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03-24-19 Formations

Form 3-24-19

                    Who will deliver me? Romans 7:14 – 8:2

Focal Outline: Romans 7:14- 20 Law and Flesh and Sin

Romans 7:21-25 The Struggle is Real

Romans 8:1-2 No Condemnation in Christ

Summary Statements: (To share an overview of the lesson…)

1. All of us have sinned, all of us will sin!  We know better but we sometimes still do that which is wrong.

2. Mature Christians know that the struggle between sin and righteousness is very real AND challenging.

3. The Gospel is a weaving of grace, forgiveness, action, and lifestyle.  Be honest in repentance and grace.

4. Grace while not cheap is free and as we live in the security of Christ, we live in the security of God’s love.

Life Questions: (To help focus your thoughts…)

1. What does it mean that there is no condemnation in Christ?  What does living in the Spirit mean for you?

2. What is more important, our thoughts or our actions?  Honest repentance or righteous actions?  Why? 

3. How do you know that God has delivered you, is delivering you, and will deliver you?

4. How have you accepted God’s grace?  How have you been transformed in body, spirit, soul?

Points to Ponder!!

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

     Paul writes to the Romans to declare that the gospel is for all people.  He is writing to encourage a small, young Christian community.  He is also writing knowing that the Jewish leaders and the Roman leaders will be reading/hearing what he has to say.  The Law is important but Grace abounds.

     Paul brings conclusion to the previous arguments for the faith with one word, “therefore”!  He is signaling a conclusion that lets us know he’s done arguing.  He is now stating truths.  “We are free in Christ.  There is no condemnation before God.  If Christ is in you, the Spirit gives life.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God.”  These truths are simple and profound.

     Paul challenges the Roman community to live in the righteousness of God.  Those same challenges exist today.  We are often tempted, lured by the hint of ultimate happiness.  And Paul makes the message very clear, “ultimate happiness is a life of freedom through Christ.”  So live free!  Live confidently!

Beginning (5-15 minutes - These ideas are to spark the learner’s interest in the lesson.)

1. Cecil Sherman has said that this text cuts to the basic “stuff” of the Christian life.

What orders your life?  What motivates you?  What energizes you?  What excites you to work, to risk, to sacrifice?  What do you fear?  What do you celebrate?

a. Who are the Morning people in your class?  Who are the Night people in your class?  

What are the similarities and differences among these people?

b. Who in your class are energized by being around people, by being alone?

What are the similarities and differences among these people?

2. Discuss the following:  The thing that excites me the most is…

a. Getting a special gift from someone b. Having time to take a nap

c. Giving a special gift to someone d. Having time to share with others

e. Going to a wonderful new place f. Other

3. Ask class members to self-identify: Introvert or Extrovert  Sensor or Intuitor

Thinking or FeelingPerceptive or Judge

Examination: (10-20 minutes – These help learners interact with the text, to see, feel, and hear God’s message.  There is NO way you’ll cover all the material.  Choose wisely; let the needs of your class and your prayerful discernment lead you!  Consult the Learner’s Study Guide and Cecil Sherman’s Commentary for further insights.)

1. Romans 7:14- 20 Law and Flesh and Sin

How do the “flesh and law” intersect?  Why does Paul say he does what he “hates”?  How can we relate to that?  Is Paul trying to let himself off the hook by stating that his flesh is controlled by sin?  The old saying, “The Devil made me do it!”; is that what Paul is saying?  If not that, then what?

Romans 7:21-25 The Struggle is Real

How do the “law and evil” intersect?  What is the role of our minds according to Paul?  What is the celebration in this passage?

Romans 8:1-4 No Condemnation in Christ

What does “therefore” refer to?  What is the conclusion?  What is the gift of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ?  How is this law in Christ stronger than the law of sin?  What does this mean for our lifestyle?

EXTRA:  Romans 8:5-11 The Mind Gets what the Mind Wants

Where does the mind lead us?  Does “fantasy” lead to “reality”?  What is the result of a mindset of flesh?  A mindset of the Spirit?  What is the result if Christ is in us?  

