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All Christian History Digging Deeper into the Word

Genesis 1: Genesis and Creation

Author: Jon Slenker

Genesis Chapter One

Genesis chapter one. Those words are profound in themselves. So much is wrapped up in those three words. Opportunity, beginnings, hope, life, love, the galaxies, volcanoes, pigs and plants, seascapes and mountain vistas, smells, colors, texture. Creation is truly marvelous! Evil will come and distort God’s good creation, but for now, we sit back in awe and wonder at God speaking earth into existence and his plan for it.

Creation and the Nature of God

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Genesis 1:1

God exists outside of time and space. He is Spirit who creates as part of his nature (John 4:24). The creation account tells us much about God’s nature. God values order, prescribes value, and mandates his creation fulfill their identity and purpose. He is creative and orderly. He is intentional and desires to relate to and care for his creation. God spoke and it came to be. Out of nothing, God created.

The doctrine of the Trinity finds solid evidence for a Triune God in the creation account. In verse 26 God says, “let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”

Order, Harmony and Intentionality

The author of Genesis records the events of God’s creation as one of order, harmony and intentionality. Most creative people lack the ability to be orderly. In fact, sometimes following the rules impedes the creative process. God, however, is perfectly creative and orderly. We can see beyond having an orderly, harmonious and intentional plan that he values action. But to what end? What is his plan of action? That all creation would fulfill its purpose and therefore propagate a more vibrant and full life. His mandate is that we would worship and obey through being fruitful and multiplying. Healthy things are fruitful and fruitful things multiply.

As God brought order from disorder and did it in a timely fashion, he also built it into nature that plants, sea and land creatures and man would reproduce, each of their own kind (Gen. 1:11-12, 21-22, 24-25, 28). Each thing in creation  is unique and in a constant state of changing.  A law in Physics states there is a set number of molecules in existence. None can be added or destroyed, they merely change states. One concept within Thermodynamics is entropy, which states that left to its own creation will naturally fall into decay and disorder, the effect of sin marring God’s good creation.

Day 1 – God created light (1:3-5)
Day 2 – God separated the water and created the heavens (skies) (1:6-8)
Day 3 – God separated the waters from land (1:9-10) and created vegetation (1:11-13)
Day 4 – God created the stars and the moon and sun (1:14-19)
Day 5 – God created living creatures in the sea (1:20-23)
Day 6 – God created living creatures on land and man (1:24-31)

There is harmony in creation, an interdependent relationship among all created things and beings. Each aspect of creation is dependent on the other in some way. How glorious is our God that we would all excel in certain abilities and require the assistance from others in areas we don’t. God built community into nature and His intentions are that creation would exist in perfect harmony with itself and Himself.

Identity, Value and Purpose

God is relentless for his creation. He proves it by giving identity, value and purpose. There was a purpose behind creation. God did not want to create and then leave it to itself, it was too valuable to him. He wants to be intimately involved with his handiwork as the author, shepherd, high priest, king, judge and redeemer. He is ever present in the creation event with his Spirit hovering over the face of the waters, and reviewing his work and calling it good (Gen. 1:2). God is ascribing worth and value to his creation by calling it “good” or “very good” six times (1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25; 1:31). This tells us that God cares for his creation and that it brings him joy.

God displays order and harmony within identity through the unique individuality of each thing according to its kind. Everything plays its part and has a role in God’s creation order. The heavens, land, sea, vegetation, birds, animals, fish and humans all play a vital role in different life cycles that regenerates and reproduces life and the atmosphere for it.  Life is important to God. You are important to God and have an incredible purpose.

Imago Dei

One theologian writes that “Genesis 1 and 2 provides the backdrop for God’s relationship with humanity and with the rest of creation.”[1] Five times God calls his creation “good”, but on the sixth, he said “behold, it was very good” (1:31). ““Good” does not exist abstractly apart from God. Rather, God’s pronouncement that His work was “good” conveys that creation was rightly related to Himself and thus His work was “good” conveys that creation was rightly related to Himself and thus existing as a display of His glory.”[2] Man was made in the image of God, or “imago dei” in the Greek, as his special creation whom he wanted to be after his own image and heart. This emphasizes that we are more like God than like other creatures.[3] We were made to reflect God’s image on earth as his vice regents, children, stewards and ambassadors. We are to be like him. To conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of our calling and nature (Phil. 1:27).

The Creation Mandate

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”
Genesis 1:28-30

The creation mandate is the foundation of the great commission. Jesus echoes his creation mandate in Matthew 28:18-20 to his disciples and thus to the Church and to you and I. We see the creation mandate restated multiple times throughout history in the scriptures. First to Adam and Eve, then to the animals, Noah, Abraham, Jacob that we should be fruitful and multiply.  One Teacher writes that “few understand that the mission “to make disciples of all nations” is actually grounded in God’s original “Creation Order.”” This first command carries with it the implication to “worship and obey.” The Teacher adds, “the means by which dominion would be exercised would be through the intentional multiplication and dispersion of image-bearers throughout the earth.” God’s first commandment to Adam and Eve carries the same thrust and importance as Christ’s commission to us. He promises that he will be with us even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20). This is an incredible promise and blessing![4]

God has entrusted his creation to man and woman. We are to be his stewards, ruling over ourselves and his creation as he would. We are therefore covenanted image bearers of God. What a blessing! As his image bearers we are to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth with other image bearers. Healthy things grow and growing things multiply. How are you stewarding, or managing what God has entrusted to you? Are you caring gently for God’s creation? Different cultures value and honor and mistreat different things,  creatures or people. To the best of your ability, small or large, are you treating God’s people and his/our creation as He would?

Conclusion

How are you fulfilling the creation mandate by worshiping and obeying as God’s vice regent and ambassador? What does caring for his creation and making disciples look like for you right now? What is your favorite way that you ‘image’ God? What areas of life are you orderly or messy? When are you most creative? What drains your creativity? How are you intentional or accidental? What does it look like? Like a mirror we are to reflect God’s image to the earth, creative, intentional, What a privilege to be welcomed into God’s work and entrusted with his creation.


