Vol. II – Winter (2012-13)
Session 13 – “The Return”
I see this lesson as a merging back onto the “Kingdom Highway” after a 70 year layover at a hostile exit. The event is the return to Jerusalem, but the symbolism is moving forward. For the purpose of momentum, I think the three lesson points are best taught in order of pt.2, pt.1, then pt.3. Here are 3 main thoughts with discussion starters:
I. (Lesson pt. 2) God’s people lived in light of the promise of God’s presence and peace (Zech. 8:1-8)
Hope is incredibly important in the health of a person’s mindset. Captivity generated a new dependence on God and His promises. There was great hope to see Jerusalem someday. Questions for discussion:
- Why do separation and isolation tend to bring our focus back to God?
- What promises has God given us as followers of Christ? (Matt. 28:20, 1 Cor. 15:58, Phil. 4:19, 1 Thess. 5:23-24, Heb. 10:23, 1 John 4:4)
II. (Lesson pt. 1) God’s people rejoiced in their return from exile yet longed for full restoration (Ezra 3:10-13)
When God returned the Hebrews to Jerusalem, there was excitement but also a strong temptation to “look back”. When He’s moving us forward, learning from the past is good, but trying to recapture the past is not. Questions for discussion:
- Why was there such sadness in the hearts of the older ones as the new foundation was laid?
- How can we fall into a similar mindset now as American Christians (longing for the past) instead of looking forward?
III. (Lesson pt. 3) God’s people looked to the kingdom that would reconcile us to God and others (Mal. 4:4-6)
Israel’s purpose was always to represent God as His people. Now, once again in Jerusalem, that purpose would eventually be fully realized through the Messiah. Questions for discussion:
- How can past failures help us in decision-making for today and the future?
- What is our main purpose as followers of Christ? (Matt. 28:16-20, Acts 1:8)
- What specific things of Christ are we giving “witness” to when we talk to friends, neighbors, co-workers, or our own children?
Session 12 – “The Exile”
I’m starting out with a two-part question, “Do you ever feel like strangers in a foreign land? How specifically?”
To me, the main point of this lesson is God’s faithfulness. We’ve seen judgment fall in the last two lessons as a result of rebellion, now we see the fresh encouragement of God protecting and leading those who are faithful. I’m planning to teach with only two major points, tying each to New Testament truths, and have re-titled them.
I. God Protects Those who Faithful
Old Testament truth: Daniel (Dan. 1:8-17)
- Daniel’s primary concern was keeping God’s law (v. 8)
- Daniel was diplomatic about his situation (v.8 & 12)
- Daniel stepped out in faith (v. 12 & 13)
New Testament truth:
- We are to abstain from the world’s lusts (1 Peter 2:11-12)
- Live peaceably among all (Rom. 12:18)
- Faith is imperative (Heb. 11:6, 2 Cor. 5:7)
II. God Leads Those who are Faithful
Old Testament truth: (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
- He had not forgotten them (v.11)
- He knew the extent of their “dryness” (v.2,11)
- He would provide life where none was (v.14)
New Testament truth:
- He’s mindful of us (Matt. 10:27-31)
- He knows the depth of what we face (Heb. 4:14-16)
- He gives and renews life (Rom. 6:4, 2 Cor. 4:16)
Session 11 – “Judah”
Since this lesson is the other half (or completion) of the story in lesson 10, it seems appropriate to revisit Joshua’s statement again (Joshua 24:14-15) “Choose you this day whom you will serve…” as the starting point for discussion. After Israel’s destruction, the reminder should have been clear as to what the future would hold if they followed the same path.