2. Compare and contrast Paul’s life in the flesh versus life in the Spirit.  Make two columns on a marker board and illustrate.  Then discuss, here are a few starters:

a. What difference does it make to claim the Christian lifestyle?

b. Can Christians live in the flesh?  If so, what are the consequences?

c. How can we respond to someone asking, “How can I live in the Spirit of Christ?”

d. What does it mean to live in the freedom of Christ?

 

3. How does Galatians 2:19-20 relate to today’s passage.

Application (5-15 minutes – These ideas give learners opportunities to apply lesson truths to their lives!)

1. Who gives you assurance?  What gives you assurance?  How?

What does this “assurance” mean for you?  How does this assurance help you grow deeper in Christ?

2. Respond to any of the following:

a. Who are some people enslaved to wealth and power?  What might Paul say to these to grasp freedom?

b. Who are some people enslaved to their own ego?  What might Paul say to these to grasp freedom?

c. To what might you be “enslaved”?  Give yourself a hour of freedom from this each day this week!

3.  Law = Accountability Life in Christ = Freedom of Application

Which do you choose?  Why?  Life in Christ gives us the opportunity to live for something besides ourselves, bigger than ourselves, to impact the people of God.  What’s keeping you from this?

  People go, where they know, they have been prepared for and are cared for!

03-24-19 Connections

Connections 3-24-19

Celebrate God’s Ways Isaiah 55: 1-9

Focal Outline: Isaiah 55: 1-3a Come, buy, eat and live

Isaiah 55: 3b-5 An everlasting covenant

Isaiah 55: 6-9 Thoughts and ways 

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

1. Where God is concerned, you get what you don’t (and can’t) pay for.                

2. The prophet uses images of nourishing food to say...the words God wants to share with people are life-giving.                          

3. God wants us to be ‘a witness to the peoples’ and to ‘call nations’ to God.               

4. Repentance is a positive act that allows us to return to fullness of relationship with God.      

 

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

1. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and work for that which does not satisfy?                

2. How is God’s word to us like fine food?  How has it nourished your life?               

3. How can you embody both witness and call in your life?                 

4. Why do you think there is an often negative understanding of this word “repentance”?                  

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!]

Do you ever feel that your mistakes or ‘character flaws’ make you unfit for God’s purposes? (p96)  I love that question.  That’s an important one for us to ask ourselves at some points in life, don’t you think?  Maybe it’s not your mistakes or character flaws at all.  Maybe it’s your own understanding of yourself that is limiting you.  At least, that’s what you think.  This kind of self-awareness and exploration could be an open window spiritually to new insights.  

I am convinced that every person who accepts faith in God through Christ has a unique calling placed upon their life.  Actually, that’s not totally true.  I believe there are some universal callings (shared ones) that all Christians should probably accept.  But, I also believe that we are uniquely created and gifted.  I believe there are things I cannot do that you can.  There may be special things I can do that God is still revealing to me.    

As with so many things in life, you truly do get what you pay for.  I believe that is true in so many ways.  Our scripture text reminds us, though, that in God’s economy we may also thankfully get what we didn’t and can’t pay for.  God’s mercy, God’s inclusion of us, God’s willingness to make of us more than we even are-- that is what I hear in this week’s text.  God will take our willingness, God will meet our presence and do what God intends to do.  On social media, I occasionally see this message: If you think you’ve blown God’s plan for your life, rest assured in this-- you, my beautiful friend, are not that powerful.  Listen to how ironically Is55 begins; catch how powerfully it proceeds!   

 

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

1. Have you ever received good news that spoke directly to difficult circumstances you were experiencing?  How did this word come to you?  How did it give you hope?  How did this influence your spiritual life?            

2. Do you ever feel that our mistakes or ‘character flaws’ make you unfit for God’s purposes?  Is there a biblical character that you can stop and consider who might give you hope about this?  Who is that?  Why so?                          

3.  How has your community been impacted by the global refugee crisis?  Are there individuals or groups experiencing exile who have settled near you?  What are local government, nonprofits or churches doing?

         

4. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p85 in your Connections Teaching Guide.  How do people of today live as the people of Judah did?        

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...

Isaiah 55: 1-3a Come, buy, eat and live

 What are at least two ironic calls expressed in v1?  In v2, what seems to be the essence of the question being asked of the people?  What accusations come with this question?  In v2b-3a, what are the invitations extended here?                                  

