Lifeway “Explore the Bible” II Kings 17:7-20 teachers’ overview: “God Judges”

A brief overview for Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson for Sunday, August 14, 2022, “God Judges.” A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:

INTRO:  You could ask your class: “What is something that used to be acceptable in society, but is not acceptable today?” (Or vice-versa, that used to be unacceptable, but IS today.)

— For example: smoking in public places used to be acceptable, but is not today (funny to see old movies where they’re smoking in restaurants, offices, etc.)

— I was reading a biography the other day, and it described how restrooms, and buses, and water fountains used to be segregated between blacks and whites, but of course that is not acceptable, or even legal, today.

You/your group can come up with many examples of how what is “right” or “acceptable” in society might have changed over the years.

But then I would make the point: many things in society change over the years, but GOD does not change in His view of right and wrong. In Malachi 3:6 God says, “I the Lord, do not change.” God’s moral standards of right and wrong do not change. What was wrong morally in Bible times is still wrong today. The sins God judged Israel for in their day, God will still judge today — which leads us to our focus passage in II Kings 17, “God Judges.”  

Continue reading
Posted in Explore the Bible Sunday School lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ambassadors For Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20 sermon)

One of my favorite books I read last year was a biography of John Hay, who is little known today, but he was one of the great men of the 1800’s. He began as a secretary for Abraham Lincoln, and served in several presidential administrations all the way through Theodore Roosevelt. A couple of his  positions included serving as a U.S. ambassador and also as Secretary of State. He took these assignments very seriously, and he felt the weight of the responsibility of representing our President, and especially our country to nations and peoples overseas. 

But we need to understand that as Christians, we have an even bigger responsibility than John Hay ever did: we represent our Lord to the world as ambassadors for CHRIST. Our verse for this morning says: 

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

This verse tells us that as Christians, we are not just representing ourselves in this world; we are representing CHRIST. And we need to take that responsibility seriously!  Like an ambassador, we live in our present assignment temporarily, but we are here to represent heaven, and to share heaven’s message with the world.

Continue reading
Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teachers Overview of Explore the Bible II Kings 12:4-16, for Sun. Aug. 7, “God Honors”

(A brief overview for teachers and Sunday School leaders of the Lifeway “Explore the Bible” Sunday school lesson for Sunday, August 7, 2022 from II Kings 12:4-16. A video version of these notes is available at:

INTRO:  You could ask your group to name Bible characters who exhibited both GOOD and BAD qualities. (Abraham: had faith, yet lied about Sarah being his sister; David: a man after God’s heart, writer of Psalms — yet committed adultery, lied, murdered over Bathsheba; and so on.)  

Then after several of these have been shared, make the point, we are ALL that same way, with qualities good and bad. And this morning we are going to look at a relatively little-known king of Judah who exemplifies this: he was very much a “mixed bag.”

(OR you could do a similar type introduction using contemporary public figures — I’ll share a couple of examples of that later; you could use that either as in introduction, or later in the lesson.)

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Warnings From The Wilderness” (I Cor. 10 sermon)

On the coastline of Japan, there is a little village called Aneyoshi. On a certain spot in the town, there is an ancient stone tablet, engraved with a somber warning: “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes beyond this point.” In 2011 a great tsunami did indeed strike the coast of Japan. Every home in Aneyoshi, which was built above that warning marker, survived — but thousands of others along the coast ignored that warning, and over 29,000 people were killed when the tsunami struck. They ignored the warning they should have listened to.

In our Bible reading in I Corinthians 10 this week, God also gives us some warnings, from the history of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, and if we are wise, we will also pay close attention to His warnings. We can summarize them in 3 “Warnings From The Wilderness.”