[1] Robinson, George, article, published in www.GlobalMissiology.org October 2015  “Grounding Disciple-Making in God’s Creation Order: Filling the Earth with the Image of God”
[2] Robinson, George, article, October 2015
[3]  Robinson, George, article, October 2015
[4] Robinson, George, article, October 2015

Categories
All Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

How to Study the Bible

Author: Jon Slenker

God chose to speak to mankind through the bible. This is why it is referred to as his “word”. It has been said that when you open the word of God, you open the mouth of God. It is important to know how to study the bible not just to know the book, but to know the Author. Learning how to study the bible is an incredible journey filled with excitement, beauty, wisdom, deep love and strong justice. Sometimes it makes perfect sense at the perfect moment, other times you set it down and have more questions about your circumstance than when you started.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Joshua 1:8

God’s people are commanded to study his word (Josh. 1:8). The benefits of studying the bible are profound and eternal. When you study, take it slow, be patient, prayerful and cautious not to jump to conclusions. Learning how to study the bible for yourself gives you freedom to know and relate to God in more personal and practical ways. It also helps to know when someone is mishandling the text’s meaning and purpose. The bible warns us and encourages us to entrust it to those that will remain faithful hearers, students, and doers of it. The challenge remains that many interpret the bible wrongly either intentionally or accidentally. Interpreting God’s Word is an art and science to be practiced with care.

3 Phases of Bible Study

1 Observation

The first phase of bible study is Observation. As you open God’s word, approach it with reverence, humility and a healthy curiosity. Sometimes we study for different purposes. We may study a topic or doctrine, a word, verse, or entire book or letter. A healthy practice for studying the bible is one book at a time. Read the book in its entirety like you would watch a movie. Then start back at the beginning and practice observation, interpretation and application for each chapter. Observation, interpretation and application may be used for a passage containing a few verses or one. Remember the broader context. Don’t miss the forest for the trees. A student of the bible is like a detective attempting to see the big picture by correctly piecing together important data.

Taking your time studying an entire book or letter over weeks or months is helpful  to understand the bible in its entirety. The student should not approach a text simply to gain knowledge, but allow it to affect their heart, mind, soul and to put it into practice. Becoming a good observer is an acquired skill. It is our first line of defense for not misreading the text or making it about ourselves. Observation rightly aligns us and places us in the audience, not on stage.

Questions for Observation

  • Who: Author, audience, characters?
  • What: Events, occasions, theme, topic?
  • When: What was life like, global events that occurred during that time period?
  • Where: Place and culture, weather, distance, geography, topography, market, temple, home?

As you build evidence, record things that stand out to you and are emphasized, repeated, related, alike, unlike, or true to life. During observation, fight the feeling to make meaning of the clues. Note the questions you have, but avoid chasing them at this time. Keep inspecting!

2 Interpretation

The second phase is Interpretation. Now that you have collected your data, it’s time to make sense of it. This can be difficult at times due to language, cultural or communication barriers. Interpretation is important. Across the world, the Church gathers in different denominations solely for the purpose of how we interpret the bible. It is important for you to study the bible to know God and his ways to develop your own convictions and beliefs without needing to solely rely on someone else’s. Knowing how to study the bible as a faithful observer and interpreter reveals to us the pillars and principles that God established. He wants us to be knowledgeable, wise and aware to live an abundant, quiet and peaceful life (John 10:10; 1 Thess. 4:11).

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Characteristics of the Bible

Like God, his word is unchanging and eternal (Psalms 119:89). It does not contradict itself or contain errors. It is inspired, meaning it was “breathed out” by God (Psalms 119:105). The bible affirms itself as the holy, inspired word of God (1 Cor. 2:12-13). The bible tells a unified story centered around the primary character, Christ (Rom. 1:1-4). Jesus himself modeled how to interpret the things concerning Christ in all the scriptures beginning with “Moses and all the Prophets” (Luke 24:27). Peter would follow his lead preaching at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). Stephen, mimicked this in Acts 7 when he was martyred for preaching from a christ-centered interpretation of the bible. Paul teaches that the righteousness of God comes through faith and not works, explaining that “the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Rom. 3:21-22). These passages show us that the Old Testament is the foundation of the New Testament and the New Testament assumes and affirms the Old Testament.

Begin your interpretation by establishing the context. Using the information from your observation, determine the author’s intent for writing this book or letter. Ask the following questions to build the original context, meaning and purpose. Answer the questions that relate.

Questions for Interpretation

  • What is the main point or big idea of the book or letter?
  • What is the structure of the book or letter? Are there sections of the book that transcend the chapters? The 5 ‘books’ or sections of Psalms is a good example of this. Chapters 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106 and 107-150 each have a unique tone or theme.
  • How does this text or passage fit into the book as a whole?
  • Does the author talk about this topic elsewhere?
  • What is the occasion?
  • What events are taking place and why is the author including them?
  • Determine a timeline of events as is helpful
  • What is the genre of writing? (Is it historical narrative, poetry, prophecy, an eye witness or secondary account?)
  • What does it say about God’s or man’s nature?
  • How does God relate to, or treat man and vice-versa?
  • How does man relate to, or treat man?
  • Is there a truth being told?
  • Is there a promise to believe?
  • Is there a sin to avoid?
  • Is there a command to obey?
  • Is there a principle to follow?
  • Is there an example to follow?
  • Has the pace of an account sped up or slowed down to emphasize something important?
  • What is being left out?
  • What is clear or unclear?

As you work to put the pieces together, fight the urge to apply it to yourself or others. Determine what the main point of the text is. What does the author want the recipient to know, believe or do? Is there a theme, topic, or belief the author explicitly or implicitly highlights? Christ-centered interpretation does not mean you should turn over every rock and pebble attempting to find some relation to Christ, but it does seek to know how Christ fulfills, relates to or affirms the main point of the text either in his birth, life, ministry, leadership, sacrifice, resurrection, or teachings. Finally, Utilize other sources like dictionaries, concordances, atlases, or commentaries. Let scripture interpret scripture before consulting outside sources.

3 Application

The final phase of studying the bible is Application. This is where we apply the truths and teachings of the passage studied to our own lives. Remember, the interpretation is one but the application is many. Paul tells Timothy to know himself, therefore, we should continue to inspect and know ourselves (1 Tim. 4:16). Our beliefs, traits, tendencies, emotions, weaknesses, inabilities, how we respond or react under mild or extreme stress (Rom. 12:3). We have to know God to follow him and know ourselves to lead ourselves. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Questions for Application

  • In what ways did the original audience apply the truths passed down to them?
  • How might they have applied it in their context?
  • How are we like or unlike them?
  • How should we be like or unlike them?
  • Is there a tendency or trait that the Spirit is bringing to mind?
  • O.S. Acrostic
    • What is God SAYING to me?
    • How should I OBEY?
    • Who should I SHARE this truth with?
  • How should my character, conduct, or conversation be affected by the Word of God?
  • How should this truth affect my:
    • Attitudes – toward God, others, circumstances, myself
    • Knowledge of God
    • Behavior – habits, reactions, positive or negative
    • Relationships – Where do I need to forgive, seek forgiveness, encourage, rebuke, submit, lead?

