Home sweet home! Today was the final day of our whirlwind discipleship road trip. We drove the final 448 miles today. After getting up and showering at the YMCA we finally found the Holy Grail that we had been searching for this entire trip. Krispy Kreme! O. My. Goodness! We went back to the church, packed up, ate the most delicious donuts on the face of the earth, then loaded up and departed at 8:45am. We drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, then had some Bible study and discussion about how God built a bridge to us, and how we are called to the ministry of bridge building as well. We watched the movie Ragamuffin and worked on our Scripture memory passages from the trip. We arrived home at 6pm, cleaned the shuttle, and sent some happy students home to some happy parents and siblings.
15 people. 2,217.50 miles traveled. Stayed at 4 churches. Visited 5 different sites that tied in with our daily themes. Bible reading, prayer, worship, Scripture memory, and lots of conversations. Amazing time #LetsRide2017 Discipleship Road Trip!
712 more miles traveled today. This morning we were up and at ’em at 6am. After getting ready, we packed, cleaned, ate breakfast, then loaded up aand hit the road at 7:30am. We drove 5 hours to the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky. It is a full scale replica of Noah’s ark. It was incredible! Talk about the Scriptures coming to life! The thing was so massive! We spent 2 hours walking around the ark before departing. During rhe ride afterward we had some great discussion about Noah, the ark, and our theme for the day: Faithful Obedience. We stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrel, the first time 6 of our 15 people have eaten there. During our drive after dinner Peter spoke to our team. We arrived at Covenant Community Church in Asheville, NC at 11:40pm. Got settled in, made lunches for tomorrow, and now heading to bed. Early start again tomorrow.
Challenged by this quote from Mark Batterson in his book All In:
Pharisees treat people based on past performance. Prophets treat people based on future potential.
Pharisees give people something to live down too. Prophets give people something to live up to.
Pharisees write people off. Prophets right people in.
Pharisees see sin. Prophets see the image of God.
Pharisees give up on people. Prophets give them a second chance.
As a Christian in community, there are likely to be times when you are asked to share a devotional — maybe in a small group, on a missions trip, at camp, on a retreat, etc. This can feel intimidating if you think, “Woe! I am no pastor. I could never see things in the Bible that they see, let alone share them with other people.” This thinking contains several false beliefs.
- “I have to be a pastor.” The whole Reformation of the 1500s was to refute the thinking that only professional pastors can understand the Bible and teach people what it says. While some people have the gift of teaching and can communicate the truths of the Bible in a more effective way than others, the Bible teaches the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5), and that God can speak to our hearts directly, because the Holy Spirit who helps us understand God’s Word lives within each of us (John 14:26; 1 John 2:27).
- “I have to be really smart.” Another false belief is that understanding the Bible is simply an academic exercise. The truth is that the Bible is the living Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), and understanding and applying it to our lives is a matter of the Spirit of God enabling us to do so (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).
- “I have to be a good public speaker.” Some people are naturally wired and gifted to be communicators in front of people. Others are not. The good news is that sharing God’s Word in a devotional setting isn’t about eloquence. It’s simply about telling people what God is showing you in the Bible.
When we are living in community, it is important to share with others what we are learning. Paul told Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). He wrote to the Colossians, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (3:16). And he said to the Corinthians, “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (14:26).
So, here are some simple steps to take in preparing a devotional. Writing is important in this process. For me, I underline key words or verses in my Bible. I jot down notes, questions, thoughts, ideas, etc. as I am preparing. In the preparation process below, you will find all kinds of questions and thoughts to consider, which you should scribble down responses to.
Preparing a Devotional:
- Pray – Sometimes you will have a passage of Scripture assigned to you. Other times you will be given the freedom to find a passage to share. Whatever the case may be, prayer is the essential first step in prep. Thank God for the opportunity He has given you to share from His Word. Invite the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you as you prepare, and help you understand what He wants you to learn. Pray for the people you will be sharing with — that their hearts and minds will be open to receive God’s Word.
