Worthy of the Kingdom of God (PA Retreat)

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Worthy of the kingdom of God?  Wait…I thought we are all unworthy of the kingdom!  Yet when we take another look at the Scriptures, we find that all Christians are indeed called to live lives that are worthy of the kingdom.  This opening message from our retreat weekend in Pennsylvania draws a sharp contrast between the message of the kingdom and the popular message heard in most Protestant churches today, and opens our eyes to the high calling that God has for our lives.

The Bread of Life (John 6:30-50)

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Jesus is challenged to show a sign like Moses did, to provide bread from heaven (recalling the manna story from Exodus). Jesus counters by teaching that He is the true bread who came from heaven, who gives life to the world. In this lesson we look at the significance of this important teaching, and also consider how two passages within this text have been taken out of context by Calvinists and many evangelical Protestants, with tragic consequences.

On the Character of God (Ezekiel 18)

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One of the great treasures of the Old Testament is how it helps us understand the true nature and character of God. There are many things that distort our understanding of God's nature: the character of our own human fathers, our tendency to make God into something He is not, and Satan's consistent attack, trying to deceive us to believe God is different than He truly is. Ezekiel 18 provides a beautiful picture of God, communicating His great mercy and kindness offered to all mankind. May this help us grasp God's nature in a deeper way, and transform how we view and treat others.      

The Spiritual War

If you feel like you are under spiritual assault, maybe it is because you are. In this practical lesson we pull back the curtain on the unseen spiritual battle for our souls, being waged by the forces of evil. Coming out of Ephesians chapter 6, we look at the spiritual war: the forces of evil arrayed against us, the protective armor God has given us, and the offensive weapons at our disposal.

The Deaths of Jacob and Joseph (Genesis 49:28-50:26)

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As we come to the end of our study of Genesis, our story concludes with the deaths of Jacob and Joseph.  This final chapter provides the opportunity for us to reflect on extremely important topics of the Christian faith, including death, forgiveness, the sovereignty of God and our role in His plan and purposes, Biblical faith (as seen in the final instructions of Joseph), and the resurrection of the dead. May we take great encouragement from the heroes of the faith whom we have met in our Genesis study, and may they inspire us to never shrink back, but to perserve and endure till the very end!

Feeding Thousands, Walking on Water and Working (John 6:1-29)

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In the first part of John 6, Jesus feeds 5,000 men (plus women and children) and then walks on the water, calling Peter to do the same. The first miracle caused those who witnessed it to proclaim that Jesus was the Prophet foretold in Deuteronomy 18; the second caused Jesus' apostles to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God. These stories are filled with important lessons for us, including what we are to do today with such miracles, foreshadowing of these miracles in the Old Testament, how Jesus handled adversity, and teaching on (and a vivid example of) saving faith.  

Jacob's Final Blessing of His 12 Sons (Genesis 49:1-27)

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Jacob, on his deathbed, calls in his twelve sons and tells each one what will happen to his descendants in days to come. To his fourth son, Judah, he utters one of the most detailed and explicit prophecies about Jesus in all the Bible. Early Christian writers such as Justin Martyr used this prophecy as powerful evidence to convince unbelievers of the faith. In this faith-building lesson we explore facets of this prophecy about the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah”: his reign, divinity, death, resurrection; and that the Gentiles would look to Him. This lesson includes insights from Christians in earlier ages that will equip us to prove the faith to unbelievers today.

Click here to go to previous lessons in the Genesis Series

 

Jesus Calls Five Witnesses (John 5:31-47)

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After healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies want to kill Him for violating the Law of Moses. Instead of speaking to defend himself, Jesus points to five witnesses who will testify on His behalf, beginning with John the Baptist. His last witness is Moses, of whom Jesus declares “he wrote about Me”. In this lesson we consider the testimony of the five witnesses to support the claims of Jesus and the Christian faith.

More on the Bodily Resurrection of the Dead (John 5:28-30, Part B)

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Jesus spoke in John 5 about the physical resurrection of the dead (bodies coming out of the graves). This was an extremely divisive subject among the Jews. Jesus and Paul maintained that it was plainly taught in the Old Testament; but where? Here we answer that question and continue a deep discussion on the resurrection begun in the previous message. This is a lesson that illustrates God’s power, challenges our faith, and reveals the importance of our bodies (and what we do with them).

Jesus, our Judge; and the Resurrection of the Dead (John 5:18-30)

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In John 5 Jesus’ enemies accused him of “working” on the Sabbath in healing a paralyzed man. In His response, Jesus “doubles down” and puts himself on the same level as God. Jesus also tells his opponents that the Father has committed to Him, the Son, the role of judging all men. In this lesson, we take a look at an aspect of Jesus many prefer to avoid: Jesus, the great Judge of all men on the Last Day. This carries important implications for several areas of our lives. Here Jesus also introduces teaching on the resurrection of the dead: considered a foundational teaching in the early church, yet commonly misunderstood among Christians today.   

