truly concerned about God’s justice will examine themselves before criticizing others.

July 29: Parable of the Great Dinner (Luke 14:15-24)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Be There!” activity here and make a copy for each class member. Distribute the activity as class members arrive, and let them complete it according to the instructions on it. After all have arrived and have had an opportunity to complete it, ask volunteers to share and defend their responses.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “There are a lot of extravagant celebrations held each year, all over the world. In a parable, Jesus spoke of another “can’t miss” event. Remarkably, however, many invited to this great banquet decided that they could miss it!”

To encourage personal application:

Before class, invite a member of your church’s mission committee to give a five-minute presentation of the missions your congregation supports that minister to the poor, outcast, and otherwise marginalized people in society.

After the presentation, discuss how support of those missions fulfills Jesus’ command to “compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” Close in prayer, praying specifically for these missions that offer God’s invitation to the outsider.

July 22: Entering God’s Kingdom (Luke 13:22-30)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Surprising or Expected?” activity  here.

Make copies for every class member. Distribute the activity sheet and have volunteers read the text aloud. Then, one at a time, go through the statements on the activity, asking whether class members find each on surprising or expected. Encourage disagreement and solid defense of their choices.

To encourage personal application:

On the top of the board, write the question, “How does one enter the kingdom of God?” Under that title, create three columns: By doing good works, By being of the right nationality,Through faith in Jesus alone.

Then have volunteers read these texts and place them in the column in which they best fit: Matthew 19:16-22; John 10:7; John 10:16; John 14:6; Romans 2:28, 29; Ephesians 2:9.

Our suggested responses are:

[not] Works—Matthew 19:16-22; Ephesians 2:9

[not] Nationality— John 10:16; Romans 2:28, 29

Jesus—John 10:7; John 14:6

 

July 15: The Widow and the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-9)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Who’s Afraid of . . . ?” activity here. Make a copy for each class member. Give them a minute or two to complete it according to the instructions on the page. Allow class members to share and explain their responses. Discuss the activity briefly with the two questions on the sheet.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “The world can be a scary place. We have real fears. When Jesus spoke of God’s judgment of the world, he used some images that inspire fear—many of which are listed on your worksheet! He followed that by explaining how his followers can look forward to the coming kingdom of God with faith, not fear.”

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

Divide your class into these three groups, giving each group a specific assignment:

Art group—On a poster board or other large sheet of paper, use markers to illustrate the frightening images Jesus uses to describe his coming to judge the world (Luke 17:24-37).

Writing group—Rewrite Jesus’ command about how to face justice fearlessly as a doctor’s prescription (Luke 18:1, 7b). Remember a prescription describes the medication needed and how often it is taken.

Drama group—Imagine that two different judges are hearing the case of an innocent person crying out for justice. One is the worst possible type of judge (Luke 18:2-5) and the other is the best possible type of judge (Luke 18:6-8). Conduct an interview of both judges, asking them to explain their actions and the reason they took them.

Give groups 10–15 minutes to complete their assignments. Then have them share and explain their work. Summarize the activity by making these points:

  1. The idea of God bringing justice to those who are unjust is frightening. Images of lightening, destructive flooding, fire and brimstone, and vultures circling dead bodies give us pause!
  2. Instead of fearing that justice will not come or that evil will win in the end, Jesus’ followers were given a prescription for prayer. They should pray constantly and with confidence that all injustices be made right.
  3. Jesus’ parable seems strange, but it makes an interesting point. Regardless of whether the judge was good or bad, justice was done in the end! The unjust judge decided for justice because of constant pleas for justice. God, the just judge, will decide for justice because he is faithful to those faithful to him.

July 8: Jesus Criticizes Unjust Leaders (Matthew 23: 1-8, 23-26)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Presidents on Leadership” quiz  here. Make a copy for each class member. Allow class members to work on them individually or in groups as they arrive. After all have arrived and have had time to try the quiz, reveal the answers. They are: 1=b, 2=a, 3=i, 4=j, 5=f, 6=d, 7=g, 8=e, 9=h, 10=c

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We are inspired by what great leaders say and do. On the other hand, poor leaders can dishearten us. Let’s see what Jesus said about the unjust religious leaders of his day.”

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

Divide the class into groups of three to five class members each. Give groups pens and paper. Ask groups to look at the text and try to paraphrase verses to make a list of qualities of unjust leaders. Then they should rephrase each quality to make it a quality of a good leader. Give groups about ten minutes before having them share their lists. You will expect their lists to be like this:

Bad leaders do not behave in the way they expect others to behave.

Good leaders set a good example with their actions (v. 3).

Bad leaders give orders but offer no help in accomplishing them.

Good leaders support their followers in accomplishing assigned tasks (v. 4).

Bad leaders put unimportant details first.

Good leaders put important moral principles first (vv. 23, 24).

Bad leaders care more about appearances than character.

Good leaders know that good results come from good character (v. 25, 26).

July 1: Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Making CENTS of the Story” worksheet here. Have a volunteer read the Bible text aloud. Divide the class into groups of 3–5 class members each, giving each a copy of the worksheet and making sure each group has access to a Bible and a calculator (such as one on a smartphone). Give the groups ten minutes or so to work. Move among them, offering help as needed. (Remember, math can be intimidating to many!)

Have groups reveal their results. They should discover that the first servant owed 200,000 years of salary, or about $10 billion today! The second servant owed 100 days of wages or about $19,000 (about 38% of a year’s salary) today!

Help the group understand that the first debt (our debt to God) is not just large—it would take thousands of lifetimes to pay back! The second debt (the hurt others cause us) was not insignificant. Writing off over a third of a year’s salary would not be easy, but that type of forgiveness makes sense considering how much God has forgiven us.

To encourage personal application:

To apply the Bible study, tell this true story:

In 2003, Gary Leon Ridgway confessed to the murders of nearly 50 women. At his sentencing, the families of the victims had the opportunity to address Ridgway directly. As expected, their words were filled with vengeance and anger. What was not expected was the response of Robert Rule, a father of one of Ridgway’s victims. Rule’s words to Ridgway were: “There are people here that hate you. I’m not one of them. But you have made it difficult for me to live up to what I believe. But I must do what God says to do. You are forgiven, sir.” This unexpected response brought the hardened killer to tears.

Discuss the story with these questions:

  1. How does this true story illustrate Jesus’s parable?
  2. How hard would it be for you to do what Rule did?
  3. How does the killer’s reaction show us why God makes such a demand of us?
  4. This week, think of someone who has hurt you in a way that you have considered to be unforgiveable. Take steps to forgiving that person.

June 24: Reaping God’s Justice (Luke 16:19-31)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

On the board, write this question and these three possible answers:

What is the origin of the phrase “scot free?” a) the release of a certain runaway slave; b) an old Scandinavian word for taxes c) the reputation of Scotsmen for being frugal.

After class members have arrived, have them consider the question. Then read the answers, one at a time, asking class members to vote for their preferred answer by a show of hands. The correct answer is b. Skat is a Scandinavian word for tax that became the old English word scot, a tax levied as early as the 10th century to help the poor. Those with means who could avoid paying such a tax, went “scot free.” We use the term today to describe anyone who has avoided the consequences of his actions. Discuss this idea further by describing people that they know who have avoided the consequences of their actions.

Lead into Bible study by saying, ““We are concerned when people who treat others unfairly do not seem to get what they deserve. Jesus taught that, in the end, such injustices will be corrected. In God’s just kingdom, no one escapes scot free.”

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

Download the “Poetry Repair” activity here. Prepare and conduct the activity as the directions on it describe.

June 17: Jesus Teaches About Justice (Matthew 15:1-9)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Royal Dress” quiz  here. Make a copy for each class member. After all class members have arrived, distribute the quiz. Allow class members to work individually or in groups to complete it.   After a few minutes, reveal these answers: 1=b, 2=c, 3=a, 4=b, 5=a, 6=b, 7=c, 8=a.

Discuss the activity by asking what the purpose of such traditions might be. Which of these traditions would they have trouble following?

Lead into Bible study by saying: “Traditions like these probably are intended to communicate respect for a royal position. But a royal dress code does not make a ruler or nation more just! Jesus confronted rulers who truly substituted outward traditions for inward righteousness. Let’s examine one of those confrontations.

To encourage personal application:

On the top of the board, write “Can our religious traditions work against God’s Word?” (Matthew 15:6)

Spend a few minutes brainstorming with your group, listing some Christian traditions not specifically commanded in the Bible. (ex: “Sunday best” dress, preferred translation, music styles, etc.) When the list is complete, discuss how any item on the list, while good intentioned, can have negative results.

June 10: Parables of God’s Just Kingdom (Matthew 13:24-43)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Tale of Two Kingdoms” worksheet here. Make a copy for each class member. Allow class members to work individually, in groups, or as a whole class to complete this exercise. You are looking for answers such as these.

Dealing with traitors in the kingdom—In human empires like Rome, when traitors are discovered, they are rooted out and immediately punished. Doing so keeps the power of the nation from being undermined and destroyed from within. Jesus teaches that since the power of God rules his kingdom, that power is not threatened by traitors. Therefore, there is no need for spies or secret police to discover and punish traitors. The traitors would receive punishment by God in his time.

Physical expansion of the kingdom—Rome and other empires expand by conquest. They fight battles and then annex the land they conquer into the empire. The people of Israel knew that all too well. Their nation had been conquered and was being occupied by Roman soldiers. Jesus teaches that the kingdom of God expands organically, like a living organism grows from the smallest beginning to slowly mature to its full size.

Wielding influence in the kingdom—Human empires, like Rome, wield top-down authority. The emperor uses underlings in certain locations to enforce the laws and dictates that come from the throne. Jesus teaches that the kingdom of God grows from the bottom up. Just as a baker mixes in yeast throughout the dough, God will take citizens of the kingdom and scatter them all over the world, allowing them to spread the influence of the kingdom.

To encourage personal application:

After the Bible lesson, hand a small stone to each class member. Say, “Jesus’ parables we have studied today used the images of good grain, weeds, a mustard seed, and granules of yeast to describe God’s kingdom. Can you think of a time when Jesus used the image of a rock to describe the kingdom of God?”

Depending on your class, members may or may not bring up Matthew 16:18. Have a volunteer turn to that verse and read it aloud. Note the promise that from a small start (the fact that only Peter at this point testified to who Jesus is) the church, God’s unshakable kingdom would be founded. Ask class members to think of empires of the past that sought to dominate by conquest. (ex: The Ottoman Empire, the Nazis, the Soviets, etc.). These seemed successful for a time, but all fell. Note that although nations have sought to destroy God’s kingdom, the church has continued to stand!

Encourage class members to keep their small rock with them in the week to come. Let it serve as a reminder that they are a part of God’s just kingdom that trusts God to judge evil, that grows from the smallest beginnings, and that seeks to work its influence into all the world.

June 3: Justice and Sabbath Laws (Matthew 12:1-14)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, write these words on the board: agreeing, albeit, ancient, atheism, beige, being, caffeine, concierge, deity, efficient, either, feint, feisty, forfeit, glacier, heir, heist, kaleidoscope, leisure, neither, policies, protein, reimburse, rein, science, seeing, seize, sovereign, weird

After class members arrive, have them examine the list and tell you what all these words have in common. If they do not give you the correct answer after a minute or two, reveal the answer. All of these words (and many more) do not follow the common English spelling rule, “I before except after C.

Discuss this activity briefly by asking why there is value in rules like this. Why do such rules sometimes lead us into error? What are some other examples of a rule or law that needs to be broken at times?

Lead into Bible study by saying: “Laws and rules give us general guidelines. They make it possible for people work and communicate in society. But what happens when the rules become more important than the very people they were made to benefit? Some incidents in Jesus’ life speak to that question.”

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

Download the “Do Rules Rule?” worksheet here. Make a copy for each class member.

Allow class members to work individually, in groups, or as a whole class to complete this exercise. They will discover exceptions to certain laws that are given in Scripture. While it is wrong to steal, the law allows travelers to take and eat grain or grapes from another person’s field as they travel. While the sanctified bread is for the priests alone, David and his men were given permission to eat it when they were hungry and no other food was available. Although work was forbidden on the Sabbath, the priests were commanded to work on the Sabbath to prepare offerings.

The greater rule in play is that rules can be broken to illustrate the character of God, caring for human need.

May 27: Rejoicing in Restoration (Psalm 34:1-10; Hebrews 2:17, 18)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Jigsaw Quote” puzzle here.

Make a copy for each class member. Allow class members to work on the puzzle individually or cooperatively as they arrive.

After all class members have had a chance to work the puzzle, ask them to reveal the reassembled quote. They will have found it to say, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men—Frederick Douglass.”

Discuss the quote briefly. How have they found it to be true? How does one build strong children or repair broken adults? Then lead into Bible study by saying, “We may fix broken appliances and broken furniture, but how are broken lives repaired? The Bible has the answer.”

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

Divide the class into groups of three to five members each. Give each group a few sample business cards, a blank index card, pens and markers, and one of these Scripture assignments: Deliverer (Psalm 34:4-7); Provider (Psalm 34:8-10); Reconciler (Hebrews 2:17, 18).

Have groups read their assigned text and then design a business card for God or Jesus based on the information found in the text. Each card might include the name of God or Jesus, the overall functions he performs as found in the text, some specific things he does, a slogan that might be used, and the Scripture reference. Here are some sample ideas:

Deliverer group:


The Lord

Deliverer of His People

  • Removing fear and shame
  • Rescuing from trouble
  • Offering angelic protection

“Hearing even the poor and humble”

Psalm 34:4-7


Provider group:


The Lord

Provider for the Saints

  • Guaranteed goodness
  • Necessities supplied
  • Building trust

“Ensuring against want”

Psalm 34:8-10


Deliverer group:

Jesus

Reconciling People to God

  • Understanding human frailty
  • Paying for human sin
  • Empowering the tempted

“The faithful high priest”

Hebrews 2:17, 18


Allow groups to present and explain their completed work.

May 20: Remembering with Joy (Leviticus 25:1-12)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

As class members begin to arrive, have the board game Monopoly® set up to play. (You may wish to set it up as the shortened version of the game. See the game itself for those instructions.) Have those first to arrive divide into two teams and begin to play. As more class members arrive, allow them to join either team.

After all class members have arrived, allow play to continue for no more than five minutes longer. Then discuss the activity by asking the group to explain the goal of the game. (To amass money and property at the expense of other players, forcing them into bankruptcy.)  Then lead into Bible study by saying, “We are all familiar with this game, but how many of us know that it was created as a teaching tool? It was to demonstrate what happens when materialistic greed is the focus of a society. How do we keep greed from destroying our lives and the lives of others? The Bible has an answer. It was found in observing Sabbath years and the Year of Jubilee. Let’s learn more.”

To encourage personal application:

Download the “New Jubilee” activity and make copies for each class member. It is available for both the King James Version and the New International VersionExplain that Jesus began his ministry by comparing it to the Year of Jubilee. In Jesus, humankind would have the ability to be truly free and restored to God.  To complete the activity, they will unscramble the words under each blank. Encourage them to memorize these verses in the coming days and think about how they can better proclaim the fresh start offered by Jesus.

May 13: Bringing First Fruits (Leviticus 2:14; 23:9-14, 22)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Follow the Directions” puzzle here. Make copies for each class member. As class members begin to arrive, allow them to work individually or in groups to complete the puzzle.

After class members have had time to complete the puzzles, ask them to reveal the final phrase that results from following the directions. They should have gotten the phrase, “MY PRIORITIES.”

Discuss the activity briefly. Ask them to tell activities they must prioritize. (For example, what bills to pay first or what household chore needs to be done before others.) Ask them how one determines his or her priorities.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We have lots of things on which to spend our time or money. Yet we cannot treat them all equally, since our resources are limited. The Bible explains how to put first things first by using the term ‘first fruits.’ Let’s examine that today.”

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

Introduce the theme of our lesson text by writing the final words from Leviticus 23:22 on the board: “I am the Lord your God.” Explain that this statement formed the basis for how the people of Israel were to order their priorities.

Divide your class into groups, giving each paper and pen and one of the following Scripture passages: Leviticus 23:12, Leviticus 23:14; Leviticus 23:22. Ask each group to write a brief explanation of why the priority of their verse exists. Each explanation should begin with the words, “Because the Lord is God . . . “

Give groups about ten minutes to work, and then have them share their explanations. The explanations should be similar to these:

Leviticus 23:12 group:Because the Lord is God, only the most perfect offerings are worthy of him. A perfect God deserves only perfect offerings. Therefore, the best animals must be given to God, not to the owner for his own use.

Leviticus 23:14 group:Because the Lord is God, he gets the first crops, before the farmer who grew those crops gets to eat. A growling stomach may not be pleasant, but it is a reminder of who comes first. The one who gave the seed and caused it to grow is the true owner and deserves the first serving at the table!

Leviticus 23:22 group:Because the Lord is God, his people must care for those unable to care for themselves. The needy belong to the Lord every bit as much as do the wealthy! Instead of harvesting fields with total efficiency and hoarding the excess, a landowner must make a first pass of the fields for himself and allow the poor to harvest the rest for themselves.

Refer to the Scripture commentary as needed to give further explanation of these main ideas.

May 6: Giving from a Generous Heart (Exodus 35:20-29; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Divide the class into two groups, giving each group one of these portions of the Bible text to read and having them create a short skit based upon it. (For a larger class, you may give multiple groups the same assignment.)

Israelite group: Read Exodus 35:20-29. Then act out a conversation between two or more Israelites discussing their offerings for the construction of the tent of meeting.

Corinthian group: Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. Then act out a conversation between a Corinthian who objects to giving to the collection for the churches and another who corrects his or her attitude with the principles Paul gives.

After about ten minutes of preparation time, allow groups to present their skits.

To encourage personal application:

Download the “Giving Plan” exercise here. Make copies for each class member.

At the end of class, distribute these worksheets to your students. Briefly read through it together. Encourage class members to take the sheet home and use it to create a giving plan for themselves.

April 29: Blessing, Glory, Honor Forever (Revelation 5:6-14)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin the session with a round or two of the traditional game, “20 Questions.” Have someone think of a famous person. The remainder of the class can ask up to 20 questions to determine the identity of that person. All questions must be able to be answered “yes” or “no.”

Play the game for about five minutes. Then lead into Bible study by saying, “There are a lot of people who have accomplished great things. In this game, we identified them by asking questions about positions they have held and their accomplishments. In our Bible study today, we will examine how John describes the unique position and accomplishments of Jesus.”

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

Download the “No One Like Jesus!” worksheet here. Make copies for every class member. Distribute the worksheets and pencils or pens. Allow class members to work individually or in small groups to match the images from the text to the correct explanations. The expected answers are: 1=f, 2=a, 3=c, 4=e, 5=d, 6=g, 7=b.

After class members have completed this exercise, have them share their answers. Use the lesson commentary to explain each section of the text more fully as necessary.

April 22: The Lord God Almighty (Revelation 4:1-6, 8-11)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Divide the class into two groups for a Bible research activity. The first group should look for images in the text that tell about the nature of God. The second group should look for ways that God’s creation should respond to his nature. Give them paper and pens and copies of the Bible text for the lesson. Allow them to work as a group for about ten minutes before sharing their findings. Some possible findings would be:

Nature of God—ruler (v. 2), of great value (v. 3), overwhelming power (v. 5), separate from creation (v. 6)

Response of Creation—living pure lives as his representatives (v. 4), non-stop praise (v. 8), submission to him (vv. 9, 10), recognition of his ownership of everything (v. 11)

To encourage personal application:

Download the “Worship Rehab” activity sheet here.

Make copies for each class member. At the end of class, distribute these sheets and go over the instructions for this activity. Encourage class members to use it as a prayer guide this week.

April 15: Follow Me (John 21:15-25)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Celebrity Causes” worksheet  here.

After class members have arrived, allow them to work in groups to try to put the causes listed there in order according to the number of celebrity supporters.  After a few minutes, reveal the answers according to the website looktothestars.org:

1=Addiction (78 celebrities), 2=Voter Education (145 celebrities), 3=Autism (227 celebrities), 4= Veteran/Service Member Support (343 celebrities), 5=Homelessness (762 celebrities), 6=Environment (985 celebrities), 7=Cancer (1486 celebrities), 8=AIDS & HIV (1621 celebrities), 9=Children (2757 celebrities)

Lead into Bible study saying: “Celebrities gravitate to particular causes based on what is popular at the time. Popular causes give people a purpose in life—at least for a while. The disciples of Jesus, on the other hand, were enlisted in a cause that gave them eternal purpose.”

To encourage personal application:

The age of the Internet has changed the way some organizations encourage others to support them. Crowdfunding websites such as kickstarter.com, gofundme.com, and myevent.com allow individuals to write an appeal for funds for a cause of their choice.  Before class, print out 3–5 different appeals from one of these sites. As an alternative, have class members access one of these sites through a smart device.

To apply the lesson text in which Jesus explains to Peter what it means to follow him, divide the class into groups, giving each access to a crowdfunding appeal. Have them try to write a similar appeal, encouraging others to become Jesus followers.

April 8: The Risen Lord Appears (John 21:1-14)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

On the board, write the following headings: Restaurant Chains that Now Longer Exist, TV Series that Lasted One Season or Less, Politicians Who Lost an Election.

Go from category to category, asking class members to add to each list. Continue until the class can come up with no more responses.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Many people start on ventures that they believe will be great successes, only to fail in their attempts. Life does not always turn out as we would hope, often leaving us disillusioned and discouraged. Peter surely felt the same way. After boasting that he would be willing to die with Jesus, he denied him instead. But Peter’s big fail was only the beginning of his work as a minister of Christ!”

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

Download the “Tale of the Discouraged Disciple” worksheet here. Distribute copies to every class member and use it as either a small group or whole group activity.  The worksheet divides this experience of Peter into three sections, each with a visual clue to help class members understand, remember, and retell the account. You are looking for responses like these:

RESET—Stinging from his failure of denying Jesus, Peter wanted to forget it all and go back to the life he once knew. Ironically, he was no more successful as a fisherman than he was a disciple! He fished all night and caught nothing.

REMINDED—A call from the shore to cast the net on the other side of the boat and an overwhelming haul of fish was eerily familiar. It was like how Jesus called Peter to be a disciple in the beginning. Being reminded of that, Peter literally went overboard—jumping out of the boat and rushing to Jesus’ side!

RECHARGE—Over the past three years, the disciples surely shared many meals of bread and fish with Jesus. But having a meal with their Master whom they saw die yet who was now alive would have been especially remarkable—right up there with the times Jesus fed thousands with very little bread and few fish. Peter would have been recharged, knowing that the adventure with Jesus had only begun!

April 1: He Has Risen (Luke 24:1-12, 30-35)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Make copies of the Scripture text so all class members can have one. Make pens/highlighters available. Ask class members to underline these words in their various verb forms every time they appear in the text:

Wonder/perplexed

Remember

Recognize/know

Discuss this exercise with these questions:

Whom is described as being in this mental state?

What circumstances caused them to be in that state?

 

To encourage personal application:

Download the “Where Am I?” self-evaluation activity here. Allow class members time to complete this exercise individually. Encourage them to take it home and reflect on how a belief that Jesus rose from the grave can change their lives.

March 25: Keep My Statutes and Ordinances (2 Chronicles 7:12-22)

By | Teacher Tips

Download the “Successful Calling” activity here. Make a copy for each class member. As class members arrive, distribute the worksheets and have them work on it. After everyone has arrived and have had a few minutes to work on the puzzle, ask class members to give their answers.

The correct responses are: a=drive, b=self-reliance, c=willpower, d=patience, e=integrity, f=passion, g=connection, h=optimism, i=self-confidence, j=communication, k=fun, l=focus, m=innovation, n=self-improvement, o=persistence.

Lead into Bible study by saying: “Much has been written about living successful lives. But what lifestyle really gives us the best chance of enjoying prosperity and avoiding catastrophe? God answered that very question during the reign of King Solomon.”

To encourage personal application:

Say, “We learn from our mistakes. We also learn from our successes! Tell about some instances in which you did the right thing—even though it was difficult—and were blessed by doing so. Tell about some instances in which you did the wrong thing and suffered the consequences.”

Before class, purchase enough mini-notebooks such as these, so each class member can have one. Distribute them and encourage class members to use them to keep a journal during the coming week.  In these journals, they should record times of blessing and discipline from the Lord, along with lessons learned from these experiences.

March 18: The People Gave Thanks to God (2 Chronicles 7:1-9)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Great Dedication” worksheet here. Make a copy for each class member. Distribute them as class members arrive, asking them to complete it according to the written instructions.

After all have arrived and have had the opportunity to complete the exercise, ask class members to reveal the answers. They are:

  1. 1. four score and seven years ago
  2. conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal
  3. we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground
  4. the world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here
  5. that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . .

Title of the speech: The Gettysburg Address

Lead into Bible study by saying, “When a new building or site is opened, it is often done so with a dedication ceremony. Many centuries before the dedication of Gettysburg National Cemetery, another dedication ceremony was held. Let’s see what happened when the temple in Jerusalem was dedicated.”

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

Make copies of the lesson text for each class member. Distribute the copies, making sure each class member has a pen. Then ask class members to read through the lesson text, underlining phrases that describe what all the people/all Israel/ all the children of Israel/ all the Israelites did as a part of the dedication ceremony. Give them about five minutes to do so.

Have class members share what they found. Actions they may have underlined will include the people kneeling, worshiping, and giving praise and thanksgiving (v. 3), offering sacrifices (v. 4), dedicating the temple (v. 5), standing (v. 6), observing the festival of tabernacles (v. 8), and celebrating the dedication of the temple (v. 9).

Referring to the lesson commentary, discuss why each of these actions were a significant part of the temple dedication.

March 11: There Is No God Like You (2 Chronicles 6:12-21)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group one of these research assignments:

Promise about the temple (2 Chronicles 6:14, 15; 1 Kings 5:5; 1 Chronicles 17:1-12; 22:5-10a; 28:20).

Promise about the throne of David (2 Chronicles 6:16, 17; 2 Samuel 7:16; 1 Chronicles 22:10b; Luke 1:30-33; Acts 2:29-32).

Promise about God’s presence (2 Chronicles 6:18-21; 2 Chronicles 2:6; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 17:24, 25; 2 Corinthians 6:16).

Have groups read their assigned verses and summarize what is said about the promise in them. After ten to fifteen minutes, have groups report. You are looking for responses like these:

Promise about the temple David wanted to build a temple, but God would not allow it. Rather, that privilege would go to Solomon. In our text, Solomon is standing in that completed structure, thanking God for fulfilling that promise.

Promise about the throne of David God promised David that, unlike Saul’s throne, David’s family would always rule. That was not only fulfilled by Solomon and kings that followed, but it is true today. Jesus reigns forever as the final king in David’s line.

Promise about God’s presence Solomon recognized that no building, no matter how grand, could hold God. But God promised that he would hear prayers and accept sacrifices offered from the temple. Finally, however, the ultimate temple of God is the church in which God’s Spirit lives and acts.

 

To encourage personal application:

Download the “Promise Prescriptions” worksheet here. Make copies for all your class members.

To close class, distribute the worksheet and encourage class members to look through the list of problems listed there. Have them pinpoint two or three of these concerns that especially apply to them. If time permits, allow them to look up the Scripture prescriptions for their struggles and write them on the back of the worksheet. Ask them to take the worksheets home and memorize the promise prescriptions that address their concerns.

March 4: The Lord Will Provide (Genesis 22:1-3, 6-14)

By | Teacher Tips

Download the “Would You Rather?” activity here. As class members arrive, give them a copy of the activity and allow them to consider the choices listed on it. After everyone has arrived and has had a few minutes to consider the choices, select several of them and have class members respond by a show of hands. Pick a few of the options to discuss briefly.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Yes, these are difficult choices. Fortunately, they are not ones any of us are likely to have to make. But imagine being presented with the choice of either willingly disobeying God or giving up your only child. Though this sounds outrageous, Abraham was given that very choice!”

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

Have a volunteer read the lesson text, so everyone is familiar with the account. Then write the following pairs of Scriptures on the board:

Genesis 22:2              John 3:16

Genesis 22:4              Luke 24:46

Genesis 22:6              John 19:17

Genesis 22:8              John 1:29

Ask volunteers to read a pair of Scriptures and then tell how the second Scripture relates to the first. In each case, a clear parallel between Isaac and Jesus will become apparent.

Close by reading Genesis 22:14. Note the irony of this account. It begins by apparently asking Abraham to make a sacrifice, but ending with the promise that it is the Lord who provides the ultimate sacrifice!

February 25, 2018: The Good Fight of Faith (1 Timothy 6:11-21)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Let’s Fight About It” activity here. Make copies for the class.

After all class members have arrived, distribute the activity sheets and ask the class to divide into pairs. Give the pairs about a minute to choose a scene to role play. Ask pairs to volunteer to act out their argument for the class.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “People fight. Such fights may be unpleasant and we would like to avoid them. But what are some things worth fighting for? Paul counseled Timothy to be prepared to fight a good fight of faith. Let’s see what this looks like.

 

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

Divide the class into groups of 3–5 students each, giving each a poster board, markers, images of various military coats of arms, and copies of the lesson text. Point out the various symbols, slogans, and designs in these images used to lead armies into battle.

Assign groups to try to create a coat of arms based on one of these themes and sections of the lesson text:

PURSUE (1 Timothy 6:11-16)

COMMAND (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

GUARD (1 Timothy 6:20, 21)

Give groups about fifteen minutes to create their designs before showing and explaining them to the rest of the class.

February 18, 2018: Faithful Disciples (Acts 9:36-43)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Celebrity Spokespeople” quiz here. Make a copy for each class member. After all have arrived, distribute the quizzes and ask class members to work individually or in groups to match each celebrity spokesperson to the organization he or she has represented. (Some are current spokespeople; others have represented a product years ago.)

After about five minutes, have class members share their responses. Answers are: 1=m, 2=g, 3=b, 4=o, 5=i, 6=a, 7=k, 8=n, 9=d, 10=h, 11=l, 12=e, 13=c, 14=j, 15=f. Briefly discuss the effectiveness of this advertising strategy. Who do they believe are effective spokespeople for a product or cause? Can they recall a time when a celebrity has been proven to be a very ineffective spokesperson?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Companies and organizations sometimes choose famous people to represent their products and causes. We might come to think of such a person when looking to make a purchase or lend our support. In the Bible, we see that faithful disciples can earn reputations that cause people to call on them when they seek help from the God of the church. Let’s look at how Peter proved himself a faithful representative of Jesus in our lesson today.”

To encourage personal application:

Distribute 3 ½” by 2” pieces of blank card stock, pens, and samples of business cards. Have each class member create their own business card with their name and the title, “Faithful Disciple of Jesus.” In addition, their card should include specific services they perform and gifts they have with which they represent the church of the Lord Jesus.

February 11, 2018: A Disciplined Faith (James 3:1-12)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Life in 3D” worksheet here. Make copies for every class member.

