Imagine keeping your Bible in a gold chest the size of a foot-locker. The lid of the chest is solid gold and there is an elaborate golden angel at each end, with a space big enough to sit between them. Every time you open the lid and get your Bible out to read it, God himself joins you and takes a seat on the chest between the golden angels. Whatever you read, He is there to explain it.
That’s how God set things up for Moses. He promised to meet Moses there, over the written word engraved by His own fingers. In Exodus 25:22 God says, “There, above the cover between the two cherubs that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you…”
So whenever Moses wanted to speak with God, he entered the tabernacle or the tent of meeting and “he heard the Voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony.”
I think not.
God speaks to us over, under, around, and through His Word, our Bible. When we read He gives us special insight that we probably wouldn’t get just walking in the park. I believe His Holy Spirit hovers closely when we open and read the Bible expectantly.
Early in the morning, I like to sit and read my well-worn Bible in my favorite purple chair. I look out my window at a beautiful God-created landscape, and sense his leading, his teaching me how to obey and follow Jesus. And in worship, I love to listen to the Word sung in praise songs and proclaimed in powerful preaching. But God wants His Word in my life all the time, 24/7.
So these days, I keep the Bible on my phone, at my fingertips all day. I use the YouVersion app, with its numerous translations in countless languages. And God meets me there, too. I might be waiting in line at the store, the doctor’s office, or the post office, and an encounter with God’s living Word is only a click away. The Upper Room and Jesus Calling devotional apps quench my daily thirst for life-giving water.
God meets us in the Bible. Don’t keep it on the shelf or in a golden box. Take it out and meet Him there.
I have a new friend and sister in Christ. Her name is Meseret and she lives in Ethiopia. We met just two weeks ago when I was there visiting her World Vision area of Wonchi, west of Addis Ababa.
Meseret has both an MBA and BA in Economics from the University of Gondar, Ethiopia. After seven years working for different international and local NGOs like Mercy Corps, Food for the Hungry, and Compassion, Ethiopia she felt led by God to come to World Vision. Meseret just started with World Vision in December and she told me that she is so happy to work there. Her spiritual side will be nurtured, she says, because each day the staff meets for devotions, and this makes her feel connected to God’s leading.
Meseret is Program Supervisor for the Wonchi area, which means she helps determine how this area will best help the people living there. The area is in the third phase, (years 10-15) of World Vision’s Area Development Plan. You can see how the people of Wonchi live and many of the ways World Vision has helped them here. Many water projects are coming to completion in the coming year and Meseret hopes to offer some special activities for the teenagers.
It was a huge surprise to meet this energetic young woman. I had received a contact form from her days before leaving for Africa. I had no idea who she was, but a message from an Ethiopian when I would soon be visiting that country intrigued me.
When we met, she impressed me right away. She wants to lead some teenagers in Bible study and requested some of my materials. Oh how I wish I had packed those books just in case someone might want them.
In any case, the internet is a wonderful thing and Bible Studies for Teens will help Meseret in any way we can. God is so good to connect us in ways we could never imagine for ourselves.
This blog was originally posted December 17, 2011 by Sherree G. Funk (The artwork is Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet, by Ford Madox Brown, 1852)
The second line in the Apostles’ Creed is simple yet profound. It is a non-negotiable affirmation of the Christian faith. You cannot claim to be a Christian without a basic understanding of who Jesus is. So here it is laid out for us: Jesus Christ is God the Father’s only son, and he is Lord.
The relational language is very important. Some churches want to change the language of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to “Creator”, “Redeemer”, “Sustainer” or “Sanctifier”. However, it is this relational language that is the essence of who God is, and who we are. Without it, God could be just a “clockmaker” or “commander” or “dictator of his will.” The Trinity is above all else a relational entity.
Tennent says, “If we lose the relational language that lies at the heart of the Church’s language about the triune God, then we are left only with the abstract God of the philosophers, or Allah (the God of Islam), who has no interest in revealing himself, only declaring his will.”
Hebrews 1:1 says: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in many ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son.”
Our Lord: This Jesus, this only Son of the Father, is NOT a created being. He is not one of an infinite number of gods. And he is more than a mere human teacher with extraordinary goodness. He IS the full revelation of God in the flesh. Read Colossians 1:16. Also Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodliy form.”
At Christmas we read the words of the angels in Luke 2:11: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Then remember the words of Jesus himself while speaking to Nicodemus in John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And the words of Thomas, the doubting one, when seeing the risen Christ for the first time: “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus is Lord not only because Thomas said so. His actions are the actions of God when he declares, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” He is showing his deity when he forgives the sins of the paralytic and the leaders ask,”Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And when he is worshiped – Tennent lists the following scriptures: Matt. 2:11, 14, 33, 28, 9, 17; Luke 24:52, John 9:38, and Hebrews 1:6 – he is none other than the unique representation of God himself.
And take a minute to absorb again the words of Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.”
As Tennent emphasizes in his book, This We Believe!, the words of the Apostle’s Creed are taken from Holy Scripture, deriving power from God’s Word.
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD!
