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Connections Uniform 5-29-16

Smyth and Helwys Connections Uniform Series Lesson Outline for May 29, 2016

Joyous Faith                        Luke 19: 1-10

Focal Outline:           Luke 19: 1-4                          He could not see Jesus

                                    Luke 19: 5-7                          Guest of a sinner

                                    Luke 19: 8-10                                    Salvation has come

 

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

  1. Zacchaeus had to work hard to see Jesus. But, for his effort he got a life-changing experience.
  2. Intended or not, our lives reveal how desperate we are to be near to Jesus. Or, how indifferent we are.
  3. God loves and accepts “sinners.” All of us. Thanks be to God!
  4. We are called to continue Jesus’ mission. Including His work of receiving the “lost.”

 

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

  1. In what ways does my spiritual life cause me to need to put in some effort in order to be near Jesus?
  2. What does my own living reveal about how much I value seeing Jesus?
  3. When someone reminds me that God seeks to include all, how generous do I feel toward “all”?
  4. How can my own lost-ness position me to receive others who need to draw nearer?

 

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!]

Sometimes we just need to be reminded to keep things simple. I will confess—our lesson this week was a clear call for me to approach this text simply at first. That is, to stop and consider the sheer effort that Zacchaeus went to in order to see Jesus. Effort. So, one of our central questions will be to consider how much effort you and I actually put in to see Jesus. I can so easily slip into a complacent mode. I can take for granted that the Spirit will just move. That Jesus will stop by my figurative spiritual house and call on me.

Zacchaeus embodied something that the early church needed. He was a living reminder that God’s Church would be for all. Never intended to be held exclusively, instead God’s grace was to redeem all. God’s coming kingdom was to have a place of fellowship for anyone, sinners included. In my more lucid moments, I remember that I am one of those sinners. Just as surprised and amazed to be included as Zacchaeus was!

In my less lucid moments, though, I find this openness challenging. Birds of a feather really do flock together. So, one point I will need to ponder is how deeply I desire for the Church to look just like me. Who really are the “lost” or “sinful” who don’t seem to belong? Who is too lost for me; too broken for me? Zacchaeus’ traditional world looked down on Jesus because of the company He kept. That was problematic for them. Jesus’ time with Zacchaeus illustrated a great part of what was wrong with this new movement, in their eyes. Who would I prefer found another church to fellowship within?

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

  1. What are you willing to do to see Jesus? Our lesson writer asks this question (p36). This comes in response to today’s text where Zacchaeus climbs a tree. What best practices seem to help you draw nearer to the Christ? Discuss reactions within your group.

 

  1. We are helplessly limited in our ability to understand another person’s spiritual condition. But acknowledging those limitations, make a list of people you know who are in need of God’s grace. Do you have a few names/faces in your mind? As we open in prayer, lift them to God—and ask God to help you help them.

 

  1. One of the chief accusations against Jesus was that he socialized too much with sinners. If Jesus were with us today, what kind of “sinners” might He be guilty of spending time with? Discuss this in your group.

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p31 of your Connections Uniform Teaching Guide. Are there any celebrities you’d like to meet? Why?

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 “Scripture Context” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the focal passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

           Luke 19: 1-4                          He could not see Jesus

Can you look back into ch18: 35-43 and see why this story follows? What key things do we learn about Zacchaeus in v1-3? How would a tax collector become rich? Why is his running/climbing in v4 important?

 

Luke 19: 5-7                          Guest of a sinner

How might Jesus have known Zacchaeus’ name? (divine knowledge? Matthew’s help?) In v5, what made Jesus’ question so odd? Why is Zacchaeus’ reaction in v6 telling? (eager to know Jesus) In v7, why grumble?

 

Luke 19: 8-10                                    Salvation has come

In the leap from v7 to v8, what do you wish you knew more about that day? What do Zacchaeus’ pledges in v8 tell us about his renewal? How does Jesus’ pronouncement in v9-10 support this?

 

  1. On p37 (lrge. print) our lesson author says, “If you don’t feel a great need to encounter Jesus, ask yourself why. Have you grown too comfortable…lost touch with your need for him?” How do you react to this question with regard to where you are right now with God?

 

  1. How does Lk 18: 18-25 relate to our text? How about Jr 31: 11-14?

 

  1. On p41 our lesson writer says “Zacchaeus exhibits the humble reception of Jesus necessary for salvation and the joy that accompanies such salvation. Those who respond like Zacchaeus did will be saved.” With regard to Zacchaeus, why might this summation be apt? If you agree with it, why might this be true spiritually?

 

  1. In the Connections Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour tells a fun story about his kids naming their dog Zacchaeus. On p27-28, learn more about why Jericho was unique then. What is ironic about Zacchaeus’ name? (p27) Also on p27, why did tax collectors have such poor reputations? In 19:2, how do we know that Zacchaeus had been crooked? On p28, what are some markers in the story that tell of Zacchaeus’ spiritual need? On p29, although the story skips ahead—what does Luke indicate about the big day they had spent?

 

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. What can you do to put yourself in a position to be challenged more by Jesus?
  2. Make a renewed effort this week to worship, study, pray and do— so that you might see Jesus, too!
  3. What do you think Zacchaeus realized about himself that made him eager to be near Jesus? What do you think Jesus specifically offered him that was so transformative? Pray on these things, inviting God to you!

