Category

Teacher Tips

December 15, 2019: David’s House (1 Chronicles 17:1, 3, 4, 11-14)

By Teacher Tips

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

Distribute copies of the “Fair or Unfair?” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here, as a posttest.

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “Who Is in Charge?” exercise from the activity page for learners to complete in one minute or less. Give a token prize to the one who completes it the fastest. Discuss what the quote signifies.

Close with prayer asking God to help your learners trust that his plans are always superior to even the best of human intentions.

December 8, 2019: David’s Gratitude (1 Chronicles 16:8-12, 28-36)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

For your early arrivers, place in chairs copies of the “Reasons to Celebrate” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here.

When the time to start class arrives, have playing in the background a song that speaks of “celebration” in some way. Ask what memories this kind of song (but not necessarily this particular song) evokes. Follow up by discussing various reasons such songs give for celebrating.

Say, “We like parties—and there are so many reasons for celebration. But do we ever celebrate for reasons similar to those of Bible characters? Let’s take a look at one and find out!”

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “Party Animals” exercise from the activity page as a take-home for personal self-evaluation. Promise to discuss results during next week’s class.

December 1, 2019: David’s Worship (1 Chronicles 15:1-3, 14-16, 25-29a)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “Making a Move” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work in pairs to complete this very difficult matching quiz.

After the activity say, “Whether we are moving the contents of one room into another or moving a household across the country, we need to prepare for the task to do it properly. We may be surprised to know that King David has something to teach us in this regard.”

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

Distribute copies of the “David’s Moving Plans” exercise from the activity page. Use the five lines with the scrambled words as outline points for further discussion.

November 17, 2019: Faith that Is Focused (1 Peter 1:13-25)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Place in chairs copies of the “What Does It Mean to Be Holy?” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here, for learners to begin working on as they arrive. Tell them to feel free to work with a partner to find the answers. After learners solve the puzzle, Ask, “Why should these words describe the Christian?”

After the activity, say, “Today’s Scripture challenges every Christian to be holy and also tells us why and how.”

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

Distribute copies of the “My Life Is Yours, Lord” exercise from the activity page. This activity challenges students to compare the lyrics of the hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” with the admonitions of today’s Scripture.

 

November 3, 2019: Faith that Is Tested (2 Corinthians 13:1-11)

By Teacher Tips

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

Distribute copies of the exercise “A Difficult Letter” on the activity page, which you can download here. Divide the class into at least four groups, one to consider each of the headings listed. After several minutes of group work, have groups share their decisions during whole-class discussion.

To encourage personal application:

Distribute to pairs copies of the “Strength Through Weakness” exercise on the activity page to be completed as indicated. Ask volunteers to share what they’ve written.

October 27, 2019: Grateful Faith (Luke 7:37-48)

By Teacher Tips

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

Distribute copies of the “Reflecting on God’s Forgiveness” activity on the activity page, which you can download here, to be completed in pairs or groups. After several minutes, discuss with the whole class.

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “A Graph of My Gratitude” exercise from the activity page. Ask students to complete it in one minute. If learners cannot pinpoint a gratitude level for each line on the graph, ask them to mark the time in their lives when they were most grateful to God. Then discuss with them the questions on the activity as indicated.

October 20, 2019: Humble Faith (Luke 7:1-10)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class begins, distribute the crossword puzzle “What’s Faith Like?” on the activity page, which you can download here, to each class member as a take-home activity.

Hand students two slips of paper. On the first they are to complete this sentence: “The best surprise I ever received was . . .” After no more than one minute, collect the slips. Then ask students to complete this sentence on the second slip: “The worst surprise I ever received was . . .” Collect these slips also after no more than one minute. Read several slips from each set to the class.

Lead into Bible study by telling students that real faith is often surprising to those who witness it, as will be seen in this week’s account of a man with great faith and great humility.

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” exercise from the activity page to be completed as indicated. Discuss as time permits.

October 13, 2019: Active Faith (1 Kings 17:8-16)

By Teacher Tips

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

Distribute copies of the “Obeying God with Confidence” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here. These can be completed individually as indicated; the time limit is one minute.

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “What Jesus Said” activity on the activity page. Discuss the questions as a class.

 

September 29, 2019: Faithful in Consequences (Numbers 14:10b-20)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “In Place Of” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work individually for no more than one minute (or in small groups for several minutes) to complete as indicated.

After the activity, lead into Bible study by saying, “There are times when all of us need someone to ‘go to bat’ for us. We need someone to stand up or to stand in, to be a broker or a backer, to support us in some way. When the people of Israel angered the Lord by their rebellion, they had an intercessor. His name was Moses.”

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

Distribute copies of the “Substituting Subtext” exercise from the activity page. Have students work in small groups to complete as indicated.

After the activity, move to the final section of the lesson by saying, “The Lord’s anger against Israel was certainly justified. But another theme is intercession. Ultimately, the intercessor who stands up for us is God’s own Son! Let’s look for ways we can be intercessors for our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

 

 

September 22, 2019: Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness (Numbers 13:1–14:10a)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “Motivation” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work individually for no more than one minute or in pairs for a few minutes to complete it as indicated.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “When life puts obstacles in our paths, what contributes to our ending up discouraged easily?” Discuss. Make a transition by noting that two Israelite spies believed that God could lead Israel to possess the promised land. But their inability to overcome human nature has something to teach us today.

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “Counseling Session” exercise from the activity page. Have students work in small groups or as a whole class to complete it as indicated.

September 15, 2019: Faithful During Uncertainty (Exodus 16:1-15)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “Decode the Title” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work individually for no more than one minute or in small groups for up to three minutes to complete as indicated.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We can’t seem to help ourselves! We complain about the weather, high prices, long lines, and so much more. But this is nothing new. Although the Israelites were rescued from slavery, they found reasons to complain. Let’s see how that happened and what resulted.”

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

Distribute copies of the “Here We Go Again!” exercise from the activity page. Have students work in small groups or as a class to complete it as indicated.

