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Youth Lesson: The Spirit Empowers

While we are unable to meet for Sunday School, I will post an adaptation of the youth Sunday School lesson every Wednesday.  Think of the lesson as a guide to discuss a passage of Scripture as a family.  Each lesson will include some introductory material, a Scripture reading, questions for discussion, and a short prayer.  I encourage you to take just 15-30 minutes every week over dinner, at the end of the day, or whenever best fits your family schedule to actively engage your students in this opportunity to grow together as a family in faith. 

Introduction:

Jesus had promised the disciples that they would receive the Holy Spirit. He told them to stay in Jerusalem while they waited but that when they receive the Holy Spirit they were to go out into the world to be Jesus’ witnesses. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples did exactly what they had been told to do. They waited in Jerusalem.

Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday, a harvest festival.  It occurs 50 days after Passover. Passover was the holiday Jesus and his disciples were celebrating at their Last Supper together. Jesus spent 40 days on earth after he rose from the dead before he ascended to heaven, and Pentecost takes place 10 days after Jesus’ ascension. Pentecost was a celebration of the giving of the law (the first five books of the Old Testament) to Moses. It was one of three times a year, Jewish men from all over the ancient world traveled to Jerusalem. This is why there are people who speak so many different languages all gathered in Jerusalem.

We celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the church. As the church was just forming, it was still formulating its own traditions for worship. The coming of the Holy Spirit and making the gospel message available to everyone in their own language helps break down any barriers there might be in God’s people from around the world coming together.       

 Read:

 Acts 2:1-21

 Discussion:

  • Read Exodus 13:20-22. God appeared to the Israelites as a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud to guide them out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. With this in mind, think about the events of Pentecost.  How do you think those in attendance might have connected those events and the coming of the Holy Spirit with God’s guidance of them in the Exodus story?
  • Read Exodus 19:16-19. These verses describe some of what takes place before God gives the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. What similarities do you notice between God’s coming in this passage and the events at Pentecost? Knowing that Pentecost is the celebration of God giving the Law and seeing the similarities between these events and those at Pentecost, what other connections do you think the people would have made (or God would want them to make) between these events?
  • Try to think of other times that God has used fire, loud noises, or mighty winds to accompany his coming. Why do you think God uses these methods? What does it say about God or the Holy Spirit?

 Reflection:

The Holy Spirit is a gift for everyone who chooses to follow God. This passage should challenge us to discover the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us. We often think of the Holy Spirit as a “still, small voice.”  While that can be the case, the events at Pentecost remind us that the Holy Spirit can also act in jaw-dropping and mind-blowing sorts of ways.  We should remember that Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us power. The Holy Spirit can gently guide, but the Holy Spirit may also call us and empower us to do live for God in ways we might not even have ever dreamed. 

God has given us all gifts.  We might not be able to suddenly be able to speak in other languages, but God has gifted each of us in important ways.  He calls all of us to use our gifts in whatever ways possible to draw others to him.  As we become more aware of the gifts God has given us, we should consider ways we can use those gifts in service to the church, our communities, and even the world.  We must also remember that God has gifted all of his followers.  We should call out the gifts we see in others and encourage them also to use their gifts to spread the good news of God’s love.

Application Questions: 

  • In what ways have you received the power of the Holy Spirit? How do you know?
  • If you cannot recall a time that you have felt the power of the Holy Spirit, consider asking God to make himself known to you through the Holy Spirit and then be on the lookout for the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life. What will you look for to see the Holy Spirit move?
  • In what ways do you think God has gifted you for service? How can you use your gifts in everyday interactions to be a witness for God? What special opportunities could you take part in to use your gifts as a witness for God?

 Pray:

 Dear God, we thank you for the stories we can read that remind us that you are always present with your people. We thank you for the way you guide us and call us to draw others to you. We ask that you empower us through the Holy Spirit to be faithful witnesses, committed prayer, to spread your love to everyone we might encounter. Amen.

Posted by Sam Oakley

Children's Lesson: The Holy Spirit

While we are unable to meet for Sunday School, I will post an adaptation of the children's Sunday School lesson every Monday.  Think of the lesson as a guide to discuss a story from the Bible together.  Each lesson will include some introductory material, a Scripture reading, questions for review and discussion, an activity suggestion, a short prayer, and a memory verse.  I encourage you to take just 10-15 minutes every week to actively engage your children or grandchildren in this opportunity to grow together in your faith!

Introduction:

Share some background information before reading the story together.

Last week, we talked about Jesus’ final days on earth after he rose from the dead. He had told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised them that they would receive power when they received the Holy Spirit and that they should go out into the world to tell others about Jesus. This week’s story also comes from Acts.  Remember, Acts tells us about the things that happened after Jesus rose from the dead.

The disciples didn’t really know what would happen or what it even really meant to receive the Holy Spirit, but they did what Jesus told them to do.  They stayed in Jerusalem.  People from all over the ancient world – Africa, Asia, and Europe – were all coming to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. It was a harvest celebration where faithful Jews brought an offering of part of their crops to God. The food would be sold to support the church or given away to feed the hungry. This holiday is a celebration of God giving the Torah, our first five books of the Bible. They had no idea what would happen!