Application requires a decision and a specific plan of action in order to allow the Holy Spirit to make scriptural principles part of us. It takes around three months for habits to be replaced. Our tendencies are hardwired in us, and God desires behavior that honors ourselves, our people and him. But studying the bible is not just behavior modification or comprehension, it’s about salvation, truth, transformation, and relationship with God and man. Studying the bible should ultimately prepare you for a life of worshiping God and seeking the highest good of others.

Application is “best served” with prayer and meditation. What is God saying to you? Ask him. What does he want you to know, cling to, be warned of or comforted by? Let his word be ointment for healing, iron for sharpening, sweeter than honey, green pastures filled with peace, a rod for discipline and a staff for direction.

Categories
All Can You Trust the Bible? Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

The Purpose of the Bible

Author: Jon Slenker

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17

That God would reveal himself to mankind is no mystery! The very act is representative of who he is. His nature, character, personality, virtues and values, mission and vision, is all made known to mankind through the bible. God is a relational God who desires to know and be known. The express purpose of the bible is that we may know God, what he has done for us and how we should live in light of his revelation.

Three Kinds of Revelation

  1. General Revelation: Things that were made by God, like the galaxies, sun, sky, trees, and living things, are all ways that God has revealed himself and his handiwork. No one is without this evidence or knowledge of God. Refer to Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:18-25 for further study.
  2. Special Revelation: God interacting in special ways with his creation, include speaking audibly to man, revealing himself and his power through the Flood, a burning bush, a pillar of cloud and fire, the parting of the Red Sea, handwriting on stone tablets and palace walls, his written word the Bible, Jesus, his Spirit, miracles, dreams, and visions. Refer to Exodus 32:16, Psalm 19:7-13, Hebrews 1:1-3, Luke 1, John 1:1-14, Acts 2:1-4, Romans 1:16-17, 10:9-10.
  3. Progressive Revelation: The teaching that God has continually revealed more and more of his character, will and mission over time. Refer to Psalm 78:1-4, John 16:12-14 and Galatians 1:11-12. 

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 3:12

How to Know God

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”
Isaiah 46:9b–10

There is only one God (Deut 32:39; Isa 45:5-7; 46:9) and “the most fundamental need of humanity is to know God, and to know Him with ever-increasing clarity and intensity.[1]’” More than anything, the bible reveals God’s character, purposes and principles. It has been said “when you open the word of God, you are opening the mouth of God.” God uses the bible to speak to you and me so that we may know him, trust him and live out our identity and calling as faithful worshipers.

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Ps. 100:5

Identity, Character and Attributes of God

The bible reveals God’s character by how he relates with and rules sovereignly over his creation. In the bible, God self-identifies as and is called: Creator, the I AM, Abba Father, the Ancient of Days, the Living God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Lord of Hosts, Alpha and Omega, the God of Knowledge, God Most High, Mighty God, the Anointed One, the Word, the Lord Who Provides, the Lord Who Saves, Our Dwelling Place and more!

As we read the Scriptures observing how God interacts with his creation, we find that God’s character is upright and just. He does not lie, he does not change, does not do evil, is relentless for his people, is all powerful, all knowing, full of grace, truth, mercy and love. He is the light of men, holy, hallowed, a helper, and unique. He is the one true God.

“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Psalm 90:2

To Know God’s Will and Mission

One of God’s purposes in giving us his Holy Scriptures is to follow his will, not simply discover it. We read in 1 Timothy 2:2-3 to pray for all people, kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Paul continues, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

God has already revealed his will to us through the bible. If there is any discovering for us to do surrounding his will, it is to know God’s character, attributes and personality with greater wisdom and affection than before. God’s will is clear, to be a righteous ruler, on mission to seek and save that which is lost and marred by evil, sin and death. Since creation, God’s will has been to establish a people for himself and to reign as a benevolent and just Father, Counselor, and King. We do not need to seek out God’s will for our lives, it is not hidden from us or kept in secret to be found out later to see. God’s will was established from the beginning and he has already revealed it to us in his word!

If you want to know the will of God, devote yourself to his word and discern the times. Author, J. Grant Howard, Jr. writes that “God doesn’t want confused, bewildered, frustrated Christians wandering around anxiously searching for His will. He wants people who are walking confidently and peacefully in His will.”

Our God, the God of the universe, is a missionary God. Since Genesis 3 and the Fall he has relentlessly pursued to the point of sacrifice for the salvation of his children from every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev. 7:9-10). Jesus entered humanity, put on flesh, forgave sin, granted new life, gave confidence to the broken-hearted and destitute, humbled the proud and corrected poor theology and practice. He laid the foundation for the establishment, the Church, and sits as the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-21). He began and ended his three year ministry with a focus on character as we live out, preach and disciple others on the good news that Christ has come and revealed himself and his salvation to mankind!

To Know Ourselves and Our Purpose

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–”
John 1:12

Identity and Calling

Another overarching purpose of the bible is to know our own identity and calling in relation to God. We were made to worship and obey. We were created for a spectacular purpose. Therefore, we must know who God is in order to truly know ourselves. We find our meaning, hope and peace in our identity in Christ. The bible is God’s way of telling us who we are and how to live out our days as “Children of God” (1 John 3:1), “ambassadors” of his Kingdom (2 Cor. 5:20), a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), and “pilgrims”, in a world that is not our home (Hebrews 13:14-16).

The bible reveals our purpose, tells us how to live, grounds us in our physical and spiritual lineage and heritage, and gives us historical context for our lives and the times we now live. It teaches us about the past, present and future.

Every believer can be sure of their identity as adopted children of God, called to worship, obey, love others and make disciples. God gave us his word, so that we might know how to act  and behave in ways that honor him and others as we join him on his mission (Matthew 5; John 13:35). The author of Hebrews tells us an incredible purpose of the bible in chapter 4, verse 12 stating, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” It seems at times when we read the bible, it is moreover reading us.

The Great Commission passages in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14–18, Luke 24:44–49, John 20:19-23, and Acts 1:4–8 lay out our calling and responsibility as God’s ambassadors and Church. We are to preach the gospel, baptize, teach to obey, gather in community for the breaking of bread, worship, pray, make disciples and give of our time, talent, treasure and table as others have need (Acts 2:32-36).

