Lookout January 4, 2015
The Growing Christian’s Weekly Resource
Studying Scripture THE WORD
101 ideas to engage in Bible study
Have some fun in your marriage
ISIS oil sales & 3D video games
oes today feel any different to you? Can you sense that we are living on a whole new calendar now? I have to stop and think for a moment when I begin to write the date. Here at The Lookout, we’ve been thinking about 2015 for a while. Some things have to be planned months in advance, such as what topics we are going to cover each week and who is going to write about those topics. We were also working ahead to have a new look for our magazine in 2015. Perhaps you’ve been anticipating the newness of 2015 also. At work you may be striving for a promotion this year or counting down the days until you retire. Maybe this year you have planned a special vacation. Perhaps this year you have a new Bible study to attend or a new role at church in which you are volunteering. New Habits For some folks, a new year inspires new Bible reading habits. With that in mind, we’ve included articles in this issue to offer: • ways to mine deeper into God’s Word • 101 tips to revitalize your study of Scripture • a challenge to commit portions of the Bible to memory Every week in The Lookout we offer tools to help you remain in God’s Word: • This might be the year you want to read the whole Bible. If so, you can use our 2015 Bible reading plan.* David Faust discusses parts of the reading plan weekly in his column, Revealed and Relevant.
I wa s THINKING
Ke l l y C a r r, E d i t or • Or you may study the Scripture texts from the International Sunday School Lesson. Sam Stone offers commentary on those texts, and The Lesson and Life devotions as well as Where You Live small group questions go along with the same Scriptures. New Plans We know life never fully works out as we plan. It storms when we were hoping for sunshine. We get sick at an inopportune time. Everything from minor inconveniences to major tragedies can throw off our day’s hopes. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Yet God doesn’t change. Each new year, each new day, whether we’ve kept our plans or not, he is steadily present, with us every step of the way. I hope that fact gives you strength for this year’s journey. May your 2015 be filled with a greater sense of how God is moving in your life, in your community, and around the world. May you discover new insights from the Bible and from the Holy Spirit’s guidance. May you find new ways to share the hope of Jesus with others. n
January 4, 2015
Volume CXXVII. Number 1.
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All Scriptures, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society. The Lookout (USPS 319-100) is published weekly by Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio, www.standardpub.com. Copyright © 2014 by Standard Publishing. Printed in U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at Cincinnati, Ohio and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249. Send old and new address, complete with zip number, at least six weeks before delivery date.
HOW TO DISCOVER
IN BIBLE STUDY BY RICK EZELL
magine living in the mid 1800s and hearing that gold has been discovered. You travel west. Everyone is saying, “There’s gold in them there hills.” You saddle your horse, riding into the mountains. You soon realize that if gold resides in the hills, it’s not resting on the ground for easy picking. To find gold you must discover the veins in the mountainside. And that means work. You must go after the hidden treasure with passion and pursuit. Likewise, mining the truths of the Bible requires similar discovery. Personal Bible study is crucial to your development and maturity as a disciple of Christ. At its foundation, Bible study consists of three aspects: discovery—determining what the writer was saying; interpretation—finding out what the writer meant; and application—applying that truth to your life. This article focuses on the discovery aspect of Bible study. In his book Daily Celebration, William Barclay wrote, “It is only when truth is discovered that it is appropriated. When a man is simply told the truth, it remains external to him and he can quite easily forget it. When he is led to discover the truth himself, it becomes an integral part of him and he never forgets it.” Here are the steps to discover the truth as you mine God’s Word through Bible study.
