One night each week we get together to read the Bible and learn from it, by exploring it’s meaning in context, considering parallel accounts in the Bible, and considering the examples found there and from the experiences of each of us. This is for adults, and especially for those with an interest in what the Bible teaches. Join us, won’t you, and enjoy the discussions, and the snacks of course!
We are currently engaged in a series of How To topics. This week we are tackling How To Pray, and here’s how we propose to consider that subject:
There is a great deal in the Bible about this essential subject, so if we are to devote just one study session to it we shall not cover all possible considerations. Many of the relevant passages of Scripture teach us about more than one aspect of prayer, so it may be inappropriate to try to just allocate them to a few starter verses after each study question. Instead, this time let’s start by doing something of a marathon “sword drill”: Gen.18:22-33; Ezra 9:5; Job 35:13; Ps.37:4; Eccles.5:1,2; Isa.1:15; 59:1-2; Jer.29:13; Ezek.8:18; Matt.6:6,7; 7:7,8; 18:19; 21:21-22; Lk.18:1; 22:41; Jn 9:31; 15:7; 16:23; Acts 1:14; 2:41-42; 9:40; 20:36; 21:5; Rom.8:26; Eph.3:14; 6:18-20; Phil.4:6-8; Col.4:2; 1 Tim.2:1; Jas.1:6-8; 4:2; 5:15-16; 1 Jn 3:22; 5:14; Jude 1:20. [It would obviously be best to read the wider context in which each of these verses arise, but that must be left to individual study. After this good spiritual exercise of reading to equip us, let’s attempt discussion on the following points:
What should be our mind-set as we pray to God, and how may it be shown?
Prayer is a general word; what specific kinds of prayer are there?*
What objectives should guide our choice of words when we pray?
If we are to never give up praying, how do we avoid pointless repetition?
What is the right way to confess a sin to God? What is He looking for us to say?
How does a knowledge of the Bible help in our prayers?
What are some preconditions to God answering our prayers?
What is different about a church meeting to pray (rather than just individuals)?
What do we learn about prayer from the example of the Lord Jesus?
For this topic, it may be helpful, when you have 45 minutes (!) to review the video of the recent talk on Approaching God
It’s hard to avoid the focus at present in all the media on the recent general elections in Canada and elsewhere (especially the UK). Many will breathe a sigh of relief that they are over. Some will express joy and others disappointment. In democratic countries around the world Christians are often expected, and sometimes guided, by their church leaders to exercise their right to vote. There are good reasons for this, but perhaps not many Christians consider valid reasons why they should not be committed to using that right.
Check out this article in our section on Big Issues titled Voting: Things to Think About, which aims to fill that gap.
This is the title of a book by Francis Chan*. It is really worth reading. In some ways our small house church here is a picture of what the author is pointing people towards. Why not get hold of a copy of the book, and check it out yourself? It isn’t expensive, and its available for free from our local library if you live in Mount Forest (and have a library card!). And like other books by Francis Chan it will make you think, and hopefully make you want to get closer to God.
When you’ve read it, you may want to also think a little more about the use of the word “church”. Does it mean all Christians everywhere? If so, how could a person ever be put out of such a church (see 1 Cor.5)? It seems to us that all believers since the days of the Apostles do indeed form just one big amazing unified church, what is called by the Apostle Paul “the church which is the body of Christ” (e.g. Eph.1:22,23; Col.1:18). Then again, there are also frequent references in the New Testament to multiple churches in many different places around the world; a quite different concept. It’s worth exploring the Bible to see how God defines these two different groupings, and what His purposes and expectations are for each of them. There is plenty more about that on this website, and if you’re interested to pursue that and want to be helped by being pointed to the right places, just contact us.
In the meantime, enjoy reading!
*Published by David C Cook and also available as a Kindle e-Book
Here is a link to a video recording about the ever-present danger of idolatry, putting anything in the place of God. And the answer to that weakness we so easily fall into: tearing down the idols, tearing out from our lives what is getting in the way.
Why are fewer people responding to “the Gospel”, the good news that Jesus, God’s Son, has been punished once-for-all by God for all our wrongdoing, so that God is now acting justly and in love when He offers to free us from the punishment we deserve – if we accept that Jesus has instead suffered for us. That is the start of the good news. And alongside the relief it brings is the assurance of God’s related promise that if we accept His offer of being saved from punishment, we shall also receive spiritual life that extends forever beyond the grave. So the good news continues. And all of the injustices we face here on earth, the eternal God will deal with when everyone appears for judgment. All that is good news (for those who are pardoned), but extremely scary for those who refuse God’s offer of freedom from punishment, and must therefore face the existing forever penalty they deserve from a righteous God whose love has been spurned. So why aren’t people believing the good news? The simple point we are making here is that they haven’t realized they need to. And perhaps that’s because people today have not been exposed to the Bible warning that Jesus is returning, soon!
