Blog - Big Dream Ministries
Big Dream Ministries exists to help people understand the Bible as God's amazing Word and help them apply Biblical truth to their daily lives. We do this by offering studies that drive people to the Scriptures for answers and equipping leaders with excellent resources to reinforce learning.
The Amazing Collection, Bible study, Know the Word, Biblical Truth
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Are Your Arms Open or Closed?

Josh was stunned. He imagined so many scenarios of how the reunion would go, but never did he imagine the response he got. He had been a young boy when his mother remarried and moved away from his paternal grandparents. The college years were busy with studies, working, and friends, and time slipped away from him. Now, as a young 20 something, he was making his first visit to their home. A surprise visit, he had not spoken to them in years. Nothing hurtful or wrong, just overly involved in his new life.

He waited at the curb by their house until he saw his grandfather arrive home from work. Josh got out of the car and slowly walked to the door, with every step feeling heavier with the weight of the distance in their relationship. After ringing the doorbell, the black wooden door opened slowly and there stood his grandfather, silently staring at him. Josh’s heart pounded hard as he uttered the words, “Hi, Grandpa.” Then, without saying a word, his grandfather slowly closed the door. Josh, confused, stood at the closed door for an unusually long time before returning to his car. He never imagined the stony silent reception. If his grandfather was not going to welcome him back into his life, he would have preferred a heated argument, a good fight to at least feel justified in the strained relationship. But now what? Was restoring the relationship worth the hurt?

How we respond to others when they hurt us is a big deal to Jesus!

The morning after Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city on the back of a colt, He was traveling from Bethany to Jerusalem and teaching the disciples about the power of faith and prayer.  He shared that whatever they asked of the Father and believed would happen, it would be granted. But then Jesus added this very crucial key for prayer, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25).

Our prayers must not be offered from an unforgiving heart.

It is easy to see the harsh and unforgiving reaction of Josh’s grandfather, but harder to see our own heart as unforgiving. Yet what is our response when our neighbor lets their dog roam through our freshly planted flowers or when someone swiftly pulls into the parking space we have been patiently waiting for? How do you respond when you run into the woman you once called a friend until she shared your very sensitive and very private situation with others?

Jesus knows that forgiveness does not come naturally for us.

So much of Jesus’ teaching was about forgiveness. He taught that we are all sinners who have been forgiven and that when we recognize that hard truth, forgiving others should be our overflow response (Matthew 6:14-15).  He elaborated that we should be prepared to forgive others often and repeatedly (Matthew 18:21-22).  And, he knew we would be quick to point out others’ faults when he taught, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone.” (John 8:7).

Jesus modeled the way of forgiveness.

At the crucifixion Jesus’ arms were nailed wide open on the cross in the ultimate act of forgiveness. He laid down His life in order for sinners to be reconciled to the Father. Every sin, every time, has been forgiven for those who have faith in Jesus’ work on the cross (Ephesians 2:8).

This Easter let’s celebrate His Resurrection by opening our hearts and our arms to embrace those who we need to forgive – open the door to restoring the relationships that need restoring.

Written by Traci Martin.

 

A Testimony from Rachel Coward about The Amazing Collection: The Bible, Book by Book
I spent most of my quiet time in the summer of 2015 asking God for real connections with other believers. We had found a church home at Gateway’s Southlake campus, but I still felt like a random face in a sea of faces. I had been saved for many years but after having my daughter, I started pursing God with a new passion. I wanted more than church on Sundays, and I wanted friendships that were centered around God. Week after week, I made my requests to God – Lord please send me friends who desire to know you more…who will be real…who will accept me.
Each week at church, I would hear the senior pastor say – get plugged in – find a small group… so in a big leap of faith and discomfort, I decided to flip the switch, turn off my pride, and go where I felt like God was leading me.
On a Tuesday morning in September 2015, I walked the sidewalk to a complete stranger’s door and pulled up a chair. I sat in a room full of people I didn’t know, and God happened. I knew instantly that while I might not “know” these ladies it was clear that I was in the right place. I can tell you with complete clarity that I didn’t see myself doing a full study of the Bible. In fact, once I found out it was a 3-year study, I quickly felt overwhelmed and a little out of my element. Some days I would show up and it felt like I knew nothing, but I kept reading and pressing in to God’s word. Each week I learned something about God, myself, and how I saw God.
During the first year of TAC, I wrote these words in my Bible – Return from Exile. As I studied more of God’s word, I knew he was speaking to me specifically about my mother and the pain and rejection I felt surrounding her illness and death. God was changing things in my heart and part of me wanted to run. Instead, I kept reading…
In the final year of the study, as we read 2 Timothy and Paul’s instructions on endurance these words from one of the daily lessons stood out to me: Both community and solitude are used by God in our lives to fashion us into the kind of people he wants us to be (Workbook 10 at page 61). And there it was…the thing that had caused me to separate and isolate myself from people was the thing that God used to heal me. Book by book, word by word, He put the pieces back together. Those 3 years played out differently for everyone, but many of the women from The Amazing Collection study have become close and dear friends – truly answered prayer.
It is hard to put in to words what reading the Bible and working through The Amazing Collection study has done for my life, my walk with God, and my desire to be n God’s word. It is a true study of the Bible, but it’s so much more. From the workbooks, to the personal testimonies shared on the videos each week, the curriculum leads you through God’s word in a way that connects the dots.
I am currently leading year one of The Amazing Collection, and I am excited about the Bible in a way I never dreamed possible. The Bible is so much more than an interesting collection of stories. It’s my prayer that more women can experience a revival in their love for God’s word. The Amazing Collection facilitated that for me and I am thankful that I can do the same for others.
For information about Gateway Church, visit their website at gatewaypeople.com

