Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The flier for our upcoming fundraiser to being Korye, a drumming group from Ghana to West Michigan. Once here, they will raise funds for both Ghana and West Michigan schools.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Last Day

by smithadri @ Flickr
This is the last youth study before summer break. It's been a good year with this group, and they've had some nice insights into the Bible.

Going out of order today with the scriptures!

In Matthew 24, shortly before he was crucified. Jesus was asked about the last days. He told his disciples not to worry. He warned them that people will often misinterpret big events (wars, plagues, etc.) as being signs. Finally he says: 
Matthew 24:36-44“No one knows when that day or hour will come. Even the angels in heaven and the Son don’t know. Only the Father knows. When the Son of Man comes again, it will be exactly like the days of Noah. In the days before the flood, people were eating, drinking, and getting married until the day that Noah went into the ship. They were not aware of what was happening until the flood came and swept all of them away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man comes again.
“At that time two men will be working in the field. One will be taken, and the other one will be left. Two women will be working at a mill. One will be taken, and the other one will be left.
“Therefore, be alert, because you don’t know on what day your Lord will return. You realize that if a homeowner had known at what time of the night a thief was coming, he would have stayed awake. He would not have let the thief break into his house. Therefore, you, too, must be ready because the Son of Man will return when you least expect him.”

1) This is one of the places people get the idea for the Rapture, where they think Christians will suddenly vanish from wherever they are. Not all Christians believe in such a thing. Can you think of anything else Jesus might have meant?

2) If you believe this passage, what might you say to someone making a prediction about the end of the world?

After Jesus had ascended to heaven, the apostles and the disciples kept on preaching about him. Especially after Pentecost, when they received the Holy Spirit as a helper. Stephen is a great example of this. Some people connect Matthew 24 with how the disciple Stephen died. He was explaining how Jesus fit in with what the prophets had said, but the officials got very angry.
Acts 7:54-60 As council members listened to Stephen, they became noticeably furious. But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He looked into heaven, saw God’s glory, and Jesus in the position of authority that God gives. So Stephen said, “Look, I see heaven opened and the Son of Man in the position of authority that God has given him!” But the council members shouted and refused to listen. Then they rushed at Stephen with one purpose in mind, and after they had thrown him out of the city, they began to stone him to death. The witnesses left their coats with a young man named Saul. While council members were executing Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, welcome my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and shouted, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.” After he had said this, he died.

3) Why do you think people connect this with what jesus was talking about in Matthew 24?

4) What else do you notice?

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, but after he was resurrected, Matthew records two interesting points.
Matthew 28:11-20 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city. They told the chief priests everything that had happened. The chief priests gathered together with the leaders and agreed on a plan. They gave the soldiers a large amount of money and told them to say that Jesus’ disciples had come at night and had stolen his body while they were sleeping. They added, “If the governor hears about it, we’ll take care of it, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.” The soldiers took the money and did as they were told. Their story has been spread among the Jewish people to this day.

The eleven disciples went to the mountain in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they bowed down in worship, though some had doubts. When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”

5) One of the things I wonder is why didn’t everyone believe when Jesus was raised, and this helps me understand. Can you think of anything today where people claim both sides of an issue?

6) People refer to what Jesus asks here as “the Great Commission.” A commission is when someone hires you to do a specific job, or when someone gives you the authority to do a certain job. An artist takes a commission to paint a portrait of someone, for example. Or a military officer receives a commission to be a captain in the army. Was what Jesus asked like one or both of these?

7) How do we make disciples of other people? Of a nation?

8) Are you a disciple? Do you want to be? How do you know?

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Notes from Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Spangler and Tverberg.  This is the Lakeshore Lutheran Fellowship's men's group study, which is a little longer.  There's a link to the youth study at the end.
 Painting from Grace Memorial Presbyterian in Pittsburgh.

Read John 10:1-21 Jesus, the Good Shepherd (Link goes to's God's Word translation.)
1) Why were the Jews divided? “He’s possessed by a demon” is a pretty strong response to sheep talk.

It was not the first time Jesus mentioned shepherds. Read Luke 15:1-7 (also in Matthew 18:12-13)
All the tax collectors and sinners came to listen to Jesus. But the Pharisees and the scribes complained, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus spoke to them using this illustration: “Suppose a man has 100 sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 sheep grazing in the pasture and look for the lost sheep until he finds it? When he finds it, he’s happy. He puts that sheep on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says to them, ‘Let’s celebrate! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ I can guarantee that there will be more happiness in heaven over one person who turns to God and changes the way he thinks and acts than over 99 people who already have turned to God and have his approval.”

2) What do you notice about this parable?

Of course, if we’re talking shepherds…

Psalm 23 A psalm by David.
The Lord is my shepherd. I am never in need.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside peaceful waters.
He renews my soul.
He guides me along the paths of righteousness for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm.
Your rod and your staff give me courage.
You prepare a banquet for me while my enemies watch.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.

Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life, and I will remain in the Lord’s house for days without end.

3) How do you respond to this poem? Why?

4) This was famous among the Jews of Jesus’ day, just as it is now. If what Jesus said reminded people of this psalm, what would it mean to them?

In a nation of shepherds, as they still were, which even began with Abraham, the shepherd image might have meant more.

Isaiah 44:28 [The Lord] says about Cyrus, “He is my shepherd. He will do everything I want him to do. He says about Jerusalem, “It will be rebuilt. He says about the temple, “Your foundation will be laid.”

