The Treasury of Kings

"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, the glory of kings is to search a matter out." "Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart"

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Matthew 1-4 - Part One

Matthew 1-4 -- Part One

I hope this finds all of you well! I’ve just returned from three days at Wycliffe Headquarters in England, which were a blessing and much valued. I got off the plane this afternoon, where I was sorting out my notes for this first part of our first study ever. Four chapters is certainly a lot, and I want to say that I don’t think we’ll ever have a passage quite this long again. In fact, I’m curious to see how you guys have progressed, and if you like, it might be an idea to break down these four chapters in two parts (chapters 1 and 2 and then 3 and 4) when in the next stage we look in more detail.

In order to get things focused in the introduction to passages, I’ve been inspired to include some questions.

Take a look, and post your answers.

The questions are:

  1. What subjects does this passage deal with? What does it seem to be saying about those things?
  1. Is there anything that struck you most about the passage? What stood out to you?
  1. Does there seem to be any special way the writer presents his points, or any special ‘tools’ he uses?
  1. What patterns, if any, can you discern in the passage or that have continued from before?
  1. Overall, if you could summarise the message of the passage, what would it be?
  1. Considering what we know about the book, what we’ve read before, or anything else about the people and situation, how might we fit this passage into that context? What might we learn about the passage or its message?

In order to facilitate the last question for this first study I’m going to write a short introduction to the book of Matthew that will hopefully bring some enlightenment about the passage.

Okay, I’m going to post links to the chapters courtesy of BibleGateway.com, and my summary and thoughts will follow soon.

Email or comment me with your own, and then we’ll take it from there.

God bless,

G.

Matthew 1-4

NASB

Amplified

NKJV

NIV

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount - Study Plan

The Sermon on the Mount

To begin this study of the Sermon on the Mount, the first passage of which brings us to the Beatitudes, we are first of all going to get a picture of the Sermon and introduction to the Book of Matthew - the setting in which Jesus’ is speaking. These studies, it is hoped, will be of benefit, accessible, to anyone no matter one’s experience with the Bible or studying it. Therefore, we are going to go in stages, one passage and one task at a time.

This study is going to run in three main stages, I think.

1 - Having selected a passage, the first stage will be to read it and to get an overview of the whole passage. In this case, we’re going to look at the first four chapters of Matthew. We will do this individually, of course, and as you read it for a survey of the passage, take some notes as to its structure or make-up. That is, don’t worry about noting much of what’s being said and it’s meaning, but rather, give yourself a summary picture of what the passage covers. An example might be, Chapter 1 – Genealogy of Jesus, from Abraham to Jesus. Chapter 2 – two main sections, Section 1 – etc., Section 2, etc. You could also note things like the genealogy focusing on Abraham, David and the Exile. Whilst you can certainly bear things in mind and be thinking, don’t worry about noting all your thoughts down immediately here. The point is to get an overview of the passage in question. It might be recommended that you read the passage at least two or three times to make sure you’re becoming familiar with it.

2 - The second stage is closely related to the first. This will be where we get and give first impressions and understanding as we move through the passages. It’s where we share thoughts that we’ve had. Obviously, this will require some thinking! So the focus in this stage is on interacting with the text more deeply. Take a look at what’s being said. Ask some questions of the passage – What does this mean? What has the author focused on here? Does he keep repeating anything? Why has he said this? That might be the most important question to ask. It might seem silly at first but what we have to remember is that no part of the Bible was written randomly. Sometimes it might seem random, or the order might not be clear, but these books, including Matthew’s Gospel, were written by an author who had a purpose in mind. They were put together with reason and thought, and often, a particular audience in mind. So when we come to a book of the Bible, it’s actually a good thing to ask oneself why a given passage or verse is included and what it is saying.

Some of your questions might resolve themselves, others might remain unanswered, but don’t worry. At this point the main thing is to begin interacting with the text. It’s amazing what God can reveal and what you can find when you start digging into Scripture a little bit, beyond just a reading of it. So, bearing in mind that we can expect to find things, get looking, read more deeply and note what you find! Don’t forget to ask God for assistance and to reveal things to/teach you. Then once you have some thoughts on the passage, we’re going to come back together and share those. Maybe discuss them briefly or answer some questions; see if we can’t start building something.