TH E LO OKOU T | January 4, 2015
OBSERVATION Observation in Bible study is the first step toward discovery. Observation is the act, power, or habit of seeing and noting. In observing, the Bible student sees the basic facts contained in the text being studied. The more careful and thorough the observation, the more meaningful will be the interpretation, the fairer will be the evaluation, and the richer will be the application. A major difference between reading and studying is observing something new. Many people read Scripture without truly seeing. On many a Sunday someone will say to me after I have preached a sermon, “Wow, I have read that passage a hundred times but never saw what you brought to light in your teaching.” They had been reading without seeing. I, on the other hand, had to observe to discover the truths and insights. The Bible was written by short story authors, not novelists; therefore each word is important and filled with meaning. Every word, nuance, literary form, question, comparison, contrast, and repetition means something. As you read, observe the following: • key words (where the main thought hides) • verbs (where commands hide) • people (where examples hide) • character traits (where life lessons hide) • odd items that might provoke good questions ASKING QUESTIONS Asking questions is the next step in the discovery process. In Bible reading you allow the truth of God to speak to you; but in Bible study, you speak to it, asking questions of the text. The Bible student asks
There’s a difference between Bible reading and Bible studying. questions on the basis of what has been observed. A myriad of questions can be asked. As you become more adept at Bible study, the more appropriate and precise will be your questions, like an advanced miner knowing what rock veins to follow. Asking questions is a skill easily developed. The more questions you ask about the text, the more truth and insight you will get out of it. Here are a few questions you need to ask of every text: 4
• Who wrote it? to whom? about whom? • What are the main events? major ideas? major doctrines? What is the author’s purpose in writing? • When was the book written? When did the events take place? • Where did the events occur? • Why was this written? Why were certain things mentioned or not mentioned? Why was so much or so little space devoted to this particular event or teaching? JOURNALING Bible study cannot happen without writing something down. This is the huge difference between Bible reading and Bible studying. In fact if you are in doubt as to whether you are just reading or studying, ask, “Am I writing anything down?” Note taking and jotting down your thoughts are essential to Bible studying. Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, said, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” If you haven’t recorded your discoveries, you really haven’t thought about them. As you record your findings, save them and leave space so you can add to your discoveries when you study the same passage or character again. Your first studies will provide a foundation for your future studies. So don’t let your insights be lost. Write them down! They become a map to hidden treasure.
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you find verses on particular subjects. This helps with cross referencing topics and subjects. • Bible dictionary. Like a regular dictionary, a Bible dictionary provides definitions, descriptions, and often illustrations of key words, places, events, and people. • Commentaries. These provide greater detail into the background of passages. A good place to start would be a single-volume commentary such as Matthew Henry’s Commentary or The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Most commentaries do not provide information on all matters in a text. One would have to invest in multiple commentary sets or Bible software to cover all the bases. DISCIPLINE Then remember that in-depth Bible study requires time. Perhaps the biggest difference between Bible reading and Bible studying is the time commitment involved. One can read the Bible in a year by reading
STUDY HELPS Have you ever stopped at a place where you can pan for gold? They have the water flowing down a trough. The pans are handy. All you have to do is pay the $5 and try your luck. Simple and straightforward. But if you are mining for gold, you need more than a pan. You need some other tools: pickaxes, shovels, wheelbarrows, lumber, nails, hammers, dynamite, maybe even a train track with a wagon. What separates professionals from amateurs are their tools. The Bible student’s tools are the Bible and books or software about the Bible. These helps are not meant to replace the Bible but rather to enhance understanding of the Bible. A great danger is to read books about the Bible while not reading the Bible itself. While there is an abundance of possible tools, let me mention a few of the basics. If you cannot purchase these items, a number of them can be found for free online. • A study Bible with a recent translation. The translators have accurately translated the text from the earliest of manuscripts. The notes provide brief comments on key verses to aid in your understanding of a passage. A word of caution: Don’t emphasize the study notes at the expense of the biblical text. • Concordance. Often found in the back of most Bibles, a concordance is an alphabetical index to help
The longer you are in the Word, the stronger you become. 12 minutes a day. Serious study of the Bible takes concentrated time and effort. It is better to block out one to two hours for Bible study, rather than trying to study a few minutes each day. Consider the difference between a strong and a weak cup of tea. The same ingredients—water and tea— are used for both. The difference is that the strong cup of tea results from the tea leaves being immersed in the water longer, allowing the water more time to get into the tea and the tea into the water. The longer steeping process results in a stronger cup of tea. In the same way, the length of time you spend in God’s Word determines how deeply you get into it and it gets into you. The longer you are in the Word, the stronger you become. In the end, remember that you study the Bible to grow as a disciple of Jesus. Bible study is not just getting to know the Word of God as much as it is getting to know the God of the Word. In doing so, you’ll discover the gold in Bible study. n Rick Ezell is a freelance writer in Greer, South Carolina.
TH E LO OKOU T | January 4, 2015
101 IDEAS TO STUDY GOD’S WORD
BY MICHAEL C. MACK
as your study of God’s Word become tedious or tiresome? You’re not alone. Quite often, we’ve been taught there is one correct way to read our Bibles. But each of us is different, so how we develop a more intimate relationship with God will be different. Experiment with different ways of engaging with God through his Word. See what works best for you. Here are some ideas to get your creativity flowing: 1. Make spending time with God your #1 priority. 2. Designate a specific place where you will meet with God. Think of this as “holy ground” where you meet with, listen to, and speak with the Most High God. 3. If #2 becomes tiresome or humdrum, find a different place: outside on the deck, at a park, etc. 4. Before you begin reading, ask God to help you see past the words on the page in order to see his purpose, his heart, and his calling for you through the passage. 5. Thank God for the time to spend with him and hear from him; it’s only possible by what Jesus did on the cross. 6. Be prepared to surrender your own thoughts, ideas, and mindset to what God wants you to hear and do. Tell God you’re ready to obey whatever he shows you through your time together. 7. Be attentive to the Holy Spirit as you study. As a Christian, he lives within you to guide you and help you understand Scripture.