Distribute copies of the worksheet, making sure each student has a pen and a Bible. As a class, work through the outline of the Scripture text found there, having class members match the Scripture passages to the points on the outline.

Answers are: I-a=6, I-b=2, I-c=8, II-a=5, II-b=3, II-c=7, III-a=1, III-b=4

 

To encourage personal application:

Close the class with a guided prayer. You will read James 3:17 aloud. This verse is not in our text for the day, but summarizes its instructions. As you read, you will pause at each attribute of heavenly wisdom and prompt the class to respond in silent prayer to that attribute. Note that prayer prompts are in bracket and the words of James are in italics.

The result should be something like this:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure;

[Consider times your speech has been impure, and confess that to God now.]

then peace-loving,

[Think of how you can use your words to bring peace to a situation you face, and promise God that you will do so.]

considerate,

[Ask God to keep you from speaking without considering the feelings of others.]

submissive,

[Repent of a specific instance of self-centered speech.]

full of mercy and good fruit,

[Pledge to look for opportunities to forgive rather than to blame.]

impartial and sincere.

Then close by praying aloud, “This is our sincere prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

February 4, 2018: Faith Without Works Is Dead (James 2:14-26)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “You Can’t Have One Without the Other” activity sheet here.

Make a copy of the activity page for your answer key. Cut the other copy apart on the dotted lines. After all class members have arrived, shuffle the slips of paper and distribute them among the class members. Give your group about five minutes to put these essential pairs back together.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Some things just naturally go together! Just as a lock is useless without a key, the Bible teaches that professions of faith are meaningless without actions to back them up. Let’s see what James said about this.”

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

Before class, search the Internet or other source for sample obituaries and/or templates for writing one.  Make copies for every 3–5 students you expect to be in class.

Divide the class into groups of 3–5 students, giving each group your obituary samples, paper, pens, and the lesson text.  Have each group try to compose an obituary for “Faith Without Works” using your obituary samples and elements of the lesson text.

A sample obituary might read:

Faith Without Works (FWW) was declared dead by James in an announcement to the early church. FWW led a full life of empty promises. She was known for wishing that the hungry be fed and the naked clothed without ever offering food or clothing. James explained that FWW is survived by demons who believe but tremble, and great heroes such as Abraham and Rahab whose faith led them to righteous acts.

After giving groups about ten minutes to compose their obituaries, ask them to share and explain what they wrote.

January 28: A Strong Faith (Daniel 10:10-19)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Forecasts for 2018” worksheet here. Make copies for every class member. Distribute the worksheet and allow class members about five minutes to choose three predictions that they believe are likely to occur and three that are very unlikely to occur.

Allow class members to explain why they found certain events likely or unlikely to occur. Talk about how dire predictions about the future can affect people. Lead into Bible study by saying, “Some predictions are clearly unbelievable. But others may be likely and cause us concern. Daniel had clear knowledge of the future due to revelation from God. Let’s see how his strong faith allowed him to react to that knowledge.”

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

Make copies of the lesson text for each class member. Distribute them along with pens and give the following Scripture marking assignment.

  • Draw a line through each negative emotion Daniel experienced because of his prophetic visions.
  • Underline each word or phrase of encouragement Daniel received from God’s angel.
  • Circle the physical symptoms Daniel experienced due to his visions.

After ten minutes, have the class share their markings. Point out that while clear knowledge about the future might seem to be desirable, a strong faith is necessary to be able to handle such information.

January 21: A Prayer for an Obedient Faith (Daniel 9:1-19)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Attach 3–4 foot lengths of plain white shelf paper to the walls of your classroom. You will need one length for each 3–5 class members. Divide the class into groups, giving each group watercolor markers and assigning each group to a length of paper. Ask each group to create a timeline of a person’s life, noting key crossroads events (ex: graduation, marriage, beginning a career, etc.). Allow about five minutes for this exercise.

Reassemble the class and allow groups to explain their timelines. Point to specific crossroads events on the timelines and ask how people prepare for those events. Lead into Bible study by saying, “Our lives are marked by events that change the course of our lives when they occur. Those events deserve careful preparation and forethought. In our text today, we will see Daniel preparing for a predicted crossroads event for his nation. Let us see what we can learn from him.”

To encourage personal application:

Download the “Prayer Patterns” handout here. Make copies for each class member. Note that Daniel had a specific pattern for prayer that we can emulate in our own prayers. In addition, believers over the years have developed similar prayer outlines.

Encourage class members to choose a prayer pattern from the handout, clip it out, and use it to structure their prayers for an obedient faith in the coming weeks.

January 14: A Bold Faith (Daniel 3:19-23, 26-28)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Ask the class to try to define the word harassment. After a few members offer definitions, explain that there is a legal definition found in U.S. government documents.  Read that definition:

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).

 Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws. (Excerpted from https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/harassment.cfm)

Ask the class if they are familiar (either directly or from the reports of others) of cases of workplace harassment. Why is this a serious offense?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Workplace harassment is nothing new. The Bible tells us of a serious case of harassment that occurred about two and a half millennia ago! Let’s look at what happened when three Jewish men were ordered to participate in “offensive conduct” that was “a condition of continued employment” and then some!

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

Download the “Surprising or Expected?” worksheet here. Make copies for all group members.

Distribute the worksheet, making sure each class member has a pen or pencil. Give class members about five minutes to look at these events in Daniel 3 and mark each one as either expected (E) or surprising (S) to them. Stress that there are no right or wrong answers, but they should be ready to give a reason for each response.

After members have had a chance to complete the worksheet, go over each story element, allowing class members to talk about their reactions to it.

January 7: A Sincere Faith (Daniel 1:8-21)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Tale of Two Captives” worksheet here. It is a Bible research assignment that will help them compare the situations of Daniel and Joseph, son of Jacob.

Divide the class into groups of 3–5 students each, giving each group a copy of the worksheet and a pen. Make sure they have Bibles available. Allow them about ten minutes to complete the work before pulling the whole class together to discuss the activity.

To encourage personal application:

Divide the class into small groups and write the following questions on the board:

How might one be asked to compromise their moral values at work?

What course of action could be proposed and/or taken?

How can one be assured that God would be with them despite this difficulty?

Say, “Like Daniel, believers today may be asked to compromise their moral values at work. Use the questions on the board to propose an approach to such a situation.”

Allow groups about five minutes to work on a plan before having them report.

December 31: Faith to Unite (Ephesians 4:1-16)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “All for One” worksheet here.

Make copies of the worksheet and distribute them to the class. Have the class work on this quiz individually or in groups to complete these quotes about unity. After a few minutes, reveal the answers. Answers are: 1=f, 2=c, 3=h, 4=a, 5=g, 6=d, 7=b, 8=e.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Effective teams, groups, and nations work when they are unified in reaching for a shared goal. This is a truth recognized for centuries. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus about that type of unity. Let’s see what he had to say.”

To encourage personal application:

Sometimes a secular song nicely summarizes a Bible text. The song “Let’s Work Together” has been recorded in a blues-inspired style, as a rock song, and as a country anthem. Find the lyrics on an internet lyrics sharing site and make copies for the class. You may wish to play the song in a style of your choice from a video sharing or music sharing site.

Close in prayer, rephrasing vv. 2-6 to begin this prayer. May unity be your class theme in 2018!

December 24: Faithful Seekers of the King (Matthew 2:1-12)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Gift Flip” worksheet here.

The best gifts are those given by someone who truly understands the person to whom it is given. This exercise will test our gift-giving knowledge. Make two copies of this sheet. Cut one copy apart on the dotted lines. Keep the other for your reference.

Ask a class member to choose a slip and show it to you. Then ask that class member to fold it on the solid line so his or her preferred gift is face up. Then have the remainder of the class try to guess that person’s gift preference. Continue until all slips are chosen.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We want to give a gift that will be appreciated. Today we will get some tips from some of the most famous gift-givers in history.”

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

Before class, recruit three volunteers to portray the magi in a role play. Volunteers should be prepared to answer these interview questions:

  1. Sometimes Christmastime travel is difficult. In your experience, what makes the trip worth it? See Matthew 12:1-2.
  2. So many voices tell us where to go and what to do to have a perfect Christmas. How can one tell whether they are being told the truth or just being strung along by someone with an agenda? See Matthew 2:3-8, 12.
  3. A common saying tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. What have you learned about the truth of that saying? See Matthew 2:9-11.

Act as the interviewer for your volunteers. After the role play, read the text together and point out any ideas that may not have been expressed in the interview. Refer to the commentary as necessary.

December 17: Faith to Persevere (Acts 14:8-11, 19-23)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Battle Lines” worksheet here.

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group a worksheet and one of the battle lines to research. They will look at how Paul and Barnabas persevered through opposition. Then they will consider how we face similar opposition today.

Some suggested responses follow:

  1. Only God does great things! Our gods do great things! When God performed a miracle, the pagan audience credited gods in which they already believed. Paul and Barnabas continued to teach and explain the difference between the one true God and pagan gods. Today, people may credit human effort, human government, or human technology with working miracles. We must continue to teach that God’s power continues, even when human effort fails.
  2. We will continue to preach the truth! We can shut you up! When Paul and Barnabas were successful in preaching, those opposing them resorted to raw power to silence them. While we do not know the details, we know that Paul and Barnabas survived after other Christians gathered around them. The world may try to silence us today, but they cannot if we surround ourselves with other believers.
  3. Our followers will continue to believe! They will stop believing after you leave! Paul and Barnabas knew that those who believed their message would face the same opposition they faced. Therefore, they appointed leaders to constantly remind the new believers of the message of Christ. In a hostile world, new believers need to be reminded of the truth. Faithful church leaders can continue to strengthen them.

 

To encourage personal application:

On the board, write these three headings:

Speak out                   Gather around                                  Lift up

Close the session by helping the class list ministries of the church that help others:

Speak out—clearly articulating the truth of the gospel

Gather around—shielding and protecting fellow believers

Lift up—supporting new believers to grow in faith

December 10: Faith to Discern (Acts 13:1-12)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Tell this story:

During the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, ice cream vendor Arnold Fornachou had an unexpected problem. He ran out of paper dishes in which to serve his ice cream! Next to Fornachou’s booth, Syrian immigrant Ernest Hamwi had a stand in which he was selling zalabia, waffle-like pastries.

Noting his fellow vendor’s predicament, Hamwi offered a solution that would benefit both of them. Hamwi rolled some of his waffles from his pastry cart into cones and sold them to Fornachou as edible ice cream containers. It was an instant success!

Throughout the remainder of the decade, Hamwi travelled throughout the United States introducing his “World’s Fair Cornucopia” as a new way of eating ice cream. The ice cream cone was born because these men had a creative solution to an unexpected problem.

Discuss the story by asking class members to tell of some ways people react when things do not go according to plan. Lead into Bible study by saying, “Life is filled with unexpected circumstances. Some react to those moments with anger, with despair, or with panic. Hamwi and Fornachou reacted to a disruption in plans by making a new plan! The Holy Spirit enabled the apostle Paul to do something quite similar. When the unexpected occurred, Paul turned disruption into opportunity. Let’s look at some examples of this.

To encourage personal application:

Download the “No Lost Causes” worksheet here.

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group a copy of the worksheet. Assign each group one of the case studies concerning believers being called to a difficult mission field. Groups should discuss how Paul and Barnabas might react to their assigned mission field and some other possible approaches to the challenge. They should also list some ways believers may pray for those facing that difficult mission field.

December 3: Faith in Jesus (Acts 3:11-21)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download “The Whole Secret” worksheet here. Distribute the puzzle to class members as they arrive and allow them to work on it individually or with a classmate or two.

After finding the synonyms for whole and transferring unused letters into the blanks, they will find this quote about wholeness:

“I think wholeness is God’s design for us; and that often amounts to embracing contradictions.—Bono

Lead into Bible study saying, “We all want to be complete people. We want to live in a world that is whole. Our lesson text today speaks about the seemingly contradictory ways wholeness is found.”

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

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group one of these research assignments:

Contradiction 1: The life-giver died. (Acts 3:11-15)

Contradiction 2: The learned were ignorant. (Acts 3:16-18)

Contradiction 3: Forever starts now. (Acts 3:19-21)

Give each group a pen and paper and ask them to compose a sentence or two to explain their contradiction. After group work is complete, have them read their section of the text and share their explanations.

Some suggested responses follow:

Contradiction 1: The life-giver died. (Acts 3:11-15)—Those at the temple assumed the healing came from the living apostles who stood before them. But the power to restore life came from Jesus whom they had crucified!

Contradiction 2: The learned were ignorant. (Acts 3:16-18)—The religious leaders taught from the Scriptures that the Messiah would come. But when Jesus did come, they failed to recognize him!

Contradiction 3: Forever starts now. (Acts 3:19-21)—By repenting and accepting Jesus as Messiah, our restoration can begin. Wholeness will not be complete, however, until he returns.

November 26: Remembering the Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:23-34)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Holiday Food” quiz here.  Make copies for every class member. Distribute the quiz to class members as they arrive, allowing them to work on it immediately. After all have arrived and had opportunity to work on the quiz, have class members share their answers. The correct answers are: 1=i, 2=c, 3=e, 4=j, 5=d, 6=a, 7=h, 8=b, 9=f, 10=g.

Discuss this activity by asking whether most people know the significance of eating certain foods for holidays. Is it important to know the association between the food and the holiday—that is, does knowing so make it more meaningful? Explain.

Lead into Bible study by saying: “Special celebrations often have food attached to them. Some of the reasons for the associations we may know, but others may be long forgotten. Jesus established a celebration for the church and associated specific food with it. He commanded us not to forget the association of the elements of the Lord’s Supper with their meaning.”

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

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group markers, a poster board and one of these Scripture assignments: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 1 Corinthians 11:27-32; 1 Corinthians 11:33, 34. Ask each group to illustrate its portion of our text dealing with the Lord’s Supper using only one word and simple symbols and stick figures. For example, the first group might use the word “remember” and a drawing of Jesus on the cross. The second group might use the word “reflect” and draw a stick figure with folded hands and arrows around him pointing inward. The third group might use the word “respect” and show a stick figure with arrows pointing outward to other stick figures surrounding him. These are only some of the possibilities, of course.

After the groups have completed their work, allow them to read their portion of the text aloud and explain their illustrations.

If you believe you group would not respond well to an art project, try this alternative. Recruit church members during the week before class to produce the illustrations we suggest. During class, reveal one illustration at a time and use it to help explain each portion of the text.

November 19: Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 12:14, 15, 18-29)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Post three large sheets of newsprint on the walls of the classroom. With washable markers place these headings on them: an event I wish I could get tickets to, a famous person I wish I could meet, a luxury item I wish I could afford.

As class members arrive, make washable markers available and invite them to write one or more wishes on one or more of the sheets of newsprint. After all class members have arrived and have had an opportunity to add to the sheets, read the lists together.

Discuss the by saying, “These seem like impossible dreams. But what if someone told you, ‘I know a guy.’ What would that mean? What would you call someone who could truly get you tickets to a sold-out event, who could introduce you to a celebrity, or who could make items out of your price range affordable?”

Welcome words such as arbiter, fixer, broker, go-between, intercessor, insider, etc. Lead into Bible study by saying, “We probably do not know someone on the inside who could make these wishes come true. But the Bible tells us that we do have someone who can get us into the presence of God. Let’s look at the role of Jesus as mediator of the New Covenant.”

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

Download the “Mediator Messiness” worksheet here. Make copies for everyone in the class.

Distribute the worksheet and allow class members to complete it in pairs or small groups. The Scripture references will help them unscramble the paraphrased main points. After group work is done, have class members reveal the answers to summarize the Bible text.

Answers:

What Jesus our mediator does:

  1. purifies by sprinkling His blood (v. 24)
  2. welcomes us into the presence of God (vv. 22, 23)
  3. makes us a part of His church (vv. 22, 23)
  4. will bring about final judgment (vv. 26, 27)

How we respond to the work of our mediator:

  1. live in peace and holiness (v. 14)
  2. encourage others to keep the church undefiled (v. 15)
  3. listen to and obey Jesus (v. 25)
  4. be thankful and worship (v. 28)

November 12: Promise of a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:27-34)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Outline Blocks” activity sheet here. Print the sheet and cut apart the boxes on the dotted lines.

Write this outline on the board, evenly spacing it so there are equal empty spaces between each main point:

I. Rebuild (Jeremiah 31:27, 28)

II. Repent (Jeremiah 31:29-32)

III. Renew (Jeremiah 31:33, 34)

Divide the class into six groups, giving each group an outline block. Give the groups 5–10 minutes to read the Scripture references on their blocks and to summarize them in a sentence or two.

Have groups use reusable adhesive to attach their blocks to the outline on the board to complete the outline of the lesson text.

Review their work together to explain the text.

To encourage personal application:

Close the session by leading a guided prayer in this way:

Say: “For the New Covenant to be written on our hearts, we must allow God access to our hearts, our personal thoughts and feelings. Invite Him to have that access now.”

(Pause)

Say: “Once inside your heart, God sees that some building and planting of His will needs to be done. What needs to be built or planted? Ask Him to do so.”

(Pause)

Say: “God sees that you have made excuses to resist His will in this way in the past. Repent of that resistance, being as specific as possible as you confess to Him.”

(Pause)

Say: “God wants you to have a more complete knowledge of Him. Tell Him a specific way you will seek to know Him better this week.”

(Pause and close)

November 5: Faithful God, Unfaithful People (Numbers 25:10-13; 1 Samuel 2:30-36)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Quotation Maze” puzzle here.  Make copies for every class member. Distribute them to class members as they arrive, allowing them to work on it immediately. After all have arrived and had opportunity to work the puzzle, write the hidden quote ohttp://www.standardlesson.com/wp-content/uploads/Quotation-Maze.pdfn the board: “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Briefly discuss the meaning of the quote and how class members have seen dishonesty strain and even break relationships. Lead into Bible study by saying: “Showing oneself to be untrustworthy can be relationship poison! When one claims to speak for God but is untrustworthy in other matters, God himself is called into question. The Bible shows that some of God’s priests were trustworthy, while some were not. As is true today, this made a big difference.”

View completed maze here.

To encourage personal application:

Take a moment to brainstorm a list of people with whom class members will interact during this coming week. In addition to the obvious (family members, work colleagues, etc.), try to include brief, incidental contacts, such as a waitress at a restaurant or a bank clerk.

When your list is complete, have class members select one person from the list and think of ways he or she can show that they are trustworthy priests of our God to that person.

October 29: God’s Covenant with the Returned Exiles (Nehemiah 9:32-38; 10:28, 29)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download the worksheet, “Reconciliation Plan” here. Make copies for every 3–5 students you expect.

Divide the class in to groups of 3–5 members each, giving these groups a copy of the worksheet. Have them read and reflect upon the lesson text, jotting down words from the text that correspond to the steps for reconciliation with God found on the worksheet.

To encourage personal application:

On the board write, “If you do not feel close to God, guess who moved.”

Talk about some attitudes that keep us from feeling close to God and why they do so. Some examples would be:

Denying that life is not going well. Trying to fool oneself that no problem exists.

Feeling that God is unfair or is giving others special treatment.

Refusal to express feelings of separation from God to other Christians.

Discuss how the lesson text showed how Nehemiah addressed these issues.

October 22: God’s Covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:1-6, 8-10, 12-16)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the worksheet, “Presidential Legacies,” here. Make copies for every class member. Begin class by giving class members an opportunity to match U.S. presidents with their domestic economic programs. After a few minutes, reveal the answers.

The answers are: 1=Square, 2=New, 3=Deal, 4=Fair, 5=Frontier, 6=Society.

Briefly discuss this activity by asking if these programs had a great effect on the country. Are these programs why we remember each president? If we do not quickly associate a president with his program, for what do we remember each of them?

Transition into Bible study with: “Human life does not last forever, so we desire to leave our mark on earth in some real way. David had a plan as to how he would do that, but we will see that God had a different idea.”

To encourage personal application:

Conclude this session by asking for class members to share times when God seemed to say “no” to their plans. What similarities does David’s experience in today’s lesson have with their experiences? In retrospect, why do they think God said “no” to their plans? Were they not fully equipped for the job yet? Was someone else more qualified to accomplish a task? Were they better suited for a support role than a leadership role? Did God have another task in mind for them? What other reasons can they think of?

Close by singing a hymn of submission to God’s will such as “Take My Life and Let It Be” or “Have Thine Own Way.”

October 15: Obeying God’s Law (Exodus 20:18-26)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Quickly brainstorm a list of controversial political figures, celebrities, and sports personalities.  Begin class by saying, “Select a person on this list and imagine that you were invited to make one brief comment to the controversial celebrity at a public press conference. Turn to your neighbor and tell him or her whether you would: a) say what you really think, b) say what you think the celebrity would want to hear; c) invite someone else to speak in your place. Explain your response.”

After class members have spent a few minutes doing this, have a few volunteers share their responses. Then lead into Bible study by saying, “It is one thing to have an opinion about a powerful or controversial person and another to deal with that person face to face. We would never approach a king, a president, or other celebrity casually. The same is true with God. Let’s learn about how we are to approach Him.”

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

Download the “Match the Paraphrase” worksheet here. Make copies for every 3–5 class members. Divide the class into groups of 3–5 class members. Allow groups to read the lesson text together, matching the paraphrases with a verse from the text. The expected answers are: 1=f, 2=d, 3=g, 4=a, 5=i, 6=c, 7=e, 8=h, 9=b.

Reveal the answers, explaining as necessary by using the commentary.

October 8: God’s Covenant with Israel (Exodus 19:16-25)

By | Teacher Tips

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

On the board, create a chart to help explain the lesson. Across the top of the board, create these two columns: The description of God’s presence and Those allowed in God’s presence.  On the left side of the board, create these two rows: Exodus 19:16-25 and Revelation 21.

Work with the class to fill out the chart. Have volunteers read Exodus 19:16-25. Ask class members to list descriptions of the holy mountain and then describe who was and who was not allowed near it. Then have volunteers read Revelation 21. Ask class members to list descriptions of the new Jerusalem and then describe who was and who was not allowed in it.

Point out that the presence of God on the holy mountain was described in frightening terms and that access to God’s presence was by his invitation only. Because of the work of Jesus, however, the presence of God in the new Jerusalem is warm and welcoming.

To encourage personal application:

A relationship with God recognizes that there are spiritual boundaries one must be careful not to cross. One way to help guard spiritual boundaries is meeting regularly with an accountability partner.

Help class members give serious thought as to whom might be good accountability partners for them.

Download the worksheet, “Finding an Accountability Partner,” here. Make copies for each class member and distribute them. Encourage class members to work on this exercise and to pray for God’s help in seeking an accountability partner.

October 1: Called into Covenant with God (Genesis 15:1-6, 17-21)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Since baseball season is coming to a close, your sports fans may enjoy this way of introducing the lesson. On the board, write the following names: Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, and Buster Posey.

Begin class by asking what those names have in common. A number of answers are possible (they are baseball players, they are star players, etc.), but keep asking until you get or reveal this answer: They are Major League Baseball players with some of the most lucrative contracts, but who will not be playing in the World Series this year.

Discuss this list by asking why these players were offered big contracts. Did they meet the terms of the contracts? Did they meet the expectations of those offering the contracts?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Big contracts are offered to athletes with the hopes that they will bring in fans and help their teams win. They are paid big money because they have big talent. But would a contract ever be given to someone who has little or nothing to offer?  Today we will look at a covenant/contract God entered into with Abram.”

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

Before class, download the “Poetry Repair” worksheet here. Make a copy for every 3–5 class members you expect, cut the pieces on the dotted lines, and place each set in a separate envelope. Keep one sheet uncut to use as your answer key.

After introducing the Bible lesson, divide the class into groups of 3–5 students each, giving each group an envelope of poetry pieces. Explain that the lesson text has been summarized into three five-line poems. It is their job to reassemble the three poems.

Suggest that they find the slips containing the Scripture references first and read the cited verses to get a grasp of what the poem will summarize. You may or may not wish to tell them that the poems are each written with a limerick rhyme scheme (aabba).

After groups have completed their work, have volunteers read each section of the lesson text aloud followed by the reconstructed poem summarizing the section.

September 24: Spirit-Filled Heart (Ezekiel 36:22-32)

By | Teacher Tips

 

To begin the session:

Download, copy, and distribute the “As Good As New” reproducible page. Download it here.

Allow the class to work in pairs or small groups to match each old item with a trick for making it look new again. Answers: 1=d, 2=g, 3=c, 4=h, 5=a, 6=f, 7=e, 8=b.

Say: “What are some other things we have that need to be made like new? What are some things that aren’t physical that we would like to be as good as new? (For example: health, relationships, etc.) After the exile, the people of Israel wanted their relationship with God to be made brand new. Let’s see what God said about that.”

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

Make copies of the lesson text for every class member. Distribute them along with pens. Ask them to do the following.

  1. Circle the words, “I will,” every time they appear in the text.
  2. Underline every phrase describing what God promised to do.
  3. Draw a box around the words, “you will,” every time they appear in the text.
  4. Draw an arrow from each box to the phrase describing how the people of Israel were to react to God’s actions.

Discuss this Scripture-marking exercise by asking how the sign of a renewed people differs from the sign of circumcision and Sabbath observance. Note that the latter deal with the people recognizing the relationship God had with Israel. The sign of a new heart is an act of renewal totally performed by God. Point out the many times God said, “I will” compared to the much fewer number of mentions of “you will.”

Say, “God’s renewal of broken people is unique among God’s covenant signs. In making us new, God testifies to the world that he alone is holy, that he loves his people and wants them to be whole, and that he wants his people to recognize their sin and need for him. How can we best display that we have this sign of a new heart?”

September 17: Sabbath Observance (Exodus 31:12-18)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Download, copy, and distribute the “It’s a Sign!” reproducible page. Download it here.

Divide class members into groups and have groups read the cited Scripture passages. They will try to summarize what each passage says about the meaning of the Sabbath and how it relates to each symbol.

Group answers will vary, but you will want the following points to be understood:

Exodus 31:13, 14; 1 Peter 1:14-16God gave the Jews a special day different from others, which they recognized as set apart (holy) for God. A Sabbath gives us time to consider how we need to live lives that are set apart for service to God.

Exodus 31:16The Sabbath observance was a part of the Old Covenant and did not change from week to week. It was a “forever” practice, an observance that did not change, illustrating God’s unchanging love.

Exodus 31:17, 18; Mark 2:27The Sabbath recognized that even God stopped his work to rest. This example was set so people would recognize their need to rest, recharge, and be renewed.

To encourage personal application:

Say: “Setting aside a day to rest does not mean doing absolutely nothing. How boring! Rather a day of rest can be filled with activities that renew and restore one after a week of work. What might such activities be?”

Help the class brainstorm a list of activities that would be appropriate for a day of rest and renewal. Some suggestions would be: share a family meal, visit friends or shut-ins, enjoy flipping through old scrapbooks and photo albums, listen to worship music, read a Sunday school take-home paper cover-to-cover, listen to Scripture on CD, write letters, turn off distractions (TV, computers).

After completing a list, ask class members to review it, looking for one or two activities to incorporate in a personal Sabbath observance.

September 10: Circumcision (Genesis 17:1-14)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

On the board, write these sayings (or others that you know) that you might find on church message signs:

  • T.G.I.F. – Thank God I’m Forgiven!
  • If the devil is knocking, let Jesus answer he door!
  • Cross Training inside!
  • Drowning in your problems? Our lifeguard walks on water!
  • God wants full custody not just holiday visits!
  • God expects spiritual fruit, not religious nuts!
  • Soul food served here!
  • God wants your broken heart—but give Him all the pieces!
  • Prevent Sinburn. Use Sonscreen.
  • Forecast: God reigns and the Son shines!

To begin class, go down the list and ask class members to rate the effectiveness of each saying. They will rate them from 1–5 (lease effective to most effective) by holding up the number of fingers of their rating.

Briefly discuss this exercise by asking class members to give their rationale behind their ratings. How effective are signs like this in truly indicating that a church loves both God and people? What are some other ways people send messages about Jesus?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “A church may put a clever saying on a sign. People may have bumper stickers on their cars, wear Christian T-shirts, sport crosses or other jewelry, or send messages about their faith in any number of other ways. Today we will look at a sign God gave Abraham and his descendants to show their loyalty to God.”

To encourage personal application:

Close by distributing this handout, “Circumcision of the Heart.” Have class members complete it. Then close in prayer, asking that our circumcision of the heart clearly marks us as property of Jesus.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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

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?

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”?

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.

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?

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?

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).

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)

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?

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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?

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?

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?

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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?

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?

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).

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.

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.

January 1: Praise God for Creation (Psalm 33:1-9)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

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

  1. Can you recall previous years in which New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday? How did that circumstance affect your personal or family activities this year?
  2. Reflecting on 2016, what stands out to you as a highlight?
  3. Reflecting on 2016, what stands out to you as a low point?

 

To encourage personal application:

Encourage your class members to answer the following questions.

  1. We began the class by reflecting on 2016. What are your thoughts and reflections in anticipation of 2017?
  2. How do you feel about New Year’s resolutions? Do you usually make some? Have you made any for 2017?
  3. How could Psalm 33:1-9 influence your spiritual resolutions or commitments?

Here are some possible answers:

  • I could grow in offering praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
  • I could possess more of an attitude of gratitude.
  • I could have a more intimate connection with God and “his unfailing love.”
  • I could give more time and attention to Scripture—“the word of the Lord.”

Conclude with prayer according to what has been shared. Consider breaking into groups of two, three, or four for your prayer time.

December 25: The Savior Has Arrived (Luke 2:8-20)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin your class by encouraging the participants to answer one or more of the following ice-breaker questions.

  1. Can you recall previous years in which Christmas fell on a Sunday? How has that circumstance affected your family and congregational traditions?
  2. Does a “favorite” Christmas stick out in your memory?
  3. What is your favorite thing in general about Christmas? What is your least favorite thing?

 

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

Read Luke 2:8-12 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. Who did the angel of the Lord appear to? Does that surprise you? Why or why not?
  2. What titles are bestowed upon this newborn baby? What is significant about them?
  3. Where would the shepherds find the infant? Does that surprise you? Why or why not?

Read Luke 2:13, 14 and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. What kind of peace would this child bring? To what extent will all people on earth receive it?

Read Luke 2:15-20 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How would you characterize the shepherds’ response and attitude?
  2. Why do you think those who heard their report were “amazed”?
  3. How would you characterize Mary’s response and attitude?
  4. Why is the Christmas story important to you?
  5. How does Jesus’ birth fit in with the rest of his life story?

 

December 18: The Forerunner of the Savior (Luke 1:8-20)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Read Luke 1:8-12 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How much do you know about the circumstances of Zechariah’s service in the temple in this scene?

Note: Once in the morning and once in the evening, a priest would enter the Holy Place and refresh the incense on the altar in front of the Most Holy Place. Each division of priests performed their duties for one week, twice a year. Considering the number of priests there were to draw from by lot, many of them would never have the privilege of burning incense before the Lord in the Holy Place in their lifetime.