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5:1-2


[1] Merida,  Faithful Preaching, 2009

Categories
All Studying the Bible

What is the Bible?

Author: Jon Slenker

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Psalm 119:103

Communication is one way that sets humanity apart from other living things. The bible is one of God’s primary ways of communicating to mankind. The bible is a compilation of stories that tells one grand story. It is divided into two overarching testaments (Old and New Testaments), also known as covenants or promises by God to his people. So what is the bible and what is the bible about? In one word, the bible is God’s story. It is God’s identity, word, will and ways. This is that we may know God, know ourselves, know the world we exist in and what or who we find our meaning in.

The bible is a compilation of 66 books or letters that chronicles history, kingdoms, prophecy and God’s relationship with his creation. It was written by 36 inspired authors in three different languages, spanning three continents and a few thousand years. And yet, it tells one great story with a scarlet thread. While the bible answers many of life’s questions, it is not ultimately a story about us as the main characters. All the Old Testament points to Christ, while all the New Testament presents Christ. It is helpful to answer the question, “what is the bible?” if we understand the overarching narrative of the Bible by observing it as one book in four parts, Creation, Fall, Rescue and Restoration.

It is within the pages of the bible that we are introduced to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Angels, the Evil one Satan, demons and man and every living creature and thing. It speaks of the galaxies, birds of the air, fish of the sea, great beasts, pools in the desert, mountains and miracles. As a Creator God, he has written for us about science, art, relationship, love, identity, meaning and everything in between.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
Psalm 34:8

Creation

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Genesis 1:1

In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, the creation account starts the story with “In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1). God was and is, has always been and always will be. He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8). “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1) He is a creator God who spoke everything that exists, including man, into being. He makes them in his image and likeness (Gen. 1:27), breathes life into his creation (Gen. 2:7-8) and gives Adam and Eve their first command known as the “creation mandate”. He tells them to be “fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). This does not simply mean to make warm bodies, but to make worshipers as his “vice-regents” governing the earth. God entrusted his creation to us to care for and manage.

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
Hebrews 11:3

Fall

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:15

The Fall of man is recorded in Genesis 3 when Adam stood passively by and Eve entertained the Serpent questioning God’s word, “Did God really say…?” (Gen. 3:1).  The curse of sin is passed down through man. Sin twisted the creation mandate and instead of worshiping God, man now worshiped self and multiplied twisted worshippers (Rom 5:12). Eventually, man only did evil in the sight of the Lord (Gen. 6:5-22). The consequence of disobedience and sin is a broken relationship with God, decay and death that is physical and spiritual. We are in grave need of a savior to restore us to the right relationship with God and grant us new life.

Shortly after sin infected man, God promised to send a rescuer (Gen. 3:15). He called this Rescuer the “Messiah” in Hebrew, translated into Greek as “Christ”, meaning “anointed one.” This anointed one would be God incarnate, his own Son, a prophet who would come and offer a perfect atonement as a sinless sacrifice. He was sinless because he was born of the Holy Spirit, not from a sin-corrupted man.

From Genesis 3 to Malachi, we get a front row seat as to how God interacts with, relates to and rules over his creation; prophesying over 300 times that the Christ shall come and rescue the Lord’s people from sin and death.

“He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”
Isaiah 53:11

Rescue

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…”
John 1:1-4

Jesus the Christ would do more than be a sacrifice, he would be the supreme example for life and godliness as a worshiper, family member and friend. We are still living under the curse and consequence of the Fall, but God did send the promised rescuer, modeled the very life of God and how one should live. He embodied all of God’s character, chemistry, credibility and competence.

The Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, as well as the letters, are accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings, tendencies and relationships. It is fascinating that we get the chance to read from eyewitnesses about their first-hand accounts as to how he nurtured, challenged, dealt with conflict and stood up for the oppressed. These writings also detail the times when he spoke up and the times he remained silent or spoke in confusing parables.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Matthew 13:16-17

Restoration

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God…On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Revelation 19:11-16

Christ has come, and will come again! This time, to bind Satan and restore God’s own people and creation back to himself once and for all. There will be eternal peace, joy, community with God, the angels, people from every tribe, tongue and nation worshiping God, and enjoying him forever.

Conclusion

By God’s word he spoke creation into existence. By questioning his word mankind’s hearts and eyes were open to good and evil and broke the right relationship with God. By God’s word he promised a savior and the Word became flesh and dwelt among men (John 1:14). By God’s word he spread the good news, the gospel, and by the telling of it many have been and still are being saved through faith. By God’s word he promises to come again and restore all that was broken and marred by evil, sin and death. By God’s word he promises to bind Satan and redeem that which was lost. God’s word is holy, trustworthy, authoritative, inspired, powerful, relevant, unchanging, and much much more. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Psalm 119:103

 

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All Church Development Spiritual Development

Make Disciples of All People 

Author: Charles Hegwood

Why are there so many resources on discipleship? I think the reason is because God has placed within the very DNA of believers the drive to make more disciples. One of the ways we worship God is to bring as many people as we can to Jesus. Discipleship is one of my greatest passions. I hope it is yours too. I want to look at Acts chapter 10 and peek into how Peter leads Cornelius to Christ and disciples him. We will see that through the blood of Christ, all that come to Jesus will be made clean. They will be made whole. As disciples, we are to be faithful to go and tell people the great news of the Gospel. 

Setting the Scene 

Let’s set the scene, we are introduced to Cornelius, a Roman soldier and God-fearer. He is charitable and always praying. This is a man who is seeking to know God. Let us learn from Cornelius that God answers those who seek Him. After all, here was a man, a Roman, and by that distinction alone would disqualify him from the love of God especially if you were Jewish. You would have hated this man. He was an enemy and a leader in an oppressive regime. Yet he sought God and God answered.  

God called Peter to share the gospel with this Roman soldier. For Peter this was uncomfortable. Decades of cultural education taught him that going to the house of a Gentile, moreover, a Roman soldier, would make him unclean. Even after walking with Jesus for three years, he heard the cultural echoes of “unclean”, “unworthy”. There were some Gentile believers, but at this time the burgeoning church did not know exactly how to incorporate them. Would the blood of Christ extend to these ‘unclean’ people? These would have been the thoughts rattling around the head and heart of Peter during this story. God however, has another message for Peter, for the growing church, and for us today.  

