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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

Children's Lesson: The Promise of 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.

This week’s story is a continuation of last week’s story (remember, I said Jesus spends a LONG time talking to his disciples after that dinner).  As a reminder, though, this 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.

Jesus 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 prepare them and bring them some comfort.

He talks to them about loving him, hearing his word, keeping his commandments, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Last week, we talked about how Jesus is preparing a place for us with God and that there’s room for everyone! Jesus wants them to understand that loving Jesus means following his commandments. Jesus wants them to love God and love others. God gives us the Holy Spirit to walk with us, help us, and sustain us as we follow God.  Jesus’ words helped the disciples know what to do and comforted them, and his words can do the same for us!

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 14:15-21

The Story:

Jesus loved his disciples. He knew he was going to heaven soon and wanted to make sure they weren’t afraid. Jesus and his friends sat down on the soft grass. Jesus said, “It’s important to remember all I’ve taught you. Love God. Love other people. Help each other. Remember, God is most important. God will always love you.”

Jesus looked at each of his friends’ faces. He cared so much for each of them! “I promise I’ll always love you and everyone who comes after you. I won’t be here much longer. But don’t worry! God’s Holy Spirit will be with you always. The Holy Spirit will help you and God’s children forever.” The disciples trusted Jesus and the promise he made.

Review Questions:

  • What commands did Jesus give his disciples? If you read the story from the Bible, go back and read John 13:34-35 (an earlier part of Jesus’ speech). Love God. Love other people. Help each other.
  • What promises does Jesus give his disciples? Jesus loves them. God’s Holy Spirit will be with them and help them always.

Discussion Questions:

  • What do you think it means to “keep Jesus’ commandments”? It means to “hold them dear” or “remember their importance.” We all mess up sometimes, and God knows that!  Keeping God’s commandments just means that we try our best to follow them.
  • Jesus wants us to love God and love others. What can we do to show God we love Him? What can we do to show others love?
  • Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would always be with us to help us. What’s something you can do to help you remember that the Holy Spirit is always with you?

Activity:

Our story today reminds us that our faith leads us to love others. Each person in the family should think of one thing that they can do on their own for someone else. Share your ideas with one another. As a family, come up with one (or more!) things you can do this week to love or help someone outside of your family.

Pray:

Dear God, thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit to always be with us. We love you. Help us follow your commands and love others. Amen.

Memory Verse:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

 

Posted by Sam Oakley
in Youth

Youth Lesson: Spirited Living

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 two chapters of Acts tell us about Jesus’ final days on earth and what his followers did immediately after Jesus’ ascension.  Chapter 2 begins with the story of Pentecost, which we will celebrate in just a couple of weeks.  The story of Pentecost includes God empowering people to hear the Gospel being preached in their own languages and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The disciples preach the good news that all can repent, follow Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit.  Thousands of people chose to be baptized and follow Jesus that day.

Our story picks up in the days, weeks, or months following Pentecost.  It is more of a summation of what happened during this time after Pentecost. This week’s text is descriptive of the church, not necessarily prescriptive. In other words, the author of the book of Acts isn’t necessarily calling or commanding the church to follow the example of the early church but is just describing what the early church did and what happened as a result.  While we might not be called today to do the exact same thing these early followers of Jesus did (or maybe some of us are!), we can certainly be inspired by this story.

Read:

Acts 2:42-47

Discussion:

  • What do the early believers devote themselves to? What do you think it means that they “devoted” themselves to these activities?
  • Verse 44 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” What do you think this means? What do you think this means their everyday life looked like?
  • After describing the life of the church, the passage concludes by saying, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Why do you think this was happening? What types of interactions do you think the early church had with those outside of the church (how would “outsiders” have even known what these first Christians were doing)?

 Reflection:

The tradition of sharing with those in need is a central part of Jesus’ teaching. Think about Jesus’ story about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).  Jesus condemns the rich man for never showing mercy and caring for Lazarus, and he points out that this is what God has asked of his people since the day of Moses.  The church in Acts 2 is doing what God has called them to since the beginning of time and impressed upon them by the teachings and actions of Jesus. 

In our society, we often measure success by wealth and what we own.  This passage challenges that thinking.  God does not condemn wealth – being successful, even by our cultural standards, is not inherently wrong.  God does condemn, however, gaining wealth in unethical ways and not caring for others in the ways that we can.  This passage describes both how the early church dedicated itself to authentic worship and how their dedication to follow in the way of Jesus led them to make noteworthy efforts to care for one another.  This passage should inspire us to consider our own devotion to worship as well as how we allow that to transform the way we are living. As we read this text, we are prompted to consider whether or not the way we live would draw others to Christ.

 Application Questions:

  • What would it look like today in terms of how we spend our time daily or weekly to devote ourselves to the study of God’s Word? To fellowship with others? To prayer?
  • What is the importance of “breaking bread together in their homes” and what kinds of things can we do to fellowship together in the same way?
  • What is one thing about the way we live right now that we can change in order to better devote ourselves to authentic worship?
  • What is one thing about the way we live right now that we can change in order to better meet the needs of others?

Pray:

Dear God, we are grateful for the stories of your followers across time and around the world that can inspire us to follow you more faithfully. Help us to root ourselves in you that we may transform the world. Amen.

Posted by Sam Oakley

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