Pastor’s Corner – February 2019

If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn. — English proverb
 
But Jesus answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” — Matthew 4:4
 
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” — 2 Timothy 3:16–17
 

Learning to Study the Scriptures

One of the core beliefs we hold as Christians is the authority and importance of the Bible. We believe it is divinely inspired, without error and fully authoritative for us and our lives. We also believe that Christians should regularly study and learn from the Bible. But much of how we do that is through sermons and Sunday school lessons, which usually involve someone (the preacher, for example) reading a passage, telling us (the congregation) what it means, and then how to apply it to our lives. It is, in many respects, a passive learning experience – knowledge and information is given to us to receive and absorb, and hopefully live. But we all learn best by doing ourselves, rather than someone doing the work for us (see the English proverb above).
 

Getting SOAPy

On Sunday evenings, the youth have started studying the books of the Bible. In doing so, we’re seeking to teach them not simply what the Bible says and means, but more importantly how to study the Bible for themselves. I think the technique we’re teaching them might be of benefit to you, particularly if you’ve struggled with how to study the Bible on your own. The method we’re teaching is an acronym called SOAPScripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. Here’s how it works:
 

Scripture

The first step is to identify a Scripture passage for study. It is generally good to Study one or two paragraphs – or about 6-10 verses — at a time. After selecting a passage, it is good to identify what Testament you are in (before or after Christ’s birth), and what kind of literature you are reading (history, law, prophets, poetry, gospel, letters). It is helpful to copy the passage or key verses into a journal, as this increases comprehension and sets the stage for learning. Remember: You can Google any book of the Bible for answers to simple questions about that book.
 

Observation

Observation is taking time to look at the passage and ask questions to learn what it is saying. What are the commands to obey or examples to follow? What are the promises to claim? What does it teach me about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit? Take time to identify questions you may have that will lead to additional study. Write your observations and questions in your journal. Consider using a Bible handbook or simple commentary for further study.
 

Application

Do not stop with observations; take time to make applications. Ask: How will this truth change me or my family? Where do I fall short and who can help me? What will I change in my attitudes, relationships, and behaviors? What must I do today as a result of this study? How am I strengthened and encouraged by this passage? Record your applications in your journal.
 

Prayer

Conclude your Bible study with prayer. Ask God to help you apply the passage to life. Where do you need God’s help or forgiveness? What are you thankful for in this passage of Scripture? Write the answers to these questions in your journal.
 
Learning to study the Bible is not difficult, but it takes practice and commitment. Like any good habit, the benefits of practicing regular Bible study, by yourself and in groups, make the effort of cultivating it worthwhile. It is my prayer that using a little SOAP in your study of the Bible will help you know God’s Word and its importance for your life.
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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New Sunday School Opportunity – Beginning Sunday, January 27

Let me be up front: If you aren’t already attending a Sunday School class at Northminster, we’re inviting you (and your kids) to come to Sunday school.  I suppose it’s kind of obvious that a pastor would make that request, but there’s more to it than that.. Let me explain.
 
I think most of us would agree that our faith is important to us, but when push comes to shove, we (yep, even me) tend to let the hustle-and-bustle of life crowd out the rhythms and practices of our faith. Before we know it, while still important, our faith has been moved to the back seat.
 
Jesus says in John 10:10 that he came so we might “have more and better life than we’ve ever dreamed of.” Being in the back seat of our life likely isn’t what he had in mind. And I think most of us would agree that while our lives might not be terrible, they probably aren’t exactly “more and better than we’ve ever dreamed” either.
 
Here are some things I know, mostly from what I’ve experienced in my own life:
  • The closer I walk with Jesus, the closer I come to that “more and better life.”
  • The more time I spend in God’s Word, the more grounded I am.
  • The more I connect with other believers, the more hope I have.
 
I also know that, as parents, we want to pass on a faith to our children that is meaningful and valuable to them. Along those lines, I also know (again, from my own experience, but also from 20+ years of youth ministry) that there are three key components to passing the faith to our children effectively. They are:
  • Teaching the full gospel of Jesus Christ (more than just “sin management” or whatnot),
  • Parents being the primary ministers to their own children (don’t let this scare you), and
  • Building as many intergenerational connections into kids lives as possible.
 
All of the above is why I’m inviting you to come to Sunday school. Beginning January 6, from 9:45-10:30, I’ll be teaching a new class that will meet in the Tatman Room. But actually, I would think of this as more of a “small group” type thing than “Sunday school.” There will be more discussion than lecture, more questions than dissertation. It’s an opportunity for us to dig into God’s Word together, to understand what it meant back then so we can better understand what it means right now, and to apply it to the nitty-gritty of our lives right now. The better we know God’s Word, the more we will know and live the Gospel, the easier it’ll be to share our faith with our kids through our lives.  We’ll be starting out studying Paul’s letter to the Romans.
 
And that intergenerational part? Well, we happen to have a whole lot of folks in this church who would love the opportunity to love your kids in Jesus’ name. While we’re growing as disciples together, your kids will be being taught the Gospel as well and building those intergenerational relationships I mentioned a moment ago.
 
I know for many of you, Sunday morning is one of the few, precious opportunities you have to sleep in. I also know that getting the kids out the door to be at church by 9:45 can be a hassle. My intent is to make this class, as well as your children’s classes, worth the effort to be here.
 
I hope you’ll join us Sundays at 9:45 in the Tatman Room.

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Pastor’s Corner – October 2017

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
 
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matt 24:3–8)

 

 
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “End Times” and when Jesus is coming back. Christians have been trying to figure that out since Jesus first ascended into heaven. This always happens when we have an abnormal pattern of highly destructive natural disasters, or when unusual events occur in the heavens (such as eclipses, or comets, etc.), or when wars break out around our planet. Most recently, a report made the news that the “End Times” would begin on Saturday, September 23. Saturday came and went, and all is well – if not a little bit hotter than we usually expect for late September.
 
I’ll be honest, there’s a lot about the “End Times” that I don’t know or understand. In fact, Jesus himself said that there’s a lot about this that we’re not going to know or understand: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt 24:36) Here’s what we do know: Jesus is coming back (Revelation 22:20). When he comes back, all that is broken will be made right (Revelation 21:1,5). Until Jesus comes back, we will have suffering and persecution for His name’s sake (John 15:18-25). Outside of those things, Jesus invites us to trust and abide in Him (John 15:1-17).
 
The Thessalonians were swept up in waiting for Jesus’ return. They fully believed his return was so imminent that they stopped doing the work of the Kingdom. We should be diligent in avoiding the same mistake. So what should we do as we wait for Christ’s return? The same thing Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to do:

And we urge you, brothers & sisters, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22)

Note particularly verses 23 & 24:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

In other words, be about the work of the Kingdom, and trust in the God who’s name is Faithful. He is true to his promises, and He is true to you. Amen!


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