Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Sunday School

Just open it and read

[First posted June 13, 2014]

What is the best way to read the Bible?

Just open it up and start reading. It’s that simple.

I quit attending church when I left home. I had heard all the old familiar Bible stories that are taught in Sunday School. I had also absorbed a lot of contradictory teachings in school, through the media and through the books and magazines I read. I had begun to consider myself too intelligent to believe the Bible. Some parts of it were probably true. If there was a God, He probably inspired people in ancient days to write the good stuff, but there was a lot in the Bible that just wasn’t believable. Sound familiar?

I started to get curious, though, and wanted to take another look at the Bible for myself. I didn’t want to be seen buying a Bible, though. Neither did I want to ask my parents if I could borrow a Bible. But I knew the place in my parents’ home where the old worn-out Bibles were stored. One weekend when I was home, I went to that old cupboard, selected a Bible that was pretty much intact and not too big and packed it away in my stuff.

I began to read, trying to separate fact from fiction, searching out the accounts that I found unbelievable and reading them from beginning to end. I found references to these accounts in other parts of the Bible and read them carefully. As I read more and more in the Bible, trying to understand the context in which these events happened and what the Bible writers were saying about them, I started to get the uncomfortable feeling that this wasn’t going to turn out quite like I had expected. I could see that a life based on the teachings of the Bible would be an admirable thing, but all the stories that I didn’t want to believe seemed to be inextricably linked to those teachings.

Jesus evidently believed that all that was written in the Old Testament was completely factual. Was He deceived? If He was wrong about that, how could He be right about anything?

Slowly it dawned on me that this collection of books, written by 40 different men over a period of sixteen centuries, was not a collection at all, but one unified book. I could not choose to believe some parts and reject the rest as mythology or mere records of often bloody history. There were only two choices before me: believe it all from beginning to end, or dismiss it all as a work of fiction.

It was at this point that a crisis arose in my life and the Bible revealed to me that I was a sinner destined to be forever rejected by God, unless I repented. I repented, without fully understanding the significance or the ramifications of what I was doing. My life changed at that moment, yet it took months, years even, for the full reality of that change to sink in.

So here is my advice for anyone who wants to read the Bible but is afraid of getting confused. Read the Bible. Get the whole story.

Don’t trust any Bible reading plans that chop the Bible up into little pieces and have you skipping here and there without ever really getting a picture of what is going on. Don’t trust books about the Bible to steer you right. There are Bible dictionaries and Bible commentaries that can be helpful, but don’t start out letting someone else guide you through the Bible. Let the Bible reveal itself to you.

It might be good to read accounts here and there to start with, but soon you will want to read books of the Bible all the way through to get a grasp of the context. Pray for direction. Once you begin to get some sense of what the Bible is all about, it would be a good thing to read the whole Bible through. Don’t bite off too much at one time, expect it to take four years to make it all the way through. Along the way you will find that the Bible “heroes” were really not very good people. And if you are honest with yourself, just at the point where you become indignant about the weaknesses and failures of David, Elijah or Rebekah, you will begin to see the same weaknesses and failures in yourself. That is why Jesus had to die.

You will never understand it all, and that’s OK. The Bible never gets old; there is always something new to discover.

Covetousness

Our Sunday School lesson yesterday was on covetousness, a word that some of us don’t know how to pronounce and none of us know how to define.

Covetousness seems quite long enough at four syllables, but some in our circles think it needs a fifth. They pronounce it cov et you us ness. That’s ridiculous, four syllables are quite enough to get the job done.  In fact, we might be better off if English had stuck with the French original: convoitise. That has only three syllables.

As for the meaning, this seems to be a slippery word, difficult to get a grip on. I looked it up in several dictionaries and didn’t find them helpful. Hence, after some meditation on the subject, I hereby propose two definitions of my own, which I think cover the gamut of what we mean to say when we use the word.

Covetousness: 1. the desire for more than what is good for us; 2. the desire for something that would lift us above the common run of people of our acquaintance.

