This morning Jenna looked at my wedding ring and asked, “Did mommy buy that for you for Christmas?”
I said, “No mommy got it for me when we got married.”
Jenna then asked, “Where was I at?”
I told Jenna, “You were not born yet.”
Jenna, “Was I staying at Grandma’s?”
Me, “No not at Grandma’s.”
Jenna, “Is that when I lived outside by myself?”
I generally don’t reread books as soon as I finish them, but I am currently rereading one. In May a friend was reading this book, and after looking through it, I knew I needed to read it. It is called Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent and Barbara Hughes. Kent has been in ministry for years and authored several other books.
I to often find myself comparing my ministry to others, discouraged because of numbers or lack of, and not seeing the big picture. This book is helping me to do this. The Hughes’ have dealt with failure and they write about that. They write about how God changed their mindset, and it has been extremely helpful, to me.
Part 1: How to teach through a book of the Bible
I recently just finished teaching through the book of Ephesians with our High School students. I think it went well, but a wise youth pastor once told me that you don’t fully understand the book until you teach it at least three times. And after teaching through Ephesians I would say he is spot on. There are many things I will do differently and better the next time I teach through Ephesians, but none the less it was a good practice.
As I taught through Ephesians here is a small sample of subjects I covered: sex, marriage, parents, anger, integrity, unity, spiritual warfare, and many others. The best part is since the first half of Ephesians is essentially explaining the Gospel, I got to talk about the rest of these subjects, in reference to how they relate to the Gospel. Many times I would ask how does anger or sex or unity, fit with the theme of the first three chapters of Ephesians. This made the Gospel practical. With all this being said, here are some things I would like to do better as I teach through books of the Bible.
- Get farther ahead: I realize this is difficult, but if I could have gotten 3-4 weeks ahead, I could have connected some passages together. The easiest way to get ahead, is have 2-3 lessons done before you even start the Bible study. This also helps when you have overwhelming weeks.
- Get better at outlining: As I got farther into teaching the book, I got better at following the structure and theme of the book. This is where a good commentary comes in handy. For Ephesians I used Peter O’Brien’s commentary. As difficult as this was with one of Paul’s letters, I know it will be much harder with a narrative book.
- Develop one concise memorable theme: The theme I used was building a life in Christ, and we made the Gospel the foundation of the building, and added to the building with each subject. There is construction imagery in Ephesians, that I don’t come close to completely understanding but it worked well. I wish that I had fully developed this all the way out before using it.
As I was teaching one of our church’s Bible studies, I made the comment, “Sometimes instead of putting our hope in God, we put our hope in what we want God to do.” I am absolutely positive this came into my mind and out of my mouth for me to ponder on. I had not planned on saying this, nor had I thought about this at all, when I was preparing to teach, but there it was.
Too often I put my hope in what I want God to do, and not simply in God. This sets me up for failure every time. Because when I put my hope in what I want God to do, I am really putting my hope in my own plans and dreams. My plans and dreams are flawed. My ideas are selfish and self-centered. And when things don’t work out the way I want, I get frustrated and mad.
If I put my hope in God then, I trust His will. I trust Him to do what is best for me. I do not get frustrated or mad, because I know God will do what is best. I rely on the one person who is in complete control, and always has not only my best interest at heart, but most importantly what will bring the most glory to Him.
This year I am reading through the Old Testament in chronological order. The reason for this is twofold: 1. I didn’t want to just start in Genesis and read to Malachi, 2. This will help put the big picture together also. I read through the New Testament a little differently.
For the past five months I have spent the majority of my time in only three books in the New Testament, first Matthew, then Romans, and now John. I have found reading a book over and over again has really helped in a number of different areas.
- I catch more repetitions doing this. I have certain words that I use over and over, and I believe the Biblical writers were the same way. In Matthew he uses words and phrases like “kingdom of heaven,” “to fulfill prophecy,” “hypocrites” in chapter 23, and “your father who sees in secret” in chapter 6.
- I tend to focus less on individual verses and more on sections or paragraphs. As I read through Romans over and over, I kept coming back to 5:1-11 and 6:20-23. This helps me put things in context, and not pull one verse out and attach a meaning to it that may or may not be true.
The danger in this is by reading something over and over you may begin to skim. The mind plays tricks on us and tells us that we have already read this, so we can move faster and be less focused. This is why I vary how I do it. Sometimes I take notes sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I read the book in two or three sittings, and other times I read a chapter or two at a time.
As you read this year, consider re-reading, it may open your eyes to things you have never seen before.