Daniel

Today’s Confirmation lesson was on the person and book of Daniel.

Daniel was written in the 2nd century BCE, when the Jews were in the Diaspora and Judah was under foreign rule. The book of Daniel is set in the 6th century BCE when Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem, took the king captive, destroyed the temple and deported the priests and thousands of nobility back to Babylon.

The main point of the Daniel narrative is to trust in God. When life becomes difficult, it is often easy for our faith to give way to doubt. We are no longer sure of who we are or what we believe.

The story of Daniel reminds us that God’s love never leaves us; that trusting in God and not our own abilities can empower us to live out our faith even during the most seemingly impossible of situations.

A few questions that we considered were:

What surprised you most about Daniel?

How did being different from everyone else hurt Daniel and his friends? How did it help them?

Who is the first person that comes to mind when you hear the word “faithful?” Why?

How did Daniel’s faith help him become a leader?

How, like Daniel, do you help others in their faith journeys?

Imagine that Daniel died in the lion’s den. Would you consider him to be any less faithful to God? Why or why not?

Does God’s faithfulness depend on our actions? Did God save Daniel and the others because of their faith?

 

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Prophets

Today’s Junior High lesson is about the prophets and their role in protecting and serving God’s people.

The books of the prophets are some of the most difficult to read in the Bible and oftentimes, some of the most depressing.

The prophets were scorned, ignored or persecuted during their lifetimes but they stuck to their messages and kept proclaiming God’s judgment upon the wrong doings of the people.

God’s message of social justice and care for the stranger went unheeded for most of the history of Israel, and,unfortunately continues to be unheeded today.

How can reading the prophetic books and learning about their overarching themes impact our faith lives today?

King Solomon

Today’s lesson for our Junior High was all about King Solomon and what we can learn from his life.

King Solomon was born to King David and his (one-time) mistress Bathsheba. In some ways, Solomon could be viewed as a consolation child due to the fact that the Lord allowed their first son together to die as a punishment for David ordering the murder of Bathsheba’s husband in order to cover up his adultery.

Solomon was not supposed to be king. He was not the eldest son. He was born under unusual circumstances that could have easily disqualified him from serving as the head of a united Israel.

And yet, God chose him to lead the Israelites following the death of his father.

Solomon was given every chance. He had wealth, fame, power and the support of God (via his prophets). All he had to do was be faithful to God and not allow himself to fall into the same vices that had befallen his father. And yet, he was unable to fulfill his true destiny.

True, Solomon’s prayer for wisdom from God (instead of additional wealth or power) indicated that he was striving to follow God (at least initially). He built a magnificent Temple to provide an earthly landmark for the Israelite faith and led his country out of multiple threats from foreign powers.

But Solomon succumbed to temptation. He utilized his powerful position to garner favor from women and indulged in his love of them. He married multiple women and had mistresses as well. He allowed these women to draw him away from God and even participated in their religions despite being strictly forbidden from doing so.

Solomon allowed his love for earthly pleasures to overpower his love for God with disastrous consequences. Shortly after his death, Israel was split into two kingdoms and never again regained the power and glory it had enjoyed during David and Solomon’s reigns. The bright promise of a United Israel and a kingdom which would never cease was over.

What things in your life take you away from God? What pushes you towards God?

Are there things in your life that you need to change in order to deepen your relationship with God?

Middle School Youth Gathering

I have had a couple of days now to process everything that happened at this year’s youth gathering and am now ready to share!

 

It was a 4 hour drive to reach the gathering in Anaheim and the boys spent the entire time playing Minecraft together in the back of my car. It was so much fun! I learned a lot about Minecraft and what you can do on it.

We unfortunately missed the first evening session of the gathering because of our drive but spent the rest of the evening playing Minecraft together and relaxing.

Saturday morning was spent with LRCC camp counselors learning about summer camp opportunities and discussing how God shows up everywhere we look. Then we attended a workshop on finding your identity within God and knowing that you have full control over your own body.

Then we went to Disneyland! We were able to go on almost every ride we wanted to and ate some yummy food along the way. The boys were kind enough to join me on the Winnie the Pooh ride so that I could take pictures for my two Winnie the Pooh obsessed toddlers!

After walking 7 miles at Disneyland we were a bit tired so headed back to the hotel for some more games with our own little group.

Sunday morning was worship as a whole community and a discussion on what “home” means. Both of the speakers were kids brought up in divorced homes and spoke about the need to figure out where “home” was when their own lives didn’t make sense. It was a very poignant talk and we got a lot out of it. We were given the opportunity to get in our own small groups to talk about the weekend.

The boys expressed gratitude for being able to spend time together one on one as well as an enjoyment of a new experience of worship. They both said that there was nothing they would have changed about the weekend (which was a very pleasant surprise).

Overall it was a fabulous trip with many thought-provoking experiences surrounded by a genuine enjoyment of spending time together.

We are so blessed to have been given the opportunity to attend this event and I am very much looking forward to the next one!

Jacob-the conniving survivor

Jacob is NOT a loveable person. He certainly isn’t someone that we would want to emulate in our daily lives as an example of interpersonal relationships.

But he is someone who God chose to use to bless the entire world.