Preparing the moment: Prayer 

Prayer is essential for discipleship. We see that Peter had a habit of praying in Acts 10:9. He went up to the roof but soon became hungry. God uses Peter’s hunger during his prayer time to teach him an invaluable lesson about making disciples. If we have no prayer life, we will struggle to make disciples. We must have a habit of prayer built into our lives. 

We must pray for opportunities to make disciples as well. We must approach prayer as a time to meet with God. The result of spending quality time with God in prayer is that we will be ready to make disciples in our daily lives. Making a habit of meeting with God in prayer is the first step in biblical discipleship. 

 Tilling the Field: Having the Right Heart 

Verses 9-15 capture a very strange vision Peter had during his prayer. He saw a sheet with all kinds of unclean animals on it. We may be tempted to read this and assume we should never pray on an empty stomach. All kidding aside, many times we read this story and miss the point. We may be tempted to conclude that God is telling Peter that all foods are clean. However, the context does not support this interpretation. There are other verses to argue all foods being clean. The context of this story is a story about Cornelius, an ‘unclean’ gentile, becoming a follower of Jesus. It is about crossing cultural and ritual boundaries for the gospel.  

The theological emphasis is not on the food but on the words ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’. The food here merely serves as an object lesson for Peter’s heart. The issue was not what Peter thought about eating certain foods, but instead what he thought about talking to certain people that were “unclean”. Acts 10:15 is the key verse to understanding this story and what God is trying to tell us today. “What God has made clean, do not call impure.” Soon Peter understood in full what God was trying to tell him. We see Peter demonstrate verse 15 as he talks to Cornelius and leads him and his family to Christ. The point here is that we too need to make our hearts right.  

Before we go and talk to people, let us first pray and make our hearts right before the Lord. This is what Peter needed  so that he could go to Cornelius. As we look at Peter putting the proverbial rubber to the road, let us see the need for a prepared heart in our discipleship ventures. 

Reaping the Harvest: Go and Tell  

Back to our story, Cornelius sent men to Peter. In God’s providence they arrived as Peter was praying and perplexed by what he saw. He went with these men to the house of Cornelius. We see that while Cornelius had been waiting to hear from Peter he had also been gathering more people to hear Peter’s words. Verse 28 undoubtedly shows that Peter now understands the vision. Here is Cornelius and friends; gentiles, unclean, and forbidden. Peter saw that the vision had prepared him to not see people as clean or unclean, worthy or unworthy. Instead, God wanted Peter to tell this Roman soldier about Jesus and disciple him as someone who was clean. God may be wanting you to go to someone you think of as ‘unclean’. Hear this message loud and clear. No one is unclean that God has made clean. Cornelius believes and so do those who were with him. The visible presence of the Holy Spirit only further confirms that this was the will of God. So go and tell. Make disciples!  

Disciple who? Everyone God puts in your path. What about mean people, people who don’t think the same as me, poor people, rich people, or uncool people and so on? Go and tell. Read your context. Who is it that you perceive as impure and unworthy of your time or the gospel? Understand that through the blood of Jesus what was unclean has become clean. His blood washes away our impurity and our sin. This is good news! So as you go and engage in discipleship; pray, prepare your heart, and go and tell everyone as God leads you to them. The Biblical model for discipleship has no place for favoritism. Discipleship has no place for thinking of anyone as unworthy of the gospel. Go with this in mind, “What God has called pure do not call impure,” no matter who it is or where they are from. Now, go and make disciples of all nations.  

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All Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

Is Faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Necessary for Salvation?

Author: Jon Slenker

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…”  1 Cor. 15:17 

Scripture is clear that one can believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ incarnate, that his death was a substitute for sin, and that he was buried, but if one denies the resurrection, salvation is lost. The new life Jesus modeled to the hundreds of followers, family and friends is a real-life depiction of God’s missional heart.  

The resurrection and the entirety of the person and work of Christ only holds weight if Easter was an actual historical event. Without the resurrection, Jesus becomes yet another character in the parade of prophets, good men or goons. In fact, if the resurrection was merely farce, hallucinations or the deceptive work of his followers or captors, Jesus’ birth, life and teachings, and divine claims fall amidst that crumbling foundation. Worse yet, Jesus’ death on a cursed tree was in vain and we are, more than all men, to be pitied. Put another way, Jesus’ resurrection validates all his words and works that precede it.  

If the resurrection is true, then Jesus’ claims are true. Jesus claimed repeatedly in very Hebraic ways, that he was in fact YHWH and Savior, One with the Father, and that “no man comes to the Father but through him” (John 14:6). If Jesus’ resurrection affirms his divine nature and claims, it must also affirm his immaculate conception, sinless life, teachings and mission. Everything Jesus of Nazareth did in the flesh was thus done by God for his divine cosmic purpose through and for whom we and all things exist (1 Cor. 8:6). He must be the Messiah of the Jewish Scriptures completing the work God began and promised long ago (Gen. 3:15; Phil. 1:6).  

The Resurrection is Central to God’s Mission 

This work of God is known as the Missio Dei; God, on-mission to reconcile his people to himself, by providing salvation through the promised spotless lamb who would crush the head of the serpent once and for all, bruising his heel (Gen. 3:15). The resurrection is only necessary if salvation is. The bright and colorful Easter is only understood in light of its gloomy backdrop. God created man to exist and thrive in perfect harmony and community with Him, one another, and all of creation. Is the contrary not bemoaned in all of history and humanity to this day? For man’s sin separated himself from a holy God. Man’s state is now one of a renter, constantly coming up short to pay off his landlord called Death. Rent was due at birth. Our notice explains we are a slave to our landlord, destined for eternal damnation, separation from God and all that is right and good forever, for we have only a propensity to self and sin. Popular historical pastor Charles Spurgeon said in effect that we may only understand how good the good news is once we see the tragic reality of a dark and twisted bad news. 

Jesus of Nazareth must have come to enter this world as the Creator, Cosmic King and Christ incarnate. He was born of the Spirit, lived a sinless life, died on the cross in our place, and rose again defeating death. Jesus reconciles us to God, restores our community and right relationship with God. Christs’ resurrection  pays not only past due rent. Moreover, he is the “Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (Rev. 1:18). It moves man from a depraved hut to his Father’s mansion where Jesus has prepared a place for him. Faith in this Christ and his resurrection is necessary for the validation of Jesus’ life and missional work of reconciling prodigals to their Father.  