Continue reading
Posted in Sermons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teachers’ Overview of Lifeway’s “Explore The Bible” lesson: II Kings 7:1-15 “God Provides”

(A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson for July 31, 2022. Video version of these notes is available at:

INTRO: In 1776 George Washington and the Colonial army had the British penned in to the City of Boston after Bunker Hill, but things were beginning to get desperate. There had been virtually no good news for 6 months; they were woefully short of supplies of all kinds. Washington was very despondent. But all of the sudden came glad tidings: the American ship Lee captured a British supply ship Nancy just north of Boston. It was the first ship the new American Navy had actually captured. And it was loaded with military treasure: 2500 sets of arms, canon, mortar, bayonets, virtually everything they needed. Washington wrote to his aide-de-camp Joseph Reed, that it was “an instance of divine favor, for nothing surely ever came more apropos.” (David McCullough, 1776, p. 64) America’s founding fathers believed that God was a God who provided for them — and our lesson today from II Kings 7 reminds us that He indeed IS a Provider, not only for our country, but for our churches, and for us personally.

Continue reading
Posted in Explore the Bible Sunday School lessons | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Lifeway Explore the Bible lesson overview: II Kings 5:1-14, “God Heals”

(This is a brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders of Lifeway’s Explore the Bible lesson for Sunday, July 27, 2022)

I’m going to suggest a couple of different ways you could begin this week’s lesson:

ONE way would be to hand your class members a slip of paper, with a question on it. Tell them you will not take up up this paper, and no one else will look at it. But write their honest answer to the question: “If you were to stand before God and He were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?,’ what would you say?” Give them a minute to write their answer. Then say, I want you to hold onto this; tuck it into your Bible for a few minutes, and we will come back to these later ….

OR you could start by focusing on the military aspect of this story: “Do you have a favorite military hero/leader?” (George Washington; Robert E. Lee; Dwight Eisenhower, etc.) and say that today we are going to look at the story of a man who was a military hero, by the name of Naaman …

You might also share one of my favorite stories: of former general/President Eisenhower, who on his death bed in the 1960’s, asked for Billy Graham to come see him. He had conversed with Graham many times over the years, and Graham had shared the gospel with him. Now dying, Eisenhower said to Billy Graham: “Billy, tell me again how I can know for sure that I have eternal life; nothing else matters now.”

Of course he was right; nothing EVER matters more than knowing that we are washed from our sins, and that we have eternal life.

Dwight Eisenhower had accomplished a lot of things in his life:

Supreme Commander of allied forces in World War II; President of Columbia University in New York; President of the United States! But NONE of these things washed him from his sins or made him right with God. Then you could say: the man in our story for today was just like him: an honored general, but what he needed more than anything else, was the grace of God!


Continue reading
Posted in Explore the Bible Sunday School lessons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

“The Gospel of Glory” (II Thessalonians 2:14 sermon)

One of my favorite pastors from history is Samuel Rutherford, a Puritan who pastored in Scotland in the 1600’s. He was persecuted by the government for his Biblical beliefs, and for a time was banished from his church. Rutherford is remembered especially for the famous “Letters” he wrote to a his church members while he was in exile. I have a copy of “Rutherford’s Letters” from the 1800’s, a beautiful old book I bought when we were in England, and it is one of my very favorite physical books. Rutherford is well-known for the wise counsel he gave in these letters. The last words he uttered on his death bed were very striking. Just before he died, Rutherford was heard to whisper: “Glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land!” What was this “glory” Rutherford whispered about that was waiting for him after death? Our passage for this morning refers to it: 

“It was for this he called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Thessalonians 2:14) 

Continue reading
Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lifeway “Explore the Bible” Lesson Overview of I Kings 19:9-18, for Sun, July 17, 2022: “Hope”

(A brief overview for Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible lesson of I Kings 19 for Sunday, July 17, 2022)

Video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:

One way to introduce the lesson this week might be to ask your group to share:

— ??? What was one of the biggest emotional “highs” you ever experienced in your life — greatest victory, spiritual experience, emotional high (maybe marriage, birth of a child, or big promotion or award, spiritual experience)

— ??? and then after some of those have been shared, ask: Now what was one of the LOWEST times you ever went through? (Some might be hard to share, but can you share one of your worst?)  It might help your group to share if you will be prepared to lead the way with an experience of your own. And/or send a person or two from class an email and ask them to be ready to share an answer. (You could email your whole class this opening question — not a bad excuse to make a contact with everyone this week anyway!)