Taking the same approach as with Lesson 10, by identifying the context Judah was in, we can then apply to our time:
I. Judah in the Old Testament
As the remnant, they still:
- Had special purpose as God’s ambassadors, including the Temple
- Were still protected from their enemies (Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18)
- Experienced peace in their lives
However, their refusal to learn from Israel’s example brought:
- God’s Warning-lesson pt. 1
- Promise of a new covenant-lesson pt. 2
- Call to repentance-lesson pt. 3
- God’s judgment-lesson pt. 4
II. Today as Beneficiaries of the New Covenant
We face the same choice to either serve Christ or accept the culture’s religious ideas. Remember, similar to Judah, but on a personal level, we:
- Have purpose as Kingdom Ambassadors (II Cor. 5:20)
- Are spiritually empowered (Romans 8:37)
- Experience peace in our lives (Phil. 4:4-7)
By contrast, we need to take serious and consider what Jesus says to the churches (all of us as His body) in the Revelation concerning compromise. If we cozy up to the world’s standards, we will:
- Be in need of God’s warning (Revelation 3:15-18)
- Be called to repentance (Revelation 3:19)
- Be judged accordingly (Revelation 3:3)
Session 10 – “Israel”
It seems appropriate to begin this lesson with Joshua’s statement (Joshua 24:14-15) “Choose you this day whom you will serve…” as the launching point for discussion of what happened on Mt.Carmel and the destruction of the Northern Kingdom. From the beginning, Israel’s choice was to either to serve God or accept the surrounding culture’s religious ideas. Fast forward many generations and you have Elijah basically saying the same thing in I Kings 18:21:
“How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” HCSB
Here’s how I’ll present the text in connection to our daily life.
I. Israel in the Old Testament
When God was at the center of Israel’s lives, they:
- Had special purpose as God’s ambassadors
- Were protected from their enemies
- Experienced peace in their lives
By contrast, the II Kings text describes the final result of their rebellion. When they:
- Forfeited their special purpose
- Were exposed to their enemies
- Experienced turmoil in their lives
II. Today as Followers of Christ
We face the same choice to either serve Christ or accept the culture’s religious ideas. When Christ is at the center of our lives, we:
- Have purpose as Kingdom Ambassadors (Matt. 28: 16-20, II Cor. 5:20)
- Are spiritually empowered (Romans 8:37)
- Experience peace in our lives (Phil. 4:4-7)
By contrast, if we compromise with the world’s values (as in James 4:1-10), we will:
- Struggle for purpose
- Become spiritually weak
- Experience turmoil in our lives
Lesson 9 “Wisdom”
In this lesson the writer starts with a good illustration of nautical navigation. The question I’ll start with is:
“What made the North Star important to begin with?”
Answer: The ancients observed it to be constant while the other stars rotated in steady relationship to it. Of course, the Earth and other planets traveling around the sun made it more complicated, but they successfully developed detailed navigational charts.
This gives a great picture of how knowledge and wisdom are related. I can walk out of my house at night and easily recognize the “Big Dipper” (which is knowledge), but using it to find Polaris (the North Star) is application (wisdom). Many people gather knowledge, but applying it correctly involves wisdom.
Much like the seasoned sailor knowing the new bright “star” showing up each night is really Mars or Venus moving around the sun, the texts we’re looking at help us identify the true nature of the realities in life in order to address them properly. Here are the titles and order of how I’ll present the 4 lesson points:
- (Lesson pt. 1) – Foundation of wisdom (adding Rom. 12:1-2)
- (Lesson pt. 3) – Perspective toward life
- (Lesson pt. 2) – Boundaries of passions (adding I John 2:15-17)
- (Lesson pt. 4) – Priorities in decision making (also using 2 Cor. 5:10-11)
Session 8 – “Psalms”
This lesson works great for breaking the class into four discussion groups, assigning a Psalm to each and then having them work through four questions. For smaller classes, the entire class could go through all of them one Psalm at a time. Here’s the question grid I’ve made to track answers as they report back to the class.
What is the main point?
What does it say about God?
What does it say about us?
What action is involved?
Session 7 – “The Kings”
As I’ve worked through this lesson, I think about something I learned years ago while working for Sears & Roebuck. Historically, they always offered products at three levels, “Good, Better and Best”. Israel’s journey concerning the kings, was rooted in slipping from:
- “Best” (a theocracy, led by God with tribal leaders for organization, communication and disputes) to
- “Better” (periodic Judges to remind them of sin and to deliver them from oppression) then to
- “Good” (earthly kings just like their neighbors)
My take away and major teaching points will be:
- Man’s Concepts are Inadequate (2 Samuel 7:1-17)
- God’s Concepts are Unique and Suprising (2 Samuel 7:18-24)
- The Temple is now us as “temples of the Living God” (1 Kings 8:54-61, 1 Cor. 3:16-17)
This means there is a “reset” to “Best” through Christ and that’s Good News!