What the Resurrection Means Today 

The Resurrection is way more than a miraculous display of God’s limitless power. It carries with it very tangible implications and promises. If the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, we would not be born again. Peter begins his letter to the Church reminding them of the great joy and hope they have in God through the resurrection, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3). Not only are we “born again” in spirit, we are promised new resurrected life with new heavenly bodies. The hope of the Christian is that we will be able to commune with our Father, Savior and the Holy Spirit in perfect unity and peace forever.  

Jesus’ Power to Raise from the Dead 

Jesus is recorded raising three people from the dead before he himself was resurrected. The widow’s son of Nain in Luke 7, Jairus’s daughter in Luke 8, and Lazarus in John 11. The Lord visited Mary and Martha when his good friend Lazarus died. Jesus had performed many healings and miracles, but bringing multiple people back to life seems to outrank them all. That is until his resurrection, providing proof of a restored, resurrected and heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). Eternity with God is only accessible through faith in what has already been accomplished. Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection and the hope (John 14:6; John 11:25). 

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All Church Development Digging Deeper into the Word

Digging Deeper: The First Church in Acts 2

Author: Andrew Sargent Ph.D., Contributing Author for Foundations by ICM

 

I love discovering deeper layers of meaning in books and movies than stand out on the surface. I get excited when, having read or watched something on one level, I discover upon further personal meditation or discussion with others the true profundity of the work. Of the many things I love about Scripture, one is its ability to prove deeper in intention than my ever-expanding mind and heart can fathom.

In this vein, let me say that Acts 2 is a wonder of Old Testament quotation and allusion. Its subtlety in drawing in the full theological weight of Israel’s sacred writings and weaving the Pentecost event into Israel’s sacred history is, to wildly understate it, masterful. Though a thousand pages could scarce unpack the whole, here, I’d like to provide just a nibble on the role given to the hopes of Isaiah 59 in the Pentecost narrative.

From Corrupt Society to Spirit-Filled Community

Isaiah 59 begins with a diatribe of the general corruption of human society and man’s ability to escape his own depravity enough to create a thriving world. This plagues both Israelites and Gentiles and plays a role in Paul’s own summary of world corruption in Romans 3. In verse 16, Yahweh determines to bring both justice and salvation. He promises to come to man Himself and plant a redeemed, Spirit-transformed community in the world. His coming is described in verse 19 as a fear-inducing, glorious, “rushing stream” driven on by the Spirit of Yahweh. This Spirit is both upon them and in them overflowing in prophetic speech as spirit-filled families and communities continue expanding in the world.

In Acts 2, the story does not begin with neutrality, but with darkness, with a murdered messiah. The people and religious leaders and Gentiles preyed on Him for His righteousness and continue to reject Him through His followers. Into this comes the Spirit of God, sounding like a mighty rushing wind, with holy fire upon them and divine speech flowing from them. They rush into the streets where those hearing the sound witness the wonder of their emergence from the upper room.

Pentecost

On this day of Pentecost—the historic celebration of the coming of Torah, the creation of Israel, the mighty works of God, and the sending of David—the witnesses hear the disciples of Jesus declaring the mighty works of God to the gathered Jewish representatives of the nations. Peter stands up and delivers a Spirit-inspired message about the resurrection of the rejected son of David and calls upon those under the Spirit’s conviction to repent and cry out to God. In addition to several other allusions to Isaiah 59 already noted, Peter follows his call for repentance with a composite of Isaiah 59:21, Isaiah 57:19,  and Joel 2:38 in Acts 2:39.

He says,  “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Thousands respond and join these believers in the creation of the Church of Jesus, who is the Christ.

This is not the end, however. The crescendo of Acts 2 is not with coming power or prophetic speech. It is not with inspired preaching, apologetics, or evangelism. It is not with a massive altar call or swelling church numbers. The crescendo of Acts 2 is found in Acts 2:41-47 in the establishment of a community of love and devotion that stands out as a miraculous light in the great human darkness around it.

Community summaries like the one in Acts 2 play an important role in the unfolding of Acts.

The First Church

We have an early depiction of the 11 with their followers—in one accord, devoted to prayer… both men and women, Jesus’ family— in Acts 1:14. We see the filling up of the Apostle’s ranks in 1:15-26, a typological restoration of Israel.

3000 are added at Pentecost (2:41), who are devoted to the Apostle’s teaching, fellowship, eating together and prayer, experiencing signs and wonders with divine fear, sharing with each other freely, worshiping in the temple, well received by the community and growing daily in number (2:42-47).

At the end of 4:4, another 5000 are added over the incident with the lame man. We hear of the oneness of the community in sharing all things (while defending property rights which are an important social foundation throughout Scripture). We hear of the power at work among them as they preached in 4:32-37.

Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead by God causing great fear in the community as signs and wonders continue. They continue as one. Many men and women are added, but others, while admiring keep their distance. (5:11-14) In 5:42, they meet daily in the temple and from house to house.

Growth of the Spirit-Led Community

With Paul’s conversion, the church enters a period of Peace throughout Judea and Galilee, and Samaria, being built up, fearing God and finding comfort in the Holy Spirit. They multiplied. (9:31) After Peter speaks to Gentiles who come to faith, some of those scattered begin to speak to Gentiles as well, and a great number turn to the Lord. (11:21) In 11:24, “a great many are added.” In 12:24, “the word of God increased and multiplied.

Paul and Barnabas have Isaiah’s Servant mission proclaimed over them in 13:43-49 as they turn away from the Synagogue in Perga to the Gentiles there saying, “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed,” (13:48) and  “the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” (13:49)  In 16:5, “they increased in number greatly.” In 19:20, the word prevails and increases greatly. Throughout, we find prayer 21x, worship 7x, fellowship, and breaking bread 5x.

This depiction stands in constant contrast with the darkness around them. Isaiah 42 is quoted over Paul and Barnabas in 13:47. Thus, the context of the church’s light is the darkness of the Jews & Gentiles, lowly & Great.

The Beauty of the Mundane

What does all this mean to us?

While anecdotal, my experience in schools and churches has convinced me that, like the Corinthian community, many have a tendency to measure spirituality by “spiritual” looking manifestations (the weirder the better) and to ignore the more meaningful measure of the fruit of the Spirit in community.

The idea that the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 climaxes in the uncommon “mundane” should be a check for us. Heavenly signs, fire, tongues, exuberance, bold proclamation, miracles, and massive “altar-calls,” find their intentional end in a community of devotion to God and to each other. We are excited by and eagerly seek Acts 2:2-41, but pause little over our failure to produce Acts 2:42-47.

