That’s My King!

March 26, 2016 | Comments Off on That’s My King!

I wonder, do you know him?

Have a blessed Resurrection Day!

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A Commentary On 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene H. Merrill

March 9, 2016 | Comments Off on A Commentary On 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene H. Merrill

A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene Merrill

A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene Merrill

A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles (Kregel Exegetical Library) is the third Old Testament commentary I have reviewed for Kregel (the others being A Commentary on Exodus (Kregel Exegetical Library) and A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library)). I found it to be the most challenging to read and assimilate–perhaps because that is the nature of the biblical source. While I personally love the books of Kings and Chronicles, I admit they take some effort to read and sadly, my enthusiasm is seldom shared by my small groups. Unfortunately, I can’t remember many sermons or bible studies based on these books—especially the books as a whole. That being said, I’m delighted to be able to add this book to my library.

The author, Eugene H. Merrill, brings excellent credentials to the project. He is the distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is a prolific author with more than two dozen books to his credit, including other publications on these books. Theologically, he is conservative, as would be expected from Dallas.

The Commentary rests somewhere between accessible and scholarly. While he uses some Hebrew, there is less than many similar commentaries, positioning it for use by non-seminary educated readers. However, the Hebrew that is included does not include transliterations. Even though I took Hebrew just a year ago, I would have appreciated an assist with a transliteration as well as a translation.

The format is comprehensive, with just about anything any reader might want.  It includes Chapter Outlines, Theological Principles, an NIV Translation, Text Critical Notations, and Exegesis and Exposition. While the book’s flyleaf indicates that the translation is the author’s own, in fact, the translation provided is the NIV. This was a disappointment. I always prefer to see the author’s unique translation somewhere in the chapter, even if side-by-side with an “approved” translation. And of all the excellent translations available, why the NIV? I appreciated having the Text Critical Notations within each chapter. Although as a lay leader I seldom pay attention to those, it’s good to know what they are and when they might be important for my purposes. The book also includes a number of charts and tables, but many of them didn’t advance my understanding. I often asked, “Why?” A helpful introduction positions the reader in the history, culture, authorship, genre, and canonical placement.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspects of the book are the extensive footnotes and excellent bibliography. Merrill includes a 26-page bibliography, showing the extensiveness of his scholarship. Also of note is the theological overview of each chapter, providing a road map of God’s over-arching theme. He continues to call us back to this overview, always looking forward to the Messiah. He also offers some application, which is useful for the lay leader, and even for busy pastors.

This is a well-done commentary. Not the best I’ve ever read, but it certainly provides more information than I as a lay leader will ever use. Thanks to Kregel Academic for inviting me to review this book.

 

 

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The Challenge of Challenging People

February 22, 2016 | Comments Off on The Challenge of Challenging People

Challenging messy people

Some folks are more challenging than others!

Recently my friend, Mike Mack posted my article The Challenge of Challenging People on his blog, Small Group Leadership. I’ve previously post a longer version of this article in the resources section here. If you’re dealing with a group of wounded, challenging people, I invite you to print either the short or the long version and share it with your leaders. Let me know if you find it helpful or if you would like more training in this area. I continue to find challenging people everywhere I go. The need is great for leaders who will listen, love, and minister to these people. Are you one of them?

 

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Happy 40th Birthday to Me!

January 11, 2016 | Comments Off on Happy 40th Birthday to Me!

Forty years ago today I made the most important decision of my life. I stopped fighting and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Happy Birthday to Me! Photo Credit: Abby

Happy Birthday to Me!                                   Photo Credit: Flickr/Abby

Little did I know what that decision would mean. I was simply looking for a life preserver, a fire insurance policy. Since my friend, Jadene, had shared Jesus with me a few months before, I knew that day would come. I figured that when I hit bottom, I could just pull out Jesus – my “get out of jail free card” – and all would be well. It took me awhile to realize that I didn’t have to hit bottom. After all, how much lower could I go? And did I really want to go there?