There you have my contribution to the demystification (six syllables!)of the English language. Feel free to submit your own definitions, or to shoot mine down if you feel that is what is needed.

Riding a tricycle to church

This is a story about someone we met 25 years ago. I wish the details were a little clearer in my mind, but I will tell what I remember.

It looked like a beautiful day outside. Cindy got herself dressed, ate a bowl of cereal and ran outside to ride her tricycle. Her Dad and her older brother and sister were still sleeping. Her Mom had gone away and wasn’t coming back.

There was a faint sound of singing coming from somewhere. Cindy pedalled her tricycle in the direction of the sound. She crossed onto the next block, she saw a brick building with an open door and that was where the singing was coming from. She got off her tricycle and walked closer, then walked right in the door. Just then people got up and separated into groups. A lady saw her and asked, “Do you want to go to Sunday School?”

Cindy had no idea what kind of school this could be on a Sunday morning, but the lady seemed so kind that she went along with her. She heard a story like nothing she had heard before. When Sunday School was over she rode her tricycle home and told her Dad where she had been. Dad was surprised, but probably thought that wasn’t the worst thing she could have done that morning.

She went again the next Sunday, and the one after that and soon all the family knew that when Sunday came Cindy would be going to Sunday School. She started to get to know the people in the little church and one day realized the others didn’t go home when Sunday School was over. She decided to stay and see what happened next.

There was even more singing and then a man talked about God and about Jesus and about a place called heaven. Cindy decided church was just as good as Sunday School. She found out that the man who talked about God was the husband of her Sunday School teacher. Sometimes they would invite her to their home.

Dad didn’t quite know what to think about all this, but he saw that it made Cindy happy, so he allowed her to keep going. She was learning to be helpful at home, too. After a few years, Cindy announced to her Dad that she had become a Christian and wanted to be baptized. This was going farther than Dad had ever expected, but how could he refuse?

Thus it happened one day that Cindy made a public profession of faith, was baptized and became a member of the little church. And it all started with riding her tricycle to church one morning.

Just open it and read

What is the best way to read the Bible? Just open it up and start reading. It’s that simple.

I quit attending church when I left home. I had heard all the old familiar Bible stories that are taught in Sunday School. I had also absorbed a lot of contradictory teachings in school, through the media and through the books and magazines I read. I had begun to consider myself too intelligent to believe the Bible. Some parts of it were probably true. If there was a God, He probably inspired people in ancient days to write the good stuff, but there was a lot in the Bible that just wasn’t believable. Sound familiar?

I started to get curious, though, and wanted to take another look at the Bible for myself. I didn’t want to be seen buying a Bible, though. Neither did I want to ask my parents if I could borrow a Bible. But I knew the place in my parents’ home where the old worn-out Bibles were stored. One weekend when I was home, I went to that old cupboard, selected a Bible that was pretty much intact and not too big and packed it away in my stuff.

I began to read, trying to separate fact from fiction, searching out the accounts that I found unbelievable and reading them from beginning to end. I found references to these accounts in other parts of the Bible and read them carefully. As I read more and more in the Bible, trying to understand the context in which these events happened and what the Bible writers were saying about them, I started to get the uncomfortable feeling that this wasn’t going to turn out quite like I had expected. I could see that a life based on the teachings of the Bible would be an admirable thing, but all the stories that I didn’t want to believe seemed to be inextricably linked to those teachings.

Jesus evidently believed that all that was written in the Old Testament was completely factual. Was He deceived? If He was wrong about that, how could He be right about anything?

Slowly it dawned on me that this collection of books, written by 40 different men over a period of sixteen centuries, was not a collection at all, but one unified book. I could not choose to believe some parts and reject the rest as mythology or mere records of often bloody history. There were only two choices before me: believe it all from beginning to end, or dismiss it all as a work of fiction.

It was at this point that a crisis arose in my life and the Bible revealed to me that I was a sinner destined to be forever rejected by God, unless I repented. I repented, without fully understanding the significance or the ramifications of what I was doing. My life changed at that moment, yet it took months, years even, for the full reality of that change to sink in.