8. Consider how you learn best. If you are an auditory learner, listen to the Bible rather than read it. If you are a kinesthetic learner, stand or walk outside or on a treadmill (carefully!) as you read or listen. 9. Hang around with people who are also seeking God’s wisdom. Meet regularly to share what you are learning and grapple with applying God’s Word to your lives. 10. Target your Bible reading toward a particular area of weakness or need for spiritual growth. TRY NEW TOOLS 11. If you’ve always used a certain type of reading plan, try something different, such as an intense study of one book of the Bible or even one chapter for a period of time. 12. Change versions of the Bible. If you’ve always studied from the NIV, for instance, try the New Living Translation, The Message, or others. 13. Read one passage in several different versions and pay attention to what you learn from the different ways it is translated. 14. Use a Bible software program on your computer or tablet, such as WORDsearch or Logos, which include numerous tools. 15. Utilize a website or app such as BibleGateway.com or YouVersion. These include tools, reading plans, and even ways to share Scripture with friends. 16. Journal what you are learning, hearing, and praying on paper or digitally.
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EVALUATE YOUR APPROACH 17. Be careful not to simply try harder by your own efforts to be “a good Christian” by reading the Bible. This will lead to burnout and ineffectiveness. 18. Change the way you think about spending time with God (Romans 12:2). Don’t do it because you should, but because you want to spend more time with your Father. 19. After reading a section, stop and reread in light of your own circumstances. Look for the transferrable principle for your situation in the passage. 20. Extend the amount of time you spend each day communicating with God through his Word. 21. Meditate on God’s Word—really think about and even feel what God is saying. 22. Listen for what God is saying to you. His Word will speak to you if you focus on listening. Listen intently and patiently. 23. Take time to slow your pace. Most of life is hurried. Your time with God must not be frantic or rushed. 24. Look for Jesus. Even as you read the Old Testament, look for how these passages point to him. 25. Study a topic. Use a topical index to read every verse you can about a subject of interest. 26. Follow the cross references listed for a passage. Continue until you exhaust that topic or yourself. 27. Read a book or passage to learn about a particular value. For example, Nehemiah and the Gospels can teach about leadership. 28. Study a Bible character. Read everything you can about or by a certain person. What do you learn about God and life through this person’s life? 29. Study with a view toward teaching. Write a brief lesson outline based on a passage and share it with a group, a friend, or a child. 30. Look for intersections, that is, where truth meets real life. When you come to such an intersection, ask, what does God want to transform in me? 31. Ignore verse numbers (and in some cases even chapter divisions). Read from the beginning to the end of a sentence, idea, or story. RESPOND IN A NEW WAY 32. Do you love music? Put a key Scripture passage you read to a tune—one you make up or a favorite song melody. 33. Create something (art, poetry, dance, etc.) in response to the verses that you read. 34. Put yourself in the historical situation. Investigate the time and culture when a book was written. Then
pretend as if you were living in that time as you read. Consider how you would have responded then and how our culture is similar today. 35. Read a shorter Bible book like a letter written to you. If you can, read it in one sitting, as if you just received a letter in the mail from a friend. 36. Pray Scripture back to God in your own words. Try praying a psalm, for instance. 37. Identify any emotions you have as you read. Do you feel mad, glad, sad, confused, or scared? Why? 38. Watch for the passions and yearnings God gives you as you read his Word. What do they tell you? READ LIKE A JOURNALIST 39. Always start with the facts, that is, what the Scripture actually says in the context of the culture in which it was written. 40. Who is involved? 41. What are the circumstances? 42. When was this taking place? 43. Where was the setting for this? 44. Why was this taking place? Why is this important? 45. How are you going to apply this to your life? APPLY IDEAS FROM PSALM 119 46. Focus on obeying what you read, not simply knowing it (v. 9). 47. Read God’s Word aloud (v. 13). It can help you retain it in your mind and heart. 48. Tell others what you are hearing from God (v. 13). Share with your small group, spouse, kids, friends, coworkers, and neighbors what God is teaching you. 49. Rejoice in God and his Word as you read (v. 14). How are you inspired to respond? Stop reading and clap your hands. Throw your hands in the air and yell, “Yes! Thank you, Lord!” Do a fist pump and shout, “Woo-hoo!” 50. Reflect on God’s ways (v. 15). What does the passage teach you about God’s nature? To read the rest of Michael Mack’s 101 ideas, go to our website (lookoutmag.com/101-ideas). n Michael Mack writes our weekly Where You Live column and leads the ministry, Small Group Leadership (www.smallgroupleadership.com).
