Instant Bible Studies

Sometimes we are way too dependent on curriculum, as if people can’t study the Bible unless they have a quarterly in had and the teacher’s book. Let me submit to you that Jesus would not expect us to do something that the early church could not do. Small communities of faith can get together, open the Word of God and discuss what the Bible says, means, and how it applies to life.

First Off, the SCRIPTURE Needs to be Read: out loud in the group. If time permits, read it a second time, with all members of the group reading along. Don’t go a commentary or teaching guide first.

After that, discuss what the passage is about, naming facts of the basic content of the passage. Who is mentioned in the passage? What is happening? Who? What? When? Where? are all good questions at this point. Try to summarize what this passage is about in your own words.

Second, Discuss What we Learn from this Passage of Scripture:

Years ago I was a part of a group called MasterLife where we studied the Bible very seriously over the course of one year.

Here is a Useful Tool for Meditating on Scripture: praying for wisdom and surrendering to the Holy Spirit so that you make the Word come alive in your heart.

  1. Perimeter the verse: read what comes before and after the verse on which you are meditating.
  2. Paraphrase the verse: summarize and put it into your own words.
  3. Pulverize the verse:
    1. Emphasize each word by exclamation.
    2. Pick two or three words that represent God’s message.
    3. Ask about the words – who? what? when? where? why? how?
  4. Personalize the verse: Put yourself and God directly into the verse on which you are meditating.
  5. Pray the verse back to God: sighting adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.
  6. Parallel the verse: locate any verses that are on the same theme as the one on which you are meditating.
  7. Problems in the verse: of doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness which need to be addressed.
  8. Possibilities of helping others through the verse: through prayer, word or deed.

Other Questions Worth Asking Are:

  1. What warning, command or promise do we find?
  2. What is the example to follow or to avoid?
  3. What is the main truth of this Scripture?
  4. What is the universal lesson or truth we find in this passage?
  5. Why is this passage in the Bible? Why is it in this section of the Bible?
  6. What does this Scripture tell us about the character of God or how he relates to people?
  7. How does this passage point to the person and/or work of Christ?
  8. How can we pray this verse back to God?
  9. What is a new thought or teaching I have discovered in this passage?

Now Comes the Difficult Part: how to make this passage real in your life. Observation and interpretation are not enough here, we MUST move on to application.

  1. What is an example in your life where this passage applies (home, family, work, character)
  2. Ask yourself questions that demand action: like, “How will I life this passage in my life?” not “”Will I live this out in my life?”
  3. Write out a specific action plan to accomplish what you sense God telling you to do. We can make plans and have good intentions, but unless we write these down, they will be forgotten in less than a week.
  4. Write a prayer asking God to help you live this out and accomplish all he wants to do in your life.
  5. Then, just do it! Trust God to help you accomplish these goals. Remember that we are not looking for good stuff to do for God, he is the one who desires to work through you to accomplish his purposes.

The Body of Christ

God has chosen to speak also through his people, the gathered body of Christ. A problem of the evangelical church is that we have emphasized the priesthood of the believer so much that we have lost our corporate identity as the church. Christians think that can stand alone before God and are not accountable to the church (other believers). Remember that Jesus died for the church (Matthew 16:18). Check out how the church is described in the New Testament:

  1. Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27)
  2. Jesus is the head (Ephesians 4:15)
  3. Every believer is placed in the body as the Spirit chooses (1 Corinthians 12:18)
  4. The Spirit manifests, or works through each person in the body as he chooses for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7)
  5. The body is fitted together by the Father.
  6. The members are enabled and equipped to function where the Father has placed them in the body (Ephesians 4:13)

God has made us mutually interdependent. Paul was constantly requesting the believers to become vitally involved with his life and ministry. The effectiveness of Paul’s ministry rested on THEM (Colossians 4:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2, Ephesians 6:19).

The point is that apart from the body of Christ, you cannot fully know God’s will for your relationship to the body. God can and does speak through the church. There are many needs in the church, and the need itself does not constitute a call to meet that need, but the need however is NOT to be ignored.

There are no lone ranger Christians, we are connected to one another in bond of love, salvation and mission. The individual believer is not the church; the church is the body of Christ gathered. Every member is to listen to what the other members are saying, because others will help me to understand God’s will.

Churches and Bridge Events

Kim Jessie at the Norfolk Area Baptist Association has some great advice for churches planning on hosting community outreach events, like sports camps, children’s activities, VBS, movie nights, etc. The hope is that we can build a bridge from the church to the community.

