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Smyth and Helwys Uniform Series Lesson Outline for September 6, 2015

Praying for One Another             Acts 4: 23-31

Focal Outline:           Acts 4: 23-24              Praying together

                                    Acts 4: 25-28              Affirming God’s presence

                                    Acts 4: 29-31              Filled with the Holy Spirit

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. Amid tough circumstances and uncertainty, early Believers gathered in unity and turned to God.
  2. Finding commonalities with the earliest Christians can be difficult. Time and culture separate us.
  3. The pages of scripture teach us God’s history and show us how we should live. They also lead us to prayer.
  4. It is tempting to pray for God to swoop in and change our circumstances. The early church prayed differently.

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. What is the true value of gathering with other Believers for prayer and worship?
  2. What bridges time and differences to keep the lessons of Scripture relevant?
  3. What are some specific scriptures that come to mind as helpful in guiding your prayer?
  4. What are some healthy alternatives in prayer that might benefit God and us?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

 

How well do you relate to the people of the early churches? In the New Testament, there is a world we feel a bit disconnected from, if we are honest. If we move into the Old Testament, perhaps even more so. Time simply does some things that makes them feel a bit “over there.” Speaking of over there, they existed in a land that feels literally across the world from us. Their culture, their exile and political occupation by varying groups—it all makes them quite different. So, we claim this book to be our holiest and most sacred document. But, then we find its people hard to relate to. That’s a problem.

How do you handle all these differences, so that the Bible is not just sacred and beloved? That is, how do you work to make the Bible’s lessons your own life lessons? How do you connect so that their stories are recognized as your own stories? That is our lifelong spiritual task.

We begin a new unit this week. “Seeds of New Growth” is the binding theme. These early believers have much to teach us. Now, we have to do our parts. You’ll be challenged this week in ways that could be easy to miss. Watch for them to gather, first of all.   They gave of their time and energy to be together. They listened. How much more of that could we do? As they responded, they prayed together. Then, they got busy building a unified church! What does their testimony, their story, have to do with you? That’s what you’ll have to figure out. My prayer is that we all will take the effort to do so.

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. How has your experience in the body of Christ been like that of the apostles and the earliest church? (p7) Our lesson writer asks this. Drawing only on what you know—how would you respond? Lead the group in sharing.

 

  1. Is there a particular scripture that you like to use in prayer now and then? Enjoy a chance for the group to share by asking this question. This could be a Psalm. Or, a key verse they like to recite. Ask why they find meaning in what they chose. How has this helped their prayer lives?

 

  1. The New Testament was so long ago, and a different place. What makes the lessons from the NT relevant?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p6 of your Uniform Teaching Guide. How does the Church respond to threats?

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Locating the Text” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the Focal Passage using a variety of teaching methods…

            Acts 4: 23-24              Praying together

In v23, who had just been released—and from what? (Peter, John from jail for preaching) What had they been told by the Sanhedrin? How would you describe the reaction in v24? (prayer, affirmation, praise)

 

Acts 4: 25-28              Affirming God’s presence

Reading v25-28, see how many individual affirmations are made about God’s prior work. Have someone list these for the group. How does v28 summarize or make meaning of all this? Why do you think they chose to begin by praising God?

 

Acts 4: 29-31              Filled with the Holy Spirit

In v29, what request is made of God? What further request is made in v30? (mission, ministry) What action does v31 report? What connection do you make between the episode’s beginning (v23-30) and the Holy Spirit coming upon them then?

 

  1. On p7 (lrge. print) our lesson author says, “Finding commonalities with the earliest Christians can be difficult. We are separated by so much time and so many cultural expectations.” What really are the greatest barriers you find to connecting with scripture? Discuss this within your group? What helps you with this?

 

  1. How does Psalm 2 relate to this passage? How about Mt 26: 19-20?

 

  1. On p9 our lesson writer says “We can bring our deepest and most honest selves before God, just as David did. And, like the early Christians, we can use David’s words to guide our prayer.” V25-26 quotes David’s words in Psalm 1-2. How can you use scripture to as a part of your prayer—and drawing closer to God?

 

  1. In the Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour shares a surprising story from a trip to Prague. On p4, what had the Jewish leaders so annoyed? On p4-5, who is “they” and from what were they “released?” On p5 (lower), why did the people unite in prayer? On p7, for what did they pray?

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the following questions…

  1. How often do you catch your prayers being quick, request-filled missiles fired toward God?
  2. Ask God to transform your spirit. Practice the discipline and focus of listening to God in prayer.
  3. We may not face persecution as the early Christians did. But, we still have challenges and fears. Pray for boldness to be an active servant of Christ. Ask God to show you how you can best serve in Christ’s name.