TH E LO OKOU T | January 4, 2015
The Hiding Place BY DOUG REDFORD
TH E LOOKOU T | January 4, 2015
ost everyone who has attended Vacation Bible School remembers the pledges that were often recited at the beginning of each session. I grew up in the era of two-week VBS programs, so the pledges are perhaps a bit more etched in my memory for that reason. There were three pledges: one to the American flag, one to the Christian flag, and one to the Bible. Whenever it was time for the pledge to the Bible, one of the children present (out of the many who waved their hands) would be chosen to go to the front and hold up a Bible while the pledge was recited. Here are the words: “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s holy Word; a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path; its words will I hide in my heart that I might not sin against God.” Much of this pledge
MEMORIZING SCRIPTURE Each of us should provide a living translation of the Bible that reflects the priority it has in our lives. How is such a translation produced? One of the disciplines that many Christians seem to lack in the present day is the discipline of memorizing Scripture. Certainly not everyone can remember to the same degree, and not everyone can remember as well as he or she once did. However, all followers of Jesus (and today’s youth in particular) need to cultivate this discipline and know how to use “the sword of the Spirit” whenever necessary. One factor that affects memorization today is the technological age in which we live and the ready access that people can have to Scripture, for example, on their
I do not know how many times I have held the Bible, but I can think of many times that the Bible has held me. is drawn (appropriately) from the Bible. The middle section of the pledge is taken from Psalm 119:105; the last portion comes from Psalm 119:11. I do not remember how many times I held the Bible during VBS, but I can think of many times through the years that the Bible has held me. In fact, as a person grows older and encounters more personally and painfully the consequences of life in a broken, sincursed world, being held by the Bible comes to mean much more than holding it. Most of us have read a book that we became so caught up in that we could not put it down. The Bible is a book that, in a sense, cannot put us down. In it our Creator repeatedly tells us of and shows us his stubborn love for us—a love that continues to keep us in its sights wherever we go in life. That book, however, will truly hold us in a very real way only if we take the time personally to hold it—and make its words our words. The psalmist speaks in verse 11 of hiding the Word in one’s heart. The heart, of course, refers to much more throughout Scripture than just the organ that pumps blood. It also describes the thinking, reasoning abilities of a person. To hide the Word in our hearts means that our hearts should, in a sense, pump Scripture. Just as life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11), so our lives should be in Scripture.
phones. (As the saying goes, “There’s an app for that.”) In a class I taught a couple of years ago, I asked for a volunteer to read a certain passage of Scripture. A girl in the back row was looking at something on her phone. I informed her we were looking up a Scripture, and she informed me that she was looking up the passage on her phone. And she was! I’m not against having the Bible on one’s phone; it does make looking up a verse much easier. The larger question may be this: if in a few seconds by pressing the right buttons you can have a particular verse you’re looking for right in front of you, why memorize? The answer is: for your heart’s sake. Scripture is meant to be personalized internally and given the kind of memorization that no other book or item in the world of modern media deserves. AVOIDING HEART TROUBLE It is true that in Old Testament times, written communication was at a minimum. Conveying a message orally was the primary means of delivery. Memorization had to be employed more. But despite our ready access to both printed and electronic material today, we still use our memories. The issue is what we allow to enter and dominate our memories and thus to become the first items to which we default either in
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idle moments (when very little is going on around us) or in times of crisis or stress (when far too much is going on around us). If our hearts do not turn to Scripture on those occasions, they will turn to something else. Our society is very conscious these days (as it should be) about taking care of the physical heart by eating right, exercising, and getting sufficient rest. All of this is good. However, the spiritual heart today is often ignored or viewed as one’s own business. Clearly though, the corruption and decay around us spiritually and morally cannot be good for the spiritual heart. At the grocery store, certain foods are now marked as “heart healthy.” If people have concerns about their hearts, they watch out for such a label. Wouldn’t it be nice if certain items (TV shows, relationships, choices) came with a spiritual “heart healthy” warning attached? What if we started watching or looking at one of these and a siren or alarm went off as if to say, “Careful, this is bad for your heart! Put that down and back away slowly (or perhaps quickly).” Of course, there are no sirens, bells, or whistles like that. The Bible, however, is meant to serve as that kind of alarm. But it has to become a part of our heart to the point that we automatically call upon it for guidance in times of
BIBLE STUDY APPS
YouVersion (youversion.com) Includes a variety of reading plans, Bible versions, and languages. Plus you can highlight and bookmark.