I drove from San Francisco to the church her husband pastored in Fresno, and in a bucket of tears, surrendered my life to the Great Unknown. And that Great Unknown met me, right where I was. I didn’t have to clean up my act first. I just had to come.

Well, by the time I got back to San Francisco, He was already beginning to rearrange the furniture of my life. Within a week he threw me into a Christian singles group where I was loved, discipled, and given every opportunity to grow. And every time I said yes to an opportunity, they gave me another. Never since have I seen a better discipleship program, and these folks were all lay people, unpaid and untrained. But they nurtured me to maturity and laid a firm foundation for me. Many of these people are still my best friends, and one – the coordinator of the group – is my husband.

I want to offer a huge thank you to everyone who has played a part in my life over the past 40 years, and a monstrous thanks to Jesus, who rescued me from the miry pit and set my feet on solid ground. I couldn’t ask for a better life.

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3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Create a Safe Environment | Part 5

October 14, 2015 | Comments Off on 3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Create a Safe Environment | Part 5

The third element of discipleship is creating a safe environment. (See the introduction to this article here.)

Disciple-Making: Create a Safe Environment

Disciple-Making: Create a Safe Environment

Create a Safe Environment

Discipleship is personal, so it’s important to create a safe environment where disciples can explore and grow. Here are three tips for creating safety:

Meet in a Safe Place
It isn’t always easy to find physical space for small groups or one-on-one discipleship. If you have a family or roommates, your home may not have sufficient privacy. When crying or anger are involved, a coffee shop isn’t a good option. You may need to be creative, but you need to make sure that your disciples have the privacy needed for intimate conversations.

Stress Confidentiality
Often in a small group, I share something of my past or even my present that I don’t want broadcast beyond that setting. This actually goes both ways. You want to assure your group members that anything they say belongs to them and neither you nor anyone in the group will share it with anyone, anywhere. The only exception to that is if you believe the group member’s life or another life is in danger. Otherwise, they must know they can trust you—and you must be able to trust them.

Avoid Condemnation
Often you will observe or hear of unbiblical lifestyle choices that your disciples are making. If you condemn or sound like Mom or Dad, your disciples will bolt and little will be gained. Asking good questions instead is helpful. Explore the rationale. Do they not know this is wrong? Have they twisted Scripture to make it right? Have they even thought about it? Is it an addiction, a deeply ingrained habit, or a family trait? Once you know those answers you can begin to address the issue. But do so gently and patiently. People don’t change overnight, even if they want to.

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way and lost a disciple who was dear to me because I came down too hard on her for a behavior that, in retrospect, wasn’t that big of a deal. Now I’m more careful to honor the image of God in each person, and I attempt to love and woo them into a better choice, even if it takes longer.

Discipleship can be one of the most rewarding opportunities for Christians. What a delight to see a person grow up into Christ and the faith! What a joy to see them take on leadership or ministry and become all God created them to be. And we benefit, too. We get to look at things with fresh eyes, which is energizing. But discipleship in groups won’t happen with intentionality and work. Are you up for the challenge?

This article was originally published on SmallGroups.com.

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Introduction | Part 1

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: What is Discipleship? |Part 2

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Ask Good Questions | Part 3

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Stress Application | Part 4

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3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Stress Application | Part 4

October 12, 2015 | Comments Off on 3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Stress Application | Part 4

The second element of disciple-making is stressing application. (See the introduction to this article here.)

The second element of disciple-making is stressing application.

The second element of disciple-making is stressing application.

Stress Application

It’s understandable to want to use a prepared Bible study. They often require much less preparation time. But few prepared studies will meet disciples where they are, and they seldom stress application. While it’s crucial to teach doctrine, teach it within the bounds of disciples’ immediate needs. Make sure that whatever you cover, the disciples know what to do with it in real life: How can they apply it at home, at work, or in their internal lives?

Beyond Gaining Knowledge

A key skill we need to teach our disciples is how to apply biblical principles to everyday questions and needs. The world is ready with answers to every question, so Christians need to know how to find the answers they need in Scripture. Of course not every answer is in the Bible, so disciples need to learn how to reason biblically—looking to Scripture rather than Dr. Phil.