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p11 of the Uniform Teaching Guide. How can we use worship and prayer this week to be empowered in the tough challenges of life?
Uniform 9-6-15

Smyth and Helwys Uniform Series Lesson Outline for September 13, 2015

Sharing All Things               Acts 4: 34-5:10

Focal Outline:           Acts 4: 34-37              All-in: committed

                                    Acts 5: 1-6                  Holding back

                                    Acts 5: 7-10                More than money

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. We can express our love of God and our commitment to faith in many ways.
  2. The way we use our resources as individuals, and as congregations, is a testimony to the God we serve.
  3. In communities of grace we can call out the good in each other. And, we should hold each other accountable.
  4. Our relationship with money—as individuals and as church—is an expression of belief in God’s goodness.

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. What are the many ways that we can show demonstrative or tangible love for God?
  2. How does our financial contribution connect to our faith in God?
  3. Who challenges me to be at my spiritual best as I live? Who challenges me to heal and repent when I need?
  4. Why should I give money through the church as an act of faith and appreciation? What does that do?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

 

Someone will read this week’s study text and their reaction will be visceral: “I’m not familiar with this story. This is terrible!” If that is you, then your challenge this week will be to prepare for a meaningful study on Sunday. One that neither dismisses the disturbing issues of the story, nor focuses on them in such detail that the larger point is lost. Balance, as in so much of life, will be our ally this week. So, pray that God will open your heart and your mind. Pray that your study of the text will mine spiritual gems!

All that said, the text can be most disturbing. Let’s name the obvious: not one but two persons died as they held back money from God. Adding to that, Peter seems unaffected by all this. Finally, some young men continue to show up just in time to carry out the dead bodies–as if this sort of thing is expected.

Is there a larger point to all this? Of course. First, let’s remind ourselves of the larger Unit Theme: “Seeds of New Growth.” A new Church was standing up on shaky legs. The commitment needed was a lot to ask. Yet ask God did! Someone will be tempted to process today’s lesson title (Sharing All Things) as “communist” or “socialist.” Someone might even say, “liberal.” Am I over-reacting by suggesting this will happen? No, because in my own church that happened a short time back. When I really unpacked the person’s complaint, their argument was with scripture. And, with the God of the scripture. So, begin by naming your discomforts. Then, see how you can push past them. Tucked way back may be some much-needed truth!

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. Think about your fears regarding the future. They may be related to family, health, work, emotion or even money. Do you feel that you can share these needs and fears honestly with your church family?(p19) Why?

Lead your group in responding, creating a safe place for participants to be open and honest.

 

  1. Why does the Church call for financial offerings so regularly? What is the incentive for any of us to give money through the Church? Discuss this in your group, and facilitate honest and responsible participation.   Assure group members their responses are safe. Why does God’s Church need our money?

 

  1. What are some of the ways we should hold each other accountable within the Church?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p13 of your Uniform Teaching Guide. Do you think your Church has a generous nature? Why or why not? How can you become more generous? Are YOU generous? Hmmm.

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Locating the Text” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the Focal Passage using a variety of teaching methods…

            Acts 4: 34-37              All-in: committed

How does this text join up with last week’s study in the earlier part of Acts 4? Why is the detail in v34-35 important? How do you react to the way they were sharing? What function in this story do v36-37 play?

 

Acts 5: 1-6                  Holding back

In v1-3, how would you describe the problem? Why is this a “problem” within this early Church’s community? In v4, what issues does Peter lay out? What do you make of Ananias’ death in v5?

 

Acts 5: 7-10                More than money

How do the details of v7 relate to the action in v8-9? What role did Peter have (or not have) in her death, in v10? How about God? Why is the detail about the young men carrying out bodies and burying them important? What are we to make of this story? What are the helpful lessons you can glean here?

 

  1. On p15 (lrge. print) our lesson author says, “In a culture where personal wealth is often viewed as an indicator of achievement, success and value, this text challenges us to view our resources as a way to testify to God’s grace.” Do you agree with this assessment of the text? Why? Why not?

 

  1. How does Phl 4: 10-14 relate to this passage? How about Dt 15: 4?

 

  1. On p19 our lesson writer says “Our relationship with money—as individuals and as a church—is still one expression of our belief in God’s goodness and grace.” How would you connect money to our belief in God’s goodness and grace? Discuss this in your group. What is our resistance to this message?

 

  1. In the Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour shares a powerful story about a country preacher’s integrity. On p10, what is the cause of the “need” here in ch4? See p10-11 for more on who Barnabas was. In contrast, 2 questions arise on p12 about Ananias, Sophia and Peter! How do Paul’s words in 1 Cor 11:30 relate?

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the following questions…

  1. How does your relationship to money testify of your relationship with God?
  2. Ask God to help you explore this. Pray on how your resources can help bring life or create division.
  3. Read Phl 4: 10-14 this week. How can we support others as the Philippians did Paul? Pray about how you might be able to share in order to meet others’ needs. Ask God to help you in discernment.

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p18 of the Uniform Teaching Guide. Are you willing to sacrifice in order to help others in need?
Uniform 9-13-15