Bible.Is (bible.is) Includes different languages and translations and dramatized Bible audio. Glo Bible (globible.com) Has various translations, study tools, videos, images, and maps. Olive Tree (olivetree.com) Has different versions of the Bible, commentaries, maps, and study resources.
Some of us may have forgotten about the pledge to the Bible. Perhaps we recited it many times growing up, at VBS, or on other occasions. We may have even held the Bible while the pledge was spoken. There were other times when we opened the Bible, read it, studied it,
If our hearts do not turn to Scripture, they will turn to something else. temptation, tragedy, or other circumstances that have the potential to draw our heart away from God. Nothing can make the Bible that kind of personal resource better than the memorization of Scripture. REVISITING THE PLEDGE We live in a time when the Bible is under severe attack. Critics and skeptics have become more outspoken than ever before in their ridicule of and contempt for the Scriptures.
and memorized it. But then life happened; things got busy. There were other books to read, study, and memorize. The Bible’s voice was drowned out by others. But it’s never too late to revisit the pledge and reread, re-study, and re-memorize both the pledge and the book of which it speaks. In fact the pledge isn’t just for children. The pledge is worth stating every day before we face whatever the day may bring. We may want to say it to ourselves when we first get out of bed, or just before we start our car, or when we arrive at work or at school before we walk through the door. We may want to post it in a prominent place where we can see it several times a day: “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s holy Word; a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path; its words will I hide in my heart that I might not sin against God.” We don’t have to hold the Bible when we say it, but always remember: the Bible—and its Author—will hold us. n Doug Redford is a professor at Cincinnati Christian University and a freelance writer from Cincinnati, Ohio.
TH E LOOKOU T | January 4, 2015
THROUGH the BIBLE
REVE A L ED an d RE LEVA NT
Davi d Fau st
The Starting Point G en es i s 1 : 1
he new quickly becomes old. Drive a new car off the lot and it immediately loses value. You may feel proud of your brand new house, but you’d better be handy with either a toolbox or a checkbook, because without regular maintenance your home will fall apart. Wouldn’t it be great if new things stayed new? and newly baptized believers always remained zealous for the Lord? and newly married couples always kept their vows? and each passing year gave us renewed vigor to love God and serve others? How can we keep our souls vibrant and fresh? Here’s an idea: Let’s start where Scripture does. Foundations The Bible’s first verse lays the foundation for everything else that follows: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). • Creation lays a foundation for human dignity. Our lives are valuable because we are made in God’s image. • Creation lays a foundation for moral responsibility. God created us, so he holds authority over us. He determines what is right and wrong. Imagine what you would learn about telephones and light bulbs if you could talk with Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. If you want to learn how life works, consult the one who invented it in the first place. • Creation lays a foundation for scientific inquiry. Rational, predictable, natural laws originated in the mind of the all-wise God. Naturalistic macro-evolution invites us to embrace the hard-to-swallow hypothesis that life arose without divine guidance due to a fortuitous combination of the impersonal, plus time, plus chance. By contrast, biblical creation points us to intelligent design that originated in the mind of the personal God. The repeated use of the phrase “according to their kinds” in Genesis 1 fits what nature itself tells us: There’s a biological limitation on how much one species can overlap into another. • Creation lays the foundation for future possibility. Hebrew is written from right to left, so in a Hebrew
Bible the first verse actually appears in what we consider the back of the book. Looking back to creation helps us recognize God’s power to shape the future. Why should we doubt that God can give us eternal life, since he created life in the first place? Firsts Genesis is a book of firsts. It tells about the first marriage, the first flood, and the first rainbow. It describes the beginning of agriculture and architecture, sets in motion our familiar seven-day pattern of work and rest, and reveals the genesis of human language. It chronicles the start of God’s unfolding covenant with individuals who walk with him, wrestle with him, and are blessed by him. Sadly, the early pages of Genesis also chronicle the beginning of sin and death. The first man born (Cain) killed the second man born (Abel). In Genesis 1 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (v. 31), but by Genesis 6 “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (v. 5). Wilbur and Orville Wright flew their first airplane in 1903, and a little more than a decade later planes were used to drop bombs during World War I. The Internet has spawned priceless technological advances—and it has enabled financial scams and pornography to proliferate. How quickly the fresh degenerates into the fallen! That’s why we must never forget the foundational lessons of Genesis 1:1. When it comes to making things new, God is the expert. n David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Bible Reading Plan | January 4, 2015 Day 1
Matthew 1:1-17 Acts 1:1-11 Psalm 1 Genesis 1, 2
Matthew 1:18-25 Acts 1:12-26 Psalm 2 Genesis 3, 4
Matthew 2:1-12 Acts 2:1-21 Psalm 3 Genesis 5–8
Matthew 2:13-23 Acts 2:22-47 Psalm 4 Genesis 9–11
Matthew 3:1-12 Acts 3 Psalm 5 Genesis 12–14
Matthew 3:13-17 Acts 4:1-22 Psalm 6 Genesis 15–17
1. What puzzles you most about Genesis 1:1? what delights you most? 2. What evidence compels you to believe that God created the universe?