After the activity, make a transition to the Into Life section by saying, “A lifestyle of grumbling results from failing to be grateful for what one has and a failure to recognize the source of those blessings. Like Israel, we start listening to our desires and the influences around us. We can find ourselves believing that we are victims of God rather than victors enjoying victories won by God. Let’s look at how we can avoid that trap and, instead, live in trust that our God will provide for us.”

September 8, 2019: Faithful During Grief (1 Samuel 1:9-20)

By Teacher Tips

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

Distribute copies of the “Putting It Together” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work in groups to complete it as indicated.

After the activity, move to the final section of the lesson by saying, “Hannah’s situation reminds us that life is messy. Her prayer was answered yes only after bitter tears. In the end, her burden was relieved. Let’s see what we can learn from other believers who have turned to God in prayer.”

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “A Prayer That Changed the World” exercise from the activity page to be completed and discussed as indicated.

September 1, 2019: Faithful During Distress (Genesis 19:1, 4, 5, 15-26, 29)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “Celebrity Godparents” exercise from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work individually for no more than a minute or in pairs for a few minutes to complete as indicated.

After the activity say, “It is not unusual for people, even after they become adults, to have an older and wiser adult looking out for their best interests. In the Bible, we find a similar situation concerning Abraham and his nephew Lot. Let’s take a look.”

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

Distribute copies of the “Surprising or Expected?” exercise from the activity page. Have students work in small groups to complete as indicated.

After the activity, make a transition to the Into Life section by saying, “Note that the people in today’s lesson had varying degrees of faith as connected with their self-interest. Let’s think about how we can use today’s lesson effectively in our interactions with those who are less mature in the faith—newer believers who need to be aware of the tension between God’s holy judgment and his gracious mercy.”

August 25, 2019: A Covenant of Love (Ephesians 5:21-33)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the activity page, which you can download here. Point students to the “Marriage Broken” activity at the top of the page. With a time limit of one minute, have students write descriptions of what seems to be happening in each one. (You can use the “Marriage Mended” part of the reproducible page in the Into Life section.)

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Today, we’re going to look at a covenant that’s personal, a covenant arrangement that has affected each of our lives in one way or another. I’m talking about marriage. The challenge for us is to decide how a Christian marriage can be more pleasing to God than marriages not governed by Christ.”

To encourage personal application:

Point students to the “Marriage Mended” section of the activity page. Allow a maximum of one minute for learners to engage the activity as indicated. Ask for volunteers to share thoughts for whole-class discussion.

Write this sentence on the board: Christian marriages are unique because ______. Ask class members to volunteer completions to the sentence. End with a prayer for the marriages represented—and to be represented—in your class.

August 18, 2019: A Covenant to Marry (Ruth 3:1-6, 8-12, 16-18)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “Hidden Message, Helpful Message” activity from the activity page, which you can download here. After learners work in pairs for several minutes, ask who can read it. Ask volunteers how they’ve seen this principle played out with positive or negative examples.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Today we’re going to look at a prelude to a wedding. The details of this account may seem strange to us in our time and in our culture. But we will see how the actions demonstrated the integrity of everyone in the story.”

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of “My Relationship Matrix” from the activity page, to be completed as indicated in one minute. Discuss. (Option. Distribute as a take-home activity.)

August 11, 2019: A Mother-Daughter Covenant (Ruth 1:6-11, 14-18)

By Teacher Tips

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

Distribute copies of the “In-law Diaries” activity from the activity page, which you can download here. Read today’s printed text in the segments indicated on the sheet. After each segment, pause for learners to make entries as indicated. After the last entry, cycle back to the beginning as you ask volunteers to share what they’ve written.

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “Blessed to Be a Blessing” activity from the activity page as a take-home exercise. Ask for volunteers to be ready to share in the next class session what they have written and how things turned out.

August 4, 2019: A Covenant Between Friends (1 Samuel 18:1-5; 19:1-7)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “Acquaintance . . . or Friend?” activity from the activity page, which you can download here. Ask students if they agree or disagree with the quote. Taking no more than one minute, have them complete the “Remembering My Friends” section as indicated.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Today we’ll look at a story of friendship to see how it confirms or contradicts these quotes. Maybe we’ll decide something new about friendship in the process.”

To encourage personal application:

Ask class members to complete individually the chart in the “Strengthening Our Friendship” activity from the activity page. If time allows, ask volunteers to share what they’ve written.

July 28, 2019: Spiritual Discernment (Matthew 7:1-6, 15-23)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “How Do You Rate?” activity from the activity page, which you can download here, to be completed as indicated by interaction with fellow class members.

After the activity, discuss the idea of ratings with these questions: 1–What is the value of having rating systems? 2–What are some rating systems to which you pay a great deal of attention? 3–In what contexts have you been evaluated by some sort of rating scale? 4–What makes some rating systems more valid than others?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “Rating a movie, evaluating job performance, and assessing the quality of goods are familiar to us. But how do we go about judging the godliness of another person? Jesus has invaluable words of caution on just this question.”

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

Form learners into study pairs or groups of three. Distribute copies of the “True or False?” activity from the activity page to be completed as indicated, then discuss.

After the activity, lead into the Into Life segment by saying, “Jesus does not command that we say nothing when someone we know is on the wrong path. Rather, he counsels us not to offer blanket condemnation. Instead, we first evaluate our own behavior so we can offer helpful correction without hypocrisy. We need to respond to evil wisely. Let’s see how that might look.”

July 21, 2019: Transforming Love (Matthew 5:38-48)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “Consequential Quote” activity from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work to piece together a quote about vengeance, jigsaw style.

After the activity, ask, “Is it always good that someone gets what he or she deserves? Are there times when it is better if people do not get their ‘just deserts’”? Lead into Bible study by saying, “‘What goes around comes around.’ ‘You made your bed; now lie in it.’ ‘Your just deserts.’ These common expressions say that people should get what they deserve. Jesus taught something different. Let’s examine why his way works best.”

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “Persecution Map” activity from the activity page. Have class members take the map home and pray for leaders in the countries throughout the week.

