Getting the basics

I teach a weekly Bible Study at a safe house for women. We have been studying lately about general Bible literacy; understanding how the Bible is laid out, the categories of books and their names. Just learning the order of the books in the New Testament has been a big challenge for most of them. 

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In keeping with the season, last week I brought up the subject of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Although all but one of them claimed to have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, their knowledge about these events and their significance was very sketchy. They didn’t know that Jesus descended before He ascended, that He took upon Himself the sin of humanity. They weren’t sure who crucified Him, or for what reason. They had very little knowledge about the time Jesus spent with his disciples between the resurrection and His ascending to heaven. 

I feel that I have an important responsibility to help them understand truths like these. But sometimes I really wonder how widespread this lack of knowledge is? Are we assuming that people know basic truths just because we are so familiar with them? Could this lack lead to a loss of faith later on when times get tough and they don’t have the assurance of their salvation? 

I think these questions are important. I would not want to be guilty of teaching a lot of doctrines of details, or just interesting facts and stories. At this stage they need the “pure milk of the word” ( Peter 2:2) so that they can “grow up to salvation.” 

Certainly our personal relationship and fellowship with God is more important than our knowledge about Him, but I am convinced that what we know will profoundly affect that fellowship. We are so privileged to have free access to His Word to help us build that relationship so strong that it will stand any test. 

  • Have you encountered similar situations? 
  • How have you dealt with them? 
  • How can we encourage people to strengthen their core beliefs?

Propagating the Kingdom

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I enjoy my plants. In past years I have had (some enormous) vegetable gardens and even done some landscaping. Now that I am living in an apartment, my own garden has been reduced to a patio full of containers, but it is still great therapy for me to get out and work with them. 

It’s easy for me to understand why Jesus kept referring to plants to illustrate spiritual truths. I frequently learn principles about the Kingdom of God while I am planting, pruning, pulling weeds, or harvesting. One of my greatest gardening pleasures is propagating the plants I have (and I have to admit my patio is getting quite full!). 

From my experience, I have found basically three ways that I can get more plants from the ones I have:

  1. Planting their seeds (intentionally or voluntarily)
  2. Taking cuttings and rooting them
  3. Dividing and transplanting

The other day when I was on the patio with muddy hands planting dozens of aloe vera babies (I could go into business, seriously!) it dawned on me how these methods also apply to discipleship in the Kingdom of God:

  • Seeds: An idea takes root in us and grows. It begins as something so small that we often don’t notice, but grows so large that we must investigate, follow, dedicate ourselves to it. Sometimes it is sown intentionally, or it can seem like chance – although in God there are no coincidences. A seed can be a book, a teaching, a relationship, or even just a comment. 
  • Cuttings: There are times when God will sever us from what is familiar, and insert us into new surroundings. Roots will grow and talents will develop in ways that we might never have imagined before, and instead of just being a part of something already established we find ourselves at the center of something new. Our influence in other people causes the work to branch out and grow.
  • Dividing: In the security of community, new life buds and grows alongside those already established in the faith. Through nurturing relationships these young sprouts develop strength and purpose. They will often grow to the point that they will need more space in order to be healthy, and will repeat this pattern in their relationships with others who are new in the faith. 

However it happens, the result is growth. Personal growth, community growth, Kingdom growth. 

Have you seen these principles at work in you or in those around you?

What other factors have caused you to grow and change?

Seeing life through the macro lens

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Although I am not a professional photographer, I find much pleasure in taking pictures. Some of my favorite themes have always been sunrises, sunsets, and panoramic scenery. I am amazed at the way that our Creator continues to paint our surroundings, and often only lasting a few brief minutes. It makes me sense my smallness in the universe, which sometimes is humbling, but always reassuring that my Father loves me and cares for me, yes, even me!

Lately, though, I have begun to enjoy taking shots of small wonders, close up. Focusing on what is very near me has shown me how much I miss, the details that I too often ignore.

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It seems that my life in general is taking on this type of focus. I looked up the dictionary definition of “macro lens” which is: a camera lens designed to focus at very short distances with up to life-size magnification of the image. 

I read recently someone’s comment that few people’s lives are changed by words spoken to a multitude, but more are changed by what is spoken to them directly one-on-one or in an intimate gathering. Considering the influence that others have had in my life, I have found this to be generally true.

Even Jesus had different results with the multitudes than with his disciples. The same multitudes that wanted to make him king changed their mind to crucify him, but his twelve received his word and were transformed. 

I would much rather make a bigger difference in the lives of a few than a fleeting impression on many. Seeing with a macro lens I can “focus at very short distances” and bring out the glorious detail of God working his plan in people’s lives. Then the world can see the “life-size magnification of the image” – God’s image – as we are changed from glory to glory.