< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: January 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What Methodists Believe About Worship

“Christian worship is where we declare that the risen Christ has overcome every power that would separate us and every evil that would destroy us. In worship we declare Jesus Christ over all.”

“As worship concludes we are sent forth into the world in the confidence of the risen Christ. The church gathered for worship becomes the church scattered for witness and service. To take the story we just heard in church of God’s love out into the world. We come in to prepare to be sent out.”

 “Our presence in Christian community and in corporate worship really matters. It matters to us because it is one of the essential practices by which we are formed into the likeness of Christ. It matters to others because our presence may be the gift that God uses to strengthen, encourage, challenge and bless our brothers and sisters in Christ. It matters to the world because it prepares us to become agents of God’s persistent love as we participate in God’s transformation of the world!

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Importance of Participating in Worship and Small Group

Today’s post is still from my teaching The Path to Discipleship, a Methodist study.

Being a follower of Jesus means being in community with other followers of Jesus. We can be religious or spiritual without the presence of other people in our lives, but we cannot be growing disciples of Jesus without the encouragement, guidance, wisdom and accountability of other disciples.

A Methodist missionary once said, “Everyone who belongs to Christ belongs to everyone else who belongs to Christ.” Jesus demonstrated community by calling 12 ordinary men together to become His disciples. And He promised that wherever two or three were gathered in His name, He would be there.
When we focus on God in worship and in small groups, we find that God is already there, ready to fill us with grace and love.

The book of Acts talks about the early church and gives us a good example to follow. The early Christians met together, devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teachings, they fellowshipped with each other, shared, prayed…and the church grew.

One of things we promised when joining the church was our “presence” – in both corporate worship and small group. We gather to experience God, praise God, know God and grow together as disciples of Jesus Christ so that we become a part of God’s transformation of the world.

When we are saved we are given brothers and sisters in Christ. We become a part of the body of Christ. Remember the greatest commandment is Love God AND love others.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The first Methodists both believed and practiced this principle. The Wesleys began the small group! Charles Wesley wrote, “All praise to our redeeming Lord, who joins us by His grace, and bids us, each to each restored, together seek His face.”

When John Wesley was preaching to thousands he noted that those who were active in small groups grew in their faith and those who were not quickly fell away. Growth to maturity as a disciple of Jesus Christ happens best when each individual disciple is connected to others in the community of a small group.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

SOAPY Method for Studying the Bible

The Bible does no good if we don’t pick it up. And the less time we spend on prayer, the more likely our relationship with Christ will stagnate, or worse, backslide.

There’s much in today’s culture that keeps us from slowing down to spend time with God and depend on Him. Busy life styles are praised. We’re told how to be self-reliant, successful. To put our needs and goals first. All of this is really opposite of the Gospel. It takes time and effort to develop a relationship with God.

SOAPY: (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer and Yield) is a way to reflect on the Bible using a journal.

  1. Read the passages and as you are reading take note of anything the Lord impresses on you as a personal word to be applied. Look for words of encouragement, direction or correction.
  2. When God has revealed a special lesson of life to you, write it down in a journal.
  3. Title the page
  4. Scripture: write down the verse you have chosen as a lesson for the day.
  5. Observation: write down what the lesson is for you that day.
  6. Application: write how this lesson applies to your life.
  7. Prayer: write a prayer to God concerning this lesson and your life.
  8. Yield: write what you must yield in your life for this lesson to become alive for you.
  9. Record the entry by date, scripture, topic, title and page in your Table of Contents page. Then pray.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Bible Helps Us Today

Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

“these words” Jesus is referring to His Sermon on the Mount here. It is one thing to hear and believe. It’s another to hear and obey!

Scripture helps us with modern problems. We have unique things going on today that weren’t happening 2,4,6 thousand years ago. John Wesley offered three tools to use when interpreting Scripture and applying it to our lives: church tradition, reason and experience. And the United Methodist labeled this approach the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. This is how we Methodists are called to apply the truth of Scripture to our personal and social lives.

The Bible is the primary authority for our faith. We study the Scriptures prayerfully, looking for connections to the life we live and the decisions we are called to make. It is our map, our guide and our GPS system. It speaks to us about what God expects of our lives, our thoughts and our actions. Though written long ago it is still pertinent and relevant today.

Interpreting it through tradition is us using 2000 years of church teachings.

“Through reason” is using our brains, but only when combined with tradition and experience, because we can make Scripture say what we want. A lot of people do. And that’s very dangerous.

Experience is how it becomes personal to us. We read it through our own filter of our experiences.

We each use all three of these when reading and interpreting Scripture and that’s why everyone of us can read the same text and come to different conclusions about the way it speaks to our lives. We can even study the same text two years later and have it say something different to us. It’s a living Word.

John Wesley suggested the following list of ways to study Scripture;

1. Set aside every day for reflection on Scripture.

2. Read with the single intention of knowing the will of God and make it your resolution to follow it.

3. Begin with prayer so that your understanding of Scripture is shaped by the Spirit who inspired it. Close with prayer so the words you read will be embedded in your heart.

4. Pause to exam yourself by what you read in order to praise God for the ways your life has conformed to God’s will and be conscious of the ways in which you’ve fallen short.

5. Use whatever insight you have immediately so that the written word will have its full power in your life.

Prayer and Scripture – spending time in each – are the non-negotiable essentials for the journey of discipleship. They are practices by which we become faithful disciples whose lives are centered on Jesus and through whom the love of God begins to transform the world.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Methodist’s View of the Bible

We should study the Bible to know how to do Christ’s work in the world. Our knowledge of God’s Word is not useful unless it strengthens our faith and leads us to do good.

John Wesley called himself a man of one book. We need to spend time reading it and meditating on it, trusting the Holy Spirit to bring it to life for us. Wesley wrote, “I want to know one thing; the way to Heaven. God Himself has condescended to teach me the way… He has written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book.”

Wesley was well read of other books, but Scripture was his priority. In his complete English Dictionary Wesley defined a Methodist as “one that lives according to the method laid down in the Bible.” He believed we can never be growing disciples of Jesus Christ without disciplined study of and reflection on the written Word.

What the Bible was meant to do is answered in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When we study the Bible we should be looking for who God is and what He’s saying to us every time.

Prayer is talking to God. Reading His Word is Him talking to us. God longs to be known. And the Bible is one of the means by which God is revealed to us.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Five Finger Prayer

This is a good prayer to teach little kids. They like the visual and can remember it.

Look at your hand. Each finger represents a different group of people.

The thumb, closest to you, represents those nearest to you. Your family and loved ones. Pray daily that God will love and guide them. The pointer finger represents those who point you to God. Your pastor, prayer partners, members of your small group, etc.

The middle finger, the largest, represents leaders in the church and the world – including government. They need God’s guidance.

The fourth finger, the ring finger, is the weakest and represents the weak and needy. People who are in trouble or in pain. And the little finger, the smallest, represents you. After you’ve prayed for the other four groups, pray for your needs.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Prayer. The ACTS Method

Adoration – always begin your prayer focusing on who God is. Think about His character as you pray. One of the earliest prayers almost all of us has prayed is: God is great. God is good. An awesome God can be an awful God unless God is awesome in being like a loving parent who is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful and abounding in steadfast love.

Confession is the way we face the hard truth about who we are and where we are in our discipleship. We name all the stuff that gets in the way of a vibrant relationship with God. No pretending we are perfect. Calling a sin a sin. Charles and John Wesley and their study group were intensely methodical in self-examination. And it’s not easy! Charles kept a list that he asked himself everyday! One that got me was, “after every pleasure have I immediately given thanks?”

Confession is the recognition of our constant need of God’s forgiveness and grace.

Thanksgiving – our joyful response to the way God is at work for good in our lives and the world around us. Sometime instead of praying about your fears or what you want, try praying a prayer of just everything you are thankful for.

Supplication – another word for this is intercession. Not just making a shopping list. And that should be at the end of our prayer. This ACTS pattern turns things around; beginning with adoration, the awareness of who God is which brings us to confession in which we clear the decks of all the stuff that gets in the way of God’s spirit at work in our lives. Having experienced God’s forgiveness we respond with thanksgiving. Then and only then are we prepared to bring into God’s presence the real, messy, painful stuff of our lives and our world.”

That’s the kind of praying that has the power to change our hearts.


Sunday, January 18, 2015


I’m teaching a seven (or quite possibly eight) week study on The Path to Discipleship, based on our Methodist tradition. Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing different thoughts from it.

Discipleship is about learning to walk with Christ. We stumble. We fall like toddlers learning to walk. But we pick ourselves up and go on. Like parents and grandparents surrounding the children who are quick to pick them up, we are surrounded by a church family who picks us up, holds our hands and keeps walking with us. We keep growing. We keep moving into a more God centered life. We keep becoming more like Jesus.

What is a disciple’s path?

Luke 10:25-28 25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Discipleship begins with love! Love of God and love of each other. We will act on this love. And it will transform us into an image of Christ. When we are followers it’s not just head belief, we have to do something. Act out our love for God and for others. And it’s growing, we don’t stay the same.

The discipleship pathway is the way we grow as followers of Christ. Christ is not just subscribing to and claiming a set of beliefs, rituals or spiritual discipline. It is a way of life.

The grace of God loves us enough to meet us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us there.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Review of the book War in Heaven by Derek Prince

I was given the book War in Heaven to review for the publisher. Something I enjoy doing when I like the book. But it's very hard when I don't.

And I didn't like this book. I didn't learn anything about spiritual warfare. In fact in one chapter he made it sound as if God's angels and Satan's angels just shouted at each other. Making proclamations.

Interestingly enough that was the one section that caught my attention. But not because of their supposed shouting matches.

He said that Islam derives much of its power from the proclamations that it regularly makes. 5 times a day, every day, for every Muslim, in every mosque, in the world, for 1400 years, they chant "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet."

The area of the world regularly covered by this proclamation is the Middle East. This explains why there is such a tremendously strong antichrist power over this area. It is, in fact the primary reason why this section of humanity has been so strongly resistant to the claims of Jesus.

He wrote that certain western nations that are committed to religious liberty are permitting great numbers of Muslim mosques to be established within their jurisdictions. Every new mosque thus established becomes a channel for the standard Islamic proclamations. Secular rulers do not understand the spiritual impact that these multiplied proclamations have upon their people. Islam is spreading fast.

That hit home because of Duke University this past week saying they would begin allowing Muslims to say their prayers from the bell tower of Duke Chapel, but have backed down after the outcry.

Other then that I'm afraid I didn't get much out of the book.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Romans 12:9-21

I’m working on a Sunday School lesson right now and just re-read Romans 12:9-21. I want to remember to read this often (maybe even every morning). If I could just do this I would be a better person. If everyone would do this the world could be a better place!

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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