But after you’ve shared the stories of the highs/lows, then make the point: we ALL have both kinds of experiences, don’t we? Everyone has both “high” and “low” times in life. Nobody has all highs, or all lows; we all have both. Even those we think of as “super spiritual” people like Bible heroes have their “low” times — and we see that in Elijah in our passage for today in I Kings 19.

Continue reading
Posted in Explore the Bible Sunday School lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

“Commissioned By His Glory” (Isaiah 6 sermon)

I’ve made it a personal tradition each Independence Day the past several years to read David McCullough’s classic, 1776, which chronicles that famous year in America’s history. One of the opening paragraphs describes George III, the King of England, proceeding towards the English Parliament in a glorious parade:

“The King’s procession departed St. James’s … two Horse Grenadiers with swords drawn rode in the lead to clear the way, following by gleaming coaches filled with nobility, then a clattering of Horse Guards, the Yeoman of the Guard in red and gold … and a rank of footmen, also in red and gold. Finally came the King in his colossal golden chariot pulled by eight magnificent cream-colored horses (Hanoverian Creams) … and six footmen at the side.

No mortal on earth rode in such style as their King, the English knew. Twenty-four feet in length and thirteen feet high, the royal coach weighed nearly four tons, enough to make the ground tremble when under way. George III had it built years before, insisting that it be ‘superb.’ Three (golden) cherubs on top — symbols of England, Scotland, and Ireland — held high a (golden) crown, while over the heavy spoked wheels, front and back, loomed four (golden) sea gods, formidable reminders that Britannia ruled the waves. … It was as though the very grandeur, wealth, and weight of the (whole) British Empire were rolling past.” (McCullough, 1776, p. 4)

But as glorious as the King of England was, he was very mortal, and very fallible. He was on his way to address Parliament to encourage them NOT to give way to the impudent demands of their American colonies. But George would lose those colonies (which we will celebrate tomorrow!) One day, sadly, he would also lose his mind. And finally he would die, and lose his throne, his kingdom, and all his riches forever.

But you & I serve a King with a throne more glorious even than George’s. A king whose reign will never end. We read something of His glory in our passage for today in Isaiah 6. This is one of THE classic passages in all of scripture. And one of the reasons for it, is that it sets before us several foundational truths:

Continue reading
Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lifeway Explore the Bible Teachers’ Overview: I Kings 18:25-39, for Sun., July 10, 2022, “Proven”

(A brief overview for teachers and Bible Study leaders of the Lifeway Sunday school lesson for July 10, 2022)

INTRODUCTION: One way you could begin this lesson would be to ask your group:  

??? “Have you/anyone in your class ever seen someone literally bow down and worship and idol?”  Many of us who have grown up as Christians in America might say NO, but an increasing number of us may have.  

— I remember reading an article in the paper in Tulsa back in the 1990’s, and they were interviewing an Asian man who had started a business there. They had a picture of his mantle, and referred to the idol he worshiped. That was the first time I’d seen an idol being worshiped in America.

— And I can vividly remember being on a mission trip in Lucknow, India, and seeing a man dressed in a nice business suit walk up to a little local temple, ring the bell (I learned later to “wake up the god”!) and bow down before the image of the monkey god who was sitting on a throne. I was just blown away by it. It was the first time I’d really seen someone bow before an idol. A man dressed in a business suit, bowing before a monkey god idol!  

— I was driving to make a hospital visit here in Texas my first year here, and was shocked to see a series of Buddhist idols on the side of the road at one point. In TEXAS of all places!

You/some of your class members may have some experiences like this — or you can feel free to share these.

But then you could say: this morning we are going to look at I Kings 18, where God’s people were challenged to forsake false idols like these, and worship the One True God, YHWH. (And of course we will see that all “idols” are not made of stone/wood!)

Continue reading
Posted in Explore the Bible Sunday School lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments