Saturday, March 17, 2012

Patrick the Evangelist

1)    Have you ever talked about Jesus to someone who was not a believer? What was it like?

John 3
10Jesus told Nicodemus, “You’re a well-known teacher of Israel. Can’t you understand this? 11I can guarantee this truth: We know what we’re talking about, and we confirm what we’ve seen. Yet, you don’t accept our message. 12If you don’t believe me when I tell you about things on earth, how will you believe me when I tell you about things in heaven? 13No one has gone to heaven except the Son of Man, who came from heaven.
 14“As Moses lifted up the snake on a pole in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. 15Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”  
16God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. 17God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. 18Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son.  
19This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil. 20People who do what is wrong hate the light and don’t come to the light. They don’t want their actions to be exposed. 21But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen.

2)    This gospel has the single most important line of the bible to many Christians, and especially to many evangelists. Can you guess which it is? Why that verse?

St. Patrick is so famous that he has become more mythical than historical. Yet he is in many ways the key person responsible for converting a whole country to Christianity, that later contributed a great many saints and helped preserve the bible through the dark ages.

As a boy, Patrick was kidnapped and taken from Britain to Ireland as a slave. Amazingly, 1600 years later we still have his short autobiography, The Confession of Saint Patirck. He writes:
16. But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day I said from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.
17. And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: ‘You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.’ And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: ‘Behold, your ship is ready.’ And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I reached that ship.
3)    Would you set across the country in response to a voice in a dream? What does this tell you about Patrick?

Later as an adult he came back to Ireland, and wrote this about it:
37. And many gifts were offered to me with weeping and tears, and I offended them [the donors], and also went against the wishes of a good number of my elders; but guided by God, I neither agreed with them nor deferred to them, not by my own grace but by God who is victorious in me and withstands them all, so that I might come to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure insults from unbelievers; that I might hear scandal of my travels, and endure many persecutions to the extent of prison; and so that I might give up my free birthright for the advantage of others, and if I should be worthy, I am ready to give even my life without hesitation; and most willingly for His name. And I choose to devote it to him even unto death, if God grant it to me.
38. I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: ‘To you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, “Our fathers have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.”’ And again: ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth.’
4)    Why was it worth all that suffering to him to tell people about God?

5)    After all he did, why would he consider himself in debt to God?

The end of the confession:
62. But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have been the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die.
6)    I love this turn of phrase, giving credit to God for anything good we’ve managed, and taking the blame for the mistakes that are our own. I heard a muslim leader recently close with a very similar sentiment.  Can you see any danger in starting to take credit for your successes?

Part of his famous prayer, St. Patrick’s Breastplate:
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

7)    Patrick is maybe most famous for his teaching about the Holy Trinity. How do you think about the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit being one God?

The Confession of St. Patrick
The post by  Sharon Pearson at Building Faith that got me thinking of this

The hymn of the Breastplate:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lump - a Nooma study

Forgot to post this!

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) prove we’re all sinners. And if we didn’t get it then, when Jesus explains them fully (Matthew 5) he ends with
“46If you love those who love you, do you deserve a reward? Even the tax collectors do that! 47Are you doing anything remarkable if you welcome only your friends? Everyone does that! 48That is why you must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” 
So maybe we can fool ourselves that we didn’t break a commandment.  Clearly, though, none of us are perfect.

1)    Picture or think about one of your sins in your mind.

2)    How do we deal with that stuff?

Watch the Nooma called Lump. (Here's a trailer from YouTube. You can find the whole video, but I encourage you to buy them if you're using them to teach.)

Galations 6:1-10
1Brothers and sisters, if a person gets trapped by wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should help that person turn away from doing wrong. Do it in a gentle way. At the same time watch yourself so that you also are not tempted. 2Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings. 3So if any one of you thinks you’re important when you’re really not, you’re only fooling yourself. 4Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others. 5Assume your own responsibility.

 6The person who is taught God’s word should share all good things with his teacher. 7Make no mistake about this: You can never make a fool out of God. Whatever you plant is what you’ll harvest. 8If you plant in the soil of your corrupt nature, you will harvest destruction. But if you plant in the soil of your spiritual nature, you will harvest everlasting life. 9We can’t allow ourselves to get tired of living the right way. Certainly, each of us will receive everlasting life at the proper time, if we don’t give up. 10Whenever we have the opportunity, we have to do what is good for everyone, especially for the family of believers.
3)    If we can’t be perfect, why does Paul think we should try to be good?

