Archive for the ‘Sunday School’ Category

The Love of Jesus Sunday School Lesson Topic Discussion

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1. Is there a danger today of Christians returning to “the land of God” physically without really returning to God spiritually? If so, how do we avoid this danger?

Some hold on to the perception that the church building is the place of God. After a time away from involvement in church, people may feel a need to return to church to fulfill some type of religious ritual and feel better about them. Don’t we find it easier to perform outward acts that appear to evidence faith when our hearts actually are shallow toward God? See Matthew 15:8. There is no physical, earthly “promised land” for the church of the New Testament as there was for Israel of the Old Testament. This fact should make it easier for us to avoid Israel’s mistake of equating any kind of physical return with a spiritual return. But the physical should not be separated from the spiritual too much. Developing a deep faith is quite difficult when Christians neglect to be physically present with one another (Hebrews 10:25).

2. What are some specific things you need to do to conform your thoughts and actions to God’s standards?

This can lead to a wide-open discussion, even to a time of repentance. Expect answers that deal with prayer, Bible study, acts of benevolence, and a greater emphasis on evangelism.

One problem that can distract from the need to conform thoughts and actions to God’s standards is the danger being devoted more to a certain messenger than to the message itself. Paul spoke of those who were more interested in lining up behind certain church leaders rather than behind Christ (1 Corinthians 1:12). Some may quit going to a particular church when the preacher leaves. A church may fail to take action against a leader who has fallen morally, excusing or even rationalizing the sin. Such undue loyalty to the messenger of God demonstrates a disloyalty to the person of God by violating His Word.

3. The heart is considered the seat of the emotions. What steps have you taken to develop a proper heart for God and His kingdom? What steps do you yet need to take?

A good starting point is to examine how Bible characters developed a heart for God. David, a she cried for mercy from God because of his sin, said, “Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).The first step is humility.

Forsaking the lure of this world is also necessary in developing a heart for God. Paul says, “And be not conformed to this world: but he ye transformed” (Romans 12:2). Keeping God’s Word leads to a renewed heart. Jesus said, “But that [seed] on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). These biblical examples and precepts should shape our individual practices.

4. What modern applications can we see in Zechariah 7:12?

We remind ourselves that people have freewill—they can choose to close their ears and refuse to hear. Instead of their rejection causing us to be reluctant to share the message in the future, God expects us to continue to do our part by faithfully proclaiming His message. Jesus did! Even a cursory reading of Scripture reveals that the majority of people will reject the message (Matthew 7:13, 14). This fact should not dissuade us from being teachers of God’s Woe, sharing the message of eternal hope.

5.What are some modern examples of crying out to God as a last resort? Do you think, God ever honors those cries? Why, or why not?

A deathbed confession of faith is an example of a last-resort cry. Deathbed confessions comfort some people when they coax an acknowledgment of God from the lips of the one who is dying. Such confessions may or may not demonstrate true repentance. Only God knows the heart. After the person dies following such a confession, there are no actions possible by which that person can demonstrate true repentance. ‘Otis is not true in other situations. A person who cries to God for deliverance from an approaching tornado may live through the experience to demonstrate true repentance. God always honors True repentance.



Sunday School Lesson on Disobedience activity

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Into the Lesson

Begin the lesson by reminding the class that using someone or something precious to you is a very traumatic moment. Then ask class members to form small groups of four or five and share at me they lost someone or something dear to Him. They may also share how God helped them get through this difficult time. Keep this portion of the lesson brief.

After this time of sharing, expand the discus-. by saying, “Times of loss are traumatic to individuals … and to nations.” Ask about trauma that is specific to your country (examples: Pearl

Harbor, December 7, 1941; terrorist attacks, Sep- 11, 2001). Make a transition to Bible study

.271- saving, “Our feelings about these events help13 understand the emotional impact on God’s simple when they lost their beloved Jerusalem.”

Into the Word

Form five or more groups to do the following ask and report conclusions to the class as a whole. Give each group written instructions, a marker, poster board, and the materials men-wised. Before the groups begin their work, read. printed text to the class and include a brief explanation of the background for this text. Group #1. Read the printed text and answer the following questions: Why did Jerusalem fall? Who were the major players in this drama, and what were their roles? Who ultimately was responsible for Jerusalem’s destruction? You will Sod it helpful also to read 2 Chronicles 36:1-14and Jeremiah 27:5-7; 32:28; 34:2.

Group #2. (Provide for this group a photocopy.7,1′ the lesson commentary for 2 Chronicles 36:17and a Bible dictionary.) Tell the class about the Chaldeans, also called Babylonians. Use the

Bible dictionary and lesson commentary to pre-pare your summary about this powerful nation. Group #3. (Give this group a photocopy of the lesson commentary for 2 Chronicles 36:20 and a Bible dictionary that includes an article on “the remnant.”) Do research and tell the class about the group known as “the remnant.” What was the experience and significance of this group in Israel’s history?

Group #4. (Give this group a Bible dictionary and a copy of the lesson commentary for 2 Chronicles 36:21. Mark the article or section of the article that talks about the land having a Sabbath rest.) Focus on the comments about the Sabbath in 2 Chronicles 36:21. Read about Sabbaths rests in the Bible dictionary and lessons commentary. Describe this topic for the class and tell why you think this was specifically mentioned in today’s text.

Group #5. (Give this group a copy of the lesson commentary on Psalm 137:1-6.) Read Psalm137:1-6 and explain the significance of this pas-sage that speaks of singing about Zion. If time permits, you can also explain a few of the colorful word pictures used in this psalm.

Allow time for group presentations. With five groups, you will need to keep things moving along briskly.

