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Children's Lesson: The Ascension

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 learned about Jesus’ promise to the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come, be with them always, and would guide and comfort them. Jesus gave them this promise of the Holy Spirit because he knew what was about to happen – that he would be arrested, die on the cross, and then come back to life. He knew his disciples would be sad and scared, and he wanted them to know that God would never leave them.

Our story this week is found in the beginning of the book of Acts. The book of Acts tells us about the things that happened after Jesus rose from the dead. After Jesus rose from the dead, he spent 40 days on earth. During those 40 days, Jesus continued to teach his disciples. He told them that they needed to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. This happens in Acts 2, and we get to learn more about that next week!

The disciples did what Jesus told them to do. They stayed in Jerusalem and waited for the Holy Spirit. He tells them that they will receive power when they receive the Holy Spirit. After they receive the Holy Spirit, they should not wait in Jerusalem anymore. They should go out into the world to tell everyone about Jesus. The Holy Spirit will be their guide.

Read:

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

 Acts 1:6-14

The Story:

After Jesus died and rose again, he and his disciples got together near Jerusalem. Jesus had some instructions for them.

“As you know, God is doing amazing things in the world,” he said. “And your help is needed! We need you to go tell stories about me! Tell your friends and family and everyone you meet what you’ve learned by following me! Be my witness in the world!”

Then suddenly Jesus was rising – up in the air! What was going on?! He was being lifted up into a cloud!

Jesus’ friends looked around. Two men in white robes had joined them. The men said, “Why are you just standing around looking up toward heaven? Don’t worry, Jesus will come back some day.”

“Right!” said one of Jesus’ disciples, “Meanwhile, we have some work to do! Let’s get going!”

Review Questions:

  • What instructions did Jesus give his disciples?
  • What happened to Jesus after he gave them these instructions?
  • Who did the disciples see after Jesus went up to heaven?
  • What did the men in white robes tell the disciples?

Discussion Questions:

  • The disciples have experienced so many changes over the last couple of months. Jesus has been arrested, put on trial, killed on the cross, rose from the dead, and now he has been carried up to heaven by a cloud. What kind of changes have you experienced in your life? Changing schools, moving, staying home from school, a new brother/sister, etc. How did those changes make you feel?
  • Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will always be with us, to help us get through tough stuff. How can the Holy Spirit help us get through tough stuff?  
  • Jesus gave his followers a big job – to be his witnesses all over the world. As followers of Jesus, we should do the same thing!  What does it mean to be his witness? How can we tell others about Jesus?

 Activity:

Jesus tells us that we are supposed to be his witnesses, to tell others about Jesus. To prepare ourselves for this important job, we should know what we would say about Jesus.  Have everyone in the family share answers to the following questions.

  • What is one way (or even one word) you would use to describe Jesus?
  • What is one good thing Jesus has done for you?
  • What is one reason you want other people to know about Jesus?

Put your answers together into a few sentences to be prepared to be Jesus’ witnesses. Example: Jesus is loving. Jesus forgives me. I want everyone to know about Jesus, so they can be his friends forever.

Pray:

Dear God, thank you for the people who tell us about you. Thank you for the Holy Spirit to be with us and to guide us. Thank you for loving us all of the time, even when other things change. Help us tell others about you. Amen.

 Memory Verse:

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8b

Posted by Sam Oakley

Faith in Action: A Bold Witness

In the final chapters of Acts, we see Paul standing trial before Festus, sharing his story with King Agrippa, surviving a shipwreck, and traveling to Rome to appeal his case to Caesar.  In every situation he encounters, he lives the words of the final verse of Acts, “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:31). Charges that could not be substantiated have been brought against Paul, and his accusers seek the death penalty for him. In spite of that, he doesn’t respond with the anger or bitterness that one might expect. The only desperation in his pleas seems to be his desperation to bring others to Christ.  In Acts 26:29, he responds to King Agrippa’s question about Paul trying to convert him to Christianity with, “Short time or long – I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

As I read through these chapters, I am struck with Paul’s response to those around him. Festus and Agrippa cannot find anything with which to charge Paul. If Paul had not appealed to Caesar, Festus may have let him walk out a free man. Paul, however, seems less concerned about his own safety than he is with the opportunity to share Christ on a larger platform. He is willing to take the risks involved in being tried by Caesar to have the opportunity to continue to bear witness to Christ to all he could encounter along the way and from the court of the emperor. In fact, I can almost imagine Paul telling his friends who are concerned about him being transported and taken to Rome for trial, “This is awesome!  We don’t have to do any more fundraisers for my next missionary journey. All of my travel and food will be covered by the empire!”