Isaiah 55: 3b-5 An everlasting covenant

In 3b, what are two names given to a promise?  (covenant, love)  How do v4-5 explain God’s relationship with David?  Who is “David” here in this context?                                    

Isaiah 55: 6-9 Thoughts and ways

In v6-7, list the many invitations God makes?  In v8-9, what perspective does God give?  How does this establish the power of the invitations?                                

2. On p97 our lesson writer says “Our lesson text is a powerful example of this truth.  God speaks words of hope and life to people who are geographically, politically, emotionally and spiritually displaced.”  How is this true biblically?  How have you experienced this in your life?                                                          

3. How does Romans 4: 1-12 relate to our lesson?  How about Luke 13: 22-31?    

4. On p98 our lesson writer says, “Human beings are prone to becoming ‘stuck’ in our limited understandings and frustrated by seemingly inescapable circumstances.”  How does this week’s text (Is55) speak to this tendency?  How do we find hope for this in Is 55?                                                              

 

5. In the Connections Commentary, Brian Harbour starts right off by pointing out at least two ways that Isaiah 55 shows us not the ways of the prophets as much as it does God.  On p59-60, what do the prophet’s invitations represent?  See p60 to see how God longs to nourish Israel in at least 2 ways.  On p61, if Israel’s participation with God in its covenant isn’t the most important thing at stake-- what is?                   

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. Do you believe that God can use you for God’s work in the world despite your imperfections?                                 

B. How does believing that God sees more in you than you see in yourself affect your self-understanding?                   

 

  1. 2. How can you embody God’s wish for you to be both a “witness to the peoples” and also to “call nations”?  Ask God to help you see how you can bring your unique gifts to God’s work in the world.                   
  1. 3. See “Applying the Lesson” on p89 in the Uniform Teaching Guide.  How can we live out Isaiah 55’s themes as individuals and as churches?                           

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

03-31-19 Formations

Form 3-31-19

A Living Sacrifice    Romans 12:1-5, 9-21

Focal Outline: Romans 12:1-5 A Holy Offering

Romans 12:9-19 A Holy Harmony

Romans 12:20-21 A Holy Goodness 

Summary Statements: (To share an overview of the lesson…)

1. Many adults today have failed to notice their giftedness much less to think how they can serve God.

2. All of us have been given gifts of the Spirit not for our own use but for sharing in God’s Kingdom.

3. Peace comes as we grow closer to God and as we grow in our attention to neighbors.  Peace abounds!

4. Peace is deeper than being kind.  Peace is the absence of conflict, being a community of God’s love.

Life Questions: (To help focus your thoughts…)

1. What are you doing to renew your mind?  How does using your gifts lead to a renewal of your mind?

2. How can you confront evil and still be an instrument of peace?  Who needs the peace of Christ from you?

3. What is the source of your peace?  How does a hope for peace impact your Lenten journey?

4. How are service and hospitality evidences of peacemaking?  What peace are you hoping for?

?

Points to Ponder!!

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

I’ve been with Pastors this week in a Prayer Retreat.  Most of the retreat was spent in silence allowing us to tune out the noises of the world in order to commune with God.  For some this was a welcomed respite from the chaos of their daily lives.  For some this was an exercise in discipline trying NOT to talk or engage others in conversation.  However, at the end of the retreat, all of us came away enriched by living in the spiritual realm.  Many of us came away refreshed and invigorated, more aware than ever of our richness of blessings from God.

Paul writes to the Roman Church to remind them of their richness of blessings from God.  Paul speaks in generalities concerning the gifts.  Understanding our personal giftedness is important.  Putting your gifts to use is more important!  

Paul writes to the Romans about peacemaking too.  He challenges them to be in harmony with those around them.  He goes further admonishing a humble spirit and hospitable actions.  These are not easy for us live out, especially in light of rude friends or threatening enemies.  Most of us don’t want peace, we want revenge.  Most of us don’t want peace, we want power.  What do you want this Easter Season?  

Beginning (5-15 minutes - These ideas are to spark the learner’s interest in the lesson.)