Into Life

Activity #1: Keeping in the groups established earlier, have each group discuss and address the following: God’s chosen people brought this sorrow and captivity upon themselves. Apply the lessons learned to today’s church. What actions or inaction of today’s believers have brought negative consequences to the church in general? Activity #2: Give each person a piece of paper and ask students to write a personal psalm that ex-presses a need, sorrow, or regret. Encourage students to use the colorful language of Psalm 137:1-6m a model. The psalm should include a need or regret in his or her personal life, the life of the church, or the nation (v. 1); a place to express the sorrow or need (vv. 1. 2); a creative expression of the need or sorrow (vv. 3, 4); a statement of commitment or determination (vv. 5, 6).

Allow each person to share

The Rich Young Man

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Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-23; Luke 18:18-23

One day a man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, how can I enter the kingdom of God? I want to live forever.”

Jesus knew the young man was very rich. He also knew the man had trained for many years to become a religious leader. Jesus told the young man something he already knew. “Follow the commandments.”

The young man said, “I have been careful to follow all the commandments. Now I want to do more.” This man wanted to make sure he was as close as possible to God.

Because of this Jesus loved the young man. He knew, though, there was one thing which stood between this man and God. He knew the young man loved his money and things more than anything else in the world. The man loved God, but he loved being rich even more.

So Jesus said, “You have missed one thing. If you want to become perfect, go and sell your things and give your money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow Me.”

When the man heard this, he became very sad. He lowered his head and turned away. He knew deep down that he had not given God first place in his life. He was not willing to give up his riches and follow Jesus.

Jesus’ disciples still sometimes thought that God’s love could be bought with money. They assumed that people were rich because God wanted to reward them. That is not necessarily true. Jesus said, “Listen, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to love God more than his money.”

Jesus is part of God’s plan for saving people from all their wrongs. Only through Jesus can they enter the kingdom of heaven. It has nothing to do with how rich people are or how hard they try to be good. People think they have to do all sorts of things in order to earn their way into heaven. The truth is, God makes it possible. It is His gift for anyone who asks for it. You can’t buy it and you can’t earn it. God alone can give it to you.

Jesus said, “Everyone who is willing to leave behind their homes, parents and friends to follow Me will be given a hundred times more while they live on earth and in the world to come. That is the place where people live forever. Many who are first here on earth will come last in heaven. And those who come last here, will come first in My kingdom.”

Sunday School Lesson on Disadvantages of Disobedience Activity

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A. The Passing of Generations

In 2004 the Allies marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Normandy D-Day invasion. It was a reunion of the primary World War II partners:U.S. Canada, Russia, Britain, and France. The Germans were also invited for the first time, be-cause there was some recognition that the Ger-man people suffered terribly in World War II.

Many noted that this was likely the last big hurrah for the World War II veterans. At the time the youngest of these veterans were in their late seventies. Quickly fading was what Tom Brokawhad labeled The Greatest Generation.

The World War II generation had dominated the national and international scene for 50 years, far beyond the normal cycle. Hard work, integrity, and a willingness to fight for freedom characterized that generation. What will the world be like when its influence becomes a legacy and then that legacy fades?
In the book of Judges, a surprisingly similar state of affairs is presented in the history of Israel. After the miraculous events of the exodus and the period of temporary residence in the wilderness, the people of Israel entered the Promised Land. There the armies of Israel fought many battles to liberate territory from the Canaanites. In this week’s lesson Joshua and his warrior generation have died off. The next generation is in control, and its stories are told in the book of Judges.

B. Lesson Background

The book of Judges records the history of Israel from the time of Joshua’s death until the time of Samuel, Israel’s last judge (see 1 Samuel7:15). This is roughly the time period 1400-1050ac. During this time period. Israel had no king but was instead guided by judges. Judges were men and women who arose providentially in times of national crisis to deliver the nation. They seemed to be endowed with the Spirit of God in a special way (at least some of them). The judges were a colorful cast of characters, including the woman-warrior Deborah, the fleece man Gideon, the left-handed assassin Ebud, and the ancient “superman” Samson.

The judges of Israel served several functions. At times they were judicial arbiters. More often they were national deliverers, frequently as military leaders. Judges were not like kings in that there was no hereditary succession. The one son of a judge who tried to succeed his father in this manner failed (Abimelech, son of Gideon: fudges 9).Furthermore, the judges of Israel did not function like kings by imposing taxes or negotiating treaties with other nations—functions expected of kings. Israel’s judges had no standing army but relied on the tribal leaders of Israel to provide men when military action was necessary. The judges did not have grand palaces or courtiers. They were seen as regular citizens with extraordinary responsibilities.

The period of the judges is in many ways the record of Israel’s “Dark Ages.” The Israelites had
become a settled nation, living in cities and villages. They were farmers, not nomadic shepherds like the patriarchs. Yet this is a time of crisis between faith and culture, between covenant loyalty and the enticing sins of the Canaanites. Chapter 2 gives a preview of the book and out-lines a cycle that is repeated many times in the period before Israel Isar a king. The cycle is tragically repetitive: apostasy leads to crisis, which leads to repentance, which leads to deliverance, which drifts back to apostasy. The verdict of the book of Judges is that this was a time of moral chaos. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). ‘See question #1, page 401

I. Generation Veers Off Course(Judges 2:11-14)

A. People’s Betrayal (vv. 11-13)

11, 12. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: and they forsook the Loan God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.
The previous generations of Israelites had experienced many mighty things. They had seen the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army (Exodus 14). They had beetsthe beneficiaries of miraculous food and water inthe wilderness (16:11-15; 17:6). They had wit-nessed the supernatural on the mountain ofSinai (19:16-20). They had beheld the mightypresence of God in the tabernacle (40:34, 35).Now the descendants of the exodus generationhave settled in the land of Canaan and becomeinfatuated with Canaanite religion. They have vi-olated God’s covenant and embraced idolatry.They have become conformed to the darkness of the world. From our vantage point it is easy tounderstand why God becomes angry with them.God has fulfilled every one of His promises to them, and they haverejected Him.

