Posts tagged ‘bible study’

April 18, 2012

What’s Next

by pastortimfowler

I asked my church last Sunday night what they would like to study in the next few weeks. We are finishing up a study on anger and I like to see if they have any ideas that I can turn into a good couple of weeks of teaching. One of the suggestions was the men of the Bible. My wife teaches a women’s group on Wednesdays and they recently studied the women of the Bible. I am sure it was a great study, but I don’t do those kind of studies very well. It would be a great study, but I think I will leave it to my wife and her Wednesday night crowd to handle that. I am not sure what I will teach next.
Maybe I will start a basket weaving class. That way we keep our hands occupied and can take something home with us after we are finished. Everyone likes baskets and few folks nowadays know how to make one from scratch. If we get enough participation we can fill them with Easter eggs next year and sell them to the Easter Bunny.
Whatever I teach next I want it to be something that we can walk away from with an idea of how to do what we were studying. So many Bible studies just give us head knowledge. We walk out knowing something in our minds but have no idea how to put into our lives in a way that others see a difference. I really think that Jesus wants people to see how much we know by the way we act instead of how much we talk. Talking is the easy part.
I wonder what kind of Bible study it would be if we studied how Jesus and His teaching changed the way we act? Would it be a quick, one night study where we all agreed that we are doing fine? Would it be a boring night that is so boring no one will come back? Will it be weeks of talk about how messed up he or she is? Would it be a continual story of all the great things we think that we have done?
The Apostle Paul was an amazing fellow. He often had to talk about his self. When he did it was usually a defense of his calling into the ministry, because he was a very bad dude before he met Jesus or a reminder of the fact that before he met Jesus that he was a very bad dude. Paul said of himself that he was the worst of all sinners. He told people that he was nothing without Jesus and rarely talked about how good he was and never compared himself to others. He never bragged about his church or his group that he hung out with, but rather he bragged about God’s mercy and grace and calling in his life to preach the gospel.
The reason Paul talked like this is not because he spent time studying the deep secrets of the Bible. He knew them and for the longest time, before he met Jesus, went around quoting the Bible to people. He was a very religious man. Once he met Jesus, he got away from religion and started having a relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. He began to recognize that the less he talked about Paul, the more people would see Jesus. He showed people through his actions what he knew from the word of God. He lived each day as if it were his last and did not focus only on Sunday gatherings. One of his greatest teachings was to the church in Corinth when he taught about love. He said that even if he could do all things spiritual but did not have love, then it was all worthless. Love is the overwhelming factor that changes someone from a religious person to a person in a relationship with God. It changed Paul’s life.
Sounds like I may have found a good next topic for my Sunday evening Bible study.