  1. If you were Zechariah, how do you think you would have reacted when the angel of the Lord suddenly appeared?

Read Luke 1:13-17 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What had Zechariah evidently been praying for? How would that prayer be answered?
  2. Why do you suppose Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son was to be named John, which means “The Lord is gracious”?
  3. What did Gabriel have to say about John?
  4. Specifically, what part would John play in the life and ministry of the Messiah?

Read Luke 1:18-20 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. If you were in Zechariah’s place, do you think you would have responded to Gabriel’s message differently? Do you think you might have been affected more than Zechariah was by the fact that you had prayed for a child?
  2. What do you think Zechariah—and those who knew him—learned from his experience of being unable to speak till the day John was born?

 

To encourage personal application:

Say this to your class:

John the Baptist was called “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). Christmas is only one week away! How “ready” and “prepared” do you feel for Christmas?

Allow time for class members to talk about their emotions and stress level. Be aware that for many people the Christmas season is filled with anxiety and/or depression rather than peace and joy.

Now ask this question:

What does it really mean to be “ready” and “prepared” for Christmas?

Spend some time praying according to what people have shared.

Close by praying that you would be “a people prepared for the Lord”—ready and prepared for what Christ wants to do in your lives and for his second coming. Decide whether to voice such a prayer on behalf of the group or to ask volunteers to pray aloud.

December 11: The Affirmation of the Promise (Luke 1:39-56)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Read Luke 1:39-45 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What extraordinary things happened when Mary entered Zechariah and Elizabeth’s home?
  2. What does Elizabeth tell us about her relative Mary?
  3. What does Elizabeth tell us about the baby Mary was carrying?
  4. Reading between the lines, what do we learn about Elizabeth in this scene?
  5. How do you think Mary felt about this encounter?

Read Luke 1:46-56 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How do Mary’s words confirm or change your answer to the previous question?
  2. What does Mary have to say about God?
  3. What kind of people are the recipients of God’s blessing?
  4. What kind of people are the recipients of God’s judgment?
  5. Why do you think Mary stayed with Elizabeth for the next three months?

 

To encourage personal application:

Decide whether to keep your class together or divide into smaller groups to share regarding these questions:

  1. When Mary came to visit Elizabeth, both women felt affirmed and encouraged. When have you experienced the power of sharing a significant moment with another person?
  2. Can you think of someone you could encourage through a visit, phone call, card, or note? (Note: The Christmas season is definitely not “the happiest time of the year” for many people.)

In the second half of this passage, Mary celebrated what God was doing in her life. As you close in prayer, urge your class members to express thanks to the Lord for what he has done and is doing in their lives.

December 4: God Promises a Savior (Luke 1:26-38)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Read Luke 1:26-28 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What do these verses tell us about Mary?
  2. What is significant about Joseph’s ancestry?

Note: Although Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, he was Jesus’ legal, adopted father—thus making Jesus, like Joseph, a descendant of David.

Read Luke 1:29-33 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What did the angel Gabriel communicate to Mary for the second time? What effect would that have on her?
  2. What do these verses tell us about Jesus?

Read Luke 1:34-38 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How would you characterize Mary’s attitude at the beginning of this section?
  2. What assurances does Gabriel provide regarding the fulfillment of God’s amazing promises?
  3. Why is it important that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant?
  4. How would you characterize Mary’s attitude at the end of this section?

 

To encourage personal application:

Decide whether to keep your class together or divide into smaller groups for this activity.

  1. How has God communicated to you his plan for your life?
  2. How essential is it to you that you understand God’s plans? How willing are you to live with some mystery in that regard?
  3. In what circumstance or area of life do you need to affirm, “I am the Lord’s servant. May [his] word to me be fulfilled”?

Close with a time of prayer that includes a prayer of commitment to serve the Lord and be obedient to his plans.

November 27: First and Last (Revelation 22:11-21)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Read verse 11, in which the angel is speaking to John.

  1. What do you think this rather cryptic statement means?

Note the points in the commentary, particularly that, in contrast to earlier passages in Revelation, there is no call for repentance here—for it is as if the judgment has already been cast. The time to change has expired.

Read verses 12-16, in which Jesus is speaking.

  1. What do we learn about Jesus from the titles that he uses for himself?
  2. According to Jesus, on what basis will people be judged?

Note: Jesus’ words, especially in verse 12, specify that people will be judged “according to what they have done.” This principle is taught throughout the Bible (see Jeremiah 17:10; Romans 2:6; 1 Peter 1:17). Though Scripture also declares that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8, 9), the quality of our lives is what ultimately indicates what we truly believe.

  1. What does it mean for people to “wash their robes” (v. 14)?

Note: In Revelation 7:14, the great multitude gathered around the heavenly throne are “they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” We can be sanctified, or made clean, by identifying with Jesus’ sacrifice and living lives in which our faith in Christ is demonstrated by our works.

Read verse 17, which begins with the Holy Spirit and the bride—i.e., the church—speaking.

  1. A series of four invitations are made. To whom are these invitations addressed? And what do those who accept the invitations receive?

Read verses 18-21, which begins with John himself speaking.

  1. What is the consequence of adding words to or taking words away from “this scroll”—i.e., the book of Revelation? Why such a serious response?
  2. In verse 20, Jesus says for the third time in Revelation 22, “I am coming soon” (also verses 7 and 12). How does John respond? What does that say about how we should respond?

 

To encourage personal application:

This past Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving. Lead your class in an exercise of expressing thanks and affirmation for each other. One at a time, have each person sit in a chair in the middle of the group (the “hot seat”). If you have a large class, divide into smaller groups.

Instruct the rest of the class members to share a quality or memory regarding that person for which they are thankful. (For example, “I am thankful for the way your friendly smile always brightens our class”; or “I am thankful for the way you serve by making food for others.”)

When everyone has had a chance to share, have the group speak this blessing from Revelation 22:21 to the person in the hot seat:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. Amen.”

November 20: Living Waters (Revelation 22:1-7)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Ask each member of your group to answer at least one of the following ice-breaker questions.

  • What river, or other body of water, has been special to you—e.g., as a vacation or recreational destination?
  • What is your favorite fruit? About how many months a year are you able to enjoy it?
  • This is the second week in a row that the lesson passage has included the fact that the new Jerusalem doesn’t need the light of the sun because the Lord himself provides light. If you have ever lived in or visited a location that gets a great deal of sunlight in the summer and very little sunlight in the winter, what was that like?

 

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

Read Revelation 22:1-5 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. Regarding the river within the new Jerusalem, what does John’s vision tell us about the river’s . . .
  • location?
  • source?
  • water quality?
  • effect?
  1. Read Genesis 2:9, from the account of creation, and Genesis 3:22-24, from the account of the fall. How does the tree of life, as portrayed here in Revelation 22, proceed from the accounts in Genesis?
  2. How are the residents of the new Jerusalem portrayed?

Read Revelation 22:6 and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. As the angel speaks, what mood and effect do his words produce?

(Note: The Standard Lesson Commentary includes a helpful discussion regarding the fact that although the things revealed in the book of Revelation are promised to take place soon, they seem to us—some 2,000 years later—to have not yet occurred.)

Read Revelation 22:7 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. As Jesus speaks, what mood and effect do his words produce?
  2. What does it mean to “keep the words of this prophecy”?

November 13: New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-14, 22-27)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Read Revelation 21:9-14 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. This passage begins with an announcement from one of the seven angels who held one of the “seven bowls full of the seven last plagues.” What kind of mood would you normally associate with a bowl containing a plague? What kind of mood would the angel’s announced words and image elicit?
  2. What aspects of this “Holy City” would be common to ancient cities? What aspects would be unique to this “new Jerusalem”?
  3. Why is the number 12 significant in this vision? And what is the relationship between “the twelve tribes of Israel” and “the twelve apostles of the Lamb”?

Read Revelation 21:22-27 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. Again, what elements of the city in John’s vision would be common to ancient cities? What elements would be unique to the new Jerusalem?
  2. What reason does John give for the fact that the city has no temple . . . and no “natural light”?
  3. Read Isaiah 60:1-5. How is Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled here?
  4. Who is denied entrance to the eternal city? Who is granted entrance?

 

To encourage personal application:

Have your class divide into groups of 2–4 persons and share together about the following:

  1. Are you confident that your name is “written in the Lamb’s book of life”? If so, share with your partner(s) what led up to that status. Was it the result of a gradual process or a sudden event?
  2. What friend(s) or family member(s) are you concerned about—that their names may not be written in the Lamb’s book of life? Pray together for those individuals.

With the background of the kings of the earth bringing their splendor into the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24), read Revelation 4:9-11.

Close your time together by visualizing laying your “crowns” before the throne of God and repeating verse 11 to the Lord.

November 6: Brand New (Revelation 21:1-8)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Read Revelation 21:1-4 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. Why do you suppose there will “no longer [be] any sea” in the new heaven and new earth?
  2. The new Jerusalem is described as a bride. What else do the Scriptures portray as a bride? What do the two have in common?
  3. Although God dwells with his people now, how will that change in the new Jerusalem? What exactly will pass away?

Read Revelation 21:5-8 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What does it mean to be “thirsty” (verse 6)? What is the significance of what those who are thirsty receive?
  2. What requirement has to be met to receive the promised blessing of verse 7? What do you think that means?
  3. Why are some people “consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur” rather than accepted into the new Jerusalem?

 

To encourage personal application:

  1. In this passage, what promise regarding the new order of things is most encouraging to you? Why?
  2. If you’re really honest, do you think there might be aspects of the old (i.e., current) order of things that you’ll miss? If so, what? If not, why not?

October 30: Model of Endurance (Hebrews 12:1-13)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Use the following ice-breaker questions to introduce this study of Hebrews 12:1-13:

  • Who is the runner in your family? What “race” (literal or metaphorical) can you recall running?
  • Who was the disciplinarian in your family of origin? If you are a parent yourself, who is/was the disciplinarian in your family?

 

 

To encourage personal application:

Divide into groups of two or three—men with men and women with women—and share your answers to the following questions. (If possible, either print out the questions in advance or write them on a board or poster paper.)

  1. Hebrews 12:1 challenges us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” What do you need to “throw off”?
  2. What practical difference would it mean for you to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (vv. 1, 2)?
  3. Can you identify a “hardship” (v. 7) or other means by which God may be disciplining you? If so, how do you need to respond to maximize the benefit or results?

Pray for each other according to what was shared.

October 23: The High Priest Forever (Hebrews 7:1-3, 18-28)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Ask your group members to answer the following two-part ice-breaker question:

  • Who is the genealogist or historian in your immediate or extended family?
  • How much interest in your genealogy or family history have you had?

 

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

Read Hebrews 7:1-3 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What do we learn about Melchizedek in these verses?

(The description of Melchizedek in verse 3 doesn’t mean that he was literally without birth, death, father, mother, or genealogy, but rather that these things aren’t mentioned—as usual—in the book of Genesis. The author of Hebrews uses the absence of these markers in Scripture to present Melchizedek as a precursor of Jesus.)

  1. How do you see the author of Hebrews portraying Melchizedek as a type, or symbol, of Jesus?

(Be sure to point out that Melchizedek held the position of both king and priest, an important reality in anticipating the person and role of Jesus.)

Read Hebrews 7:18-25 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What comment does the author of Hebrews make about the Old Testament law?
  2. What oath did God the Father make in regard to his Son Jesus?
  3. How was Christ’s priesthood superior to that of Israel’s priests?

Read Hebrews 7:26-28 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How do these verses show that Jesus was superior to all of Israel’s high priests?

(Point out that only the high priest, a descendant of Aaron, could enter into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place—and that could only occur once a year on the Day of Atonement.)

  1. What sacrifice did the high priest Jesus offer?

October 16: The Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14–5:10)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Use the following ice-breaker questions to introduce this study about Jesus our great high priest, who is “able to empathize with our weaknesses.”

  1. When you were growing up, who was “able to empathize with your weaknesses” (using the language of Hebrews 4:15)?
  2. How important is it to you now to have a relationship with someone who walks alongside you in both good times and bad times, through experiences of failure as well as experiences of success?

 

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

Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What was the role of Israel’s high priests? How does that serve as background for Jesus’ role as our great high priest?
  2. Why is it significant that Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are”?

Read Hebrews 5:1-4 and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. What do these verses tell us about Israel’s high priests?

Read Hebrews 5:5-10 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. How would you compare and contrast the priesthood of Jesus with the priesthood of those who preceded him?

(Note: Next week’s passage from Hebrews 7 goes into more detail about the mysterious figure Melchizedek. The key point here is that Jesus’ status as a priest “in the order of Melchizedek” highlights how his existence and ministry extends from eternity past to eternity future.)

  1. Verse 7 certainly refers to Jesus’ experience in the garden of Gethsemane just prior to his arrest—and perhaps to his agony on the cross. What does that ordeal tell us about Jesus?
  2. Specifically, what do you think it means that Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” (v. 8)?

(The commentary on verse 8 helps explain this difficult statement. The key seems to be the reality that Jesus, like all of us, learned experientially through his circumstances.)

  1. How can we allow the truths of this passage to motivate us to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16)?

October 9: Builder of the House (Hebrews 3:1-6; Matthew 7:24-29)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Read Hebrews 3:1-6 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What is the significance of Jesus’ role as “apostle”? What is the significance of his role as “high priest”?
  2. What does it mean to “fix your thoughts on Jesus”?
  3. How does the author of Hebrews compare and contrast Jesus and Moses?
  4. What is our responsibility as God’s “house”?

Read Matthew 7:24-29 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What choice did the two men in Jesus’ parable face? What were the results of their decision?
  2. How did Jesus apply this parable to life? What does a wise person do? What does a foolish person do? In each case, what are the results?

 

To encourage personal application:

How prepared do you feel to withstand a severe “storm” in your life?

Jesus said that a wise man “hears these words of mine and puts them into practice.” What steps could you take to respond more faithfully to that challenge?

Close your time together with prayer. Encourage group members to close their eyes and silently commit themselves to build their lives on Christ, the solid rock.

October 2: The Radiance of God’s Glory (Hebrews 1:1-9)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Ask your group members to answer the following two-part ice-breaker question:

  • When you were growing up, who “spoke” into your life in a significant way (e.g., a parent, teacher, or pastor)?
  • What message did that person convey through words and/or example?

 

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

Read verses 1-3 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. What were some of the means God used to speak to the people of Israel in Old Testament times?

God spoke through the prophets—in some cases directly, in other cases in human form, in other cases by angels, and in other cases by dreams.

  1. What makes Jesus uniquely qualified to speak to us now?

He is God’s Son; he was God’s agent in the act of creation; he is the very essence of God and radiates God’s glory; he continues to sustain all of creation; through his death and resurrection he provided for the cleansing of our sins; and since his ascension he sits in the place of authority at the right hand of God.

Read verses 4-6 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. In light of these verses, how would you compare and contrast Jesus’ relationship with God to the angels’ relationship with God?

Although they are amazing creatures, angels are just that—creatures. But Jesus is God’s one and only Son. (Note: Beginning with verse 5, the author of Hebrews quotes a series of Old Testament passages, being confident that the readers would understand their original context. Psalm 2:7 is quoted both here in verse 5 and in Acts 13:33 in fulfillment of Christ’s resurrection. Jesus did not become the Son then, but was acclaimed as the Son of God.)

  1. What do these verses indicate in regard to the appropriate response to Jesus?

Angels—and therefore human beings as well—should respond to Jesus with reverent worship. (Since angels are glorious and powerful beings, people can be tempted to esteem them highly. But the Bible tells us that Jesus, the Son of God, is greatly superior to angels—and that they worship him.)

Read verses 7-9 and discuss the following questions with your group.

  1. In light of these verses, how would you compare and contrast Jesus’ relationship with God to the angels’ relationship with God?

Though glorious and powerful, angels are God’s created servants, whereas Jesus is the ultimate King who will reign forever.

  1. How do these verses affect our perspective about the future?

The fact that Jesus will rule on his throne for all eternity assures us that he will eventually set everything straight and rule with a “scepter of justice.”

  1. How do these verses affect our perspective about the present?

We can be sure that Jesus is in control of all things today.

September 25: Everlasting Covenant (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

To begin the meeting, ask your group members to answer one or both of the following ice-breaker questions:

  • What is the most wonderful good news (other than the good news of salvation through Christ) that you can remember receiving?
  • When has God replaced your mourning or despair with joy and praise?

(Note: People may think of the same answer, or scenario, for both questions.)

 

To encourage personal application:

This passage in Isaiah 61 mentions many acts of justice or mercy on the part of the Messiah. Have your group members read through the passage and identify ways they would like to follow Christ’s lead.

Here are some examples:

I would like to . . .

  • “proclaim good news to the poor”—e.g., share the gospel with people who don’t have a relationship with Christ
  • “bind up the brokenhearted”—e.g., be involved in a service ministry to people who are in need or crisis
  • “proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”—e.g., visit or send letters to people in prison
  • “comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve”—e.g., send cards or take meals to people who have lost a loved one

Close in prayer by thanking God for what he has done for us and committing yourselves to follow his example of serving others.

September 18: Foundations of the Earth (Isaiah 40:21-31)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

To begin the meeting, ask your group members to answer one or both of the following ice-breaker questions:

  • What did you tend to complain about when you were growing up? How about now?
  • When you are tired or weary, what have you found that renews your strength?

 

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

If your group members don’t have copies of the student book, make copies of the Scripture passage from the commentary. Point out that Isaiah 40:21-31 contains a series of rhetorical questions.

1. Have the group read verses 21-24 and then underline the rhetorical questions.

What do you think the Lord was communicating to the Israelites through these questions?

Answers will vary. Point out that this section asserts that God is the only Creator. Along with that, the Lord rules over all rulers and nations. The majesty of the heavens demonstrates that God reigns supreme. His sovereignty over all of life is unchallenged.

2. Have the group read verses 25-26 and then underline the rhetorical questions.

What do you think the Lord was communicating to the Israelites through these questions?

Answers will vary. Point out that nothing or no one is on par with God, “the Holy One.” In verse 18, the Lord had spoken through his prophet, “With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him?” The Israelites were tempted to compare with God both idols and the stars of heaven—which the pagans held to be representations of the gods. No, God created the stars and brings them out every night “by name.” They owe their existence to God’s “great power and mighty strength.”

3. Have the group read verses 27-31 and then underline the rhetorical questions.

This passage was likely addressed specifically to the future exiles who would be taken captive to Babylon a century after Isaiah’s lifetime.

4. What would their complaint be?

As we see in verse 27, they would apparently believe either that they were now outside of God’s plan (“My way is hidden from the LORD”) or else God had given up on them (“My cause is disregarded by my God”).

5. How does God answer their complaint?

First, he reminds them again that he is the eternal and powerful Creator. Then he speaks of his ability and desire to share that power with the weary and weak.

6. What do you tend to complain about in life? (Refer to the ice-breaker question above.)

7. How do you think the Lord would respond to you?

8. In the midst of the wonderful promises in verses 28-31, what is the one thing that God’s people are called to do?

To “hope in the LORD” (v. 31).

9. What does it mean to hope in the Lord, or wait upon the Lord?

September 11: The Mountain of God (Isaiah 25:6-10a)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Chances are that the members of your group will naturally want to talk about today being the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Encourage them to share where they were or what they were doing when they received news of the events that morning.

Note that today’s passage from Isaiah 25 focuses on God’s sovereignty over all things, including death. Then ask, “Whose death had the greatest impact on your life?

 

To encourage personal application:

This brief passage contains many wonderful promises, the core of which is yet to come. Ask your group members to consider how these promises are encouraging to them personally.

They might respond that . . .

  • the image of the messianic banquet (v. 6) is especially encouraging in light of some unpleasant circumstances they are facing.
  • the image of the Lord destroying the shroud, or sheet, that covers all people as he swallows up death (vv. 7, 8) is especially encouraging in light of the death of a family member or friend. (They might share that this promise provides encouragement in regard to their own fears about death.)
  • the image of the Lord wiping away tears (v. 8) is especially encouraging in light of their sadness.
  • the image of the Lord removing his people’s disgrace (v. 8) is especially encouraging in light of their feelings of failure or inadequacy.

Although verse 9 doesn’t contain a promise per se, we can be encouraged by the testimony of people trusting in God and experiencing his salvation.

Close with a time of prayer focusing on thanksgiving for what God has done and for what he has promised yet to do.

September 4: The Peaceful Kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-9)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Use the verse-by-verse commentary to help lead a discussion of this passage.

  • What do we learn about Jesus, the Messiah, in verse 1?

Verse 1 depicts Jesus’ humanity. The Branch will be a descendant of King David, whose father’s name was Jesse. First the Assyrians and then the Babylonians would attack and eventually destroy Israel, but the Messiah will spring up like a shoot from the stump of David’s dynasty.

  • What do we learn about Jesus, the Messiah, in verses 2-3a?

Verses 2-3a depict Jesus’ divinity. The Spirit of the Lord refers to the Holy Spirit, who came upon Jesus at his baptism. The word rest implies a constant dwelling. John 3:34 tells us that Jesus possessed the Spirit “without limit.”

The qualities Isaiah lists call to mind passages that highlight their presence in Jesus. For example, Paul notes Jesus’ wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:24 and Colossians 2:2, 3. The word counsel suggests the prophecy of a “Counselor” in Isaiah 9:6. Might could be linked to the title “Mighty God,” also in Isaiah 9:6.

  • What do we learn about Jesus, the Messiah, in verses 3b-5?

Jesus is the just ruler. He will not be guided by visual, physical appearances or by opinions voiced by others, but by God’s unchanging standards of right and wrong. Jesus will display the qualities of righteousness and justice on behalf of those most often neglected or mistreated: the needy and the poor.

Verse 4b describes an aspect of Christ’s judgment that is far more severe. During his earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated both sides of judgment described by Isaiah. He dealt compassionately with the outcasts of his day, but some of his harshest words were reserved for those religious leaders who look at the “sinners” around them with great contempt.

  • What do we learn about Jesus, the Messiah, in verses 6-8?

Jesus establishes his peaceful rule, which results in radical change. The changes described are, in fact, miraculous in nature. Only the Creator himself can bring about the kind of transformation among his created beings that we see here.

  • What do we learn about Jesus, the Messiah, in verse 9?

Jesus’ peaceful rule results in global change. The conjunction for in verse 9 points us to the cause of the marvelous picture of peace that Isaiah paints up to this point. The fact that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD is quite a positive thing.

Two ways are suggested for understanding the fulfillment of this prophetic portrait of peace in verses 6-9, each with biblical support. One way is to view Isaiah’s description as that of the literal “new heavens” and “new earth,” mentioned in Isaiah 65:17; 66:22. All this is seen to imply Isaiah to be depicting the complete elimination of the curse of sin.

The other potential interpretation is to see the prophecies fulfilled in a more figurative sense, with the animals representing humans who clash with one another. Because of the forgiveness and peace Jesus brings about (through his death and resurrection), hatred and bitterness are no more.

Possibly Isaiah’s words are intended to be understood both ways. Just as the words of Isaiah 11:4 are descriptive both of Jesus’ earthly ministry and what will occur at his return, so verses 6-9 may be picturing the impact of the church’s ministry as it takes the gospel to the world as well as what Jesus himself will bring to pass when he returns to usher in the new heavens and the new earth.

 

To encourage personal application:

Ask your group members to read Isaiah 11:1-9 silently and identify something that speaks to a need in their own lives.

Here are some possible responses that you could share with the group:

  • I need the Spirit of the Lord to “rest” on me and give me inner peace and strength.
  • I need “the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding” to help me with a decision.
  • I need God to bring justice to a situation I’m dealing with.
  • I need Christ’s peaceful rule to bring harmony to one of my relationships.
  • I need to be “filled with the knowledge of the LORD.”

Close your meeting by praying according to what people share. Decide whether to have everyone stay together or to divide into small groups or pairs.

August 28: Love Fulfills the Law (Romans 12:1, 2; 13:8-10)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Use the following questions as icebreakers to connect to the lesson:

  • What is one of the greatest sacrifices you have ever made?
  • What is the first debt, or loan, that you can remember incurring?

 

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

These two brief passages contain several well-known statements and concepts, which we might tend to take for granted. Ask your group members how they would explain each of these to a child:

  • I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
  • Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  • Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.

August 21: Grafted In (Romans 11:11-24)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Use the following questions as an icebreaker to connect to the lesson:

  • When you were growing up, who do you remember envying?
  • Can you remember trying to make someone—e.g., a potential boyfriend or girlfriend—jealous?

As we will see in this passage from Romans 11, God’s plan was to use the salvation of the Gentiles to make the people of Israel jealous. And though Paul took pride in being “the apostle to the Gentiles,” his hope was that his success in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles would arouse his own Jewish people to envy—with the result that some of them would also want to be saved.

 

To encourage personal application:

Paul’s hope was that he might “somehow arouse [his] own people to envy and save some of them” (Romans 11:14). In Romans 9:2 Paul had written that he had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in [his] heart” because his fellow Jews had rejected the Messiah and the gift of grace offered through him.

Decide whether to keep your group together or divide into smaller groups. Spend some time earnestly praying for the following groups:

  • Pray for the salvation of your “own people”—i.e., family members, circle of friends, or another group with whom you share a common connection.
  • Pray for the salvation of the Jewish people. (See the prayer that concludes this lesson in the commentary.)
  • Pray for the salvation of any other people group for which you carry a special burden—e.g., one represented by missionaries whom you, or your church, support.

 

August 14: Living Under God’s Mercy (Romans 9:6-18)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Use the following questions as an icebreaker to connect to the lesson:

  • What is your ethnic heritage?
  • In what aspect of your heritage has your family taken the most pride?

 

To encourage personal application:

Read the verbal illustration entitled “On Heritage” in the commentary, which makes the point that being in right standing with God is not a matter of biological connections or family trees—but rather the condition of our hearts.

What—other than a relationship with Christ—are you tempted to view as a measure of favor with God or spiritual maturity?

  • Denominational identity?
  • Family lineage?
  • Personal commitment?
  • Something else?

As the “On Heritage” article points out, Paul warned against devoting time to “endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1:4), and the warning applies to spiritual heritage as well as to biological ancestries. We will be held accountable for our own motives and actions, no matter who our physical and spiritual ancestors were.

How can we strike a balance of being appropriately thankful for our physical and spiritual heritage while at the same time recognizing that our core identity and pride are in Christ and Christ alone?

Conclude by asking your group members to close their eyes as you read Philippians 3:4-14 as a prayer and declaration of faith:

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

August 7: More Than Conquerors (Romans 8:28-39)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Lead your group in a discussion of verses 28-30.

What does verse 28 tell us about God’s providence—that is, God’s benevolent rule over all of life? And what do verses 28-30 tell us about God’s purpose for us?

Refer to the verse-by-verse commentary to help explain the more difficult words and concepts in these verses.

Now lead your group in a discussion of verses 31-39.

As we read in the verse-by-verse commentary, in Romans Paul often teaches by posing rhetorical questions. These are questions for which the answer should be obvious to the reader. But it is important that we answer them if we are to understand Paul’s meaning.

If your class members have student books, have them take a minute to underline Paul’s rhetorical questions. (Or you could photocopy the Scripture page from your teacher’s manual.) Then discuss the questions one at a time.

Here are the questions, followed by the responses in the teacher’s book:

First question: What, then, shall we say in response to these things?

In other words, what should our reaction be to our present sufferings and to our future hope of glorification? The answer is implied in the next question.

Second question: If God is for us, who can be against us?

No one who matters, for Almighty God is the one who is in control of all things.

Third question: He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Paul answers this within the question itself by reminding us that God has already given us his greatest treasure: his own Son. It stands to reason that if God did not withhold the life of his precious Son, then it is unimaginable that God will withhold anything else.

Fourth question: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?

The answer is the same as for the second question: no one that matters. God is the ultimate and final judge, and he has justified us. This means God counts us as innocent of all charges that might be brought to bear. God’s judgments are consistent, so we do not need to fear he will change his mind.

Fifth question: Who then is the one who condemns?

In other words, who even has the right to judge us guilty and therefore ineligible for eternal life? One possibility is Christ himself, the man untainted by sin who now sits in a position of judgment “at the right hand of God.” But such a condemnation by Christ is unthinkable, for even though he has the right to condemn us, he died and rose again to do the opposite. He “is also interceding for us” as he pleads our case.

Sixth and final question: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

Paul gives an emphatic answer to the multiple conditions of hardship he has set forth. We are not defeated by these very real trials, and we are not mere survivors either. Rather, “we are more than conquerors.”

Paul ends, in verses 38 and 39, with four additional sets of possibilities for being separated from the love of Christ. God has shown us that he has no inclination or intention to withhold his love for us. God has proven this love through the giving of his precious Son as the necessary sacrifice for our sins. Since we do not have to doubt God’s love, we do not need to fear any possible scenario where we can be separated from this mighty, marvelous love.

 

To encourage personal application:

Testimony Time. Encourage the members of your group (or those who are comfortable doing so) to share a personal testimony about experiencing the reality of some promise contained in this powerful passage.

For example, they might share about a difficult time when they came to “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (v. 28).

Or a time when they felt that others were against them, but then realized that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31).

Or a time when they felt they were being condemned by others—or themselves—but then recognized, “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (v. 34).

Or a time when they felt separated from God’s love, but then became convinced that nothing in all creation “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 35-39).

Close with a prayer thanking God for the ways he has made us more than conquerors through his great, amazing love.

July 31: From Death to Life (Romans 6:1-4, 12-14, 17-23)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Ask your class members to reminisce about their first job and “master” to connect with this passage:

  1. What was your first job? Do you remember what your hourly wage was? Was your boss easy to work for or more of a “slave driver”?
  2. What generous boss can you remember? What gift—tangible or otherwise—given to you by that person stands out in your memory?

Transition to your study by saying something like this: “In Romans 6 we see some stark contrasts between different ‘masters’ that we can choose to serve today. This passage ends with this well-known verse: ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

 

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

Use the following questions to tie into the Lesson Outline within the commentary for the various sections of this passage:

  1. In verses 1-4, what is the faulty logic that Paul denounces? What does Paul identify, instead, as correct thinking—and living?
  2. In verses 12-13, what are the godly imperatives that Paul lays out?
  3. In verses 17-20, what are the two different masters that people serve?
  4. In verses 21-23, what are the two different results that come from serving these two different masters?

Conclude your study by saying something like this: “The result of a world infected with sin is death—spiritual death, then physical death, then eternal death. But Jesus has burst onto the scene, blazing a new trail. Just as Christ was resurrected from the dead, we too are raised up to new life!”

July 24: Unwavering Hope (Romans 5:1-11)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Since this week’s study passage from Romans 5 centers on hope, lead your group to recall situations related to hope. Ask this question:

“Can you remember really hoping that you would get a particular gift for Christmas, your birthday, or some other special occasion—and your hope was realized?”

Give those who would like to an opportunity to share their story.