3 - The last stage of the process for the passage will be the outside stage or further digging stage. It’s where, having started to construct some understanding of the passage, we will go off and go to some outside resources to see what we can find. These will be allocated, and we’ll all have our tasks to do. Then, sharing the information we’ve found, we’ll have a look at it all, and see what’s of value and what might there is to consider. Also, and this is important, even aside from the outside sources this is where we can further consider what the passage is saying, and what we think of that, and what it might mean for us. There will be a chance to ask some questions and clarify anything that’s not been easy to understand and hopefully we’ll come to some conclusions, have found some new truth, and in the end, come somewhat closer to God and our knowledge of Him.

So that’s basically the plan for the study. Before we get going it would be good if everyone can get back to me to let me know this makes sense and doesn’t seem too hard or if you have any ideas or suggestions we can take a look at those.

Oh, and that reminds me. With regards to the time frame, I was thinking of doing a stage a week, and possibly doing stages one and two as a single stage. So, that would mean that in the first week we would read the passage, make a summary and then have a think about the passage, afterward sharing our thoughts. In the second week we would go to the outside sources (stage three). Alternatively, we could keep stages one and two separate meaning we would simply read and summarise the passage in the first week, sharing summaries and initial thoughts/reactions, and then in the second week do the initial deeper digging (sharing those results), before moving on to the outside sources in the third week.

Let me know your preference, thoughts or opinions. Once everyone is happy, we can begin.

God bless,

Galant.

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The Heart of the Study

Alright, welcome to the Bible study! Below you’ll find a little on how the study will progress – God willing. Here though is a look at the heart of the study for those who are going to participate or are interested in doing so. If you would like to join in, drop me an email or leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Read on!

The Heart of the Study

Knowing God and loving Him, that is what this is all about. Knowing God and loving Him and doing it as best we can - and better and better as we go on. For me, Bible study is treasure hunting. God has a treasury of truth and life in His word, amazing truths that will last for eternity and bring transformation even now. However, to get to that treasure we have to dig. That is the task He has given us, and it is the digging that we find strength and health just as the truths we find bring us closer to Him, to Love and Life Himself.

It’s such an astounding thing to read and study God’s word and have Him speak; to learn from God, from His word, and to grow in truth and love and eternal life. Jesus said, in John’s Gospel (15:1-3), “…And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” To think that just by spending some time with God, reading and studying the Scripture He has provided for us, I can come to know the Almighty God, to know Him, to find that He loves me, and to learn that I can love Him, know Him more and more without end, and even serve Him, is amazing! If anyone has ever read Ecclesiastes and resonated with it, or if you don’t know what that is but have wondered what’s the point of it all, this is, I believe, the answer to that question. I believe it body and soul; He loves me, and I love what He has said and what He has planned, and thus, I find in fact, I love Him.

As far as this study is concerned, I’m convinced that Christians being together matters. Not only that, but that Christians should be so in every way we can - to talk, to discuss, to celebrate, to praise, to mourn, to worship, to help, to love, and to learn. Is strongly believe the time of isolationist Christianity is coming to an end - if for no other reason than it’s impossible to love if you’re by yourself; and love is what I believe God has been and is going to be teaching us, and more and more as time progresses. Loving God, and loving others, and loving God with others are what this is all about. The thing is, loving can’t be done without knowing. It’s inevitable. If you start by loving, even someone you don’t know, you will end by knowing. If you start by knowing, with God, you will end up with loving, and then His love, will fill you and lead you to view others so differently, you’ll end up loving them too. And guess what, that will lead to knowing. To know God is to love Him, and to love Him is to get to know Him more and more.