THE PRICE OF “FUN”

J. L. Hunter “Red” Rountree was the oldestknown bank robber in America. He was 92 whenhe died in prison on October 12, 2004.

Red got a late start in his profession. In his lateeighties he pulled off his first robbery at a Mis-sissippi bank. He was given three years’ proba-tion, a fine, and was told to get out of the state. Ayear later, in 1999, he robbed a Florida batik andreceived a three-year sentence. He was releasedin 2002. In 2003 he robbed a Kansas bank andwas sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison.Red Rountree had turned bitter many years ear-lier because of something about a bank loan thatdidn’t go well. The bitter spirit festered for yearsbefore he acted upon it. In a prison interview hesaid, “You want to know why I rob banks? It’s fun.I feel good, awful good. I feel good for sometimesdays, for sometimes hours.” No family memberclaimed his body upon his death. Apparently hisbitterness had made him a lonely old man.Israel’s time-and-again pursuit of fictitiousgods shows some of that same futility. Like RedRountree, Israel persisted in doing what was”fun.” But sinful “fun” is fleeting. Its the long runthe cost of sinful “fun” is always very steep. Boththe experiences of Red Rountree and Israelshould teach us a lesson. Will see learn?

13. And they forsook the LORD, and servedBaal and Ashtaroth.

As we look at this from a vantage point of over3,000 years after the event, it is puzzling as towhy the people of Israel would abandon theirGod and turn to the Canaanite gods. What was soenticing there?
There are two deities mentioned as receivingworship from the Israelites. Baal is actually a titlemeaning “lord.” Boalim in Judges 2:11) is theplural form of Baal. The ancient Canaanites wor-ship a chief male god whom they had given thetitle lord. He is seen as the weather god or stormgod, and thus he is the god who controls the des-tiny of the people. If Baal withholds the rain, thecrops do not grow and the people starve.

It also appears that the Canaanites believe thateach field has a lesser god that controls its fertil-ity. These gods are lords of the fields and havethe power to give abundant or meager crops.Thus, the Canaanites serve the “big Baal” of the weather as well as the “little Baals” of each indi-vidual farm.
Ashtaroth is also a plural form and is feminine.In Canaanite religion she is the consort of Baal.She is a fertility deity who is thought to controlthe fertility of both women and of fields. See alsoJudges 10:6.
The agricultural society of the Canaanites ven-erates these gods by practices that included rit-ual prostitution (male and female), childsacrifice, and orgy-like worship. Some scholarsbelieve that almost every woman living in aCanaanite village served a term as a temple pros-titute before marriage. The Canaanite religionsthus combine idolatry with forbidden sexuality.This is why it is common in the Old Testamentto see the worship of false gods as “whoring” (seeDeuteronomy 31:16; Judges 2:17). To make sex-ual immorality an act of devotion is strictly op-posed to the holy morality of the law that theIsraelites had received from God.

The Canaanites have gods with no morality,and this makes it easy to see why the men of Is-rael are attracted to this religion. Yet it is alsoclear why there can be no accommodation herefor those who are supposed to live according tothe holy covenant that their nation has with theholy God of Israel.

B. Lord’s Anger (v. 14)

14. And the anger of the Lord was hot againstIsrael, and he delivered them into the hands ofspoilers that spoiled them, and he sold themInto the hands of their enemies round about. sothat they could not any longer stand before theirenemies.

Are we surprised that this outrageous behaviorprovokes the hot anger of God? The result is thelifting of God’s providential protection for Israel.The nation is powerless to fight off the spoilersfrom surrounding peoples. A common strategy inthose days is for an armed force to swoop downat harvesttime and steal the crops while killingall who resist. Thus, the tragedy of deaths anddestruction is followed by grim times of famineand starvation.

IL Story Sadly Repeats
(Judges 2:16-19)
A. God Delivers (v. 16)
16. Nevertheless the Loon raised up judges,which delivered them out of the hand of thosethat spoiled them.
The author is clear that the people of Israelstand powerless before these foreign marauders.

GOD SENDS JUDGES

Their deliverance comes only when God choosesand empowers leaders, called judges. to rescuethem. This is a primary lesson found throughoutthe Bible. We can never hope to save ourselves.Salvation comes from God, who hears our cries,understands our helplessness, and comes to saveus (see Isaiah 35:4).

B. People Turn Away (v. 17)
17. And yet they would not hearken untotheir judges, but they went a whoring afterother gods. and bowed themselves unto them:they turned quickly out of the way which theirfathers scathed in, obeying the commandmentsof the LoRo; but they did not so.
We are drawn to share God’s frustration in thiscycle. The people suffer for their sin, so God de-livers them. But then they sin again, bringing onanother cycle of suffering. Why can’t they figureout this pattern?

From a coolly analytical viewpoint, it is easyfor us to see their folly. However, our life experi-ences are filled with similar cases. Sin leads topunishment and suffering (see Jeremiah 14:10).God notices our cries of suffering (see Exodus3:7; Nehemiah 9:9). Repentance saves us fromdestruction (see Jonah 3:10), because God neverstops loving us (see Psalm 89:32, 33, which ap-plies these principles to the royal descendants ofDavid).