Then ask this question:

“Can you remember really hoping that you would get a particular gift, but your hope was not realized—meaning you did not receive that gift?”

After giving class members a chance to share their story, move into the study time by saying something like, “We may or may not receive a gift we were hoping for from another person, but in Romans 5 we will discover many incredible gifts that God offers us through Christ, including unwavering hope extended to us because of God’s love being been poured into our hearts.”

 

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

  1. In Romans 5:1-5, what benefits of justification through faith does the apostle Paul mention? (Use the commentary to help flesh out and explain these concepts.)
  • peace with God through Jesus
  • access by faith into God’s grace
  • the hope of God’s glory
  • the “chain reaction” of suffering, perseverance, character, and hope
  • God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

 

  1. After introducing the powerful impact of God’s love upon the hearts of believers, in Romans 5:6-8 Paul continues on this topic. How does God’s Word here touch on the depth of God’s love? (Again, take advantage of the commentary as you discuss these verses.)
  • The depth of God’s love is found in the cross of Christ.
  • At just the right time, when we were weak and powerless, Christ died for us—the ungodly.
  • God demonstrates his great love for us in the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

  1. After reflecting on the depth of God’s love demonstrated by the cross, how does Romans 5:9-11 declare the height, so to speak, of God’s love? (Once again, use the commentary to help you expand on these statements.)
  • If we have been justified by Christ’s blood, how much more will we be saved from God’s wrath!
  • If we, while we were God’s enemies, were reconciled to God through his Son’s death, how much more will we be saved through his Son’s life!
  • We boast in God through Christ, through whom we have received reconciliation.

July 17: God Set Things Right (Romans 3:21-31)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Movies about redemption have long been popular. We are touched by stories that include both the pain of failure and the joy of second chances. Ask your class to call out their favorite movies about redemption.

Here are some movie titles that come up in an Internet search: The Shawshank Redemption, Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, Hoosiers, The Natural, A Beautiful Life, Groundhog Day, The Green Mile.

 

Now ask the class members to share why a particular movie about redemption is their favorite.

After discussing this question, say, “The studies on Romans in this unit paint a clear and sobering picture of human depravity. The apostle Paul doesn’t mince words—All people have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Fortunately, though, God’s Word doesn’t stop with the universality of sin. In Christ, God has made mercy and grace available to everyone! As today’s passage proclaims, God freely offers us the gift of justification through redemption in Christ.

 

To encourage personal application:

The British preacher David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was well known for his expositions of Paul’s letter to the Romans. He claimed that “there are no more wonderful words in the whole of Scripture than just these two words, ‘But now.’” He was referring to the many instances in the New Testament epistles when these two simple words were used to contrast the human condition before and after redemption through Christ.

Write the following Scripture references on the board:

Romans 6:20-22

Romans 7:5-6

Ephesians 2:11-13

Ephesians 5:8

Instruct class members to read the passages silently. Encourage them to reflect on the message and metaphors both before and after the pivotal “But now” transition, and then to turn the verses into prayers of praise and thanksgiving.

July 10: Struggling Under Sin’s Power (Romans 3:9-20)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Divide the class into groups of about four, and give each group paper and pens.

In verses 9-12 Paul repeatedly points out that sin affects all humankind (both Jews and Gentiles). Have the groups list the words or phrases that signify that universality, and then tally the total. Alternatively, the groups could underline those words or phrases in the passage printed in their student books.

After a few minutes, ask the groups how many words or phrases they counted. Whether using KJV, NIV, or ESV, they should count nine words or phrases—e.g., “all,” “no one,” “none,” “not one,” “not even one,” “together.”

In verses 13-17 Paul illustrates the universality of sin with sins of speech and then sins of violence. Have the groups list the sins in those two categories. Or again, the groups could underline those phrases in the passage printed in their student books.

After a few minutes, lead the entire class in a discussion of this question: How does verse 18 sum up this series of sins?

Keep the whole class together to discuss this question related to verses 19 and 20: What do these concluding verses say about human efforts to deal with the reality of the universality of sin?

 

To encourage personal application:

Ask the members of your class to close their eyes and prayerfully reflect on the following points:

1) God’s Spirit led the apostle Paul to declare that all people don’t just occasionally commit various sins—we are “under sin,” or “under the power of sin.” Here, as elsewhere, Paul intimates that human beings are imprisoned, enslaved, and addicted to sin. Allow yourself to feel the gravity of that condition. Remember times in your life when you felt helpless in your struggle with sin.

2) Now think of someone who frustrates you in some way. How can viewing that person in light of the universality and domination of sin relieve your own sense of frustration?

3) Paul will go on in Romans to reveal that just as sin is universal to all, God has made mercy and grace available to all. Silently give thanks and praise to God for the gift of righteousness freely offered to you through the Lord Jesus.

You might want to ask a couple of class members to pray their prayers out loud.

July 3: Needing More Than Law (Romans 2:17-29)

By | Teacher Tips

July 3: Needing More Than Law (Romans 2:17-29)

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

Divide the class into groups of three to five students each. Give each group pen and paper and one of the following sections of the lesson text: verses 17-21a; verses 2lb-24; verses 25-29. Each group is to read its section of the text and try to summarize it as a single “If . . . then” statement.

After giving groups 10–15 minutes to work, have them give their responses. Sample statements follow:

  1. 17-21a—If you teach others to obey God’s law, then you’d better obey it yourself.
  2. 21b-24—If you do not practice what you preach, you give people a reason to reject God.
  3. 25-29—If you obey God’s law, then you are displaying the sign he is looking for.

 

To encourage personal application:

To conclude the session, write out verse 24 on the board. Discuss briefly ways that inconsistent Christ followers have caused the name of God to be blasphemed among unbelievers.

Then write the following headings under that verse:

Me as an individual

We as a congregation

The church worldwide

Brainstorm to list some corrective measures that would fit under each heading. What can we as individuals do to regain credibility? What actions can a congregation like ours take? How must the church worldwide change our behaviors in order to be the influence God wants us to be?

June 26: Ignoring God’s Plain Truth (Romans 1:18-32)

By | Teacher Tips

June 26: Ignoring God’s Plain Truth (Romans 1:18-32)

To begin the session:

Make copies of the Substitutions worksheet. Distribute it and allow students to complete it in small groups. After a few minutes compare answers. (Correct responses are: 1=d. 2=b. 3=e. 4=a. 5=f. 6=c)

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Perhaps you may try one of these substitutions—or maybe not! Some substitute recipe ingredients may sound appetizing, while others may not. While looking for good recipe substitutes can be helpful, there are times when no substitute will do. In our lesson text for today, Paul says that those who try to make any substitute for worshipping God create a recipe for disaster in their lives!”

 

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

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group a marker and a large sheet of newsprint. Give each group one of the following assignments:

Group 1: From Creation to Idolatry (Romans 1:18-23)

Group 2: From Idolatry to Immorality (Romans 1:24-27)

Group 3: From Immorality to Social Breakdown (Romans 1:28-32)

Each group is to read its section of the text and try to summarize that part of the downward spiral of humankind. They should then draw a road map of the decline of human morality. Along the road they should draw road signs to illustrate that decline.

For example, the first group may have road signs such as: God’s creation, revelation of God in nature, denial of the truth, suppression of the truth, the wrath of God, futile thinking and darkened hearts, descent into foolishness, creating false gods.

After groups have completed their road maps, allow them to share them and summarize their findings.

June 19: A Day of Joy for the Remnant (Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20)

By | Teacher Tips

June 19: A Day of Joy for the Remnant (Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20)

To begin the session:

Before class, print out this collection of quotes, cut them apart, and attach each one to the wall in different parts of the room. As students arrive, direct them to the quotes, and ask them to be ready to identify the common word that has been left out of each of them.

Assemble the class and ask them to identify the missing word (which is small). Discuss the common theme in all the quotes—small deeds, opportunities, and items can have great significance.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “In the past two lessons we have read Zephaniah’s warning of a great judgment of God. But the promise that goes with this warning is that a small group of the faithful—a remnant—will usher in a day of great joy.

 

To encourage personal application:

Before class, partially fill a small paper bag with 2″ x 2″ squares of fabric. Hold up one of the squares and explain that even such small scraps can be stitched together to form a beautiful quilt. Briefly review the characteristics that the text says God requires of his remnant.

Close in a time of silent prayer, during which you will pass around the bag of “remnants.” Have students take one of the squares to keep as a reminder for the rest of the week. As a student takes a square, he or she may offer an audible prayer if desired.

June 12: That Day Is Coming (Zephaniah 3:1-8)

By | Teacher Tips

June 12: That Day Is Coming (Zephaniah 3:1-8)

To begin the session:

Play the verdict scene from the film Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). This drama about the tribunal that tried Nazi war criminals is available on DVD and video-sharing websites such as this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3BwK51YFgQ.

After playing the video clip, ask for the class’s reaction. Help them summarize their feelings concerning this appalling chapter in human history.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “This episode of recent history shows us that evil leaders can bring about the corruption of ordinary citizens and the downfall of an entire nation. The prophet Zephaniah said similar things about evil leaders of his day.”

 

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

Divide your class into small groups. Have groups read today’s text, focusing on God’s pronouncements on civil and religious leaders of Zephaniah’s day. Have groups imagine that they have just heard testimony about these leaders in a spiritual war crimes trial. They are to create a verdict that they will deliver as the judge of that tribunal. The verdict will specify crimes committed as well as the punishment that will happen, drawing on the information in the Bible text.

For example, part of the verdict might read:

Officials and judges of Judah, you are guilty of abusing your power. Instead of being humble servants of the people, you have lorded your power over them. Instead of protecting the weak and powerless, you preyed on them, taking advantage of them and enriching yourselves. For these crimes, you will no longer be the predators but, rather, the victims. Your time in power will be short, and you will be disgraced.

June 5: The Day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:4-6, 14-16; 2:3)

By | Teacher Tips

June 5: The Day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:4-6, 14-16; 2:3)

To begin the session:

As students arrive, play some familiar movie theme songs that indicate impending danger. Some suggestions would be the Jaws theme, the Wicked Witch of the West theme from The Wizard of Oz, or even the shower scene music from Psycho. These may be played from a CD or from various Internet sites.

Then ask the class how the music made them feel. You may wish to point out how the music itself, as well as ideas that have come to be associated with it, can evoke feelings of dread. Expand the discussion to ask about other sights, sounds, or ideas that bring about feelings of fear and uncertainty.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “There are some ideas that automatically cause us to be anxious or uneasy. One Bible concept that does that to many is the notion of God’s judgment. Today we will look at one Old Testament prophet and his warnings of a coming day of the Lord.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Give students a poster board and markers. Have them reflect on the warnings and promises of the text and create a colorful word cloud of how they now feel when hearing the phrase “the day of the Lord.” (If your students are not sure of what a word cloud is, you may wish to print some samples from one of many Internet sites.)

May 29: Joyous Faith (Luke 19:1-10)

By | Teacher Tips

Download two reproducible worksheets for this session here. (PDF)

To begin the session:

As class members arrive, give them a copy of the “Emoticon Quiz” (below) to complete. When they are done, reveal the answers (1=f, 2=d, 3=j, 4=h, 5=a, 6=c, 7=i, 8=g, 9=b, 10=e).

Say, “We use emoticons and emojis to visually express our emotions when writing short messages. These are fun and convey the truth that words alone cannot adequately express our feelings. Today we will examine the faith of probably one of the least-liked people in Jericho during Jesus’ day. But while many would have reacted negatively toward Zacchaeus (and vice versa, no doubt!), but the exchange between this tax collector and Jesus has some surprising emotions.”

Emoticon Quiz

Text messaging has given rise to using a series of keyboard characters to create pictures. These characters, called emoticons, are used to express emotions with an image rather than a lot of words. Try to match these emoticons with the emotions/ideas they express.

____ 1. 8-0                     a. Feeling a little confused here!

____ 2. 🙂                        b. That makes me feel like a dunce.

____ 3. O:-)                    c. I am sad.

____ 4. >:-<                    d. That makes me happy.

____ 5. %-}                    e. Aren’t I a little devil?

____ 6. 🙁                       f. I am shocked!

____ 7. |^o                     g. I just want to scream!

____ 8. :-(o)                    h. I am so angry!

____ 9. <:-]                     i. I am getting sleepy.

____10. 3:-)                    j. Aren’t I a little angel?

 

To encourage personal application:

Distribute a copy of “The Joy of Coffee” self-evaluation to every class member. Ask them to use it to describe their joy, and have them each discuss their evaluation with one or two others. Close by allowing those pairs or small groups to pray for each other.

The Joy of Coffee

The story of Zacchaeus is one of a festive faith. Recognizing his need, the tax collector welcomed Jesus with joy.

Imagine that your joy was brewed into a cup of coffee. What kind of coffee drink would it be? Look at these descriptions, and give your order to the barista!

  • Double espresso with five sugars—Your joy is in the thrill. You are happy when you have more money, more pleasure, and more power. But you may have trouble sleeping at night.
  • Decaf—Your joy appears to be deep and rich, but deep inside you have no excitement. You wonder whether your brew of joy is even real.
  • Bottomless cup—Yours is joy from the server’s view. Your greatest delight is to see that everybody’s cup is full. When you see an empty cup, you love to fill it up!
  • Iced coffee—Your joy is loaded with sweetness and energy, but you are an acquired taste. Your type of joy appeals to those with similar palates, but it does not reach far beyond that.
  • The dregs—Your joy is the 2:00 p.m. cup that was brewed early this morning. It looks OK, but one taste will tell anyone that your joy is old, cold, and bitter.
  • Morning fog lifter—Your joy welcomes a new day. You recognize that it is time to wake up and face the world with eyes wide open. Your joy leaves the dark night behind and blissfully walks in the Son.

May 22: Childlike Faith (Luke 18:15-17; Mark 10:16)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

On the board write, “I knew that I was an adult when . . .”

As class members arrive have them consider how they would finish that statement. Take a few moments to get responses from the class. Some possible responses might be:

  • I made my first mortgage payment.
  • I didn’t have to sit at the kids’ table for holiday meals.
  • I wrote a will.
  • I got married.
  • I had to pay my own car insurance.
  • I had to follow a monthly budget.
  • I realized I had a career, not just a job.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We all have to grow up! As adults we take on responsibilities we did not have as children. When we think of what a grown-up faith in God looks like, we might be surprised at what Jesus taught on that subject. We find that a grown-up faith is the faith of a child!”

 

 

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

Divide the class into small groups, giving each group a copy of the “Common Sense, Uncommon Wisdom” statements below (or use the downloadable worksheet). Have groups read the lesson text and discuss how different people described there might have had some of the attitudes indicated by these statements. Have them try to support or refute each statement by referring to this account from Jesus’ ministry.

After groups have had time for discussion, reassemble the class and allow groups to report.

 

Common Sense, Uncommon Wisdom

People express many different ideas about children and parenting. Some of those ideas are stated below. Read Luke 18:15-17; Mark 10:16. Discuss how different people described in those verses might (or might not!) have had some of the attitudes indicated by these statements. Try to support or refute each statement by referring to this account from Jesus’ ministry.

  • I am not qualified to raise my children myself; I must allow experts to do it for me.
  • I recognize that I need divine guidance to help me raise my children.
  • Children can distract us from the important matters in life.
  • The so-called important matters of life can distract us from the vital task of raising our children.
  • Children should be seen but not heard.
  • Adults can learn a lot from the attitudes of children.
  • The best ways for me to become acceptable to God are through study and self-discipline.
  • An adult is taller when he or she bends down to care for a child.
  • Life experiences make one more open to spiritual matters.
  • Life experiences dull our receptivity to spiritual matters.

May 15: Humble Faith (Luke 18:9-14)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Locate the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. You may wish to play it from a CD or audio player, distribute lyrics found on any number of music lyrics sites, or play one of the many lyric videos found on video-sharing sites.

Play the song, and ask the class to react to its message. Ask, “Why do you think this song has been so popular over the years? In what ways does it reflect common views in our culture?”

Say, “For decades people have been singing and listening to this song about a man speaking about his life’s accomplishments. In some ways we admire those who face life boldly and with great self-confidence. But is this an attitude we should emulate? Jesus told a story that may remind us of this song.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Return again to the lyrics of “My Way” that you used to introduce the session. Divide the class into groups to try to write a response to that song with the humble faith of the tax collector. An example might go something like this:

As I, my life review

There is one truth that I must admit—

Everything comes from you;

I make no claim that I have earned it.

You took a guilty soul

Who could not hope to ever repay.

Full pardon and parole—

I want it your way.

May 8: Grateful Faith (Luke 17:11-19)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Begin to study the lesson text by having one group member read the last verse of the text (v. 19) aloud. Note that Jesus commended the returning cured man for his faith and affirmed that his faith was instrumental in his healing. Note also that even though 9 did not give thanks, all 10 were healed (v. 17).

Divide the class into small groups, asking groups to read the entire text. Have group members list evidence of the faith of all 10 men who had leprosy. Some indications of their faith could include:

  • They turned to Jesus at their time of need (v. 13).
  • They called loudly, indicating a bold plea (v. 13).
  • They recognized Jesus as their master (v. 13).
  • They saw Jesus as one who was merciful (v. 13).
  • They were obedient to Jesus and the Jewish law by aiming to present themselves to the priests for examination (v. 14).
  • They left Jesus’ presence while they still had symptoms of their disease, obviously believing that they would be healed (v. 14).

After groups work, allow them to share and explain their observations. Use the commentary as necessary to clarify those observations. Lead to the conclusion of the session by saying, “All the afflicted men showed remarkable faith. We have listed characteristics that we would all do well to emulate. Yet Jesus pointed out that one man expressed faith by showing gratitude, something the others did not do. How can we add to the faith we have by showing gratitude for God’s work in our lives?”

 

To encourage personal application:

If your class is like many, your prayer time is filled with requests made in faith. Nevertheless, probably much less time is spent acknowledging and giving thanks for previously answered requests.

Take a few moments at the end of this session to review requests that have been made in your class’s prayer time over the past few months. Have someone record how these requests have been answered. You may wish to discuss how your class may be more diligent in keeping a list of answered requests.

Close by going through these answered prayers and offering prayers of gratitude for how God has resolved them.


 

May 1: Increased Faith (Luke 17:1-10)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

The More You Know is a series of public service announcements (PSAs) featuring educational messages from celebrities. Play a few of these messages for your group from a video-sharing website. Then encourage your group to come up with some “The more you ___” sayings. For example, the more you give, the less you want; the more you buy, the more you need; the more you hurry, the more time it takes. (Allow members to give their saying without critique or evaluation.)

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We are familiar with this type of saying. The more we have of one thing affects how much or little we have of something else. In our lesson today, Jesus’s disciples will ask for more faith. Let’s see how Jesus responds to their request to ‘increase our faith.’”

 

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

Divide the class into groups of three to five students, giving each group one of these sections of our lesson text: Luke 17:1-3; Luke 17:4; Luke 17:6; Luke 17:7-10.

Play another The More You Know clip to give class members a sense of how they are constructed. Then ask each group to create a The More You Believe PSA based on its assigned section of the text. For example, a PSA based on Luke 7:1-3 may go something like this:

We all know that life isn’t easy. Something is bound to happen that makes us doubt ourselves, tempt us to take the easy way out, or rile us enough to want to strike out at someone. We can’t stop those things from happening to us. But we need to keep those things from happening by us. As our faith grows we are able to be a healing rather than hurting force in this world. And that’s how it should be. The more you believe . . .

After groups work, allow them to share their PSAs. Lead to the closing of the session by saying, “An increased faith does not necessarily cause us to work great miracles or wield tremendous power. But increased faith helps us protect others, forgive those who wrong us, commit to a life of greater service, and to accomplish more than what is possible by our strength alone.”

April 24: Tested Faith (Luke 15:11-24)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, create a graffiti wall by attaching two large pieces of poster board to the wall with reusable adhesive. At the top of your wall write, Things Parents Say to Their Children. Place a selection of colored markers nearby.

As group members arrive, invite them to add a saying or two to your wall. (If you think it would be helpful to get the list started, write two or three sayings from the list below before class begins.)

Some sayings your group members may write are:

Because I said so!

I’ve had it up to here with you!

And if your friends jump off a bridge, are you going to jump off too?

Don’t you look at me like that!

N-O means No!

How many times do I have to tell you?

You just wait until your father gets home.

Were you born in a barn?

Pick up your toys or I will give them away.

Your face will freeze like that.

After everyone has had a chance to write on the graffiti wall, ask the class which ones they have said before. Ask why such exasperated sayings seem so familiar to us.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Parenting is a difficult and often frustrating job! We want to raise our children right, but they tend to test our limits. Jesus told a parable about a father and his rebellious son. Let’s look at this familiar story.”

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

Distribute copies of the “Dear Diary” worksheet and pens. Have class members read the assigned portion of the lesson text and complete one or more of the diary entries with two or three sentences.

After group members complete their entries, ask for volunteers to share them. Use the commentary to clarify major points as needed.

April 17: Recovered Faith (Luke 8:26-36)

By | Teacher Tips

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

On the board, create two columns labeled “Stable People” and “Possessed Man.” Divide the class into groups of three to five students each and have them read Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-36. Allow group members to call out characteristics for either column that are described in or implied by the text.

Some sample responses are:

Stable People—wear clothing, live among others, care for their bodies, may seek God, communicate appropriately.

Possessed Man—wears no clothing, is driven to deserted places and graveyards, cuts and strains his body beyond normal limits, fears meeting God, cries out inappropriately.

Review the lists with the class as a whole. (You may wish to point out that while those who are not demon-possessed may exhibit some of the behaviors on the list, the Bible is clear that demons were the cause of this man’s dysfunction.) Note that although most would have considered this man damaged beyond repair, he was not beyond the reach of Jesus’ love and healing.

To encourage personal application:

Reciting Bible verses a number of times in different ways is a good way to begin to memorize them. Close class with just such an exercise.

Say, “The account of this man possessed by a demon is a reminder that no power is greater than that held by Christ Jesus. Yet it is easy for us to consider some people too far gone for Jesus to reach—or to believe that our own issues are so dire that our Lord cannot help. Let’s work at memorizing some words of Paul that reinforce the teaching of our lesson today.”

Write on the board the words of Romans 8:38, 39 from your class’s preferred Bible translation. As a class, recite it three times in this way:

First recitation—Move clockwise around the room with each person speaking the next word from these verses aloud until the entire passage is read.

Second recitation—Alternate between men reading three words and women reading three words until the entire passage is read.

Third recitation—Have the entire class begin to read the verses in full voice until they reach a punctuation mark. Then they should continue in a whisper until reaching the next punctuation mark, when they will return to full voice. Continue, changing from full voice to whisper and back until the entire passage is read.

Close in prayer.

April 10: Shameless Faith (Luke 7:36-50)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, write each of the following unsavory characters on the back of an index card, and write its number on the front of the card. Attach the cards, number side out, to the board with reusable adhesive. (Keep a copy of this list for your reference.)

  1. Drug addict                                       6. Mugger
  2. Drug dealer                                       7. Pickpocket
  3. Gang member                                   8. Terrorist
  4. Homeless person                               9. Wino
  5. Kidnapper                                        10. Vandal

After all group members have arrived, divide them into two teams. Starting with one team, ask, “Who might you meet at night in a dark alley?” If the team guesses one of the characters on the board, remove that card and give it to the team. Alternate between teams until all cards have been awarded or until both teams give three wrong answers in a row.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “There are a lot of unsavory characters one might find in a dark alley. But what if they didn’t stay in the shadows in the dark? What if one of these people would enter your world in broad daylight? That is exactly what happens in today’s lesson text!”

To encourage personal application:

Before class, purchase or borrow a rubber stamp that reads, “Paid.” To conclude class, say, “As we have learned today, Jesus wants to forgive our sins, paying the price himself.” Distribute slips of paper and pens to all students. Ask them to think of a sin they have committed in the past for which they still feel guilty and ashamed. Have each group member write such a sin (or a symbol of it) on the slip of paper and fold it over. Pass the “paid” stamp around the class, allowing each student to “cancel” the debt written on the slip of paper.

April 3: Amazing Faith (Luke 7:1-10)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, write each of these phrases on a separate index card: odd man out, fish out of water, strange bird, black sheep, misfit, out of step, square peg in a round hole, different breed, odd duck.

After all students have arrived, ask for a volunteer to select a card and try to communicate the word or phrase on it with a simple drawing on the board. After the word or phrase is guessed, have another volunteer select a card and draw on the board. Continue as time and interest allow.

Review the whole list of words and phrases and briefly discuss what they have in common. Ask class members to tell about times when they were in an environment in which they felt out of place.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Today we will look at the life of a Roman soldier who probably felt like a misfit in the religious culture of the Jews. But despite this, he seems to exhibit a faith that is amazing—even when compared to those in that Jewish culture.”

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

Divide the class into small groups, giving each group a copy of the “Surprising or Expected?” worksheet and pens. Have groups read the lesson text and complete the worksheet.

After about 10 minutes, allow groups to report. Cite relevant portions of the lesson commentary to clarify the lesson text.

March 27: Resurrection Faith (Mark 16:1-8)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Write a few strange facts from a trivia book or website on the board. Some examples might be:

In a study of 200,000 ostriches over a period of 80 years, no one reported a single case in which an ostrich buried its head in the sand.

While in school, Bill Gates snuck into the class schedule program and altered it so he was to be the only guy in a class full of girls.

Every housefly’s hum is in the middle octave, key of F.

After reviewing the strange facts, discuss what makes something hard to believe. Some responses may be: It’s contrary to what is popularly believed; It is outside of one’s realm of experience; It seems to defy common sense, etc.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Some things are unbelievable. We almost need to see them to believe them. But some events are so incredible that they even test the faith of those who were eyewitnesses! Such is the case with the most important aspect of our faith—the resurrection of Jesus.”

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

Text messages are popular ways of sending short memos. Give the class one of the three following assignments and have them summarize the content as a short text message. Our suggested responses are italicized.

Assignment one—Women on the way to the tomb (Mark 16:1-3)

goin 2 embalm d Bod. bt wot bout d stone?

Assignment two—Women at the tomb (Mark 16:4, 5)

stOn gone! ():) here! scared!

Assignment three—Man at the tomb (Mark 16:6, 7)

J iz not here! teL Disciple 2 MEt him n Galilee

March 20: Struggling Faith (Mark 14:26-31, 66-72)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Print the Promises Made, Promises Broken worksheet and it cut apart into individual cards. (Keep an intact copy as a key.)

After all class members have arrived, randomly distribute the cards and say, “Politicians often make promises. Look at your cards and find others with cards that match the promise with the one promising and with the result of the promise.”

After cards have been matched, lead into Bible study by saying, “It is easy to make bold promises. When the harsh realities of life arise, our resolve may crumble along with the promises made. Let’s examine Peter’s crucial test of faith today.”

 

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

Write on the board these loosely paraphrased, expanded quotes of Peter from our Bible text.

  1. “God will judge you for making up lies about me!”
  2. “I will fight until I am the last one standing.”
  3. “That Scripture is not referring to someone like me.”
  4. “You obviously have me confused with someone else.”

Give students a few moments to look through the Bible text and match the paraphrases with specific verses. Our suggestions are: 1=v. 71; 2=v. 31; 3=v. 29; 4=v. 68.

Briefly discuss how Peter’s reactions are not atypical of those who struggle with their faith during difficult challenges.

March 13: Simple Faith (Mark 10:17-31)

By | Teacher Tips

Download worksheets for both activities here.

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

Divide the class into four groups, giving each group a research assignment. Write the following group assignments on the board or on separate sheets of paper:

Group one (Read Mark 10:17.)

What was the man’s question about eternal life?

What do you think he really meant?

Group two (Read Mark 10:18, 19.)

What was Jesus’ response?

What do you think he really meant? (Note that both verses make up his response.)

Group three (Read Mark 10:23-26.)

Summarize Jesus’ pronouncement and the disciples’ response.

What do you think they really meant?

Group four (Read Mark 10:28-31.)

Summarize Peter’s implied question and Jesus’ response.

What do you think Jesus really meant?

Give the class about 15 minutes for their research before asking them to report. The answers to the first part of the questions come directly from the passage. The second part of the questions require analysis and speculation, so they may vary. Our suggested responses to those second parts are:

Group one: I am really pretty good, so I really should not have to do much more to please God and receive eternal life.

Group two: You are not as good as you think you are! Can you honestly tell me that you meet all of God’s requirements perfectly? How foolish!

Group three: Jesus, what are you thinking! He is just the kind of person we need on our side. He is a pious Jew, and he has money that can help us on our mission!

Group four: Yes, because you have placed all your trust in me and not in your goodness or belongings, you will receive everything I will receive. But it may not be as easy as you think!

To encourage personal application:

Close by making copies of the worksheet below and giving class members five minutes to work together on it in pairs or small groups. Then ask volunteers to share their rewrites, defending them using today’s lesson text.

They Said . . . You Say

The following quotes are from famous philosophers. Pick two or three and rewrite them to be consistent with what Jesus taught in Mark 10:17-31.

1.“To find yourself, think for yourself.” —Socrates

______________________________________________________________________________

  1. “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” —Michel de Montaigne, French Renaissance philosopher

______________________________________________________________________________

  1. “I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading. It vexes me to choose another guide.” —Charlotte Bronte

______________________________________________________________________________

  1. “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

______________________________________________________________________________

  1. “It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.” —Epicurus

______________________________________________________________________________

  1. “Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.” —Henry David Thoreau

______________________________________________________________________________

  1. “It is only just that anything that grows up on its own should feel it has nothing to repay for an upbringing which it owes no one.” —Plato

______________________________________________________________________________

  1. “The destiny of man is in his own soul.” —Herodotus

______________________________________________________________________________

  1. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” —William E. Henley

______________________________________________________________________________

  1. “God helps those who help themselves.” —German proverb

______________________________________________________________________________

March 6: Powerful Faith (Mark 9:14-29)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Locate the song “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks. You may wish to play it from a CD or audio player, distribute lyrics found on any number of music lyrics sites, or play one of the many lyric videos found on video sharing sites.

Play the song, and ask the class to react to its message. Ask, “What are some other ways people may react when they believe their prayers are unanswered?”

Say, “In retrospect we may see blessings in our prayers not being answered in the way (or time) we initially wanted. Nevertheless, not seeing immediate answers to our requests can seriously test our faith. Today we will examine the faith of a man who responded to just such a test of faith.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Say, “Jesus wrapped up this incident by noting what one should do when prayers seem to go unanswered—pray!” Have a class member read Mark 9:29.

Write the following Scripture references on the board or download this worksheet. Have class members gather in pairs or small groups to look up the verses and briefly discuss how each verse guides our prayers when our faith in prayer itself is tested. Which of these verses can best help each of them when faith is tested?