THE LOOKOU T | January 4, 2015
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
THIS WEEK with THE WORD
Jesus’ Prayer for His Disciples THE UNIFORM LESSON FOR JANUARY 11
he night when Jesus was betrayed was filled with significance. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all reported on “The Last Supper” but included only a brief synopsis of Christ’s teaching that evening. The Gospel of John was written later, however, and includes four long chapters recounting many specific things that Jesus said that evening (John 14–17). In today’s lesson we study what is sometimes called “the high priestly prayer” (John 17). Jesus began by praying specifically for himself (vv. 1-5). While the opening section of the prayer is not part of today’s printed text, it alludes to various themes mentioned elsewhere in the Gospel (see 5:36; 6:40; 12:23). A. J. Mcleod wrote, “Jesus prays with the consciousness that the hour which had not come in John 2:4, 7:6, and which was drawing nigh in 12:23, has now come.” Then Jesus turned to the needs of his disciples. Left in the World | John 17:6-13 For about three years Jesus had been training the disciples. God had given them to him, and they knew he had come from God. Jesus saw them not as a random group of people who happened to get acquainted, but as people selected according to the Father’s will to fulfill his eternal plan and bring glory and honor to his name. With the end of his ministry coming soon, Jesus wanted to be sure that his followers would be cared for. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” As J. W. McGarvey put it, “As a last plea he urges the necessity of the Father’s care over the disciples since the Son will be no longer in the world to care for them.” Only Judas was not included in his request, since he had already been identified as “the one doomed to destruction” (John 17:12). Although Jesus would be returning to the Father, his disciples would be left in the world. The disciples were left in the world for a reason. Believers are to have a purifying influence in society. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compared this to the effects of leaven, salt, and light. The disciples were left to bear witness to the truth they had learned from Jesus.
Sa m E . Stone Not of the World | John 17:14, 15 “They are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” Like the disciples, we often receive the world’s hatred when we live for God (John 1:11; 15:18, 19). Elsewhere John taught, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. . . . The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17). Although a man drowning in the ocean must first be pulled from the water, it is then necessary both to get the swallowed seawater out of him and to get the air in. We have been saved from a sea of sin, but we must also get the sea out of us! Like the apostles, our lives are to be set apart from the world. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Earlier Jesus had taught the disciples to pray for this very thing (Matthew 6:13). Sent to the World | John 17:16-21 Believers are to be sanctified, set apart for the Lord (1 Peter 1:13-16; 2 Peter 3:13). God is able to protect us (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Separation from sin comes by learning, loving, and living the truth. This sets us free (John 8:32). By the Word of God, the devil can be confronted and overcome (Ephesians 6:11). Just as Jesus was sanctified by the truth, so his followers must be. He commanded them to evangelize to the world (Matthew 28:18-20). It is especially encouraging for Christians today to know that we also are included in this intercessory prayer of our Lord. “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” That message is redemption in Christ. We are taught to teach, saved to serve, and won to win. The world will oppose us, but this should come as no surprise. The world opposed Jesus and the apostles too. Jesus prayed that his followers would be one, and it is our responsibility to help answer that prayer. Only if the saints are one, can the world be won (John 17:23-26). n Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.