Paul’s response to the crew aboard the ship is equally as notable. He tries to warn them that this trip will be disastrous (Acts 27:9-10), he tries to encourage them and offer them hope in the midst of the storm (Acts 27:21-26), and he provides for their safety (Acts 27:31). This is a prisoner transport, and he is facing a possible execution. Again, though, for Paul, this seems to be just another opportunity to witness. Acts 27:35 tells us that before the crew ate what they could, Paul – “in front of them all” – gave thanks to God. Rather than concoct his own escape plan, Paul points his captors to Christ.  Rather than withhold the good news of hope, comfort, and Jesus himself from those who would readily kill him (Acts 27:42), Paul freely shares all of God’s love that he can in every moment he can. 

Most of us are driven by our own self-preservation. We make decisions based on what is good for us as individuals or as families. Paul, however, has allowed himself to be driven almost solely by the cause of Christ. He withholds the love of Christ from no one, and he seizes every opportunity with which he is presented with both the readiness and boldness to share the gospel. Paul’s life and witness should challenge us to consider how we might allow God to transform us to be ready to bear witness to Christ in all circumstances (the mundane, the joyous, and the challenges), consider others before ourselves, and not withhold the love of God from anyone.

Posted by Sam Oakley
in Youth

Youth Lesson: Friends, Now and Forever

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: 

John 13-17 tells the story of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples at Passover. Passover is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the way God rescued the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Unlike the other Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, John doesn’t include anything about the meal itself or Jesus’s words that we repeat at our own Lord’s Supper.  Instead, John includes the story of how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and then he includes a long speech that Jesus gave to his disciples.

Jesus knew what was about to happen – that he would be betrayed by one of his closest friends, arrested, tortured, crucified, but also that he would be raised from the dead.  During this last meal with his disciples, he wanted to prepare his disciples for all that was about to happen. In the washing of his disciples’ feet, he is trying to help them understand that he has not come to rule and lead like a king. He has come as a servant leader who humbles himself in love and care for others. As he continues talking to his disciples throughout the evening, he wants to encourage them to continue trusting in God even when they are unsure about all that is happening, he reminds them that loving God means that they must also love others, and he wants them to know that God will always be with them even when Jesus is no longer physically there. Our passage this week is about Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit who would be with them always.

Read:

John 14:15-21

 Discussion:

  • What does Jesus say we will do if we love him? What does it mean to “keep the commandments”?
  • Read John 13:34-35. What is the commandment that Jesus gives here?
  • Think about the stories of the early church that we read in Acts. What did the early Christians do? They came together for fellowship and worship, and they shared all that they had with others. What happened as a result of what they did? The church grew rapidly. How does John 13:35 fit with the stories of the early church?
  • Jesus promises the Holy Spirit in John 14:16. Depending on your translation, the word used might be Advocate, Helper, Friend, Holy Spirit, Comforter, Counselor, or Companion. All of these words can help us understand who the Holy Spirit is and what role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. How do you understand the work of the Holy Spirit?

Reflection:

Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit is for everyone who believes in him.  The Holy Spirit in us means that God is truly present with us at all times. As we consider these truths, it is important that we recognize what it means for Jesus to be present with us but also what it means that Jesus is present in others. Both of these truths should lead us to love others.  Remembering Jesus’ presence with us means letting him guide us – helping us follow his commandment to love and serve one another.  Remembering Jesus’ presence in others reminds us of the value they hold.  If Jesus is in others, then loving others is literally how we love God. 

It’s important to keep God’s command to love others in balance with Jesus’ depiction of love in John 13. Loving others shouldn’t be done as a proof of hierarchical power. Jesus showed love to his disciples by lowering himself and washing their feet. Our efforts to show love to others shouldn’t be done to set ourselves up as the hero, but they should be done in celebration and care for the other person.

Application Questions:

  • We don’t often spend much time talking about the Holy Spirit, maybe because it’s hard to understand exactly who the Holy Spirit is or how the Holy Spirit works. How have you heard others talk about the work of the Holy Spirit?
  • How have you felt the Holy Spirit working in you? Think about some of the other ways Holy Spirit has been translated – Helper, Friend, Counselor, Comforter, Advocate, or Companion.
  • Where (or in who) have you seen the Holy Spirit at work in you, your church, your community, or your world?
  • How can you tell the difference between loving acts by non-Christians and those by Christians? Does the difference (if any) matter?

Pray:

Dear God, we are grateful for your gift of the Holy Spirit. Help us recognize the ways you are leading us and guiding us. Help us remember that you are always with us and that you call us to love you and to love others. Help us live in such a way that others are drawn to you. Amen.

Posted by Sam Oakley

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