Written by Pat Harley
The timing was all wrong for sure. There was something more exciting on the other side of the room and so I had lost my audience.
It was Christmas Morning and, as is our tradition, each one of my family including my husband and our then-young two young daughters, gathered early to give our gifts to Jesus. This always comes first before we dive into our own Christmas presents. Now this is not a complicated thing. Beloved had written a poem, Jenna had learned a violin piece and Cameron ( the youngest) had drawn and colored a picture of the nativity scene. I had written a story entitled Meshed and the Messiah. (more…)
Libby came into class beyond excited! Now she could see! She could see what her husband was talking about. She could see what her friends were talking about. She grew up attending church and heard all the Sunday school stories about Jesus, but she could not see what the consuming passion for Him was about. In fact, Libby was pretty annoyed with Joseph’s new found love for Jesus. Joe had been challenged to read through the gospel of John with a co-worker who practically dared him to stick with it until the end. Libby didn’t hear her husband talk much about his time reading the Bible, but she definitely noticed some changes in him. He was a bit more patient with their boys; he was a bit more helpful around the house, and he was a bit less sarcastic – and she was not complaining! However, Libby was dumbfounded when Joe returned home early from work one day and announced that he was born again. She just couldn’t see what he was talking about.
At Joe’s urging Libby reluctantly joined the women’s Bible study at a local church. They were teaching The Amazing Life of Jesus Christ so she thought she would start there. Now, 9 weeks after she reluctantly started the Bible study, she could see Jesus for who He is and the sacrifice He made on her behalf. She was no longer confused; her eyes had been opened so that she could see the truth of Jesus.
Jesus’ Disciples Couldn’t See
Following Jesus’ resurrection, His followers couldn’t see the truth about Him either. Cleopas and his friend had been in Jerusalem for Passover when the city was reeling with the news about Jesus’ crucifixion. These men were His disciples; they had known His teaching and they believed and desired Him to be the long-awaited Messiah. The problem was that they only saw what they wanted to see about Jesus. He said He was coming back after three days, yet instead of anticipating His arrival and waiting in Jerusalem, these two disciples were heading home to Emmaus. When Jesus joined them on the road, they didn’t recognize Him (Luke 24:13-16).
Jesus, always a teacher, questioned the travelers about their conversation, drawing out all that they knew about Him and the events that had taken place. They relayed the facts accurately, even the women’s report of Jesus’ body being missing. Yet, the two still could not see Jesus right in front of their eyes (Luke 24:17-24). When they had finished their account of the events surrounding the weekend, Jesus spoke to them.
“O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to enter into His glory?” ~Luke 24:25-26
Jesus Uses Scripture to Open Their Eyes
Then Jesus reviewed all the Scriptures written by Moses and the prophets – highlighting how they pointed forward to Him. What a Bible study! Even with the detailed exposition of the Scriptures, Cleopas and his friend still could not see Jesus. It was not until later in the evening when Jesus broke bread with them, that they were able to receive not only the bread, but their spiritual sight – they could see Jesus and couldn’t wait to share the news. Once the men moved beyond knowing only the facts about Jesus, to receiving Him, they were able to see.
Bible study teachers have the privilege of walking students through the Scriptures, pointing to Christ along the way. The Bible is more than a historical narrative of what has occurred; it contains the very words we need to know about Jesus. When we teach the Bible with the purpose of knowing the Lord better, every book, every chapter, and every word will point to Christ. As we see Christ portrayed, His heart is revealed over and over again – and the Holy Spirit will affect a person’s heart and open their eyes.
Bible Studies Are a Lens to See Jesus
Everyone attending Bible study needs to see Jesus in a fresh and comforting way. Students attend studies for different reasons. Some are committed to learning more about Christ. Others come to satisfy their need for companionship or curiosity. We have heard countless testimonies from people taking The Amazing Collection: The Bible, Book by Book or The Amazing Life of Jesus Christ that the truth of Scripture and Christ is revealed to them as never before.
Let us never to be so accustomed to Scripture that we only learn the facts, but rather approach each and every study with the prayer, “Open my eyes that I may see!”
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.
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/
I love YouTube! There is so much information available; you could practically earn a PhD. I have learned how to study more effectively, how to fix my office chair, and how to rehab my sore knee. The range of topics is endless. And the sources! There are all manners of social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like. Search engines seem to know the perfect answer to the questions I ask, from where to find the best Mexican restaurant in my area to understanding complex medical conditions. It is amazing how the suggested posts or videos appear to be on point with topics I am interested in. I thoroughly enjoy the advantages of the World Wide Web.
But it is a bit, ok, a lot creepy, as well. My daughter and I were having a conversation about her recent interest in a potential career as a flight attendant. About an hour later she picked up her phone to scroll through social media and there was an ad to train to be a Delta flight attendant. The timing was more than coincidental. After a bit of research, we discovered how new phones can “listen” to your conversations and target advertising specific to what they hear. We changed our privacy settings to prevent that from happening again.
Not only do we have to be careful of our devices listening to us, we have to be careful of who we listen to.
As I was listening to a really good episode of a Christian ministry discussing the keys to healthy marriages, YouTube suggested another video on marriage from an unfamiliar counselor. The title was intriguing, so I listened. The first 2/3 was good teaching. However, the last 1/3 took a drastic turn into not only unconventional, but unbiblical, teaching. I don’t know if the computer linked the topics to suggest the video or if the counselor targeted Christian marriage ministries, but either way it was not good counseling and was even downright harmful.
To Google a question such as “Where in the Bible can I find the story of David and Bathsheba?” will give a very objective answer to point you in the right direction to find what you are looking for. But to Google a question that needs more of an interpretive answer could be tricky. There are millions of voices that feed the answers on the Internet and you have to be careful who you invite into the conversation of research. Without a solid understanding of Scripture, the multitude of “opinions” on the Internet could muddle any topic.
As we try to gain deeper understanding of Scripture, how do we know what is accurate? How do we discern what information is truthful and helpful to our understanding? How can we gain biblical wisdom?
1 Thessalonians 5:21 instructs, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.”
We are going to grow in understanding and wisdom by taking steps to properly examine what we hear.
Growing in knowledge and understanding of God’s Word keeps us from being deceived and grows us in His grace. While there is no shortage of information available, the more we focus on learning Scripture, the more we can discern what is truthful and helpful. Listening to the right voices is the key to applying truth to our lives – that is wisdom.
Written by Traci Martin
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.
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 4:1–26).
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).
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 mother–in–law, 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).
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.
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