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American Idol

American Idols abound in our society. Baseball players, basketball players, football players, soccer players, ice hockey players, comedians, musicians, movie stars, and entertainers have their followers. People regularly pay their offerings in order to have the privilege to worship their idol for an hour or two. People pledge their allegiance to their idol, put posters of their idol’s likeness on the walls of their homes, have special services on the radio and television where they extol the greatness of their idol, and wear various types of apparel to announce their loyalty to their special idol.

The name for the popular television program was proper, for it clearly defined the purpose and desire of the American people. They want idols. Not one idol but many idols. Now the program has completed its final season. This, however, does not end the saga of the American Idol. People still have a void in their heart that craves to be filled. They still have an unsatisfied hunger that is not satisfied. People still have an inner desire to fall down to worship someone or something.

In this lesson, we will discuss this inner desire of the human heart. We will look at numerous scriptures where people expressed this hunger and we will consider the biblical response.

Lesson Objective: By the end of this lesson the student will understand the dangers of idolatry. He/she will recognize Satan’s deceptive attempts to divert worship from God to himself.

Thank you for reading the introduction to this lesson. To download your copy of the complete lesson (including ready to teach lesson material, discussion questions, a list of sources, and reproducible student handouts) click on the following link:

http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/product/american-idol/

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Home Invasion – The Spiritual Issue

Home invasion is alarming and is something that home owners should be prepared to face.  Even more alarming are the invasions that take place in our home daily that are overlooked.   We should guard ourselves as much as possible against the possibility of property loss and physical damage.  More importantly we should be prepared to defend our homes against spiritual invasion.  Satan unrelentingly attacks our spouses and our children.  He does this in many ways.   Being aware of his methods and knowing how to face these insidious onslaughts is of paramount importance.  

Lesson Objective:  By the end of this lesson the student will be reminded of the unrelenting attack on the minds and spirits of his/her family members and will be better prepared to combat these Satan invasions on his/her home.

Thank you for reading the introduction to this lesson.  To download your copy of the complete lesson (including ready to teach lesson material, discussion questions, a list of sources, and reproducible student handouts) click on the following link:

 http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/product/home-invasion-the-spiritual-issue/

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* Is God a Mass Murderer?*

Hennard, George Pierre 23
Huberty, James Oliver  21
Wong, Jiverly Antares  13
Unruh, Howard Barton   13
Holmes, James Eagan   12
Pough, James Edward   11
McLendon, Michael Kenneth  10
Starkweather, Charles and Fugate, Caril Ann, 10

What do the people in this list have in common?  They were mass murderers in the United States.  The number by each name is the number of people each one killed.  This is a partial listing for the United States and also does not take into consideration the long lists from other countries.  

We are horrified when we hear of a serial killer.  If it is local news we lock our doors and take special safety precautions.  Just as alarming is the idea that atheists and other skeptics are postulating.  It is not a new idea.  It is something that Christians and theologians have wrestled with for many years:  Is God a mass murderer?

Why would people have the audacity to make such a ridiculous suggestion about our God whom John calls a God of love?  How could a God who “so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believed in Him would not perish, but have ever lasting life” be justly accused of such a crime against humanity?  Proponents of this particular argument point to Old Testament passages of scripture which give accounts of God ordering the Israelites to slaughter people – men, women, boys, girls, and their livestock as well.

Even more alarming is the fact that some suggest that Muslim extremists find justification for their horrendous acts of violence, not only in the Quran, but also in God’s Word – the Holy Bible.   So what is our answer?  How do we explain what God did through the Israelites?  If God really is the same yesterday, today and forever, does that mean that He would tell someone to commit genocide today?  

In this lesson we will look at the United Nations investigative team report which condemns ISIS of numerous acts of genocide against various ethnic and religious groups.  The Word of God is relevant for the situations of our lives, so we will be exploring various passages of scripture in search for answers to this thorny issue.

Lesson Objective:  By the end of the lesson the student should see the morality of Divine judgment and have some answers for skeptics.

Thank you for reading the introduction to this lesson.  To download your copy of the complete lesson (including ready to teach lesson material, discussion questions, a list of sources, and reproducible student handouts) click on the following link:

http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/17989/is-god-a-mass-murderer/

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Homeless

Homelessness has become a major problem in the United States.  The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that a person must have a working wage of $18.79/hour in order to afford housing.   In 2011 the official poverty rate was 15% which affected 46.2 million people.  The poor are frequently unable to afford housing, food, childcare, health care and education.  Since housing takes a large portion of their income, other necessities must be neglected.   Fifty percent of the cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors discovered that domestic violence was a primary cause of homelessness.   They also stated that 16% of the single adult homeless population suffered from some form of severe and persistent mental illness.  