The text draws a strong contrast to the faithful-ness of “the Joshua generation” and the faithless-ness of “the Judges generations.” Their ancestorsobeyed God’s commandments, but they did not so.False worship and disobedience go hand in hand.

C. God Still Delivers (v. 18)

18. And when the LORD raised them upjudges, then the Loan was with the judge, anddelivered them out of the hand of their enemiesall the days of the judge: for it repented the Loin)because of their groanings by reason of themthat oppressed them and vexed them.

God is involved repeatedly in the deliverance ofHis people. He provides a judge to deliver them,and He is with the judge. The book of Judges tellsthe stories of the judges with all their human fail-ings. For example, Samson is presented as a slow-witted show-off who can be tempted easily by anattractive woman (Judges 14-16). Although Sam-son is humiliated due to disobedience, God iswith him until the end, empowering him to de-stroy many of the enemy Philistines through hisown death Uudges 16:28-30).

In the antique language of the King James Ver-sion, the phrase it repented the Lord should not
be misunderstood. Today we think of repentanceas a humble response to personal sin. But Goddoes not repent in this way because God is with-out sin. The issue, rather, is that of the Lord’scompassion as He relents from His anger. God’swrath has yielded to His mercy. God is neveroverwhelmed by anger (see Hosea 11:9). (Seequestion #3, page 481

D. People Still Turn Away (v. 19)19.

And it came to pass, when the judge wasdead, that they returned, and corrupted them-selves more than their fathers, in followingother gods to serve them, and to bow down untothem; they ceased not from their own doings,our from their stubborn way.

There is a great sadness in this verse. It is notjust that the people lapse into disobedience, butthat they return to their sin so energetically! De-pravity can quickly become a downward spiralof destruction.

The root cause of this pattern is given to us:human stubbornness. This is sometimes cele-brated as a virtue, but it should not be. Stubborn-ness is not the same as faithfulness anal anuncompromising stand for righteousness. Stub-born people are usually prideful and unwillingto admit error. Stubbornness is equated with anunrepentant heart in Scripture (see Romans 2:5).God will not abide this type of human defiance.

SOME CALL IT STUBBORN

“Bullheaded,” “set in their ways,” or some justcall it being “stubborn.” That’s how we describeother people when they are being inflexible. Ex-amples of this trait might be a crotchety old per-son who refuses to take medications or theproverbial husband who rejects his wife’s plead-ing to stop the car and ask directions.

On the other hand, when it is we who arebeing inflexible, we see ourselves to be actingwith “dogged persistence,” having “steadfast fi-delity to a cause,” or exhibiting “plain of stick-to-it-ive-ness.” Perhaps we see ourselves in themold of a detective who single-mindedly pursuesa “cold case” for years and finally, brings a crimi-nal to justice. Or as a Thomas Edison. who maywork diligently for years, performing hundredsof experiments to perfect the light bulb. We alllike to believe that we act with motives that aremore noble than the motives of others, don’t we?There is an important difference between thevirulent trait of stubbornness and the virtuoustrait of fidelity. During the time of the judges, Is-rael made no pretense of holding to righteous-ness. Instead. the people stubbornly resisted

God’s warnings and refused to see the plain evi-dence of what their sinfulness got them. What doyou think: has human nature changed muchsince then?

III. Covenant Broken(Judges 2:20-23)

A. Delaying Promises (vv. 20, 21)20, 21.

And the anger of the LORD was hotagainst Israel; and he said, Because that thispeople bath transgressed my covenant which Icommanded their fathers, and have not hear-kened unto my voice; I also will not henceforthdrive out any from before them of the nationswhich Joshua left when he died.

Before his death Joshua reminded the peopleof Israel that God had never failed to keep Hispromises to them (Joshua 23:14). God’s promisesare always true. The land of Canaan was referredto as the land promised to the fathers of Israel(see Exodus 13:11). But Joshua also warned thepeople that if they worshiped the false gods ofthe Canaanites, then God had promised to pun-ish them and make the land an inhospitable andoppressive place (Joshua 23:12-16).

God’s promises, then, are both absolute andcontingent. God sets the terms of the covenant.God always upholds His end, absolutely keepingHis promises. However, when the human partici-pants fail to honor the covenant’s terms, thenGod withholds the promised blessings. Instead,He delivers the curses or punishments alsopromised in the covenant. Thus the contingencyelement lies in God’s promised response tohuman obedience or disobedience B. Testing Each Generation (vv. 22, 23)

22, 23. That through them I may prove Israel,whether they will keep the way of the LORD towalk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.Therefore the Lotto left those nations, withoutdriving them out hastily; neither delivered hethem into the hand of Joshua.

I had the measles as a child and now have animmunity to this disease. My daughter is alsoimmune to measles because she received a child-hood immunization against them. She arrived ather immunity via a different path, but the resultis the same. But if my daughter has a child, thatbaby will not be protected. Measles immunitycannot be inherited; it must be acquired by en-during either the disease or painful inoculations.Each generation is tested. Because faith is a per-sonal relationship, it cannot be inherited. Further-more, the true nature of faith is unknown until itis tested. The tireless God knows that the faith ofeach generation of His people must be proved (see1 Peter 1:7).

Conclusion

A. Chasing Other Gods

The Bible is an account of God’s pursuit ofHis lost children. It is also the story of human-ity’s flight from God and continual quest ofother gods.
Our society embraces the worship of a surpris-ing array of other gods. We see open worship ofthe gods of the occult and the pagan deities of na-ture. We see the worship of wealth and of power.We see the worship of sexuality and celebrity. Wesee the worship of sports and entertainment. Wesee the worship of technology and of materialism.