July 14, 2019: Love One Another (Matthew 5:21-32)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “Crime Classification” activity from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work in pairs to identify each of the crimes as a felony or a misdemeanor.

After the activity ask, “What are some criteria used to rate the seriousness of specific actions? Are those same criteria used decade after decade, or can the ratings change over time?” Lead into Bible study by saying, “Human systems of law and morality differentiate between major and minor infractions. But where does one draw the line? Jesus draws the line much closer to us than we might find comfortable!”

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “Dissecting the Text” activity from the activity page. Have students work in small groups to complete as indicated.

After the activity, make a transition by saying, “Attitudes of anger and lust are not harmless. Unchecked, they lead to disaster. Let’s develop strategies to monitor our thoughts.”

July 7, 2019: Fulfilling the Law (Matthew 5:13-20)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “Big Claims, Outrageous Promises” activity from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work in groups to unscramble brand names associated with advertising slogans.

After the activity say, “Some ads fairly represent their products. Yet many ads use words to manipulate emotions, create false images, and imply impossible promises. Jesus demanded that those who follow him be real. He taught his disciples how to live as authentic children of God.”

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “Pass the Salt, Turn on the Light” activity from the activity page. Have students evaluate their “saltiness” or “luminosity” with the metaphors found there.

June 30, 2019: Right Attitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Distribute copies of the “What’s in a Name?” activity from the activity page, which you can download here. Have students work to match the ironic names with their identities. Ask for a definition of the word irony. (Expected response: the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning.)

Lead into Bible study by saying, “The world’s tallest man is nicknamed Tiny. Drug abuse educators meet for a wine and cheese reception. A fitness guru has a heart attack while jogging . . . We see examples of irony daily. Jesus told his disciples that their lifestyle would seem just as contradictory to the world.”

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

Distribute copies of the “Unexpected Words” activity from the activity page. Allow no more than a minute for students to fill in the grid. Discuss why Jesus’ teaching on being blessed is countercultural.

Lead into the closing activity with these words: “It goes against common thinking to say that a person can be filled when empty, powerful when peaceful, and happy when hurting. But we have known believers who exhibit those characteristics. Let’s recognize someone who displays beatitude attitudes.”

June 16, 2019: The New Covenant’s Sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-22)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Place on chairs copies of the “Day of Atonement Match” activity from the activity page, which you can download here, for learners to begin working on as they arrive. Assure your learners that they will score their own results later during class. Use this activity as a reference as you aid the class in working through the lesson.

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “Hebrew Parallelism” activity from the activity page. Have learners work in groups to construct prayer poems about Christ’s sacrifice as indicated. Have groups share their completed prayer poems. E-mail copies to learners so they can pray it in the week ahead.

June 9, 2019: Jesus Seals the New Covenant (Mark 15:6-15, 25, 26, 33-39)

By Teacher Tips

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

Have students present the reader’s theater activity titled “Various Viewpoints” from the activity page, which you can download here. Give each student a copy. Compare the various perspectives of the events that took place in the lesson text.

Follow the activity by (1) identifying those involved in the events leading up to the crucifixion and (2) comparing what their actions revealed about their character. Anticipated identity responses: those of the Jewish leadership, the Roman leader Pilate, Barabbas, the crowd, a centurion, Jesus himself. Possible character responses: a mentality of “the end justifies the means” among the Jewish leaders as well as Pilate; people in the crowd swayed by the emotion of the moment; the revealing of either fear or confession of faith in the centurion’s cry. (Note: expect some disagreement on the question of character!)

To encourage personal application:

Distribute copies of the “My Response” activity from the activity page. Allow no more than one minute to record answers. Discuss as time allows.

June 2, 2019: Jesus Institutes the New Covenant (Mark 14:17-25; Hebrews 8:6, 7, 10-12)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Place copies of “A Jewish Holiday” activity from the activity page, which you can download here, in students’ chairs before they arrive. Have students work individually to match the list of Jewish traditions to the list of Jewish holidays with which they belong. After a minute, have students share their answers with the class, including their knowledge of the significance of the holidays or traditions listed.

After the activity, lead into the Bible study by saying, “The Israelites themselves had greatly revered commemorations. But there was one in particular that Jesus took time to teach his disciples a new way to celebrate. To fully understand this new celebration, we must first look at the Passover feast as originally instituted.”

To encourage personal application:

Distribute the “The Lord’s Supper” activity from the activity page. Have students take one minute to reflect individually on how the elements of the Lord’s Supper are significant. Then ask for volunteers to share their thoughts.

 

May 26, 2019: Called to Be Transformed (Romans 12:1-8)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

As learners arrive, have an array of items laid out on one or more tables: such as a shoe with shoelaces, a keyboard (for typing), a musical instrument, a blender or mixer, empty plastic containers with lids or caps, etc.

Instruct learners to tie the laces, type on the keyboard, play the instrument, operate the blender, take off the caps or lids, etc., using anything except their hands.

Say, “Life just works better when the right body parts are doing the things they’re designed to do—and when the other body parts stick to what they’re designed to do! Let’s see what Paul says about that in Romans.”

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

Download the handout “One Body, Many Parts” here. Have the class work in groups of 4–6 to complete the sheet.

Give the class twenty minutes to complete the sheet. Then reconvene and discuss their answers, especially the funny examples.

Say, “Why do we sometimes want the more ‘significant’ or ‘flashy’ roles and gifts in the church? How might we operate instead not as the world does but as if we were servants dedicated to the Lord as living sacrifices?”

May 19: Called to Mutual Acceptance (Romans 11:11-24)

By Teacher Tips

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

Download the handout “Fall and Rise” here. Divide the class into two groups: the Verses 11-16 Group and the Verses 17-24 Group. Have each group work on the appropriate half of the handout.

Give the class twenty minutes to complete the sheet. Then reconvene and have a spokesperson from the Verses 11-16 Group read aloud the questions and that group’s answers. Next, have a spokesperson from the Verses 17-24 Group do the same with their answers.

