A great way to begin and extend any discussion is by asking lots of questions. Prepare your questions in advance, and have them dovetail with the lesson so that your group can begin with direction and intent. Following are some tips regarding what kinds of questions to ask: 1) The questions need to be open-ended enough to invite a variety of responses. Avoid yes/no questions or difficult biblical questions that could have a wrong answer; nothing shuts down a group discussion faster! 2) Ask reflection questions that invite participants to consider the claims of a passage of Scripture. An example of this kind of question is: Why are we tempted to treat rich people better than the poor? 3) Application questions help the group connect a biblical principle with their lives. An example of this kind of question is: How could we do a better job of helping people with financial needs in our congregation?
Focus Text: Ecclesiastes 5:1-7; Psalm 84:1-4, 10
Objective: By the end of this lesson my students should be able to list ways to promote greater reverence in worship in their church.
Central Truth: Appropriate expressions of worship to God are characterized by sincerity and humility.
I. Honesty in Worship (Eccl. 5:1-3)
II. Keep Your Vows (Eccl. 5:4-7)
III. True Worship (Ps. 84:1-4, 10
Read Ecclesiastes 1:12-18
“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (v. 14).
Are most people happy? Are you happy? Dennis Wholey, author of Are You Happy?, reports that “According to expert opinion, perhaps only 20% of Americans are happy.” He goes on to say that these experts would probably agree with the wry definition of happiness offered by a psychiatrist, Thomas Szasz, who said, “Happiness is an imaginary condition, formerly attributed to the dead, now usually attributed by adults to children and by children to adults.” The writer of Ecclesiastes had the opportunity and the means to look for happiness in every possible experience, and yet his despondent conclusion was that it was “all vanity and vexation of spirit.” Like Solomon, the British poet, Lord Byron, lived a dissolute life of wine, women, and song. And yet as he lay dying at the age of thirty-six, he wrote, “the worm, the grief, and the canker are mine alone.” This is absolutely true of life — without a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. However, it is altogether true that “Jesus is the joy of living!” Amy Carmichael who poured out her life as a missionary in India serving God and others said it well: “There is nothing dreary and doubtful about life. It is meant to be continually joyful. We are called to a settled happiness in the Lord whose joy is our strength.” (Michael R. Williams)
“Let us leave sadness to the devil and his angels. As for us, what can we be but rejoicing and gladness?” (Francis of Assisi).
Focus Text: Ecclesiastes 2:1-13
Objective: By the end of this lesson my students should be able to identify that which brings true fulfillment in life.
Central Truth: Depending on material things of this world to bring happiness results only in disappointment and disillusionment.
I. The Futility of Pleasure (Eccl. 2:1-3)
II. The Futility of Wealth (Eccl. 2:4-13)
Read Daniel 1:5-17
“Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink” (v. 12).
Psychologist Walter Mischel performed an experiment which seems very similar to that proposed by Daniel. Preschool children were told they could have one marshmallow immediately. However, if they would wait while Dr. Mischel ran an errand, they could have two marshmallows at his return. Some preschoolers grabbed the marshmallow immediately. Those who waited struggled with self-control by covering their eyes, resting their heads on their arms, talking to themselves, singing, or sleeping. Those who persevered received the two-marshmallow reward. The experiment, however, was not complete. The participants were monitored in a follow-up study. It was discovered that those who waited for an extra marshmallow were, as adolescents, still able to delay gratification. They were more socially competent, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. On the other hand, those who demanded instant gratification were, as adolescents, more likely to be stubborn, indecisive, and stressed. Edmund Burke, author, orator, political theorist, philosopher, and member of the English Parliament in the 1700s made a pertinent statement which concisely states the necessity of practicing personal self-control when he said, “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” (L. Gayle Woods)
“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters” (Edmund Burke).
Focus Text: Proverbs 23:19-35
Objective: By the end of this lesson my students should be able to list areas of life that need self-control.
Central Truth: Temperance in every area of living is the mark of a truly wise man.
I. Control Your Appetite (Prov. 23:19-21)
II. Learn From Experience (Prov. 23:22-28)
III. Abstain From Evil (Prov. 23:29-35)
Anything is possible. Believe that your group is a place where God dwells and where He is actively working to transform all of you. Think about the transformation that happened in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. Think about the transformation that happened in first-century churches like Corinth and Thessalonica. Then believe that it can happen within your group. We are all clay in the hands of the Potter, and He can use your group in a powerful way to transform the hearts and minds of your group, starting with you!
Read Proverbs 18:23 — 19:3
“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (v. 24).
As I write this devotional, our church is making a special effort to invite people to church. This morning, while walking and praying around our community, I saw a man on his front porch. Stopping to hand him a brochure, I learned that he attends another church in town. His first question was about salvation by grace. We were very much in agreement. We stood on his sidewalk and visited, and he shared his testimony with me. He did not emphasize some outlandish experience; instead, he talked about how God dealt with him until he finally realized that he could not save himself. Only God could do that! We prayed together, wished each other a blessed day, and I walked away. Friendly people find friends. Not everyone is as outgoing as I try to be, but a friendly attitude does open the door to sharing our testimony. Most of us also know people whose attitude is very different from this man. Instead of friendliness, they exude anger, hatred, and bitterness. You don’t have to be around them for long before you discover those traits. Today, let’s demonstrate the character and attitude of our best friend, Jesus. As we reflect Him, others may be drawn to Him. (Mark D. Avery)
Focus Text: Proverbs 19:1-8, 17; 22:16-23
Objective: By the end of this lesson my students should be able to list ways in which they may help people in need.
Central Truth: Christian compassion toward the needy in this world is an obligation for which God holds us accountable.
I. Condition of the Poor (Prov. 19:1-8)
II. Compassion for the Poor (Prov. 19:17)
III. Champion of the Poor (Prov. 22:16-23)
Nobody is perfect. John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” As a teacher, you set the atmosphere for your group. Be determined that the worldly social practices of pretense, hiding, reputation building, and judging do not take root in your group. Create an atmosphere of safety where there is acceptance and openness. It might sound like this kind of atmosphere is tolerant of sin. Practically, the opposite is true. In this atmosphere, we are able to confess our struggles and bring them into the light where we can receive prayer and support to help us overcome them. You can lead the way by being honest and open in your group about your struggles. When someone is brave enough to be real, the walls of pretense and superficiality come down as you demonstrate what everybody in your group already knows — nobody is perfect.