March 6, 2012

Courageous Faith

by pastortimfowler

In our men’s Bible study last night we finished the Courageous study based on the movie Courageous. I was not thrilled about teaching it because I have not seen the movie and probably will not see it. I don’t like movies, even if I see them with my wife. But the study was not really the movie, but the life of Joshua and the courage he had to stay true to God. I love his story and his faithfulness.
At the end of the study we were told to read this: 1 Peter 3:15 But dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord. Always be ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect.
The challenge was to be courageous enough to share what God was doing in our lives on a regular basis. I love this verse and was thrilled when it was part of our closing for this study. The first thing it tells us is to dedicate our lives to Christ as Lord. Not to a Savior, although He is, but to a Lord. That means a master or ruler. We rarely have a problem submitting to authority. Sure there are a few folks who do, but your average person has no problems following the rules. If a policeman tells us to do something we do it because they have authority over us in certain situations. We do what our boss at work says and expect to be rewarded for when we do a great job and for the consequences when we don’t. But for some reason when God says do something we find a million excuses why we shouldn’t. That is not faith and it certainly is not courageous faith.
Next we are told to be ready to defend our faith. It is hard to defend what you don’t put into practice.The sad reality is that most Christians like the Savior of Jesus but not the Lord. We would much rather do what feels right or good and leave the tough Christian stuff to the professionals. We argue that the Bible really doesn’t say what it says and listen to people who have no formal training in the Bible as if they were the experts. We don’t ask our pastor because He might tell us what we don’t want to hear. That leads to the next part of this verse which always makes me uneasy about my own obedience. It says that we should be defending our faith to those who ask. Are people asking you about your faith. Not your church, but how you are acting because you are acting on what God says even if you don’t understand it. I have faith in the chair I sit in. It never fails me, although it could. I don’t know how it was made, and could not make it myself, but I trust it will support me, not just based on what the manufacturer says, but on how people have sat in chairs for years and now me too. That is faith. An action base on real belief not a wish and a desire to go to heaven. If Christians did what the Bible said, and believed that the Bible was the words of our Lord, not just our Savior, we may have more people asking us about our faith in God not our opinion of what the preacher says or an opinion about a church.
It is also very hard to explain something that we don’t really believe or understand. That is usually because we have not tried to understand it. Years ago I began to learn how to scuba dive. Now I am very proficient at it and can explain about anything you want to know about it. I can tell you exactly what you need to do to become a diver and I believe in the training that I received to save my life and yours if you chose to follow me. But I did a lot of study and training before I actually dove and still refresh my mind in the basics every time I go diving. I ask lots of questions of my instructor and those who I dive with me who have more experience. I never go to someone who only tells me that diving is dangerous and never trust someone who tells me my instructor is wrong. That could get me killed. I want to know who and what I am putting trust for my life in to. Who are you trusting to learn the Bible? How much effort are you putting into learning it and living how God says to live and what God says to believe?
Finally it tells us to be gentle and respectful while defending our faith. This is hard when you don’t really know what you believe. But if you are confident and like Joshua, have trusted God time and time again and seen Him come through for you, you will be confident and be able to be gentle and respectful. There is a difference in being gentle and respectful and being  pushed around because you aer weak in your faith. Jesus was a master at defending who He was and what He was teaching with amazing gentleness and respect. But He never let a religious nut mess with Him and teach something that was wrong. Jesus had courageous faith. Do you?

October 20, 2011

God Said No

by pastortimfowler

Last night I got a call from the church where the ladies of the church were doing their weekly Bible study. I was in the shower and usually don’t get calls, nor do I usually have my phone in the bathroom with me, but, it happened that this time I did. When I saw the number and realized who it was, I had thoughts of possible trouble, that is why I answered, but it turned out that they had a question about something that they were studying.
The study is about women in the Bible and this night they were studying a woman who was assumed to be able to talk to the dead and had been asked by King Saul to call up Samuel from the dead and to her surprise he showed up. The question was; did this woman actually call Samuel from the dead or was it a trick. When you read the text it can be a bit vague.
I do not believe this woman or anyone else had or has the power to talk to dead people. I believe that when you die you go straight to heaven or hell and people on this earth will not talk to you again because of some mystical powers. Now if God decides to let it happen, then I will believe it. But those instances are rare, at best.
God says many times in His word that people who claim to summon the dead and practice soothsaying and conjuring of spirits are evil. I am not talking about childish games and spooky fun, but I do caution people against that. I am talking about so-called mediums who practice this seriously. They are not of God and God does not use them.
I believe in this case, God, who knows everything, knew that these two would have this meeting and He sent Samuel back to mess them up. If you read the story, it did. I do not think nor believe that it had anything to do with her “powers” because there are no such things. If someone does actually talk to “someone” during one of these meetings it is not a person but a demon. Yes, I believe in demons. It was good enough for Jesus, its good enough for me.  God does not tell us to not do something because it is sinful, then change His mind and allow it to happen. When we read the Bible, this is important to remember and will help us to better understand the Bible. Keeping the focus on God’s holiness and His consistency will allow us to think of more logical explanations to scripture that may seen difficult to understand. It is important to know the context of the scripture,  read the whole account, then comparing it with the whole Bible and the facts and doctrines that run throughout it.
I know that there are always skeptics out there who are looking for ways to prove the Bible wrong or look for double standards, and I will admit that there are things that are very difficult to reckon with, but that does not mean that there are those things that these people are looking for. And my point is not to argue with anyone about these things either. I wanted to put it out that when you find yourself, as a Christian, struggling with something that seems to not make sense, those basic rules will help to sort it out.
My parents use to say something that I swore I would never do when I grew up and had kids. They use to tell us when we would ask why, “Because I said so”. I hated it and did not understand it, but I have now done it. Sometimes there does not need to be an explanation, especially when God says “no”.