Romans 8:26                         Romans 12:12

2 Corinthians 13:9                Ephesians 6:18

Philippians 4:6                      Colossians 4:2

1 Thessalonians 5:17           1 Timothy 2:8

James 4:3                               1 Peter 3:7

February 28: Festival of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-43)

By | Teacher Tips

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

The Festival of Tabernacles helped the people of Israel to experience the mind-set of their ancestors who were traveling through the wilderness. This festival has similarities to a modern-day spiritual retreat. Both remove the participant from a normal daily routine to focus on God’s presence in his or her life.

Divide the class into three groups, giving each a specific portion of today’s lesson text. Each group should create a short monologue for two different people: (1) an ancient Israelite describing the experience of the Festival of Tabernacles and (2) a modern Christian describing the experience of a spiritual retreat. Assignments and possible talking points follow.

Assignment one: Leviticus 23:35—No ordinary work

Possible topics: how not “doing my job” made me anxious at first; what I learned about the real source of everything I need

Assignment two: Leviticus 23:40—God-centered agenda

Possible topics: how being in close quarters with those I didn’t know very well made me anxious at first; what I learned about the power of praise and worship to draw believers together

Assignment three: Leviticus 23:42—No permanent home

Possible topics: how being homeless (in a sense) made me anxious at first; what I learned about the real, permanent home God has for me

After giving groups time to prepare, ask them to present their monologues or report their findings.

 


To encourage personal application:

Write the following headings and questions on the board:

Dependence—How would my actions and attitudes change if I relied more on God to provide and less on my own skills and efforts?

Discussion—How would my actions and attitudes change if I spent more time talking with other believers about a shared faith rather than about everyday concerns?

Direction—How would my actions and attitudes change if I saw myself as a temporary resident of earth rather than one trying to find a comfortable place here?

Ask class members to quietly consider these questions as you have a closing time of silent, individual prayer.

February 21: Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:11-19)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Make photocopies or write the following “Cost of Crime” quiz on the board. Give students a few minutes to complete it before giving these answers: 1=f, 2=a, 3=d, 4=e, 5=c, 6=b.

COST OF CRIME

Under existing federal law, what is the minimum sentence a judge could give someone convicted of these crimes?

___1. Refusing to testify before Congress                                                   a. 20 years

___2. Kidnapping a child under 18                                                              b. 10 years

___3. Stalking a person over 18                                                                    c. 2 years

___4. Assaulting a member of the armed services                                   d. 1 year

___5. Embezzlement by a banking officer                                                   e.  6 months

___6. Using explosives to commit a crime                                                  f. 1 month

Lead into Bible study by saying: “The practice of setting minimum sentences for crimes is meant to show the seriousness of those acts. Ancient Israel had a way of demonstrating the gravity of sinning against God. Today we will examine the practices associated with the Day of Atonement.”

 


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

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group one of the following research assignments. Each group is to read the statement it is given, and then read its section of the lesson text in order to refute it. Each group’s job is to give the facts found in the passage, but also to speculate as to why the actions described must be taken.

Assignment one: Because priests are holier than the average person, they do not have to be cleansed from sin. (Read Leviticus 16:11-14.)

Assignment two: Because the tent of meeting and [Most] Holy Place in it are sacred, they do not have to be cleansed from sin. (Read Leviticus 16:11-14.)

Assignment three: Because the altar makes people clean through sacrifice, it does not have to be cleansed from sin. (Read Leviticus 16:18, 19.)

After groups have had time to do their research, allow them to report on their findings and discussion. Make sure that these points are made:

 

  1. Blood is necessary for cleansing from sin. Rebellion against God is a capital offense—that is, it requires a life to pay the price. God in his mercy allowed those who actually sin to offer in their place a substitute life in the form of a valuable animal.
  2. Even the best among us sin and are guilty before God. Even if priests were better than the average person, that would not be enough. God’s standard of holiness is his own nature. He compares people to himself, not to others. “Better than someone else” is not the same thing as “clean before God”!
  3. We cannot construct a roadway to God. The sin committed at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) was in arrogantly thinking that human beings could make a structure that would allow them to come into God’s presence. God gave precise instructions for the construction of the tent of meeting, the Most Holy Place, and the altar. But in the end, these were built by human hands. Therefore, even these special structures needed to be cleansed for proper worship.

 

February 14: Festival of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-22)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Divide the class into teams of three to five students each, giving each group a pen and paper. Time them for 30 seconds, asking each team to list as many phrases that they can think of that contain a form of the word count. (Some of these are: count sheep, count on me, out for the count, body count, count on the fingers of one hand, lose count, count off, etc.)

After time is up, have each team read its list aloud while other teams cross out phrases that also appear on their lists. Declare as the winner the team with the most phrases that appear on no other lists. Then lead into Bible study by saying: “One celebration of the nation of Israel involved counting. The people of Israel were commanded to count off 50 days after Passover (that we studied last week) and then have another special celebration. Let’s look at the Festival of Weeks (also called Pentecost) today.”

 

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

Scripture-marking exercises can be beneficial ways of helping students focus on key elements of a Bible passage. Make a copy of today’s lesson text for each student. Give each student a copy and a pen. Read these marking assignments one at a time, pausing to give students time to make their marks.

  • Circle each number in the Bible passage.
  • Underline each command in the passage that tells Israel what to do.
  • Draw a line through each command in the passage that tells Israel what not to do.

After marking has been done, have students share what they have marked. Share content from the commentary to explain the significance of what was marked.

February 7: Passover (Exodus 12:1-14)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Since 1976, the U.S. has celebrated Black History Month every February. Begin this session by recognizing some significant events concerning African-Americans. Before class, write each of the following pairs on separate index cards:

First formal celebration of African-American history / Negro History Week (1926)

First African-American newspaper / Freedom’s Journal (1827)

First African-American diplomat / Ebenezer D. Bassett (1869, to Haiti)

First African-American elected governor / Douglas Wilder (1990, Virginia)

First African-American elected to U.S. Senate / Hiram Revels (1870, Mississippi)

First African-American Secretary of State / Colin Powell (2000)

First published book by an African-American / Poems on Various Subjects (1773, Phillis Wheatley)

Shuffle your index cards and distribute them among your students. Give them a few minutes to correctly match their cards. Then lead into Bible study by saying: “Famous firsts in the history of nations and people groups are worth celebrating. An event in the history of Israel was so significant that it was not only celebrated annually; it actually changed the calendar of the nation! Let’s look at the celebration of Passover.”

 

 

To encourage personal application:

Close the session by comparing Passover to the work of Jesus on the cross. Reproduce this chart on the board:

Passover                                             Jesus

Deliverance from doom

Deliverance planned by God

Deliverance requiring obedience

Deliverance through substitute sacrifice

Deliverance through perfect sacrifice

 

Help the class fill in the chart. Then close in prayer.

January 31: The Death of a Friend (John 11:38-44)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin the class by writing this quote from the late Steve Jobs on the board:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.

Discuss this quote briefly by asking, “In what ways do you agree? Is there any sense in which you disagree? How does our view of death affect our view of life?

After a brief discussion, lead into Bible study by saying, “Dealing with death is difficult. We know we will miss friends and loved ones who are no longer with us. We approach death as something unknown, causing us anxiety. These are normal, human responses. Jesus knew this, so his final sign miracle addressed that topic. Let’s examine that miracle.”

To encourage personal application:

The account of the raising of Lazarus, including parts not in our printed text, reveals some typical reactions about God and death:

False bravado—Thomas believed death was inevitable, so he bravely accepted it (John 11:16).

Blaming God—Mary and Martha both seemed to accuse Jesus of not coming in time to save their brother (vv. 21, 32).

Doubting God’s power—The people around the tomb wondered why Jesus couldn’t keep Lazarus from dying (v. 37).

Avoiding death’s reality—Martha did not want the tomb opened because she feared that the ugliness of death was all there was (v. 39).

 

To close class, write those reactions on the board. Allow class members to consider them and think about times they reacted in one or more of those ways. Lead in group prayer thanking God for helping us overcome our false perceptions of death and for his conquering of death itself.

January 24: A Wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12)

By | Teacher Tips

Before class, make copies of the “It’s a Sign!” activity below. After all students arrive, give the group a chance to complete it. The answers in order are:  c, b, e, a, d, f.

Reveal the answers and briefly discuss the importance of road signs. Road signs can, with a single image, communicate information that would otherwise take many words.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We are familiar with road signs. But Jesus communicated important information about himself with signs of a different sort. Let’s look at the first of those signs today.”

———————————————————————————————————-

It’s a Sign!

We are used to seeing traffic signs as we drive. See if you can match the meaning of each of these signs by the shape alone.

signs

a. Yield                      b. No Passing                         c. Stop

d. Route Markers    e. Railroad Crossing            f. Warning


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

Begin a study of the text by looking at the two results of the sign miracle of turning water to wine, from John 2:11:

  1. It demonstrated Jesus’ glory, his divine nature.
  2. It caused his disciples to put their faith in him.

Divide your class into small groups. Have each group imagine a discussion among the first disciples of Jesus (probably James, John, Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael) after the miracle. Their discussion should focus on the following questions. Our suggested responses are in italics.

  1. What are some differences between water and wine? Water and wine are both beverages and can be used for cleansing. Wine has greater power than water in that it disinfects when used to cleanse, and its alcoholic content affects the inside of a person differently than water alone does.
  2. What did John the Baptist say about the difference between his ministry and that of Jesus? (See John 1:26-33.) John said that his ministry was to baptize with water for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus, however, would do even more than forgive sins. He would baptize with the Holy Spirit, changing people from the inside out!
  3. What does this miracle tell us about Jesus? It tells us that John was right! Jesus is greater than John. He will cleanse us from sin and regenerate us with the Holy Spirit.

 

January 17: An Unfaithful Bride (Hosea 1:1-11)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Using a laptop or tablet, play this or a similar movie clip about the cost of infidelity in a marriage:

http://www.wingclips.com/movie-clips/spanglish/losing-your-husband

Most of that clip is also found in the first seconds of this clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmUEMgUYfaA

Briefly discuss the causes and effects of infidelity in marriage.  How did this clip correctly portray them? What would you add?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Infidelity in marriage damages relationships between families and destroys marriages. Our Bible text today deals with this, but points to an even greater case of infidelity—our unfaithfulness to God.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Many married couples choose to have a ceremony to renew their wedding vows. Some do this after dealing with difficulties in their marriage. Since the Bible often compares the believers’ relationship with God as a marriage, would it not be appropriate at times to renew that relationship?

To close this session, give each student paper and a pen. Encourage each of them to write a personal renewal of a “wedding vow” to God. Here is our attempt at this assignment:

When I came to you in faith through the Lord Jesus, I made promises to you. I pledged my faithfulness and that I would serve no other. With great sorrow and regret, I acknowledge that I broke that vow. I chased after false gods the world offers and even looked to myself as a god. But I realize now the enormity of my mistake. There is no other God but you.  You are the constant in my life whom I will always love and serve. I believe in you more than ever, and I reaffirm my love and commitment to you.


January 10: The Most Beautiful Bride (Song of Songs 6:4-12)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Write on the board the following metaphors for feminine beauty, along with the texts in which they are found:

  1. As beautiful as Tirzah (meaning “beauty town”)—v. 4a
  2. As lovely as Jerusalem—v. 4b
  3. Having the majesty of an army on the march—v. 4c
  4. Hair like a flock of goats—v. 5b
  5. Teeth like a flock of sheep—v. 6
  6. Temples like halves of pomegranates—v. 7

 

Briefly explain each metaphor, referring to the commentary as needed. Then ask the class to come up with a more modern metaphor that would express the same thought. For example, a modern parallel to the Tirzah reference would be to say a woman is more beautiful than a starlet from Hollywood (a town known for beautiful actresses).

 

To encourage personal application:

Spend a few moments discussing why it is important for spouses to compliment each other. Have class members share one of the most memorable compliments that their spouse has given them and how it made them feel.

Your class’s responses may reveal what is generally thought to be true—that women like compliments about their appearance and men appreciate compliments about their abilities. If so, point out that it is important that spouses give compliments that are meaningful to the one receiving the compliment.

January 3: A Bride Worth Waiting For (Genesis 29:15-30)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

To begin class, read this summary of a famous court case (Hawkins v. McGee from 1929):

Hawkins went to Dr. McGee to have burn scars removed from his hand. Dr. McGee gave Hawkins a 100% guarantee that he would be able to repair the scar tissue by grafting skin from his chest to his hand. Although the scar tissue was removed, the skin graft left Hawkins with an unscarred but hairy hand! Hawkins sued for damages for breach of contract and for pain and suffering. Hawkins argued that McGee did not keep his contract and caused him additional pain and suffering.

Allow the class a few minutes to try to guess how the case was finally decided.

After a few minutes, reveal these results of this real case: An appeals court decided that Hawkins was not entitled to damages for pain and suffering. The court ruled that even if the hand were perfectly restored, Hawkins would have still endured the pain and suffering of surgery. The court further ruled that Hawkins could only receive damages for the difference in what he was promised—a perfect hand—and his hairy hand.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “It is not uncommon for people to sue others when they believe a contract has been broken. Today we will look at an account from the Bible when it seems a contract was broken. Let’s see what happened.”

 

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

Divide the class into three groups to act out the Scripture text as if it were a court case. Give each group one of the following assignments:

Group one—The judge reviews the terms of the contract (Genesis 29:15-20).

Group two—Jacob explains his complaint and Laban defends his actions (vv. 21-26).

Group three—The judge issues his verdict (vv. 27-30).

After each group has had several minutes to prepare, have the groups act out the full mock trial. Comment as necessary to summarize the text completely.


 

December 27: A Generous Gift (Matthew 23:2-12; Mark 12:38-44)

By | Teacher Tips

December 27: A Generous Gift  (Matthew 23:2-12; Mark 12:38-44)

To begin the session:

Before class, make a copy of the cards below and cut them apart. As students arrive, hand each a card with the instruction to give it to someone else who they think embodies that trait.

Forgiveness Persuasiveness Availability Boldness
Friendliness Compassion Confidence Contentment
Creativity Generosity Humility Gentleness
Dependability Determination Loyalty Gratefulness
Sincerity Honesty Kindness Enthusiasm
Fairness Patience Flexibility Hospitality

 

After the entire class arrives and cards have been exchanged, have each class member holding a card give it to yet another who they believe exhibits that trait.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Everyone, to one degree or another, likes to be recognized by others. But for what do we want to be recognized? We will see that Jesus wants his followers to be recognized for qualities different from those exhibited by the religious leaders of his day.”

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

Make copies of the attached puzzle. Divide the class into groups of three to five students each, giving each group a copy of the puzzle and a pen. Have groups work together to unscramble the words and find the hidden message.

The words and message are: authority, compassion, generosity, helpfulness, honor, humility, piety, sacrifice, servanthood, submission, titles, visibility; Jesus expects more from his disciples.

Allow about 10 minutes for groups to work before revealing the answers. (It doesn’t matter if all groups finish.) Discuss the puzzle by reading the Bible texts, looking for descriptions of the traits from the puzzle in the texts. Identify the traits as belonging primarily to the Jewish leaders of the day or as being traits desired for Jesus’ disciples.

 

December 20: Dedication of the Firstborn (Exodus 13:13b-15; Luke 2:22-32)

By | Teacher Tips

December 20: Dedication of the Firstborn (Exodus 13:13b-15; Luke 2:22-32)

 

To begin the session:

Write the following three categories on the board (leaving writing space beneath each):

Youngest child:

Middle child:

Firstborn child:

Say, “Over the years, some psychologists have suggested that birth order influences a child’s personality. I will read a list of characteristics. Try to guess what child, by birth order, each characteristic best describes.”

As you read these characteristics, pause to allow the class to come to a consensus. Then write the characteristic under the category students choose. Here is the list: bossy, creative, flexible, organized, rebellious, self-centered.

After the entire list has been read, reveal how the characteristics are generally assigned regarding birth order:

 

Youngest—creative, self-centered

Middle—flexible, rebellious

Firstborn—bossy, organized

Lead into Bible study by saying: “While studying birth order is interesting, it may or may not make any difference in determining personality traits. In Bible times, however, birth order was important for another reason.  Jewish parents had certain responsibilities regarding their firstborn sons. Today we see how Jesus’ earthly parents honored one such responsibility.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Close the session by playing the British carol “Bethlehem Down” from one of these or similar sites. Note that the lyrics reflect the content of our Bible lesson dealing with the dedication of the firstborn.

http://christmas-songs.org/songs/bethlehem_down.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQcoR9T7VTs

December 13: Acceptable Offerings (Leviticus 22:17-25, 31-33)

By | Teacher Tips

December 13: Acceptable Offerings (Leviticus 22:17-25, 31-33)

To begin the session:

Before class, write this at the top of the board:

Something I DON’T want for Christmas:

As students arrive, invite them to add to the list on the board. To prompt them you may add a few entries to start, such as Mrs. Harbottle’s fruitcake, an ugly Christmas sweater, cheap perfume, etc.

After all students have arrived and have had an opportunity to add to the list, begin discussion by asking, “What are some qualities of an unwanted or thoughtless gift?” Some of the reasons may center around cost, appropriateness of a gift for a person, the usability of the gift, etc.

After discussion, lead into Bible study by saying, “The Old Testament law spoke of gifts that were to be given to God. Let’s look at what made an appropriate gift and what did not.”

 

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

Write the following Scripture research assignments on the board:

Assignment 1: What gifts does God NOT want?

Leviticus 22:17-22; Deuteronomy 15:21; Malachi 1:8a

 

Assignment 2: Why does God reject improper offerings?

Leviticus 22:2, 32, 33; Malachi 1:6, 7, 8b

 

Assignment 3: What gifts does God want most of all?

Leviticus 22:31; Micah 6:6-8; Romans 12:1, 2

 

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group one of the research assignments. After giving groups 10 minutes to research, ask them to report. Suggested responses follow:

Assignment 1: God does not want castoffs and leftovers! Animals with defects were not acceptable to him. This included animals with birth defects, injuries, or disease.

Assignment 2: Improper offerings slander God’s name. When people gave God offerings that they would not dream of offering a human leader, they showed how little they respected God.

Assignment 3: Most of all, God values obedience. That includes surrender to him, as well as godly and merciful behavior toward others.

December 6: The Sabbath Day (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-16)

By | Teacher Tips

December 6: The Sabbath Day (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-16)

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

Explain that while observation of the Sabbath was a command only for the Jews, the principles found in the Sabbath concept are important for us today.

Prepare for this activity by writing the phrases in each of the following assignments on separate index cards; also write each assignment’s Scriptures on a card. Divide your class into three groups, giving each group one of the assignments: its Scripture card and its set of index cards. They are to put their cards in order to reveal a Sabbath principle and be prepared to tell how their assigned Scripture verses applied to the Jewish Sabbath and apply to Christian practice today. (Our suggestions are in italics.)

Assignment 1—A day set apart/ for God/ reminds us that/ God is holy/ and calls us/ to be set apart/ from this world.

Exodus 31:12-15; 1 Peter 1:14-16

God gave the Jews a special day different from others, which they recognized as set apart for God. God wants us to recognize his holiness by living lives that are set apart from the sins of this world.

Assignment 2—A day set apart/ for God/ should be celebrated/ with others who/ share a/ covenant relationship/ with him.

Exodus 31:16; Hebrews 10:24, 25

The Sabbath was set apart to be celebrated by all Jews at all times. Christians are called to meet together to recognize their special relationship with each other and with God.

Assignment 3—A day set apart/ for God/ demonstrates that/ our work/ can wait/ as we take time/ to be refreshed.

Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 2:27

The Sabbath recognized that even God stopped his work to rest! Christians today still benefit when we set apart time with God for renewal.

After group work is complete, have groups share their research.

 To encourage personal application:

Say: “When we do not take advantage of a day of rest, certain symptoms become evident in our lives. As we close in prayer, I will read a list of those symptoms. When you hear a symptom that reminds you of yourself or someone you know, pause and pray specifically about that.”

Read this list, pausing between each item to allow time for silent prayers:

Relationships do not get the full focus they deserve.

Energy is used up more quickly, making it difficult to function at full efficiency.

Some tasks that need attention get none.

Prioritizing becomes difficult.

Quantity becomes confused with quality.

Busyness replaces true accomplishment.

Doing becomes more important than thinking.

Accomplishment may become more important than ethical behavior.


 

November 29: Teaching God’s Word (Acts 18:1-11, 18-21a)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, gather 5–7 items (or pictures of items) that are adjustable. For example: an adjustable wrench, a belt, a desk chair, a cell phone (with adjustable volume, brightness, etc.), a hair dryer (with multiple settings), a clock/watch, a radio, a variable-speed drill. Display the items at the front of the room.

As class members arrive, have them examine the items and try to determine their common feature. After all class members arrive, ask them for their guesses before telling them the answer you have in mind.

Lead into Bible study by saying: “Imagine a belt with only one hole, a clock you could not set, or a radio that played only one station. Common items become much more useful when they are adjustable! Adjustability is also an important factor in sharing the gospel. Today we will look at ways Paul adjusted his approach from situation to situation.”

To encourage personal application:

On the board, write these differing ministerial roles that Paul took in our lesson text today (leaving space between each):

Tent-making minister—Someone who earns a living by working another job other than preaching (Acts 18:1-4).

Vocational minister—Someone who can preach full-time because others are meeting his financial needs (Acts 18:5).

Countercultural minister—Someone who ministers in a mission field that is often hostile to the gospel (Acts 18:6-11).

Traveling evangelist—Someone who preaches for a short time in one location, preparing that mission field for follow-up at a later time or for another minister (Acts 18:18-21a).

Then help the class brainstorm a short list of ministry opportunities. For example, prison ministry, college campus ministry, nursing home ministry, ministry to those of another religion, ministry to those with disabilities, etc. Write those opportunities under the definitions of ministerial roles.

Discuss the pros and cons of certain ministerial roles for meeting each of the ministry opportunities you have listed.

November 22: Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens (Acts 17:1-4, 10-12, 22-25, 28)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group pen and paper and one of the following assignments. They are to complete a diary entry of Paul, based on the content of their Scripture references. (Note that some of the Scripture references given are not in the printed text for the lesson.)

Group one—Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9)
My visit to Thessalonica started as business as usual, but then . . .

Group two—Berea (Acts 17:10-15)
In Berea I had a wonderful surprise.

Group three—Athens (Acts 17:16-19, 22-28)
In Athens I really had to think on my feet.

To encourage personal application:

Our text today shows how Paul responded to different groups of people to whom he preached. To close, write the following on the board or make copies of it for each class member.

_____________________________ is someone I could identify as a Thessalonian. When speaking to this person, I need to be able to succinctly summarize the basics of my faith.
_____________________________ is someone I could identify as a Berean. This is a person with whom I can have in-depth Bible study.
_____________________________ is someone I could identify as an Athenian. When speaking to this person, I need to be able to show the relevance of Christ to current culture.

Allow class members a few moments to think of a person they know that fits into each category. Lead a guided prayer time by asking each class member to pray for opportunities to discuss Jesus with his or her Thessalonian, Berean, and Athenian.

November 15: From Derbe to Philippi (Acts 16:1-5, 8-15)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Write these phrases on the board:

The best job I ever had
When I accepted Jesus as Savior
My proudest moment
My favorite year in school
The biggest scare of my life

Ask volunteers to choose one of those situations and imagine it being written as a short story. Without telling that story, have them list people who would be characters in it.

Lead into Bible study by saying: “All of our lives are filled with interesting stories. We simply do not have time to share them all today! But we can note that each of those stories is about our relationships with other people. While Paul is the main focus of the last half of the book of Acts, other people play important roles. Let’s look at those relationships today.”

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

Select two volunteers. While one reads the lesson text out loud, very slowly, the other volunteer should list people (either by name or description) down the left-hand side of the board as they are mentioned. Some people that you will want to have listed would be Timothy, the Christians in Lystra and Derbe, Timothy’s mother (also mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:5), Christians in churches Paul visited, the Macedonian man, the women at the riverside, and Lydia.

After the text is written and the list made, go down the list and ask the class to explain how each person or group of people encouraged Paul on his mission. For example, Timothy became Paul’s assistant and understudy, Timothy’s mother reared him to be aware of spiritual matters, and the Christians at Lystra and Derbe gave Paul a fair assessment of Timothy’s character.

November 8: Saved by Grace (Acts 15:1-12)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, write the following matching exercise on the board:

  1. First Council of Nicaea a. Ending the Cold War
  2. Second Continental Congress b. The divinity of Christ
  3. Paris Peace Conference c. Reorganizing Europe after WWII
  4. Malta Summit d. The Declaration of Independence
  5. Yalta Conference e. Terms for ending WWI

After all students arrive, have them try to match the meeting with what was discussed at that meeting. (Answers: 1=b. 2=d. 3=e. 4=a. 5=c) Lead into Bible study by saying, “Many famous meetings, conferences, summits, councils, and conventions have been held throughout history. Important issues were discussed and decided among delegates. Today we will discuss a meeting in Jerusalem that also belongs on that list.”

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

The following statements reflect the thinking of those who opposed Paul and insisted that Gentiles follow Jewish law before becoming Christians. Write each of these statements on separate index cards:

Some standards need to be met before joining the church.

If we make exceptions for Gentiles, where will it end?

We can’t give in to the standards of the Greek world!

Divide the class into three groups, giving each one of these cards. Each group is to read the Bible text and formulate answers to the objection it is given, based on the reasoning of the apostles. Give groups 10–15 minutes to formulate answers to present to the class as a whole.

Some of the points that need to be made are:

Keeping rules does not make us better; only God’s Spirit can do that.
We see God working already in these people that are different from us.
We do not keep the law perfectly, so it is wrong to expect others to do so.
Morality is not irrelevant. But it is a response to God’s grace, not a way to earn it.

November 1: God Rescues Peter (Acts: 12:1-11)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

If you have a video player or music player available, you may wish to begin class by playing the trailer or theme music from the famous prison escape movie The Great Escape. These are available online at sites such as these:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykL0MtsaNdcText

http://www.televisiontunes.com/Great_Escape_(The).html

Ask class members to list some famous escape stories and movies. If necessary, prompt them with titles such as The Count of Monte Cristo, Papillon, The Fugitive, The Shawshank Redemption, Escape from Alcatraz, etc. Discuss some common elements of many of these stories, such as innocent captives, cruel captors, and overwhelming odds against the hero.

Lead into Bible study by saying: “Prison escape stories make for exciting fiction. But the Bible tells of a true escape story that is every bit as exciting.”

To encourage personal application:

Make copies of these prayer requests for persecuted Christians around the world. Cut the requests apart and give one to every class member. As the church prayed for Peter when he was imprisoned, encourage class members to each pray daily for the person(s) on their slip of paper.

Nguyen Van Ly was arrested in Vietnam for distributing material “harmful to the state.”

Li Jiatao, a house-church member, was arrested in China for “illegal business operations”—keeping church records.

Kazakhstan’s secret police arrested Yklas Kabduakasov for talking to others about his conversion from Islam.

Medhat Ishak was arrested at a mall in Cairo, Egypt, for handing out Bibles.

Two Christian women, Pulo Bhai and Ludri, were seriously injured in an assault by Hindu radicals in India.

Lauro Nunez Perez was jailed in Oaxaca State, Mexico, for refusing to recant his Christian beliefs.

Saeed Abedini was severely abused while imprisoned in Iran.

Jesus Noel Carballeda was imprisoned in Cuba because he is a member of an “unregistered church.”

Pervaiz Masih has been arrested after being accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.

Bazi, kept as a sex slave by ISIS, is courageously telling others in the United States about her experience.

Joshua Wong, a Christian student in Hong Kong, leads protests against the Chinese government.

October 25: Peter Defends His Actions (Acts 11:1-18)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

On the board write, “What have you done?” To begin class, ask different class members to read the question, each one emphasizing a different word in the question in this way:

What have you done?

What have you done?

What have you done?

Allow volunteers to read these words with their chosen emphases and tone until the question has been read several times. In doing this, it should become obvious that those same words can convey multiple meanings, including curiosity, accusation, alarm, anger, etc.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “This question does not appear in our lesson text today. But it was most certainly asked, and asked for a variety of reasons and with a variety of emotions! Let’s discover what Peter had done by preaching the gospel of Jesus to Gentiles.

 

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

Today’s lesson text is Peter’s defense of what he did in the account in Acts 10. Help your class imagine the hostile questioning Peter received, and help them act out Peter’s response to the challenge brought by Jewish Christians. Divide the class into three groups. Give each group a section of the text, along with the implied challenge brought by the Jewish Christians. Then have them imagine how Peter responded to that challenge. (Our suggested responses are in italics.)

Group 1—Acts 11:1-10

Challenge—What gives you the right to violate our traditions concerning Gentiles?

Peter’s Response—I had a vision from God. He told me to eat unclean animals, and I told him I could not violate the law. But he told me that what he once declared unclean he could make clean. I knew this vision was true because God repeated it three times!

Group 2—Acts 11:11-14

Challenge—How are we supposed to believe what you say?

Peter’s Response—At the same time, I received three guests who were sent by Cornelius after an angel appeared to him. I then realized that God could make unclean food clean, but he could also make unclean people acceptable. I went with them, but I also took six of our fellow Christians with me to confirm what would happen.

Group 3—Acts 11:15-18

Challenge—What good could come of all this?

Peter’s Response—I knew God wanted me to preach Jesus to them, so I began to speak. But before I was done, the Holy Spirit came on them, just as he came upon us on the Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection! What else could I do but accept them because God had already shown his approval?

After group work has been completed, have groups act out their scenes. Supplement with our suggested responses as needed.

October 18: Peter Preaches to Gentiles (Acts 10:1-44)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Make copies of the following activity sheet for the class. Ask them to respond individually and quickly to each fact from the lesson text found there. Then allow students to share and discuss their responses, either with the full class or in small groups. Rather than insist on one correct answer to each event, encourage students to explain their reasoning.

Transition to the final section of the lesson by saying, “This account in Scripture is surprising for many reasons. But God specializes in the surprising and unexpected! Let us consider how we can make it more likely that God will act in surprising and unexpected ways in our congregation.”

10-18-15-teacher-tip

To encourage personal application:

Wrap up the session by saying, “Peter broke some religious rules by going to the home of a man who not only was a Gentile but also was a leader in the army that occupied his country! Let us consider some religious rules that we may be tempted to have. Consider whether or not any of these should be broken and what might happen if we did so.”

Ask the class to list some “religious” rules that many have. You may prompt them with some of these:

  • Only one style of music is acceptable for worship.
  • My preferred Bible translation is the one everyone should use.
  • Everybody should dress up for a worship service.
  • Sunday morning is the only acceptable time for a proper Lord’s Day service.
  • We need to encourage the “right kind of people” to join our congregation.

After a brief discussion, close with a prayer, asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in identifying and breaking down any barrier that would inhibit growth in your congregation.

October 11: Saul Begins to Preach (Acts 9:19b-31)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

To begin class, write this heading on the board: “After learning that an ex-convict claims to have become a Christian and joins our congregation, you . . . “

Spend a minute or two brainstorming possible responses with your group, writing those responses under your heading. Some possible responses might be: stay away from him, get to know him, rejoice, are skeptical, become fearful, etc.

After reviewing your brainstormed list, lead into Bible study by saying: “Were a notorious figure to join our congregation, it would certainly cause a variety of different reactions! Our Bible lesson today focuses on a similar situation. Saul of Tarsus, one-time persecutor of the church, becomes a Christian and wants to join with the church! Let’s examine some results of such a remarkable event.”

 

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

Display a map of Palestine in Jesus’s day to study the results of Saul’s conversion in relation to the geographical locations cited in this account. We suggest you use Sheet 1 of the Adult Resources packet, available for purchase as hard copy or available as a download.

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group pens and self-stick notes and one of the following sections of the text:

Group 1—Results in Damascus (Acts 9:19b-25)

Group 2—Results in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-30)

Group 3—Results throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria (Acts 9:31)

Have each group read its section of the text and look for results in their assigned region of Saul’s conversion. Have them write one result per self-stick note and attach the notes to the locations on the map. Some possible results follow:

Group 1—Saul preached in the synagogues, People were amazed at how Saul had changed, Saul won arguments with Jewish leaders, Jewish leaders plotted to kill Saul, Saul escaped through an opening in the city wall.

Group 2—Saul tried to join the disciples, Disciples reacted with fear and skepticism, Barnabas interceded for Saul, Saul preached in Jerusalem, Greek Jews tried to kill Saul, Church helped Saul escape to Tarsus.

Group 3—Church had peace after Saul’s persecution ended, Church was being built up, Church was walking in the fear of the Lord, Church was comforted by the Holy Spirit, Church multiplied in number.

After group work is done, use the notes placed on the map to summarize the Bible lesson.

 

 

October 4: Simon Is Rebuked (Acts 8:9-25)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, arrange this taste-test exercise. Obtain two sugar packets and two packets each of three artificial sweeteners (such as saccharine, aspartame, and sucralose). Write the name of each of the four sweeteners on the bottoms of two paper muffin-baking cups. Empty each of the sweetener packets into an appropriately labeled cup, creating two sets of sweetener cups.

 

Begin the class by asking for two volunteers to compete in your taste test. Give each contestant a set of sweetener cups. Explain that one cup contains the real thing—sugar—while the other three contain sugar substitutes. Allow the contestants a minute to sample each sweetener and decide which one is actually sugar. Then have the tasters look at the bottoms of their cups to see how well they did.

Lead into Bible study by saying: “Some sugar substitutes taste very much like the real thing. But often a side-by-side comparison makes it easier to separate the real from the artificial.

“Our Bible lesson today is not about sugar substitutes, but about spiritual substitutes. Simon of Samaria knew and practiced a form of false spiritual power, but he immediately recognized the true power of God when Philip demonstrated it. Let’s see how Simon reacted when confronted by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Say: “Like Simon, we are all tempted by the same spiritual substitutes—money, love, and power. Let’s see how we can turn each of these spiritual substitutes into a spiritual strength.”

Divide the class into three groups, making sure each group has Bibles and a concordance. Give each group one of the three words above—money, love, or power—and have them use a concordance to find at least one Bible verse for how their word can be used as a substitute for God or to give glory to God. Here are some examples:

MONEY

Substitute for God—1 Timothy 6:10

To give glory to God—1 Timothy 6:18

LOVE

Substitute for God—John 12:42, 43

To give glory to God—1 John 4:11

POWER

Substitute for God—Micah 2:1

To give glory to God—2 Timothy 1:6-8

Allow groups to share their verses, and close with prayer.

September 27: Standing Firm Against Opposition (Acts 7:2-4, 8-10, 17, 33, 34, 45-47, 52, 53)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Create teams for a modern reenactment of the trial of Stephen before the Jewish Sanhedrin. The preparations and enacting of this activity will take a considerable amount of time. Therefore, you may wish to recruit teams in advance.

The judicial team will consist of four actors to play the parts of high priest, a prosecutor, a witness to bring false testimony, and an expert witness on Jewish law. Each character will bring out certain elements of what happened in Stephen’s trial according to the Scripture. The high priest will read the charges that can be gleaned from Acts 6:11-14 (not in today’s printed text), will moderate the trial, and will call Stephen to give his defense (7:1). The prosecutor will call the witness to testify and will cross-examine the defense’s witness(es). The prosecution’s witness will be the expert on Jewish law; what this witness says and does will reflect Acts 6:9-14.

The defense team will need at least three actors to play the parts of Stephen, one or more character witnesses for Stephen, and a defense attorney. The character witness(es) will use their “sanctified imagination” to counteract the false testimony of Acts 6:9-14. The defense attorney will call Stephen to testify on his own behalf with the content of today’s printed text. The attorney also will deliver a summary of Stephen’s defense.

The trial will still be under way (no verdict yet reached) as attention shifts to the television reporting team. This team can consist of two actors who compare Stephen’s predicament with that of persecuted Christians across the world today.

 

To encourage personal application:

Write the phrase “conversion by the sword” on the board. Briefly discuss what it means. Class members will probably think of recent acts of violence by radical Islamists aimed at those who do not share their faith.

Read 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 aloud. Note that Christianity has advanced through the ages by the sword of the Spirit, not through violence. If possible, you may wish to order novelty sword pens through this or a similar site: www.orientaltrading.com/mighty-sword-pens-a2-8_343.fltr.

September 20: Speaking Up for God (Acts 5:27-29, 33-42)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, write the names of each of these social movements on a separate large sheet of paper, using a broad-tip marker:

Occupy Wall Street

American Temperance Society

Animal Rights Movement

Women’s Suffrage

Ku Klux Klan

Arab Spring

Hippie Movement

 

To begin class, ask for two volunteers to compete in a game. Set up a chair for a contestant, facing the rest of the class. Appoint a timekeeper who has a watch with a second hand or a cell phone that can act as a stopwatch.

To begin the game, seat one contestant in the chair and send the other out of the room. On your signal, the timekeeper will begin the clock, marking off one minute. During that time, you will hold the name of a social movement, one at a time, behind the contestant. The rest of the class will call out clues, helping the contestant guess the name of the movement. After time is called, total the number of movements correctly identified. Repeat the procedure with the second contestant. Declare a winner.

Discuss the movements on the signs. Which were once influential but are no longer? Which had influence for a long time? Which did not last long? What are some reasons for the rise and decline of such movements?

Lead into Bible study saying, “We have seen some social movements come and go over the decades. Some were once popular but now no longer exist. In the early days of the church, the religious leaders of the day were not sure of how to deal with the apostles. Was the church merely a passing fad, or was it a movement that needed to be fought? Let’s look at one instance of how religious leaders decided to address the message of the apostles.”

To encourage personal application:

To conclude this session, help the class brainstorm a list of topics about which believers should speak clearly today. Write them on the board as they are called out. Then help the class narrow the brainstormed list to a list of five topics.

Finally, look at the list to see which ones are about what believers should speak out against. For each of those, have the class try to rephrase the item to reveal what we are in favor of rather than opposed to. For example, if one of the items is opposition to pornography, note that what we want is for God’s plan for sexual relationships being exclusive to marriage to be upheld.

When the class’s manifesto has been narrowed to five positive statements, close in prayer. Ask God to help us speak out for him in a positive, affirming way.

September 13: Sharing with Sincerity (Acts 4:34–5:10)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

If you have an Internet connection in your classroom, search the web for a video clip that deals with greed. We recommend this one from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wzr12gBrXA8. In this clip, Veruca Salt sings of her greed and receives just consequences for it.

After playing the clip, ask what it says about greed. What examples of similar attitudes have they witnessed? What are some consequences of greed?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “It is tempting to have an ‘I want it all, and I want it now’ attitude toward possessions. The Bible tells how God wanted the early church to handle possessions. In our lesson text today, we see both a positive and a negative response to God’s will in that regard.

 

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

Divide the class into groups of three to five students each, giving each group a sheet of paper and a pen. Have groups turn to Acts 4:34-37 while you read that portion of the text aloud. At your signal, give groups exactly one minute to write as many single-word descriptions of Barnabas as they can.

At the end of that minute, have each group read its list while you transfer it to the board. Mark out words on each list that appear on other lists. Count the number of unique descriptions for each group to give a point total.

Repeat this exercise by reading Acts 5:1-10 and having groups make lists of single-word descriptions of Ananias and Sapphira. Determine point value in the same way. Add the scores for both rounds to determine a winning group.

September 6: Praying for Boldness (Acts 4:23-31)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class begins, write the following expressions on the board: push the envelope, hedge one’s bets, play it safe, test the limits, err on the side of caution, just do it, be risk averse, let sleeping dogs lie, go for broke, out on a limb, throw caution to the wind, look before you leap.

To begin class, ask students to pair up and try to put these expressions into two categories. They should quickly see that some expressions deal with being bold, while others describe a cautious approach.

After the phrases are sorted in that way, ask students to describe times when one approach or another is called for. Lead into Bible study by saying, “There are situations in which it is wise to play it safe, and there are others in which a bolder approach is necessary. After Peter and John ended up in prison for preaching about Jesus, the early church had to decide on the tactic they would employ. Let’s see what they did.”

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

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group one of the following assignments. They are to read the section of today’s text and supporting texts and try to formulate a guiding principle for believers undergoing persecution.

Group 1

Lesson text: Acts 4:24

Supporting texts: Psalm 146:6, 7; Revelation 10:5-7

Group 2

Lesson text: Acts 4:25-28

Supporting texts: John 15:18-21; 1 Peter 2:21-23

Group 3

Lesson text: Acts 4:29, 30

Supporting texts: Exodus 3:20; 7:7; 14:16

Give groups several minutes for their research. Then ask them to report. Suggested principles might be:

Group 1: God created everything, so we should trust that he is in charge.

Group 2: Jesus suffered, so we should not be surprised if we also suffer for his sake.

Group 3: God is capable of great miracles, so we can be bold as we go forward in his name.

August 30: A Plea to Return to God (Malachi 3:1-10)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:
Before class, make copies of the following quiz. As students arrive, give each a copy of the quiz and a pen, and ask them to try to match the defendant with the crime. (The answers are: 1. c, 2. e, 3. g, 4. i, 5. b, 6. j, 7. d, 8. f, 9. h, 10. a)

teacher_tips_08-30_15

To encourage personal application:
Before class, make copies of the following sheet of stickers on adhesive paper and cut them apart.
Close by noting the desire of God for his people, even when they were guilty of wronging him: “Return to me, and I will return to you” (Malachi 3:7). Give each student one (or more) of your stickers to keep with them this week, reminding them of this important plea.

August 23: A Demand for Justice (Zechariah 7:8-14)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Divide your class into pairs, giving each pair a printed copy of the Scripture text and a pen. Have them attempt this Scripture-marking activity:

  1. Circle two actions God wants his people to take.
  2. Underline two things God does not want his people to do.
  3. Place a star by the words describing five ways God’s people reacted to his commands.
  4. Draw a box around two phrases beginning with the word “I” that describe how God responded when his people rejected him.

When your pairs complete the exercise, discuss their findings.

 

To encourage personal application:

On the board write, “turned backs,” “covered ears,” “hardened hearts.”

Then turn to Ephesians 5:1-21. There the apostle Paul listed behaviors that illustrate the type of stubborn refusal to obey God that Zechariah spoke about.

 

Referring to Paul’s words, brainstorm some common negative attitudes and behaviors that hinder people from experiencing the full joy of being a Christian.

Next, ask your group to brainstorm some scriptural attitudes and behaviors that are antidotes to these negatives, again referring to Ephesians 5 for ideas.

 

Challenge each student to find one (or more) negative attitude or behavior from the list that is a particular problem to him or her. Pray for your students to seek to eliminate those negatives by practicing the biblical positives you have discussed today.

August 16: A Call for Repentance (Ezekiel 18:1-13, 30-32)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, write each of the following quotes on a poster and display each poster in a separate corner of the classroom.

I know the world isn’t fair, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?

—Cartoonist Bill Watterson

 

Nobody expects a footballer to have any kind of an IQ, which is a bit of an unfair stereotype.

—Soccer star Frank Lampard

In view of the fact that God limited the intelligence of man, it seems unfair that He did not also limit his stupidity.

—Former chancellor of Germany Konrad Adenauer

It’s incredibly unfair. You don’t see a lot of 60-year-old women with 20-year-old men onscreen.

—Actor George Clooney

 

After students have arrived and have had a chance to read the posters, ask each student to go to the corner containing his or her favorite quote. Ask students to tell why the chosen quotes were their favorites.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Everyone seems to have an opinion about what is and is not fair. This was true even in the prophet Ezekiel’s day. The people had a proverb about fairness. Let’s see what the Bible says about it.”

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

On the board write:

Ezekiel 18:1, 2

It’s NOT FAIR if—

Ezekiel 18:3-13

It’s FAIR if—

Ezekiel 18:30-32

It’s MORE THAN FAIR that—

As a group, read the sections of Scripture text one at a time, and ask students to try to finish each sentence, using fewer than 10 additional words.

Their completed sentences should be something like these:

It’s NOT FAIR if children have to pay for their parents’ sins.

It’s FAIR if the guilty are punished and the innocent rewarded.

It’s MORE THAN FAIR that God gives a new start to those who repent.

After each sentence is completed, comment on the section of text as needed, using the commentary.


 

August 9: A Choice to Be Just (Jeremiah 7:1-15)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, print a copy of these 20 cards and cut them apart.

Step on a crack and . . . . . . you will break your mother’s back.
If your right ear itches . . . . . . someone is speaking well of you.
If your left ear itches . . . . . . someone is speaking ill of you.
Kiss the Blarney Stone and . . . . . . get the gift of gab.
Break a mirror and . . . . . . get seven years of bad luck.
Blow out all the candles on your birthday cake and . . . . . . you will get your wish.
If you drop a fork . . . . . . someone is coming to visit.
A bird in your house is a sign that . . . . . .   someone will die soon.
Put salt on the doorstep of a new house and . . . . . . no evil can enter.
If you sing before seven . . . . . . you will cry before eleven.

 

Shuffle the cards so they are not in their original order. To begin class, hand cards to your students. Depending on the size of your class, some may get more than one, or some may get none at all. Explain that the cards each contain one half of a superstition. Give class members a few minutes to find the person who has the card that completes their superstition.

After the cards are correctly paired, say, “There are all sorts of superstitions. Some things supposedly bring bad luck and others supposedly bring good luck. It is wise not to take such superstitions seriously. Today’s lesson deals with a time when God’s people treated religious practices as if they were good-luck charms. Let’s look at what God said about that.”

To encourage personal application:

Close the session by saying, “The people of Jeremiah’s day were content with a religion that consisted only of ceremonial worship at the temple. God, on the other hand, expected them to have a faith that demonstrated a concern for justice.”

Write these two headings on the board:

Sometimes I am content with religion                    Beginning today, I will
that is demonstrated by:                                            demonstrate a commitment to justice by:

 

Allow students a few minutes to consider those headings. You may wish to spend a few minutes brainstorming ways to complete the headings.

Close by leading prayer in this way: Open prayer by reading the first heading, then pausing for students to complete that phrase in silent prayer. After a minute or two, do the same with the second heading.

August 2: A Redeemer in Zion (Isaiah 59:15-21)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin the class by asking students to tell you what they know about the comic-book hero the Incredible Hulk. You may wish to play this trailer for the 1978 TV program on a computer or mobile device:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqZuhrDM5vE

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Have we ever considered what God is like when he is angry? The prophet Isaiah tells us what displeases God and how he reacts in his displeasure.”

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

Divide the class into groups, giving each group pen and paper. Have them turn to a section of the lesson text and write a paraphrase of it. The catch is that some words are off limits. (Our sample responses are in italics.)

Group 1—Paraphrase Isaiah 59:15, 16a to tell what makes God angry. Words you cannot use: truth, evil, prey, justice, judgment, intercessor, intervene.

What God sees in the world makes him angry. He sees lies and wrongdoing everywhere, and those who do not play along are persecuted! No one lifts a finger to make things right or to take care of those who are mistreated.

Group 2—Paraphrase Isaiah 59:17, telling how God responds to injustice. Words you cannot use: righteousness, breastplate, helmet, salvation, garments, vengeance, zeal, cloak

God will take care of injustice in a way that only he can. Doing the right thing will guide his heart, and his thoughts will be driven by a desire to save those who try to do things his way. He will be wrapped up with the idea that wrongdoers must be punished—and will pursue that goal passionately.

Group 3—Paraphrase Isaiah 59:20, 21, telling how God takes care of his people in an unjust world. Words you cannot use: redeemer, Zion, Jacob, covenant, spirit, words, mouth, forever

God will send his chosen person to pay the ransom for his people who turn to him. This is a permanent solution, not a temporary fix. His people will have God living with them to constantly remind them of the truth from one generation to the next.

After giving groups time to work, reassemble the class and have groups report. Use our sample responses and the commentary as necessary for clarification.

July 26: God’s Matchless Mercy (Micah 7:14-20)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

To begin class, write this list of famous presidents on the board: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington.

Explain that these five men are generally considered to be among the best U.S. presidents. Ask the class to turn to a partner and briefly try to convince the other that one of these is better than all the others.

After giving the class a few minutes to do that, read the list aloud, one name at a time. After a name is read, ask the class to vote with a show of hands whether or not that man was the best U.S. president in history.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Not every historian agrees as to which of these men was the greatest leader. Human beings are all flawed—even the greatest among us. But the prophet Micah told his nation to look elsewhere for perfect leadership. Let’s see why he said that the God of Israel was a great Shepherd and great Savior.”

To encourage personal application:

Close with a guided prayer. Use Micah 7:18-20 as that prayer. Have students underline the word you every time it appears in those verses. Assign each of six students one of those six you phrases.

Pray by having students read those passages in order. After each one is read, pause for a few moments, allowing students to consider those words and thank God for having those characteristics.

 

July 19: What the Lord Requires (Micah 6:3-8)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin the class by saying, “When people were asked to describe what they were required to do in their jobs, here are some of their humorous answers. Can you guess the job by the requirement?” Read the following requirements one at a time, asking the class to guess the job found in the parenthesis.
To talk in other people’s sleep (preacher)

To take care of people who are high (flight attendant)

To run away and call the police (security guard)

To shoot happy people (wedding photographer)

To spend the day looking out the window (pilot)

Then list a few other occupations on the board, and encourage the class to come up with humorous statements of what is required. (Example: bus driver, cook, librarian, politician)

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Sometimes people try to be funny when describing their jobs. But Micah, when told by God what was required to follow him, gave very thoughtful requirements. Let’s look at them today.”

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

Explain to the class that Micah 6 uses a technique used by other prophets—he stages a mock trial.

Divide your class into four groups—the bailiff, the judge, the prosecution, and the defense. Have them read assigned portions of the text and prepare to paraphrase them as if the trial were being held in a modern courtroom. (For example, vv. 1, 2 might be paraphrased as a bailiff’s call to order in this way: Hear ye, hear ye! The court of Heaven is now in session, the Honorable Judge of Heaven and Earth presiding. All rise. Case number Micah 6, the God of Israel v. the people of Israel, will now proceed with a presentation of charges and the plea of the defense.)

Note that this activity uses the entire text of Micah 6 not just the printed text. After groups prepare, ask a volunteer from each group to act out the trial in this order:

Bailiff —Calling the court to order (vv. 1, 2).

Prosecution—Presentation of the charges: Israel betrayed the God who saved them (vv. 3-5).

Defense—Plea of the accused: we did the best we could (vv. 6, 7).

Prosecution—Refutation of the defense: the requirements of God are simple (v. 8).

Judge—Pronouncement of verdict: Israel is guilty of specific crimes and will receive specific punishments (vv. 9-16).

After the class acts out the trial, summarize the content of the chapter, referring to the commentary as needed.

July 12: No Tolerance for Corrupt Officials (Micah 3:5-12)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Read the text aloud with the class, asking them to listen for contrasts between Micah as a prophet and the false prophets of his day.

Divide the class into groups of three to five students, giving each group a pen and paper, and assign them to represent one of two fictitious companies of prophets: Prophets4Profits (false prophets of Micah’s day) and TruWord (Micah’s company). After reading the assigned texts, they should create a slogan, a mission statement, and a logo for their company.

Prophets4Profit—Micah 3:5-7, 11, 12

TruWord—Micah 3:8-10

For example, Prophets4Profit’s motto might be “The best news your money can buy.” (See verse 5.) Their mission might be to take their clients’ money and get out of town before their prophecies are proven wrong (vv. 6, 7, 11, 12). Their logo might be a face of a man with dollar signs for eyes.

The motto for TruWord might be, “Hard truth from a true prophet.” Their mission might be to relay information from the Lord completely and accurately (v. 8). The logo might symbolize power, as with a lightning bolt.

Have groups explain their work while you explain the text from the commentary as needed.

 

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of news articles (from newspapers or the Internet) describing modern-day corruption or injustice. Briefly discuss what Micah might say about these situations, were he alive today.

Give class members several minutes to write a brief letter to the editor, addressing one of these injustices from a biblical perspective.

July 5: No Rest for the Wicked (Micah 2:4-11)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Write the following sentences on the board:

I want you to hear this from me first.                      There’s no easy way to say this.

Remember not to shoot the messenger.                   We need to talk.

You’d better sit down.

Ask the group to tell what all these sentences have in common. (They are typical things to say before breaking bad news.) Have class members tell about a time when they had a conversation that started in one of these ways—either being told or having to tell bad news.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “No one wants to hear bad news. No matter how it is communicated, it is a painful experience. Let’s look at the words of a prophet of God and what happened when he communicated bad news to the people of Judah.”

 

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

Make copies of the Scripture text for each three to five students. Cut up each copy, separating it verse by verse. Put each disassembled copy into an envelope.

Divide the class into groups, giving each group an envelope. On the board write: the bad news, the good news, the response to bad news, the reasons for bad news. Have groups work together to sort the verses into those four categories. Our suggestions are: bad news (vv. 4, 5); good news (v. 7); response to bad news (vv. 6, 11); reasons for bad news (vv. 8-10).

Have groups share their results; then discuss the text, bringing in relevant points from the commentary as needed.

 

 


 

June 28: God Will Never Forget (Amos 8:1-6, 9, 10)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Print out one copy of this group of statements for each three to five students.

  1. You’re religious hypocrites!
  2. You rip off the 99 percent!
  3. You will get what’s coming to you!
  4. You’re masters of the bait and switch!
  5. You’re a bunch of rotten apples!

Divide the class into small groups, giving each a copy of these statements. Have them read Amos 8:1-6, 9, 10, looking for statements of similar meaning to the ones on your list. Possible responses are:

  1. v. 5a—The Israelites acted like they followed the law of Moses, but they saw the restrictions in it as roadblocks to making a profit.
  2. v. 4—Wealthy Israelites routinely cheated the poorest among them.
  3. vv. 3, 9, 10—Amos promised that God would bring justice.
  4. vv. 5b, 6—Merchants would use smaller measures and false weights to give customers less than promised. They would sell products of lesser value to increase profits. (See Deuteronomy 25:13-16.)
  5. vv. 1, 2—Amos compared the then-prosperous Israel to summer fruit—fruit at the peak of ripeness, but just about to rot! (Jeremiah also used the image of overripe fruit to describe sinful people; Jeremiah 24).

 

To encourage personal application:

From an office supply store, buy sheets of stick-on lettering for the letter J, standing for justice. Give each student one or more of the letters. Suggest they stick their Js on their wallets, car dashboards, cell phones, or other places where they will see the letter often. Let this be a constant reminder of the believer’s call to seek justice for others.

 

Briefly review some elements of Amos’s call to justice in the past four lessons: social sins, inevitable judgment, plight of the weakest of society, spiritual sins, etc. Ask, “How well are we doing in bringing justice to our community?” Following the responses, ask, “What can we do as a class and individually to enhance the free flow of justice?” Make the list and then ask, “What steps can we take to make these things happen?” Create an action plan from this list.

 

June 21: God Abhors Selfishness (Amos 6:4-8, 11-14)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin class with a “price is right” game. Prepare index cards with the name of one of the following gifts on each (writing the price on the back of each card). Then create price tags with the cost of one of the items on each.

Dolce & Gabbana’s DG2027B sunglasses ($383, 609)

Zafirro razor with artificial sapphire blades ($100,000)

Goldsmith Jack Row gold and silver diamond-studded pen ($43,500)

Amour Amour jeweled dog collar with 1,600 diamonds ($3.2 million)

Christopher Michael Shellis solid-gold high heels with 2,200 diamonds ($218, 407)

Louis Vuitton skateboard ($8,250)

Display the product cards on a table near the front of the room, with the stack of price tags nearby. As students arrive, invite them to place a price tag next to an item that they believe to have that cost. Students may rearrange price tags that other students have placed, if they wish.

After all students have arrived, give the class as a whole a final opportunity to debate the arrangement of items and price tags. Then reveal the correct prices by turning over the cards.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Extravagance such as this can seem outrageous. But our culture is not the first in which the very rich indulged themselves with over-the-top luxury. In Amos’s day, it happened as well. Let’s look at this extravagance and God’s assessment of it.”

 

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

Read Amos 6:7, 8, 11-14 aloud, pointing out that Amos again spoke out about God’s displeasure with his people. Review verse 8, in which God focused on the reason for the coming judgment—the selfish pride of the nation.

On the board, write: “Not only did the Israelites _________________________; they went ‘over the top’ and ____________________________________!”

Have your group work in pairs and look for ways to complete this sentence from Amos 6:4-7. Each response should focus on the extravagant overindulgence of the nation. Some possible responses are:

“Not only did the Israelites lounge around all day; they went ‘over the top’ and did so on beds of ivory!”

“Not only did the Israelites overeat; they went ‘over the top’ and gorged themselves on steak and lamb chops!”

“Not only did the Israelites crave entertainment; they went ‘over the top’ and even invented new musical instruments!”

“Not only did the Israelites love their wine; they went ‘over the top’ and drank it by the bowlful!”

June 14: God Is Not Fooled (Amos 5:14, 15, 18-27)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, buy three or four types of boxed candy typically found at a supermarket checkout lane. Carefully open the boxes and remove the candy. Replace it with something inedible or undesirable (such as pebbles or gravel) and reseal the boxes. Use items that will approximate the weight of the candy removed and that will sound like the real thing when shaken.

To begin class give your faux candy boxes to volunteers. One at a time, allow them to open the boxes and pour the contents on a table.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “It’s disappointing to expect to be given one thing, only to receive another. It’s not fun to be purposely deceived. The prophet Amos had a similar message to Israel. They were promising God one thing while delivering another, but God will not be fooled!”

 

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

Before class print out these sentences, cut them apart word by word, and place each set in a different envelope.

DON’T EXPECT GOOD TO COME WHILE LOVING EVIL. AMOS 5:14, 15

DON’T PRAY FOR LIGHT AND STAY IN THE DARK. AMOS 5:18, 19

DON’T OFFER EMPTY RITUAL AND CALL IT WORSHIP. AMOS 5:21-23

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group an envelope. Ask each group to try to reassemble its statement. Then have each group be prepared to summarize the content of the portion of the lesson text assigned.


 

June 7: God Passes Judgment (Amos 2:4-8)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

June7

 

To begin class, hand a volunteer a die and have that student roll it twice. The number on the first roll corresponds to an offense in the first column, while the number on the second roll corresponds to a discipline method in the second column. Allow the class to discuss briefly whether or not the discipline is appropriate for the offense. Repeat this process a few times.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “It is not easy being a parent of a disobedient child. It may be difficult to find effective ways to deal with inappropriate behavior. God the Father sometimes has to deal with disobedience of his children. The prophet Amos speaks about exactly that in our Scripture lesson for today.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Before class, purchase enough matchbooks with plain covers so each student can have one. On each cover write these words from Amos 2:5—“I will send fire.” (If you cannot find plain matchbooks, put an adhesive label on each matchbook and write on the label.)

During your Scripture study you found some basic categories of sin condemned by Amos: rejecting God’s standards, following false gods, economic injustice, and sexual exploitation. Give a matchbook and pen to each student. Have students think of a specific sin of our society that falls under one of those categories and write it on the inside of the matchbook. For example, idolizing immoral celebrities would fit in the false gods category, and cheating on taxes would be an example of an economic injustice.

Ask students to take the matchbooks home and pray daily, asking God how they can best intervene for our culture regarding that specific sin.

 

May 31: The Greatest Is Love (1 Corinthians 13)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, make enough copies of the following opinion survey so that every class member can have one.

The Greatest

Give your personal opinion as to the greatest in each of these categories:

The greatest movie ______________________________________________________________________

The greatest pop song ___________________________________________________________________

The greatest U.S. president ______________________________________________________________

The greatest junk food ____________________________________________________________________

The greatest novel ________________________________________________________________________

The greatest invention ___________________________________________________________________

The greatest TV show ____________________________________________________________________

The greatest work of art _________________________________________________________________

The greatest breakfast cereal ____________________________________________________________

The greatest vacation spot _______________________________________________________________

As students arrive, give them a survey to complete. After the entire class has arrived and everyone has had a moment to complete the survey, ask for some responses. What you should see is a variety of responses with little or no consensus in any category.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We all have our personal opinions about great food, great entertainment, and even great people. But in our Bible lesson today, Paul makes a ‘greatest’ statement about which almost everyone agrees. Let’s look at what Paul labels as the greatest.”

 

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

Divide the class into groups of three to five students. Make paper and pens available to your groups. Ask each group to create an advertising campaign for godly love from 1 Corinthians 13. They may choose to do a radio ad or an illustrated print ad. Write the following elements of an ad on the board, along with the corresponding verses:

Better than the competition (vv. 1-3)

Includes these wholesome ingredients (vv. 4a, 7)

Contains none of these harmful additives (vv. 4b-6)

Long-lasting (vv. 8-13)

After they have completed their work, have groups share their ads.

May 24: Gift of Languages (Acts 2:1-7, 12; 1 Corinthians 14:13-19)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Write this saying on the board:

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat every problem like a nail.”

To begin class, discuss this adage. What does it mean? Ask, “What would be the results if one were to use a hammer rather than a paintbrush? a screwdriver? a drill? a saw?”

Lead into Bible study by saying, “In preceding lessons we have talked about how God gives each of us differing gifts for use in his church. We have talked about how the church could not function as well when a gift is absent. But what happens when a gift is used as God did not intend?”

 

 

To encourage personal application:

Before class, duplicate the following page so that everyone in your class will have this take-home reminder. Cut the rows apart, fold each on the line, and glue together, yielding squares with a telephone on one side and a megaphone on the other.

Give each student one of your prepared squares to keep with them throughout the following week. Ask them to consider their actions as members of the body of Christ. Do they seek to communicate (the telephone), or do they simply seek recognition (megaphone)?

 

May 17: One Body; Many Members (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Divide the class into groups of three to five students each. Give each group a copy of the lesson text, paper, and a pen. Groups should read the text. Instead of using the illustration of the human body, have them select one of the following images: a toolbox, an orchestra, a sports team, or a spice rack.

Have them try to paraphrase 1 Corinthians 12:14-20, using their chosen metaphor.

For example, using the illustration of an orchestra, the text might be rephrased in this way:

For the orchestra does not have just one instrument, but many.

If the flute shall say, “Because I am not the trumpet, I am no longer in the orchestra,” does it no longer join in the concert?

And if the drum shall say, “Because I am not the cello, I am no longer in the orchestra,” does it no longer make music with the others?

If the orchestra had nothing but piccolos, who would create the bass line? If there were only horns in the orchestra, who would keep the beat?

But now the maestro selected every instrument to create a balanced orchestra.

And if everyone played the same instrument, what kind of music could they possibly make together?

 But now there are many instruments, performing one magnificent concert!

After giving groups time to work, have them share their paraphrases.

 

To encourage personal application:

Write these two sentences on the board:

  1. We are all the same.
  2. We are all one.

Have members silently consider the difference between these two statements. Why is it vital for the church to understand the difference? What can they do to demonstrate the truth in their congregation?

After this time of quiet reflection, close in prayer.

May 10: Gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

As students arrive, give each one a pen and an index card. Have them sign one side of the card. On the other side, they should complete the following two sentences (make sure they understand that their information will be shared in class):

  1. One task I could help others with is _________________________________.
  2. One task I need help with is _________________________________.

Begin class by reading the two statements on one card, asking the class to guess who might have written it. After reading a few cards, lead into Bible study by saying: “We all have gifts. But we all do not have the same gifts. Today we will learn what the Bible says about gifts and the church.”

To encourage personal application:

To close class, give each class member a copy of the Venn diagram on the next page. The intersection of their abilities, what they enjoy, and what others need will help pinpoint a gift they can use for others. Encourage members to prayerfully fill out this diagram as you close this session.

Pinpointing my gift for service

 

Take time now or in the week to come to fill out this diagram. The intersection of your skill sets, your passions, and the needs of others will be a place where you are needed to serve.

May 3: Work Together for Truth (3 John)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:
Search YouTube or other video-sharing site for a short video illustrating teamwork or the absence thereof. You may choose to use this or a similar humorous video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i7Fp_hR9Bw.
Begin your session by showing this video on a laptop or a mobile device. If you have a larger group, you will probably need access to projection equipment. Discuss what the video says about the importance of teamwork.
Lead into Bible study by saying, “We need each other! This video gives a good and bad example illustrating that fact. The Bible also gives good and bad examples of how this is true for the church.”

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:
A cinquain is a five-line poem with a number of popular forms. The form chosen for this activity will allow learners to create descriptive poems about three men mentioned in 3 John.
Divide your class into three groups, assigning one group Gaius, another Diotrephes, and the third Demetrius. Give groups pens and paper and the instructions below. The sample cinquains are for your reference.

• The first line of your poem is the name of the person you are describing (Gaius, Diotrephes, or Demetrius).
• The second line should be a two-word description of that person.
• The third line should be three words that tell the actions of that person.
• The fourth line should be four words that describe the character of that person.
• The fifth line is a nickname others might give that person.

Gaius Diotrephes Demetrius
Faithful servant Arrogant leader Trustworthy disciple
Welcomes traveling  evangelists Defames authentic teachers Follows good examples
Loves truth, loves people Self-centered and malicious gossip Earned a good reputation
Team player Control freak Role model

Allow your groups to share their work to summarize the lesson text.

April 26: Watch Out for Deceivers (2 John)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Write these scrambled sentences and Scripture references on the board:

about basic Deceivers deny Jesus truths

2 John 7; 1 John 2:22; 4:2, 3

add Christ Deceivers of teaching the to

2 John 9; 1 Timothy 4:1-5

advantage believers’ Deceivers hospitality of seek take to

2 John 10; 1 Timothy 6:5

 

Have the class work in pairs to read the Scripture texts and unscramble the sentences. After this is done, reassemble the group and have students explain what they have discovered. The three scrambled principles about false teachers are:

Deceivers deny basic truths about Jesus.

Deceivers add to the teaching of Christ.

Deceivers seek to take advantage of believers’ hospitality.

 

To encourage personal application:

Review the three principles about false teaching from the preceding activity. Print information about cults and other religions from sites such as these:

https://carm.org/cult-comparison-chart

http://aycce.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/CULT_COMPARISON_CHART.pdf

Discuss how these groups have one or more of the qualities described in today’s Bible text.

April 19: Trust in God’s Love (1 John 4:13–5:5)

By | Teacher Tips

 

To begin the session:

Before class, print out this list of fears and make a copy for each class member:

Geniophobia: Fear of chins

Anablephobia: Fear of looking up

Stasiphobia: Fear of standing or walking

Xanthophobia: Fear of the color yellow

Homilophobia: Fear of sermons

Laliophobia: Fear of speaking

Mysophobia: Fear of being contaminated with germs

Nomatophobia: Fear of names

Ophthalmophobia: Fear of being stared at

Phobophobia: Fear of phobias

Pupaphobia: Fear of puppets

Sciophobia: Fear of shadows

Decidophobia: Fear of making decisions

Cacophobia: Fear of ugliness

Geliophobia: Fear of laughter

Lachanophobia: Fear of vegetables

Ephebiphobia: Fear of teenagers

Barophobia: Fear of gravity

Bromidrosiphobia: Fear of body smells

Chorophobia: Fear of dancing

To begin class, hand out the list. Ask each student to take a moment to mark the five fears on the list that he or she believes are the silliest. After that is done, have students defend their choices.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “People are frightened of many things. Some fears seem humorous, but fear itself can be debilitating. Today we will look at how love can overcome fear and help us lead a life of victory.”

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

A haiku is a Japanese verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, respectively, and traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons.

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group pen and paper and one of these Scripture assignments from today’s lesson text. Have each group compose a haiku that summarizes its portion of the text.

Here are some sample poems:

Trust in the Savior (1 John 4:13-16)

We have his Spirit

We proclaim Jesus, God’s Son

We know we are his

Trust in Perfect Love (1 John 4:17-21)

No fear and no hate

Trust in God and love others

Live with confidence

Trust in God’s Victory (1 John 5:1-5)

An army of love

Marches victoriously

With God’s Son leading

Alternative: Write each poem on a poster, without verse references. Read through the Scripture text aloud, pausing to allow the group to match portions of the text to poems. Discuss each with the corresponding section of the commentary.

April 12: Love One Another (1 John 3:11-24)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:
Before class, use a broad-tip marker to write each of these definitions on separate sheets of paper. (Do not include the parenthetical reference to the source of the definition. That is for your use only.)
“______________ is never having to say you’re sorry.”
(tagline from the novel and film Love Story)

“______________ is a temporary madness.”
(British novelist Louis de Bernières)

“______________ is friendship that has caught fire.”
(famous maxim from advice columnist Ann Landers)

“______________ is like a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will.”
(from a treatise on love by 19th century French essayist Stendhal)“______________ Is Surrender”
(title of a song by Christian composer Ralph Carmichael)

As students arrive, ask permission to tape one of these sheets on the back of five of them. To begin class, have students mill around the room, noting the definitions on the backs of your volunteers. Their job is to figure out the one word described by all these definitions.

After members correctly identify the definitions as differing views of the word love, lead into Bible study by saying, “There are many more definitions of love than these. And they all seem different. Today we will learn why love is an important mark of a believer, according to the apostle John.

To encourage personal application:
After Bible study, have your students keep the Scripture text of the lesson open. If they have no objection to writing in their Bibles, encourage them to underline the words “love” and “truth” in this text.
Ask students to bookmark Ephesians 4:15 in their Bibles. Encourage them to memorize, during the coming week, this important statement from Paul about the relationship of love and truth. As they consider this passage and today’s lesson during the course of the week, they should examine how they can more fully demonstrate both love and truth in their daily lives.

April 5: Believe in the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-11, 20-22)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

To begin class, give each learner a sheet of paper and a pen. Give them a few moments to draw a quick sketch that illustrates the first thing they would want others to know about them. For the sake of this exercise, ask them not to make that first thing their relationship to Christ (though you certainly hope it is!). They may think of their role as a spouse, a parent, or grandparent. They may think of their occupation or hobby or volunteer work. Encourage some deep thought about what they consider to be that first thing.

After enough time has passed, ask for volunteers to present and explain their first things. Lead into Bible study by saying, “When we meet someone new, there is important information we want that person to know about us. When writing to the Corinthians about what was of first importance about the church, Paul had a very specific answer in mind. Let’s see what that is.”

 

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

Divide the class into groups, giving each group one of the following assignments:

Assignment 1

Imagine having a friend from a non-Christian culture. Role-play a situation in which that friend asks you what Christianity is all about. The content of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 will be helpful in developing an answer.

Assignment 2

When listening to a radio talk show, you are offended when the host mocks Christianity by saying that he is a “Pastafarian”; he believes that the world was created by a flying spaghetti monster! The implication, of course, is that Christianity is just a fanciful fairy tale. Write a kind letter explaining why your faith is far more than a silly myth. The content of 1 Corinthians 15:5-11 will be helpful in writing your letter.

Assignment 3

You have been asked to participate in a panel for a comparative religion class at a local junior college. Each participant in the panel will represent a different world religion by answering questions from the class after presenting a two-minute summary of an important distinctive of his or her faith. Prepare your two-minute speech to answer the question, “Why does it matter that Jesus rose from the dead?” The content of 1 Corinthians 15:12-22 will be helpful in writing your letter. (Note that vv. 12-19 are not in your printed lesson text.)

After allowing time for groups to complete their assignments, have them make their presentations to the entire class.

March 29: The Son of David (Mark 11:1-11)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Make copies of the following quiz and allow students to take it as they arrive.

Famous Parades

___ 1. Christmas Boat Parade a. The Chicago River is dyed green each year for this parade.
___ 2. May Day Parade b. These events are often accompanied by flag waving, backyard barbecues, and last-minute back-to-school shopping.
___ 3. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade  c. Five and a half miles of floral floats ring in the New Year with this parade.
___ 4. Samichlaus Parade d. This parade in Honolulu, Hawaii is also known as the Festival of Lights.
___ 5. Labor Day Parades e. Every Wednesday and Saturday from mid-November to Christmas, lights, floats, and dancers process through the city center to a specially composed Christmas song.
___ 6. St. Patrick’s Day Parade f. This parade was held again in 2014, for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Empire.
___ 7. Rose Parade g. Since 1924, iconic floats and balloons have traveled down the streets of New York to celebrate the holiday season.
___ 8.   Valkenburg (Holland) Christmas Parade h. In late November, this annual Swiss Christmas parade features hundreds of Santas, elves, and floats.

 

After all have had the opportunity to complete the quiz, give the class these answers:

1=d, 2=f, 3=g, 4=h, 5=b, 6=a, 7=c, 8=e

 

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We all love a parade! Today we will look at what might be history’s most famous parade.”

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

The events of this Scripture text form the basis for our Palm Sunday recognition. Give students paper and pens and time to create an acrostic summarizing the Bible text, using the word PALM.

Here are sample acrostics:

P raise to Jesus! P eople shout
A doring crowds A and cheer the
L ay branches to L ord and
M ake the king welcome! M aster.

Have students share and explain their finished work.

March 22: The Spirit of Peace (John 20:19-23)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Today’s short text has raised two controversies that have long troubled Bible scholars. They are:

  1. Did the apostles receive the Holy Spirit at this time or at Pentecost? (John 20:22; Acts 2:1-4)
  2. Does forgiveness of sins require a human agent for such forgiveness to be valid? (John 20:23; Ephesians 1:7)

Divide the class into groups. Give each group one of the questions to research, along with a collection of commentaries on this text.

After about 15 minutes, allow groups to report their findings.

 

To encourage personal application:

Work with the class to create a litany with which to close this session.

First, brainstorm a list of times when it is difficult to have peace. Ex: at times of war, after being diagnosed with an illness, during family struggles, etc. List these on the board as they are called out, until you have a robust list.

Then go around the room, asking each student to complete this sentence with an item from your list:

“Lord Jesus, we have great unrest when . . .”

To each statement, have the rest of the class respond in unison:

“And Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you!’”


 

March 15: The Spirit of Truth (John 16:4b-15)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin the session by playing the game Two Truths and a Lie. Ask for your first volunteer to make three statements about himself or herself. Two statements should be true, while the other should be false. (You may wish to allow volunteers a few moments before class to mentally prepare.)

The volunteer should give the statements in no particular order, asking the group to vote on which statement was the lie. Allow three or four volunteers to participate.

Briefly discuss how we tell truth from falsehood. Lead into Bible study by saying, “It is often not easy to separate fact from fiction. Today we will discuss an important title for the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth. Let’s learn what he does in that role.”

To encourage personal application:

Before class, photocopy this character on adhesive label stock and cut apart these individual stickers. This is the Chinese language character for the word truth.

 chinese  chinese  chinese  chinese
 chinese  chinese  chinese  chinese
 chinese  chinese  chinese  chinese

 

Distribute stickers at the close of class, encouraging members to attach them in a place where they will see them several time each day. Encourage students to pray each time they see this character, asking God to clearly guide them into truth regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment.

March 8: Another Comforter/Another Advocate (John 14:15-26)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

In the week before class, gather responses to this question from at least 20 friends or colleagues:

For what reason might someone hire an attorney?

Collect the answers and count each time the same answer was given.

To begin class, ask for two volunteers to play a variation of the game show Family Feud. Flip a coin to decide which player goes first. Ask your question to players in turn, awarding the number of points equal to the number of times their answers were given in your personal survey.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “People hire attorneys in order to represent them for a variety of reasons: a criminal case, a lawsuit, to begin a business, to write a will, and so many more. We need someone to stand by us in a time of need. The Bible talks about representation God provides—the Holy Spirit, who is our lawyer, comforter, counselor, advocate.”

 

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

Before class, collect a variety of business cards or make copies of these attorney business card templates for class members:

business_card_front

business_card

 

Read the lesson text together, pointing out that Jesus described the Holy Spirit as having the role of a personal attorney (counselor, comforter, advocate). Point out aspects of the Spirit’s “practice” that one might compare to an attorney:

What is his specialty?

How is he contracted?

What might his business motto be?

What would his logo look like?

 

Give class members paper and sample business cards. Give them time to design a business card for the Holy Spirit, referring to content from the lesson text.

Scripture: Titus 3:1-7

By | Teacher Tips

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another (Titus 3:3).

Scripture: Titus 3:1-7
Song: “Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord”

There’s a modern song, “Love Changes Everything.” If only it were so! How many couples say they’re in love, and then after a few short years, their love falls apart. What a difference with the love of Jesus!
When Jesus takes control of our lives, everything truly changes for the better. In his song “I Am His, and He Is Mine,” George Robinson put it, “Heaven above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green. Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen.” The wonderful thing about becoming a Christian is that change becomes unlimited. We go on growing in Christ. Old things are finished. We grow from glory into glory.
The wonderful thing is that when Christ is in us, we continue changing into His likeness. So perhaps we need the reminder of Paul’s words, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). This is the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. The non-Christian remains locked in sin. Christians know they have been unlocked, for Christ has set them free.

Print Your image, O Lord of grace, on my heart, and help me to go on growing in Christ. And when I stumble, may I find the courage to confess my sin and get back on the pathway with You. In the holy name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, I pray. Amen.

March 1: Lamb of God (John 1:29-34)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, copy on the board this poem by British poet William Blake:

The Lamb

by William Blake

Little Lamb who made thee          Dost thou know who made thee Gave thee life & bid thee feed. 

By the stream & o’er the mead;

Gave thee clothing of delight,

Softest clothing wooly bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

Making all the vales rejoice! 

         Little Lamb who made thee 

         Dost thou know who made thee

         Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,         Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!He is called by thy name,

For he calls himself a Lamb: 

He is meek & he is mild, 

He became a little child: 

I a child & thou a lamb, 

We are called by his name.

         Little Lamb God bless thee. 

         Little Lamb God bless thee.

From: www.poetryfoundation.org

To begin class, discuss the poem. What characteristics (whether mentioned or not by the poet) does a lamb have?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “While this has the flavor of a children’s poem, Jesus’ title of Lamb of God is anything but childish. Let’s examine that title today.”

 

To encourage personal application:

To close this session, help the class see John’s statements in this text as a personal mission statement. Have class members, in pairs or small groups, attempt to work the elements of John’s statements into a mission statement for your congregation.

February 22: Clothed and Ready (Ephesians 6:10-20)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, write the following on the board:

Wees geréed! (Afrikaans)      Toujours Prêt! (French)       Kun lest! ((Maltese)

Budi Pripravan! (Croatian)   Allzeit bereit! (German)        Daima Hazır! (Turkish)

Wees Paraat! (Dutch)            Laging Handâ! (Tagalog)      Hoʻomākaukau! (Hawaiian)

After students arrive, tell them that these words are translations of the motto of a worldwide organization. Ask them to try to identify the organization and to give the English translation of the motto.

After several guesses, tell the answer. These are how different languages render the Boy Scout motto. That motto in English is Be Prepared!

Take a few moments to discuss preparedness. Why is it important? How do we prepare for certain tasks, especially difficult or dangerous ones?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “As important as preparation is for dangerous and difficult jobs, spiritual preparation to handle Satan’s attacks and spiritual danger is more so. Let’s see how and why.”

 

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

Object lessons help us visualize abstract truth. The armor of God in Ephesians 6 does this. Before class, find these suggested objects and attach the corresponding questions to them. Divide your class into groups, giving each one object and corresponding questions to discuss.

Object 1—a belt (Read Ephesians 6:14a.)

  • Imagine wearing a very loose-fitting garment without a belt and then trying to move quickly. What 
happens? How does that picture describe a Christian trying to do battle against evil without having a 
reputation for being truthful?

Object 2—a vest (Read Ephesians 6:14b.)

  • Imagine that this piece of clothing was made of chain mail or Kevlar®. Why would people who put themselves in dangerous situations need it? What vital organs would it protect? How does a reputation for being righteous keep us from losing a battle against someone who is very close to us (a coworker, for example)?

Object 3—a sports shoe, preferably with cleats (Read Ephesians 6:15.)

  • List some team sports that require specialized footwear. What would happen if not all team members had the right shoes?
  • What are the “shoes” we are to wear in spiritual battle? How do we make sure that we have the same “shoes” as our “teammates” in Christ (see Acts 2:42)?

Object 4—a toy shield (Read Ephesians 6:16.)

  • Roman shields were designed to hook together, creating a nearly impenetrable moving fortress. How does this picture of faith show the importance of fighting spiritual battles alongside other Christians?

Object 5—a football or motorcycle helmet (Read Ephesians 6:17a.)

  • Why is a head injury more dangerous than an injury to almost any other part of the body? In your opinion, why is a helmet a good illustration of salvation (Romans 8:35-39)?

Object 6—a toy sword (Read Ephesians 6:17b.)

  • Compare Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; and Revelation 19:13-15. Other than a sword, what image is common in all of these texts? While some fight with physical violence, what is the believer’s chief offensive weapon?

After groups work, have them try to summarize their findings in a single sentence. Responses will vary, but here are some suggestions:

Object 1—If we are not seen as a truthful person, we will get “tripped up,” unable to be effective ministers of the gospel.

Object 2—A righteous reputation will blunt untrue, personal attacks.

Object 3—Having the same gospel message will allow a team of believers to be effective in the playing field of evangelism.

Object 4—When believers stand shoulder-to-shoulder together our shields of shared faith protect both ourselves and others.

Object 5—Salvation protects us from a deathblow—those promised eternal life need not fear death.

Object 6—While others may bully or threaten to make a point, believers do battle with convincing arguments from God’s Word.

 

February 15: Serving the Least (Matthew 25:31-46)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, arrange the chairs in two groups, with a sign posted telling the men to sit on one side and the women on the other. Play a brief game to introduce today’s lesson. Tell the class that you are going to ask two questions that you want them to discuss privately within their groups and predict how the other group will answer. (It will be interesting to see who best understands how members of the opposite sex think!)

Ask each of the questions one at a time, allowing a few minutes for the group to discuss and write their answers to each.

(1) When getting ready for company, the five most important things that have to be done are . . .

(2) If unexpected company showed up at my door, I would be most embarrassed if . . .

Make a transition to today’s parable by saying, “I was just using a fun way to get you thinking about preparing for company, because that’s related to today’s lesson. In modern society, people prepare for the arrival of guests much more precisely than in the times of Jesus (or in many parts of the world today). Without telephone or e-mail, advance notice of a visit would have been more rare. When transportation was by foot or animal, it was much more difficult to predict arrival times than it is today. Hosts might look for guests during an extended period of time or might simply have guests arrive unexpectedly at the door.”

Next, say, “The guest arriving in today’s parable is more important than any person for whom we may be cleaning our home. The guest whose arrival we are anticipating is Jesus himself. It is a clean life that he expects when he arrives.”

 

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

Read the parable aloud; then give students pens and paper and divide them into two groups. Both groups will write an acrostic, a series of phrases whose initial letters spell a word. The first group should define the word sheep by the parable’s definition. The second group should define goats.

After giving students time for this task, ask volunteers to share their acrostics. Two sample acrostics follow:

Serving the hungry, thirsty,                                    Giving little heed to

Homeless, and naked,                                             Others, not

Entertaining our                                                      Aware that

Eternal Lord in the                                                  They ignore the

Process                                                                       Savior

February 8: Serving Neighbors, Serving God (Luke 10:25-37)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Divide your class into three groups. Give each group one of the following assignments. They are to refute a false idea about changing the world by referring to a portion of today’s lesson text. Optional references are also included for them.

Group 1

“To change the world I need
to fully understand the Bible and
use it to get others to change their ways.”

Respond by referring to Luke 10:25-28.

Optional references: Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:5; and Galatians 5:14.

 

Group 2

“To change the world I probably have to become a missionary in a foreign nation or some other place far from home.”

Respond by referring to Luke 10:29-35

Optional: Ecclesiastes 9:10a

 

Group 3

“I can change the world without changing my current lifestyle.”

Respond by referring to Luke 10:36, 37

Optional: Galatians 5:13.

After your groups have done their research, reassemble the class and have groups share their conclusions.

 

To encourage personal application:

Wrap up the session by having the class list excuses some might give for being a Good Samaritan when the opportunity arises. Here are a few to help you spur responses if necessary:

  • “I don’t have the time it takes to be of much help.”
  • “It’s an awfully dangerous neighborhood.”
  • “They’ll just spend the money I give them on cigarettes and beer.”
  • “I don’t know how to do that.”
  • “Those people are just looking for a free meal and a handout.”
  • “Somebody else will come along soon, and they’ll help.”
  • “I
can’t stop. I’m late for church.”

When your list is complete, have class members look over the list and think of excuses they have made in that regard. Close with a period of silent prayer, asking God to help them overcome their reluctance to help others when they encounter a need.


February 1: Feasting and Fasting (Daniel 1:5, 8-17; Matthew 6:16-18)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Ask students if can recall the jingle for Brylcreem®, a famous men’s hair product. You may wish to play one of these humorous classic commercials from this or a similar site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQBtw6nqFxY

Ask your class to share their reactions to the jingle. Can less really be more sometimes? When are times that “a little dab” (or none at all) is better than a lot?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Sometimes having less of something is more effective than having an abundance of something less valuable. Today we’re going to look at fasting—when less of what we think we need results in more of what we really need! Both Daniel and Jesus tell us about spiritual benefits of fasting.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Suggest that your learners consider participating in some sort of fast during the remainder of this month. Remind them that a fast may not be totally abstaining from all food, but they could choose to abstain from particular foods (such as sugars or red meat) or even particular activities (such as watching TV or posting on social media) for a set period of time.

 

Give each class member a copy of the following Planning a Fast worksheet for use in planning this personal, worship experience.

 

Planning a Fast

Purpose:

Why am I fasting?

 

 

 

 

Plan:

What will I give up?

 

 

 

 

For how long?

 

 

 

Prayer:

What prayer needs will I take to God during my fast?

 

 

 

 

 

What am I thankful for?

 

 

 

 

Private:

Will I have an accountability partner?

 

 

 

How will I avoid making this just a show of my goodness?

January 25: Powerful Prayer (James 5:13-18)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, paste the text of the following quiz into a separate document and print one copy for each class member. As they arrive, allow them a moment to take the quiz.

 

Sources of Power

Match the following superheroes with their sources of power.

  1. Spider-Man
  2. Superman
  3. Wonder Woman
  4. Wolverine
  5. Batman
  6. Green Lantern
  7. Hulk
  8. Daredevil
  9. Rogue
  10. Flash

 

  1. Born with the ability to take in others’ powers upon touch, this mutant superhero is able to use any superpower that’s absorbed.
  2. This superhero got powers when exposed to gamma radiation.
  3. This superhero has no known superpowers but has the desire to fight for what is right and uses physical abilities, intellect, and cool gadgetry to get the job done.
  4. This superhero’s powers came from the Amazon, where all inhabitants possessed such powers if they concentrated hard enough.
  5. This superhero received a bite from a radioactive arachnid.
  6. This superhero was given a ring with which he was to protect the earth from evil.
  7. Born on another planet, the Earth’s solar rays from its yellow sun helps this superhero gain power.
  8. A laboratory explosion made this forensic scientist the fastest man alive.
  9. This superhero was born a mutant and also had adamantium (the hardest metal known to humans) added to the body that gave additional abilities.
  10. After this superhero was blinded by radioactive material as a teen, all other senses were magnified to superhuman strength.

 

After class members have had time to test their comic book knowledge, ask them to give their answers. The correct answers are:

1=e. 2=g. 3=d. 4=i. 5=c. 6=f. 7=b. 8=j. 9=a. 10=h

January 18: Jesus’ Intercession for Us (Hebrews 4:14-5:1-10)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Write the following scrambled words on the board as you begin the session:

ADEIMORT, ADEEIIMNTRRY, BEKORR, NAEGT, AIILNOS

Ask students to call out an answer as soon as they have one word unscrambled. Continue until you list looks like this:

mediator, intermediary, broker, agent, liaison

Ask the group to explain what the words have in common (they all refer to go-betweens, people who can represent your interests). When would we need one of the people on the list?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “A common Bible word could be added to this list—priest. A priest goes to God on our behalf. Let’s see what the Bible says about that role and the One who ultimately fills it.”

 

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

Before class, print out copies of three of the following hymns from a site such as Hymnary.org or Cyberhymnal.org:

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

“Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat”

“Where High the Heavenly Temple Stands”

“Behold the Throne of Grace”

“With Joy We Meditate the Grace”

Divide your class into three groups, having each group turn to the Scripture text and giving each group a copy of a hymn. Allow them 5–10 minutes to look for similarities between the Bible text and their song lyrics. After group work is done, have each group share their findings with the class as a whole.

January 11: Jesus’ Prayer for His Disciples (John 17:6-21)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Make a copy of the Scripture text for each student. To begin a study of the text, give each student a copy of the text and a pencil. Ask each class member to underline third person plural pronouns (they, them, those) as they read these verses. Point out that these pronouns refer to Jesus’s disciples throughout history, including us.

After that is done, ask these questions:

According to these verses, what has God done for Jesus’s disciples?

According to these verses, what has Jesus done for His disciples?

According to these verses, what does Jesus want God to do for His disciples?

 

To encourage personal application:

To close the session, remind the group that Jesus said that His disciples are not of this world. We are aliens whose home is with Him in heaven.

Before class obtain small alien novelty items such as these:

http://www.orientaltrading.com/alien-erasers-a2-9_1500.fltr?Ntt=alien

http://www.orientaltrading.com/alien-lampwork-glass-beads-mm-x-mm-a2-68_26421.fltr?Ntt=alien

Give each class one such item to keep with them throughout the week to remind them of this promise Jesus made about us.


 

January 4: Jesus’ Model for Prayer (Luke 11:1-13)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Write the word prayer on the board in large letters. Under that heading, write these words: meditation, chant, petition, supplication, invocation, incantation, appeal, contemplation, and imploration.

Ask learners to compare and contrast the words in the list to the idea of prayer. How are they similar to what we consider prayer? How do they differ? You may wish to have a dictionary handy for a class member needing to look up a word for clarification.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Different people may have very different ideas about prayer. Is prayer simply internal dialogue? Is prayer an attempt to manipulate spiritual forces? Is prayer simply handing a wish list to a higher power?”

Jesus’s disciples also wanted an authoritative definition of prayer. Therefore they asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Let’s look at His response.

To encourage personal application:

Before class, download the PDF of the cards below by clicking on the image, print them on card stock, and cut them apart. Make enough copies so each class member may have his or her own card.

AAA Chart_940

At the end of class say, “Jesus’ model prayer has three distinct elements that will help structure our prayers. Take this card and keep it with you this week. Use the three points on the card to help model your daily prayers after Jesus’ prayer.”

December 28: Worship God’s Son (Matthew 14:22-36)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

To begin class, have volunteers complete this statement:

“As a child, I idolized __________________________ because ______________________________.”

After several class members have revealed their stories of childhood idols, move into Bible study by saying: “As children we may have responded in awe to a classmate’s fashion sense or a basketball player’s jump shot or a musician’s ability to play an instrument. It is natural for a child to express hero worship for someone who has abilities he or she does not possess. But as adults, we recognize that only one individual possesses characteristics worthy of worship. Let’s see what Scripture says about this today.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Copy the following challenges into a new document, print copies, and distribute to group members as you close the session.

Step Out of the Boat

 

Today we saw how Peter had faith to get out of the boat. But then he began to doubt his own ability to follow Jesus, and he began to sink. Sometimes we have the same problem—our biggest obstacle is the fact that we doubt ourselves; we lack the confidence to keep going.

But Jesus promises to be with us, no matter our doubts. In the weeks to come, work on your own confidence. Rely on Jesus, and step out of the boat! Take a chance by trying one or more of the following challenges:

 

  • Try something new—a new hobby, a new skill, a new experience—and don’t worry about how well you do. Just enjoy!

 

  • Pray in the morning that God will use you to brighten the lives of everyone you see that day.

 

  • Before you go to the next church activity, prepare yourself—get your mind ready to focus on God and your heart ready for what he has to say.

 

  • Ask your minister to help you research a question you’ve always had about God or the Bible.

 

  • Get to know someone in your congregation from a different generation in order to help disciple him or her into Christian maturity.

 

  • Invite someone who doesn’t know Jesus to a church program.

 

  • The next time a friend comes to you with a problem, pray with the person right then.

December 21: Give Glory to God (Luke 2:8-20)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Have your class imagine a panel of Bible characters gathering to discuss the topic “How to Seek God.” Divide your class into three groups, giving each one of the assignments below. They should read the assigned Scriptures and be prepared to answer the question, based on the experiences of the Bible characters mentioned.

 

Question one—What should seekers do when somebody gives them a message that is supposed to have come from God?

  • The shepherds (Luke 2:15, 16)
  • The Bereans (Acts 17:10-12)

 

Question two—What should seekers do when they discover something new about God and his plans?

  • The shepherds (Luke 2:17)
  • The demon-possessed man of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:18-20)

 

Question three—What are appropriate acts of worship for those who are seeking God?