- Study – 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Once you have a passage of Scripture, ask questions about what is going on in the passage. Ask questions like, Who is writing? Who are they writing to? What was going on? Why are they concerned about this? Why do they feel this is important to share? What did these words mean to the people who read them first? During this step you are not focussed on what this means for you, you are trying to understand the context. Context is the most important thing in Bible study, because if you don’t understand the original intent of the author to the people he was actually writing to, you will misunderstand what it might mean for your life. Another good idea at this step is to look at different translations. Sometimes the way different translators interpret various words will help you get a better sense of the message.
- Interpret – Once you have a handle on the context, now you can ask some interpretive questions. The two main questions you want to answer here are:
- What does this passage tell us about God? Complete the sentence: God is …
- What does this passage tell us about human beings? Complete the sentence: Human beings are …
- Check Other Sources – At this point (not before!), it is good to see if your understanding is on track. Visit biblestudytools.com/commentaries or biblehub.com/commentaries for Free online commentaries. These are insights into the passages from scholars. You want to see if your understandings are consistent with others (there will be variations, which is fins; you just want to make sure you are not way off.) Another thing you can do here is share with a pastor or spiritual leader what you learning and ask for their feedback and insights as people who do study the Bible with regularity.
- One Point – What is the emphasis of the passage? You may have learned several things that are rich, but if you only have 5 minutes to tell people something you learned, what would you choose? What is the one point you want to drive home? In a devotional, your goal is not to preach a full sermon, but to give people one nugget of truth to walk away with and think about that day. What’s the BIG idea? Make it memorable. How can you say the big idea in a catchy way? Rather than saying, for example, “Jesus loved us and died on the cross for us. Because of this, we should love other people,” you could say, “Loved people love people.” It’s simple, catchy, and memorable.” Someone once said, “make it something that could go on a t-shirt.”
- Personal Story or Illustration – What is something you have been through, or a current event that illustrates your main point?
- Application – What do you want people to do to live out the main point? Give them a question or some suggestions about what they can do to live out the truth you have shared.
Sharing a Devotional:
Now your study and brainstorming is done. It’s time to bring it all together in a way that you can share with others. I would suggest that you write it out like you are speaking to people. Then, when it comes time to share, you have the option to simply read what you have written (with practice you can do this without simply staring at the paper), or you can share from an outline you have created from what you have written, which is basically bullet points to remind you what you want to share. Note: Generally speaking, one single-spaced, typed page takes about three and an half to five minutes to read out loud, so you should have about a page and a half or so for a 5 minute devotional (Hand written would be different based on your handwriting.)
A Few Tips and Reminders:
- Know Your Audience. What are their ages? What are their interests? What similarities do you have that you can connect with them over?
- Use a Bible translation that reads well and says things in a way that your audience can understand.
- Be yourself. While you may be shy and speaking in front of people may not be your thing, but that doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be a loud, funny speaker. Just share like you are having a conversation with a friend at Starbucks. If you are funny, use some good, appropriate humor. If you are a good story-teller, bring us into your story. Whatever the case, be yourself.
When is comes to actually sharing your devotional, a good format to follow is Hook, Book, Look, Took (Creative Bible Teaching by Lawrence O. Richards & Gary J. Bredfeldt).
- Hook – A brief introduction to grab the audience’s attention. Ways you can hook people is through humor, sharing a story, or asking a question to get people thinking.
- Book – Share the Bible passage, briefly tell us what’s going on.
- Look – Help the audience understand the big idea. Tell a story, give an illustration, help people see how the passage applies to their lives.
- Took – How can people practically apply what you have just shared with them? What do you want people to take away? What do you want them to believe? What do you want them to think about? What do you want them to do?
“Forgive our sins as we forgive,”
You taught us, Lord, to pray,
But You alone can grant us grace
To live the words we say.
How can Your pardon reach and bless
The unforgiving heart
That broods on wrongs and will not let
Old bitterness depart?
In blazing light Your cross reveals
The truth we dimly knew:
What trivial debts are owed to us,
How great our debt to You!
Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls
And bid resentment cease.