4)    What’s one verse you would want to remember out of that scripture?

Romans 8:31-39
31What can we say about all of this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32God didn’t spare his own Son but handed him over to death for all of us. So he will also give us everything along with him. 33Who will accuse those whom God has chosen? God has approved of them. 34Who will condemn them? Christ has died, and more importantly, he was brought back to life. Christ has the highest position in heaven. Christ also intercedes for us. 35What will separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can trouble, distress, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or violent death separate us from his love? 36As Scripture says:
“We are being killed all day long because of you.
We are thought of as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 37The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties. 38I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces 39or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation.

5)    How do these scriptures help us to deal with our sin?

6)    What’s one verse you would want to remember out of that scripture?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Choose Your Own Bible Study - Elijah Edition

(For the monthly men's bible study I combined the last three studies for the youth and stepped up the questions a bit.)

Who are the biggest names in the Old Testament to you?  Pick two:

1)    Go around the group and share someone you picked and why they’re a big name to you.

All amazing heroes of the faith. And yet when Jesus is joined at the transfiguration by two of these worthy, it is Moses and Elijah that come to see him. (Mark 9:2-8) It’s easy for us to overlook this prophet, and he might not make many Final Fours, but he could not have had a more dramatic life, and he is like distilled essence of prophet. Of course, he is the only figure in the bible who regularly has a place set for him at dinner still today. Probably because of this passage (as well as his excellent exit): 

Malachi 4:2-5
“The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings for you people who fear my name. You will go out and leap like calves let out of a stall. 3You will trample on wicked people, because on the day I act they will be ashes under the soles of your feet,” says the Lord of Armies. 
“Remember the teachings of my servant Moses, the rules and regulations that I gave to him at Horeb for all Israel.  “I’m going to send you the prophet Elijah before that very terrifying day of the Lord comes. 6He will change parents’ attitudes toward their children and children’s attitudes toward their parents. If not, I will come and reclaim my land by destroying you.”
The Battle at Mt. Carmel
photo: TheRevSteve @ Flickr

Elijah’s time was 800 years before Jesus, after Israel had separated into the kingdoms of Israel (north) and Judah (south).  When we first hear of Elijah, Ahab is king , married to Jezebel. He is a Baal worshipper and described as more evil than all the kings before him.  Jezebel became a word used to describe a wicked woman.

But he had such a full life, how can you study him in one morning? That’s the choose your own adventure part. Read over the question, consider the summary, and decide whether you want to read that passage. You don’t have to go in order. You will need a bible!

1 Kings 17:1-24 Elijah announces a drought, meets the widow of Zarepath, and performs the first resurrection in the bible.
2)    What might Elijah have learned from his time with the widow? How do we deal with the times God does not choose to heal?

(1 Kings 18:1-16) In the third year of the drought, the Lord sends Elijah back to Ahab. In turns out that Ahab has been scouring the country for Elijah, but was unable to find him.
1 Kings 18:17-40 Elijah versus the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel
3)    Did God want all these prophets killed? Did the people change their heart or are they going with a winner? Why would people have been following Baal?

1 Kings 18:41-46, 19:1-9 Elijah confronts Ahab and Jezebel and experiences depression.
4)    Does it make sense for Elijah to be afraid? What’s the significance of Elijah running to Horeb (aka Sinai)? Have you ever felt really down not too long after a peak experience?

1 Kings 19:9-18 The Lord speaks to Elijah at Horeb
5)    People LOVE this story. Why do you think?

1 Kings 21 In verses 1-14 Ahab covets a vineyard and Jezebel obtains it by arranging for the owner’s betrayal by his neighbors. Read 1 Kings 21:15-27 where Jezebel and Ahab hear their fate from Elijah.
6)    After all Ahab has done, why is this a breaking point? How can God show mercy to him and exact vengeance on his family?

2 Kings 1:1-16 has the story of the death of Ahab’s son, Ahaziah, and Elijah calling down fire on 100 soldiers.
7)    What lesson can be drawn from the story of Ahaziah – does it relate to our modern life at all? How do you make sense of Elijah’s treatment of the soldiers?

1 Kings 19:19-21 The Call of Elisha

This story brings to mind Luke 9:57-62
57As they were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.” 58Jesus told him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to sleep.”   
59He told another man, “Follow me!”   But the man said, “Sir, first let me go to bury my father.”  60But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You must go everywhere and tell about the kingdom of God.”  
61Another said, “I’ll follow you, sir, but first let me tell my family goodbye.” 62Jesus said to him, “Whoever starts to plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.”
8)    Have you had an Elijah or been an Elisha in terms of a mentor in the faith? (Share the story!) What is Jesus trying to tell these people who want to be disciples? The church is considering how to mentor young fathers, do you have any ideas for that?