TH E LOOKOU T | January 4, 2015
BIBLE STUDY RESOURCES
THE LESSON AND LIFE
WHERE YOU LIVE
By Miguel Lara
hat do you do when you are about to take a long trip away from home, leaving your family behind? Probably you take time to talk to them about your trip and leave them with instructions on what to do while you are gone. As a Christian you would also commend yourself to God, to your journey, and most importantly to the family that you leave behind. Imagine the case that you never return from this trip. Then these words become utterly important and have a meaning that reflects our affection for our families and our commitment to God. In John 17:6-21, Jesus prayed for those whom the Father gave him (his disciples). He prayed for protection upon them. Jesus prayed for their union and asked for their sanctification by the means of the truth (the Word). Jesus finally prayed for all future believers (which includes us), that they would also be one. As we can read, the subject of unity was important to Jesus.
Questions and Activities for Small Groups
Read John 17:6-21. 2
What words would you use to describe Jesus’ approach, tone, and feelings during this prayer?
What do you learn in general about prayer from this passage?
Not of this World In this text we read that Jesus would return to a status of glory that he previously enjoyed. The spiritual anticipation of Heaven is exactly what Jesus desired for his disciples and also for all of us. He eagerly wants us to join him there. Let us imagine for a moment a vision in which we are ascending into Heaven and able to see the glory of Jesus; we are also able to witness the love that the Father has for Jesus and for us. What does this vision mean to our spiritual lives? Will it affect our way of living and praying? the way we see suffering? the way we see missions and evangelism? I truly believe it can.
The Body of Believers Jesus’ heart was set on unity as we clearly see in John 17. The spiritual oneness of God’s people was to be the heritage of God’s glory, but what has happened? Is the body of believers really united? The reality is that the lack of unity is written all over God’s church. But what are we doing about it? Are we praying for this unity as Christ prayed for it? If not, let us follow Jesus’ example in this as well. n Miguel Lara, a minister from Venezuela, is working on a Master of Divinity at Cincinnati Christian University. He and his wife, Alejandra, have three children, Andreina, Sabrina, and David Alejandro.
By Michael C. Mack If Jesus were praying for your group or your church, what specifically would you most want him to pray for?
What is the connection between prayer and: • God’s kingdom? • Our mission? • Stewardship of our lives? • God’s authority? • God’s timetable? Do you believe it’s possible for your group to be one just as Jesus and the Father are one? Why or why not? If not, what do you believe is holding you back from having that kind of community with one another? If you were to live in the kind of Christ-centered, authentic community that Jesus prayed about here, what would be the impact on your community? on your city? on the world? Conclude your time together by praying through this passage—praying in agreement with Jesus’ words for you, your group, and your church. n Michael Mack writes, leads church training events, and consults with churches through his ministry, Small Group Leadership (www.smallgroupleadership.com).
Background Scripture: John 17:1-26 | Printed Text: John 17:6-21 6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they
are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
TH E LOOKOU T | January 4, 2015
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
H OM E LIFE
A Resolution Worth Keeping Every year my husband and I make a few New Year’s resolutions. One that tops our list every year is to have more fun and less stress. But we rarely make it out of January before our resolutions fall by the wayside. I’d like to actually keep our resolution about having fun. We definitely need some of that in our marriage. Any suggestions?
ev and I can certainly relate to your question. We are one of those couples who keep saying we want “more fun and less stress” in our lives as well. The interesting thing is we had lots of fun and little stress when we were first married. So what happened? We’re guessing the same thing that happens to all married couples—it’s called life! We graduated from college and both got full-time jobs. Not long afterward, we purchased our first house and took on the responsibilities of home ownership. And then we started having kids. Over time, having fun took a back seat to other priorities in life.