Most of us have laboured over a jigsaw puzzle. The harder ones have more pieces, and the hardest have lots of the same colour pieces, and many different shapes. Checking a piece against the box lid picture often helps. It’s usual to start with the edge pieces, which are fewer in number and where there is one uniform side to line up with other similar pieces. Here is a picture illustrating that approach.
A very different approach would be to repeatedly throw all the pieces in the air, and hope they fall on to the table in exactly the right way. They must all fall picture side up, and all the edge pieces must be on the outside. And all the pieces must be oriented correctly to line up with the one next to them. Would you challenge a friend to use the normal approach with one puzzle while you tried throwing everything for another puzzle in the air, to see who would finish first? You could agree to quit after an hour, with the most complete puzzle winning. Would you bet your friend $1,000 that you will win, because you believe there is a chance everything could fall from the air just right, in time? But you don’t believe that, do you? Both scientific knowledge and experience tell you it will never work, not in a million years. And you don’t have a million years anyway.
While none of us would risk $1,000 on such a bet, many seem prepared to risk far more for an even less probable outcome.
Let’s call the two puzzle approaches “intervention” and “chance”, with “chance” being the throwing in the air method. The bigger challenge is, which method do you think is most likely the reason we as humans came to be walking on the earth today? Those with mathematical skill to apply to such a question would have to work out how many chance events would have to occur in the right order for complex beings like ourselves to develop from the simplest form of life. We might think a few hundred million years would be enough for random chance events to accomplish the result we now see around us. However, those best able to study the biology and do the math have concluded chance alone could not be successful in even the 4.5 billion years it is suggested this Earth has been in existence.
Some have therefore proposed life must have originated and developed elsewhere and then somehow got to Earth in a partially developed form. But if we propose that, we have really moved from applying the “chance” method to applying the “intervention” method. In the jigsaw puzzle test we know who intervenes. Who or what could intervene to bring life to Earth? What capabilities would such an external force have to possess, and where did they come from? And is there any scientific evidence for that?
To complicate matters further, we could try to calculate the chance that Earth itself would exist as it now certainly does, assuming the universe were to start billions of years ago. But the environment we now enjoy depends upon a host of different variable factors, which must individually and together operate to govern the universe within extremely narrow ranges. And they do, in a way that is to be expected if they are operating by design not chance. Or Earth as we know it simply would not exist. We are comforted that these things are measurably governed by apparent physical laws, so we are not expecting to vanish in a puff of smoke any time soon! But where do such laws come from if we are using the “chance” model? A huge further complicating factor is that nothing so far discussed attempts to explain why the universe itself came into being, or why life ever began.
Perhaps that’s enough for now. We are left to ponder why we should believe people who advise us to bet everything we have that no external force was involved in starting or maintaining the universe, or originating life, when science seems to demand it. But if there is nothing that can explain the present reality except such an external force (the “intervention” approach), why would we risk everything and blindly adopt a “chance” solution, just like throwing puzzle pieces in the air and wishing it could make them create a finished picture? Christian’s can see the finished picture of life on Earth, the box lid so to speak, and can place their confidence in a Bible-based worked-out solution requiring all the pieces to be in the correct place. Don’t be satisfied with an incomplete solution!
We can be encouraged by the fact that fellow-Christians are included among competent professionals in the fields of mathematics, nuclear physics and biology. If you’d like a suggested reading list of science-based material addressing these issues, by properly qualified writers, please contact us.
Each Monday evening a bunch of us get together to study the Bible. We have been through several New Testament books and by popular choice we then turned to the Old Testament, starting with the book of Ruth
The first thing to do was to get a general background. Below are the questions we posed to ourselves (you’ll have to attend the studies if you want the real time answers, though we would respond to requests if you contacted us via this website). We just have the final session chapter 4 to do (see below); we plan to tackle this, God willing, on October 28th.
The Book of Ruth
Study 1: Background
If possible, read the whole book before we start studying it together.
What is the setting of the Book in Israel’s history? Where on the following timeline does it fit? (Ruth 1:1; 4:18-22) Patriarchs or Exodus or Days of the Judges or Time of the Kings
What do we know about the country and people of Moab? (e.g. Num.21,22,25; Deut.23:2-6)
What can we learn from the New Testament reference to Ruth? (Matt.1:5)
How can we explain so few generations mentioned between Salmon and David in Ruth 4 and Matt.1, if it covers (as historians propose) a period of around 400 years? See chronology below.