Our generations are not pursuing a single falsegod but many!
The Bible labels such vain pursuit as idolatry.Today’s lesson gives the inevitable results. First,we kindle the anger of God (Judges 2:12). Sec-ond, we suffer the withdrawal of God’s blessings(2:14). Third, God begins to oppose us or mayeven fight against us (2:15). But, fourth, Godsends a rescuer (2:16). IS, question #5, page-al As Christians, we realize that this gets to thecore of the gospel. We have strayed in sin, in-curred the wrath of God, and experienced thewithdrawal of His blessings. Our deliverer, JesusChrist the Savior, rescues us from much morethan national peril. He wants to save us, individ-ually, from sin and the curse of eternal death.

B. Generational Legacies

There have been no world wars for over half acentury, and we hope the twenty-first centurywill not see their return. The “greatest genera-tion” with its many virtues and accomplishmentshas given way to its children and grandchildren.The transition has been difficult, and the churchbears the scars of generational conflict. It is noteasy to step aside when one has been in controlfor a long time. It is difficult to trust those whoare younger, less experienced, and whom wehave seen make serious mistakes growing up.Yet we cannot stop the transition. It will takeplace whether we facilitate it or resist it. Wemust trust God to work patiently with the newcrop of leaders, as he has for thousands of years.So ask yourself: Have the leaders of my churchallowed a place of influence for those younger,those in their twenties and thirties? Are the pri-mary leaders of my church all 50 and older? Whatcan I do to facilitate the transition? Do I have anattitude of encouragement or one of criticism foryounger leaders? What can I do to support newand younger leaders in my church? Is there a par-ticular young leader I can pray for this week?

C. Prayer

Mighty God, we marvel at Your eternal consis-tency. You always keep Your promises. May webe faithful and receive promised blessings ratherthan curses. If we are caught in the downwardspiral of sin, please, dear God, intervene in ourlives and rescue us as Your judges delivered Is-rael. We pray this in the name of Your mightySon, Jesus, amen.

D. Thought to Remember

Those of each new generatio

Bible Story of Sodom and Gomorrah

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Genesis 18:1-33

Bible Story of Sodom and Gomorrah 300x294 Bible Story of Sodom and Gomorrah

A short time later, Abraham had three visitors. Abraham knew that one of the men was really the Lord. He walked with the three to a hill. From there they could look down at the city of Sodom.

The Lord said, “I have heard how terribly evil the people are who live in Sodom. If it is true, then I will destroy that place.”

The two men who had traveled with the Lord were really angels in disguise. They set off for Sodom.

Abraham wanted very much to ask the Lord a question, but did he dare? He knew, though, that the Lord was his Friend, as well as his God. So he swallowed hard. “Lord, what if there are fifty good people in Sodom? What will happen to them?”

“I will not harm the city if there are still fifty good people.”

Then Abraham asked again and again, each time using smaller numbers, would God spare the city for forty-five good people, for forty, thirty, twenty, or for ten? Each time the Lord said yes.

There were not ten good people in Sodom, but four. The only bright spot in the evil city of Sodom was a man named Lot. Lot was Abraham’s nephew. He lived in Sodom with his wife and two daughters.

Lot met the angels, who were disguised as men. “Come to my house. There you will be safe from the mean people here.”

The people of Sodom tried to hurt the angels, though. The angels told Lot, “You must come with us. The Lord cannot stand this bad place. He’s going to destroy it!  We will help you run away, but you must not look back!”

Just a few hours later, the Lord rained fire onto Sodom. Lot and his family were safe, but Lot’s wife looked back to watch. Instantly she became at all stone!

God had kept his promise to Abraham. He took care of the good people in Sodom.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

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Daniel 2:1-13

Soon after Daniel became the king’s adviser, King Nebuchadnezzar kept having a terrible dream. He called all his wizards. “This dream upsets me, I want to know what it means.”

The wizards said. “Yes, Your Majesty tell us your dream and we’ll find out what it means.”

But the king answered “No. You must first tell me what I dreamt, then what it meant. If you can’t do this you and your homes will be torn to pieces. If you can do this thing I’ll give you rich gifts and great honor.”

The wizards thought maybe they had not heard right. So they said again. “Let the king tell us his dream, then we’ll be glad to tell him what it means.”

The king grew angry. “Oh no you don’t, you’re just trying to trick me. Now listen! You tell me my dream and then you can tell me what it means!”

“But no king has ever asked this of his magicians!”

The king became even angrier. He stood up and pointed at all the wizards whining and mumbling in front of him. “Enough! If you cannot follow this order, then I’ll have you killed!”

So the order went out to kill all the king’s wise men. The order included more than just the wizards; it meant all the king’s advisers. That meant Daniel and his friends would be killed too! Daniel and his friends prayed together. Late that night, Daniel had a vision. He thanked the Lord, then ran to see the king.

“Can you really tell me what I dreamt? Can you say what it means?” The king asked.

Daniel said. “No but there is a God in heaven who can; you saw a horrible statue. Its head was made of gold, its chest and arms were made of silver, its waist and hips of bronze, its legs of iron and its feet of both iron and clay.

“A great stone broke loose from a cliff and destroyed the statue, piece by piece. The stone grew to become a mountain which covered the whole earth. “That was the dream and the meaning is that each part of the statue is a different kingdom. You, as king of Babylon, are the head. After you will come another kingdom, and then another. Then finally a fourth kingdom, as strong as iron, will rule. But it will be a divided kingdom.”