October 10, 2011

Gratitude

by pastortimfowler

Yesterday in my series on Foundations of Our Faith, I preached about gratitude. It was one of the most rewarding Sundays that I have experienced in a while. For me to say that and you to get the understanding of it is difficult, because I am extremely blessed to pastor this church and every Sunday is rewarding. We average seeing 3-5 people each week come to know Jesus for the first time and the people who call this their home church are incredible in their pursuit of true Christianity. They love each other and they make those who come for the first time feel like they are welcome and like they can be themselves. They are unashamed to invite folks who don’t “do church” to come because they will not feel like an outsider or treated as if they are another notch in our cross or something like that.
So what was so special about this Sunday? I have to say that I am not sure that I can articulate it in a way that everyone will understand, but I will try. One thing that happens every week that freaks me out, is that people really listen to what I am saying. That shouldn’t be weird, but I have preached in churches where I thought that I was all alone and the building was full. But there was a different atmosphere this week. Every week these guys listen and I am thankful, but not only were they listening this week, but they were responding with understanding . When our praise band finished their last song, just before we did baptisms, the band was called back for an encore. Sure I may have started it, but the feeling was real. Then instead of people rushing out to get home, they all stayed as we baptized 12 people. It was funny to watch folks jockeying for position to take pictures and videos and then to see them posted on Facebook by the time I got home. We had kids as young as 8 and adults as old as 40 getting baptized for the first time and even had a whole family get baptized. It was fun. It was not a religious experience, it was a family affair. No one rushed out after the baptisms were through, most everyone stayed to clean up water, hug wet people, and laugh about the fact that we need higher ceilings so that we could flick lighters next week when they call the band back for another encore. The whole thing even spilled over to today, as I checked out Facebook and Twitter to see people posting how they were grateful for one thing or another.
It is experiences like this that make you grateful to be a Christian and for me to be a pastor. I have always taught that God does not want us to have religion, but rather He wants us to have a relationship. First, He wants a relationship with us, then He wants us to have a relationship with each others. I know that there are churches everywhere that say they have that type relationship, but I really think ours is special. Yep, I am a bit prejudice, but it is true. We don’t just hang out together on Sundays, but we hang out all throughout the week. Last week, about 30 women from our church spent the weekend at the beach together and skipped church. Something tells me they were more like what God intends the church to be during that time than most people an any given Sunday. Friday and Saturday of this week there were 9 of the guys took off for a motorcycle ride around the perimeter of South Carolina for no other reason than to hang out with each other and have some fun.
To wrap up Sunday, after our evening Bible study, about 20 of us went to eat at IHOP. Moms, dads, kids, pastors and lay people, just eating and laughing. Nothing organized, nothing fancy, but everything about it screamed, “we love each other”. The Bible says that people will know that we are disciples of Jesus by the way we love one another. I think people know this about our church, and although I have felt this for a while, this Sunday it all just seemed to come together in every way.
Nothing says you believe in what you are doing better than having a grateful heart and showing that heart to others. That is what made it all so special: gratitude.

September 13, 2011

Doing What We Are Told

by pastortimfowler

I hate getting older, but considering the option, I think hate is too strong of a word. Last night our men’s Bible study group met over at one of our group member’s house and helped rip out flooring in order to put in new sub-flooring. I was working with a crow-bar and my back was yelling at me to stop. There was a time when that stuff didn’t bother me but now I hate to admit that it does.
My dad always told me to work hard at whatever I was doing. He said that the results that you get will be equal to the effort that you give. I wish he would have told that to some of those boards that were not coming up no matter how much effort I put into it. My siblings and I were raise in a very strict environment and were taught that when a grown-up told you to do something, you did it, no questions asked. I am thankful for that now that I am older and trying to be a better Christian by trying to do what God says do. I am not trying to be better to earn favor, because God already loves me as much as He can, but I want Him to be please with my faith.
Faith is a strange thing to some. Many people think that faith is the gauge of how great of miracles you can do, but I believe it is more about gauging anything that you do. The truest of faith comes when we do the things that we don’t even think about. I never think about sitting in a chair before I do it because I have faith in the chair. Faith is real belief, not wishful thinking that it will be okay. Often my faith is tested when I know what I am suppose to do but struggle with the actual task at hand because of my own personal desires being contradicting to it.
So, The Bible tells us to bear each others burdens. Sometimes that is being a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. Sometimes it is answering the call in the middle of the night to help someone who is tempted or even has fallen to that temptation, and other times it means canceling a Bible study to go help someone tear up a floor. As a pastor I have faced each of these and the last was the hardest. My back hurts even before the work and I am not a construction or even destruction minded person. I get intimidated by those things and often feel in the way instead on helping. It would have been so much easier to have the Bible study for those who “couldn’t make it” to help and to send others to do what I was not willing to do. But if that happened, I would have never experienced the joy of seeing almost three fourths of the men in my Bible study show up to work hard for a few hours. I would have never had the prayer that I prayed answered and I love seeing God immediately answer prayers.
What was the prayer? I was in the middle of a great big grunt to pry off this stubborn piece of plywood and all of the sudden a felt a sharp pain in my lower back. The board did finally come up but my back began to have spasms and I said please Lord, don’t let me have to quit right now. What I didn’t notice was that this was the last piece that we had to get up and that we were finished for the night. BAM! God answered my prayer. My back still hurts and the spasms continued for a few minutes, but I didn’t have to quit, it was just time to quit.
We finished the night by thanking everyone for helping and reminding everyone of this verse: Galatians 6:2 ~ Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings.
We did not walk on water and we didn’t heal my back but, our faith was in action by doing what we were told.