Many others have given up the whole paradigm, contenting themselves with little more than a doctrinal reflection on the transforming power of the Spirit in life and community. Don’t be one of them. Cry out to God for His transforming power in your life and the social and societal fruit that it should bring.

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All Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Did Jesus Claim to be God?

Author: Andrew Sargent Ph.D., Contributing Author for Foundations by ICM

 

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I’ve seen the faith of more than a few ministry students over the years crumble in the face of easily addressed “difficulties.” One such issue involves the deity of Jesus. More than a few times, students have come to me shaken to their core when they realize (usually because some atheist or agnostic biblical scholar mocks the Church over the matter) that “Jesus never claims to be God, and that the New Testament writers never declare Jesus to be God,”

Now you can ask yourself, “Is that true? Did Jesus never claim to be God? Did the New Testament Writers (other than John) never claim the deity of Jesus?”

Short answer: No, it is not true. There are other New Testament writers who make such claims.

Long answer: It depends on what you will accept as declarations of deity. Let’s look at a few examples.

A Trained Eye

If one is waiting for Jesus to jump on a table and shout to passing crowds, “Hey! Look at Me! I’m Incarnate deity!!!” then no, that never happens. If one is demanding that narratives and epistles be systematic theology texts that take the reader step by step through a categorical discussion on the enumerated doctrines of true believers, then, again, no, that never happens.

If, however, one allows the New Testament writers to be artful narrators and the Epistles artful addresses to church issues, then yes, the Scriptures do declare Jesus to be incarnate deity… and they do so quite clearly by Ancient Near Eastern standards. The problem is that modern eyes are often too poorly trained to observe it.

Always keep one carefully focused eye on the Old Testament when reading anything in the New Testament.

Jesus and Jonah

One important way for biblical storytellers to declare the deity of Jesus is to cast Jesus in the role of Yahweh from significant Old Testament passages. For example, in Mark 4:35-41, the author tells the story of the calming of the storm with clear allusions to the story of Jonah. The key to Mark’s telling is that Jesus plays the role of both Jonah, the sleeping prophet, and God, who controls the elements of nature and strikes more fear into the hearts of the sailors through His power to calm the raging sea, than the sea itself causes in all its raging.

Mark actually quotes bits of Jonah 1:6 from the Greek—Where the captain says to the sleeping prophet “Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” Mark has the disciples call out to Jesus Himself, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

Mark also strongly alludes to the work of Yahweh in the sea storm passage of Psalm 107, when Jesus speaks to Mark’s storm. In verse 29 we find, “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” In Jesus, Mark 4 presents “the deeds of Yahweh, his wondrous works in the deep.” (Psalm 107:24) Jesus is declared incarnate Yahweh, “the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9)

You Will Be My Witnesses…

Acts 1 presents us with yet another incident of such character.

Each gospel ends with some version of the Great Commission, including Luke, which says in 24:45-49, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” After this Jesus ascends into heaven.

Acts, though written by the same author, begins with a varied retelling of this scene. In 1:8, we read, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This idea of witness is a recurring theme in Acts. The term itself shows up 16 times in reference to being witness for Christ, once directly declaring the sending of the Holy Spirit as God’s witness of Christ.

Witnesses of Yahweh

Three times in the Book of Isaiah Yahweh says to the Servant and to His community of restored Israel, “You are my witnesses.

In Isaiah 43:10, after challenging the pagan nations to provide witness for the power of their gods (something they cannot do), Yahweh boasts of the witness that His people can bear of His prophetic word fulfilled in their lives. He declares, “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” Yahweh follows saying, “I, I am the LORD, and besides me, there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed when there was no strange god among you, and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God.

In Isaiah 44:8, Yahweh addresses those who have experienced the power of the living God, He who redeems, who promises and predicts, and who brings it to pass. He says to them, “…you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.

The servant who has come to restore Israel is called “witness” again in Isaiah 55:4-5. “Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.  Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Witnesses of Christ

Four times in the Book of Isaiah, Yahweh calls the Servant His witness. Three times, He includes those bound to the servant saying of them, “You are my witnesses.” In Acts 1:8, Jesus is both Servant (Jesus) and Incarnate Yahweh addressing the community of witnesses who are sent to tell of the fulfilled promises of salvation come to men by Yahweh’s hand working in His Servant.

Jesus intentionally uses the language of Isaiah, referring to witnesses of Yahweh, to refer to himself. Any ancient reader would have understood the connection and implication. Jesus was making himself equal to Yahweh. These are only a couple among many examples of similar declarations.

Remember: always keep one carefully focused eye on the Old Testament when reading ANYTHING in the New Testament.

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All Church Development Spiritual Development

Guest Blog: 5 Tips for Finding a Bible Study

Author: Kayla Hyatt, Guest Author Ministry Assistant Services

 

A Bible study is an excellent place to start if you’ve wanted to dive deeper into Scripture but don’t know how to get started, or if you’ve been studying a specific topic or book of the Bible but want more information or a different perspective. Finding a Bible study that is a perfect fit for you can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are five tips to help you get started.

1. Pray

Sometimes we want to plug a topic that we are interested in into our search engine and go from there, but the best place to start is always with prayer. Ask the Lord if there is something He wants you to research or learn in this season. Maybe it’s a topic or a specific book of the Bible that He wants you to focus your attention on. Perhaps He has already laid a topic on your heart that you have been thinking about for a while. Trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you in the right direction. I always ask the Lord to help me find the right study for what He wants to teach me. I also ask the Lord to open my ears and heart to His Word.

2. Decide what version suits you.

You know what way you learn and focus best. Sometimes the best Bible study is a book you can read at your own pace and highlight along the way. Another option is a Bible study that is video-based. Video-based studies are a great resource if you are an auditory learner. Video studies usually come in six to eight weekly sessions and coincide with a daily workbook. This is great if you have a lot of time on your hands or are trying to cultivate the habit of daily study in the Word. Another great option is a podcast. While finding time to sit down and focus all your attention on the Word can be so beneficial, sometimes we want or need something on the go. It should never be the only time you spend with Jesus, but it is great to listen on your commute to work, when you’re taking your kids to school, on the run, and traveling. There are some great Bible teachers on podcasts, so if that’s for you, download the app and get listening. 