Despite Jacob’s many many flaws (con-man, spin-man, liar, cheat, etc) God still uses him.

No matter where we are or what we do, God can utilize us to serve His purpose.

We spent some time reading about Jacob’s life and how he treated people.

Then we had a three-legged race so we could experience being tied with God and went through significant moments in Jacob’s life.

Next week we will look at Joseph’s life and how Jacob’s decisions within his family life dramatically impacted his children.

Noah-the eccentric

Key passages to look at:

Genesis 6:5-8, 11-22 (Noah finds favor)

Genesis 7:11-8:4 (The Flood)

Genesis 8:20-9:1, 8-17 (God’s Covenant with Noah)

Genesis 9:20-23, 28 (Noah after the Flood)

We opened today’s lesson by discussing what the youth already knew about Noah’s story. Then we watched a video about Noah and offered up some things that surprised us to know about Noah.

We then discussed the following questions:

How would you react if God told you to do something completely outrageous which caused people to mock you?

Do you think Noah deserves to be considered a hero of the Old Testament? Why or why not?

Then we made a list of specific characteristics which described Noah and discussed which was most suprising, which ones we related to the most and which ones we didn’t find appealing.

We attempted to measure out the actual size of the ark that Noah was instructed to build and discovered that it is shockingly large! This led to a discussion about impossible-seeming tasks.

We concluded our lesson by thinking about what it would have been like for Noah to spend the rest of his life in a world populated only by his family and the animals he had rescued. How would it have felt to have lost everyone and everything you had ever known? How would that have colored your view of God? What would you have spent the rest of your life doing?

Adam and Eve-loveable screwups

The opening chapters of Genesis represent the best and worst of our humanness. Adam is given the gift of life and responsibility for caring for God’s creation. Eve is created shortly thereafter as a companion and partner. They are given just one rule-don’t eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. It doesn’t take long for them to be tempted by the serpent to break this rule. After eating the fruit, they become aware of their nakedness. And thus the pattern of curiosity, rule breaking, and guilt begins.

Why do you think Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit? Why did Adam?

Why do you think 2 different versions of the creation story are included in Genesis?

Which version of the story do you prefer? Why?

What would it be like if everyone followed one major rule?

How do you usually respond when someone gives you a rule to follow?

Why do you think God gave Adam and Eve their “one rule”? How do you think God felt when they broke it?

Why do you think Adam and Eve passed the blame for their mistake?

Why is it difficult to admit when you screw up?

What are some ways that you pass blame to your peers or family members?

The Hebrew Bible

Confirmation this week discussed the Hebrew Bible-commonly referred to as the Old Testament among Christians.

We spent time reading some of the stranger (and frankly, gross) stories in the Old Testament and discussed why they were there.

We then talked about why the Old Testament matters to Christians at all.

Why can’t we just have the New Testament? What is the point of even reading the Old Testament if you are a Christian?

How can you reconcile the acts of God in the Old Testament with how He is portrayed and discussed by Jesus in the New Testament?

We played some Minute to Win It Old Testament games to facilitate group communication and participation.

Next week we will be diving into the book of Genesis!

August 21st lesson-Canon

We are kicking off this year’s study of the Old Testament with a discussion about why the Bible looks the way it does.

The Bible is a collection of many different types of literature, written by many people and brought together over thousands of years. It tells a sweeping story of who God is and who we are and why any of that matters.

We began the lesson by reading 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and discussed a few questions.

Who has inspired you in your life?

What is something that you learned when you were younger that is still inspiring your life?

What do you think it means to be equipped for every good work? What does that look like?

 

We then read Luke 1:1-4.

Who were the “many” who wrote down the accounts?

When have you written a report? An essay for school? A post for Facebook?

What is it like to research something you are passionate about?

 

How do we know that the right books were chosen for the Bible?

What does “inspired” even mean?

Is God still speaking to the world today or is the Bible the end?

We spent the majority of the lesson talking about how the Canon itself was developed and wrestling with some tough questions.

Next week we begin look at the Old Testament in earnest! But we will return to the question of canon during the rest of this year and beyond as we struggle through some difficult questions that are brought up by the Bible.

Confirmation lesson April 17

In this lesson we discussed our favorite superheroes and their powers before turning to Jesus.

We talked about which superhero powers would be the greatest help to mankind and which would best serve an individual.

Another key to our discussion was simply defining what makes someone a superhero rather than an ordinary citizen doing an extraordinary deed.

The question was then posed-would we consider Jesus to be a superhero?

The answer: No, actually. And if he WAS superhero, he would be a pretty awful one. Yes he did walk on water and heal some sick people but that certainly wouldn’t help if Lex Luther released the abomination or Loki sent the Kree army to conquer the earth. And even just looking at the Bible, Jesus doesn’t even perform some of the coolest miracles. He doesnt part an entire ocean in order to free the entire population of his people. He doesn’t kill a giant. He doesn’t kill anyone in defense of his people.

Jesus’ superpower-if we want to call it that-would be a complete and utter dependence upon God. He subjected himself to the will of God even at the detriment to his own security and well-being.

Our lesson ended with a discussion about how even though we can admire superheroes, we will never ever be able to be like them. BUT we CAN and should be like Jesus in His complete reliance upon God.