Application is difficult not just because it sometimes doesn’t seem clear, but also because it often means we must act counter-culturally. We need to admit this difficulty to our disciples and walk with them through the challenge. Too many Christians prefer the wisdom of the world, assuming biblical solutions are old-fashioned, judgmental, or meaningless. We need to teach our disciples why and how to be countercultural.

Read Part 5 on Wednesday.

This article was originally published on SmallGroups.com.

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Introduction | Part 1

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: What is Discipleship? |Part 2

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Ask Good Questions | Part 3

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3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Ask Good Questions | Part 3

October 9, 2015 | Comments Off on 3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Ask Good Questions | Part 3

The first element of discipleship is asking good questions. (See the introduction to this article here.)

Disciple-Making: Asking Good Questions

Disciple-Making: Asking Good Questions

Ask Good Questions

Whether you’re doing a prepared study in a small group or simply handling new believer questions, it’s important to ask good questions. Good questions move the conversation forward, call disciples to discover truth for themselves, require disciples to apply what they know of Scripture, challenge faulty worldviews, and keep disciples coming back for more. Of course, these are good tips for all small-group leaders. But if you have baby or immature Christians in your group, good questions become crucial.

Avoid Yes or No Answers
Questions that require only a yes, no, or other one-word answer won’t do much to facilitate conversation or discipleship. You’ll learn a lot more about disciples and their thought processes if you ask questions that require longer answers. Then you’ll be able to spot where their thinking goes off base, and thus be better able to offer insights.

Avoid Shaming
Any questions that could potentially shame disciples should be avoided—and watch your responses that could potentially shame. New believers, and even those who have been believers a long time, often have odd understandings of the faith. Rather than saying, “No, that’s wrong” or “How could you think that?” try asking, “Hmm, what do you think Paul would say to that?” or “Where do we read that in Scripture?” Point them back to Scripture to discover the truth for themselves in a way that encourages and empowers them rather than shames them.

Meet Disciples Where They Are
In the beginning, I had little interest in doctrine. I needed to know who Peter’s mother was (seriously!) and why I had to change my lifestyle. These leaders didn’t push me. They graciously answered my questions and gently led me to the more important issues of the faith. Today when I’m discipling someone either individually or in a group, I usually know pretty quickly what their issue is and what they need to do about it. But I don’t beat them over the head with it. (At least I try not to.) I let them take the lead, and gradually ask questions that move them to the deeper issues.

Read Part 4 on Monday.

This article was originally published on SmallGroups.com.

 

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Introduction | Part 1

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: What is Discipleship? |Part 2

 

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3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: What is Discipleship? |Part 2

October 7, 2015 | Comments Off on 3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: What is Discipleship? |Part 2

(See the introduction to this article here.)

What is Discipleship?

What is Discipleship?


What Is Discipleship?

Discipleship is both modeling and teaching Christians the principles of Scripture—including doctrine, prayer, Christian living, and worship. But the key is teaching Christians to live out those principles. Ephesians 4:12-15 explains it well as equipping “his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” It’s a lot like parenting: discipleship involves preparing a young Christian for Christian adulthood.

In discipleship we both teach and model what we want our disciples to learn, knowing that who we are is more important than what we teach. Monica, Susan, and the others taught me a lot, but it was their character that motivated me to grow up in the faith. I saw a maturity that I wanted, and I was willing to work for.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about discipleship. While discipleship happens in both formal and informal settings—and through all different techniques—I’ve found three keys to successful discipleship. We’ll discuss them over the next few days.

Read Part 3 on Friday

This article was originally published on SmallGroups.com.