2 Kings 2:1-14 The spectacular exit of Elijah
9)    Why won’t Elisha leave Elijah? What was Elisha asking for – a double portion of his spirit? Is it related to Jesus sending his Spirit? It’s clear for Elisha that he received it; what’s our sign we’ve received the Holy Spirit?
10)    Do you have any trouble believing the fantastic moments of the Bible? How would you advise someone who does?

2 Kings 9:30-36
What happened to Jezebel? (After Elisha anoints Jehu king of Israel, and God commands him to kill Ahab’s grandson Joram.)
11)    How can we deal with the wicked of today? (Like Syrian president al-Assad, maybe.) Does it make a difference that we live in new testament times?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Elijah – Nowhere to go but Up

The Call of Elisha
1 Kings 19:19-21
19Elijah found Elisha, son of Shaphat. Elisha was plowing behind 12 pairs of oxen. He was using the twelfth pair. Elijah took off his coat and put it on Elisha. 20So Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and mother goodbye. Then I will follow you.”  “Go back,” Elijah answered him. “I’m not stopping you.”  21Elisha left him, took two oxen, and butchered them. He boiled the meat, using the oxen’s yoke for firewood. He gave the meat to the people to eat. Then he left to follow and assist Elijah.

1)    Elisha is obviously excited about being Elijah’s disciple. Who’s a good teacher you’ve had? What made them good?

Teacher: Share a story of one of your mentors.
Group: Pray for the students to have a Godly mentor.

This story brings to mind Luke 9:57-62
57As they were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.” 58Jesus told him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to sleep.”   
59He told another man, “Follow me!”   But the man said, “Sir, first let me go to bury my father.”  60But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You must go everywhere and tell about the kingdom of God.”  
61Another said, “I’ll follow you, sir, but first let me tell my family goodbye.” 62Jesus said to him, “Whoever starts to plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

2)    What is Jesus trying to tell these people who want to be disciples?

2 Kings 2:1-8
1When the Lord was going to take Elijah to heaven in a windstorm, Elijah and Elisha left Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here because the Lord is sending me to Bethel.”  Elisha answered, “I solemnly swear, as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not abandon you.” So they went to Bethel. 3Some of the disciples of the prophets at Bethel came to Elisha. They asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”  He answered, “Yes, I know. Be quiet.”  
4Elijah said, “Elisha, please stay here because the Lord is sending me to Jericho.”   Elisha answered, “I solemnly swear, as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not abandon you.” So they went to Jericho.  5Then some of the disciples of the prophets who were in Jericho approached Elisha. They asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”   He answered, “Yes, I know. Be quiet.”  
6Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here because the Lord is sending me to the Jordan River.”   Elisha answered, “I solemnly swear, as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not abandon you.”  7Fifty disciples of the prophets stood at a distance as Elijah and Elisha stood by the Jordan River. 8Elijah took his coat, rolled it up, and struck the water with it. The water divided to their left and their right, and the two men crossed the river on dry ground.
3)    Why won’t Elisha leave Elijah?

2 Kings 2:9-14
9While they were crossing, Elijah asked Elisha, “What should I do for you before I’m taken from you?”   Elisha answered, “Let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”  10Elijah said, “You have asked for something difficult. If you see me taken from you, it will be yours. Otherwise, it will not.”   
11As they continued walking and talking, a fiery chariot with fiery horses separated the two of them, and Elijah went to heaven in a windstorm.  12When Elisha saw this, he cried out, “Master! Master! Israel’s chariot and horses!” When he couldn’t see Elijah anymore, he grabbed his own garment and tore it in two to show his grief. 13Then he picked up Elijah’s coat (which had fallen off Elijah), went back, and stood on the bank of the Jordan River. 14He took the coat and struck the water with it. He asked, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” As he struck the water, it divided to his left and his right, and Elisha crossed the river.

4)    The men who had hassled Elisha before insisted on searching for Elijah, because they didn’t believe him. (Understandable.) What was Elisha asking for? How do you know he got it?

5)    You’re Elisha and you’ve received this great gift: what do you do next?

Image Credits: Lawrence OP and the RevSteve @ Flickr