Paul writes of joy in a letter to the Philippian church while he is imprisoned. He mentions joy or some form of the word 15 times. Paul, perhaps more than any other Bible character, understands joy. Joy is deeper than happiness; it is far more than feeling good; it brings a smile to your face and a sense of peace. When asked recently what is my favorite emotion, I answered: joy.
Music transcends the physical. I love jazz, blues, praise music, classical music, piano music. I notice that when a tune is playing over and over in my head, I am generally happier. Music crowds out other noises and thoughts. No wonder so many teenagers keep their earplugs in and iPods turned up. Singing adds another dimension of joy, no matter how untrained your voice. So turn on some music or get out the instrument you used to play. Sing along to the radio.
When Paul was in the Philippian jail in Acts 16, he and Silas were singing and praising God. Singing through pain proved to be a tremendous witness to the rest of the prisoners and staff.
I have invested time in leading small groups of teens in Bible study. Getting to know middle school kids is easy and rewarding. They are full of energy and they are willing to share their ideas, some of which are pretty wild. They are eager to understand human relationships and there is no better source for good material than the Bible. This is joy: walking into church on Sunday only to be surrounded in a group hug by a bunch of smiling middle schoolers. True joy.
Paul loved his church plant in Philippi. He no doubt remembered the parties at the home of the jailer (Acts 16:34) and the hospitality of Lydia (Acts 16:40) He loved those people. So while jotting his letter to them, he couldn’t help talking about rejoicing. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4: 4)
Joy is found in thanksgiving. Literally. The Greek word for joy is smack in the middle of the Greek word for thanksgiving. Chara. Eucharistia. It is so very true. No blessing should be taken for granted. This morning I was thankful as I washed my hair in a clean hot shower, probably using more than the American average of 17 gallons. As I sit here writing in my New Orleans cottage, I am thankful for the way the sun falls through our trees, and for the birdsong before dawn. I slept well last night partly because my son called yesterday. I love to hear from our children. Find ordinary things that make you smile. Write them down. Counting your blessings can be a wonderful joy-building exercise.
Paul expressed his thanks to the Philippians for their generous monetary support. He also talked about being thankful that people were talking about Jesus Christ, whether or not their motives were selfless. He was thankful for the service of Epaphoroditus, who came from Philippi, but fell ill. He also bragged on Timothy and his work in sharing the gospel. Paul was content no matter the circumstances; he had learned how to be thankful in the little things. (Phil 4:11-13)
Big things like knowing Jesus. There is always more to learn about God and his love for us. But I KNOW whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him until the end of time. Big things like knowing my life is eternal and that I will see my mother again in heaven. It makes me smile to know that God works all things together for good. It is a settled feeling of joy. This assurance of God’s love and power and grace produces joy that cannot be shaken, even amid frightening circumstances. If you are not certain of your salvation, talk with someone. Ask questions.
Paul had this kind of assurance. Philippians 1:21 says, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” And Philippians 3: 20-21 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” When your eternal fate is secure, why not be joyful?
Laughter is good for the soul. I have a group of friends who met on the tennis courts. We play less tennis these days as our knees and hips scream at us insistently. We have supported one another through cancer and illnesses of our children and deaths of parents. But we really know how to laugh. Smiles make life’s drudgery much more pleasant. Sharing your music, your love, your thankfulness, your assurance is a way of making more joy. Tell someone. Post your smiling pictures on facebook, call a friend or family member, write someone a letter or email.
Paul knew how to share his joy. He wrote about it in his many letters. He praised and thanked others for their prayers and gifts. He sang. He laughed. He ended all his letters similarly: Grace and Peace. What makes you joyful? Please share in a comment.
What are the right questions to ask in Bible Study? What is the purpose of Bible study? Why do we care about asking the right questions?
Any teacher or leader who cares about sharing God’s Word also cares about successfully getting students involved in the Biblical story. It’s not just learning the facts, or the language, or the history. It’s not just whether or not something actually happened. Teaching the Bible is about making it come alive and finding the truth that can be applied today. And even more important, it is about helping students see God more clearly and grow closer to Him through a better knowledge of His Word.
In the late 1980’s when I first began leading Bible studies, I read a wonderful book by Dick Murray, Teaching the Bible to Adults and Youth, Abingdon Press, 1987. Dick Murray was a lively character, a Christian Education professor at Perkins School of Theology, SMU in Dallas, who could bring Bible study fully alive with a variety of methods. Some of his methods are staples in my own style of teaching the Bible to teens.
In asking Bible study questions, there are four keys to keep in mind.
Multiple Learning Styles: Much research (more…)
Kids today are really busy. If they come to a Bible study group at all, you want to help them get the most out of it.
So don’t overload them with homework or expect they will be able to get it all done each week.
We have to meet them where they are.
The character studies available here include passages to look up and think about, preferably before coming to the group for discussion. That only works well when students are motivated and have plenty of time.
But here is another – perhaps better – way to approach the study. Preview the week’s material ahead of time, and decide on 4 or 5 sections to work together. You may decide based on the interests of your students, or passages you like a lot, or simply on the amount of time you have. 90 minutes is about as long as I would ever try with teens. (more…)