Together, discuss the flow of the passage and the insights the learners have gained in terms of the writer’s original intent.

To encourage personal application:

As you think about how much energy is exerted in our culture today to exalt one group of people over another—or over all others—how can you apply today’s lesson to it? What group has in the past exalted (or is now exalting) themselves over you or those you care about? What person or group have you exalted (or are you exalting) yourself over? Based on today’s passage, what should our attitude be toward those people?

Pick a person or group you have sometimes been tempted to feel superior to, if any, and make it a matter of prayer this week to think about that person or group. Remember that it is by our faith in Christ that any of us stands, and that it is by thinking we’re superior that any of us can fall.

May 12, 2019: Called to Life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-14)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the handout “Impulse Control” here. Have the class work in groups of 2–3 to complete the sheet.

Say, “Humans have the ability to think before acting on our urges, though frequently we don’t. Christians have been set free from slavery to the flesh, so we have not only the ability but the command to deny the flesh and instead walk by the Spirit. The worksheet helps us identify ways we can set our minds on the Spirit.”

To encourage personal application:

Look over the “Impulse Control” worksheet and review the topics you wrote down. Choose one topic from the list, or another topic you think of, and ask for God’s help in denying your impulses so you can walk by the Spirit in that area. Take a moment to pray silently about it, asking for His power and setting your mind on the Spirit for the week ahead.

May 5, 2019: Called to Righteousness (Romans 3:21-31)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the handout “The Great Equalizer” here. Have the class pair up and work the sheet.

To transition to the Bible study portion of the lesson, say, “Humans often jockey for position and work very hard to elevate themselves above others. But many things wipe all advantages and disadvantages away, sometimes in the blink of an eye. In our passage today, we’ll see that God is the greatest equalizer of all.”

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

Today’s passage is Romans 3:21–31. As a class, go through the passage phrase by phrase looking for expressions of how God, sin, law, faith, and other things place us all on the same footing.

There are at least seven expressions of equalization in this passage:

Verse(s) Comment
21–22 All who believe have access to God’s righteousness
22 Neither is better or worse than the other
23 All people are equally in need of forgiveness, atonement, and salvation
24 Everyone receives justification in the same way
25 All people require atonement because of their sins
28 Everyone who is justified is justified in the same way
29–30 Since all humankind is either Jew or Gentile, God is the God of all

 

April 28, 2019: Called to Make Disciples (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:6-8)

By Teacher Tips

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

Write these words on the board: “Sidetracked, Hijacked, Intimidated, Lost Focus”

Have the class identify a time when they have forgotten what their main purpose or goal was. Make this a self-reflective time of acknowledging that all of us can lose focus at times, but it’s possible to get refocused on the main thing.

Try to come up with an example of each of the descriptions listed on the board.

As a group, come up with at least one way that each person or group could regain focus on the goal and move forward toward it.

Transition into the Bible study by saying, “After the resurrection, Jesus gave the disciples clear directions about what their focus should be.”

To encourage personal application:

Download the handout “Focusing on the Great Commission” here. Break into pairs or small groups and have learners fill out the worksheet.

Say, “All of us can pursue the Great Commission in our many roles, but we might not have thought about that in a while and perhaps our roles have changed. Break into pairs and help each other think of creative ways to obey the Great Commission in our different life roles.”

April 21, 2019–Called to Believe the Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-15)

By Teacher Tips

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

Download the handout “Too Good to Be True?” here and have learners pair up to fill out the sheet.

After they have filled out the sheet, bring the class back together to discuss each item.

If time allows, ask the class to name other aspects of Christianity that are so extraordinary as to seem too good to be true. (Examples: that God became human; that God did for people what we could never do for ourselves; that the Christian life is supposed to be so much more simple than we make it; and that salvation is received by faith and we can never merit it.)

To encourage personal application:

If we had been with the women witnessing the resurrection that first Easter morning, or if we had been with the Apostles hearing their report, we surely would’ve been skeptical, at least at first. These are remarkable events, unprecedented and unrepeated in history.

In the same way, we can be skeptical of the things God says to us, either in Scripture or in our in discerning the things we believe He asks us to trust Him about or obey. Discuss with your partner the most incredible thing God has ever asked you to do or believe.

What is something you haven’t yet dared to believe about God, despite the fact that He has promised it? (Examples: That God not only “loves” you but likes you; that God wants to take even your sins and use those failures for His purposes.)

This week, choose to believe God’s promise, even if it sounds too good to be true.

 

April 14, 2019: Called to Remember (Matthew 26:1-13)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Write this on the board: “A New Perspective”

People can have different ideas about the same person. You might approve of a political candidate while someone else might be firmly opposed to him or her. You might feel strongly negative feelings for a thief, while that person’s mother might dearly love the same person.

Our passage today contrasts two mindsets that people had toward Jesus.

Download the handout “A New Perspective” here and have the class call out answers as a group.

Lead into Bible study by saying… “In our Bible lesson today, we see one set of people who spent their resources to oppose Jesus and someone else who looked at that same individual and gave extravagantly to support Him.”

To encourage personal application:

Get into groups of three or four. Each person should think of someone he or she would consider a personal enemy. Have them discuss how they would feel about humbly serving this person in some way. Then they should ask one another whether Jesus’ view of that person might refine their thinking.

Challenge the class to pray each day this week that God would soften their hearts toward these enemies.

April 7, 2019: Called to Mission (Matthew 10:1-15)

By Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Missions Compared” handout here. Pair up and fill out the Venn diagram according to the directions in the handout.

While the learners are working, draw a simple, two-circle Venn diagram on the board. When the learners have populated their circles, bring the class together to ask for highlights of what they found. Now work together as a class to fill in the middle section of the diagram, comprised of things in common with both missions.

Ask these questions: 1–In what ways do you feel a connection with the disciples on that first mission? 2–Aside from issues of technology, why do you think the first mission was so different from what we see today? 3–How was this mission a foretaste of the church’s spread in the book of Acts? 4–How does the biblical history of mission shape and potentially change how we practice outreach and other ministries today?

To encourage personal application:

Pair up and brainstorm how someone might behave if he or she knew they were in charge of handing out amazing treasures however and to whomever they see fit.

Reply to this question: “How will I present the gospel differently to someone I know, now that I see myself as having been put in charge of handing out the most incredible treasure the world has ever seen?”

March 31: Called to Follow (Matthew 4:12-22)

By Teacher Tips

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

Download the “New Directions” activity here. Make copies for every class member. Follow the instructions on the handout.

Answers might include:

  • Before: The people were living in darkness
  • After: They have seen a great light
  • Before: John the Baptist was free to preach and baptize
  • After: John was imprisoned
  • Before: Jesus had no disciples
  • After: Jesus began by calling His first four disciples
  • Before: Jesus lived in Nazareth
  • After: Jesus made His home in Capernaum
  • Before: Simon, Andrew, James, and John spent their days fishing on the Sea of Galilee
  • After: These men followed Jesus and spent their days fishing for men

To encourage personal application:

With the class, brainstorm a list of the times and ways in which the learners were called into a whole new direction. Brainstorm a second list of current new directions they’re considering. Ask how these calls have challenged and strengthened their faith. How might these new directions affect their future callings?

Say, “No matter what directions we find ourselves traveling, Jesus always calls us to trust and follow Him.”

March 24: Called to Repent (Luke 19:1-10)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

After all class members have arrived, discuss the following questions. How far are you willing to go to find something you’ve lost? If you answer, “It depends,” explain the factors that determine how far you’re willing to go and what price you’re willing to pay to bring it back to you.

What’s something you’ve looked for that other people disapproved of you wanting? For example, what if you didn’t know you were in a vegan restaurant and you asked the server if they had good hamburgers? How did it feel to go against what others wanted you to do?

What’s something you’ve wanted despite the fact that wanting it gave people the wrong idea? For instance, people working to rescue girls out of sex trafficking in other countries often enter the brothels posing as customers (so they can identify the girls to be rescued by law enforcement). What if someone who didn’t know that you were working with a rescue agency saw you go inside the brothel and assumed you were paying for a prostitute? Could that possibility make someone have second thoughts about helping? Why or why not?

Would you ever pursue something even though people might get the wrong idea about what you are doing and even if they assumed something other than what you have in your heart?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “What Jesus did in our Bible passage today made people assume He was condoning the sin that a man was committing.”

To encourage personal application:

Download the “How Far Would You Go?” activity here. Make copies for every class member. Give them these instructions: “The more we love someone, the higher the price and risk we’re willing to pay to bring them back if they get lost or put in danger. On the left side of the chart, write the names or categories of people you would go to these different lengths to save.”

What cost was Jesus willing to pay to seek and save Zacchaeus when he was lost? What is a situation in your life where you have (or have not) been willing to pay the price to reach out to someone even though (or because) people thought you were endorsing sin? Who is someone in your life now who is searching for meaning in their life, and in what way could you go one step further to seek and to save him or her?

March 17: Called to Return (Luke 15:11-24)

By Teacher Tips

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

Download the “What Was He Thinking!” activity here. Make copies for every class member. Have them complete the activity according to the printed instructions. After several minutes, reveal these answers:

1=Luke 15:17, 2=Luke 15:16b, 3=Luke 15:20-23, 4=Luke 15:12, 5=Luke 15:15,

6=Luke 15:13, 7=Luke 15:18-19.

Read the entire text aloud and discuss it with the aid of the commentary.

To encourage personal application:

Quickly brainstorm a list of modern-day prodigals. Some possibilities include: drug addicts, alcoholics, AIDS patients, gang members, adult entertainers, the homeless, etc.

Say, “There are many ways we can respond to a modern-day prodigal. We can be judgmental, saying that he or she should get what is deserved. We can just be apathetic, giving an I-don’t-care attitude. We can give an enabling response that in effect encourages the prodigal to repeat bad behavior without consequence. Or we can give the compassionate response of the father in the parable.”

Take a few minutes to select a prodigal from your list. Encourage volunteers to give an example of one of the insufficient responses mentioned. Then have a volunteer give an example of a compassionate, Christ-honoring response.

March 10: Called to Sacrifice (Mark 1:16-20; Luke 14:25-33)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Job Benefits” activity here. Make copies for all class members. As class members arrive, allow them to work the activity according to the printed instructions individually or cooperatively.

After about five minutes, reveal these answers: 1=Health insurance, 2=Food allowance, 3=Continuing education, 4=Company car, 5=Reserved parking space, 6=Retirement plan, 7=Flexible hours, 8=Safe working conditions, 9=Paid vacation, 10=Moving expenses, 11=Family leave, 12=Health club membership

Lead into Bible study saying, “When we consider taking a new job, we expect that the job will include certain perks—benefits above and beyond a salary. When Jesus called those who would follow him, his was not call to big benefits and career advancement. It was a call to a life of sacrifice.”

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. Each group should read the lesson texts and use them as a basis for writing a “Help Wanted” ad for the position of a disciple of Jesus.

Give groups about 15 minutes to work on their ads. Remind them that a typical ad of this sort includes a description of the job, job requirements, and salary. Here is our attempt at this assignment:

Position: Disciple of Jesus

Job Description: Those chosen to be a disciple of Jesus will live with him over an extended period, traveling with him wherever he goes. The disciple will take on the role of learner, observing Jesus’ work and carefully listening to his teaching. The goal of the job is to continue Jesus’ work of calling others to follow him.

Job Duties: Applicants must understand that much is expected in this position and to be fully aware of what is required before applying. Disciples must be willing to place a commitment to Jesus above all other commitments, including personal comfort and family ties. A disciple will be called upon to relocate regularly, work long hours, endure opposition, and leave his present life behind.

Salary: This is an unpaid position. A disciple will share any food, lodging, and any other necessity of life with Jesus himself.

March 3: Called to Serve (Luke 14:7-14)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

On the board write this quote from Austrian actor and movie director Bernhard Wicki:

Status symbols are medals you buy yourself.

