The other day I (Brian) told Mike I thought we should use the month of December to post gift ideas for you to give and to ask for this Christmas. Not to stoke the fires of greed or consumerism, but since you will probably buy gifts to give and also ask for things to receive, why not “redeem the time” by giving and getting things that will edify you and those you “gift” to? Why not glorify God and honor Christ’s birth at Christmas by making gifting all about helping others and exchanging things that direct your thoughts to Him?
So with that said, here’s our first idea for the season–two little books: “How to Study the Bible” and “Know Your Bible.” They cost a dollar each and would make perfect “stocking stuffers” or gifts for people with large groups of friends. (You want to buy two people a gift, but then you realize there are six other people whose feelings would be hurt…you get the idea.) For two bucks a person, you can give the gift of a better understanding of God’s word.
“How to Study the Bible” takes maybe an hour to read and gives you all the basic tools for learning to study God’s word on your own. We’ve given this out to a lot of you, so you may have seen it around. When we gave the first one to Ashley Longstreet, she came back and said, “I never understood how you guys got so much out of things when you did your studies. But now I think I understand how to do it!” (Or, at least, she said something like that. Ashley, can you correct me if I’m wrong?)
“Know Your Bible” simply gives a two page intro to every book of the Bible, including time and date when it was written, a summary of the book, key verses to know, and my favorite section called: “So What?” where they give you the main points of the book.
Check them out at the church bookstore and then think who could use them the most!
Also, if you have any gift ideas along these lines, let us know and maybe you can do a “guest post” to rep your God-glorifying idea.
If you’ve been out with us on Wednesday or Sunday nights, you know that we always announce that we offer an opportunity to give to a project run by Gospel for Asia called “Jesus Wells.” You can find out more about it at this web page, but the short story is that we can send money that they use to drill wells in places where there is no access to clean water. GFA drills the wells in front of a missionary’s house or in front of the local church, so that the Christians in that community can offer the well to the people of the town and share Christ with them. They recently sent us a bunch of pictures (some you can see hanging outside our office) and some letters we wanted to share with you. If you’ve been part of the several wells we’ve been able to purchase, enjoy reading these as part of the fruit of your giving.
“There was always a water problem in Upper Panjan; there are many people and only one well. Also, many times that well gave dirty water, and it was not sufficient for the people of Upper Panjan. So we really needed a Jesus Well here. Since the installation of the Jesus Well, the believers are relieved from the water problem. Now they can get good, clean water from a nearby location. There are 3 families who live nearby the Jesus Well. Now they can draw water from the Jesus Well. They do not need to go far for water. By God’s grace there were no problems or oppositions during the construction of the Jesus Well. Now, 20-30 people are blessed by the Jesus Well each day, and it is easier to share the Gospel since the installation of the well. Now we can share the Gospel at any time as they are very friendly to us. Whenever they come for drawing water, we can share the Gospel with them.”
“The people in this village were suffering due to a lack of available water. There are many sources of water in this area, but it is not healthy for drinking and cooking. The people boiled the water to purify it, but that took a lot of time and energy and was often not done. Therefore, the people were greatly in need of a clean water well in their area. Now that the Jesus Well has been installed in Peshukhu, the villagers are able to get clean and pure water for all their needs. Most of the people who come to draw water from the Jesus Wells are non-believers. The well is a very great blessing for the believers as well as the non-believers. More than 100 people draw water from this well every day. As a result of this well installation, another way is opened for the Gospel in this village. Now the pastor and believers are better able to share the love of Christ to their neighbors because of the Jesus Well. The well has demonstrated the Lord’s love for the villagers. Please pray for the salvation of the non-believers in the village.”
The registration forms for this year’s Winter Retreat are now available. Get one at church or download it here. This year our speaker is Zach Adams from Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain in Georgia. He’s a friend and we’re looking forward to having him. Just a reminder: The retreat does fill up, so don’t procrastinate if you want to come.
Tomorrow night we will study John chapter 21. This will be the last study in John, and we began a year ago almost to the day. That means we’ll be beginning to study a new book together, and we’ve decided on the Letter of James. (For all this, of course, we say: if the Lord wills it, we’ll do it–see James 4:15).
Have you ever noticed how Pastor Joe regularly says, “Read ahead,” as he finishes a study? It’s a great thing to make a habit: studying yourself what we are studying to gether in church. So before we get started in the next couple of weeks, here are some ideas to help you do your own self-study, either to get prepared before we begin or to study along as we go.