Go to John Series

Signs and Wonders (John 4:46-5:17)

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In John 4 and 5, and throughout the New Testament, we read about Jesus, the apostles and others performing miracles, healings, and signs.  These can easily be passed over and dismissed.  Yet, why did Jesus (and others) perform miracles and signs?  What are we to learn from these miracles?  If someone were to work signs and wonders today, would that be a clear sign that God was behind what they were doing?  We will seek to answer these and other questions through the stories of the healing of the nobleman's son (John 4) and the paralyzed man at the pool (John 5).   

Go to John Series

Encounter with a Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4:1-45)

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In John 4 Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well and has a noteworthy discussion with her. This passage has often been used to depict Jesus as the Great Women's Liberator. But, is this really what this passage teaches us? We will dig into the history of the Samaritans and their relationship with the Jews to gain insight into the liberation Jesus offers to all people of all the nations. We are also introduced to "living water", and called higher as we learn of Jesus' food: to do the will of the Father. 

The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up (John 3:13-36)

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This passage of Scripture contains perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible: John 3:16. We look at this verse in its context, which not only shows how badly the verse is twisted and misunderstood by so many today but also reveals a message and means of salvation that will be hated by the world. It was for this message, which includes repentance from sin and Jesus as the only means to salvation, that Jesus was murdered. Will we, as Jesus' followers, be willing to proclaim the same message, with similar results? The lesson concludes with John the Baptist's example of humility as a spiritual leader, an upward call to us all as we strive to carry out God's work during our short time here on earth.   

You Must Be Born Again (John 3:1-12)

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In John 3, Nicodemus encounters Jesus at night and is told that to enter the Kingdom of God, a person must be born of water and spirit. Nicodemus, a good-hearted teacher of Israel who will later stick his neck out for Jesus, is confused about what it means to be born again. Such is the case for so many Christians. This lesson deals with water baptism, an extremely controversial topic for much of the church today. We take a close look at Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments that address water baptism, as well as at some of the stumbling blocks that make baptism such a difficult teaching for so many. 

First Miracle at Cana and Clearing the Temple (John 2)

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In John 2 we read two stories: Jesus performing his first miracle at a wedding in Cana and Jesus clearing out the temple. Jesus would go on to perform many miracles; why did He begin with turning water into wine? We also look at whether Christians should drink alcohol, and how we should relate to disciples who have different convictions on this. In the second story, we are challenged to imitate the zeal Jesus had for his Father's house, as well as the zeal of other heroes of faith in the Scriptures. Finally, we see Jesus proclaiming to skeptics that there would be one sign of His authority: His resurrection from the dead on the third day, the foundation of the Christian faith.

What the Bible Teaches About Submission

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This lesson begins with a look at two very different versions of Christianity that we see today. Which version we choose will have a tremendous impact on how we respond to the harder teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Next, we tackle what the New Testament says about submission, a practical yet challenging topic. All Christians are commanded to submit to the governing authorities. Also, Christian servants are called to submit to their masters, wives to their husbands, and younger men to older men within the church. All of us are called to have a humble and submissive spirit. This is a practical lesson that addresses how we put these counter-cultural teachings into practice today.

Where Did Moses Write About Jesus?

In John chapter 5 Jesus told his critics that the Old Testament Scriptures testified about him. He pointed specifically to Moses and said, “If you believed in Moses you would believe in me, for he wrote about me”. Where did Moses actually write about Jesus, the Messiah? In this lesson, we examine one of the most detailed and faith-building prophecies in all of the Old Testament, from Moses. Ironically, this is a prophecy that is largely ignored or unappreciated by most modern Christians. This lesson will carry particular significance for those reaching out to friends from Muslim or Jewish backgrounds.

This talk was given on November 18, 2017 at a meeting of Society for the Two Tasks, a graduate student Christian apologetics group that meets on the Harvard University campus.

Lessons from the Book of Ruth

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The story of Ruth is an inspiring tale of three unlikely individuals, who God would use in a remarkable way to accomplish His purposes. This study takes a close look at the character strengths of Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth, who set a standard for Christians today, that we might also be made useful for the designs and plans of our Great Redeemer.       

The First Disciples of Jesus (John 1:43-51)

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In this lesson we discuss the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, which is mentioned in all four gospels. Why was Jesus' baptism necessary? Jesus then encounters his first disciples, and gives Simon the new name, ‘Peter’. What was the significance of that? We explore this question, the source of great controversy related to claims made by the Roman Catholic Church. Finally, we are introduced to Nathaniel, a good-hearted skeptic whose conversion still inspires us today to lead other truth-seekers to the Stairway to Heaven! 

Behold the Lamb of God (John 1:29-42)

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John the Baptist identifies Jesus as "the Lamb of God". Why a lamb, and not some other animal? Does this simply mean that Jesus was meek and harmless, or is there more to it? How would John's hearers have understood this expression? In this lesson we look at what this would have meant to John’s hearers, and the profound implications for all those who want to follow Jesus today.