After all class members have arrived and have had time to consider the quote, discuss it briefly. What are some differences between status symbols and medals? What are some common status symbols? Why do people try to obtain such status symbols?

Lead into Bible study by saying, “It is not unusual for people to want to be recognized as important. Therefore, one might buy fine jewelry, a fast car, fashionable apparel, or a big house. These are all ways of telling others that we are significant. But Jesus called his disciples to value service over status.”

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

Download the “Surprising or Expected?” handout  here. Make a copy for each class member. Divide the class into groups of three to five students. Have groups read the text aloud. Then group members should take a few minutes to mark each statement about the text as being surprising to or expected by them. Then groups should allow members to share and explain why they marked statements as they did.

February 24: Our Rescuing God (Psalm 91:1-8,11-16)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Defense or Offense” puzzle here. Make copies of the worksheet for each class member. Place copies on classroom chairs, encouraging class members to work on it individually or corporately as they arrive. After everyone has had the opportunity to work the puzzle, share these answers: 1=b, 2=e, 3=k, 4=h, 5=l, 6=d, 7=c, 8=j, 9=a, 10=f, 11=k, 12=g, 13=i.

Transition into Bible study by saying, “In football and other sports, it is important that team score (offense) and prevent opponents from scoring (defense). The psalmist tells us that God plays both defense and offense on our behalf!”

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

Divide the class into two groups. Give each group an inexpensive foam football and a fine point permanent marker. (If you do not wish to purchase toy footballs, you may create football-shaped cardboard cutouts instead.) Give each group one of these Scripture assignments:

Defense Group (Psalm 91:1-8, 11-16) How does God protect us?

Offense Group (Psalm 91:1-8, 11-16) How does God fight for us?

Give groups about 15 minutes to read their Bible texts and then write answers to their question from the text on their footballs. Some suggested responses would be:

Defense Group—God shelters, fortifies, saves from traps and disease, shields, relieves fear, lifts us up out of harm’s way

Offense Group—God sends angels, helps us trample dangerous obstacles, punishes the wicked, answers our call for help, demonstrates how he saves, gives long life

February 17: Our Mighty God (Psalm 66:1-9,16-20)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Divide the class into two groups, giving each pen and paper. Give groups about five minutes to list reasons in defense of one of the following statements:

  • The most important task of a national leader is to defend the country from foreign enemies.
  • The most important task of a national leader is to provide for domestic needs.

After group work is complete, have them share and defend their responses. Then move into Bible study saying, “Some people are considered great because of the way they wield power. Others are great because of ways they provide for the needs of their constituency. The psalmist praises God for both!”

To encourage personal application:

Download the “Prayer Spinner” reproducible sheet here. Make enough copies for every three to five class members. Glue the main dial to a piece of corrugated cardboard and attach the spinner with a pin.

Divide the class into groups and give each a spinner. Give them several minutes to use their spinner to point to a reason from the text for praising God. Then they should offer a prayer voicing that praise.

February 10: Our Loving God (Psalm 48:1-3, 9-14)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Right Track–Wrong Track” activity  here. Make a copy for each class member. After class members arrive, allow them 5 minutes to rate how well the nation is doing regarding each of the issues on the worksheet.  (Make it clear that there are no right or wrong answers.) Then ask class members to turn to a partner and compare and defend their ratings.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “At times all seems to be going well in a country, but at others, nothing seems to be right! The psalmist describes our God who gives us stability no matter the state of the world around us.”

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

Begin Bible study by saying, “Leaders of nations regularly address their citizens to assure them of the stability of their countries. (The President of the United States discharged that duty last Tuesday evening.) As Christ followers, we have citizenship in our native countries, but also in the Kingdom of Heaven where God reigns. Imagine yourself delivering such a speech concerning the state of God’s kingdom.”

Divide the class into small groups, giving each group pen and paper and a portion of the Bible text. Have them read their portion and try to summarize what it says about the state of God’s Kingdom in a couplet—a two-line rhyming poem. Give them about 15 minutes to write before sharing and explaining their work.  (If your class is disinterested in writing, copy each of our sample couplets on the board without Scripture references. Have the class match couplets to Scripture. Then summarize the content of the passage using the commentary.)

Sample couplets:

God’s Kingdom is stable because . . .

God is greater than any other power in the world (vv. 1-3).

God is worthy, lofty, and great—

A fortress where peace reigns within the gate.

God alone gives standards of right and wrong (vv. 9-11).

God’s Word reveals secrets of righteous living—

Peace and security they’re always giving.

God promises to protect his people (vv. 12-14).

God faithfully guides his special nation—

Not just now, but for each generation.

 

February 3: Press on in Christ (Philippians 3:7-14)

By Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Outline Repair” activity here. Make copies for each class member. Ask volunteers to read the list of Scriptures aloud and suggest where each one fits in the outline of the lesson text.

The correct responses are I-a=8, I-b=5, I-c=4, II-a=3, II-b=6, II-c=2, III-a=7, III-b=1.  Use the completed outline to explain briefly Philippians 3:7-14.

To encourage personal application:

With the class, brainstorm a list of occupations or other ways people gain recognition. Make paper and pens available, allowing class members to work in groups of 3–5 members each. Groups should choose an avocation from the list and write a short eulogy for that believer who followed Paul’s example of pressing on in Christ. Give them about five minutes to do so before sharing their work. An example would be:

Artie Angler was known to us all as an outstanding fisherman. In fact, he won more than a few trophies when he participated in fishing tournaments. Although he loved fishing, Artie found his greatest satisfaction in being a fisher of men—sharing the saving good news about Jesus with others. Even as he grew older, Artie took every opportunity to speak of his Savior.

January 27: Imitate Christ (Philippians 2:1-11)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Getting Ahead” puzzle  here. Make copies for all class members. As they arrive, ask them to work on it individually or with others. After all class members have arrived and have had an opportunity to solve the puzzle, reveal the answer. The word list is: ambition, manipulation, control, dominance, influence, waging war, military force, oppression, getting tough. The completed quote, from the infamous Mao Zedong, is: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.

