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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
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
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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