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09-23-18 Formations

Form 9-23-18

Smyth & Helwys Adult Formations Lesson Plan for September 23, 2018

Faithful Conflict James 4:1-12

Focal Outline: James   4: 1-3 Wasted Asks

James   4: 4-6 God’s Longing

James   4: 7-12 Come near to God

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

1. “Friendship” with both God and the World are automatically at odds.  Ultimately, we can’t be loyal to both.

2. While our motives may include goodness, mixed motives are less spiritually productive than pure ones. 

3. If we draw near to God, spiritually submitting our lives, cleansing and renewal is ours. 

4. In the fast pace of our busy lives, we may mistake quick fixes and on-the-go prayers as spiritual maturity!

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

1. In a culture of “anything goes,” how do these calls to focus and to choose sound to you?

2. In what specific ways might your motives be a little “mixed” when it comes to church and Spirit?

3. For you, what might “drawing near to God” entail?   What are the risks?  What are the payoffs?

4. Would your prayer life be on-the-go, or more growing and disciplined?  What difference does it make?

Points to Ponder

NOTE:  The following outline is designed for about 40 minutes of teaching.  Use 3 to 5 different teaching techniques, making sure that you choose at least one idea from each of the three sections below.  This will help your class become more discussion oriented and interactive.  These approaches will help you build excitement, intimacy, and discipleship as you study.

     What might be one person’s “Godly” is another person’s “Jesus Freak.”  One person fills their language with constant “praise” and a fellow-church member rolls their eyes because of too much “God-speak.”  When it comes to the topic of Godly Behavior, beauty appears to be in the eyes/ears of the beholder.  The early church was already becoming a place where envy, selfishness and manipulation were rampant.  The kingdom was paying the price.  Where is the common ground for all things of faith?

     “What causes fights and quarrels among you?”  That’s the concern James tackles in this week’s text.  Yale theologian Miroslav Volf has based his life’s work on theology around how Christians respond to “otherness” in life.  In church, if you don’t believe like me, talk like me or act like me—I just might view you as “other.”  We are certainly seeing that in our churches and our society these days!

     James saw painful results in the 1st century church.  Divisions, strife, in-fighting and more.  He terms some of this behavior as selfish, and even “adulterous,” in nature.  Who’s being cheated on?  God is.

     James offers a call to repentance and a model for doing so.  Humility and faithfulness are the ways to unity.  And, James compels the Believer to “Come near to God.”  While we would all vote that this is a good spiritual practice, many of us are hesitant to get too close to God.  If we’re honest, closeness to God could expose us to too much change.  James would say that this is exactly the point!  Who are you betraying in your lifestyle?  What needs to happen for you to come near?

Motivation:  (5-15 minutes -These are designed to spark the learner’s interest in the lesson.)

1. We toss around the word “friend” much like we do the word “love.”  In reality, most of us have very few true “friends.” Discuss with your group what true “friendship” means.  What are some words or images that describe friendship?  What does friendship sound like?  Act like?   Taste like?    

2. In church life, what are some ways in which we might observe “mixed-motives.”?  What are some ways you’ve seen relationships shift since the recent election season?  How can people be “one way” at church and “another way” once they leave church?  How can people be mean spirited at church???

3. We’d all vote for “drawing near to God.”  On the surface, most of us genuinely believe this should be our goal.  So, discuss with your group (or in a few smaller groups) what drawing near to God really entails.  What would have to change if we were really to focus more on God and less on ourselves?

Examination:  (10-20 minutes – These give learners opportunities to interact with the text, to see, feel, and hear God’s message.  Also, consult the Learner’s Study Guide and the Lesson Commentary for further insights.)

 

1. James   4: 1-3 Wasted Asks

What is the question here?  How does James answer his own question?  (desires within, unattainable wants, inappropriate requests sought)  How does that compare with your experience in church?  What else could you list?  How does culture creep into the church and change us?  How are we to stay faithful?

James   4: 4-6 God’s Longing

How might “friendship” be the key word in v4?  If so, how is true “friendship” with the world actually a hatred toward God?  Why is it important to hear in v5 that God “envies” this kind of friendship?  How does v. 6 address this envy?  What does God really require of us?  (See Micah 6:8)  What changes will we have to make to truly live out these requirements?