J. F. Sargent was forced into a homeless condition due to some unfortunate circumstances.  He had just moved to Montana after finishing what he called “my worthless liberal arts degree.”  He had no relatives or friends living in Montana, but he did have a job.  His job kept him away from the apartment he rented with a roommate for a week at a time.  He was halfway through his six-month employment contract when he discovered that his roommate’s checks had been bouncing and he had been evicted from the apartment.  As a result, he was forced to live in his car for an extended amount of time while he rebounded from this unexpected backset in his life.  In an article he wrote after this experience he listed “7 Things No One Tells You About Being Homeless.”  

7. It doesn’t take much to wind up homeless
6. Having a job won’t save you “…the second big surprise waiting for you out on the street:  how incredibly expensive homelessness is.”
5. Government benefits aren’t as much help as you think  “…unless you’re in California, Arizona, Florida, or Michigan, you can’t use food stamps to buy food at restaurants.”  This, according to Sargent was significant because the food which you can buy with food stamps must be cooked, which is difficult if you are living in a car or on the street.  
4. Shelters are a band-aid  “Los Angeles is the homeless capital of America, and one-fifth of its homeless are without any kind of shelter at all.”
3.  Your free time becomes your enemy   “. . . the only thing harder than finding a place sleep was finding a place to be awake.”
2.  Your biggest asset is your charm “The more time you spend homeless, the less likely you are to be a charming little rascal. “
1.  Most Homeless Are Young, and They’re Only Homeless for a Couple of Months.  “Only 16% of those without shelter are chronically homeless. . . Almost 39% of homeless people are under 18, and almost half of those are under age 5.”

Jayda Shuavarnnasri,  who was homeless for a short time, wrote, “If you really want to help the next time you see a homeless person, don’t just hand them things.”  She questioned why we are giving.  Is it because we really want to help the person or is it to ease the guilt we feel?  She said that food is not always what is needed.  Often the person needs things like medication, toothpaste, a pair of socks, formula for the baby, shoes, etc.  For this reason she urges her readers to ask what is needed.  She says, “Ask a person their name . . . ask them what it is they might need that you can provide for them. . . Because showing someone respect and being a good helper includes recognizing an individual’s own agency to transform their own lives, even if it’s just for that moment.

HUD polled homeless people about what they most needed.  “42% said help finding a job; 38% said finding housing; 30% said paying rent or utilities; 13% said training or medical care.”

Yes, homelessness is a huge problem.  Abuse of the system by some in the homeless population is also a problem, which our news article for this lesson will reveal.  But does abuse of the system relieve the Christian of his benevolent responsibility?  When should you give?  To whom should you give?  How should you give?  How often should you give?  What should you give?  These are all questions that we will hope to discuss as we look at this problem through the lens of God’s Word.

Lesson Objective:  By the end of the lesson the students will see that there is no limit to the extent of Christian love.more clearly understand the problem of homelessness and the Christians biblical responsibility.

Thank you for reading the introduction to this lesson.  To download your copy of the complete lesson (including ready to teach lesson material, discussion questions, a list of sources, and reproducible student handouts) click on the following link:

 http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/11615/homeless

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The Great Loss
 
The atmosphere in Walmart was paralyzed.  Customers and associates froze in position for a moment.  The blood curdling scream and then the agonizing wail which followed caused chills to run up and down your spine.  The loud wailing and crying continued.  “Somebody help me!”  “My baby!  My baby!”

Earlier a search had been in progress throughout the store.  The men’s restrooms were checked.  Associates hurried up and down the aisles.  The security cameras were reviewed.  The little boy could not be found.  Finally the managers gathered around the mother and told her the sad news.  “We’re sorry, but we can’t locate your son.  Did you have relatives or friends with you who may have known were he went?”

In 2010 the United States was ranked sixth in the world for kidnapping for ransom, according to the available statistics.  A comprehensive study done in 1999 reported that approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing.  It must be noted, however, that not all of these cases are due to kidnapping.  The first three hours after a child is missed are the most critical.  A study in 2006 discovered that 76.2% of abducted children who are killed are dead within three hours.  The murder of an abducted child, however, is rare.  Sexual exploitation and pornography are more often the reason for the crime.