1. What is the best gift you were given when you were a child?  Who gave it to you?  

What is the best gift you were given as a teenage?  Who gave it to you?

What is the best gift you’ve been given as an adult?  Who gave it to you?

What did you do to deserve any of these gifts?  What did you do with your gifts?

2. What do you contribute to the ministry of your church?  to the ministry of God’s Kingdom?  What gifts do you have at your disposal that you aren’t using?  Why not? 

3. The following have no right or wrong answers.  Have fun sharing with one another…

What does peace look like?  Who does peace look like?  What does peace feel like?  What color is peace?  What food is peace?  How does one “make” peace?  If peace were consumable, how much would it cost?

     Agree or Disagree?  Why?  Most of us don’t want peace, we want revenge.  Most of us don’t want peace, we want power.  What do you want this Lenten Season?  Why?

Examination: (10-20 minutes – These help learners interact with the text, to see, feel, and hear God’s message.  There is NO way you’ll cover all the material.  Choose wisely; let the needs of your class and your prayerful discernment lead you!  Consult the Learner’s Study Guide and the Commentary for further insights.)

1. Romans 12:1-5 A Holy Offering

What is Paul’s appeal in this letter?  Why?  What does it mean to be a “living sacrifice”?  How is using our Spiritual Gifts a mental exercise as well as a spiritual one?  What makes using our gifts a worship experience?  How are we to relate to one another while using our gifts?  How are you doing using your gifts?

Romans 12:9-19 A Holy Harmony

Does using our gifts unite us or divide us?  Why?  Has this been your experience?  What does unity in the church look like?  Why is Paul writing about harmony?  What does this harmony mean?  What are we to do to those who persecute and curse us?  How are we to bless them?  How does our pride get in the way of peace?  Are there evidences of our own actions being an obstacle to harmony?  What?  How?

What does it mean to be humble?  What does “take thought for what is noble” mean?  Can you identify evidence of someone being “noble” in our world today?  Who?  How?  Why do we act vengeful?  What do we expect to happen when we act with vengeance?  To whom does vengeance belong?  What does this mean for us?  How does living with humility happen?  What difference does this make?

Romans 12:20-21 A Holy Goodness 

Verse 20 sounds awfully familiar…where else have we heard this thought?  What does this mean?  What happens if we treat our enemies well?  How can we overcome evil with good?  Is Paul speaking in a global sense or in a more practical and individual sense?  What are the implications of living with hospitality, even to our enemies?

2. What does Romans 12:2 have to do with this passage?  According to the lesson writer, this passage is best understood in light of verse 2.  Can we live life this way?  Really?

3. What Spiritual Gifts did Jesus have?  What Scriptures support your thoughts?  Do you think it might be that ALL the gifts are available to us but WE reject some of them?  Why might that be the case?

Application (5-15 minutes – These ideas give learners opportunities to apply lesson truths to their lives!)

1. Who needs you to bless them?  How can you?  For many, blessing may be a task reserved for clergy, and perhaps something foreign to Baptists clergy and laity alike!  Talk about the “power” each of us has to bless one another!  (Myron Madden’s out-of-print book, The Power to Bless, is an excellent resource.  Check the Internet or your church library for an excerpt to share with the class.)

2. Who is hungry this Lenten Journey?  Not just physically hungry, what other kinds of hunger might people be experiencing?  How can you be a source of “food” for these?

3. Close the class with a time of commitment and covenant for using these gifts for class unity, church unity, and to contribute to the Kingdom of God.   

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

03-31-19 Connections

Connections 3-31-19

Celebrate God’s Provision Joshua 5: 1-12

Focal Outline: Joshua 5: 1-8 Resuming a practice

Joshua 5: 9-10 Healing the past

Joshua 5: 11-12 The crops of the land 

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

1. Sometimes we understand the importance of events only in highsight.  For Israel-- and us-- this is true.              

2. The Israelites renewed the practice of circumcision to mark their identity and their obedience to God.                       

3. Psychology teaches that we all carry wounds from our past.  God acted to heal so that Israel could move on.             

4. We should give thanks to God.  But, the Israelites settled in and had to become workers in order to survive!      

 

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

1. When have you moved on from an experience, only to see it differently later for what it truly was?                

2. If Israel’s practice of circumcision is tough to relate to, what is a Christian practice you need to pick back up?               

3. Of what does God need to heal you, so that you can be what God has intended?                 

4. Once all the thanks and praise has been uttered, what does God need you to do more of?                  

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 understand the importance of events only in hindsight. (p100)  Our lesson writer reminds us of this basic life reality as this week’s study opens.  Israel has reached the promised land and needs to do some reflecting.  God has much in store for them.  Understanding from whence they have come, and God’s role in that history, will be a vital step toward living into their future.  There are some things that we just can’t get a handle on when we’re in the middle of them. 