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p35 of the Uniform Teaching Guide. With whom in the story do you identify? How can you connect with Zacchaeus’ profound need?

 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!


Connections Uniform 6-5-16

Smyth and Helwys Connections Uniform Series Lesson Outline for June 5, 2016

The Day of the Lord                    Zephaniah 1: 4-6, 14-16; 2:3

Focal Outline:           Zephaniah 1: 4-6                   My hand against Judah

                                    Zephaniah 1: 14-16               A day of wrath

                                    Zephaniah 2:3                       A small hope

 

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

  1. One of God’s harshest judgments might be to let us reap what we have sown.
  2. Zephaniah’s assessment will be that the people of Judah were their own worst enemy. Timeless words, these.
  3. His message was an urgent one: They didn’t have much time left to right wrongs. Our days are finite, too.
  4. Not all our suffering is self-inflicted. But in our suffering, we do have choice about how we will react.

 

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

  1. How do you believe God judges/punishes us in modern times? If different from biblical times, how so?
  2. In what ways might you sometimes be your own worst enemy, in the eyes of God?
  3. If Zephaniah (or any prophet) spoke to our culture today, what might be the message?
  4. How much of the pain in my life turns out to be self-inflicted, if I am honest?

 

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!]

We often hear that the opposite of love is not hate, but instead is indifference. The prophet Zephaniah will explore this notion in speaking honestly to the people of Judah. I love the T.S. Eliot quote that our lesson writer uses: Here were decent godless people: their only monument the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls. (p45) Surely, we all have experienced the love that went away due to indifference or neglect. In marriage and divorce work, we observe that most relationships do not go up in flames; most simply flicker our quietly.

God is a self-proclaimed jealous God. And for chosen or patterned lives of sin, there certainly can be consequences. Here, we read of something uncomfortable for many. God’s wrath lies ahead of Jerusalem. Devastating will be the consequences of sin and indifference. See p47 for theologian William Hendricks’ longing for a substitute term for “wrath.” Wrath makes us think of a “petty tyrant,” he said. Hendricks went on to say, “Love and wrath are not opposites. They are two sides of the same coin.”

How can this be? And, what are we to do with the words of the ancient biblical prophets? This will be an underlying set of issues in this unit of study. What will we do with these hard warnings that doesn’t minimize them as irrelevant to us today? Yet, how also will we heed them without forsaking our convictions of Christ-given grace? Search on within your life of spirit. Study hard and make meaning. For these are important, timeless words that somehow feel disconnected from our day. Are they?

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

  1. As a spiritual person, how would you describe yourself? Make an honest appraisal of your spiritual practice and reality. Maybe jot down some words that describe you. See if group members will discuss this aloud.

 

  1. Our lesson writer will use a T.S. Eliot quote this week: “Here were decent godless people: their only monument the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls.” (p45) What do you think Eliot was observing, and how does that assessment apply even today in our culture?

 

  1. What is wrong, really, with being a decent (or even “good”) person who simply does not think of God? Discuss this within your group. What might God’s stance be on this? Why?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p38 of your Connections Uniform Teaching Guide. What are some of the biggest surprises you have had in your life? Did some of these turn out to be good? Bad?

 

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 “Scripture Context” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the focal passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

           Zephaniah 1: 4-6                   My hand against Judah

What seems to have God this upset or disappointed? (What is the context?) In v4, how dire does this seem to be? In v4-6, list as many offenses or shortcomings as you can identify. How would you sum this up?

 

Zephaniah 1: 14-16               A day of wrath

What is the warning found in v14? How does that verse substantiate peril to them? What do v15-16 add? What had Judah perhaps assumed that “the day of the Lord” might be instead?

 

Zephaniah 2:3                       A small hope

What is the hope found in v3? List the conditions under which this hope might be found. What makes even this bit of hope uncertain? What are our lessons from this?

 

  1. On p47 (lrge. print) our lesson author says, “Theologian Willam Hendricks…asserts that ‘Love and wrath are not opposites. They are two sides of the same coin.’” What might he mean by that? How is this so? Why does this matter in light of this week’s text?

 

  1. How does Dt 6:4 relate to our text? How about Lk 6: 46-49?

 

  1. On p50 our lesson writer says “Perhaps is an unexpectedly powerful word of hope. Ponder the word ‘perhaps.’” What possibilities do you need to imagine? What changes should you make in light of your future?

 

  1. In the Connections Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour observes that we don’t have an image, or a story, to associate with Zephaniah’s name. On p31, who is Zephaniah? Also on p31, what does Zephaniah “attack?” Who are 3 groups he speaks to on p32? On p32-3, what exactly is this anticipated “Day of the Lord?” What are 5 couplets used here in Zephaniah to describe this wrathful day? (p33-4) See p34 to see what little hope Israel had—with 3 characteristics their behavior will show if they “seek the Lord.”

 

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. Consider the types of sin mentioned in v4-6 of our text in this lesson.
  2. Do you ever worship something other than God? Are you ever a “good” person who thinks little of God?
  3. Zephaniah said to the people of Judah that they were to blame for their own troubles. Do we need to acknowledge our responsibility for a fractured relationship with God? If so, why?

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p42 of the Uniform Teaching Guide. What are some ways we can seek the Lord, seek righteousness and seek humility?

 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!