That’s something that has been new life to me recently; the recognition, or remembrance that each day my focus, my goal, is simply to know God more and in doing so I will love Him. And this can be done by going to His word and by being with Him and praying. As Christians, we often pray because, “Well, I’m supposed to…it’s being spiritual!” We also often read the Bible for those reasons. It’s easy to begin to think that way, but instead, the truth is that the Bible and prayer are tools for building our relationship with God - by them we know God better. Imagine reading a love letter without thinking of the person who wrote it or responding to them. Without Him, prayer and the Bible are nothing. Without Him you may as well go read other books, and talk with other people. However, with God, they are a means to me knowing Him, and loving Him, and pleasing Him, and enjoying Him. That’s where our hearts need to be in this – focused on knowing Him. If we can keep them there, with His help, then all else follows.

As Oswald Chambers’ writing often reminds us, being a Christian isn’t about commitment to a religious viewpoint, a set of belief or doctrines, or a name, but rather a Personal Being. Being a Christian is about trusting in Christ and following Him. Never let us pursue anything if it leads us to leave behind the Person, and in all of these studies, may we only ever pursue them with His company and guidance.

G.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Getting Into The Word: Running Commentary

Okay, well we know that getting into the Bible can be difficult, especially when you're trying to do so in a group setting. I am however a strong advocate for the practise of group reading of the Bible and group study of it (more on that later). One of the things I've found can be a pain when trying to develop interest in the Scriptures is rigidity and lack of personality. Why do people ever do anything in groups? It because of the people. They're there for the company of their friends, for their personalities, and trying to follow a groups study program can be very stifling of personalities when leaders don't have the vision or experience to 'customise' the studies. Some of the best group times I've ever lead, then, have been ones that focused on the group and brought a subject into that rather than asking everyone to check their personalities at the door and 'get scientific'.

What I'd like to share here and now is just a simple little idea that can be a good informal of way of getting into study. Perhaps as an intro an in-depth study of a book. I call it a 'running commentary' and the idea is simply to bring out the questions or opinions of your friends and letting the evaluation and discussion go from there. I'd suggest you use a shorter book to begin with but you could use any passage or book.

How does it work? You simply read. You go to a passage of book and read it out loud. You could change up the readers - but I'd perhaps try to make sure that the reading of the passage is of a good quality and done well to keep interest and carry the meaning and perhaps flavour of the text. As you go, any member of the group can at any time chirp in with a comment or a question - whatever comes to mind - on whatever you've been reading. Once answered or discussed, you just keep on reading and thus - a running commentary.

Obviously, it's good to explain to the others how it works before hand, but that explanation can be short and simple. It's good for just about anywhere, all you need is a Bible and a group of friends. The personalities come out, jokes can be thrown in, and all in all this is I think a nice, simple way of doing a little of that celebration of the word I was talking about earlier.

God bless,
G.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Joy In The Word

Ann at In Christ Alone posted this entry about a room-mate and their time with the Word. As I read her short account I was struck by the situation. Her friend, feeling down came home and asked her to read a Bible story. "What? A Bible story? Ann, are you sure you're not pulling my leg? I'm thinking what really happened was that she came home, complained a bit, or maybe said nothing, sat down and flicked on the TV. If not the TV a CD or perhaps just decided to talk about whatever. Couldn't have been the Bible though." :)

Actually, I fully believe that Ann's account is faithful, and I found it a joy to read. What I wanted to say here was that I think what those two shared that day was what so many more of us should share far more often. I spend quite a bit of time with youth groups and despite the passion a lot of them have for their relationship with God, and all the time they put in by themselves, seeking God in prayer and the Word, the one thing I've noticed lacking is that there is no atmosphere for such things in a group setting. I don't know if it's fear or embarrassment, plain lack of interest or thoughtlessness, but rarely do I ever see friends getting together to share some of the word or pray together. The feeling is almost that if someone suggested such a thing everyone would acknowledge that it's a noble idea but then find a way to just carry on 'relaxing' or 'hanging out'.