God had shown the king how Babylon would fall to Persia, and later, Greece which would be followed by Rome. Rome was the divided empire. Then God would work the greatest miracle of all, using His own Son, Jesus. His would be a different kingdom, based on peace, not war. Daniel went on to talk about this time, so very far in the future.

“While the divided kingdom rules, God will set up another kingdom which can never be destroyed. It will last forever. That is the great stone, cut from the mountain by the same great God who has shown these things to the king.”

The king said to Daniel, “Your God is truly the greatest and wisest!”

Then, the king made Daniel the most powerful man in Babylon, next to the king himself.

Many years passed and King Nebuchadnezzar soon forgot what he had said about Daniel’s God being the only one. Instead he built a giant statue of gold and called this his god. He sent out an order.

“Whenever the royal music is played, everyone must fall to the ground and pray to this statue. Anyone who doesn’t, will be thrown into a blazing furnace to die.”

Before long the king’s men noticed that the three best friends of Daniel were not praying to the golden statue. If they had, they would have broken God’s law. This law said, “I am the Lord your God. I will be your only God. Do not make statues and worship them.”

When Nebuchadnezzar heard this he sent for Daniel’s friends. He called them by their Babylonian names.”Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true you will not worship my statue?”

The three men stood firm. “We can never worship your god. Even if we are thrown into the blazing furnace, our God is able to save us from it.”

Nebuchadnezzar burned with anger. He ordered his soldiers to tie up the three men. “Take them away! And see that the fire is seven times hotter than usual!”

The soldiers threw Daniel’s friends into the furnace. However when they did it was so very hot and the soldiers were the ones who died! Then, the king saw something which was even more amazing. The three men were no longer tied up! They walked between the flames but they did not suffer at all. But, even more astounding, was that a fourth man was in furnace with them and He shone brighter than the fire itself. Could this have been Jesus Himself, sent by His Father to comfort the three men?

The king ordered the men to come out. When they walked out of the fire, the fourth man disappeared. Daniel’s friends were safe!

The king shook his head.”Incredible! Surely your God is the greatest. He protects those who trust Him. From now on no one is allowed to say anything bad about your God.”

Sunday School Lessons on Responsibility Topic Discussion

by on Saturday, July 17, 2010 3:03 under Sunday School.

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1. How does the knowledge that God owns your very being affect how you live? What changes do you need to make?

The fact of creation makes God the owner. Scripture also reminds us that we have been bought back from sin by the blood of Christ; therefore we glorify God in body and spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20). This means that we are not to be the servants of others in a sense of allowing them to have ultimate authority over us (1 Corinthians 7:23). We seek God’s will above all else.

Our minds belong to God; therefore we are to let only holy thoughts enter. Our eyes belong to God; therefore we are to keep them from lingering over those things that bring unholy thoughts into our minds. Our time also belongs to God; therefore we are to be sure that we use our hours in ways that honor Him.

2. In what ways have you been guilty of circumventing or disavowing your personal sin? How have you made positive changes in this regard?

The Scottish singing group The Proclaimers has a song entitled “Everybody’s a Victim.” That title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? A common cultural response to an accusation of wrongdoing is for a person to claim that he or she is a victim and thus not responsible. The song bemoans the fact that the singer’s country (presumably Scotland) is becoming like America in that regard.

The comedian Flip Wilson was famous for his tagline, “The devil made me do it.” Scripture speaks against this view, saying that sin is the fault of the sinner (James 1:14, 15). Another way we try to alleviate personal responsibility for sin is by rationalizing. The idea is that if we are “not as bad” as someone else, then we must be relatively ok. We attempt to justify greed and bitterness by telling ourselves that at least we did not steal or kill. But Jesus said that if we ponder certain things in our hearts, then we are as guilty as if we had actually committed the sin (Matthew 5:21, 22).

3. Though sin is not passed from parent to child, the consequences may be. What are some ways that the consequences of one’s sins may be visited upon another, and conversely, what are some ways that the consequences of one’s holy actions may be a benefit to another?

A mother who has been a drug addict may give birth to a baby who suffers birth defects caused by the addiction. A father who spends all his money on drinking binges is not able to provide properly for the needs of his family. If a child overhears a parent complaining about things in the church, the children may develop a cynical attitude toward Christianity. Acts of mercy and compassion, on the other hand, serve as a witness (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7).

4. God neither keeps a record of a Christian’s sins nor remembers them. How do you use this fact to develop a godly nature?

Reminders of our past sin come from three sources: Satan, other people, and self. Learning to let go of the past and not hold on to guilt can be difficult when these three sources keep bombarding us with reminders! Recognizing the source of the discouragement is important. One thing is certain: the source is not God.

Another challenge we have is to hold no sins of others against them. When someone has repented and is trying to put his or her life back together, we as brothers and sisters in Christ are to do all we can to affirm and assist in the restoration process. God expects us to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

5. Repentance leads to a restored relationship with God. What other benefits of repentance have you noticed in your life?

Salvation is, of course, the ultimate good that comes from repentance. But there are other benefits for us while still living out our faith on earth. Turning from sexual sins can lead to the avoidance of disease. Turning from sins of abusiveness restores relationships; if there was physical abuse, then there is now safety for those who were being abused.

Repentance or turning from a sin today makes it easier to resist another temptation tomorrow. It has been said that in repentance we do not become sinless, but we do sin less and less.

Sunday School Lessons on Right Makes Might Topic Discussion

by on Saturday, July 17, 2010 3:03 under Sunday School.