I reflect on my most difficult chapters of life and ministry sometimes.  As blessed as my life has been, there are dark seasons in the story.  Seasons where my prayers were full of “whys?” and lined with questions about “when?” God would show up, speak up or let me up.  Those times were genuinely bad.  I have little patience for philosophers who are always in a hurry to take everyone’s difficulties (except their own!) and try to spin them into something good.  Like Israel’s story, though, our own difficulties can shape us powerfully for the good!   

Which is why I also need to admit that the lessons learned in the crucible of those hard times might also be some of God’s most vivid for me.  Bad times still seem bad as I look back on them. But, what I learned and the ways in which God has reshaped me through those are important parts of who I am today.  Okay, this week’s lesson talks about circumcision a lot.  If that is difficult to relate to, what important ancient or Christian practices need to become a re-emphasized part of your practice? Why so?  What might they symbolize or communicate about your journey with a faithful God?      

 

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

1. Have you ever experienced healing from a past trauma?  What enabled you to heal?  Who or what was involved?  How was God present to you in that process?            

2. What are some instances in scripture where an individual, or a group, experiences healing that enables them to move on?  Is there a biblical character that you can think of who embodies new life after restoration or healing?                          

3.  Christians are taught to be “thankful.”  But, for what are you specifically most thankful just now?  If you were to utter a prayer of thanks to God, what is something for which you are especially grateful?

         

4. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p92 in your Connections Teaching Guide.  When has God brought you through tough times to a fresh new beginning?        

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...

Joshua 5: 1-8 Resuming a practice

How does the summary in v1 set a historical understanding in place for us?  (relative peace, independence)  In v2-8, what does the story of resuming the practice of circumcision tell us?  Why is this important?                                   

Joshua 5: 9-10 Healing the past

Read v9 slowly and deliberately.  To what might this refer?  See p103 of your lesson for context. How does v10 add significance to their renewed practice?                                     

Joshua 5: 11-12 The crops of the land

What is so significant about what transacts here in v11-12?  What does this have to do with their relationship with God?  What does this signify about their own responsibility moving forward?                                

2. On p102 our lesson writer says “What practices mark your identity as a person of faith?  As a member of your faith community?  What practices signal your intent to be obedient to God?”  Pick any 1 or more of these to answer.  What would you say?                                                            

3. How does Joshua 4: 14-24 relate to our lesson?  How about Romans 2: 1-11?    

4. On p104 our lesson writer says, “God took the initiative to heal the Israelites of ‘the disgrace of Egypt,’ a burden from the past that still affected them.”  What has God healed you of?  What might need God’s healing touch in your life?                                                               

 

5. In the Connections Commentary, Brian Harbour gives a fun sports analogy and then begins with some helpful reminders about Israel’s own delayed gratification as our text opens.  See p65-6 for more on what the biblical writer of Joshua wanted to establish about God’s “reputation.” On p66, why all this talk about circumcision?  On p67, see more about the significance of the people eating produce of the land and ceasing the manna.                  

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. Prayerfully reflect on the wounds that you carry.  Picture yourself bringing these hurts to God.                                 

B. Ask for God’s guidance in your healing journey. Rest silently in God’s presence, remembering God’s love.                   

 

  1. 2. Reflect on your spiritual journey.  Where has God fed you with manna?  In what ways is God bringing you to a point where the manna is no longer necessary?  Write a short prayer, thanking God for manna and for blessing.                  
  1. 3. See “Applying the Lesson” on p97 in the Uniform Teaching Guide.  How do the themes in this parable similar to the ones in our Joshua text?                           

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