Move into Bible study by saying, “Many have taught that one gets ahead through aggression. The more we are willing to intimidate others with raw power, the more power we accumulate. Paul told the Philippians that there was a better way—a way that showed love for God by imitating Jesus.”

To encourage personal application:

Allow class members to work in pairs or small groups to create a personal selflessness inventory by paraphrasing parts of the text.  Give them ten minutes to do so, and then have them share their work. Some items on their inventory might be:

I look for areas of common ground with others (v. 2).

I try to put any personal agenda aside when dealing with others (v. 3).

I avoid “pulling rank”—using any advantage at my disposal to dominate (v. 6).

I look for opportunities to serve rather than opportunities to rule (v. 7).

I trust God to reward me rather than trying to make a name for myself (v. 9).

January 20: Rejoice in All Circumstances (Philippians 1:12-21)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Best of the Worst” activity here. Make copies for every class member. When all have arrived, allow class members to complete this famous literary quote by unscrambling the underlined words. After a few minutes, reveal the answers. The unscrambled words are: WISDOM, FOOLISHNESS, BELIEF, INCREDULITY, LIGHT, DARKNESS, HOPE, DESPAIR, EVERYTHING, NOTHING, HEAVEN

Ask the group to explain what they believe the author is saying. When have they had similar contrasting thoughts in a life situation? Then lead into Bible study by saying, “There are times when we believe all is lost and times when we are incredibly hopeful. It is possible that those contrasting feelings happen at the same time! When writing to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul made a similar observation. Although there were reasons to believe that his situation was the worst of times, he had reasons to rejoice.”

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

Familiarize your group with good news/ bad news jokes such as this one.

The doctor called and told his patient that he had good news and bad news. The good news was that the patient had 24 hours to live. The bad news was that he forgot to call yesterday!

Note that these jokes usually tell what appears to be good news, followed by explaining that it is really bad news. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Philippians does just the opposite. He tells the bad news and explains that it is, in truth, good news.

Divide the class into three groups, asking them to find at least one bad news/good news pair in one of these sections of our text:

Group one—Philippians 1:12-14

Group two—Philippians 1:15-18

Group three—Philippians 1:19-21

Give them about five minutes to work before sharing and discussing their work with the whole group. Some examples might be.

The bad news is that I am in prison. The good news is that I have gotten to share the gospel with the whole palace guard (Philippians 1:13).

The bad news is that some are preaching, hoping that they can make a name for themselves in the church while I am in prison. The good news is that they are preaching the gospel (Philippians 1:15-18).

The bad news is that my prison sentence may end with my execution. The good news is that no one can take eternal life from me (Philippians 1:21).

January 13: Submit to God (James 4:1-10)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the Friendly Feud activity here. Perform the activity according to the printed directions.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “We recognize that there are things in our lives that need to change. Many make resolutions this time of year to make some of those changes. James spoke of things in our lives that need to change as well. Let’s look at those and see what can be done about them.”

 

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

Write these three headings on the board:

Stop Fighting! (James 4:1-3)

Make Friends! (James 4:4, 5)

Get Serious! (James 4:6-10)

Have volunteers read one passage at a time aloud. Then have class members brainstorm resolutions for a better life found in that section of the text. List them under the correct column as they are called out. Some sample resolutions follow:

Stop Fighting! (James 4:1-3)

Control desires

Pray to God for your needs

Ask for the right things

Make Friends! (James 4:4, 5)

Separate from the world

Get closer to God

Get Serious! (James 4:6-10)

Submit to God

Resist Satan

Repent

Find true humility

January 6: Walk in Love (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5; 2 John 4-11)

By Teacher Tips

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

Explain that when traveling in a foreign land, a guidebook comes in handy. Help your group create a traveler’s guidebook for Christ’s church as we travel through life. Divide your class into four groups. Give groups pen and paper and Bibles. They should use the cited Scripture passages to summarize their chapters in the traveler’s guide.

Chapter 1: Take the Freeway (2 Thessalonians 3:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-3)

Chapter 2: Help Rescue Vehicles (2 Thessalonians 3:2; Ephesians 6:18-20)

Chapter 3: Stay in Your Lane (2 John 10; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

Chapter 4: Join the Caravan (2 John 4; 1 John 1:3-5, 7)

Give groups about 15 minutes to work, helping them understand their texts as needed. Our sample traveler’s guide follows:

Take the Freeway (2 Thessalonians 3:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-3)—As we and others travel this earth that is not our home, we appreciate freeways. We pray that the pathways that allow us to share the gospel freely are never blocked by restrictive laws or persecution.

Help Rescue Vehicles (2 Thessalonians 3:2; Ephesians 6:18-20)—We want rescuers to come to the aid of those imperiled as quickly as possible. We may enjoy freedom to share the Word of God, but in many parts of the world this is not so. It is the responsibility of those of us enjoying such freedom to support organizations that seek to help persecuted believers.

Stay in Your Lane (2 John 10; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13)—Helping a reckless driver go forward unhindered can make us an unwitting accessory his recklessness. Likewise, there will be those who want believers to move aside so they can teach things extremely foreign to the Word of God. We must confront false teachers among us and not simply let them pass.

Join the Caravan (2 John 4; 1 John 1:3-5, 7)—When passing through hostile territory, it is advisable to journey with fellow-pilgrims for safety. Others are making the same journey to our shared heavenly home. When we travel together, we increase our knowledge and commitment to truth and avoid the dangers that falsehood brings.

To encourage personal application:

Download the Church SWOT Analysis  here. Make copies for every three to five students. Allow class members to work in groups to discuss the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats your congregation faces as you seek to spread the gospel, support fellow believers, and confront false teaching.

December 30: Love God and Serve Others (Matthew 25:31-46)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Before class, collect several fundraising letters and/or emails that you have received. Discuss which of these appeals you would be most likely to answer with a donation. Discuss motives people have for charitable giving.