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Few today choose to make a commitment to church ministries that demand persistent presence and active participation. Just ask your minister if there is a surplus of Bible teachers in the congregation. Church leaders sometimes question why few have a commitment to the church’s programs and ministries. The answer is simple; few are truly committed to God. Thus, few are committed to God’s demands for a life of doing right. This quarter’s lessons offer an opportunity to challenge commitment in the learners. Some simple learning activities that run through the quarter of study may be a step in the right direction to “getting back into commitment.”

How Am I Doing?

God’s prophets had a primary task: to call God’s wayward people back to His ways. Consider having your class members maintain a notebook (journal) during this series, a record of their own responses to the truths studied. Make multiple copies of the following form so you can provide one to each student each week. At the end of the first week’s study, introduce the concept by saying, “At the end of the week ahead, sit down and ponder how well you are doing in relationship to the commitment we have studied today”. Fill in the word Justice (the key word in the first week’s lesson title) on the lines marked with an asterisk (*); then write your thoughtful responses in the other spaces.”
When it comes to being committed I rate myself a [Use a scale of 1. “barely noticeable” to 5 for “giving daily evidence.”)
One occasion this week when I gave evidence I am committed to [ blank] was when I[blank] This event or behavior best exemplified such a commitment because it[blank]
One occasion this week when my behavior or words demonstrated a lack of commitment to [blank] was when I [blank]
The verse from this week’s text that has the greatest impact on me is [blank]. The reason for this impact is [blank]
Have students use the same form each week. The key words or themes for the 13 weeks from the lesson titles are (1) justice, (2) God’s ways, (3)true worship, (4) seeking God, (5) God’s requirements, (6) righteousness, (7) hope, (8) account-ability, (9) trusting God, (10) hope even in pain,(11) taking responsibility, (12) returning to God, and (13) doing right.

What Is Lacking?

This weekly journalizing will allow students to confront their own levels of commitment. Ask for volunteers to give candid self-assessments to the class as a whole.
The problems that your students reveal actually may be symptoms of a deeper problem: a lack of knowledge. God’s lament, through the pen of Hosea, was, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). When disciples thoroughly know the person and will of God, commitment should be a by-product. In Simon Peter’s words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).Consider how you can facilitate greater knowledge through memorization of pivotal verses. In the first week of the study, for example tell your students, “I have found some significant thoughts of God in my preparation for this series of studies in the theme of commitment from God’s prophets. So I have committed to learning some of those great ideas by heart.” Then quote, for example, part of Amos 5:15: “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment.”Offer your class an opportunity to join you in your quest to increase their own knowledge of God as found in the prophets. To this end, you can distribute commitment cards like this:

Dear God,
Thank you for revealing your will through your prophets. I hereby commit to learning at least verses of beauty and challenge during our class’s study this quarter. My prayer is that Your Word will cure my lack of knowledge.
Signed;
Date

Indicate that this commitment activity is strictly a personal matter and that the cards can be carried in one’s Bible. Make suggestions for good verses to memorize. Regularly talking about your own progress will encourage participation.

Sunday School Lessons on Right Makes Might Activity

by on Saturday, July 17, 2010 2:28 under Sunday School.

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Into the Lesson

To open today’s lesson, say, “In 1989, a researcher developed a model for robotic behavior. The author, Pattie Maes, says that for a robot the act of ‘doing the right thing’ should have the following characteristics:
1. It favors actions that are goal oriented.
2. It favors actions that are relevant to the current situation.
3. It favors actions that contribute to the ongoing goal/ plan.
4. It looks ahead to avoid hazardous situations.
5. It never completely breaks down, even when certain parts fail.
6. It is reactive and fast.
Ask your students to imagine they are writing a manual for humans “to do the right thing.”What characteristics would they specify for humans in this regard? Write ideas on the board. When you finish discussing this exercise, tell your students that today’s lesson deals with God’s explanation of how to do the right thing. As an alternative, obtain a recording of Handel’s Messiah and play one or two tracks based on today’s text (Malachi 3:2, 3): “But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming?” and “And He Shall Purify.” Then tell your class that today’s lesson explains these words from Malachi.

Into the Word

Use the Lesson Background and commentary on Malachi 2:17 to discuss the situation in Judah leading up to Malachi 3. Focus on the final question in verse 17: “Where is the God of judgment?” Ask why students think that God would be weary of Judah’s whining and how Malachi 3:1-4:1 is God’s answer to the above question. Next, divide your class into groups of three or four and direct attention to the activity The Lord Has Cometh in the student book. If you don’t use the student book, provide paper and pencils; assign each leans the following passages: Malachi3:1-5; 4:1; Mark 1:1-4; Luke 2:21-32, 41-47; John1:14; 7:14, 33-41; Hebrews 8:8-10; 13:15, 16;2 Peter 3:8-13; Revelation 20:7-15.
Instruct each group to paraphrase the Malachi passages, indicating how each verse is fulfilled in the New Testament. For example, Malachi 3:1 could be paraphrased, “See, I’m going to send John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus.” Tell your students that their paraphrases should answer the following questions: I. Who prepared the way for the promised Messiah? 2. On what occasions did Jesus come to His temple? 3. What new covenant was brought by the Messiah and Why? 4. How were the people to be refined? 5. What will judgment be like for the wicked? When your students finish their studies, use the lesson commentary to evaluate the results.