So here is my advice for anyone who wants to read the Bible but is afraid of getting confused. Read the Bible. Get the whole story.

Don’t trust any Bible reading plans that chop the Bible up into little pieces and have you skipping here and there without ever really getting a picture of what is going on. Don’t trust books about the Bible to steer you right. There are Bible dictionaries and Bible commentaries that can be helpful, but don’t start out letting someone else guide you through the Bible. Let the Bible reveal itself to you.

It might be good to read accounts here and there to start with, but soon you will want to read books of the Bible all the way through to get a grasp of the context. Pray for direction. Once you begin to get some sense of what the Bible is all about, it would be a good thing to read the whole Bible through. Don’t bite off too much at one time, expect it to take four years to make it all the way through. Along the way you will find that the Bible “heroes” were really not very good people. And if you are honest with yourself, just at the point where you become indignant about the weaknesses and failures of David, Elijah or Rebekah, you will begin to see the same weaknesses and failures in yourself. That is why Jesus had to die.

You will never understand it all, and that’s OK. The Bible never gets old; there is always something new to discover.

Hasn’t learned the rules yet

Last Sunday as we were walking up the stairs afterSunday School, I took note of our youngest minister and his youngest daughter ahead of me. Heidi, two years and almost four months old, was walking up the stairs beside her dad, her right in his.  In her left hand was the strap for her dad’s big Bible case (with the Bible in it).

I guess humour is in the eye of the beholder, but I found the scene both heart-touching and funny. When I was young, if a guy wanted to impress a girl he would offer to carry her books home from school. This little gal has got things backwards.

Getting the most out of church

Whenever I read that part of the Shepherd of Hermas quoted in yesterday’s post, it helps to re-calibrate the way that I view the church.  Am I seeing her as a feeble old woman?  Then I must conclude that there is some unresolved problem in my heart that is clouding my vision.

The church is more than the sum of its members.  There are people within the church whose attitudes and conduct may rub me the wrong way.  If I don’t think there is room for such people in the Bride of Christ, why would I presume to think there is room for me?  I may not see my own problems very well, but I suspect other people do.  And they still accept me.

Can we really expect to get much out of church if we don’t put anything in?  I don’t mean just money, though that is part of it.  But giving generously of our money isn’t enough to make us feel that we are truly part of the church.  Money isn’t even the most important part.  If I expect to be blessed in worship services, Sunday School and Bible Study discussions, but never contribute anything, those meetings will come to seem very flat and uninteresting.

Attending church is not meant to be a spectator activity where I am merely a passive observer.  At the very least, I need to pray for the preacher and his message.  I am part of what is going on here and need to hear the message the Holy Spirit has for me as the Scriptures are read and expounded.  If there is opportunity for lay people to take part in the service, by an introduction and prayer, by sharing a testimony, an experience or a message, and I never take part, I will be tempted to remember only the mistakes made by those who do.

There are so many ways we can make a contribution of our time and talents to the church.  We don’t need to wait to be asked, or to be elected to something.  There is much that can be done to help others who are members of the church and to reach out to the unsaved.  If we are obedient to the prompting of the Spirit, and don’t care if anyone is watching or not, we are part of the spiritual life of the church.

Sometimes we may find ourselves in a church that is not providing spiritual nourishment.  Before I say good-bye and go looking for a better church, it would be well to examine myself to see if the fault is within me.  Are other people being fed and I am not?  What is preventing me from getting out of church what others are receiving?

Finally, if there can be no doubt that the church is corrupt and unspiritual, I still should not rush out to join another church that is more to my liking, or where the pastor seems more friendly.  That will only lead to another disappointment and finally perhaps a disillusionment with the whole idea of church.

It will work much better to pray “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”  It may take some time for direction to come.  Meanwhile, it might be better to continue worshipping where I am while I check out the options and see if any of them are pleasing to God.  If we are honest in asking for direction, then eventually God will make His plan clear to us.  He does care for us and wants to place us in a nurturing spiritual setting where we can grow in grace to serve Him, and where our faith can be passed on to the following generations.

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