1. Visit a Bible website like http://mobile.biblegateway.com/ and use it to copy, paste, and print out the book of James for yourself. Make wide margins on the page, put your print-outs into a binder, and then grab a pencil and start studying along by making notes in the margins, circling (squaring, starring, etc…) things and drawing lines to connect ideas, blocking or underlining main ideas, making visual outline notes, and anything else that helps you see things in the letter. The idea is to be able to mark it up without worrying about having trouble reading that page in your Bible later. You can get the whole letter in the New King James Version here.
2. Get a journal to take notes in, and as you read give yourself questions to answer. For instance, you could read the letter all the way through and write out the main message of the letter in one sentence. Then try to rewrite the letter into one paragraph in your own words.
3. Look for any quotations from the Old Testament or from Jesus. Where are they from? Why does James use them?
4. Create your own outline of the letter. Making an outline is always a good way to help yourself understand a book of the Bible as a whole. (A hint: James is especially challenging because his organization isn’t always clear. I made an outline and then looked at one in a commentary and saw one that was completely different. I was a little worried until I read a note that said that most people come up with different ideas for the organization of the letter.)
5. If you never have before, check out one of these free online Bible websites: Blue Letter Bible or Great Treasures. They both take a little practice to use well, but they are both pretty powerfule study tools. And they’re both free.
6. If you’ve never used a commentary before, maybe you’ll want to go to the bookstore and pick one up to read along with. A cheap commentary that won’t overwhelm you with its word count is Guy King’s book on James called A Belief that Behaves. His books are very helpful, and you can get it in the commentary section of the bookstore.
6. Pick key passages and memorize them. This is one of the most fruitful ways for you to study and meditate on scripture. And, while you’re at it, why not consider something that you may think is impossible, but isn’t? Why not try memorizing the whole letter? If you think you can’t, check out our resources pages for ideas on how you might do it, and if you really want to try it, come talk to us for help.
Have you got any other ideas? Let us know and we’ll share helpful things with the group.
James’ letter is intensely practical and challenging. Let’s take this winter to seriously seek God in His word together and let Him shape our lives on wednesday nights.
We missed many of you who couldn’t make it for one reason or another (like a playoff football game), but it was great being with everyone who made it out on Friday. No injuries, great games, new faces, hot chocolate, highlight-reel action…you get the idea. Emma Witman was our photojournalist for the day. You can see all the pictures (team shots, action shots) here. Sam Gilmore drew the shirt this year (there are still some on sale–$10 gets you a piece of history).
While everyone was a winner, two teams didn’t lose any games…or win any games. Navy Blue and Black both tied all of their games (including a 3-3 tie when they played each other) for the never-before-accomplished record of 0-0-4. You can understand the triumphant looks on their faces in the two-team shot.
The Turkey Bowl shirts are printed, and they have been delivered. I have to say, they look great…
Any who would like to be part of the homeless dinner outreach on Sunday, the 12th of December, please email Brian or I and let us know. We have limited space in the vans. We will be leaving the church at 12:30pm and getting back around 5pm. If you would like more detail feel free to speak with one of us!
This one is for all the young ladies. We will be having our next girl’s tea on Sat. the 11th of December. We will be meeting in the CPAC from 10am-12pm. Please come and bring a female friend! No cost.
The Glammy’s are only a few weeks away, and we wanted to remind everyone of a few things:
1. Parents, please let us know if you’d like to bring a main dish, a side dish or dessert. Let us know if you’d like to serve as well. (You’re welcome to stay and watch the movies.) Email Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want info about meals and serving.
2. If you are not a parent, but a student, Remember that we need movie submissions soon (see the flyer for details) and also remember that you do not have to submit a movie to come.
3. Make sure you understand what “funky formal” means…
After I put up the last post, I realized that I left off the paragraph that connects the dots to our personal reading of the Bible. This is very helpful, so, here is what should have been the last paragraph in the previous post…
“Now, to be sure, there are questions about where we can find God’s personal words today, for he does not normally speak to us now as he did to Abraham…But the answer cannot be that God’s personal words are unavailable to us, or unintelligible to us. If we say either of those things, then we lose all touch with the biblical gospel. The idea that God communicates with human beings in personal words pervades all of Scripture, and it is central to every doctrine of Scripture. If God has, in fact, not spoken to us personally, then we lose any basis for believing in salvation by grace, in judgment, in Christ’s atonement— indeed, for believing in the biblical God at all. Indeed, if God has not spoken to us personally, then everything important in Christianity is human speculation and fantasy.”
He ends the thought like this: “Scripture, together with all of God’s other communications to us, should be treated as nothing less than God’s personal word.” Now turn off your computer and go let God speak to you in His word!