Into Life

Remind your students of their answers to the first exercise in today’s lesson, and then read the following hypothetical situations. Ask volunteers to suggest responses to each that reflect God’s concern for doing the right thing.
Situation #1. A pro-abortion organization has opened a clinic in your area “to ensure the availability of safe, legal abortions to women who desire to make that choice.” What can your congregation do to offer women an alternative consistent to God’s Word? How will your response promote justice for pre-born children?
Situation # 2. A local atheist has sued your school district to stop the daily recital of the Pledge of Allegiance on the ground that the phrase under God violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s separation of church and state. What can you do in response?
Situation # 3. Your community newspaper has printed an editorial accusing a political candidate of being “too religious” because he has admitted that he consults the Bible when he is forming his position on moral and political issues. What would you say in a letter to the editor?
After discussing their thoughts, encourage your students to act accordingly this coming week in response to other challenges to their faith.
What was a situation in which you think you have wearied the Lord with your How do you guard against doing so? Are you suspicious of someone who says kind things to a person’s face and evil things behind the person’s back? We can be guilty of sin in some way. We can say good about God and tell others we believe in Him, yet fail to honor Him in our lives.
Jesus can return at any time, and we must be ready. We should be motivated to prepare ourselves and others for the return of Christ, but not spend time trying to determine the exact date. The major thing is to be prepared: it is a minor detail for us as to when this event takes place. What Malachi 3:1 implies about Jesus’ first coming is thus very useful when we ponder His second.
4. In what areas of your life has God had to apply His refining fire and purifying soap? How is your life better as a result? In what areas do you still need God’s purification?
When we surrender our lives to Christ according to the biblical plan of salvation, we are cleansed from our sin guilt. Yet even after that cleansing, we carry with us some residual effects. The Holy Spirit has to continue to work in our lives, refining and cleansing. Paul spoke of his continual struggle with sin even after becoming a follower of Christ (see Romans 7:19). God promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (5 John1:9). There are areas for each of us to recognize our sin, confess it to God, and allow Him to do His cleansing work. It may be the sin of gossip, lust, greed, or pride. We are not able to conquer these sins on our own; we need the refining power of God.
5. Why do you think that many today do not fear the Lord? In what ways would your life change for the better if you had a greater fear of the Lord?
A lack of fear of God often may be traced to a conscious or unconscious belief that a person is ultimately accountable to self. An emphasis on God’s love to the exclusion of His holiness may also be the problem.
Parents who truly love their children and want the best for them also desire that their children respect them and honor them. They want their children to have a healthy fear of them and not think they can get away with just anything it is similar with God.

The Source of Love Sunday School Lesson Activity

by on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 17:13 under Sunday School.

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Into the Lesson

Prepare 15 sheets of copier paper, each displaying one of the following letters or blanks. Put a number at the bottom of each sheet, as indicated.

SON OF THUNDER!

8 15 11 6 3 14 7 13 9 2 4 12 5

On the back of these sheets of paper, print the following letters and blanks, inverted:

APOSTLE OF LOVE

Affix the 15 sheets to the wall in a single line, with Son of Thunder! and numerals showing. Put masking tape along the top of the sheets so each can be lifted to reveal the letter on the back. Refer to Luke 9:54, in which John and his brother suggested fire from Heaven to punish a village that refused hospitality to Jesus and His apostles. Refer to Mark 3:17, where Jesus gave these two brothers the nickname Boanerges, or- “sons of thunder.”

Lift the flaps in numerical sequence, taping the revealed letters upward. As letters are revealed, encourage students to identify at any time what the phrase on the reverse is. Once the puzzle is solved, ask, “How is it that one called a son of thunder became a messenger of love?” Be sure to mention that John, after being in Jesus’ company for several years, felt so loved he would call himself the one “whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20).

Into the Word

Write all the following statements, drawn from the commentary, on slips of paper. Do not include either the sequence numbers or the verse numbers on the slips.

1. Genuine children resemble their Father in an important way (v. 7); 2. One who does not have love does not know God (v. 8); 3. God’s love is a mighty passion (v. 9); 4. Jesus was the “propitiation” that restored God’s favor (v. 10); 5. God took steps to deal with our sins (v. 10); 6. Nothing less than love for others is acceptable (v. 11); 7. We can have God’s presence dwelling in us (v.12); 8. We have the Spirit because God gave Him to us (v. 13); 9. The apostles knew firsthand that the Father sent the Son into the world (v. 14); 10. Jesus did not come just to teach – He came to rescue (v. 14); 11. If a person confesses Jesus, then God dwells in him or her (v. 15); 12. God embodies what is good about love (v. 16); 13. When we dwell in His love, God dwells in us (v. 16); 14. We have confidence to speak boldly in the presence of God (v. 17); 15. If our love is mature, then we can stand pure and righteous before the Father (v. 17); 16. Fear and love cannot coexist (v. 18); 17. The person who lives in unhealthy fear of God is not spiritually mature (v. 18); 18. Without God’s initiative we would have not known genuine love (v. 19); 19. The practical test of love is that God’s child must love others (v. 20); 20. If we cannot find anything lovable in another, then we will not find anything lovable in God (v. 20); 21. The two great commands of Jesus (love God; love one’s neighbor) are inseparable (v. 21); 22. God is the source of love (v. 10).

Put the slips in a box and pass it around. Say, “Take one of the slips.” (If your class is small, suggest each take two or three.) Then say, “Now turn to 1 John 4:7-21 and find the verse that best relates to the truth on your slip(s).”

As you read through the text, ask students to identify verses they have matched. Because of the emphatic repetition in John’s style, students may associate statements with verses other than the ones identified above.

Into Life

Write the letters LFOEVAER on the board. Ask, “What’s wrong here?” Once someone notices that the word fear is embedded in the word love, the answer will be obvious: 1 John 4:18!

Ask the class to share in a prayer for God to make our love so perfect or whole that fear will disappear. Suggest that such a prayer is a worthy idea for the beginning of each new day.