To lose a set of keys is disturbing.  To lose your purse or wallet along with drivers license, credit cards and cash is distressing.  To lose your cell phone is unsettling.  But to lose your child is unthinkable.  

Even more disturbing is the thought of losing your loved ones eternally because they did not come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.  In this lesson we will be looking at an interesting news story of a foiled kidnapping.  Then we will search God’s Word as we consider the pain and anguish of losing a loved one as well as the importance of making an effort to save them from the consequences of their lostness. 

Lesson Objective:  By the end of the lesson the students should feel a greater need to regularly intercede for the salvation of their lost loved ones.

Thank you for reading the introduction to this lesson.  To download your copy of the complete lesson (including ready to teach lesson material, discussion questions, a list of sources, and reproducible student handouts) click on the following link:

 http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/14539/the-great-loss/ ?

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Can Christians Hate Terrorists?

President Obama stated that terrorism has something to do with lack of opportunities and poverty.  He said, "when millions of people -- especially youth -- are impoverished and have no hope for the future, when corruption inflicts daily humiliations on people, when there are no outlets by which people can express their concerns, resentments fester. The risk of instability and extremism grow. Where young people have no education, they are more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and radical ideas..."   Is this true?

It should be noted that Osama bin Laden was the son of a Saudi construction magnate.  He attended the top high school and the best university in Saudi Arabia.  Mohamed Atta, the son of an Egyptian lawyer who worked on a doctorate in urban preservation at a German university led the 9/11 attacks.  The current leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri, is a surgeon who comes from a leading Egyptian family.  His relatives are ambassadors, politicians and prominent clerics.  Major Nidal Hasan, the U.S. Army officer who was found guilty in the Fort Hood shootings was a psychiatrist who grew up in a comfortable middle-class home in Virginia.  Faisal Shadhzad who tried to bomb Time Square on May 1, 2010 had an MBA and had worked as a financial analyst for the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics company.  His father was a top officer in the Pakistani military.  Many more examples could be given.  Surveys and statistics can be added to buttress this information.  

The President’s inaccurate assessment actually seems to make more sense.  Why would people who “had it made” in life want to wreck, destroy, maim, and torture?  The ICRC Resource Center summarizes the Geneva Conventions stand on terrorism and torture.  “The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977 contain a number of provisions that absolutely prohibit torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment and outrages upon individual dignity.

For example, torture is prohibited by Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions, Article 12 of the First and Second Conventions, Articles 17 and 87 of the Third Convention, Article 32 of the Fourth Convention, Article 75 (2 a & e) of Additional Protocol I and Article 4 (2 a & h) of Additional Protocol II. In international armed conflict, torture constitutes a grave breach under Articles 50, 51, 130 and 147 respectively of these Conventions. Under Article 85 of Additional Protocol I, these breaches constitute war crimes. In non-international armed conflict, they are considered serious violations.

In addition, Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions, Article 75 (2 b & e) of Additional Protocol I and Article 4 (2 a & h) of Additional Protocol II prohibit "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment". In international armed conflict, these acts constitute grave breaches. In non-international armed conflict, they constitute serious violations.”

Globally people have agreed that inhumane actions are punishable by international law.  Should we not be angry when a person’s fingers are chopped off in an effort to gain information?  Should we not be incensed when people are publically beheaded in order to make a statement of terror?  Should we not be outraged when a group of people are crammed in a steel cage and then set on fire?  Should we not be irate when we see little children violated and mutilated because their parents did not comply with the beliefs of militants?  Should we not be furious?

Is there a line which when crossed makes it permissible for Christians to hate evil people?

This is the question we explore as we look at the disturbing news of the horrendous acts of inhumane violence by ISIS.  We will search the scriptures and seek for guidance regarding the biblical response that Christians should have in the light of these circumstances.

Lesson Objective:  By the end of the lesson the students will see that there is no limit to the extent of Christian love.

Thank you for reading the introduction to this lesson.  To download your copy of the complete lesson (including ready to teach lesson material, discussion questions, a list of sources, and reproducible student handouts) click on the following link:

http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/10227/can-christians-hate-terrorists/

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The Real You
 
You visit with your neighbor semi-occasionally.  Do you really know him/her?  What is going on behind their closed doors?  Is their marriage about to break up?  Are they in financial difficulty?  Are they involved in something illegal?  Are they part of a religious cult?