Here are some easy to do tips for a more successful bridge event:

  1. Have plenty of smiling volunteers to meet and greet participants and parents.
  2. Have volunteers prepared to start conversations with parents or other adults who bring children to the event.
  3. If you are outside for the camp, provide cold drinks, chairs, and shade for the adults who hang out and watch their children.
  4. Provide a glimpse of what happens in worship. This can be done with a song and a brief devotional message at some point during the event.
  5. Make sure everyone is personally invited to worship, Bible study, and other summer events.
  6. Encourage children’s Sunday School teachers, worship leaders, mission/Awana leaders to be present to meet and interact with the children and their parents.

May God richly bless all that is done in His name!

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Being a Man of Authenticity

We all like to make a good impression, but when it comes to God and the church, honesty is the best policy. Here is a creative video about God’s grace and acceptance, and the need for authenticity in our spiritual lives.

This is one concept that should define a believer. By authentic I mean we are to be Christians that reflect the reality of the gospel. We want to be authentic Christians who are members of authentic churches pursuing authentic faith and service.

So, what does this actually look like?

Take a look at what Paul writes in First Thessalonians 1.

Presence: the first sign of Christian authenticity in a community is an awareness of God (1 Thessalonians 1:1-2)

Paul mentions that he is aware of the contributions of both the Father and Son in his relationship to the church in Thessalonica. A few verses later, in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 he references the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. We have to ask the question whether our lives reflect a similar awareness of each member of the Trinity? If not, who is missing, and why do we neglect that Person of the Trinity?

Practice: a second sign of Christian authenticity is faithful service characterized by faith, hope, and love (1 Thessalonians 1:3-4)

Paul says, “As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). It is always exciting to be a part of a community of faith that expresses these three virtues. Our prayer should always be that God allow us to work, labor, and endure with the faith, love, and hope.

Proclamation: a third sign of Christian authenticity is presenting the gospel not only in words, but also with power, the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5)

To many people the gospel has become mere words, which amounts to an exercise in beliefs rather than living out what we profess to believe. Does a church proclaim Christ only in words? If so, authenticity is going to be lacking.

Persistence: a fourth sign of Christian authenticity is leadership marked by incarnation, modeling, suffering, joy, and reproduction (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7)

Sometimes it is easy to come to Christ. These believers came to Christ at the personal risk of life. I wonder how many authentic followers of Christ we actually have in the church today; once the persecution begins. These people not only came to Christ under difficult circumstances, but became an example to others in the region. They had a great testimony!

Perseverance: a fifth sign of Christian authenticity is faith characterized by repentance, service, hospitality and waiting on the Lord (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10)

The actions of this church spoke louder than mere words. They were demonstrating their faith and others concluded that their Christianity was authentic.

The church at Thessalonica was:

  1. An energetic church (1 Thessalonians 1:1-3) Paul gives thanks for their strong faith and labor of love.
  2. An elect church (1 Thessalonians 1:4) they were chosen by God himself.
    1. Salvation begins with God
    2. Salvation involves God’s love
    3. Salvation involves faith
    4. Salvation involves the Trinity
    5. Salvation changes lives
  3. An exemplary church (1 Thessalonians 1:5-7) Paul’s example to the church and their example to the world.
    1. They received the Word (1 Thessalonians 1:5, 2:8)
    2. They followed their spiritual leaders (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
    3. They suffered for Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
    4. They encouraged other churches (1 Thessalonians 1:7)
  4. An evangelistic church (1 Thessalonians 1:8) their faith was known everywhere.
  5. An expectant church (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10) they looked forward to the return of Christ.
    1. Decision made (1 Thessalonians 1:9) they turned from idols.
    2. Dedication made (1 Thessalonians 1:9) they turned to the living God.
    3. Devotion to a person (1 Thessalonians 1:10) their focus will be on the  Son.
    4. Deliverance from a penalty (1 Thessalonians 1:10) they escape will be from the wrath of God.

I pray that those who come in contact with King’s Grant will know about, sense and rejoice in the genuineness of the authentic gospel. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35)

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The Celebration of Community

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

Perhaps this presentation of Christ’s cross is too individualistic. If so, this section should restore the balance. The purpose of Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross was not just to save isolated individuals but to create a new community, whose members would belong to him, love one another and eagerly serve the world. The community of Christ will be nothing less than a renewed and reunited humanity, which Christ, as the second Adam, will head (1 Corinthians 15:45).