3 Essentials for Disciple-Making: Introduction | Part 1

 

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Essentials of Disciple-Making

Essentials of Disciple-Making

 

Making Disciples

I had been a Christian for exactly one week when some people at a church I was trying out invited me to lunch. Having been a very successful (read: worldly) pagan, I had no idea what to expect. What I met was a group of crazy, wonderful, dedicated people who welcomed me with open arms, despite my decidedly un-Christian appearance. Kathleen invited me to a coffee hour at her home that evening. Luree invited me to dinner later in the week. Susan invited me to the women’s Bible study. And Monica offered to disciple me—whatever that was! And thus began my wild and wonderful ride of growing in Christ.

Monica and I were two busy professional women, but we’d meet for a quick dinner between work and meetings. In the beginning, she just answered all my questions. But in time, she began to shape my understanding of my new faith. She challenged my worldview and taught me how to think biblically. Monica became my safe person, one with whom I could expose my ignorance to her gracious correction. Eventually I did learn what discipleship was—and later I was able to disciple others.

Meanwhile, the women’s group also welcomed and encouraged me. There I learned to study the Bible and apply it to my very tumultuous life. This group had rotating leadership, and though I was happy to be an observer, Susan asked me to try my hand at leading after I’d been attending for six weeks. She encouraged me every step of the way, and you know what? I did it! It wasn’t my finest hour, but I led. And after that, they gave me more opportunities to lead, both in that small group and in the Sunday morning small groups—all because these women took seriously their responsibility to disciple me.

Read Part 2 Wednesday

This article was originally published on SmallGroups.com.

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Leading a Dynamic Bible Study

September 30, 2015 | Comments Off on Leading a Dynamic Bible Study

Diverse Students Praying

SmallGroups.com is offering their excellent training tool Leading a Dynamic Bible Study   for half price for a limited time. This is a package of five of their training packages, so offers you a treasure trove of resources–enough to train your leaders for a full year or more. I have several articles in the various sections. Here’s what SGN says about this tool.

Studying the Bible together is incredibly meaningful and rewarding, but it can also be a lot of work! How do you choose what to study? Should you use a guide or read directly from the Bible? How do you create engaging questions?

This Small Group Essentials Training Tool gives you everything you need to lead a dynamic Bible study. Learn how to prepare, lead a great discussion, interpret the Bible faithfully, and discuss basic doctrine. This resource is perfect for leaders to train themselves, for coaches or leaders to train another leader one-on-one, or for coaches or directors to train a team of leaders. The Get Started Guide shows you exactly how to maximize the comprehensive training included in this resource.

Choosing and Evaluating Bible Studies
Bible studies and other forms of curriculum are a big part of most small groups. The good news is that material for Bible studies and discussions is not hard to find. The bad news is that high quality, transformative Bible studies are rare. We provide assessments that help you identify which studies are of the highest quality before you distribute them to your small groups.

How to Prepare for a Bible Study
There are few elements more important to a small group than the act of gathering together to study God’s Word and its impact on our lives. Unfortunately, most group leaders receive very little training when it comes to the critical process of preparing study material for their groups. We’ll show you how to write great discussion questions, engage different learning styles, assign homework, and much more.

Leading a Great Small-Group Bible Study
Most churches’ small groups are study groups—mostly on the Bible. We’ll teach you how to create a climate of growth and community within your Bible study group, including ways to reach seekers. Find out methods of private Bible study to prepare for each group session, and discover how to guide stimulating discussions.

Discussing Doctrine and Theology
For many group leaders, doctrinal and theological discussions are frightening territory. But they don’t have to be. We’ll show you how to facilitate a theological discussion, and provide easy-to-follow Doctrinal Guides that clarify many confusing aspects of what Christians believe.

Exegesis and Hermeneutics for Small Groups
Unfortunately, exegesis and hermeneutics are terms often only found in seminary textbooks, and are not common with everyday Christians. But they should be-or at least their principles should be. The fact is that we all interpret the Bible every time we read it, and it’s helpful to have some principles to rely on so that we’re interpreting the Bible faithfully. We’ll help you better prepare for Bible study with your small group and give you tips on leading your small-group members in interpreting the Bible.

You have permission to make up to 1,000 copies of this resource for use within your local church.

 

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