Now I have nothing, of course, against 'hanging out'. I love it. However, the truth is that for too many Christians that's all they do, and because of it there lacks an atmosphere of respect and desire for the word of God. Due to this, I see so many who suffer from a lack of knowledge about the Bible either its content or how to handle it. They also suffer from a lack of faith and a lack of confidence in Christian things. In every other activity and endeavour in life - hobbies, sports, relationships, fashion, whatever - we humans bounce things off one another. It's how we learn and how we develop skills and deepen passions. We get together in groups and talk. We share ideas, thoughts, questions. We experiment and we have fun. Not in the things of God however, not with the Bible. We've lost the practise of celebration in faith. We celebrate everything else with one another, but rarely our faith and the Word of God.

This brings me back to something else that occurred to me a while ago. I was in a youth meeting and I had the chance to speak. "If we're honest", I said, "most of us would admit that one of the main reasons - if not the very main reason - we come here on this evening is to be with our friends." I continued, "Upon admitting that though, most of you would begin to feel guilty but what occurs to me is that I don't think that's bad at all. In fact, I think God approves. The reason I think He approves is because I think that's exactly what He does. He comes to be with His friends." Then I turned it round, "The thing is though, we don't even do that well."

If I asked you what the most important parts of your life are, what would you answer? Family? Faith? Does the way you pursue your relationships with your friends reflect that order or are they misrepresented?

A word to you who are more intellectual though. Such activity doesn't always have to be a debate or involved some deep writings that you've been pouring over. Often that seems to inaccessible to people, out of their reach. A simple reading of Scripture, a sharing of favourite passages, having a laugh over stories, dropping anecdotes and letting the Word of God, to quote Professor Keating in the movie The Dead Poets Society, "drip from our tongues like honey".

If only more of us would get together with our friends an on occasion (and more and more frequently) just read a story from the Bible. Share some thoughts, ponder some questions, I am convinced our spiritual life and faith would grow in leaps and bounds and our confidence would become strong. What we need to foster in our groups and among our friends is a true atmosphere of fellowship and of respect for, and joy in, the Word and God.

Originally posted here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Cooking With Gas

Well here we are. It's been a few months in getting to this initial point and I expect a few more for things to really get going, but I'm ready for the start and looking forward to what may come.

It was just a few months ago that I was sat at a friend's computer when I saw their screen saver. It was one of those Windows scrolling text displays and the text rolling across the screen was Psalm 119:111, "Your statutes are my inheritance forever, they are the joy of my heart." Perhaps it's not the most striking verse in the Bible but that evening it hit me squarely. I wasn't sure why at the time, nor was I asking that question, it simply occurred to me that such was the attitude which we, as Christians should have towards Scripture, yet which often seems to be so lacking. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not overly pessimistic about the Church. I know that there are many out there who love God's word and who have been searching it and expounding it for many years. These are they who truly have taken the word of God as their inheritance and in love have given their lives to discovering and sharing its truth. Having received life from God through His Word they have been filled with joy time and again with Scripture being at the centre of it. Truly God's word has been the joy of their hearts and they have sought to honour the inheritance given them by Him who has gave it.

However, too much I see those who, for various reasons, take little joy in God's word. They spend only small amounts of time walking through its pages, and know only a minimum of its content. So many Christians, it seems, come to the word of God having been told about its life and truth and nourishment, about its wonders and joys, flavours and richness, but whenever they open it's pages they find only raw ingredients, flour, milk, eggs, salt and a pinch of spice here and there ; a diet that might perhaps be nourishing but is certainly not palatable. They stand like a new student in their new home in a kitchen full of ingredients, spices and equipment but end up always eating ready-made dinners or the same old beans on toast because they don't know where to start, are put off by past failed experiments, it seems like too much work, or it's just plain intimidating.

So it is, I think, that many Christians find themselves in sharing meetings where they feel they should say something but have nothing to offer. Groups of Christians who get together at a friends house, and together they all stand in the kitchen, equally bemused, and perhaps after a few nice ideas from one or two perky individuals, they all end up back on the sofa munching on Pringles, and eating microwaved meatballs. The kitchen remaining either untouched or a mess of flour, dirty bowls, whisks, and maybe a deflated cake or two.