Then, bound to all in bonds of love,
Our lives will spread Your peace.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was a scrawny little middle schooler; new to the school. Our middle school was attached to the high school. Back then students were allowed to smoke in the courtyard of the high school, and the kids who were smoking were usually a rough and tough crowd. Seeing all those long-haired metal heads of the1980s leaning against the wall smoking cigarettes was an intimidating sight for kids like me when we got off the bus. I would put my head down and quickly walk to the middle school, hoping I wouldn’t hear those dreaded words, “Hey kid! Yeah, you! Come over here.”
Fortunately, I never did hear those words. Each day as the bus pulled up to school I would see the tough crowd and shiver a bit. But there was one guy who seemed to stick out. He looked like the others – he had long, blonde hair, and he wore a denim jacket covered with buttons – but there was something different about him. He wasn’t smoking like most of the kids. As I would walk by, he wasn’t swearing like the majority of them. While most kids were acting tough, he was pretty chill. Others had an edge to them; he always seemed to be kind. Then one day I saw something else. He had a book in his hand. And it wasn’t just any book; it was a Bible. It was well-worn. I could tell he had either dropped it repeatedly off of a high building and run it over with a car, or he really read it a lot.
Soon thereafter I was at church, and I saw this same guy! I found out that the boy’s name was Andy. I discovered he was a drummer and loved the Christian metal band Stryper. I also found out that Andy was serious about his faith, and that he had a deep desire to reach people with God’s love. I learned that on Mondays, he would get up really early and go to his youth pastor’s office for devotions and prayer before school. There was something special about this guy, and I knew I wanted to be like Andy.
Before long, I was palling around with Andy. I would get up extra early in the morning to do my paper route, then I would ride my bike over to the church and join him and Pastor Bob for morning devotions and prayer. Bob would read from a little devotional called Our Daily Bread, then we would pray for kids at school, and for kids in our youth group. It was nothing big. Many times it was just the three of us; sometimes a couple of other kids would come. Although I was in middle school, Andy invited me to stay after school and attend the Christian Club he led in the high school.
Andy was a role model for me. I saw him witnessing to kids in his school, praying for people, reading his Bible in the cafeteria during lunch. He was unashamed of Jesus. He would sometimes take me out for lunch to talk to me about Jesus and encourage me. Later he became a youth pastor then went on to be a missionary. To this day Andy still inspires me. He left a legacy in his school and influenced me to be who I am today.
Andy was passionate about Jesus, and his love for God was contagious. I wonder if God wants you to be an Andy. You never know if a kid like me is watching you. What kind of message are you sending with your life?
“I have put Scripture at the top for fairly obvious reasons, which are there in Jesus’s teachings and elsewhere in the writings of the early Christians. The practice of reading Scripture, studying Scripture, acting Scripture, singing Scripture — generally soaking oneself in Scripture as an individual and the community — has been seen from the earliest days of Christianity as central to the formation of Christian character.
“It is important to stress at this point (lest the whole scheme collapse into triviality) that this has only secondarily to do with the fact that Scripture gives particular instructions on particular topics. That is important, of course, but it is far more important that the sheer activity of reading Scripture, in the conscious desire to be shaped and formed within the purposes of God, is itself an act of faith, hope, and love, an act of humility and patience. It is a way of saying that we need to hear a fresh word, a word of grace, perhaps even a word of judgment as well as healing, warning as well as welcome. To open the Bible is to open a window toward Jerusalem, as Daniel did (6:10). no matter where our exile may have taken us.
“It is, in particular, a way of locating ourselves as actors within an ongoing drama. No matter how many smaller stories there may be within Scripture, and how many million edifying stories there may be outside it, the overall drama of Scripture, as it stands, forms a single plot whose many twists and turns nonetheless converge remarkably on a main theme, which is the reconciliation of heaven and earth as God the Creator deals with all that frustrates his purpose for his world and, through his Son and his Spirit, creates a new people through whom his purpose — filling the world with his glory — is it last to be realized. To be formed by this capital-S story is to be formed as a Christian. To take the thousand, and ten thousand, decisions to open the Bible today and read more of the story, even if we can’t yet join it all up in our own heads, is to take the next small step toward being the sort of person who, by second nature, will think, pray, act, and even feel in the way appropriate for someone charged with taking that narrative forward.
