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Children's Lesson: God's House

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.

This week’s story takes place just before Jesus is arrested and crucified. Jesus is together with his disciples celebrating Passover, a Jewish holiday that celebrates how God freed the Israelite slaves in Egypt. This would be the last meal Jesus would have with his disciples before he died, so we often call it the Last Supper.  After dinner, he spends a long time talking to his disciples.  He knows what is about to happen – that he will be arrested, crucified, but also that he will come back to life.  He also knows that Judas, his disciple and friend, will be the one to betray him. He knows that his disciples will be sad, scared, and confused.  He talks to them to try to bring them some comfort.

In his talk, which our story today is just part of, he is trying to help the disciples feel confident.  He wants them to remember that God promises to always be with us.  Even though Jesus won’t be physically with them on Earth for much longer, he wants them to know that He is with them and always will be. Jesus reminds the disciples that he loves them, sustains them, is always with them, cherishes them, and calls them to do great things.  The same is true for us!  Jesus loves us, sustains us, is always with us, cherishes us, and calls us to do great things!

Read:

Read some of Jesus’ last words to his disciples in our Scripture passage for this week. You can read the story from the Bible or the simplified version of the story from the Spark Story Bible below.

John 14:1-14

The Story:

Jesus taught his disciples many things. “Don’t be sad or worried,” he said. “Believe in God and in me. God’s house in heaven is so big that everyone can have a room. I’m going there to get your rooms ready. Later I’ll come back to take you to God’s house. You know the way to where I’m going.”

Thomas and Philip looked confused, though. “What way do you mean?” they asked.

Jesus said, “I’m the way to know God. Because you know me, you know God, too.  I’ve taught you about life with God and the good things God wants you to do. Pray. Ask me for anything, and I’ll help you to do it.”

Thomas and Philip smiled. “We can follow you and do what you ask us to do. You are our way to heaven. We can live in God’s house, too.”

Review Questions:

  • What are some of the things Jesus taught/told his disciples? Don’t be sad or worried. Believe in Jesus/God. He will always be with us.
  • How does Jesus say we can know God? If we know Jesus, then we know God.
  • What does Jesus say we should do if we need his help? Ask for help through prayer.

Discussion Questions:

  • What does Jesus mean when he says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”? As you talk about this answer, you might talk about the way you travel to go to a familiar place (school, church, or even just from one room to another in your house). When we follow Jesus, it means we believe all of the things He has told us and that we try to live the way he wants us to live. It’s like he gives us the path to walk down to be able to be with God forever (just like we have to walk or drive a certain path to get to the room or place we want to go).
  • Who can live in God’s house? What can you do to help others know Jesus and get to live in God’s house forever, too?
  • What is something you can ask God to help you do?

Activity:

Each person in the family should think of something you already have or something you can draw/make that reminds you of God’s love for you.  Walk around the house together and put your things in different rooms of the house.  Share with one another how that item or drawing helps you remember God’s love.  Keep each item in the different rooms as a reminder that God loves you and is always with you.

Watch this video, and try singing and dancing along. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ycr2JMK1MGM

Pray:

As part of your prayer this week, include the things that you talked about earlier that you would like God to help you with.

Dear God, thank you for always loving us and always being with us. Thank you for helping us do big things for you!  Help us follow you all of the time. Help us __________________.  Amen.

Memory Verse:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” John 14:6a

 

Posted by Sam Oakley

Faith in Action: All Things to All People

All Things to All People  (Acts 17:16-34)

Aside from his conversion (Acts 9), Paul’s speech at the Areopagus is perhaps the most well-known event in his life. As it is described in the book of Acts, Paul is in the city of Athens and he becomes agitated by the number of temples and idols in the city. He can’t stand the idea of so many people worshipping false idols, so he decides to do something about it.

Paul goes to the synagogue in town and talks to them about Jesus. He goes to the marketplace to talk about Jesus. He stopped anyone who would talk with him and had a conversation about Jesus. While he was doing so he ran into some local philosophers. This wasn’t that unusual in Athens. Athens was the one of the centers of learning in the ancient world. It had been the home of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus. There were philosophers all over the place.

These philosophers were intrigued by Paul because he was saying something they had never heard before. So, they took him to the Areopagus. The Areopagus was a small hill just to the north of the Acropolis. In earlier days the city elite met on this hill to discuss, debate, and decide the direction of the city-state. By Paul’s time it had become a place for sharing and debating ideas.