Many of us have since then learned to cook, and some of us have had the privilege of growing up with those who were adept in the kitchen and gave us the knowledge and confidence to cook for ourselves. For others though, if the Word of God is an inheritance to them, it is one that remains unopened, or perhaps, having been opened and examined it has been left to one side, on the shelf, as too complicated or confusing. If it is a source of joy, it is only so on Sundays when a pastor has taken from it the needed ingredients and put them together in a way that produces a nourishing and enjoyable meal. The joy of such is seldom experienced alone.

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That day, reading the screensaver I realised acutely how much so many are missing out on, and me being me, as I felt my passion for the Word of God rising within me, I wanted to just turn around and somehow convey all that passion and those thoughts and desires to all around me. Well, it wasn't until a few days later that I was reading through some of John 17. I came to verse 22 and read about a glory given to Christ by His Father which He in turn passes to those who would follow Him afterwards. I pondered what that glory might be, what its nature was, and as I did so I began to think about how good it would be to have some friends, equally passionate about the word, who could share and discuss some of these things and help dig out some answers. I remember days at Bible college where we got to do things like that - perhaps some of the best moments of those three years. I also thought about groups I'd heard of, like Lewis' Inklings, and the fictional Dead Poets Society, where friends would gather in eager expectation to experience and share, joy and excitement through and over some literature or other; the combined joy and passion exceeding the sum total of that of each of the individuals together as each one fed off the other. To belong to such a group who with excitement and passion, curiosity and joy would pour over the Bible to discover its truth and embrace its joys would, I thought, be a magnificent thing. In this world where it seems there is so little regard for the word of God and not much desire for it, it would be a treasure.

"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, the glory of kings is to search a matter out."

This blog is here as a remedy to that. It is my hope, and I believe that God is in it, that friends across the globe could come together as a community to share God's word. To dig deep into it, its mysteries and quandaries, and to reveal its treasures and share its delicacies. This is an expedition into the hidden world of God's word. Searching out new territory, taking hidden paths and discovering undisclosed wonders. To explore the realm which is our inheritance as masters and as novices. Teaching one another new skills and how to handle the tools necessary to become a proficient and reliable digger, passing down what we know, and have received from others before us. This is a journey of joy and excitement, of unity and shared passion.

To further that aim, I hope to add to this blog articles and pieces that offer new techniques and lessons in handling God's word and digging into it. A place where we can learn how to cook, and expand our repertoire as well as share recipes. Where we can learn new techniques and gain new tools for this unending journey of discovery.

What's more, and far be it from me to dictate to anyone's life, when I look to the lack in so many Christians' lives, it is my hope that maybe this could be an avenue where those who are looking might find some hope and a way to develop a love for and ability to get into the word of God and be able to rejoice in the joy and inheritance of God with those of who have already been blessed beyond expectation. One way I can see this happening is through the simple commitment and expression of those who are already 'good cooks in God's kitchen' or just have a similar passion for God's word. This blog is just one part - a gathering place, a central focal point, where we can come to bring up questions and thoughts - points of interest from which to choose the next goal and destination, and then from there to take that thought and question and for a period to take it and explore it. To share that thought with those around us - friends, family, near and far. Emails would be sent, phone calls made, and coffee or hot chocolate talked over. Grey cells would ponder and pages would be turned. Even better, for little pockets of believers to form in our area, coming together to discuss and explore and enjoy. Then from there, to gather what has been learned and return to share that here, a depository for the things discovered and treasures found.

I thank you for your time this far, and I hope that like Susan, Peter, Edmund and Lucy, declared kings and queens by Aslan in His land of Narnia, we can go forth as kings and queens into His Scripture, seeking it out with all the resources at our disposal and expending our efforts in taking up this challenge of God. I invite you to join me, to talk with those around you, and whether you are one who has for a long time desired to know how to cook, a lone chef eager to share recipes and learn new techniques, or one in community desirous to expand that communion, let us see what we can find on this opening of our inheritance and deepening of the joy of our hearts.