On this day that they had come together to celebrate the giving of God’s Word, they were about to receive the Holy Spirit. We call this day Pentecost, and we think of it as the beginning of the church. There would be mighty winds, a loud noise, and tongues of fire. That might not even be the craziest part.  God gave the disciples the ability to speak and understand other languages so that people from all over the world could hear the good news about Jesus in their own language. 

 Read:

 Read the story of Pentecost this week. You can read the story from the Bible or the simplified version of the story from the Spark Story Bible below.

Acts 2:1-21

The Story:

Jesus’ disciples were celebrating a festival called Pentecost when suddenly a strong wind blew through the house. Everyone’s hair lifted up and there was an amazing noise! They looked at each other. It looked like each disciple had a flame of fire touching him, but no one was burned. The Holy Spirit had come, just as Jesus promised! The disciples began to speak in different languages! Languages they’d never learned! Stranger yet – they could understand each other!

Peter stood up. “I want to tell you about Jesus.” He reminded everyone what Jesus taught them. He told them how Jesus died and lives again. “It’s time for us to begin a new life with God’s Spirit guiding us,” Peter said. The disciples were excited to live differently, guided by God’s Spirit. This was the very beginning of the Christian church.

Review Questions:

  • What were some of the things that happened on Pentecost?
  • What were the disciples suddenly able to do?
  • What did the disciples want to tell everyone about?
  • What was Pentecost the beginning of?

Discussion Questions:

  • The disciples have experienced so many big and unexpected things, and everything that happened at Pentecost was also big an unexpected. What do you think the disciples were thinking/feeling when they heard the loud sound, felt the mighty wind, saw the tongues of fire, and heard themselves speaking languages they had never learned?
  • The Holy Spirit gave them the power to speak in other languages to tell other people about Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives us power to tell others about Jesus.  How could the Holy Spirit give you power to tell others about Jesus? Be brave, help us know the right words, help us meet people who need to know about Jesus, etc.
  • God wants everyone to know about his love for them. We can share God’s love in the words we say and in what we do.  How can you share God’s love to others in what you do?

Activity:

God gave the disciples the ability to speak in other languages.  Read and practice saying these translations of “May God bless us.”

  • Bwana Awabariki (Swahili)
  • Puo il dio benedirlo (Italian)
  • Puede dios bendecirnos (Spanish)
  • Peut Dieu nous benir (French)
  • Kan Gud valsignar oss (Swedish)
  • Kez Buh zehna nam (Czech)
  • May Diyos basbasan sa amin (Filipino)
  • Jumala siunatkoon meita (Finnish)

As you pray this week, think about the people all over the world who speak these and other languages. Pray that everyone can hear the good news about God’s love for them in their own language.

Pray:

Dear God, thank you for making all of us unique and different. Thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit. Help us share the good news about your love with others. Amen.

Memory Verse:

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:21

Posted by Sam Oakley

The Hope of the World (Acts 2:42-47)

The Hope of the World (Acts 2:42-47)

I was so excited to see that the assigned passage for today – Friday, May 29 – is one of my favorite passages of scripture. As a preacher, I don’t think I am supposed to have favorite passages of scripture, but I do. In fact, Acts 2:42-47 is on my Mount Rushmore of bible passages, alongside Micah 6:8, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 2:8-10, and John 1:14.

You may be asking, “What makes Acts 2:42-47 worthy of a place on the Mount Rushmore of Bible passages?” That is a fair question. It is one of my favorite passages of scripture because it describes the mission and purpose of the local church in a way that no other passage of scripture does. If you were ever wondering what the church should be doing, this is the place to start looking. It is a passage of scripture that can inspire a local church to re-imagine how it goes about being the church. It is a passage of scripture that can make you question whether you are doing church based on your own preferences or on the purpose of the church described in scripture.

 

It also points to the potential that the local church has if it lives into the purpose described for the church. It fills me with hope as I think about what our church could be and do if we live into the purpose of the church.

What, according to Acts 2, is the purpose of the church? The church is to devote itself to the “apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… give to anyone who has need.” That’s five simple things. First, be devoted to the apostles’ teaching; we might call that discipleship or spiritual formation. Second, be devoted to fellowship, the sharing of our lives with one another. Third, be devoted to the breaking of bread; this isn’t just the Lord’s supper, but also the action of sharing meals with one another. Fourth, be devoted to prayer. Lastly, be devoted to giving to anyone who has need.

What happens when the church does all these things? The book of Acts says that the “Lord adds to their number those who are being saved.” The early church didn’t have any fancy buildings or programming. They didn’t have elevated social status or influence. They were simply people who were faithful to their calling and people who were far from God found their way to God by grace because of it.

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, a retired theology professor, used to say often “The local church is the hope of the world.” When the local church fulfills its purpose it can accomplish things that no government agency, business, or social institution can. It can call people to grace, lead people to transformed lives that transform the world around them. It is my sincere hope that we, by committing to faithfully fulfilling our calling as a local church, may be a beacon of hope in Union County.

Posted by David Oakley

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