August 26, 2011

Just Talk To Me

by pastortimfowler

Copyrighted photo  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ithicuspictures/2852196227/

 

I had the privilege of sitting in on our Thursday night Lady’s Bible study last night. It is one of the perks that comes with being the pastor. The study was on how to have and effective prayer life and the discussions were interesting and thought-provoking. You would be amazed at how much women can talk when they get together.
When I was a new Christian I use to love listening to the old deacons of the church pray. They had the deep voice and spoke like they were from England only with a southern accent. They would say stuff like, Thou art holy and righteous and henceforth we must be cleansed of our unrighteousness and go hither to over yonder, thus saith the Lord for ever and ever Amen, or something like that. It sounded good and for the longest time I was obsessed with reading Shakespeare and the King James Bible so that I could pray like that.
As I read the Bible more and more I got the feeling that I was not getting this prayer thing right. God was talking to me through His word, and if I did not use the KJV I could get some plain English from God, and, I never really understood why God wanted to talk like that to begin with. The guys that Jesus chose to follow Him back then did not talk to Him like He was in a stage production. They just had a conversation with Him. They would talk, He would listen, then respond and so forth, hither to…(LOL). I got to thinking that maybe our prayers that we hear so much in church are not as much talking to God as they were a speech for others to hear.
It was about 15 years ago that I heard this man praying at a conference that I think I started wanting to quit giving speeches and start talking to God. It happened a couple of times before I got it, but he would start praying and it sounded as if he had just quit talking to the audience and started talking to someone else, God. I did not even catch the fact that he was praying until I looked and saw that he had bowed his head. Then I realized that was how I spoke to my wife, with head bowed in reverence, and he must be talking to God. So I started trying to talk and not sound different. It as hard, but something about it felt good.
Later, like about 2 years ago, I learned another really cool thing about prayer from someone else who prayed different from the rest of us, my grandson Nicholas. He would just switch gears and talk to God as if He was right there in the room with us. Once he heard me tell my wife, with my head bowed, that my back hurts and I wished it would stop because the next day I had something to do that hurt backs did not mix well with. Nicholas looked at me and asked if he should pray for me. I said sure, and he did. “Jesus. You heard that Papa’s back is hurting and tomorrow he needs it to feel better, so when he wakes up, please make it feel better. I will be sleeping in Mimi’s bed and he will be on the couch, that way you will know where his back is. Thanks” Then he continues talking to everyone else in the room. I am glad he told God where I would be that night because strangely enough my back felt better the next morning. I have heard him pray about any number of things and it always seems as if he is talking to someone right there with him. Maybe that is because God is always right there with us and not sitting up in heaven waiting for us to sound all holy and old.
For a Christian we are told that God is our Heavenly Father and we have been given the right to call Him Daddy. The only time I ever talked to my dad with Victorian English I think I remember getting whacked and told not to be a smart a–. Most of my conversations with dad were right there, right now and real. I talked perfect southern English, much like I do today, and dad understood and responded like a dad should.
God wants us to pray. Prayer is modeled in the Bible over and over. Most of it is a man of woman talking to someone they love. It was not in Victorian English or any other English, it was translated from the language of that day. I think that when we are told to pray without ceasing and to pray about everything, God is saying…Just talk to me.

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