“We are not yet, after all, at the end of the drama. Bible readers … will find themselves drawn in as “characters” on stage. Yes that may well mean “playing a part,” and all the old charges of hypocrisy that cluster around the practices of virtue will come rumbling in here as well. But the more you know the play, the less you will be “playing a part” and the more you will simply be yourself. Sooner or later, you’ll be acting naturally. Second nature. That’s how virtue works.
“Of course, within the Bible there are all kinds of far more specific passages which shape and direct the life of faith, hope, and love, and which the Spirit can and does use to stir up God’s people to produce fruit. Almost every paragraph of the four gospels will have this effect, if read, pondered, and prayed through slowly and carefully. Likewise, the Psalms will open up the heart and mind of anyone who reads, sings, or prays them with any attention; they will form and reform that heart and mind in a way which, though by no means always comfortable, is always formative of Christian character. Even the genealogies, best read today at a run, can provide a powerful sense of the ongoing purposes of God, with generation after generation living by faith and hope before the next major point in the divine purpose unfolds, like a long-awaited late-blooming orchid. Some parts of the Bible are best drunk like a large glass of water on a hot day — in other words large quantities at a time — while others, such as many parts of the letters, are best sipped and savored, drop by drop, like a fine wine (always remembering that, especially in a letter, every verse means what it means in relation to the whole thing, not on it’s own). But the point is that reading the Bible is habit-forming; not just in the sense that the more you do it the more you are likely to want to do it, but also in the sense that the more you do it the more it will form the habits of mind and heart, of soul and body, which will slowly but surely form your character into the likeness of Jesus Christ. And the “your” here is primarily plural, however important the singular as well.
“This isn’t to say there aren’t hard bits in the Bible — both passages that are difficult to understand and passages that we understand only too well but find shocking or disturbing … Avoid the easy solution to these: that these bits weren’t “inspired,” or that the whole Bible is wicked nonsense, or that Jesus simply abolished the bits we disapprove of. Live with tensions. Goodness knows there are plenty of similar tensions in our own lives, our own world. Let the troubling words jangle against one another. Take the opportunity to practice some patience (there may yet be more meaning here than I can see at the moment) and humility (God may well have things to say through this for which I’m not yet ready). In fact, humility is one of the key lessons which comes from reading the Bible over many years; there are some bits we find easy and other bits we find hard, but not everybody agrees as to which is which.
“Some people, it seems, are temperamentally suited to a particular book or type of book which others find opaque. John’s gospel is like that: some acclaim it as the very summit of the Scriptures, while others, though appreciating some of its great strengths, find it awkward and puzzling. Some people find that with St. Paul as well. Perhaps — and this is where humility comes in — it might just be the case that Scripture is so arranged that in order to grow toward a full genuine humanness, toward the well-rounded virtue of being a royal priesthood, we have to grow into Scripture, like a young boy inheriting his older brothers clothes and flopping around in them while he gradually fills out and grows up. Perhaps it’s a measure of our own maturity when parts of Scripture that we found odd or even repellent suddenly come up in a new light; when people who naturally embrace Paul come to love John as well, and vice versa; when people soaked in Revelation suddenly warm to Acts, and vice versa. Perhaps it’s another sign of maturity when our sense that Scripture is made up of some bits we know and love and other bits we tolerate while waiting for our favorites to come around once more, is suddenly overtaken by a sense of the whole thing — wide, multicolored, and unspeakably powerful. We had, perhaps, been wandering around in light mist, visiting favorite villages and hamlets, and then, as the mist gradually cleared, we discovered that everything we had loved was enhanced as it was glimpsed within a massive landscape, previously unsuspected, full of hills and valleys and unimagined glory” (N.T. Wright, After You Believe, pp. 261-264).