James   4: 7-12 Come near to God

In v7, what is proposed to us instead?  In v8-10 what are some actions we can take to “submit”?  (draw near,

cleanse and purify, grieve, humble ourselves)  If we do these things, would that satisfy the requirements of

Micah 6:8?  Why or why not?  How near do we really want to come to God?  Why?  

2. James prescribes a “drawing near to God” or submission as repentance.  Discuss within your group just how one can actually “come near” or submit.  Otherwise, this is just a nice idea from James that no one takes home.  Perhaps hand out pieces of paper and pens and in a guided prayer time, ask class participants to fill in the blanks on their paper.  (This is just between them and God!  They won’t be asked to share.)

Lord, I confess that I need to improve my relationship with _____________________.

Lord, I confess that I need to improve my attitude about  _______________________.

Lord, I confess that I need _______________________  in order to draw closer to you.

Lord, help my unbelief.  Cleanse me and strengthen me in the sacrifices I must make!  Amen!  

3. What does Matt 6:24 have to do with this passage?  How about Hebrews 12:1-2?

4. Focus a bit on “God’s longing” in 4:5.  How are we to respond to this?  What changes are required in our behaviors to satisfy this in God?  Why aren’t most of us willing to make these changes!

Application:  (5-15 minutes - This section is to give learners an opportunity to apply lesson truths to their lives!)

Discuss any of the following questions… 

1a. James writes assuming that there is a “truth” that defines and shapes life.  How does this view affect you?

  b. Would you say that your prayer life is on-the-go, or is your practice really drawing you near to God?

2.  James refers to a “double-minded” people.  He says that we cannot live this way and be in step with God.  Search your soul.  What specific double-mindedness is there in your living?  In your church’s?  How does a “Godly” conviction, rather than a “worldly” one, affect how the Church will act?

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

09-23-18 Connections

Connections 9-23-18

Smyth and Helwys Connections Series Lesson Outline for September 23, 2018

Real Wisdom James 3: 13-4:3, 7-8a 

Focal Outline: James 3: 13-18 Who is wise?

James 4: 1-3 Why all the conflicts? 

James 4: 7-8a Draw near to God

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

1. Most of us would like to be pure, peaceable and gentle.  We need heavenly wisdom that God wants to give.                   

2. God’s wisdom leads us to live in ways that demonstrate God’s grace and love.                     

3. James says that “greed” can lead us to live in ways that will do harm to other people.           

4. The situation is far from hopeless.  James says to submit ourselves to God, resist evil and draw near to God! 

 

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

1. What causes you to struggle with drawing from God the resources that would lead to healthy living?               

2. How have you specifically seen God’s grace and love in other people?                        

3. We think of “greed” as having to do with money or things.  What is James’ point about relationships and life?                

4. How could you take James’ three-part recommendation seriously enough to weave it into my living?                    

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!]

     Relationships.  James is talking wisdom. But, I keep coming back to relationships.  Our relationship with God.  Our relationships with other people.  As I write this outline, I have already written the sermon for this same Sunday.  Yes, I am preaching a lectionary-based sermon series.  So this text will be used for that, too.  The more I study and write on this text, I keep coming back to the currency and importance of our relationships.  I think that’s because of today’s political and cultural era.   

     An old friend came to Franklin sometime back to visit.  We sat in my home and caught up.  We talked about life, family and other friends.  At one point, my friend shared a lot of pain he had with his own direct family members and a couple of his oldest friends.  In today’s political climate, he said, visits and other interactions keep turning ugly.  He keeps feeling attacked by loved ones.  He’s tempted to spend less time with them.  That’s a conversation I have more often than you might think.  I’ve had it with more than one of my own family members.                    Here’s the question I ask my pre-marrieds and married couples when I work with them:  

What issue, subject or challenge is worth you fracturing this relationship over? 

     If we stop to reflect a little, to really pay attention to how life and faith work best-- then I think we see where James is coming from.  I think he makes more sense when we slow down our striving, our anxiety, when we free ourselves from our anger-- and fear-- long enough to actually look around.       

 

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

1. Think about your interactions with people over the past forty-eight hours.  Many of those interactions are shaped by “worldly” wisdom.  Which of them were guided, instead, by Godly wisdom?   Discuss within your group.      

2. What is worth fracturing a relationship over?  Think back to the last conflict or argument you had.  What was that about?  What were the circumstances?  What was the threat to you that led to anger?                         