  • The shepherds (Luke 2:20)
  • Mary (Luke 2:19, 51)

 

To encourage personal application:

Challenge your learners to apply the message of today’s text by asking: “What are ways that Christians may capitalize on the Christmas season to share this good news with those who have not accepted Jesus?” (Possible responses: always send greeting cards that have a Christian message, extend invitations to Christ-focused concerts or programs)

 

List ideas on the board.

 

Ask each to reconsider the ideas they’ve come up with and decide which ones they will apply personally.

December 14: Make a Joyful Noise (Psalm 95:1-7a)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Begin by brainstorming a list of events to which someone may receive an invitation. (Ex: a Christmas party, a wedding, a baby shower, a product sales presentation, etc.) Write these on the board as learners call them out.

Then have learners list questions you might ask yourself to determine whether or not to accept an invitation. (Ex: Is it convenient? How well do I know this person? Does the event appeal to me? What will be required?) Write these questions on the board as they are called out.

Then to the first list add: “God has invited you to gather to worship him.” Discuss how people answer your list of questions when it comes to this invitation.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We receive many invitations to many events. Today we will look at God’s invitation to worship him and why that is an event always worth an RSVP!”

 

To encourage personal application:

Move into the application portion of the lesson by saying, “One way to draw closer to God is to write our own psalms. Although we should not pretend that we are writing Scripture, God will be pleased when we pour out our hearts to him.”

Then ask students each to create a brief psalm. It is to remind them daily that God is ever-present in their lives. Provide paper for this exercise, and ask volunteers to share their work. Close with prayer.

December 7: Worship Christ’s Majesty (Hebrews 1:1-9)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

When everyone has arrived, explain that you are going to read a list of items that have one word in common. Learners should call out an answer if they think they know the common word. Tell them that the harder clues will come first. (And some are very difficult!)

Slowly read this list (but not the words in parentheses). Of course, the common word is angel.

Filipina television and film actress (Angel Locsin)

A Christmas gift program (Angel Tree)

A favorite of freshwater aquariums (angelfish)

International organization of unarmed-citizen crime patrollers (Guardian Angels)

PCP (a street drug in the 1960s) (angel dust)

Dan Brown book (Angels and Demons)

Trio of TV detectives (Charlie’s Angels)

Baseball team (Los Angeles Angels)

Motorcycle gang (Hell’s Angels)

White sponge cake (angel food)

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Our culture has a fascination with angels, doesn’t it? We use the term in a variety of ways, in a variety of titles, and to mean a variety of things. The Bible speaks some of angels, but it speaks more of Jesus, the one greater than the angels. That is what we are discussing today.”

 

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

Divide the class into two research groups, giving each one of the following assignments. Give groups the Scriptures only. The suggested responses are found in parentheses.

Group one—What the Bible says about angels

Matthew 4:11 (angels served Jesus in the wilderness)

1 Corinthians 6:3 (God’s people will someday judge angels)

Colossians 2:18 (angels must not be worshipped)

Hebrews 1:7, 14 (angels are servants of God’s people)

1 Peter 1:12 (angels long to look into matters God has revealed to his people)

1 Peter 3:22 (angels and all other powers are subservient to Jesus)

Group two—What Hebrews 1:1-9 says about Jesus

  1. 2 (Jesus is creator of and heir to all that is)
  2. 3 (Jesus is God in the flesh)
  3. 4, 5 (Jesus has a position greater than the angels)
  4. 6 (angels worship Jesus)
  5. 8, 13 (Jesus is the king of the universe)

After giving groups opportunity to do their research, allow them to present their findings. Summarize this activity by affirming that Jesus alone is worthy of our worship because of his very nature.

November 30: Good News Brings Rejoicing (Isaiah 52:1, 2, 7-12)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

At the beginning of the session, ask each student to turn to a neighbor and complete this sentence: “The happiest day of my life was when . . .” Give the class a few minutes to share the stories of their happy days.

Begin Bible study by saying, “There are many reasons why a day might be the happiest in one’s life. Some of you might have mentioned your wedding day or the birth of a child. Some might recall an accomplishment such as graduation or landing a dream job. Some of you might have talked about your coming to Jesus or the conversion of a loved one to Christ. The prophet Isaiah spoke about a glorious future for the people of God. Let’s see what elements he included in that happy day.”

 

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

Divide the class into small groups, giving each group pens, pencils, markers, and paper. Each group is to study a small section of today’s text and create a simple logo that helps summarize that section. Those sections are:

God gives his people a new reality (vv. 1, 2).

God gives his people a new message to proclaim (vv. 7-10).

God leads his people in a new exodus, freeing them from captivity (vv. 11, 12).

As groups work, help them with ideas for their logos as needed. For example, the new reality might be pictured with broken chains. The new message of God reigning could be illustrated with a crown. The new exodus logo might be as simple as an international “no” symbol (a red circle with a diagonal line through it) over the word sin.

After groups have completed their logos, ask them to explain them. Use the commentary as needed to expand on their interpretation of each Scripture section.

November 23: Inheritance Marks a New Beginning (Ezekiel 47:13-23)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

To begin class, read each of these portions of wills of some famous people. (The answers are found in parenthesis after the provisions of the will.) Allow students opportunity to guess whose will is cited.

1) . . . the Trustee is authorized to accumulate the net income . . . for health, education, support, comfortable maintenance and welfare of: (1) My daughter, Lisa Marie, and any other lawful issue I might have, (2) my grandmother, Minnie Mae, (3) my father, Vernon E., and (4) such other relatives of mine living at the time of my death who . . . are in need of emergency assistance for any of the above mentioned purposes and the Trustee is able to make such distribution without affecting the ability . . . to meet the present needs of the first three. . . . (Elvis Presley)

2) I give and bequeath my “personal diaries” (as hereinafter defined) in equal shares to my daughters, Julie and Patricia. . . . If neither of my daughters survives me, I direct my executors to collect and destroy my “personal diaries.” . . . At no time shall my executors be allowed to make public, publish, sell, or make available to any individual other than my executor (or except as required for Federal tax purposes) the contents or any part or all of my “personal diaries” . . . (President Richard Nixon)

3) I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture. (William Shakespeare)

4) I give all of my sheet music to my son. (Frank Sinatra)

5) Should any child of mine be under age at the date of the death of the survivor of myself and my husband I appoint my mother and my brother Earl Spencer to be the guardians of that child and I express the wish that should I predecease my husband he will consult with my mother with regard to the upbringing education and welfare of our children. (Princess Diana)

6) I give and bequeath to my wife, Clara Mae, if she shall survive me, all my household furniture, automobiles with the appurtenances thereto, paintings, works of art, books, china, glassware, silverware, linens, household furnishings and equipment of any kind, clothing, jewelry, articles of personal wear and adornment and personal effects, excepting however . . . I give and bequeath to my Executors hereinafter named . . . all my souvenirs, mementoes, pictures, scrap-books, manuscripts, letters, athletic equipment and other personal property pertaining to baseball. . . . (Babe Ruth)

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We all are familiar with wills and inheritances. The prophet Ezekiel talks about God’s inheritance to his people in our Bible text today.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Summarize these two main points found in the Scripture text about how God’s people should handle the blessings given to them by God:

  1. There should be an effort to promote equality among God’s people (vv. 14, 21).
  2. There should be an effort to include those outside of God’s people, treating them with generosity (vv. 22, 23).

Divide the class into groups of 3–5 students each. Have them imagine that they are going to create a benevolence ministry in your congregation—based on today’s lesson texts, as well as on the principles found in these New Testament texts: Acts 11:27-30; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8; Galatians 6:10. Allow them time to discuss the mission statement of their ministries and some possible procedures for distributing gifts to others.

November 16: Water from the Sanctuary Gives Life (Ezekiel 47:1-12)

By | Teacher Tips

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:
For today’s study, display a map showing the area eastward from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. This is the geographic reference point for Ezekiel’s vision.

Establish four discussion groups. Name them Ankle Deep, Knee Deep, Waist Deep, and Over the Head, based on the descriptions Ezekiel offers in chapter 47. Give each group this same note of direction:

“Decide what you would consider to be an idyllic place. What characterizes it? What is there? What is not there? Once your group has its ‘Garden of Eden,’ turn to Ezekiel 47:1-12 and decide what Ezekiel’s place of bliss has that yours doesn’t, and vice versa. In your group, decide whether Ezekiel’s picture is one of Heaven or simply of a restored state of Israel.”
Give the groups at least 10 minutes. At the end, call for each group’s conclusions. This will allow a close look at the text.
Say, “Jesus’ teaching on living water, in John 4:7-14, is a beautiful picture echoing the refreshing message of Ezekiel 47 and the river that brings new life.”

Have one of your best oral readers stand and read the John passage to the class. After the reading ask the following questions:
1. How are these two passages—Ezekiel 47 and John 4—similar in their reflection of God’s love and grace?
2. Though God uses the image of life-giving water throughout his Word, what are the differences in the promises made in these two texts?
Anticipate such responses as the following. For question #1: “both come to those whose external circumstances are stressed and stressful”; “in both scenes God is willing to provide all that the hearer needs”; “in both contexts there are those who will be ‘left standing on the bank’”; “though both use temporal and material imagery, their real significance is in spiritual truth.”

For question #2, possible responses may be: “the former is a national image, the latter is personal and individual”; “the first is given in the spirit, the latter is a face-to-face encounter”; “the former offers a prosperous future, the latter offers a thirst-free present”; “the former is restricted in geography and scope, the latter is universal and unrestricted.”

Your class will see additional similarities and contrasts.

To encourage personal application:
Close by helping students think about people in terms of the metaphors of a sand dune and a river. On opposite sides of the board, write these contrasts:
A sand dune is largely lifeless. A river feeds life to its surroundings.

A sand dune saps energy. A river invigorates.

A sand dune erodes easily. A river shapes its surroundings.

A sand dune slows human movement. A river can facilitate travel.

A sand dune (ideas from the class). A river (ideas from the class).

Spend some time discussing these metaphors, giving examples of how they apply to people today.

November 9: The Altar Offers Hope (Ezekiel 43:13-21)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:
Bring to class several samples of cleaning products. Include some products for personal cleansing (bar soap, toothpaste, shower gel, shampoo), some items that clean clothes (detergent, spot remover, bleach), and some that are used to clean cars and the house (window cleaner, vinyl cleaner, scouring powder).
Though it should be obvious what the products have in common, ask the class to state it. (For added effect, before the students arrive, pour a sample of one of the pleasant-smelling liquid cleansers onto a terry towel and leave the towel exposed.) Mention some of the major companies in the cleaning products business.
Then affirm that “God is in the cleaning business” and that today’s text talks about how that cleansing is done.

To encourage personal application:
After this study of the importance of sacrifice for cleansing us from sin, close with a time of praise to Jesus for being that sacrifice that is given once for all. Have a brief hymn sing featuring “blood of Jesus” songs, such as “Nothing But the Blood,” “Power in the Blood,” “There Is a Fountain,” etc.

November 2: God’s Glory Fills the Temple (Ezekiel 43:1-12)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, create a deck of index cards with one of these words or phrases on each card:
a tap on the shoulder, waving, clearing one’s throat, raising one’s hand, a sharp whistle, knocking, saying “psst,” shouting, honking a horn, flashing lights
To begin class, explain that every card in the deck contains a word or phrase that all describe the same thing. Have a volunteer draw a card and read it aloud. Then ask for guesses as to what the theme of all the cards may be. Continue until someone guesses “ways to get someone’s attention.”
Lead into Bible study by saying, “When we have something important to say, we have ways of getting the attention of our intended audience. When God had an important message, he often did the same thing. The Bible refers to this as God’s “glory,” a visible manifestation that gets attention. Today we will look at how and why God revealed his glory to the prophet Ezekiel.”

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:
Prepare each of the following questions on a separate slip of paper and distribute them in order around your group.
1. What particular designation for God is used in verse 2?
2. To what was God’s voice compared?
3. What effect did his glory have on the earth?
4. Where had Ezekiel’s earlier vision taken place?
5. What was Ezekiel’s immediate response to his vision?
6. From which direction did God’s glory arrive?
7. How was Ezekiel transported to the inner court?
8. What effect of God’s glory is seen in verse 5?
9. Who was Ezekiel’s companion as God spoke to him?
10. How did the Lord address Ezekiel?
11. What was the house of Israel no longer to defile?
12. What leaders were implicated in Israel’s sins?
13. How did God describe the sins by which Israel had defiled his holy name?
14. What expression did God use to describe his response to their sins?
15. What two things did God insist that the people “put away”?
16. What was God’s promise, if the people would obey?
17. What was to be the outcome of Ezekiel’s showing God’s house to the house of Israel?
18. What eight elements of God’s house was Ezekiel to show the people?
19. What was Ezekiel to do with his vision of God’s house so the people could keep the whole form thereof?
20. What was to be the law of the house (temple)?

Direct your members to ask and answer these questions orally and in sequence. Point out that these are simple factual questions based on the text and in verse sequence. This activity will allow your learners a close look at the text and will allow you to comment where you choose.

October 26: Things Too Wonderful for Me (Job 42:1-10)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Ask students to share a foot-in-the-mouth experience—a time when they spoke too soon, spoke out of ignorance, or made a humorous verbal blunder. Make the transition to Bible study by saying, “Job made a foot-in-the-mouth blunder demonstrating spiritual arrogance.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Prayer Stations: Hang four signs in the corners of the room. One is to read: “Spiritual Arrogance (thinking I had God pegged!).” Another: “Pride (believing I was right and God was wrong).” A third: “Impatience (wanting God to judge immediately).” The fourth: “Ingratitude (failure to appreciate God’s gifts).” As you hang the signs, explain that each may highlight a need or shortcoming that class members have discovered in their own lives during this study of Job. Tell them to move from sign to sign, offering silent prayers to God concerning each specific shortcoming.

 

Close by singing the chorus to the hymn “I Surrender All.”

October 19: I Will Call on God (Job 24:1, 9-12, 19-25)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Write the word theodicy on the board. Have a volunteer read Job 24:1. Tell the class that this verse deals with theodicy. Ask for guesses as to what the word means. (Theodicy is the study of God’s justice, how he deals with good and evil.) After defining the term, divide the board into two columns, one headed by the word crime and the other by the word punishment.

Read verses 2-11 aloud while students read along and look for examples of evil actions described there. Ask students to help you make a list of those crimes by paraphrasing what they see in the text. Some examples might be:

 

Land fraud (v. 2a)

Grand theft (vv. 2b, 3)

Forcing the poor to live in squalor and need (vv. 4-8)

Human trafficking, forcing people into slavery (v. 9)

Depriving the poor of basic necessities (v. 10a)

Depriving workers of the very goods they produce (v. 10b, 11)

 

Read verses 19-24 aloud while students read along and look for examples of punishments described there. Ask students to help you make a list of those judgments by paraphrasing what they see in the text. Some examples might be:

 

Death (v. 19)

Memories of them fade away (v.20)

Tricked into a false sense of security (vv. 22, 23)

Face the same fate as those they mistreat (v. 24)

 

 

To encourage personal application:

Close by admitting that the questions about God’s justice are not easily answered. Even today’s study probably left questions unanswered or gave answers that may seem unsatisfying. That is why further study and prayer are helpful.

Give students pens and paper and access to concordances. Have them look up the word wicked in the concordances and list 5–10 verse references from the book of Psalms. Ask them to take that list home and make those verses a matter of study and prayer as they seek to further understand God’s justice.

October 12: I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (Job 19:1-7, 23-29)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

List the names of a few movies, plays, and books featuring a character who is falsely accused of something. (Ex.: The Fugitive, Othello, Ben Hur, To Kill a Mockingbird) Solicit your students’ help in adding to your list. Discuss how characters in these stories reacted to false accusation. (Ex.: they tried to clear their names, they ran, they sought revenge, etc.)

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Some great stories concern people who were accused of crimes they did not commit. One Bible character, Job, was known for suffering for a reason unknown to him. Let’s see how he reacted to false accusations.”

 

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

Write this outline of today’s Scripture text on the board:

Job’s complaint (vv. 1-7)

Job’s hope (vv. 23-27)

Job’s warning (vv. 28, 29)

Give students paper and pens, and have them each choose one of these sections of the lesson text. Their task will be to write a couplet (two rhyming lines of poetry) to summarize that section of Scripture.

Some sample couplets follow:

My friends accuse me all day long/But cannot show what I’ve done wrong! (vv. 1-7)

If I could refute the charges against me/God would see that I’m guiltless and set me free! (vv. 23-27)

It is easy to claim that I am to blame/But what will you say when the judge calls your name? (vv. 28, 29)

After giving students 5–10 minutes to create their poems, take one section of the text at a time and allow volunteers to share their summaries of that section.

 

October 5: Yet I Will Rejoice (Habakkuk 2:1-5; 3:17-19)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Write the following statement on the board: “Good things happen to people who do right; bad things happen to people who do wrong.”

Divide your class in half and provide paper and pens. Assign one half to come up with as many reasons as they can to agree with the statement and the other half to come up with as many reasons as they can to disagree with it.

After the groups have had a few minutes to prepare, begin a “speed debate.” Do this by asking a spokesperson from the first group to stand, read a reason from that group’s list, and sit back down. Then ask a spokesperson from the second group to stand, read a reason from that group’s list, and sit back down. Then have the opposing group read another reason quickly, then the other group to respond in the same way. Continue with this lightning-fast debate until one group runs out of reasons.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “I am not sure we have settled anything! While it is generally true that we reap what we sow, it is also true that the righteous sometimes suffer while the unrighteous seem to thrive. That is the very issue we will deal with today as we read from the book of an Old Testament prophet.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Say, “We may not face an impending disaster as Habakkuk did, but we may be facing some personal difficulties and struggles. Think about a current difficulty that you face. In consideration of the godly responses to personal disaster that we have just studied, what one specific principle can you take from today’s lesson and apply to a personal difficulty that you face?”

Give several minutes for them to select a difficulty and a personal principle to apply. Then have each student write on an index card the difficulty that he or she faces and a principle from Scripture to apply in the face of disaster. Tell the students to write their difficulties in such a way as to keep their identities secret. Then collect the cards and shuffle them. Read aloud as many as time permits.

State: “As you can see, we all face difficulties and struggles. Yet I want you to remember that faith overrides despair.” Form a prayer circle and ask for several students to lead the class in a prayer of commitment to applying those principles to their personal lives.

October 12: I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (Job 19:1-7, 23-29)

 

September 28: Future Peace and Joy (Jeremiah 33:1-11)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

To begin class, ask for their help in creating a Top 10 list of things not to say to someone who is going through a tough time. As an alternative, you may want to use this list, pausing after each one for students to tell you why such a statement would be the wrong thing to say.

10. “What’s your problem?”

9. “What makes you think that anyone cares?”

8. “Things aren’t that bad, are they?”

7. “Life is beautiful!”

6. “No one ever said life was fair.”

5. “There are a lot of people worse off than you.”

4. “It’s all in your head.”

3. “Smile and the world smiles with you; cry and you cry alone.”

2. “Get a grip!”

1. “Can’t you take a pill for that? “

Lead into Bible study by saying, “There are a lot of wrong things to say to someone who is hurting. But what are the right things to say? The people of Jerusalem were going through a terrible trial as the army of Babylon laid siege to the city. Let’s see what God said through Jeremiah to them.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Give class members each a highlighter. Ask them to look at verses 6-8 and 11 in their Bibles (or in a printed copy of the lesson text) and have them highlight the words “I will” every time they appear.

Go around the room, asking one student after another to read one of the promises beginning with those highlighted words. Close the class by having a time of individual silent prayer. During that time, students should select one of those promises, thank God for it, and promise to live with it in mind during the week ahead.

September 21: Anticipation of a New Future (Jeremiah 32:1-9, 14, 15)

By | Teacher Tips

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

Read the text aloud. Ask the class to imagine how these events might have been reported had there been news programs at the time. Divide the class into three groups, giving each group one of these assignments:

Politics: King takes action against vocal critic (vv. 1-5)

Finance: Will the prophet take a loss? (vv. 6-9)

Local News: Time capsule prepared for Anathoth (vv. 14, 15)

Give groups about 15 minutes to reread their section of the text and prepare a broadcast news story about it. As groups work, move among them, encouraging creativity and offering insights on their Scripture verses from the commentary.

 

Reassemble the class. Have groups present their news broadcasts.

 

To encourage personal application:

Jeremiah looked at the depressing state of affairs that surrounded him and recognized the reality of his and his nation’s situation. Yet he trusted God to keep His promises, and he placed the future in God’s hands. End with a litany prayer that does the same thing. Proceed this way:

Take a few minutes to brainstorm with the class, creating a list of current events that are making people pessimistic about the future. The list may include political issues, economic issues, and even issues unique to your community. Write the list on the board.

Then close in prayer. You will lead by taking an item from the list and bringing it before God. The class should respond, “Even so, Lord, we trust you.”

For example:

Leader: During this time we despair because so many are without jobs.

Class: Even so, Lord, we trust you.

Repeat this until all the items on your list have been covered.

September 14: Hope for the Future (Jeremiah 31:31-37)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, search magazines or the Internet for images of old cars, telephones, houses, appliances, etc. Post them in a visible spot in the room as students enter.

To begin class, ask students to list some differences between the vintage items you have pictured and new items. How do they differ in looks? in operation? in ease of use?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We can easily see the difference between a microwave oven and a wood stove or between a Model T and a new sedan. Jeremiah wrote of something else that would be new—a new covenant between God and humankind. Let’s read what he has to say on the subject.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Before class, prepare index cards with these three aspects of the new covenant down the left side of each card:

Hearts and Minds

Least and Greatest

Forgive and Forget

Review these aspects of the new covenant briefly, and ask students to write something that they will do in the next week to correspond with each aspect. For example, they may decide to memorize a section of Scripture to write God’s Word in their hearts and minds. They may choose to reach out to someone who is hurting, to remember that God calls the least and greatest. They may write the name of a person with whom they have a strained relationship and decide to forgive and forget. Close in prayer.

September 7: A Vision of the Future (Jeremiah 30:1-3, 18-22)

By | Teacher Tips

To begin the session:
Prepare and display a poster that says, “I enjoy going back home because . . .” As students filter into the classroom, make markers available and invite students to write a phrase or two completing that thought.
Open the class by asking where some of your class members were born and reared. Ask about any special memories they associate with their hometowns.
Make the transition to Bible study by saying, “It is natural to have warm spots in our hearts for our hometowns. That is why we have homecoming celebrations and alumni gatherings. Today we will look at a prophecy of Jeremiah that may have evoked strong emotions in the people of Judah. They were going to go home!”

To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:
A haiku is a Japanese verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons.
Divide the class into four groups, giving each group pen and paper and one of these Scripture assignments from Jeremiah 30: vv. 3, 18; v. 19; v. 20; vv. 21, 22. Have each group compose a haiku that summarizes its portion of the lesson text.
Here are some sample poems:

vv. 3, 18

From ground parched and dry

Will bloom a city reborn

With glory of old

v. 20

Taking root like trees

Our nation stands tall and strong

Safe from enemies

v. 19

Like a flock of birds

Singing glad songs of return

We are welcomed home

vv. 21, 22

New leaders will rise

Planted by God, uprooting

Weeds of oppressors

Alternative: Write each poem on a poster, without verse references. Read through the text aloud, pausing to allow the group to match portions of the text to poems. Discuss each with the corresponding section of the commentary.

August 31: Generosity in the Midst of Poverty (2 Corinthians 8, 9)

By | Teacher Tips | No Comments

To begin the session:

Write “Why Give?” on the board. Include two columns underneath for answers. Divide the class in half and assign each half one answer column. Alternate back and forth between the two sides of the class as they give their answers and you record them in the appropriate column. Expect responses such as the following: “Because giving is like God,” “Because people have needs,” “So that the church can do its work.” Continue until no additional answers are suggested.

Say, “Today we will look at Paul’s challenge to generosity directed at the Corinthians and develop a plan to extend our generosity to others.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Help your students develop a giving plan with a “treasure hunt” through Matthew. Provide them with a list of the following Scripture references from that book: 6:19-21; 12:35; 13:44; 13:52; 19:21. If you have an artistic class member, ask that person to create a treasure map on parchment paper, titled “Matthew’s Island,” with the Scripture references printed on it. For example, the map could state, “Go five paces to Matthew 6:19.”

Suggest to students that they post their lists (or maps) where they will see them for the next five days, finding one of the “treasures” each day. Tell them that as they read each Scripture, they will be discovering real treasure that they can hide in their hearts. Challenge them to think of giving in other than just monetary terms.

August 24: An Appeal for Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 6:1–7:4)

By | Teacher Tips | No Comments

To begin the session:

A simple, school science experiment can be nostalgic for your class, as well as an effective means of introducing the lesson. Before class gather a penny, a common nail, a piece of glass (from a discarded picture frame), and several different kinds of rocks.

On the board write the following:

Rocks are classified as “very soft” if they can be scratched with a fingernail.

Rocks are classified as “soft” if they can be scratched with a penny.

Rocks are classified as “hard” if they can be scratched with a common nail.

Rocks are classified as “very hard” if they can scratch glass.

Allow class members to test the hardness of one rock (or more) before you lead into the Bible lesson. Then say, “We measure the hardness of rocks by looking at what happens when other hard objects are struck against them. We will see that Paul tells us that the nature of believers is likewise revealed when hardships rub up against us.”

 

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

Your class will certainly be familiar with the form of a simple job résumé. Make copies of the following page that imagines that Paul is applying for the job of Minister of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Have them read the text and try to fill out Paul’s résumé. Answers may vary, but you can help them fill it out with information from today’s commentary.

 

Name: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ

 

Position desired: Minister of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)

 

Career objectives: (6:1, 2)

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Promises to those whom I serve: (6:3; 7:2, 3)

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

___________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Experiences that qualify me for this position:

 

6:4__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

v. 5__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

v. 7__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

v. 8__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

v. 9__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

v. 10__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

vv. 11-13_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

7:4__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

August 17: Treasure in Earthen Vessels (2 Corinthians 4:1-15)

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

Divide your class into small groups, giving each a poster board and access to art materials. Assign each group to illustrate one of these two contrasting biblical images of professed believers: beautiful tombs filled with rotting corpses, or crude earthen pots filled with treasure.

Once they draw the image, have them add words or phrases from Scripture that describe the metaphor. Those that drew the tombs should find phrases from Matthew 23:1-39 and those that drew clay pots should find phrases from 2 Corinthians 4:1-15.

After giving groups about 15 minutes to work, reassemble the class and have groups explain their work. Comment with content from the commentary to make sure each group’s information is complete and accurate.

 

To encourage personal application:

Before class, purchase enough small terra-cotta herb pots so each class member may have one. To end class, give each student a pot and access to colorful markers. Allow members to decorate their clay pots with characteristics found in 2 Corinthians 4:1-15 that they want to “plant” in their lives.

You may wish to list these on the board as they work on their jars of clay: mercy (v. 1), honesty (v. 2), preaches Christ as Lord (v. 5), servants for Christ (v. 5), light of knowledge of the glory of God shines in the heart (v. 6), focuses on God (v. 7), messengers not abandoned by God (vv. 8, 9), messengers willing to suffer to make Christ known (vv. 10-12), and confidence in resurrection (vv. 13, 14).

August 10: Forgiveness and Restoration (2 Corinthians 1:23–2:17)

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To begin the session:

Write these or similar items on the board:

  • a leaky faucet
  • a tire low on air
  • a friend noticeably giving you the silent treatment
  • a small charge on a credit card that you do not recognize

Ask the group why these might need attention. Why might each of these be easy to ignore? What might happen, however, if one of these were not investigated? Which of these would be the hardest for you to ignore? Why?

Say, “Sometimes a problem is easy to ignore. But merely ignoring a problem can keep us from actually resolving a problem. In today’s lesson we will see that while dealing with a problem in the Corinthian church was painful, it needed to be done so the church could offer an offender grace and forgiveness.”

 

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

Write the first three sentences of the conclusion section of this lesson (p. 426) on the board, along with these sections of Scripture:

For Christians to announce God’s pending judgment is a warning given out of love. (Matthew 18:15; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15)

To stress the reality of judgment is a difficult, tear-inducing necessity when people remain ensnared in sin. (Matthew 18:17; 2 Corinthians 2:1-5)

The aim is not condemnation but salvation. (Matthew 18:21, 22; 2 Corinthians 2:6-11)

Divide the class into three groups, giving each group one of the sentences from the conclusion to analyze in light of the corresponding Scripture passages. After giving them about 15 minutes to complete their tasks, reassemble the class and allow each group to report. Comment with content from the commentary to make sure each group’s information is complete and accurate.

 

 

August 3: Comfort in Time of Trouble (2 Corinthians 1:3-11)

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August 3: Comfort in Time of Trouble (2 Corinthians 1:3-11)

 

To begin the session:

On the board or on a large sheet of paper, write: “You know you are having a bad day when . . .”

As students arrive, encourage them to write something that completes that thought in a humorous way. You may choose to have a few written already to get them started. (Example: “You know you are having a bad day when—the bird singing outside your window is a vulture”; “your driver’s license photo looks just like you”; there are five messages from the IRS on your voicemail”; etc.

After everyone has had time to add to the list, ask your class to mention some real trials people suffer. How do people cope with really bad days?

 

Lead into the Scripture study by saying, “Paul had his share of really bad days. But we will see that his view of trials not only helped him cope, but helped others as well.”

 

To encourage personal application:

Before class, copy the following on heavy card stock. Cut out the individual cards, making sure you have enough for each student.

Comfort, Inc.

____________________________________________

Overcomer in the area of

____________________________________________

Comforting others with comfort I have received . . .

Comfort, Inc.

____________________________________________

Overcomer in the area of

____________________________________________

Comforting others with comfort I have received . . .

Comfort, Inc.

____________________________________________

Overcomer in the area of

____________________________________________

Comforting others with comfort I have received . . .

Comfort, Inc.

____________________________________________

Overcomer in the area of

____________________________________________

Comforting others with comfort I have received . . .

Comfort, Inc.

____________________________________________

Overcomer in the area of

____________________________________________

Comforting others with comfort I have received . . .

Comfort, Inc.

____________________________________________

Overcomer in the area of

____________________________________________

Comforting others with comfort I have received . . .

Comfort, Inc.

____________________________________________

Overcomer in the area of

____________________________________________

Comforting others with comfort I have received . . .

Comfort, Inc.

____________________________________________

Overcomer in the area of

____________________________________________

Comforting others with comfort I have received . . .

 

 

To end the session, have students individually consider trials they have overcome with the help of God and other believers. Some of these might be financial hardship, substance abuse, anger issues, relationship problems, etc.

Give each class member one of the business cards you created. Have them each put their name in the first blank. In the second blank, have them put the trial they have overcome and are thereby equipped by God to help others overcome.

Ask them to keep the cards with them as an encouragement to offer comfort to others in a way that only they can.