I happened across this cool photo of the earth today. When I step back and look at our planet, I realize how small we really are compared to the sheer immensity of it. I’m struck by the beauty of it, even from a distance into space. It helps me to understand how all the small pockets of beauty (and not so beautiful places) fit into the whole and increases my appreciation for it all.
An interesting side-discussion occurred in my Introduction to Theology class today at the Seminary. We were talking about teaching the Christian faith to students and how the catechism is constructed towards this end. Often, confirmation is about memorizing statements about what we believe. We focus on the smaller beauty (or not so beautiful, depending on your feelings towards the catechism…) and miss the larger picture.
Those truths were all drawn from the larger backdrop of Scripture, but we focus only on a key verse here or there rather than the whole. The small things are important, but so is the big picture.
At Cornerstone and Crossroads, we look to teach the close-up details and truth of the Bible, but put them in the context of the larger picture. Our large group teaching time explores the details, while our small group time allows students to dig into the bigger picture as a group as we focus on a story from Scripture that emphasizes the key point we’re teaching. It’s why we believe the 1-Minute Bible is a great resources for students (Email me if your student wants a copy) as it helps them understand the big picture while developing a habit in their lives. It’s why we try to tie our events into the greater picture of the Scriptures, using stories that relate to our activity whenever possible.
I’m thankful for the close-up, detailed descriptions of what we believe that have been developed over the years. But I’m also thankful for simple stories from the Bible that give us the big picture about God.
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)
May you see the big picture in the little baby this Christmas!
One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld is when we first get introduced to the now famous “Soup Nazi.” His famous line, of course, is quoted in the title.
Browsing the headlines over on Digg.com this afternoon, I read that Chinese authorities have said “No Bible For You” to the athletes as they placed the Bible on the ban list for the 2008 Olympics. The news is just breaking, and the story could change, but there are several sites reporting it. They also recommend that you only bring one Bible if coming to China for the games. If you know anything about China, this will not be a surprise to you. They aren’t exactly pro-Christian there, but the amazing thing is that God is still working. In fact, the Chinese church in 1997 was seeing a growth of 10,000 new converts every day. Despite their best efforts to stop it, God’s Word is still spreading in China and changing lives.
In fact, Olympic organisers in China said there would be no restrictions on Bibles in the Olympic village. Later, the reporter for the Italian newspaper unconvincingly defended his story by asserting that a ban on “pamphlets and materials used for any religious or political activity or display” meant Bibles, even after the Chinese issued a clarification changing the banned category to “promotional materials”.
On the other side of the ocean, America is drowning in God’s Word and we still choose not to read it. There are “literally hundreds of different translations” of the Bible into English according to the International Bible Society. Perhaps it’s because we have it everywhere that God’s Word seems so unimportant to us.
It was with this in mind that we decided to create our own secondary theme for the 30 Hour Famine this year. We’re calling it “A Famine For God’s Word” (Based on Amos 8:11) and we’ll focus not only on fighting physical hunger in the world, but spiritual hunger in our own lives and in our communities. One early idea is to create a 30 day journal or activity that has students read a verse or two a day for 30 days and reflect on it. In the end, it’s all about teaching students to read the Bible regularly and thus be transformed by it.
You might have heard me talk (or post) about disciplines before. I believe they are an important part of what our personal faith life because they happen regularly and consistently. I recently read a post over at Church Relevance about walking^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hrunning with God. He shares some things he’s learned about ministry from running. Some adapt better than others to our personal walk with God, but the article is definitely worth reading even if they don’t all match perfectly.
We talk about Spiritual Disciplines a lot in Student Ministry. That’s because we believe it’s essential that youth develop habits that they will take with them when they leave our ministry for college or whatever reason. Programming is good–and certainly beneficial–but habits are better. It’s why we use the One Minute Bible For Students in Student Ministry, as well as things like memory work and small groups.
Darcy called me last night to share a fun story about this from one of our youth. This young lady confessed to just reading all of her One Minute Bible work at once and then writing the paper for Cornerstone. Darcy reiterated the importance of the discipline, but the student didn’t feel she could remember. She asked for a text message reminder each night from Darcy, who wisely suggested setting an alarm on the cell phone instead of relying on an outside person to remind her.
Later that night, this youth texted Darcy to let her know that her cell phone alarm was set and she was going to read that day’s reading before bed. Darcy’s personal contact with the student in addition to the regular teaching on habits led to this student finally trying the daily discipline thing. It’s great to see this small changes in the lives of our students because I know it will lead to even greater changes as they interact with the Word on a regular basis.
Completely unrelated to this instance is another youth who told me they recently posted a reminder on the bathroom mirror to pray. This was in response to my suggestion to do this as a reminder to pray every day, not just when we’re in trouble or need something. Great stuff!