3. Think back to the most regretful thing someone has said to you.  Or, think of the most regretful thing you’ve said to someone.  What do you think led to such an interaction?  What was making that kind of behavior possible?      

4. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p24 in your Connections Teaching Guide.  Why can it be so tricky to discern earthly wisdom from heavenly wisdom? 

5. Which is easier and why?  Building relationships or KEEPING relationships…    

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...

James 3: 13-18 Who is wise?

In v13, what is the exact question you hear James asking?  How does “wise” differ biblically from “smart”?  How does 13b shed light on this question?  In v14-16, what contrast to this wisdom do we get?  In v17, what more do we learn about this wisdom?  What more there do we also learn about God?               

James 4: 1-3 Why all the conflicts?

In v1a, what statement does this “question” seem to make?  How do v2-3 support this point?                          

James 4: 7-8a Draw near to God

In these verses, what are at least 3 prescriptions that James gives here?  In v7, what might “submit” mean?     

2. On p31 (lrge. print) our lesson writer says, “James sees evidence that his readers are trying to live by heavenly and earthly wisdom at the same time.”  What seems to be the problem here?  How can we balance these two?                                        

3. How does 1 Cor 2: 1-5 relate to our text?  How about Mk 9: 30-37?   

4. On p33 our lesson writer says “Each of us needs to evaluate the state of our relationship with God, but we all need to draw closer to God. None of us is as close to God as we could or should be.”  What might an “evaluation” like this entail?  What is one specific practice this week that might help you draw closer to God?                                   

 

5. In the Connections Commentary, Brian Harbour in his first paragraph clarifies James’ purpose for writing.  On p21-22, what are the two (2) kinds of wisdom?  And, how do they differ?  What are some qualities of “earthly” wisdom?  On p22-3, what are some qualities of spiritual wisdom?  Have your group members go through our James text for today, listing these qualities.  Use Harbour’s commentary to help clarify understanding of these. 

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. 1. A. This week, read Mk 9: 30-37.  Jesus reveals God’s deepest wisdom to us.  What is that?                         

B. What can we learn from Jesus here?  Pray to have the courage to learn from and follow Jesus.               

 

  1. 2. Read 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5 and see if Paul doesn’t sound similar notes to James.  How does Paul help us to understand differences between earthly and spiritual wisdom?  Ask God to help you to live out your faith!                  
  1. 3. See “Applying the Lesson” on p29 in the Uniform Teaching Guide.  What might it sound like for you to ask God for wisdom?                    

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

09-30-18 Formations

Form 9-30-18

Smyth & Helwys Adult Formations Lesson Plan for September 23, 2018

Faithful Conflict James 4:1-12

Focal Outline: James   4: 1-3 Wasted Asks

James   4: 4-6 God’s Longing

James   4: 7-12 Come near to God

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

1. “Friendship” with both God and the World are automatically at odds.  Ultimately, we can’t be loyal to both.

2. While our motives may include goodness, mixed motives are less spiritually productive than pure ones. 

3. If we draw near to God, spiritually submitting our lives, cleansing and renewal is ours. 

4. In the fast pace of our busy lives, we may mistake quick fixes and on-the-go prayers as spiritual maturity!

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

1. In a culture of “anything goes,” how do these calls to focus and to choose sound to you?

2. In what specific ways might your motives be a little “mixed” when it comes to church and Spirit?

3. For you, what might “drawing near to God” entail?   What are the risks?  What are the payoffs?

4. Would your prayer life be on-the-go, or more growing and disciplined?  What difference does it make?

Points to Ponder

NOTE:  The following outline is designed for about 40 minutes of teaching.  Use 3 to 5 different teaching techniques, making sure that you choose at least one idea from each of the three sections below.  This will help your class become more discussion oriented and interactive.  These approaches will help you build excitement, intimacy, and discipleship as you study.

     What might be one person’s “Godly” is another person’s “Jesus Freak.”  One person fills their language with constant “praise” and a fellow-church member rolls their eyes because of too much “God-speak.”  When it comes to the topic of Godly Behavior, beauty appears to be in the eyes/ears of the beholder.  The early church was already becoming a place where envy, selfishness and manipulation were rampant.  The kingdom was paying the price.  Where is the common ground for all things of faith?

     “What causes fights and quarrels among you?”  That’s the concern James tackles in this week’s text.  Yale theologian Miroslav Volf has based his life’s work on theology around how Christians respond to “otherness” in life.  In church, if you don’t believe like me, talk like me or act like me—I just might view you as “other.”  We are certainly seeing that in our churches and our society these days!