For information about The Amazing Collection: The Bible, Book by Book visit our preview page at https://www.bigdreamministries.org/preview-materials/the-amazing-collection/

Written by Traci Martin

The need for discipleship

Jesus is amazing, but when I moved to the south, He was not on my mind. In fact, I don’t really think Jesus was on my mind even when I was in my childhood church. But that quickly changed when my husband and I transferred to Georgia. We were surrounded by Christians! They were everywhere, or at least it seemed so. As I observed them doing life, they seemed different to me. There was a positive outlook at the way they approached issues; they called it joy. There was an assurance that everything would work out for the best even when they were in crisis; they called it peace. And they talked about Jesus and to Jesus as if He was sitting right there with them. How they lived was attractive to me and I wanted what they had.

One night as I was home alone, I told Jesus that my life was His and it was a sweet time with the Holy Spirit. But then what? The only thing I knew to do was observe the other Christians in my life – and mimic their behavior. I fell right into the trap of legalism. Just tell me the rules and I will do or not do accordingly as a Christian. However, I did not need rules; I needed to be discipled.

Decades later, as I mentor young women who desire to grow spiritually, I recognize that discipling others is to teach them how to walk with the Lord.

But what does discipleship look like if it is not about adjusting behavior?

Jesus modeled how to disciple when He said to Simon Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). He was not inviting them to learn the “Christian rules” but to join Him in what He was doing. He started with the invitation to follow Him with the purpose of being redefined from “fishers of fish,” to “fishers of men.” Did they really understand what that meant? I don’t think so. We don’t read about Jesus implementing a rigorous training program; instead Jesus took them to a wedding where they witnessed His miraculous power of turning water into wine (John 2:1–11). They watched Jesus respond with godly authority when He cleared the Temple of money changers (John 2:13 – 25). And in amazement, the disciples observed Jesus offering hope to an outcast woman in an outcast city with the simple gesture of stopping at a well for a drink of water (John 4:126).  

Belonging

As Jesus was expressing His power, His authority, and His hope, he was giving the disciples a sense of belonging. They wanted to be with Him, but more impressively is that Jesus wanted them! These fishermen and tax collectors and other seemingly undesirable members of society were given an elevated status of belonging to this rising leader. As Jesus taught about the kingdom of God, they inferred that Jesus would be the one who would squelch the Roman occupation of Jerusalem; He would be the one to set them free. They did not understand the full picture of what Jesus was teaching until He explained the deeper meaning of the parables – only to His followers and disciples (Mark 4:10–12).

Believing

Jesus provided opportunities for His disciples to apply the lessons He had been teaching them. He healed the leper and then sent him to the priest to be declared clean (Matthew 8:1–4). He healed the centurion’s servant from afar with just a word (Matthew 8:5–13). And He healed Peter’s motherinlaw, and then she got up and served Him (Matthew 8:14–15). Think of the faith progression in these healings: the Hebrew disciples were not going to get close to a leper to examine his disease; they would leave that for the priests. They didn’t actually see the centurion’s servant, so they could not verify the healing for themselves. But Peter’s mother-in-law was a different story. She got up without any residual symptoms of the fever, and tended to Jesus’ needs. Even though Peter was an eyewitness to the healing power, he and the other disciples still had to grow in their own belief. When they thought they were perishing on a boat in a storm, Jesus rebuked them for their “little faith” (Matthew 8:23–27).

Fast-forward toward the end of Jesus’ discipleship training; the disciples are once again in a boat with choppy waters and high winds. This time Jesus was not in the boat with them.  Peter’s belief had grown tremendously as he climbed out of the boat to walk on the water towards Christ. While it was a short walk before Peter’s fear took over, it prompted the disciples’ declaration that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 14:22–33).

Behaving

Believing Jesus as the Son of God changes how we respond to the authority of the Bible and the teachings it contains. Jesus gave many sermons on how to live, how to interact with fellow mankind, and how to interact with God. He regularly chastised the Pharisees for their outward appearance of piety; in other words, their behavior was only religion (Matthew 23:27). But He offered grace and forgiveness for the sinner (John 8:1–11).

Believing in Jesus and knowing we belong to Him changes everything about us, including how we respond to people and situations in our lives. It is the difference between the Peter who denied Christ three times (Luke 22:54–62) and the Peter who was arrested for boldly preaching about Jesus (Acts 4:1– 20). Peter started as a Christ-follower and became a Christ-proclaimer; that is discipleship.  

Walk this Way

As we come alongside of new or emerging believers to disciple them, we are, in essence, teaching them to walk with Jesus. They may want a list of dos and don’ts to know “what would Jesus do,” like I did. Or perhaps the exact opposite is true and their life does not resemble anything godly. Our temptation is to try a “fix” their behaviors first.

Behavior is not the starting point for walking with Christ. Discipleship begins with understanding who Jesus is and who we are in Him. It must start with belonging – knowing they are loved unconditionally and there is nothing that can separate them from His love (Romans 8:35-39). For some, depending on their background, it could take a while for them to have assurance of this fact. However, once the love of Christ penetrates people’s belief systems, it changes them through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is then that the Bible becomes amazing for them and it is then that they want to obey the Word as an overflow of what has been done inside of them. Discipleship that works helps believers feel a sense of belonging, increases their belief, and thus, affects their behavior.

For more information about our engaging Bible Studies and teaching resources, visit us at www.BigDreamMinistries.org or email us at CustomerCare@TheAmazingCollection.com