Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bible Study: Share the Good News

Romans 15:21
Matthew 28:16-20
Zünd Gang nach Emmaus 1877.jpg
image credit
Are there any hidden tribes of people anymore, tucked away in a remote rainforest somewhere? Do we imagine that because only a few people have never encountered Christianity, our commission from Jesus is complete? I've heard that some believe that once every last tribe hears the Gospel, Christ will certainly come again. But although those in my neighborhood have encountered Christianity to one extent or another, many have not seen the true power of the Lord. Their encounters have inoculated them against Christ rather than attracted them to Him. Someone needs to carry the message, like Paul, to those who have never heard it. Yet someone also needs to carry the message to those we see every day who have also never truly heard it.
I have a responsibility to share the Good News, as good news, to those I encounter every day. It is part of my commission from Jesus. It might not be the first time they have heard the Gospel, but it might be and it might be the first time they have seen it lived out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Using Google Images for Kids Bible Studies

The paper sits on this breakfast tray while she colors. When
she's done, she pushes away the paper and takes its place.
My third daughter, 14.5 months old, just began last week having a regular Bible study. She's been sitting in on her sister's "personal prayer time" nearly every day for several months and began "participating" in it semi-regularly for at least a month now. So I began printing coloring pages for her based on whatever story we read to her and her 6yr sister each morning.
It's all a matter of giving the activity the spin you want it to have. Each morning (well, most mornings...) I have a time of quiet prayer, Scripture reading, and journaling about what God speaks to me through that Scripture reading. I don't expect my children to have the exact same format at the level I do: I pray, meditate, and journal as an adult and they are children still! But I bring those down to their level to teach them a habit I hope they will continue throughout their lives. The prayers are simplified and brought to a higher level as gradually as their meals transition from mashed bananas to adult cuisine.
The first level of Bible study in our home begins by sitting on a parent's lap listening to a short selection from a Bible storybook and then being offered a picture to color. Eventually the coloring becomes recognizable enough that we buy a cheap notebook and sketch our own drawings in it each day for the child to color. But to begin with not enough crayon actually colors the paper to make the sketches worth my time. So I go to Google Images and type in the story name followed by the words "coloring page". Today I googled "Jesus mount coloring page". I can then copy the image and paste it into my word processor, expand it fill the page, and print. There are a lot of different resources offering coloring pages for different Bible stories, but none that I know of that offer on one website a page for every single Bible story. This enables me to spend only 1 minute searching all those different sites to quickly find a picture fitting the story I've read to my daughter. I do a similar search for my older daughters to find their ideal "princess" or "mermaid" or "pony" or "paper doll" coloring picture. Kinda makes me wonder why I still have so many actual coloring books crowding our bookshelves when they prefer the pictures I find online. ;-)
Linked with Modest Monday, Works for Me Wednesday

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bible Study: Sloppy action devoid of faith

Romans 15:20
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Is your faith more mature than that of an infant?
Many movies show a character sloppily making the sign of the Cross in a desperate situation. Certainly it is shown as a sort of prayer, a hope that the individual will survive, but what is the prayer worth without belief in the One being prayed to, a mental (let alone vocal) prayer to accompany the action, an ongoing faith before and after the current crisis? The action is often as unrefined as my 14 month old's attempt to make the sign of the Cross for herself, and she seems to understand better what it actually means.
Although the people we encounter every day have had a certain exposure to Christianity, that exposure is often flawed to the point of being counter-productive. We have the opportunity, in a certain sense, of imitating Paul in preaching the gospel where it is not known. If Paul's group of Christians in Corinth were still immature enough to receive only milk, some of the people we encounter are ready for nothing more substantial than colostrum. We should take care not to be one of those immature Christians, childishly imitating a prayer without the power of faith supporting it.
While Paul sought out those who had never heard the gospel, Apollos was willing to follow behind and water the seeds. Some of us today will be called to preach primarily to the unreached, but others are certainly needed to water the seeds and tend the young plants. There is no reason to believe one role is somehow better than the other. But before heading off to carry Christ to anyone, turn the question around and ask how you yourself are doing. Are you inclined to throw out a hasty act of faith only when a desperate situation arises? Are you a baby Christian, surviving only or primarily on milk? Or are you an older child, a teenager, or an adult Christian, understanding and living the faith day in and day out, witnessing to others even when you're not trying to?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bible Study: Proclaiming the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit

Romans 15:19
John 14:15-17
The gift of having the Holy Spirit in us extends FAR beyond the standard marks of a charismatic Christian: energetic verbal prayers and praying in tongues. As a charismatic Christian myself, I appreciate the value of those things, but they are really only tools for the truly important work for which the Holy Spirit was given to us by Christ Jesus.
Paul attributed to the Holy Spirit his ability to evangelize people throughout his various travels. To do that he was gifted with the ability to perform various signs and wonders. God is just as willing and capable of evangelizing people today if we will only be open to cooperating with Him. If that means we need to be able to heal people and raise them from the dead, there is no reason to think the Holy Spirit isn't available to us to do just that. But the culture we live in is very different from that of the Roman Empire so the people we are reaching out to respond differently. Not that they don't respond to miraculous physical healings, for they (we!) certainly still do, but their expectations of God are altogether different. They want to see, for example, our lives transformed and our love for God made manifest in our love for one another. The Holy Spirit is available to help us do that and to help us share that with those who need to witness it.
Consider for a moment the non-Christians you are closest to today. What do you think it would take for them to become Christians? We don't always know, of course, yet often we can have a certain indication of whether they claim to resist Christ because of the behavior of Christians toward one another, or blaming Him for the desperate poverty of people in other countries, or a prayer they once made that seemed to go unanswered. Has the Lord given you the gifts to address these objections? Are you open to the Holy Spirit providing what you need to overcome them? Will you be the one to proclaim the gospel to those who need to hear it?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Happy Heritage: Finally Not Pregnant

Baby 2013 exploring the basic features of Baby 2014
These past two years must have been as long for my daughters as they were from me. I had this conversation with my 5 year old yesterday:
"Yes, Reese?"
"You're Finally not pregnant."
"Yes, Reese."
Our daughters would like to be wealthy. Wealthy enough to hire servants to do the housekeeping and cooking and maybe even the gardening for us. When I ask what I would do then, they respond "Whatever you want, Mom!" I think they envision me reading stories to them all day--when I'm not trucking them around to kids museums and zoos and pools, and they also envision a family cook obligated to cater to their menu desires of pancakes, cookies, and other treats whenever they request them.
To achieve that wealth they create bead projects and devise plans to sell them for outrageous sums on the street corner. I admitted to my oldest that I doubt she will ever become wealthy because she will be too busy giving away all her money. She has a gift of generosity, encouraged no doubt by the witness of my mother-in-law, who regularly gives away a portion of whatever baked good she produces in her kitchen to one of the bachelors or widows in her circle of friends. Maria recently happened to bake cookies while a mechanic replaced the brake pads on our van in our driveway and wanted to save just enough for our family to get 2 apiece and give the mechanic the remainder. I admit to being more selfish, which is (partly) why I made her give the mechanic only 2 and save the rest for our family.
We've outgrown our house and begun considering seriously buying a larger home. Maria and Reese are fully on-board, except for the part of leaving our current neighbors behind. They (and we, for that matter: we have FABULOUS neighbors) would like to take them all with us. But in the interest of buying the larger home, Maria has offered her life savings, Reese offered the allowance she has accumulated (although not the money in her savings account) and both have offered to hold a fundraiser or man a lemonade stand. I suspect their continuing interest in money-making schemes comes in part because their dad is a salesman.
My kids drive me crazy every day but they do
make up for it by the funny things they say and by their desire to give to others.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bible Study: The Lord's accomplishments through us

Romans 15:18
John 14:12-14
It would be a worthwhile activity for each of us to prayerfully make a list every few years of the accomplishments that God has worked through us. Some of them may be large, such as taking an active role in His working miracles in this world. Some may be as "small" as living in a way that is faithful to His calling. Large and small, it builds our faith to recognize God's power and our hope to realize He is working through us. He has chosen to include us as active coworkers with Him in His mission.
It wouldn't be fair for me to ask others to complete an assignment like this without doing it myself, would it? I can't say the Lord has worked incredibly obvious miracles through me such as raising people from the dead or healing the paralyzed. Yet if I only told of ways He is working in and through me I would be able to fill a book, for He is constantly amazing me by the way small decisions for Him lead to big results. Here's a short list of ways the Lord has worked through me in the last year:
  • Encouraging others to have a daily prayer time and Bible study
  • Giving birth to four children now
  • Attempting to teach my children to love the Lord, by example and by hands-on instruction
  • Beginning friendships with whomever I am put into contact with
  • Demonstrating an active faith in the Lord to overcome obstacles and make the improbable happen
  • Living an example of faithfulness to God through regular church attendance and daily prayer
  • Regularly repenting of my sins

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bible Study: Practicing sacrificial love

Romans 15:17
Ephesians 5:1-2
Rejoicing in the opportunity to love
I was feeling worn out a couple months ago, my body being used up to nourish my unborn baby. As many benefits as there are to having children, there is still an undeniable toll on a mother's body. Yet, is that necessarily a bad thing? Spiritually, we learn to love like Christ when it is difficult, not when it is easy. When it takes an effort on our part, demands something of us, comes at a price, then we are demonstrating toward others the love that Christ Jesus demonstrated toward us. We might begin through God's grace by loving those we are naturally inclined toward, such as the child nurtured in the womb. He calls us to love everyone we encounter with this type of love, but He might allow us to practice first with individuals we would love anyway with a selfish love. I doubt it was in God's original plan for humanity that a mother's body should suffer for the sake of each unborn child. Yet it could be a blessing rather than a curse, or at least a curse transformed into a blessing when we see it as an opportunity to live the same kind of sacrificial love toward others that Christ lived toward us.
How is your love toward another human causing you to suffer today? Whether in your health, your pocketbook, your career, or in some other way, the sacrifices you are making are a limited imitation of the sacrificial love of Christ and as such can help you share His message to the world.