Your close friends are different aren’t they?  Aren’t they???  Are you not sure?  Do you get the idea sometimes that they aren’t telling you the whole story?  Do you wonder what things would be like if circumstances changed for them or for you and the friendship was not as easy to continue?  Would their loyalty be tested?  How about yours?  Why?  Could it be because you are not really sure you know them as well as it seems on the surface?  

But how about you?  When someone asks, “How are you doing today?”  Do you give them an honest answer or the socially accepted response “Just fine,” instead?  Are you holding back significant details of your life?   Are you afraid of public disclosure?  Does your family even know you like they think they do?  Would they be surprised if they knew the whole story?  Would they be proud?  Would they be ashamed?

Why do people hide their real self from the rest of the world?  Is it because they fear they will not be accepted?  Are they afraid of being hurt or betrayed?  Do they hold something in reserve so that they can promote themselves at just the right moment and gain an advantage over others?

Are we facades of faith?  We know how to wear our Sunday face when we go to church or other religious functions.  We know how to talk like Christians.  We know what to do to “have church.”  We have practiced our act until it has the appearance of authenticity.  Is it authentic?  

A jingle in the musical Jekyll and Hyde says, 
There's a face that we hide till the nighttime appears,
And what's hiding inside, behind all of our fears,
Is our true self, locked inside the façade!

Barbara Erochina in an article titled, “Unmasking Our True Selves” says, “Though there are many masks a person can choose to wear, there are two that are very common.”  They are masks to cover pain, and masks to cover shame.

For whatever reason many people are involved in personal “cover-up’.  At times, it may seem to be a worthy choice, but often it is a matter of deception.  The question before us is, How transparent should we be?   Is it a matter of honesty?  For the answer to this and other questions that will rise from this lesson we will look to the Bible.

The news article before us is the story of a young, popular, likeable, school teacher who committed suicide in her classroom.  When her young students discovered her body hanging from the ceiling of the classroom they must have been plagued with questions.  The teacher they loved and thought they knew evidently had a life which was hidden from public view which brought her to the place of self-destruction.

Lesson Objective:  By the end of the lesson the students will understand the importance of accountability that comes from living a transparent life.

Thank you for reading the introduction to this lesson.  To download your copy of the complete lesson (including ready to teach lesson material, discussion questions, a list of sources, and reproducible student handouts) click on the following link:

 http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/13211/the-real-you/ ?

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A Distorted Noah

Noah is a major Hollywood blockbuster.  Tim Briody, analyst for Box Office Prophets told USA Today, “It certainly feels like the ‘biggest’ film of 2014.”  Paramount Pictures said that it grossed 44 million dollars in the US and Canada during the first weekend of its showing.  

Darren Aronofsky, a self-proclaimed atheist who is best known for a previous flick, where a mentally disturbed lesbian ballerina goes insane and bleeds to death on the stage, has now decided to tell Bible stories.  Eyebrows may understandably rise at this.  Aronofsky tried to put these fears to rest, however, when he told The New Yorker magazine that his movie is “the least Biblical biblical film ever made.”  Ironically, some Christians agree with him and some do not.  Many non-Christians don’t have a clue.  

One review stated that the movie was a “solid adaptation.”  Other reviews state that the director just took “artistic license.”  Some scoff at those who are alarmed at the charges of distortion of the Scriptures by saying that it is just a movie that should be viewed entirely for its entertainment value.  Some Christians go so far as to say it is better “for Hollywood to explore themes surrounding God, and miss by a little, than explore themes surrounding Jesus and miss by a mile.”

A look at the details will shed some light on these opinions and will give us the opportunity to discuss the problem of distorting the Scriptures.   Both Christians and sinners alike are guilty to some degree of misusing, misinterpreting, and/or manipulating the Scriptures for their own advantage.  The Bible warns of this problem and gives us direction that we should seriously consider.

As we discuss the news item about the movie "Noah" we will consider several passages of scripture which speak of unbelievers and also those who claim to be Christian who distort God's Word.  We will consider the motives, the dangers, the warnings and more.

Lesson Objective:  By the end of the class the students will understand that people inside and outside the church sometimes misinterpret and/misrepresent God's Word.  They will see the danger, the damage of this practice.