Psalm 78:70-72 He chose his servant David. He took him from the sheep pens. He brought him from tending the ewes that had lambs so that David could be the shepherd of the people of Jacob, of Israel, the people who belonged to the LORD. With unselfish devotion David became their shepherd. With skill he guided them.

5) With what do these passages connect the idea of a shepherd? What would that have meant to Jesus’ audience?

One of the most sheep heavy sections of scripture is Ezekiel 34. Read that now.
6) What connections are there between this chapter and what Jesus says in John 10?

7) What does this mean for Jesus’ listeners if they connected his words to this chapter? What is Jesus telling them?

8) If they accept what Jesus is saying here, because they believe through other signs, as they mention, what will that mean for them?

Jesus mentions sheep elsewhere, too. Read Matthew 25:31-33.
[Jesus speaking] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left.”

9) How does this connect with the passage from Ezekiel?

10) What is Jesus telling the people about himself here?

Shepherd outside Kabul, Afghanistan, 2008
11) Back to John 10… what is it saying to us today? Does your experience match what Jesus says or contradict it?
  • We’ll respond to Jesus’ voice.
  • Jesus will call us by name.
  • Jesus will lead us.
  • We will not follow a stranger – we’ll even run away from them.
  • We will have life and everything we need.

12) If we accept what Jesus is saying here, what will that mean for us?

Photo Credits:, KitAy and AfghanistanMatters @ Flickr,

The terrific book linked up at the top.  Seriously worth your time.
The Hardest Question - site for bible teachers that follows the liturgical calendar.  They concentrate on posing the hardest questions that scripture raises for them, with different pastors contributing each week.

The youth version of this study is at Scribd.  A bit shorter, with all the scripture on the page.

This made for a great discussion with the men's group.  One of the things it brought up for us was how important it is to share the good news, and that one of the ways is by being a good follower.  That brings to mind this mini TED talk, on what it takes to start a movement.

Road to Emmaus

(Sorry - just noticed I never posted last week's lesson!  It was meant as an assessment.  See where the students were after a year of studies in terms of being able to make sense of and pose questions about scripture on their own.  We read this because it has so many connections with last week's study on Thomas and the Road to Emmaus is such an important story about recognizing Jesus.)

Luke 24 Jesus Comes Back to Life (also in Matthew 28:1–10; Mark 16:1–8; John 20:1–10)
Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb. They were carrying the spices that they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. When they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzled about this, two men in clothes that were as bright as lightning suddenly stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed to the ground.

The men asked the women, “Why are you looking among the dead for the living one? He’s not here. He has been brought back to life! Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee. He said, ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinful people, be crucified, and come back to life on the third day.’ ” Then the women remembered what Jesus had told them.

The women left the tomb and went back to the city. They told everything to the eleven apostles and all the others. The women were Mary from Magdala, Joanna, and Mary (the mother of James). There were also other women with them. They told the apostles everything. The apostles thought that the women’s story didn’t make any sense, and they didn’t believe them.

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. He bent down to look inside and saw only the strips of linen. Then he went away, wondering what had happened.

Jesus Appears to Disciples on a Road to Emmaus
On the same day, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village called Emmaus. It was about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were talking, Jesus approached them and began walking with them. Although they saw him, they didn’t recognize him. He asked them, “What are you discussing?”

They stopped and looked very sad. One of them, Cleopas, replied, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what has happened recently?”

“What happened?” he asked. They said to him, “We were discussing what happened to Jesus from Nazareth. He was a powerful prophet in what he did and said in the sight of God and all the people. Our chief priests and rulers had him condemned to death and crucified. We were hoping that he was the one who would free Israel. What’s more, this is now the third day since everything happened. Some of the women from our group startled us. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body. They told us that they had seen angels who said that he’s alive. Some of our men went to the tomb and found it empty, as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”

Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are! You’re so slow to believe everything the prophets said! Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then he began with Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets to explain to them what was said about him throughout the Scriptures. When they came near the village where they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. They urged him, “Stay with us! It’s getting late, and the day is almost over.” So he went to stay with them.
While he was at the table with them, he took bread and blessed it. He broke the bread and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. But he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t we excited when he talked with us on the road and opened up the meaning of the Scriptures for us?” That same hour they went back to Jerusalem. They found the eleven apostles and those who were with them gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has really come back to life and has appeared to Simon.”

Then the two disciples told what had happened on the road and how they had recognized Jesus when he broke the bread.

1) I’ve been writing studies with questions for you guys all year. Now I want to know what questions you would write about this text. What do you notice, and how would you ask someone else about it?

Students spent more time noticing than posing questions.  They noticed that it was the women who returned to the tomb, that the disciples did not believe them (just like Thomas), that only Peter went to the tomb.  (I shared about John being mentioned in John's account.) And that even after that Peter didn't know what to think.  They noticed that the Emmaus story was on Easter, wondered why the disciples wouldn't recognize him.  They thought that Jesus pretended to be going on because it would have been rude to assume that you were invited in, or maybe to give them a chance to invite him.  They wondered if there was something distinctive about how Jesus broke the bread, and figured that the disciples must have seen him do that before.  They noticed that despite the long walk (2-3 hours) they went back, and that the apostles were still in the room.  They connected that the end of this story was the beginning of last week's.

Photo credit: bobosh_t @ Flickr from the Shkolnik Icons in St. Paul's Orthodox Church, Dayton, OH