I was just reading over some of the units I have studied and I came across three that I thought that might be useful to some people. They are available at ChristianCourses.com.
Ten Reasons to Believe in the Existence of God
Some have proposed that the belief in God was invented by people who needed a sense of protection and spiritual meaning. Yet despite these kinds of challenges, there are convincing evidences that support a belief in the God of the Bible. Students are guided into examination of the limits of science, the argument for intelligent design in nature, and the claims of Christ relative to deity.
Ten Reasons to Believe in the Bible
In a world full of religious books, all claiming authority over the lives of their followers, is there good reason to believe the Bible is any different? Any better? Any more reliable? The source of spiritual authority we choose to commit our lives to will impact how we live and who we become. Students learn why they can have confidence in the teachings and wisdom of the Bible.
Ten Reasons to Believe in a God Who Allows Suffering
Students are challenged to wrestle with difficult issues of faith. One of those is the reconciliation of the power and love of God with the suffering that occurs in our world. Students discover that difficult questions about unexplained suffering find satisfying and understandable answers in the pages of Scripture.
They are available for free or you can pay a small fee and they count towards a recognised Degree program. You can find more information here.
One of the things I have started to do recently is look at how some of the Bible books start and how they end. I try to find the spiritual “bookends”.
As I was thinking about the book of Psalms recently I found that Psalm 1 talks people being blessed if they meditate on God’s Word day and night. It says they are like trees planted by streams of water that produce fruit in season.
Fast forward 149 chapters to Psalm 150. This talks about praising God with dancing and all types of instruments. It finishes with “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD (v6).”
As I pondered this I realised that the more I read about and meditate on God and His ways, the more I want to praise Him with all of my life. It makes me want to dance, sing and make a joyful noise that Psalm 100:1-5 talks about!
Finding the spiritual bookends of a Bible book can be a great devotional tool to keep you praising God.
I recorded a new free MP3 audio today. It is some thoughts I have put together from John 15:1-17 and titled, “Vines and branches”.
I have also added some sermons I did towards the end of last year that were recorded. If you are interested, you can find them here.
Several years ago I shared some reflections on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18 in a post titled, “Living to please God”. You can find it here. In this post I focussed on the following four thoughts…
- Live in purity (v3-8)
- Show brotherly love (v9-10)
- Be a good testimony (v11-12)
- Have hope in Christ’s return (v13-18)
This week I have been reflecting on this again. At first I wasn’t sure if I had posted about it before. I found it interesting that I came up with the same four points, but another thought really jumped out at me too.
The phrases found in verses 1 and 10 spoke to me. Verse 1 says, “Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” In verse 10 it says, “we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more“.
The Greek word “Mallon” is used here in both verses for “more”. It means “more, much more, to a greater degree, better or in a greater way”. It is about growing and improving at living right and living to please God.
I just found this really interesting. Paul didn’t want the Thessalonians to be content and feel like they have made it, but he wanted them to keep striving to grow and improve in love and living right.
I think this is a good point for us today too.
I am still reflecting on John 15:1-17 and the vines and the branches at the moment. The last few days I have been thinking about the pruning of the Father for fruit in the right places.
In the picture above I am trimming my tomato bushes. I am trimming away the new branches that are wanting to grow at the base of the plant. They are trying to grow where I don’t want them to be.
As I shared a few days ago, branches that grow too close to the ground are prone to fungus and other diseases due to water and soil splashing on them. So I prune them so they grow up higher and in the right place.
For us as Christians our life and ministries can be like this too. We start growing new things and producing fruit in different places. While the fruit is good, it might not be in the place the Gardener wants us to be.
In my own life and walk with God I can look back and see where I was producing fruit, but God prompted me to stop and move on to something else. He pruned my involvement and placed me somewhere else.
At first I have thought this is going well why change? But in time I realised I wasn’t in the best place to produce the best fruit. The secret is to be located on the right place on the Vine to produce the biggest shiniest fruit possible.
As John 15:8 says our role is to produce good fruit that bring glory to God, but the key is do go it in the right place. Are you in the right place on the Vine?
Today I want to share another reflection on John 15:1-17 – the true vine and the branches. As I reflected on this passage I came up with three thoughts.
1. We need to remain under the Gardener’s care (v1-4)
Verses one and two talk about the Father being the gardener that trims and prunes the branches of the vine. As Christians we are the branches that are connected to the Great Vine of Jesus. Our job is to bear fruit that brings glory to God. We need to remain under the Gardener’s care and allow Him to trim and prune our areas that don’t bring forth fruit.
2. We need to remain attached to the vine (v5-8)
Just as a branch that is cut off from a tree or vine quickly withers and dies in hot sun, so do we as Christians if we lose our connection to Jesus. We remain connected to the vine by believing that Jesus is God’s Son (1 John 4:15), by remembering we are part of His eternal family (John 1:12) and by doing what God says (1 John 3:24).
3. We need to remain in God’s love (v9-17)
As Christians it is vital to stay in God’s love. How do we do this? We keep loving God with all our hearts, minds and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37), we keep obeying His commandments in the Bible (John 15:10) and we keep loving one another as He has loved us (John 15:12). When we make these things a priority, we remain in God’s love.