     James saw painful results in the 1st century church.  Divisions, strife, in-fighting and more.  He terms some of this behavior as selfish, and even “adulterous,” in nature.  Who’s being cheated on?  God is.

     James offers a call to repentance and a model for doing so.  Humility and faithfulness are the ways to unity.  And, James compels the Believer to “Come near to God.”  While we would all vote that this is a good spiritual practice, many of us are hesitant to get too close to God.  If we’re honest, closeness to God could expose us to too much change.  James would say that this is exactly the point!  Who are you betraying in your lifestyle?  What needs to happen for you to come near?

Motivation:  (5-15 minutes -These are designed to spark the learner’s interest in the lesson.)

1. We toss around the word “friend” much like we do the word “love.”  In reality, most of us have very few true “friends.” Discuss with your group what true “friendship” means.  What are some words or images that describe friendship?  What does friendship sound like?  Act like?   Taste like?    

2. In church life, what are some ways in which we might observe “mixed-motives.”?  What are some ways you’ve seen relationships shift since the recent election season?  How can people be “one way” at church and “another way” once they leave church?  How can people be mean spirited at church???

3. We’d all vote for “drawing near to God.”  On the surface, most of us genuinely believe this should be our goal.  So, discuss with your group (or in a few smaller groups) what drawing near to God really entails.  What would have to change if we were really to focus more on God and less on ourselves?

Examination:  (10-20 minutes – These give learners opportunities to interact with the text, to see, feel, and hear God’s message.  Also, consult the Learner’s Study Guide and the Lesson Commentary for further insights.)

 

1. James   4: 1-3 Wasted Asks

What is the question here?  How does James answer his own question?  (desires within, unattainable wants, inappropriate requests sought)  How does that compare with your experience in church?  What else could you list?  How does culture creep into the church and change us?  How are we to stay faithful?

James   4: 4-6 God’s Longing

How might “friendship” be the key word in v4?  If so, how is true “friendship” with the world actually a hatred toward God?  Why is it important to hear in v5 that God “envies” this kind of friendship?  How does v. 6 address this envy?  What does God really require of us?  (See Micah 6:8)  What changes will we have to make to truly live out these requirements?

James   4: 7-12 Come near to God

In v7, what is proposed to us instead?  In v8-10 what are some actions we can take to “submit”?  (draw near,

cleanse and purify, grieve, humble ourselves)  If we do these things, would that satisfy the requirements of

Micah 6:8?  Why or why not?  How near do we really want to come to God?  Why?  

2. James prescribes a “drawing near to God” or submission as repentance.  Discuss within your group just how one can actually “come near” or submit.  Otherwise, this is just a nice idea from James that no one takes home.  Perhaps hand out pieces of paper and pens and in a guided prayer time, ask class participants to fill in the blanks on their paper.  (This is just between them and God!  They won’t be asked to share.)

Lord, I confess that I need to improve my relationship with _____________________.

Lord, I confess that I need to improve my attitude about  _______________________.

Lord, I confess that I need _______________________  in order to draw closer to you.

Lord, help my unbelief.  Cleanse me and strengthen me in the sacrifices I must make!  Amen!  

3. What does Matt 6:24 have to do with this passage?  How about Hebrews 12:1-2?

4. Focus a bit on “God’s longing” in 4:5.  How are we to respond to this?  What changes are required in our behaviors to satisfy this in God?  Why aren’t most of us willing to make these changes!

Application:  (5-15 minutes - This section is to give learners an opportunity to apply lesson truths to their lives!)

Discuss any of the following questions… 

1a. James writes assuming that there is a “truth” that defines and shapes life.  How does this view affect you?

  b. Would you say that your prayer life is on-the-go, or is your practice really drawing you near to God?

2.  James refers to a “double-minded” people.  He says that we cannot live this way and be in step with God.  Search your soul.  What specific double-mindedness is there in your living?  In your church’s?  How does a “Godly” conviction, rather than a “worldly” one, affect how the Church will act?

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

09-30-18 Connections

Connections 9-30-18

Smyth and Helwys Uniform Series Lesson Outline for September 30, 2018

Prayers of Faith James 5: 13-20

Focal Outline: James   5: 13 Are any of you in trouble?  Happy?  Pray!

James   5: 14-15 Are any of you sick?  Pray!