From the Day of Pentecost onward (Acts 2), it has been clear that conversion to Christ means also conversion to the community of Christ. These two transfers—of personal allegiance and social membership—cannot be separated. Read 1 Peter 2:4-10, written by the apostle who preached powerfully on that Day of Pentecost.

First Peter 2:4-10 is the basis of the Community study:
Peter describes what is true about Christian believers. He does NOT necessarily describe how we feel all the time. We are living stones in a spiritual house, a holy and royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.

One note specifically about the people of God as “a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5) and “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9): This is the famous priesthood of all believers on which the Reformers laid great emphasis. In consequence of this universal priesthood, the word “priest” (Greek hiereus) is never in the New Testament applied to the ordained minister. The minister shares in offering what the people offer but has no distinctive offering to make that differs from theirs.

The uniqueness of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross does not mean that we have no sacrifices to offer, but only that their nature and purpose are different. They are not material but spiritual, and their object is not propitiatory (turning away God’s wrath) but eucharistic (thanksgiving), the expression of a responsive gratitude. What would be some examples of “spiritual sacrifices” (1 Peter 2:5)?

You may come up with many different examples from your own experience, but I see eight kinds of spiritual sacrifices mentioned in Scripture:

  1. We are to present our bodies to him for his service, as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1); that sounds like a material offering, but it is termed “spiritual worship,” presumably because it pleases God only if it expresses the worship of the heart.
  2. We offer God our praise, worship and thanksgiving, “the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
  3. We offer prayer, which is said to ascend to God like fragrant incense (Revelation 5:8).
  4. We offer “a broken and contrite heart,” which God accepts and never despises (Psalm 51:17).
  5. We offer faith, which is called a “sacrifice and service” (Philippians 2:17).
  6. We offer our gifts and good deeds, “for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).
  7. We offer our life “poured out like a drink offering” in God’s service, even unto death (2 Timothy 4:6).
  8. We may present the special offering of the evangelist, whose preaching of the gospel is called a “priestly duty” because the evangelist’s converts can be presented as “an offering acceptable to God” (Romans 15:16).

First Peter 2:6-8 include three Old Testament quotes that are applied to Christ. Notice how and why the stone affects different people in different ways:

  1. First Peter 2:6 quotes Isaiah 28:16, which is in the context of God’s promise that evil will be found out, judged and swept away. The person who trusts in the Lord will endure and will not be touched by the judgment.
  2. First Peter 2:7 quotes Psalm 118:22; the psalmist’s next words confirm that the Lord is the one who put the stone in place: “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps 118:23).
  3. First Peter 2:8 quotes Isaiah 8:14, which also calls the Lord a sanctuary for those who trust him while promising that unfaithful Israel will “fall and be broken” (Isaiah 8:15).

We have received mercy so that we may “declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Our new intimate relationship to God, which has replaced the old and painful estrangement, is marked by:

  1. Boldness: we are able to approach God is freedom and confidence; humbly (as sinners) yet boldly (as forgiven sinners) we come into God’s presence.
  2. Love: this love has driven out fear; responding to his loving initiative with an answering love of our own.
  3. Joy: we are no longer alienated and humiliated, we are rescued and restored; worshiping him with musical instruments and expressing our joy in songs of praise.

These are not to be thought of as purely private and interior experiences, they are to distinguish our public worship. Consider your public worship with other believers. What aspects of our worship express boldness, love, and joy?

The brief time we spend together on the Lord’s Day must not be separated from the rest of our lives; it is intended to bring our lives into focus.

Singing is a unique feature of Christian worship: I sent a few Journeyman missionaries to the Far East and they developed friendships with young local Buddhist monks. The Christian young men prepared an American style meal, and the evening led toward sharing music and Christian praise songs. The boys ask the monks to share some of their songs from the Buddhist faith. The monks got together and chanted a little and then shyly confessed, that “we really don’t have any songs in our religion.”

Whenever Christian people come together it is impossible to keep them from singing. The Christian community is a community of celebration. Evaluate the element of joy and thanksgiving in our worship experiences.

The community of Christ is the community of the cross. Having been brought into being by the cross, it continues to live by and under the cross. Our perspective and our behavior are now governed by the cross. All of our relationships have been radically transformed by it.

  1. The cross is not just a badge to identify us
  2. The cross is not just the banner under which we march
  3. The cross is also the compass that gives us our bearings in a disoriented world