3. Find Someone In The Know

Now that you’ve prayed and hopefully know your topic or book of the Bible you want to look at and know what version suits you, it’s time to find someone in the know. That person may very well be you! If you have a favorite Bible teacher or author, see if they have a book or Bible study in the area you want to learn about. If they do, that might be a good place to start. If you’re new to the Bible study world or can’t find what you’re looking for in your area of study, I highly suggest going to your local Christian bookstore and asking them if they have any recommendations. They do this all the time and will have some ideas for you. While you’re there, you can also browse. Sometimes the Lord leads us to the exact thing we need.

4. Talk to your Pastor

Maybe by now, you’ve already found the perfect study for you. If you’re still having trouble, your pastor can be a great resource. Ask him if he has any Bible study recommendations. The great thing is he probably has some on hand, and if he knows you well, he might already know the perfect one for you. Your pastor is hopefully reading and studying the Bible a lot of the time, so he will be an excellent resource for you. 

5. Gather your Friends

While having an independent relationship with the Lord is essential, the Lord does not call us to live life alone. Talk to your friends and see if they are doing a Bible study already and if they would want to do one together. This is a great way to stay fresh in the Word and have accountability while reading. You can decide together to meet, read the book, watch the video together, and then discuss what you’re learning and what the Lord may be saying to you. This also keeps things fresh and fun and is something you can look forward to every week (or however often you choose to meet). 

Bonus

When in doubt, the best thing you can do is go straight to the source. Invest in a study Bible or find a free one online and read directly from the Word. Bible studies can be great resources, but they are no replacement for the Word of God and how the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it. So, if finding a Bible study has been difficult, maybe the best thing to do in this season is read straight from the Word.

I pray this article is a helpful resource for you because the joy found in knowing God and His Word is incomparable to any earthly joy we could have.

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All Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Guest Blog: How (and Why) to Memorize Bible Verses

Author: Kayla Hyatt, Guest Author Ministry Assistant Services

 

It is a great kindness that God has given us His word to read, study, and memorize. His Word has the power to transform us to be more like Jesus, and whether you are a new Christian or have been following Jesus for a long time, it’s always a good idea to bury Scripture in your heart.

Memorizing Scripture appears early in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 11:18 says, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul…” From the beginning, God wanted His people to know what He had spoken. Even when The Law was written on stone tablets, God’s preference was always that His Word would be written on the hearts of His people. We have been given access to God’s living and active Word, and we know that it pleases Him to do so, so let’s commit it to memory.

What happens when we memorize Scripture?

Matthew 4:1-11 is an excellent example of the power of Scripture and why we should take the time to memorize it. In this passage, Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and nights and was understandably hungry. Matthew 4:3-4 tells us, “The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. ” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Twice more, the enemy tempted Jesus, and each time, Jesus responded with, “it is written…” and quoted Scripture! After the third time, Matthew tells us that the devil left.

We fight against the enemy and run from sin.

Just like Jesus in Matthew 4, we are tempted at times. To combat the enemy’s schemes, Ephesians 6:17 tells us we should carry “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” The Word of God is a sword we can use to stand firm and fight against the enemy when he tempts us with lies and half-truths to lead us to sin. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The antidote for sin is knowing the Word and storing it in our hearts. The more we know God’s Word, the more we know what pleases Him (and what doesn’t). It doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes, but we will be heading in the right direction.

We are encouraged, and we share it.

Another reason to memorize Scripture is that it is incredibly comforting. Have you ever gone through a season in life that was less than stellar? Maybe you’ve suffered the loss of a job or a loved one. Perhaps you’re in that season right now. Whatever you’re going through, there is a wealth of encouragement in the Bible for you and your situation. When you’re at a loss for what to do, you can whisper (or scream) Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” There is something powerful about reminding our souls that the God who made heaven and earth is our helper! And when we know Scripture like that, the Holy Spirit reminds us to share it in conversations when our friends, family, and even strangers need to hear it.

That’s just the beginning of what can happen when we hide Scripture in our hearts. If you’re ready to get started committing Scripture to memory, here are a few easy ways to get started:

Pick your passage.

The best place to start is to decide what verse(s) you want to memorize. It might be a verse about something you are struggling with or something you want to work on. It also might be a verse that you find particularly comforting. If you don’t know where to start, my favorite place to look is the Psalms. There is so much encouragement packed in there!

Read, Write and Listen.

Once you’ve picked your verse (or verses), study the passage surrounding it. Context is so important when it comes to remembering and applying Scripture to your daily life. Read the entire chapter your verse(s) are found in, and maybe a chapter before and after. When you have a feel for the context, focus on reading your verse out loud. Over and over. The trifecta of seeing it with your eyes, saying it with your mouth, and hearing it makes memorizing so much easier. Once you’ve done that a few times, write it down. And then write it again. This is another great way to hide Scripture in your heart, especially if you learn by doing. Writing it down with colorful pens or markers can also be helpful! Finally, listen to it by recording it or using a Bible app with a reading feature. You can listen while doing other things, so take advantage of your commute, the time you spend doing chores, etc.

Sing it.

You might remember learning things in school by singing songs. That is because it is one of the ways our brain memorizes new information quickly. And don’t worry; being a great singer is not a prerequisite! Pick a verse or two (the Psalms are especially great for this strategy because they were written to be sung) and sing it! You can make up your own melody or borrow a tune you already know. Keep singing it, and soon, you’ll know that verse by heart!

Word games.

If singing really isn’t your thing, you can use word games to memorize Scripture. The first game you can try is reading your verse while covering a word and filling it in by memory. Each time you read the verse, cover an additional word until you know the entire thing. Another strategy is using the first letter of each word as a reminder of what the verse says, almost like an acronym. For example, Psalm 23:1 says, “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” The way you would write this is “TLIMSISNW.” Read over your acronym as an aid for memorizing your verse!

Post it and pray it.

After some practice, your verse(s) should be committed to memory. The challenge now is to not forget it, and practice makes permanent! I love to add reminders in places I look often. You can write Scripture on sticky notes and stick them on your mirrors, kitchen window, or car dash. You’ll know where you’ll see it most, so write it out (again) and post it! Then, whenever you see it, pray through that verse. Ask the Lord to help you continue to remember it, and ask Him to bring it to mind when you need it most.

Hopefully, memorizing Scripture doesn’t seem like such a daunting task anymore. I pray these tips are helpful and you find the joy of hiding the Living Word in your heart. It is one of the best life-long habits you can cultivate, and there’s no better time to start than right now!

 

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