James   5: 16-18 The powerful prayer of the Righteous

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

1. The prayer of the Righteous is powerful and effective.  Prayer holds power to transform us all!

2. A balanced, healthy prayer life includes prayers of need and of celebration! 

3. We are to include equally the powerful and the weak, the sick and the healthy, the sinner and the righteous. 

4. James advocates the sharing of life together, and a responsibility for others, through communal prayer.

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

1. When it comes down to practice, how much do you believe Prayer really can accomplish?

2. Which are you likelier to do: pray to God in need or to God in praise?  Why do you think that’s true?

3. Who will you be more likely to pray for?  Who are you less likely to include in your prayers?  Why?

4. When it comes to your view of prayer, how much sense of shared-responsibility to your church do you feel?

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!]

     Okay, you know the sound if you’ve ever had a record player, that distinctive “screech” sound that’s made when a record-player needle is scratched across a vinyl album.  Even though our younger adults have grown up with other media formats, they’ve at least heard the sound-effect as it is still used in movies and TV.  This sound signals a show-stopper.  All action grinds to a halt!  Take a look at James 5:16-18.  Can you hear the sound now?  

     “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other…”.  James throws us a curve!  We’re sailing along in a theme of doing good works; and then we hit a notion like that!  Let me ask you something: who’s going first?  Lest you think I’m making light of the text, please think again.  I am naming another tension from James that we’ll have to deal with—or else just ignore.  What’s your plan?

     My recommendation is that we treat this entire text in a balanced way.  Work your way through the text.  You’ll find that this challenging instruction is really an ending to a larger call to prayerful community support.  James believes that Prayer will make a difference.  What do you believe?  He believes the church has a shared responsibility to include and to support.  Keep sight of the bigger picture while dealing with the details!  

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

1. What kinds of things are you likeliest to pray about?  Why is that?  What kinds of things have you noticed you don’t often pray about?  Why?  Who are you likelier to pray for?  Who have you noticed seems to be left out of your prayer?  Why does any of this matter?       

2. If a friend asked, how would you answer the following: “So, please explain to me what you believe is the power of prayer?  I mean, what good does it do anyway”?   Discuss responses to this in your group.

3. In Old and New Testament culture, it seems common to believe there is a spiritual connection between sin and illness/hardships.  What do you believe?  What supports this belief?  What discounts it?

4. On a scale of 1 being low and 10 being high, how effective is your prayer life?  Why do you give it this rating?  What needs to change?  

5. To whom are you willing to confess your sins?  Would you be willing to do this in a worship service?  Why/why not?

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...

James   5: 13 Are any of you in trouble?  Happy?  Pray!

What 2 life-realities does James use to begin his point in v13?  (trouble, happiness) What are we to do in both?  

James   5: 14-15 Are any of you sick?  Pray!

For v14-15, what additional life issue does James employ (sickness)?  Other than the desire for healing, what is another reason for the urgency to pray?  (belief that sin and illness were connected) What can we learn?

    

James   5: 16-18 The powerful prayer of the Righteous

What instruction do Believers receive in v16?  (confession!)  What level of conviction do you believe James has about this, in light of v16?  What part does the Elijah illustration in v17-18 play in making his point?  

2. James believes that mutual confession and prayer support, in community, has profound power for life.  What do you think?  Don’t gloss over this point.  Talk this over in your group.  Why do we have the hesitancy about this practice in our tradition?  What might be the risks?  How might we benefit?  Is there a way that YOU might figure out to work in this practice to a greater degree in your faith life? 

3. What does 1 Peter 5:2 have to do with this passage?  How about the Elijah story from 1 Ki 17-18?

4. The prayer of a righteous person ‘is powerful and effective (5:16), and it can lead to holistic healing for an individual or an entire church community.  Agree/Disagree?  Who are the “righteous”?  Why might this kind of healing and transformation be possible?  What are the “yeah, but’s…” of this passage for you?

5.  What CAN we do with the passage?  What are we WILLING to do?  Listen for responses of support, partnership and inclusion.

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… 

1a. James assumes that prayer is a communal practice.  How does this conflict with a “Jesus and me” view?

  b. What is your own personal belief, and practice, of the power of prayer?  What more could yours be?

2.  James sees prayer and inclusion as equally important within the community of believers.  Would your views of prayer and inclusion of others be “equal” in your reality?  Why does this matter?

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