When they arrived at the Areopagus, Paul launched into a doosie of a sermon, the longest of Paul’s speeches recorded in scripture. He told them that he knew they were a very religious people because of all the idols they had, they even had an idol dedicated to an unknown God, just in case they had left one out. While the Athenians were religious, they were mistaken. God couldn’t be contained in a temple and no image or idol could be made of God because God is beyond our imagining. God, Paul said, demanded repentance. God demanded that people turn from their wrong-headed ideas and embrace the truth. Paul told them that the resurrection of Jesus was proof of what God was up to.

That’s when he lost them. Some of them began to sneer; they began to giggle. Surely Paul was just babbling now. The truth is often too difficult to hear. But a few of them wanted to hear more. By the end of the day some of them had begun to believe.

Truth be told, it wasn’t the most successful of Paul’s speeches. Not many were convinced that day. What makes this story so interesting is they way that Paul went about talking to people about Jesus. He met the Jewish people at the synagogue. He met others in the marketplace. He went to debate at the Areopagus.

Paul met people wherever they were. He engaged them in their real lives. He spoke the truth about Christ in ways that fit his setting and his audience. This is a real-life example of Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

In what ways are we willing to become all things to all people?

Posted by David Oakley
in Youth

Youth Lesson: The Stoning of Stephen

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:

The first six chapters of Acts discuss the beginning of the church in Jerusalem.  The church in Jerusalem was led by Jesus’ disciples.  The church consisted of both Greeks and Jews who had become Christians.  Early in its inception, the church faced conflict.  The Greeks felt that their widows were not receiving as much food in the daily distribution as those widows of Jewish descent.  The disciples decided that they needed to add additional leaders to the church who would be responsible for caring for the people while they focused on preaching, teaching, and prayer.  Seven men were chosen to fill this new role, and Stephen was one of them.  Acts 6:5 describes Stephen particularly as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”  The church had been growing rapidly, and the church continued to grow rapidly.

Acts 6:8 describes Stephen as “a man full of God’s grace and power,” and he performed many miracles.  A group of Jewish leaders had grown very upset by this, brought people together against Stephen, and had him arrested.  They brought Stephen before a Jewish, religious council known as the Sanhedrin, and he was placed on trial.  They found people to serve as witnesses who lied about the things that Stephen said.  Stephen testified that the Jewish leaders have been wrong to not recognize Jesus as the Messiah God had promised them.  He delivers an impassioned speech in chapter seven that recounts many events in Jewish history. He compared these Jewish leaders to the people who had persecuted the Jews throughout their history.  Our story today picks up at the sentencing phase of Stephen’s trial.

Read:

Acts 7:54-60

Discussion:

  • Talk about the passage together to review its contents. How did the Sanhedrin react to Stephen? What was Stephen’s sentence? How did Stephen respond?
  • Do you think Stephen could have stood up for his faith without putting himself in danger?
  • What do you think Stephen is thinking and feeling? What do you think you would be thinking or feeling if you were in Stephen’s place?
  • Read Acts 6:15 and then Acts 7:54. What do you think about Stephen’s testimony in Acts 7 caused the Sanhedrin to change their response to Stephen so drastically?

 

Reflection:

In the way Stephen responds to his impending death, we are reminded of Jesus. Before his death, Jesus spoke to God and asked God to forgive those who were bringing about his death. As Stephen is being stoned, he also speaks with God and asks God to forgive those who are killing him. While God does not call all of us to die for our faith, it does seem as though the story of Stephen here does serve as a model of what it means to follow Jesus even into death.

Being a witness for Jesus means that we must be able to tell of Jesus’ work. Stephen knew the story of how God had been at work since the beginning of time, but he also could testify about the work of God through Jesus in his own lifetime. Even more than that, Stephen was a part of God’s continued work.  He had been chosen to serve those in need, but God had also given the power to perform great signs and wonders.  We must know our Christian faith, but we also must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and use us in order to fulfill our call to be a witness for Jesus.

Application Questions:

Stephen’s story can be a prompt for us to consider how faithfulness to God may go against common assumptions or practices in our culture today. Talk through some of these questions below (taken from “The Stoning of Stephen” lesson in the Youth Feasting on the Word Curriculum) and consider how you might need to rearrange your own priorities, take a stand, and express your beliefs through action.

  • What does the Christian faith have to say about rampant consumerism and our complicity in it?
  • What does Christianity have to say about our nationalistic impulses and the self-interest that guides the foreign policies of many nations?
  • What does our faith have to say about environmental stewardship and our current patterns of living?

 Pray:

Dear God, we know that you have called each one of us to serve as a witness for you. Help us know how, when, and where we can take a stand for our faith to help others know your love, grace, and power. Thank you for being with us wherever you call us to go. Please give us your words and your wisdom so that others will see and hear you in us.  Amen.

Posted by Sam Oakley

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