Why would there be a famine in Israel, the promised land “flowing with milk and honey”? (Ex.3:8; Josh.24:13-20; 2 Sam.21:1)
Why would the inheritor of Mahlon’s land have to marry Ruth? (see Deut.25:5-10)
Study 2: Ruth Chapter 1
What does it
tell us about the conditions in Moab and Naomi’s circumstances after three men
in her life had died?
In verses 6
– 7 Naomi set off to return to Judah for a revival, what other revival years
later also came from Judah that we celebrate today?
verse 8, what type of wives were Naomi’s daughters-in-law?
relationship qualities did Naomi have for her daughters-in-law based on verse
of relationships did Orpah and Ruth have with Naomi looking at verses 10 – 17?
qualities do we see from Ruth that show compassion to her mother-in-law’s
What do we
learn about the community of Bethlehem from the arrival of Naomi and Ruth?
Naomi mean in her comment in verse 13 that “the Lord’s hand has gone out
against me” and what do we learn about Naomi’s mental and spiritual condition
looking at verses 20 – 21?
What do we
learn about the blessings of the Lord’s timing from the last verse and how does
this encourage us today?
Study 3: Ruth Chapter 2
What do the names “Elimelech” and “Boaz” mean? (see also 1 Kings 7:21)
What is involved in gleaning? Why is that term sometimes used to describe Bible reading?
When it says in verse 3 that Ruth “happened” to work in the field of Boaz, does that mean it was purely by chance? Does anything really happen by chance?
What can we learn from the way Boaz greeted his workers?
What do we learn of Ruth’s work ethic from verse 7?
How does verse 10 apply as an illustration of us (non-Jews) becoming Christians?
Why did Boaz do such detailed enquiry into Ruth’s background (verses 5,11)?
How does the reference to taking refuge under God’s wings apply to us (verse 12)?
How do verses 14-16 compare to Matthew 11:28-30?
What did Naomi mean in verse 20 about not forsaking the dead?
Why is the fact about Ruth being a Moabite re-introduced and emphasized in verse 21?
What do you think Naomi had been praying about while Ruth had been away working (see verses 19 & 22)?
How long a time is covered from the beginning of the barley harvest to the end of the wheat harvest? Is this an indicator of wise development of a relationship?
Study 4: Ruth Chapter 3
What aspects of Naomi’s plan (verses 1-5) reflect godly wisdom, and what, if any, reflect inappropriate behaviour?
Ruth’s words in verse 9 may reflect her understanding of Naomi’s earlier statements, and the blessing from Boaz (chapter 2, verse 12), but how important were her appealing words about Boaz being a “redeemer”? Was that a marriage proposal?
How does verse 10 indicate an age difference between Boaz and Ruth? What problems or blessings may be involved for couples of significantly different ages?
Why did Boaz tell Ruth to stay until the morning? What were the risks involved?
What is meant by Boaz saying a woman coming to the threshing floor should not be known? Whose reputations(s) were at stake?
How did Boaz display a generous heart towards Ruth and Naomi?
How difficult would it be for Ruth to comply with Naomi’s instruction in verse 18?
Study 5: Ruth Chapter 4
What is the significance of Boaz going to the city gate? (Compare Job 29:7-16)
Why do you think we are not given the name of the closer redeemer? Compare with verses 11 and 14.
What were the benefits in Israel attributable to the operation of government by elders? Is there a present day application for this?
Who was selling the property? Naomi? Elimelech? Mahlon? Chilion? Ruth? Or…? See Numbers 27 verse 9. How would its value be calculated? See Leviticus 25, verse 15.
Why was there a custom of removing a shoe to confirm a property transaction (verse 7)?
See Deuteronomy 25, verse 5 & 6. Why was it important to continue a family name?
There is specific mention of Perez and Tamar in the blessing of verse 12; what is the significance of them being in the line that produced David, and eventually the Messiah?
Is it true that conception is in every case a gift from God (verse 13)
Verse 15-17 suggests Naomi’s bereavement of her sons was not to be compared to the blessing associated with the birth of her grandson. What is the basis for this statement?
How do verses 18-22 explain why the book of Ruth was written?
If you have noticed in your Bible reading that in some places Christians are described as being “in Christ” and in other places as being “in the Lord”, it may have occurred to you that these are perhaps describing different realities. If so, you’ll be interested to read more on that subject here
You may have heard it referred to as “threefold salvation”, or the “Three P’s”, standing for Penalty, Power and Presence.
Here is an analysis of New Testament references to being “saved” showing which emphasis is seen in each text.
If you have worried that God expects good deeds from you before He will release you from the punishment your bad deeds deserve, read this! Or if you have concerns that God might save you one day, but you might lose that salvation later, again: read this!