Lead into Bible study by saying, “People may give out of a sense of obligation, for recognition, or because of a perceived benefit to themselves or loved ones. But Jesus spoke of a very different reason to give.”

To encourage personal application:

Download the “To the Lord” activity here. End class by distributing a copy of the activity to each class member. Encourage them to choose a verse or two as a reminder that we are encouraged to see our interaction with others as interactions with Jesus himself. Briefly discuss how that perspective can shape our attitude toward giving.

December 23: Love God for the Gift of Jesus (Luke 1:26-31; 2:22, 25-35)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “Welcoming a New Baby” activity here. Before class, make a copy for each class member. Give them about five minutes to work on the worksheet individually or cooperatively.

Then have them share their answers. The correct responses are: 1=VITAMINS, 2=OBSTETRICIAN, 3=ULTRASOUND, 4=CHILDBIRTH, 5=NURSERY, 6=PEDIATRICIAN, 7=SHOWER, 8=NAME, 9=CAR SEAT, 10=HOSPITAL, 11=DIAPERS, 12=COLLEGE.

Move into Bible study by saying, “Even before a child is born, parents begin to plan for the future. Mary and Joseph did the same thing! Let’s look at some of those preparations.”

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 sections of the text. Ask them to read the texts and to try to summarize them with a couplet (two rhyming lines) Give groups about 15 minutes to complete their work. (For a shortened class period, write our sample couplets on separate pieces of poster board. Use those couplets to help explain each text after reading it aloud.)

The PROMISE of a son (Luke 1:26-31)

The PRESENTATION of a son (Luke 2:22, 23, 27b)

The PREDICTIONS about a son (Luke 2:25-27a, 28-35)

Have groups present their couplets. They may be similar to these.

PROMISEGabriel’s promise provoked wonder and fears/News that Mary would bear a child seemed strange to her ears.

PRESENTATIONMary and Joseph did what God willed/So the law of Moses would be fulfilled.

PREDICTIONSJesus had come to rescue the lost/But this act would happen at a great cost.

December 16: Love and Worship God (Psalm 103:1-17a, 21, 22)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

Download the “What They Are REALLY Saying” activity here. Before class, make a copy for each class member. Place them on chairs as class members arrive. Class members should review the backhanded compliments there.

When everyone has arrived, and have had a few minutes to review the worksheet, ask for volunteers to choose one or two of the backhanded compliments there and try to explain their disguised meaning. Lead into Bible study by saying, “We can easily recognize empty compliments and cleverly disguised insults. On the other hand, we know when we are given well-deserved recognition. What does that mean for us when we attempt to praise God? The psalmist gives God heartfelt credit to God for who he is and what he does.”

To encourage personal application:

On the board write:

“When I think about how God ____________________, I can’t help but ____________________.”

Help your group brainstorm ways to fill in the blanks to close this session.

December 9: Love and Serve God (Joshua 24:1-3, 13-15, 21-24)

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 these assignments:

Recall the Past—Joshua 24:1-3

Reject Idolatry—Joshua 24:13-15

Resolve to Be Loyal—Joshua 24:21-24

Give groups about fifteen minutes to read their portion of the lesson text and use the underlined word from their summary statement to create acrostic poems. When group work is done, have groups share their work to summarize the main points of the text. Here are some sample acrostics:

Remember

Every blessing that

Came

Abundantly from the

Lord to

Leaders of the past.

———————————-

Refuse to

Enrage our

Jealous God by

Engaging in worship of

Counterfeit gods.

Trust the Holy One of Israel.

———————————-

Reject

Evil and

Strive to

Obey the

Lord

Voluntarily

Evermore.

To encourage personal application:

Download the “Idol Investigation” worksheet here. Make copies for all class members.

Distribute this activity to close class. Encourage class members to use it throughout the week to help them identify and put away idols in their lives.

December 2: Love and Obey God (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)

By Teacher Tips

To begin the session:

The following statements are different definitions of the same word. Read them slowly, pausing after each one. Allow class members to respond when they think they can identify the word being defined:

  • in the game of solitaire, a card of given denomination on which other cards are to be added according to denomination or suit.
  • an undergarment designed to alter the wearer’s body shape, to achieve a more fashionable figure.
  • an institution created to aid research, education, the arts, etc.
  • the natural or prepared ground or base on which some structure rests.
  • a cosmetic, as a cream or liquid, used as a base for facial makeup.
  • the basis or groundwork of anything.
  • the moral underpinnings of a society.
  • the lowest division of a building lying partly or wholly below the surface of the ground.

These are all definitions of the word, foundation. When this is guessed, read the remaining clues. Then lead into a study of the Scripture text with these words, “In all cases, laying a foundation is ‘square one,’ the starting point needed when building something of stability. Today we will look at principles recognized as foundational for the people of God.”

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

Download the “Moses Responds” worksheet  here. Make a copy for each group of three to five class members. Give groups about twenty minutes to read the quotes and cited portions of the lesson text and to formulate a response.

November 25: God’s Blessing (Genesis 30:22-32,43)

By Teacher Tips

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

Download the “Counting Jacob’s Blessings” worksheet here. Make a copy for each group of three to five class members. Divide the class into groups of three to five, giving each a copy of the worksheet. Give groups 15 minutes to read the main text and supporting texts to help them complete it according to the printed directions.

After groups have completed their work, have them share their findings. Here are the expected answers:

I=FAMILY; I-A=2; I-B=6; I-C=8; II=CAREER; II-A=4; II-B=1; II-C=7; III=PROSPERITY; III-A=3; III-B=5

To encourage personal application:

Create a simple, but meaningful, decoration for the classroom for the coming Christmas season. Before class, prepare enough 1”x6” slips of red and green construction paper so each class member can have several. Close the class time by allowing the group to think about ways they have been blessed. Make the slips of paper and a felt-tipped marker available for each class member. Ask class members to write a single blessing on single slips of paper. Have them take their slips to the front of the room and tape the ends of each slip together, attaching each loop to another as a chain. Close in individual prayers of thanks for these blessings and more!

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.