Thank you for reading the introduction to this lesson.  To download your copy of the complete lesson (including ready to teach lesson material, discussion questions, a list of sources, and reproducible student handouts) click on the following link:

 http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/430/a-distorted-noah/ 

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In Debt, "Head over Heels"

According to “The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms,” the expression “Head over Heels,” originated in the 1300s as “heels over head.”  It literally meant to be upside down. During the 1700s and 1880s it changed to “head over heels.”  

Originally, the idiom pretty well expressed the situation many families find themselves in currently.  They are upside down financially.  Things are not as they should be.  Financially they are out of control – hanging by their heels.  

The current idiom may be a little more difficult to visualize unless you think of in terms of tumbling over and over and over, head over heels. In that case, the addiction to materialism may be understood easily.  Families purchase more than they can afford, get hopelessly into debt, struggle to survive economically, and finally pay down the debt, only to begin the cycle again – “Head over heels.”  

Will Hutton wrote of changes in the British society, which in many ways parallel those in America.  He said,

“Society is dividing before our eyes, opening up new social fissures in the working population.  The first 30 per cent are the disadvantaged.  These include more than 4 million men who are out of work . . . altogether some 28 per cent of the adult working population are either unemployed or economically inactive . . . The second 30 per cent are made of the marginalized and the insecure.  People in this category work at jobs that are insecure, poorly protected and carry few benefits . . . [plus] the growing army of part-timers and casual works . . . The last category is that of the privileged – the just over 40 per cent whose market power has increased since 1979.”  (Will Hutton, The State We’re In”  (Jonathan Cape, 1995), pp. 105ff

What makes this situation possible?  In many cases, it is exacerbated if not caused by the abuse of credit.  The legalized problem of credit usage is actually a greater problem than any other single addiction in our country.  

This substance abuse is habit forming and mood altering.  It gives the consumer a euphoric high of excitement and fulfillment before bringing them to a crashing low of desperation.  It is a habit that is hard to break.  

The suppliers have countless resources and their wares are extensive.  It is a common addiction that does not have a negative status unless extremely abused.  In fact, many are proud of their addiction and are pleased when you notice the large stack of plastic cards in their wallet.

American’s who condemn the leaders of their country for borrowing to do business hypocritically do the same thing on a smaller scale.  Individually, the problem often seems to be insignificant, but collectively it is huge.

To find the most valuable lessons on responsible use of finances you must turn to the Bible.  In this lesson, we will consider a number of statistics from various news sources and then discuss what the Bible has to say about borrowing and debt.

Lesson Objective:  By the end of the class session the students should have an understanding of what the Bible teaches regarding lending, borrowing, debt, and the timely payment of bills.

Thank you for reading the introduction to this lesson.  To download your copy of the complete lesson (including ready to teach lesson material, discussion questions, a list of sources, and reproducible student handouts) click on the following link:

http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/401/in-debt-head-over-heels/

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How Do You Forgive?

What does it mean to forgive someone?  How do you know if you have really forgiven?  What difference does it make if you do not forgive?  Can you serve the Lord and not forgive others?  Is forgiveness a one-way transaction or does it involve participation by the offended and the offender?  Sometimes it is difficult to answer these questions.  

Christians, because of their spiritual rebirth, should naturally have a forgiving spirit.  And yet, if we don’t even understand forgiveness, are we really forgiving?  

An elderly person stated: “In my younger days an influential, spiritual leader accused me of a horrific sin.  I was innocent.  Because of the public accusation, I was embarrassed and angered.  I left the church for a year.  I don’t think I turned from God during that time, but I was unsure of my spiritual condition as a result of the incident.  I believed that I forgave the man in my heart.  And yet, years later, sometimes I wonder if I really did forgive him.”  How can we know for sure?  

Can you forgive someone if you only do it in your heart?  Is a personal confrontation necessary to have real forgiveness?  Does the offender have to show remorse in order to be forgiven?  What is the relationship between Divine and human forgiveness?  Are we supposed to forgive like God forgives?  Is this even possible?  

Jesus said that if we don’t forgive we can’t expect to receive the forgiveness of God.  This reality emphasizes the importance of the matter, therefore we need to be aware of what true forgiveness means.  

The news item for our lesson today about the mother of a mass murderer who received forgiveness from the parents of the victims will serve as a springboard to explore this important issue.

Lesson Objective:  By the end of the class the students should be able to understand forgiveness from a biblical perspective.

You may download your copy of this lesson at:

http://www.relevantbiblelessons.com/365/how-do-you-forgive/
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