The Results of Doing this?
The results of remaining under the gardeners care, remaining attached to the vine and remaining in God’s love are that we will bear much fruit (v5), we will walk with God as friends (v14) and our joy may be complete (v11).
Several weeks ago I started reading and reflecting on John 15:1-17. This is the section where it talks about Jesus being the true vine and we are His branches.
After I read it the first time I went outside to see how my tomato bushes were going. As I looked at them I still had the imagery of John 15 in my mind.
I soon realised that the bushes were overgrown and even though they had produced a good crop of tomatoes, I decided to get out my clippers and give them a trim.
As I trimmed I remembered what the garden experts said to do. They suggest you trim off the low branches as tomatoes don’t like it when the soil splashes up from watering. Apparently it can cause fungus and leave them open to infections.
Once the low branches were cut off the bushes started to look better. I then decided to re-stake them and train the remaining branches along the wire I had set up.
When I had finished I stood back and just looked at my work. It looked much better and they looked ready to produce the next crop of tomatoes.
The funny thing is that when I was packing up my tools I had a profound feeling of being like the Great Gardener (v1). I had cared for and trimmed my tomato bushes so they would be healthier and produce more fruit.
Just as I was the gardener for my fruit, God is the Gardener for us as Christians. He trims off our dead branches that will not produce fruit. He trims off the low branches that may be infected and He trains along the right path.
This simple illustration helped me to further understand John 15 and the vine and the branches metaphor. In the coming days I will some more reflections I have had on John 15.
I was just having a look of the units I have studied at Bible College this morning. They really start to add up if you stick with it over time.
I have done these units either as a full time or part time student. I started at Perth Bible College in the 1990s, through ChristianCourses.com (2005-2006) and more recently at Tabor Adelaide (2008 on).
As I look at the list of units I have a sense of achievement, of growth and learning and I feel a bit tired when I think about all of the assignments and deadlines!
Anyway, here’s the list…
- Creative Living (Living in the image of God)
- Understanding God and Ourselves
- Introduction to the Old Testament
- Introduction to the New Testament
- Survey of the New Testament
- Survey of the Old Testament
- Introduction to Christian Belief
- Introduction to Biblical Interpretation
- Introduction to Christian Counselling
- Understanding Human Behaviour
- Pastoral Care (Inside and outside the church)
- Ministry of the Spirit
- Pastoral Ethics
- Soteriology – Doctrine of Salvation
- Personal Evangelism and Sharing your faith
- Public Speaking and Preaching
- Understanding Culturally Appropriate Mission
- Facilitating Individual Learning
- Working Effectively with Young People in a Youth Work context
- Undertake research activities (researching a church culture or local area)
- Equipping with the Gospels
- Equipping in the Christian Faith
- Guide to Christian Growth
- Ten reasons to believe in the existence of God
- Ten reasons to believe in the Bible
- Ten reasons to believe in Christ rather than religion
- Ten reasons to believe in a God who allows suffering
- Ten reasons to believe real Christians can look like they are not
It has been hard work, like any studies I guess. But in a way Bible College is harder because you have all of the personal growth and attitude changes that need to take place in the midst of it too.
If you are thinking about doing some Bible studies I would encourage you to do so. The work you do lasts not just for this life…it lasts for all eternity!
I have heard of the S.O.A.P. idea of reading and applying the Bible before, but I was reminded about it by Mark Conner on his blog today. Here is what he wrote…
“As you do your daily reading, consider using the following devotional format:
Scripture – write out a verse or two that speak specifically to you today.
Observation – make a note of what you observe in the text. What was happening back ‘there and then’?
Application – write out how God’s Word applies to your life. What does this mean to you ‘here and now’?
Prayer – write out a prayer of response to what God has said to you.”
I really like it because it helps you to read, reflect and apply the Bible to your life.
I would encourage you to try this by reading one chapter of the New Testament a day and use “SOAP” on any verses that jump out at you.
One of the things it is easy to do is make assessments or judgements about people, churches or ministries from a distance without actually speaking to them or knowing the full details.
In Acts 10:1-48 we read about Peter and Cornelius. Peter went to Cornelius’ home and ministered to him, his workers and family. As he was a non Jew, Cornelius would have been considered unclean and to go to his home and eat there would be not right for a practising Jew.
In Acts 11 we see that some of the Christians who were converted from Jews in Jerusalem were upset with Peter that he would do this. When he returned they asked him about it. In Acts 11:1-18 we see that Peter explains his actions. He told about his vision and how that when he preached God poured out the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles.
When the believers in Jerusalem heard Peter’s explanation they accepted it was of God. In Acts 11:18 says, “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
The important thing about this situation is they actually spoke to Peter in person. They had a problem with what he did and they spoke to him about it. When he told them what happened they accepted his explanation and praised God. They didn’t just make their judgements from the outside and talk to everybody about it. They got the story straight from the horses mouth.
I think this is a good example for us to follow as Christians. It is too easy to make our assessments from a distance. We need to speak to those involved and get the full story of what actually happened.