Session 6 – “The Land”
The recurring word I see in this lesson is grace. From the gift of the land (after not destroying them 40 years earlier when they rebelled), through the time of the Judges and eventually to Boaz, we see God’s grace woven throughout these passages. As I did with Lesson 4, I like setting the historical stage first, then comparing the parallels in the New Testament.
The great message is how these moments of Hebrew history prove the need for life transformation. Their unique status was great, but the need for redemption was always on display. Such is the case with us now too. Here are three questions to add to the mix:
- How does God still give good gifts?
- How is rebellion still part of the story?
- How does Boaz represent God’s kindness to us now?
Session 5 – “The Law”
As with the previous 4 lessons in this quarter, the Law is a big subject to cover in a single lesson, so I’m going to use Paul’s summary of the Law in Galatians 3:26-4:7. In that passage he explains how the Law was a tutor and steward (for a purpose). By starting with Galatians, I can move into the 3 lesson points as follows:
- God welcomes us into His house – Pt.1 “God’s giving of the Law is an act of grace”
- His house reflects Him – Pt.2 “The Law is a reflection of God’s holy character”
- His household should honor Him – Pt.3 “The Law guides the people of God in reflecting His character”
Closing by reading Matthew 22:34-40. Consider this thought; at the end of the day it’s possible to follow the rules without love (what the Pharisees did). However, as redeemed followers of Christ, the Bible teaches we’re to honor Him as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) and Romans 12:2-3 tells how.
Closing Question: This week, how can I put this into practice?
Session 4 – “The Exodus”
I plan to open this lesson with a discussion of “freedom” by asking, “What does it mean to you?” and “What comes with it?”
With the chosen text, taking a two-part approach seems best. The first part is to cover what the story reveals about God’s work in the Exodus:
- God provided freedom from slavery (Ex. 6:2-9)
- God demonstrated mercy (Ex. 12:5-13)
- God fought for them (Ex. 14:10-14)
The second part is connecting the story to the parallel points of the gospel. In doing so, it’s important to note the events leading up to the cross were during the celebration of Passover:
- God provides freedom from slavery (Rom. 8:2)
- God demonstrates mercy to us (Rom. 5:8)
- God fights for us (Life in Christ – Rom. 8:26-39)
Session 3 – “Abraham’s Covenant”
The main question I’ll be asking for setting up this one is “What does it mean to YOU to trust God?” My goal is to look at the record of Abraham and focus on God’s faithfulness. Everything about the call of Abram and the events that followed have to with God’s plan and Him initiating the plan.
Abram’s role was to trust. Trust is the key component in the entire story. In order for there to be an “Abraham”, there had to be a “Abram” who trusted. The writer of Hebrews lists him as one who “by faith” obeyed and “by faith” dwelt (Heb. 11:8-9). At the same time, we see how God was completely trustworthy in following through on His promises.
For us today, there are similar components to highlight.
- He calls us through the Holy Spirit to respond in faith to Jesus.
- He asks us to trust His unique plans for us personally and for His Bride the Church.
- He saved us and set us apart to live lives that glorify Him
Session 2 – “The Fall”
The account of the Fall has many different points worth discussing. Based on how this lesson is written, here are some discussion questions to add to the points:
Point 1 – Humans reject God’s authority
Question – What was the specific sin that Adam and Eve commited? (disobedience) How does the same problem still plague us in our daily life?
Point 2 – God judges those made in His image who fail to reflect His glory
Question – What was the potential cost to God for Him to plant the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden with man having a choice? Why?
Point 3 – Sin distorts human realtionships that were intended to reflect God’s character
Question – What sin does the Tower of Babel display? (pride) Are there any causes or agendas that now reflect the same attitude?
An applicable post from the archives that may be helpful: https://cchrisholland.com/2011/09/05/hey-whats-that-babbling-i-hear/
Session 1 – “Creation-The Story Begins”
The key to this week’s lesson is on page 14 of the Leader Guide. The question in the 3rd paragraph, “What practically does being made in the image of God include?” is a fantastic angle to approach this material. In other words, we see God revealing His nature in Genesis chapters 1 & 2 and man was created to reflect the same through relationships, ruling, work, and rest.
As followers of Christ, our focus should be looking at the original design or “original specifications”. I plan to use the first point to set-up the context (God has all power and authority over His creation) and then explore points 2 & 3 as two-part questions:
1. How can we glorify God with our actions? or not?
2. How can we glorify God through relationships? or not?