The Importance of Fun Having fun as a couple is essential to a satisfying marriage. New research on marital satisfaction underscores the importance of having fun in a relationship. Research has repeatedly found that the correlation between fun and marital happiness is highly significant. Even without consulting the research, most couples instinctively know their marriages are happier when they make time for fun. But as most married couples learn, fun is the first thing to fall by the wayside as the demands of life pile up. There is a long list of benefits to increasing fun in your marriage. Here are a few: having more fun promotes spontaneity when life becomes routine or boring, connects us with positive emotions, reminds us of the good in our relationship, creates good memories, and gives us hope when working through difficult challenges. Overcoming Barriers to Fun The daily grind can keep you from enjoying your marriage, or you can choose to enjoy your marriage in the midst of the grind. You already know you want to have more fun and less stress, so how can you make that happen this year? • Schedule some fun. Upward of 80 percent of our lives are scheduled, so why not schedule some fun? When we agree on a date and time and put it on our calendars, we’re more likely to make it happen. How about scheduling a
B ev a n d P h i l Ha aBsev a nd P h il Haas
weekly or monthly date? At our church we encourage every couple to have a regular date. • Give yourself permission to be a kid again. It’s easy to get caught up in the seriousness of life and not allow yourself to have some serious fun. Did you know that the average child laughs some 400 times per day, compared to the average adult who laughs less than 15 times a day? Lighten up and laugh more. Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.” • Try something new. When Bev and I thought about words that describe our marriage lately, we came up with routine and predictable. Ouch—not words we want to choose. But we had to admit they were dead-on. As a result, we are now making a conscious effort to try something new and different, and the rule is neither of us can complain. We are having fun doing things we never thought we’d enjoy. We’ve discovered that trying something new can bring back the fun factor. • Budget for some fun. We tend to hold on too tightly to money, especially Phil. Yes, we both agree that we need to save for retirement, but we decided not to put fun on hold until then. For most couples money is tight, but there are ways to find what we like to call “fun money.” There are lots of fun things that are free, but sometimes we need to spring for something fun that costs us. Bev has a can where she stashes extra money. Last summer we took a vacation that was mostly paid for from that stash. Part of God’s purpose for marriage is for us to enjoy life with our spouse. Our paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 9:9 is that God intends for you to enjoy your marriage in the midst of the grind. This year don’t miss out on what God wants for your marriage. Find ways to enjoy life together in the midst of whatever the new year brings. n Send your questions about family life to Bev and Phil Haas in care of The Lookout (firstname.lastname@example.org). We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Bev and Phil Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have two children and two grandsons.
TH E LOOKOU T | January 4, 2015
Restaurant Owner with Disability Thrives
estaurant owner Tim Harris believes in offering three things at his business: breakfast, lunch, and hugs. Since he opened his restaurant in Albuquerque four years ago, he’s hugged many customers, including Stevie Wonder, Jordin Sparks, and even President Obama. But Harris has another record. According to several news reports, he’s the only restaurant owner in America with Down syndrome. After dreaming for years of owning his own business, Harris attended Eastern New Mexico University, where he earned certificates in food service. In 2010, he opened Tim’s Place with his parents’ help. He’s also launched is own non-profit, Tim’s Big Heart Foundation. His goal is to help people with disabilities to start their own businesses.
ISIS Brings in $800 Million Per Year
new report in October by a U.S.based global analytics group found that the Islamic terror group ISIS is bringing in an estimated $800 million per year in crude oil sales. Much of this oil is produced in regions the group has captured in the past year in Iraq and Syria. The product is then sold on the black market. IHS, a leading source in global information and analytics, reported that the terror group is generating more than enough income to fund its deadly jihadist activities. Some analysts expect this amount to increase. However, if U.S.-coalition airstrikes continue, the future of ISIS’s oil revenues could be crushed.
In The World
BY CHRISTY BARRITT
3D Games Make Players Angrier
new study from Ohio State University examined the anger levels of video gamers playing on either 2D or 3D screens. Researchers concluded that adding the third dimension can stir up negative emotions. A group of 194 college students played Grand Theft Auto IV, both in 2D and 3D. After each session, they were asked to rate their feelings using a number of adjectives on a scale of 1-5. Those who allowed themselves to immerse themselves in the game’s mayhem on a 3D screen saw significant anger spikes after playing. “3D gaming increases anger because the players felt more immersed in the violence when they played violent games,” said Brad Bushman, coauthor of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State. “As the technology in video games improves, it has the ability to have stronger effects on players.”
Unchurched Americans Resistant to Evangelism Outreach
new study from Barna Group revealed that unchurched Americans are the most resistant to outreach efforts by the church and friends than they’ve been in 20 years. Data for the survey showed that only 47 percent of U.S. adults who do not attend church said they were open to being invited to church by a friend. That number is down from 65 percent in 1993. The study did show, however, that personal invitations from friends are the most effective way to draw church visitors as compared to other outreaches. The data also found “moderate openness” to efforts such as home visits and phone calls. About 27 percent of unchurched adults said they’d be open to visiting a church if invited through a pastoral visit, compared to 34 percent who agreed 20 years ago. The study also revealed that the unchurched are resistant to church advertisement. Only 18 percent of the unchurched said they would consider visiting a church after viewing TV, radio, or newspaper advertising. Only 16 percent would be responsive to a direct mailing, and 14 percent would consider a visit after seeing a billboard. Christy Barritt is an award-winning author in Chesapeake, VA (christybarritt.com). She and her husband, Scott, have two sons.
THE LOOKOU T | January 4, 2015